My Beautiful Wickedness

More Podcasts!
July 7, 2007, 8:03 pm
Filed under: History Podcast

Wow — incredible trove of lectures from WGBH-Boston, mostly US and US in the World. It’s like a college on-line!


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If administrators start getting the idea that they can replace us with podcasts, we’re all doomed! I mean, isn’t that an adminstrator’s dream – a college without those pesky faculty members!?!

Comment by Gerald

Hey, you’re getting the “asynchronous delivery” memos too? Our provost wants to have us at least half “web-/asynch ready” within five years, whatever that means.

Comment by bridgett

I’m already there.

I wrote the Western Civ I & II webcouses for our college (as an adjunct – I was paid nothing for them), as well as a History of Africa course that we now only offer on-line. I was also the content editor for the Western Civ II course produced by the NC Community College System’s Virtual Learning Center. Of my 18 hour load each semester, I always teach at least 3 hours asynchronous web-based and sometimes as much as six. I had a guy in my History of Africa course this spring who was taking it from Iraq (he is a paramedic with some pmc over there.) Both of my summer courses are entirely web-based and asynchronous (lovely jargon, eh?). I am Mr. Web-Based Learning. I figured “jump on the train, or get run over.”

A friend of mine runs the distance learning set-up at a nearby State university. He told me that the UNC system has plans for if there is ever an avian flu outbreak. Their big plan is that if there are 10 cases (I think) within a 500 mile radius of any of the campuses – basically across most of the eastern seaboard – the whole system goes to immediate web delivery of ALL courses. Mind you, there is nothing like half of the necessary server capacity available, and most of the senior faculty at the bigger schools have no web-based or distance learning experience at all.

Comment by Gerald

I could asynch my classes through a combo of mp3 uploads and powerpoint; I already run a course website and it would just be a hop on over. I have resisted doing so because I just don’t think that’s the way I want to teach. I also think that when a kid pays $25k a year, part of what they’ve bought is face time with a real live professor. I can totally understand the wisdom and utility of asynch in some circumstances, but at my college, it’s mainly a “we want to increase enrollments because our operating budget is 98% tuition-driven, but we don’t want to increase faculty lines or embiggen the physical plant of the campus…and the students won’t really notice if you’re actually in the classroom because they are more comfortable talking to their keyboards than to a real live human.” Again, just not the kind of teaching I came on board to do, though I guess you could say that the blog itself is beginning to be an experiment in asynchronous on-demand teaching.

Yeah, we’re getting the avian flu crisis talk. The problem is that no one here has a grasp of basic stuff like “what is a vector?” and other things that are good to know when you’re thinking about planning for an infectious disease outbreak. Do the dudes at UNC really think there’s going to be anyone around to repair the servers when they crash? Or to put back up the power lines if a tornado happens to blow through during the height of the epidemic? I mean, leaving aside the “we’re all just going to whiddywhack from our laptops now” plan.

Hey, maybe we should do a multi-part series on “what virgin soil epidemics are really like.” That would scare the piss out of some people.

Comment by bridgett

Ohhh!!! A Viral Meme about Viruses!?! I call dibs on the Black Death!!!

As to webcourses, it wasn’t so much an option for me as “this is going to happen.” I thought taking the reins might give me a better shot at a full-time position later, which it did. Much to my surprise, I have found it both challenging (especially pedagogically) and rewarding, but it is a very different way to teach. These courses open up opportunities for people who cannot get access to our campus due to time or distance constraints. But we are a dinky community college in rural NC with no residential students at all and lots of students with children and jobs. The situation at your school would seem rather different.

Are your administrators talking software platforms yet? The NC system uses Blackboard. I am not a fan, but I also do not have any experience with other packages This wasn’t something I got a choice about, it is just what we must use. Ah, the joys of being one of the cogs in a big ol’ machine.

Do you find your administration people starting to use advertising-speak. We get lots of stuff about “stake-holders”, “branding”, “market-share,” and “customer-service.” On Friday, I actually had a woman compliment me on my “customer-service skills” when I showed her where to find our Learning Assistance Center.

“Hi, my name is Gerald. Welcome to Edu-Mart!”

Some of our leaders are even known to use words like “edutainment” in a positive way.

Also, if I get one more lecture about how “the Millenials process information differently” so it is okay that some of my students cannot concentrate on anything for twenty minutes at a time and want to listen to an iPod while text-messaging thier friends during class (not in mine, thank you) – I will be on the news, and not in a good way…

Comment by Gerald

We use Blackboard and I like it better than Web-CT, but I as I said, I’m not wildly innovative in my pedagogy. It centralizes the readings, study guides, links to on-line primary docs, and Powerpoints and prevents the lame-ass excuse of “I couldn’t get the reading off reserve.” Students can access it from any Internet-ready location and I can monitor usage and give them some feedback about their study habits — if they consistently don’t download the readings, or don’t download until twenty minutes before class or have never logged in at all, I can ask them if there’s a problem and then give them a little advice about how to improve their results.

We’re in the middle of buying an e-portfolio software package with an eye to instituting a First-Year Experience. More branding opportunities designed to move us away from being a really big Ed school with a liberal arts college stuck onto its side…I like the idea, love it in fact, but have reservations about the way that it will be done at this institution. Yet again, my college is about thirty years behind the curve and acting like they’ve just invented the idea and that no one ever has done this before, which means that they will stupidly reinvent the wheel and fail to consult with other successful programs and then scrap the program prematurely when it runs into difficulties due to poor planning. So, despite the nifty new e-portfolio stuff we’ll get, they have not budgeted for things like TIME OFF to plan new classes that use the tech, INCENTIVE PAY to promote interest in integrating this new tech, TRAINING for people so that they’ll be able to use the features…we’re just supposed to pick this up in our spare time, for free, blah blah blah. I guess if I thought I wasn’t doing a good job now and this would help me do a better job, my own wish for self-improvement might be a sufficient spur, but as I already know that a) I won’t get a raise based on my teaching skills; b) my teaching is already adequate for tenure; and c) my students are thriving without it…well, I have other things to do with my time that I find more professionally and personally rewarding. (And I’m one of the tech-savvy reasonably curious people who weren’t hostile to the idea from the outset…)

Comment by bridgett

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