A "little something extra" for developing online classes

See this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education Online,“Professors Seek Compensation for Online Courses” by Dan Carnevale. The title is a little misleading because it is as much about a policy at Los Rios Community College where faculty are expected to develop online courses while on sabbatical, which seems like a pretty odd way to do it to me. One perhaps relevant passage though:

“A growing number of faculty unions are fighting for language in their contracts that guarantees such compensation when professors get involved in online education.

“At the same time, many colleges take the position that online courses have become so mainstream that producing them should be just another part of a faculty member’s workload, especially since budgets are tight. A recently published study found that the extra pay that professors receive for online development fell 14 percent between 1999 and 2002.”

Two thoughts:

* EMU is a slightly unusual place (what else is new?) when it comes to online classes because they have mostly been offered through continuing education, and that has some complicated implications on the faculty contract such that it’s pretty tough for faculty to teach online classes as part of their regular load– even if they want to teach online classes. Some of that is starting to change. However, continuing ed. has offered quite a bit of support to faculty interested in developing these classes, both in the form of help producing course materials and also compensation for developing materials.

* If university administrators want more faculty to teach online courses– and to teach them well– they should be willing to pay individual faculty members for the work they put into developing these courses. As everyone even remotely familiar with online teaching already knows, it takes a hell of a lot more work to put the materials for online courses together, and not simply because (as the CHE article asserts) because faculty can just “wing it” in a face-to-face classroom. Everything in online courses has to be spelled out in a way that isn’t necessary in face-to-face courses, and making a web site– even with the help of courseware applications– is time-consuming. When you put documents of any sort online, you become a “publisher” of sorts, and the job of publishing brings with it all sorts of responsibilities and duties not typically in the “job description” of most faculty members.

So at schools like EMU, where faculty don’t have to teach online if they don’t want to, the administration has wisely recognized that they have to provide some incentive for faculty to develop these courses. But it seems to me that schools that are requiring faculty to develop online courses ought to provide some similar incentive as well. If they don’t a lot of these schools are liable to have some uninspired and disgruntled faculty teaching some pretty poorly designed online courses. That’s bad from an educational point of view, but even if you take an administrative “University, Inc.” approach, it seems to me that bad teaching will ultimately hurt enrollments and thus hurt the institution’s “bottom line.”

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