I was hanging out with a philosophy professor at an interdisciplinary conference on Friday night. This is not something I usually do, but this guy was way cool. Besides specializing in political economy, one of my very favorite subjects, he absolutely hates online education. He told me about his efforts to convince his younger colleagues to join him in this resistance, but they won’t have it. Apparently, they like the possibility of teaching in their pajamas, even if that short-term convenience eventually leaves them all unemployed.
My position was that I agreed with him 90%. I really do think that you can do great things with online education as long as professors maintain total control over its operation. Nevertheless, there’s one thing that this philosopher said that really struck a chord. “We have control over so little as faculty,” he told me. “Why would you want to give up control of your classroom?” Damn straight.
To be fair, if we don’t give it up there’s the possibility on an armed takeover. This is apparently what’s going on at Rutgers theses days:
Are you planning on taking an online course at Rutgers next semester? Then you might need to download University-sanctioned software that will track your facial identity, photo ID and browser activity. According to an article published on New Brunswick Today by Daniel Munoz this past weekend, Rutgers University has implemented a recognition suite called ProctorTrack for online courses. ProctorTrack records face, knuckle and personal identification details during online courses. Munoz also notes that the system “keeps track of all activity in the monitor, browser, webcam and microphone” throughout each session.
Yes, the online education police state has arrived, because how else can we know that on the Internet you’re not really a dog? And as I pointed out at that last link a long time ago, being a dog works both ways in online education. Without intrusive knuckle scans the students can be absolutely anyone. The same thing goes for the professors, but as long as the universities are getting their tuition payments the underpaid faculty teaching those classes are unlikely to be vetted at all.
Administrations that insist upon top-down structures for teaching online might just be doing what’s convenient for them, but this also might be the first strike in an attempt to gain much greater control over aspects of the teaching process that they have no business controlling at all.
My classroom may be a small piece of land, but I will not sell it off in exchange for the ability to teach in my pajamas. Some day I hope to build on it.