I was at a dinner party the other night and met a professor. An online professor. Actually, she was a a magazine editor, high ranking in her own trade universe (I don’t want to get too specific because I am about to torch her…and the university that hired her).
Okay… I’ll explain.
See, being that this person, I’ll call her Nancy, was an esteemed editor in her own niche business, an online university thought it could add some cache to its own college by adding her name to its online course offerings.
Come take a course with Professor Nancy!
The rubes came flying.
And, ego-maniacal as many folks are, Nancy decided sure, “I am so great at doing this that surely I could teach it, no sweat,”… And so the farce began.
Long story short (she explained this to me in a wink-wink, you just gotta laugh type of way while I stared at her in a wink-wink you gotta be freakin’ kiddin’ me type of way) Nancy is now teaching an online graduate school course in how to be an editor for the _____________ industry.” And students are paying for this and somebody has accredited the university and, well, here’s a peek behind the curtain of Nancy’s online class.
— Nancy was so put off by the idea of having to lay out a complete and thoughtful syllabus that would illuminate what she was going to discuss in things like “Week 7” that the university had a ghost writer (i.e. a teaching assistant making work-study wages) cook up a a course outline for all the students. Nancy never even proofed it.
— Nancy had no idea how to craft a mid-term, a final, or how to build in a few actual point-worthy assignments along the way. Scratch that… actually, she did. But the university thought that assigning all the students reports that would end up needing to be the length of War and Peace for a mid-tern, if executed to Nancy’s design, might be a bit much.
— To boot, when Nancy realized that she was going to have to read all of these essays – and thoughtfully respond to them – she decided to let the university “help her with assessing her online students”. Once again, we’re back to the T.A. who makes work-study wages reading all the papers written for Professor Nancy’s eyes.
— Oh yeah, Nancy had 2 business trips to Europe lined up during the semester long course. She didn’t realize that class would still have to roll on in her absence. The university asked her to log in from France. Nancy told them she wasn’t sure about how the time zones, the internet connections or her own schedule would impact her ability to “be their professor” during these time frames. (I do not know how this all played out because the university was going to “play it one day at a time” and cross that bridge when it arrived there”.)
Essentially, Professor Nancy was pathetically incapable of meeting her professional duties. And (she said with a sideways laugh and a glass of red wine – I believe it as a Beaujolais – in her left hand) the “kids” would never know.
“I mean, it’s all online and when the university covers for me, they log in as me and from a student perspective, they are none the wiser.”
Now in my younger days I would have ruined the dinner party by pointing out to Professor Nancy what an abysmal disgrace of an educator she was pathetically attempting to be. But I was hungry, the food had not yet been served and my wife is tired of me getting into philosophical “upset the other guests” type of discussions in the homes of other people. Yes, Professor Nancy was a ninny. And this online university was clearly a business more than it was a school.
But isn’t that the fear we all hold for online classes? That on the internet, no one knows you are a dog. (NOTE: This line is from a “classic cartoon” that captured the imagination of a lot of people back when things like AOL were hot.)
Cause Professor Nancy was a dog. And the students, well they’d be none the wiser.