Scott Sommers’ Taiwan Blog

Faculty Positions at US Universities

Posted in Uncategorized by Scott Sommers on March 10, 2009

Just a follow-up to the discussion on this post about the future of foreign English teachers in Asia. In the comments portion of the post, I discuss the hiring situation in Western universities with Patrick Cowsill. Related to this is an article in today’s New York Times entitled Doctoral Candidates Anticipate Hard Times.

The article is about how the current economic crises is making it even harder for recent doctoral program graduates to get the kind of jobs they want.

Many in the humanities fear that their fields are going to suffer most. Humanities professors are already among the lowest-paid faculty members, according to the Humanities Indicators Prototype, a new, decade-long effort to establish a database of information led by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences…William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College in Holland, Mich., who writes a column for The Chronicle of Higher Education under the name Thomas Benton, has frequently tried to dissuade undergraduates from pursuing a graduate degree in the humanities. He is convinced that the recession will push universities to trim the number of tenure-track jobs further.

Although, as the article points out, the situation for many in the Humanities has never been that good.

Humanities professors are already among the lowest-paid faculty members, according to the Humanities Indicators Prototype, a new, decade-long effort to establish a database of information led by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. What’s more, nearly half of all the positions are part time — with no job security and no benefits — a situation that many educators expect to worsen.

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The Test as Democratic Force in Education

Posted in Uncategorized by Scott Sommers on March 4, 2009

Kerim sent me this link describing the University of the People. The goal of UOTP is

…to bring online education to anyone who can speak English and access the Internet, and to do it for as little as $15 a course. The goal? A real college degree from an accredited school.

or as the school’s founder Shai Reshef puts it,

Internet connection + English = college degree

UOTP plans to utilize open courseware and peer learning to achieve the goal of bringing a degree to everyone in the world regardles of their financial situation. Breaks learning up into virtual classes of 20 students, UOTP supplements this with online forums for class discussion. Instruction utilizes a combination of “peer teaching, volunteers, and paid (likely Indian) professionals”. Of course you’re wondering, how they maintain quality. Afterall, isn’t this similar to the situation we have with university education in Taiwan, where we now have close to 100% admission to university? How can UOTP avoid the same issues now being complained about in Taiwan universities that graduate quality is very low? University of the People plans to partner with worldwide testing agencies.

At the end of each course, students will need to travel to the nearest test center, show a photo ID and pay another small fee, then sit for a comprehensive course exam.

UOTP is making examination an essential tool for the delivery of democratic education. While some Internet-based schools, such the University of Phoenix, give a prominent place to examination, these are for-profit ventures aimed first and foremost at making money. As much as UOTP is successful, they are redefining the major issues indelivering democractic education. While they seem aware they need a delivery system and standardized language, it doesn’t seem they feel examination has the same central role. However, examination is just as important to the functioning of UOTP as is the Internet. Really the success of their search for democratic education now comes from their ability to make examination almost as accessible as Internet connection.