Letters to the Editor
The May/June 2005 issue of Adjunct Advocate carried an article by Evelyn Beck, hyped by editors as “Time-saving tips for faculty who teach on-line. Read ’em and rejoice” (“20 Time-Saving Tips For Faculty Who Teach Distance Education Courses“). A number of these “tips” not only advocate outright unethical conduct, but also display a supreme cynicism toward on-line teaching as a “learner-centered” endeavor:
Tip #4: “Answer e-mails and posted questions between classes or even while on the phone . . . [because it] helps students feel that you are deeply connected to the course, even if you post only short notes.”
Tip #9: “Have students collaborate on group projects, which means not only interaction that doesn’t involve the instructor, but also fewer papers to grade than if every student turned in an individual paper for that assignment.”
Tip #13: “Set rigid deadlines . . . use weekly topics, with no credit for posting once the week ends, no matter what the reason . . . [because it] will prevent your having to track late assignments.”
Such tips can only be important to teachers who sign up to “teach” too many on-line courses and then must ”save time“ by cutting corners. As Bruce MacFarlane (2002) notes in his study of the ethics of pedagogic practice, “Although the language of higher education may have moved on to emphasize the importance of student empowerment, independence and autonomy, a harsher reality still exists, sometimes uncomfortably, behind the rhetoric of the new lexicon.” I have been the unhappy beneficiary of such “teaching” and would urge Ms. Beck to seek other employment.
Dade City, Florida
Evelyn Beck responds:
I assure you that students are my top priority. My efforts to save time are just some simple suggestions for instructors that benefit both faculty and students. Students have often told me how grateful they are for my quick responses to e-mails and postings, and I’m able to accomplish that by making use of every available moment. Group projects mean fewer papers to grade for a single assignment, but they are also a response to employers who request that we teach students how to work together in teams. And the rigid deadlines force students to manage their time more wisely; since I have instituted that particular requirement, my retention rates have risen, for it prevents students from procrastinating.
In a perfect world, administrators would recognize the wisdom of lighter faculty loads. But given the reality, conscientious instructors faced with swelling enrollments must think creatively to continue to do their job well.
Ken Wachsberger’s Azonphony Press
Thank you very much for the lead piece by Brian Cole on textbook publishing in the May/June 2005 issue, and for the warm side-bar about my own experience as a self-publisher with Azenphony Press. I have no corrections and no complaints. But I would like to tell your readers about two organizations that every self-published author should consider joining. I belong to both.
The first is Publishers Marketing Association, an organization for independent publishers. Members get lots of discounts and cooperative mailing opportunities but what I find most helpful are the monthly newsletter and the annual conference, which they call PMA-University.
This year’s PMA-U was held in New York May 31-June 2. For three days every year, attendees learn about promoting, Web marketing and design, cover design, working with distributors, finding marketable ideas, and lots more. Members come with the idea not only of learning more, but about networking and exchanging ideas. I organized a session called “Succeeding in the Lucrative Education Market,” and spoke about my experience selling to the Detroit Public Schools. My co-speakers talked about how to make $600 a day talking to elementary school students and the inner workings of the academic publishing industry. Web address: http://www.pma-online.org/.
The second is the National Writers Union, the only labor union for freelance writers, including journalists, authors, tech writers, children’s authors, education writers, and every other genre. In addition to leading the struggle to improve conditions for freelance writers through national campaigns and one-on-one contract advising and grievance work (have you ever looked at a boilerplate contract from a corporate publisher?), NWU is a community of writers who, like PMA for publishers, share experiences and knowledge. Two major benefits for book authors: 1) NWU-BOOK, a listserv for authors new and seasoned; and 2) the Authors Network, an electronic members-only benefit that will help you organize your own low-cost, successful book tour by providing information for venues, media reviewers, and hosts all over the country. The hosts alone, members who have volunteered their homes to traveling fellow members, will save you the cost of membership dues year after year. Web address: http://www.nwu.org.
You can join both organizations on-line. I look forward to meeting you at a PMA or NWU event.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Not Making the Cut
Like Shari Dinkins (“Not Making the Cut,” January/February 2005), I was also overlooked for a recent FT position at a school where I’d taught the course. I asked why I didn’t even receive an interview and was told, in part, that “it is that we had some particularly strong candidates and decided that it wasn’t fair or cost effective to interview others who, while meeting minimum qualifications, were less likely to be successful.”
I guess I’m one of those “others” who was “less likely to be successful” because of the “minimum qualifications” I hold including two relevant master’s degrees (top schools in the country, 17 academic awards to boot), 15 years in the field, currently active in the field and publishing, a teaching award nomination from course students, and 3 years direct teaching experience in 3 faculties, 7 courses, and nearly 2000 students.
What was the writer was really saying? A 32-year-old recent Ph.D. outranked me, as did the ABDs.
Like Shari, it was a low blow, and I’m not recovering fast or soon.
Thanks for the article.
Nova Scotia, Canada
Short URL: http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=438