In the rush to online education, faculty members have been signing contracts that abrogate the ownership of their classes, erode their collective interests, and threaten the quality of higher education. No standard (let alone best) practice has yet emerged, and faculty members are largely in the dark about what is at stake.
Put simply, the stakes are huge. Online education is the new frontier where the traditional rights of faculty members and the quality of instruction are up for grabs. It is a frontier that threatens to turn all faculty members, including those on the tenure track, into teachers who “work for hire.”
In some ways, our own campus, the University of California at Berkeley, is typical. In 2013, without any faculty consultation, the administration signed a contract with MIT-Harvard’s edX in a scramble to join the club of private elite universities and private spinoffs that are developing online-education platforms and course content targeted at underfunded public-education markets. Within Berkeley itself, there are in-house platforms developed by a newly established, relatively under-the-radar entity, called the Berkeley Resource Center for Online Education, that operates fully online or hybrid master’s-degree programs at the School of Public Health and the Haas School of Business, as well as a variety of undergraduate, summer, and extension courses online now being offered for certification and for credit. <Read more.>