Arana, G. (2009) Higher Education takes a hit The Nation, April 1
This article is not strictly about e-learning or distance education, but it is highly relevant. Both distance education and campus-based education are making increasing use of lower paid, non-tenured faculty for teaching.
The article states: ‘The percentage of “contingent faculty”–a term that includes part-timers and full-time, non-tenure-track lecturers–on university payrolls has risen from around 43 percent thirty years ago to 70 percent in 2005…..Over the past twenty years, colleges have become “multi-tiered workplaces” in which a select cadre of older, tenured academics enjoy job security and benefits while undercompensated adjuncts, teaching assistants and– increasingly–undergraduates do the majority of instructional work.’
The main point here is of course the unfairness of the system to adjunct faculty, who are often initially as well qualified as tenured professors, but have no benefits or research time. Also, it highlights the scandal of using barely qualified, very low paid students as teachers for other students who have paid big bucks for tuition.
However, it also raises a question about faculty development and training in the use of ICTs. Tenured professors can take time to attend workshops, and often get expenses paid to attend conferences or even take courses. Not so adjunct faculty. If they are to attend faculty development programs, they either do so on their own time or are not paid for it. (Some distance education programs are exceptions in this, in that they at least provide instructors’ manuals on teaching online or even offer face-to-face workshops where instructors get at least their expenses paid).
What we are getting is in effect a two- (or multi-) tiered system of employment, with tenured professors primarily doing research, and teaching relegated to lower paid and untrained adjunct faculty – not untrained in their subject matter, but untrained in modern teaching methods and in particular the use of technology for teaching.
In the article, Cary Nelson, president of the National Council of the American Association of University Professors, is reported as saying that ‘amid steep cuts, schools have the choice of hiring adjuncts, eliminating faculty positions altogether or–a less likely outcome–“look[ing] in the mirror” at larger structural problems with how they are run.’ It is the latter option – looking at priorities in spending and finding new and better ways to offer the core service of teaching – that university and college administrators should be exploring.