Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bobby From Barberton Continues Our Look at Distance Ed and How It's Going to Fucking Kill All Of Us.

Let's get one thing clear. No one teaches in a virtual setting. We manage in a virtual setting. Yes, you are a manager at best, a workshop instructor at worse. Regardless of where you are on that continuum, you are not a teacher.

Your job is to make sure the little dears complete their assignments and the final exam before their time runs out or the course ends. You can offer some comments, perhaps answer questions. That's it. That's the sum existence of managing a course in a virtual setting, or online.

Yes, it takes as much as time as you let it. Read that sentence again. As much time as YOU let it.

I managed an online course for two years. I offered enough feedback to let the ankle biters know that I had read their poorly structured, nearly indecipherable answers. I could grade as hard or as light as I wanted. It did not matter because the final exam was comprehensive.

In my two years, no one ever made an A. Or a D for that matter. Lots of Cs. If you had taken the same class with me in meat space instead of virtual space and put forth a similar effort, then you are probably looking at a B- at worse. The comprehensive final got them every time. The students who made a B or B+ in the virtual course would probably have gotten an A or A- if they could have taken the physical course.

The administration loved their online classes because they are a cash cow. The college charged normal tuition rates. Yes, you read that line correctly. Regardless if you took the course in virtual space or in meat space, you paid the same rate. Also, the online students paid a technology fee just like their meat space counterparts.

As to the cost, the university had low fixed costs that came in the form of the server that hosted the online class, the software needed to run the class, and the low pay grade staff that administered these classes. The school also bought and held the books. When the little nippers enrolled in the course, the school shipped the textbook. When they completed the course or when time ran out, which ever came first, the students returned the textbook.

The only variable cost was me, the manager. And I was receiving for $150 for each student that completed the course. I calculated the gross margin at 98% and the profit margin at around 63% depending on how fixed costs were allocated.

Now, you know why all colleges love online courses. They are a fucking cash cow. The mob has nothing on this bullshit.

As to my managerial skills, I did not answer emails after 6 p.m. or before 8 a.m. I held virtual office hours one night a week. An occasional dear would ask a question about an assignment. Nothing malicious or mentally taxing.

Except for two students, the students who enrolled in the class I managed simply wanted three credits. They paid their money. I gave them what they wanted in exchange. I am pretty sure a drug dealer works on this model.

Two students grubbed for points. I laughed because no one can hear you in virtual space. Said No and explained why in one sentence. You do not have enough points for an A. That was it. No whiny bullshit about dead relatives who got married. Sick pets who were offering jobs. Or some other half ass excuse. So long as I gave them what they wanted (a passing grade was sufficient), then there were no complaints.

You are not teaching. They are not learning. You are simply managing.

As to the fucktards and morons who think this model of education will supplant or otherwise transform higher education, you could not be more wrong or dumber than you if tried. However, that thought will have to wait for another day.