Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Those Selfish PhD Candidates

One of the most stunning moments in the recent Ed Talks Wisconsin came towards the end of a Friday night discussion about MOOCs. The room was heavily populated with graduate students, many of whom were asking about the implications of these online courses for their employment prospects.  With the decoupling of teaching from their future responsibilities, many were (rightly) worried about how they'd be trained, funded, and what they'd do post degree.

As one student put it,"What's the incentive for the next generation of scholars to pursue a PhD?"
In response to that question, the Chancellor of the UW Colleges, Ray Cross, responded this way:
"Is your goal to get a PhD, or is your goal to change education?"

Many in the room looked up, confused about whether he was serious.

Well, an email that just arrived from UW-Madison suggests he was.  The newsletter it included contained the following key blurb:

"New program trains students to create online courses.  With the advent of online courses and degrees, a new program will teach students how to provide online course support. Student Online Course Support (SOCS) will help students find campus tech-related jobs, expose them to new career paths, and save the University funds by hiring student support. Tell your students about this opportunity."

Got that? It's full-speed ahead in support of the Flex Degree and the MOOCs here at Madison; above I linked to the course description that explicitly references these programs. Want a campus job? Get on board. And be sure, of course, to save the university money!

Will this next become a mandated part of our graduate training? Or will we no longer need those folks, as our younger Badger are trained and ready to serve?

ps. The video of Cross starts around the 1:32 minute mark.