whither the professoriate?

'Professor John Frink, Jr. vs. Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth (266/365)' photo (c) 2010, JD Hancock - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/In my last post, I referred to a couple of EDUCAUSE 2011 speakers, Seth Godin and Anya Kamenetz, who offered a vision of the current educational landscape that I interpreted as a kind of chaos or wild west of free/open resources with which people could construct their own college educations. As I suggested in that post, the question of how such a self-fashioned education might be verified or whether we are moving into a society where credentials are also a matter of individual determination is a serious question that was overlooked in the presentations.

One questioner at Kamenetz’s DIY U session asked “What happens to academic freedom?” in her vision of the educational landscape. I think he meant to indicate that professors would be losing a lot of control over things like the shape of curriculum within a major. The question that popped into my head–that I did not ask–was “What happens to the professoriate?” I’m still wondering about that and have been since long before the conference.

Working with instructional technology every day has had me noticing the shift in the professorial role to facilitator. A quick search for a definition describes the facilitator as educating by “providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision,” and I get that, because it fits into the move toward a more learner-centered instruction, but it sure sounds like the professor is becoming invisible and it begs the question of whether such indirect educating will one day be done by a technocrat or a machine.

We have been wondering about the shrinking profession of being a professor for many years, now, but it still persists, even if limping a little. What can be done to prevent it from going the way of Borders, which failed to see the correct response to a changing audience of readers? Just yesterday a Tweet pointed me to this despairing blog post: “Open Letter to My Students: No, You Cannot Be a Professor.” It seems to be ringing the death knell, calling the current generation of professors the last. So, I”m still left with the question “What’s next?” and what is technology’s role in what’s next? Can technology save the professoriate instead of killing it off? Sorry I don’t have the answer for you here.


Categories: academia, mobile learning, online learning, open source, student-centered learning, technology

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1 reply

  1. And in case anyone thinks that I think either the institution of the professoriate or professors individually are not being called to change, he or she is wrong. That’s part of my wondering where we are headed. I think we can see glimpses of how the institution is shrinking, but are we also getting glimpses of how professors can change in ways that do not simply keep their jobs, but make them a good fit in the new landscape?


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