Politics and Public Universities

Public higher education is being pulled in to the illogical world of politics in ways that it has not experienced before. The article, “2016 Ambitions Seen in Walker’s Push for University Cuts in Wisconsin” (The New York Times, 16 February 2015), expresses the problem that  higher education administrators must address:

“But to his critics, Mr. Walker, in both his proposed cuts and in the discussion that arose over the Wisconsin Idea, is trying to capitalize on a view that is popular among many conservatives: that state universities have become elite bastions of liberal academics that do not prepare students for work and are a burden on taxpayers.”

Assuming the view expressed above is accurate, higher education administrators appear unprepared to defend state universities, let alone advance its interests on behalf of students and America.

Elite Bastions of Liberal Academics

“Elite bastions of liberal academics” and similar phrases are ad hominem attacks that fail to address any actual problem – other than learning leads to enlightened human beings, which can create a problem for politicians whose rhetoric is laced with illogical thinking. Continued operation on the level of a perceived problem will cause harm to many through delays, faulty decisions, and misplaced actions.

No institution or its product is perfect. Every institution and the processes that create its products can be improved. Higher education’s failure to continuously improve administrative and academic processes, and do so in highly visible ways, leaves it vulnerable to continued criticism – whether real or imagined.

Does Not Prepare Students for Work

Higher education’s hiring policy that favors career academics over candidates who are academically qualified and who also have real-world work experience assures that students are ill prepared for work. The failure to achieve a balance in subject matter knowledge, life experiences, and teaching skills has greatly contributed to this negative view of higher education.

In addition, faculty have systematically failed to connect subject matter to the real world, while administrators have not pushed faculty to help make that happen and leaving both remiss in the execution of a basic duty.

A Burden on Taxpayers

The contribution by taxpayers to public higher education is at historic lows and may go even lower. The middle class, whose incomes have been stagnant for decades, has had to contend with tuition increases much higher than the rate of inflation due to reduced taxpayer support for public higher education. The costs of higher education is clearly a much bigger burden on the working class (student and family debt) than it is on taxpayers.

Let’s also recognize that the reductions in funding for public education (K-12 and higher ed) are invariably re-distributed to corporations in the form tax breaks and other types of subsidies – typically with no restrictions for the recipient and no guarantees for the state. Tax breaks are the real (debt) burden on taxpayers (see “Tax-Subsidy Programs Fuel Budget Deficits,” The Wall Street Journal, 12 February 2015), not higher education.


This Higher education results in many benefits to society that are difficult to see or quantify, inclusive of academic departments that do not obviously connect to economic growth and jobs. This lack of clarity does not help higher education administrators in their efforts to inform the public of the numerous positive externalities and spillover effects that higher education creates – and which greatly outweigh real or perceived negatives. The fact that these benefits do not appear on an Excel spreadsheet does not mean they don’t exist.

Public higher education is being absorbed into a political process and forced to quickly change in thoughtless ways to meet challenging financial targets due to budget cuts. Instead, they can control their own destiny by improving administrative and academic processes via kaizen. But, to do that, faculty and administrators would have to recognize that not everything that comes from industry is crap to be ignored. Instead, Lean management could help save higher education just as it has saved other organizations.

Third Lean Higher Ed Conference

I will be speaking at the Third International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 8-9 June 2015. This is going to be a great conference with lots of great speakers. Learn from their experiences and share your own by submitting a paper and by attending the conference.

The title and description of my keynote talk is:

“Application of Lean to Teaching” Lean principles and practices have been applied to higher education in recent years, but almost exclusively to improve administrative processes. This talk will describe how Lean has been applied to improve an academic process, teaching, over a 15 year period. Benefits for students include more focused course content, clearer expectations, unambiguous learning outcomes, greater ability to focus on learning, and more timely feedback. Benefits for professors include better course design and organization, fewer teaching errors, improved student engagement, focused assignments, and simplified grading. Student evaluation data show that professors can achieve a 0.5 to 1.5 point increase in student evaluation scores for overall excellence of course and instructor using the Lean teaching pedagogy.

The title and description of my workshop is:

“Lean Leadership for Higher Education” Problem-solving in higher education cannot be met using traditional approaches that drive people apart and do not lead to improvements demanded by students and other stakeholders. Lean management is a better approach to improving administrative and academic processes and which offers the unique opportunity to do good without doing harm. This talk will present how university leaders should begin a Lean transformation and identify specific errors to avoid to help assure broad-based buy-in for change. The importance of kaizen as the principal means for improving processes will also discussed.

We can have a great dialog together with professors from around the world. And we’ll surely have a great time visiting beautiful Edinburgh. I hope to see you there!

What You Should Get Out of College

We often base our work on assumptions that seem reasonable, only to find out later that those assumptions are not shared by those whom we serve. That major mis-communication affects the how people perceive the quality, effectiveness, and utility of the service that they receive.

When it comes to higher education, do students share professional educators’ assumptions about what students should get out of college – which is essentially the fundamental purpose of higher education? Apparently not. If professors think the outcome of an undergraduate education is X, while students think it is Y, then one would expect students (and payers) to be dissatisfied. Broadly speaking, this seems to be the situation we find ourselves in today.

In early December 2014, I e-mailed the note below to my university president, provost, and dean:

What You Should Get Out of College“A few weeks ago I gave my undergraduate students a copy of the attached file, ‘What You Should Get Out of College,’ and reviewed it with them in detail. I want to share with you their reaction to it (edited for clarity) and provide some comments and a few recommendations:

‘I’ve never seen it broken down like this before.’

‘It explains why I spend 4 years taking classes, so many of which I’ll never use.’

‘We don’t care about gen ed courses and we don’t retain information from them, other than to pass, when real world application is non-existent. And they don’t connect to that document.’

‘A lot of teachers have us do busy work, rather than making these things come alive.’

‘It helps to explain why I’m here.’

‘Students cheat because the system values grades and numbers versus actual learning and retaining the information.’

‘It tells us why we are taking the courses we take.’

‘It provides the theory behind the actions [courses taken].’

‘I don’t feel valued… I feel taken advantage of. I’m a customer, and I want more relevant courses.’

‘It seems like all we’re here for is to get a piece of paper so we can get a job. [What You Should Get Out of College] helps me understand what I’m supposed to get out of college.’

‘It’s a good way to self-reflect on your studies.’

‘Courses should have more relevancy and focus on learning [rather than grades].’

‘Too many courses focus on success, while life is mostly failures – which is what we’ll actually see. Teachers should focus more on failure and what we can do about it to prepare us for the real world.’

This was eye-opening to me. The assumption that students comprehend the purpose of a university education the same as we do appears to be flawed – and thus an improvement opportunity.

My personal view is that there should be a university-wide effort to help undergraduate students understand what they should get out of their college experience, because this is fundamental to the university’s reason for existence –and which strongly connects to ensuring a successful first year, improving graduation rates, developing skills to achieve life and career goals, and so on.

I recommend sending ‘What You Should Get Out of College’ to undergraduate students upon admission, signed by the senior academic leadership team: president, provost, and appropriate dean. It should also be reinforced by the senior academic leadership team to all students, both undergraduate and graduate, via personalized e-mail, annually or at the start of each semester.

In addition, faculty can incorporate the attached document into their teaching and show how the material links to each of the 9 items listed. That is what I intend to do starting next semester. University-wide student course evaluations could be centered the 9 items listed in ‘What You Should Get Out of College.’

Overall, students had negative views of general education courses. They perceive them as busy work, lacking relevancy, and disconnected from the real world. The attached document can help change those perceptions, but ultimately the professors teaching gen ed courses, as well as in-major courses, can improve their focus on real-world relevancy and learning.

This view of gen ed courses connects to the 9th item on the list, ‘Intellectual Curiosity,’ which was seen by students as not being attained. ‘Busy work’ courses, teaching centered on testing and ‘the numbers,’ and lack of real-world relevancy has the effect of reducing students’ intellectual curiosity rather than cultivating them for lifelong intellectual growth. That should never be the outcome of higher education.”

The response from the president was:

“I will discuss this with the Provost when he returns from China. Thank you for taking the time and creating the process to provide some very thought provoking feedback.”

I did not hear anything more from the president or provost (or dean) for three months. At my prompting a few days ago (5 March), the provost replied with a bureaucratic response that essentially said, “We’re already doing that.” But, of course, that is not actually the case.

In my view, the bureaucratic response and absence of any action provide additional evidence that the interests of higher education administrators is with matters other than students, teaching, and learning. It also illustrates a general lack of interest in continuous improvement in higher education, which is surely to its detriment.

Update 11 March:

My reply to the provost suggesting “sending ‘What You Should Get Out of College’ to undergraduate students upon admission, signed by the senior academic leadership team: president, provost, and appropriate dean. It should also be reinforced by the senior academic leadership team to all students, both undergraduate and graduate, via personalized e-mail, annually or at the start of each semester” generated this response:

“That sounds like a reasonable suggestion to consider. You’re right: your intentions must not have been clear. We can discuss when I return to campus next week.”

To which I replied:

“My intentions were clear. The suggestion in my e-mail below was contained in the original e-mail, word for word. I think it’s more of a ‘just do it’ than it is a ‘let’s discuss it.'”

Why Skills Matter

Not long ago, employers were happy to hire undergraduates who were simply well educated. Employers would then train new hires in the specific skills needed for the job through training courses, on-the-job-training, coaching, and so on.

Over the years, employers increasingly want to hire new graduates who already possess the skills needed for the job – often very specific skills. Why the change? It is due in part to companies, especially large employers, not wanting to pay for additional classroom training or even on-the-job training. The money saved is put to other uses, often directed towards satisfying the interests of shareholders. So be it. If that is the new reality, then higher education has to make some adjustments.

Many organizations have arisen in recent years to teach people skills that they did not obtain in college or university. They fill a gap between what higher education does and what employers want. Higher education will not, and should not displace such organizations. But, higher education can do more to give students opportunities to develop skills that employers want as part of their coursework.

A few things that immediately come to mind for undergraduate education is:

  • Structured problem-solving using methods such as PDCA cycle, root cause analysis, A3 reports, and the like.
  • Use of Excel spreadsheets.
  • Short written communication.
  • Methods for improving quality (in any activity).
  • Methods for continuously improving processes.

Can you think of others?

Opportunities to develop these skills should extend to all courses – from general education courses to those in the major and others that support it. Repetitive application over students’ 4-year experience will greatly improve their capabilities and enable them to add valuable skills to their resume in addition to knowledge of various subjects.

Faculty will need to make a strong effort to connect these skill-developing exercises to the the real world and throughout major areas of study if not the entire curriculum.

The above five items transcend what industry wants. They will be helpful for students who pursue graduate school, self-employment, business start-up, or other productive avenue after graduation. In short, higher education can do more to develop specific skills in students that will benefit them throughout their lives while still achieving its primary mission to educate people though well-rounded studies.

I hope that industry will soon expand internal training programs for new hires. But until then, we can do more.

Student Success

If you are a professor, you know that some of your colleagues are very strict, unforgiving, and generally difficult when it comes to dealing with undergraduate students. It seems they have a grudge against students and want to make sure that they struggle, if not fail. In my experience, these kinds of professors are the exception, not the rule.

Most professors play a large but unheralded role in ensuring student success. Yes, students have a lot to do with their own success, but professors do too. They give significant amounts of personal attention to students to help ensure they succeed in the course and in their degree program. They give students lots of little breaks – sometimes big breaks – to help them move along to the next step in their education and in life. It has nothing to do with being liked. It is a practical response to life’s many unusual and unpredictable circumstances.

There are innumerable situations that students run into that require the professor to be flexible (here is short list). Variation can be both time-consuming and annoying. In truth, all professors would like course rules to be followed exactly, with no exceptions. But, that is not reality. The professors who are inflexible are unrealistic and create negative learning experiences for affected students and other students to whom they tell their stories to. Such professors probably should not be teaching.

ce_gradingMy father was a career university professor and long-time department chair. He was the rare full professor who insisted on teaching courses to undergraduates – one for non-science majors with 100 or so students and two for geology majors with 30 or so students each, plus his graduate courses (a total of three per semester). He gave students lots of breaks when the situation legitimately warranted it. One example is the way he graded undergraduate students’ performance on exams (he graded all exams himself; no teaching assistants). He was not a straight-up A-B-C-D-F grader, which was the official university grading system (no plus or minus allowed for final grades). Instead, his grading was more nuanced carried implied performance messages. The image at right shows an example of how he graded exams.

A+++ meant you were doing really well; keep up the good work. B—- meant you are seriously close to getting a C next time if you don’t study harder. It also means “I’ll do a lot to help you avoid getting a C.” C– meant you are falling below C average and need to work harder. D++ means you might be able to pull your grade up to a C next time. It also means “I’m trying to help you not fail.” The grading system he used quietly transmitted positive emotional and work-related messages to students.

Recognize that this comes from someone who was a straight-A student in in every subject, in a strict pre-World War II Italian public grade school and university system (Bologna). His early avocation life was to study and learn as much as he could – math, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, literature, history, religion – you name it – often by skipping class, teaching himself, and showing up for the test (much to the consternation of his professors). My father was hugely motivated and had enormously high standards. But, he recognized the reality that not every student was like him. Realism is an important quality for a professor to have.

And, he did not discriminate against the poor performing students. He was always available to explain things and help them improve through personal tutoring. On many occasions he would have lunch with them or a beer after work in the Rathskeller (in his engraved pewter mug, a family treasure now in the hands of my son Michael; drinking age was 18 at the time). When it came time to input final grades into the computer system, my father obviously had to make some adjustments to reconcile his grading system with the university’s. I do not know the details, but my bet is that it was mostly in student’s favor. He wanted to see them succeed in life as well as in school.

But, things are changing. As more teaching goes from face-to-face to hybrid to fully online over time, one can expect the professors’ interaction to go from high touch to low touch to no touch for some, perhaps many, courses. We should not lament that change. After all, things change – that is just reality. Remember, we used to get great personal attention at gas stations and department stores. That has changed. We used to get great personal attention on airline flights and at the doctor’s office. That too has changed.

It will be interesting to see how students do when nobody is around to give them any breaks, or when “the system” – the computerized learning management system – won’t let the instructor (facilitator?) give breaks to students who legitimately deserve a break. Will students be more or less successful than they are now, in the waning era of close faculty-student interaction? Lower cost online courses and degree programs could have some interesting unintended consequences.

Engaging Faculty in Lean Teaching

You may be interested in a short paper I have written, “Engaging Faculty in Lean Teaching.”

It was published in International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 6, Issue 1, 2015. You can view the paper here.

The paper identifies the challenges of engaging faculty in the Lean teaching pedagogy, beginning with the first early adopter and then on to other members of the faculty.

Please consider sharing it with your faculty colleagues and administrators.


When Higher Ed Is Just A Game

Want to know what happens when higher education is treated as nothing more than a game? Here is what happens: “How to Raise a University’s Profile: Pricing and Packaging” (The New York Times, 6 February 2015).

The president responsible for increasing tuition price and improving the packaging at George Washington University is Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. It is another example of how university leaders will do anything EXCEPT improve administrative and academic processes, for the purpose of providing a lower cost and higher value educational experience. As president, Mr. Trachtenberg did the easy thing and followed the herd.

According to Rate My Professor (I know, don’t say it), the average professor rating at George Washington University is 3.66, while at my school, Central Connecticut State University, the average professor rating is 3.71 (as of 8 February 2015). It is possible, therefore, that students could have received an equivalent education for a fraction of the price by attending public higher education. And many students would have very low debt or be debt-free upon graduation.

Here is another except from the end of The New York Times article:

“I was given an institution and told, ‘Make this place better…'”

The plan, obviously, was self-centered (the institution), not student-centered (inclusive of parents, payers, and other stakeholders). “The place” is better, but the student is not.

Here is another except:

“I asked Mr. Trachtenberg if it was morally defensible to let students borrow tens of thousands of dollars for a service that he himself had compared to a luxury good. He is not, by nature, one for apologies and second-guessing. ‘I’m not embarrassed by what we did,’ he said. ‘It’s not as if it’s some kind of a bait and switch here. It’s not as if the faculty weren’t good. It’s not as if the opportunities to get a good degree weren’t there. There’s no misrepresentation here.’ He seemed unbowed but also aware that his legacy was bound up in the larger dramas and crises of American higher education.”

The fact is, if the faculty at George Washington University is like most college and university faculty, they are not good – or at least not as good as they could be. See What is Good Quality Teaching?Are You Satisfied With 10 Percent?45 Teaching Errors, The Value of Higher Education, and Higher Education Quality.

Share The Knowledge

There remains a pressing need to overcome barriers among both administrators and faculty about the application of Lean management to higher education. Please consider sharing my work with your faculty colleagues and university leaders to help gain awareness of how Lean can significantly improve things for students, payers, employers, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders. If you like my work, then copy and paste the following into an e-mail to your colleagues:


Dear Colleagues – I have come across new e-book that I thought you might be interested in: The Lean Professor: Become a Better Teacher Using Lean Principles and Practices (128 pages), written by Dr. Bob Emiliani. It is about the thoughtful application of Lean principles and practices to teaching in higher education. I believe you will learn much from the new perspectives contained in this short book. It is available from Amazon and you can download it for free if you are an Amazon Prime member. The book can be read on any device simply by downloading a free reading app. And Kindle owners can lend the book to another Kindle owner. You may also be interested in Professor Emiliani’s blog about Lean teaching, The Lean Professor, as it is both practical and thought-provoking. Here is one example that I am sure you will enjoy: “Lean Must Do No Harm.”


Dear Colleagues – I have come across new e-book that I thought you might be interested in: We Can Do It! Improving the Relevancy and Value of Higher Education Using Lean Management (148 pages), written by Dr. Bob Emiliani. It is about the thoughtful application of Lean principles and practices to improve leadership and administrative processes in higher education. I believe you will learn much from the new perspectives contained in this short book. It is available from Amazon and you can download it for free if you are an Amazon Prime member. The book can be read on any device simply by downloading a free reading app. And Kindle owners can lend the book to another Kindle owner. You may also be interested in Professor Emiliani’s blog about Lean teaching, The Lean Professor, as it is both practical and thought-provoking. Here is one example that I am sure you will enjoy: “All Deans Are A**holes.”

If, instead, you hate my work, then copy and paste the following into an e-mail to your colleagues.

Faculty and Administrators

Dear Esteemed Faculty and Loathsome Administrators:

I have come across two new books that purport to describe how to improve teaching and student success in higher education using principles and practices derived from industry. Oh Lord, from industry of all places! I have read both and judge them to be absolute, total, and complete taurus stercore – bullshit, for those who flunked Latin.

The two e-books (e-books!) are The Lean Professor and We Can Do It! They were written by Dr. Bob Emiliani, a refugee from industry from where his foolish ideas no doubt came. Whoever gave him entry into the Academy surely erred and must be forced to serve as department chair in perpetuity.

The books concern the insane application of de-humanizing Tayloristic efficiency thinking to academic and administrative work. This corporatization of higher education is an ill wind that will surely result in a total loss of academic freedom, reduced creativity, robotic obedience to standards, faculty and staff burn-out, and layoffs, as well as debase and diminish student learning to the point that they can no longer function in society – not even as voters!

I implore you to read these silly little e-books. This tripe is available for free from Amazon if you are a Prime member – good thing the e-books are free because they are not worth the paper they are printed on. They can be read on any device simply by downloading a reading app, and Kindle owners can lend the book to another Kindle owner and jointly ridicule this pompous author who, incredibly, claims fealty to know-nothing students.

You may also be interested in Professor Emiliani’s blog about Lean teaching, The Lean Professor, as it spews endless nonsense and provides us with unlimited material to argue against in solidarity for maintaining the status quo.

Yours truly,

Dr. ______________________

Course Blueprint

Having worked for years in manufacturing businesses, I find there are many things in common with other types of organizations including colleges and universities. For example, the production activity in manufacturing is defined by upstream design work performed by engineers. Their product is a blueprint, which tells production management and production workers what to make, while sales informs them of how much to make and when to make it.

In higher ed, professors have long acted as both designer of the course and the one who produces (delivers) the course. The defining document for the course is the syllabus. Prior to the establishment of a course, a form is usually filled out that proposes a course for consideration and acceptance by faculty in the department, the school, and the curriculum committee.

My view is that a blueprint, such as that found in manufacturing (or architecture) would provide better early definition of the course. In addition, a blueprint would identify measurement points that are more relevant as well as institutional weaknesses in course and academic program specification. The image below shows a blueprint for one of the courses that I have taught for 10 years (click on image to view .pdf file):


Producing a blueprint like this requires the professor to articulate many aspects of a course that may not be well thought out or implied. The blueprint makes it explicit. It makes clear the following information in preparation for the subsequent steps needed to get a new course approved:

Section 1 – Type of course, the student’s learning challenge, the aid(s) used to facilitate learning, delivery mode, pedagogy, and maximum number of students for effective learning. The learning aid, in this case a problem-solving template, which links to the learning challenges and Section 8, Bloom’s Taxonomy. It is my view that learning aids (templates for problem-solving) could be more widely used to great effect for achieving student learning objectives.

Section 2 – Learning objectives are few in number and focused on what the course truly seeks to accomplish. There should be alignment between the Learning Challenge and Learning Aid (Section 1) and Bloom’s Taxonomy (Section 8).

Section 3 – Requires the professor to think about the amount of theory and real-world practice contained in the course and justify the balance. Courses weak in practice should be strengthened in that area while those strong in practice might introduce some appropriate amount of theory.

Section 4 – This section identifies the type and number of assignments, assignment evaluation schedule, estimated time to complete assignments, in-class evaluations, and exams. This captures both the student and faculty workload for the course. It helps differentiate between 3-credit courses that require a lot of work by the teacher and those that require less work, thereby enabling supervision to better manage faculty load (assuming the words “student success” are more than rhetoric).

Section 5 – Identifies qualified teachers. The fact that there is only one qualified instructor to teach the course identifies a potential problem. This would be more of a problem for a required course in the degree program than for an elective course.

Section 6 – Identifies classes that are critical for students to attend to assure student success. This is especially important for part-time working professional students whose schedule is uncertain and may miss some classes due to work and family commitments. Students would benefit from knowing this prior to the start of the class.

Section 7 – Course schedule and duration, and emphasis on the need to start each class on-time, while end-time varies according to the extent of useful discussion.

Section 8 – Relationship to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Requires professor to identify (check marks) which elements of Bloom’s Taxonomy are part of the educational objective of the course. This should link to Section 1, Learning Aid, to create learning aids that strengthen the Learning Challenge in relation to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Section 9 – Identify specifications that pertain to the course: Accreditor, University, School, and Department. The lack of specifications point to potential problems. My University has no documented (simple) specification for lecture courses, online courses, hybrid courses, or laboratory courses. Their design is guided by tradition or opinion, which means there will be many problems as perceived by students due to a large amount of variation. Likewise, my school (of Engineering, Science, and Technology) has no specification for lecture courses, online courses, and so on, nor does my department.

Professionally run organizations carefully define the goods and services they produce and also assure the goods and services conform to blueprints and specifications. In industry, that requirement is fulfilled by workers, managers, and auditors, through self-inspection, monitoring of performance metrics, and physical inspection. The blueprint proposed here allows for inspection, auditing, and the creation of simple metrics and data collection that, in my view, form the basis for more meaningful and accurate assessment and reporting.

A blueprint similar to that shown above could also be created for an academic program and would likewise prove to be beneficial.

Effective Online Courses

Let’s assume that online courses are or will soon be as effective as in-person education. Is that a stretch? Probably not, because face-to-face teaching is, on average, is not very good. University-wide professors’ ratings are typically 3.0 to 3.75 on a 1 to 5 scale – a score of just 60 to 75. Teaching can be improved by at least one full point. Yet, I do not find much evidence of university leadership seeking to substantially improve face-to-face teaching via Lean teaching or any other means.

If face-to-face teaching largely remains as it has long been, then it is likely that online courses will soon meet or exceed in-person courses in quality and effectiveness. Acceptance for online courses by students could accelerate due to the many chronic problems that plague face-to-face teaching – and which their parents also experienced if they were college students. So parents will be sympathetic to the quality problems and even encourage online degree attainment especially if the tuition is reduced.

When this happens, what is to become of professors?

State schools are the low-cost mass producers who will automate teaching, just as low-cost producers in any industry are known to do. Like most managers, they would much rather adopt a new solution rather than fix old problems. The former earns them points for being progressive while the latter earns them demerits for being a Luddite.

Private schools are the high-cost craft producers and will likely use far less automation because the hallmark of their service is “handmade” education. People who want that service and experience will pay the price.

The value the professor (at state schools, anyway), therefore, must become greatly narrowed. They will serve the role of technical content writer, and will not necessarily be the person who delivers the pre-recorded content to students. That means, highly educated subject matter experts will work behind the scenes similar to the way writers do in television or cinema. The professor’s teaching labor, therefore, would be divided, from one who both writes and delivers to one who writes.

One of the few ways professors could add more value than writing is by facilitating periodic live online discussions. But, they cannot simply repeat the video modules. Their effectiveness would be defined by three things:

  1. Deep knowledge of the history of the subject matter, from its inception to current times.
  2. Relationship of the subject matter to the real world – the working world that students will
    populate upon graduation.
  3. Ability to motivate and inspire students.

Item 1 would be accomplished through self-study or additional formal education. Item 2 is a major problem for career educators who lack real-world work experience. Item 3 depends somewhat on ones proficiency with items 1 and 2.

In this scenario, the person who delivers the material online is akin to the play-by-play announcer in a football game, while the professor is the color commentator (analyst). Sounds like a pretty good job. Maybe it will even pay better than the current one. But, let’s make darn sure we don’t end up as sideline reporters (no offense intended to sideline reporters).