Late Week Seven Posting

So as I was perusing online job postings for adjunct instructors the other day I ran across what I felt was an alarming post. I say I found it to be alarming, but perhaps I came to judgement too soon. In light of the fact that we need to pose a question in week seven (yup, I’m a full four days late here), I think the problems I found in the job posting would be very interesting to talk about and get opinions on!

In the job posting the college was seeking candidates with terminal degrees in their areas to develop online courses. Development and/or online teaching experience was not required.

In the first week or two of this POT program a few folks mentioned that many instructors may have never actually been enrolled in an online course themselves as students. Not that that should be a pre-requisite to teaching online certainly, but for instructors who are also teaching online for the first time, this is quite literally a whole new world. Those folks might very well have terminal degrees in their area and would be a perfect candidate for the job listed above.

I have taught online and I have also taken numerous online classes as an undergraduate and graduate student. I am now currently enrolled in this program to educate myself even further in online teaching pedagogy and online teaching tools. I am not eligible to apply for this job posting.

 The number of colleges who are branching into online courses is overwhelming and growing daily. These colleges need classes to be built in order to offer them. The question I wish to pose is this: Should colleges value a terminal degree for an online curriculum developer over real world experience, even if no terminal degree is present?

 Don’t get me wrong. I do not mean to suggest the person should have no degree at al, or even an undergraduate degreel….but would someone with a Masters, for example, be qualified to develop the curriculum if they also have real world experience in doing so?


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rocío Giráldez
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 02:35:46

    Hello Erica

    There are many colleges for profit now that approach education as a business and do not care so much about the quality of the courses they offer. The college you are talking about could be just one of them.
    Some of them pay very little per course and want you to provide them with all your lecture notes that they will upload for you in their online platform. I wonder if after you give them the course for them to upload it if you have any copyrights over those materials.
    I agree with you that to build an online course previous online teaching/learning experience and real world experience are important factors to keep in mind.



    • ericaduran
      Oct 26, 2011 @ 22:27:46

      Agreed. The for-proft sector is certainly rampant with adjunct abuse, among other things. You pose a good question about copyright, but I would almost assume that the faculty member would not keep copyright if it were material the college paid to “develop.” On a side note, unfortunately this job posting was from a state school and upon reviewing the posting it did say that experience was preferred but not required. Ultimately, my question still remains even given the different wording. They do not deem it essential to know how to teach online before developing an online course. That concerns me.
      Thanks for your great feedback.


  2. B Davis-Shannon (@bdavisshannon)
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 01:55:01

    I’d like to think that the job posting would accept a Masters-on-the-way-to-PhD as a terminal degree, but that might just be my naivete.

    Overall, however, I think that the focus on degree instead of experience is an interesting issue. One the main problems I have with the US educational system (or perhaps business) is that there seems to be an undue focus on certification over actual practice. If what I’m seeing in schools is accurate, many people are receiving certificates that, honestly, shouldn’t because of lowered standards. And . . . I could go on, but that’s a rant for another day.

    I think that real world experience is more important. So there.


    • ericaduran
      Oct 26, 2011 @ 22:37:12

      Rants are okay…I certainly have my own 🙂 I couldn’t agree with you more though that there is this emphasis on degree and not necessarily on actual experience in the field. There is a position at a college I currently work with that has remained unfilled because the powers that be are determined to hire someone with a degree in that very specific discipline even though they already have an extraordinary faculty member serving in that position temporarily. It is maddening because the people who work with the faculty member think this person is doing an amazing job and should be kept on permanently in the position, but the higher ups want something different on paper – a Ph.D. someone could have earned twenty years ago and that is more important than the real world work this faculty member has been doing for them at their own school. Argh!

      I’ve actually thought long and hard about if I were to ever go on for my Ph.D. which specific emphasis would I get it in. In English there are so many, and that degree determines where you go. So if I specialize in Shakespearean Drama but end up, ten years down the road, doing research in and publishing on American Lit, my degree only says Shakespeare and that will be what I’m hired for. I’ve seen this again and again in the hiring process, and it is stunning to me the power that is placed on the degree rather than the practical experience.

      In something like online teaching, it seems so practical to require someone to have that base knowledge. But, what is common sense to some is clearly not to others I suppose.


      • B Davis-Shannon (@bdavisshannon)
        Oct 29, 2011 @ 14:19:55

        See, you’d think at the very least in academia the kind of recent research you are doing would be more important than what you emphasized when you got your degree. Of course, that’s the same logic as hiring someone who is doing the work you want, not someone who has the degree you want, so . . .

  3. Sandra
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 03:29:37

    I think that a degree for degrees sakes is not where education should be at. The importance is the knowledge and the ability to pass that on to the students. I think the important thing is to keep up to date with the content knowledge and new teaching styles/methods. As for developing an online course, I think that the ability to teach in an online environment or even face to face has to be part of the construction of the online course. It is the ability to pass on the knowledge which is important and to do that, it is important to break the ideas down into simplier bits if need be and that comes from reflecting on how the students are progressing with the learning.

    About 10 years ago, the NZ secondary education sector had a revamp of the qualifications required to teach. Most teachers have a degree but in some areas there were degree-equivalent qualifications where the degree equivalent was accepted by a professional body as the same as the degree (as in my case with my accounting qualification) or where there were no degrees available (in the case of IT and the trades). This revamp meant that unless the teacher had a degree, they could not get to the top of the pay scales regardless of whether they were currently teaching or whether there wasn’t a degree available in their area either when they trained or because there just isn’t. Teachers were not happy and many looked to leave the industry because they didn’t see any point in using the transisional arrangements to get a degree. Up shot was an excodus of the older teachers without having younger ones coming in.

    Another way to look at this is – would I want someone to fix my car who knew the theory about how an engine works, or someone with the practical knowledge. I know who I would pick!


  4. Ross
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 03:31:44

    I agree with all the comments here. That person nominated to lead development in online learning in any institution needs to be plastic enough to receive as well as impress new ideas, tools and approaches from and to faculty in their progress though this new heutagogy. But there definitely needs to be a clear vision and an understood strategy incorporating division of labour, communities, rules, knowledge production and other actions. I’m plotting a scheme in an online course which constructs an irregular Borromean knot formation where the overlaps are nodes of connection in ever-expanding fractals but where the intersection of all (Brandon’s hub) is the centre. This, I think, is going to give rise to some nodes growing organically larger while others diminish, giving valuable feedback about relevance.


  5. Walter Muryasz
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 07:20:39

    A terminal degree in a subject does not necessarily qualify someone to be able to develop curriculum for an online course. They may be a subject matter expert in their field but that does not make them an instructional designer for an online course.


    • ericaduran
      Nov 02, 2011 @ 22:43:57


      That was my thought exactly. I guess it also goes back to the old saying that just because someone is an expert does not mean they are a good teacher. I feel the same applies in this scenario and I hope that the more schools push to offer a greater number of online courses they will look at the relevant experience the applicants have in online work rather than just the degree they hold. This seems essential in both face-to-face and online courses…to me 🙂



  6. Norm Wright
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 09:17:28

    “Don’t worry about a thing. Our new surgeon has done this operation hundreds of times in Second Life. You’ll be fine”


  7. rdkendall
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 23:50:04

    Surely a teacher is someone who is recognised as proficient in teaching by his/her peers through a period of training and formal accreditation and who possesses – or at least, is working towards – a qualification in the area. I know of some who have no teaching quals and whose degree is at the same level as those they are teaching – but they’re cheap!


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