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The Weekly Blab 3.5

The Weekly Blab

Vol. 3, Number 5—October 2, 2008


Dear Colleagues,


Staying with the musical theme I’ve had this year, one of the problems with having a large collection is that you occasionally mislay things.  You know they’re around somewhere, but just can’t find them.  So yesterday, I spent about two hours looking for two discs—one was the Rolling Stones’ “Live Licks” and the other was June Christy’s “Cool Christy”.  So, after two hours of searching, I found the “Live Licks”—in the shelf with the other Rolling Stones discs, exactly where it should have been alphabetically.  I could have sworn I looked there at least half a dozen times and it wasn’t there.  And then, there it was.  Maybe there’s a black hole or an infundibulum in my house.  June Christy is still among the missing, and to add insult to injury, when I looked on Amazon to see how much a replacement might cost, found that it has gone out of print and the cheapest copy is now $89.99.  I think I’ll wait and see if it reappears.



Do We Know Anything About the Budget Yet?  About Raises?

The answer is still “we don’t know”. 


On-Line Instruction

As I mentioned at the faculty meeting today, a subject that’s being discussed quite a bit at the Deans Council and the ALC is online instruction.  There are three big reasons why this is a hot topic.


First, there are some proposed changes in the way eCore will operate—administration of it may move to the University of West Georgia, and it may eventually move away from operating on an affiliate model.  eCore, for those who don’t know, is the University System’s online delivery of core courses.  Several universities (SPSU is one) participate in this.   So, we need to think about our future relationship with eCore.


Second, as most of you know, we’ve been working on articulations with the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG, formerly known as DTAE).  The goal in these articulations is for us to be able to deliver selected programs (EET, Surveying, etc.) on a state-wide basis.  Online or low residency instruction is the way we think we’ll be doing it.  This will require us to develop a substantial batch of online courses.


Third, our own growth compels us to think about online instruction.  Yes, we’ll have the new Engineering Technology Center and an expanded Studio Building (Building I) at the end of the next academic year.  Yes, this will free up space in Building G and the K Buildings, which we will be able to be put to new use.  Yes, we are working on plans to acquire even more space, both acreage and new buildings.  However, our current 7-8% growth rate (which will only increase as new programs are approved) will eventually overtake the amount of new space available.  At that point, we must either cap enrollments or deliver instruction in ways that are more space-efficient.  And of course, online instruction is very space efficient.  So why not just cap enrollment?  Well—that also means capping revenue.  We derive the vast majority of our revenue from tuition and related formula funding.  That’s not going to change anytime soon.


There are lots of different ways that one can do online instruction.

  • You can offer an online supplement to your otherwise “live” class.  I would assume that most faculty do that already, if only to make syllabi, class notes, etc. available.  No space savings here, though.
  • You can offer the course in a hybrid format.  The most common version of this is (for a three hour course) one 90 minute session “live”, and another online.  This obviously saves 50% of the space occupied by a “live” class.
  • You can offer the course in a low-residency format.  This is mostly online, but there is one or more concentrated “live” session.  The “live” part might be lab, for example, which might meet twice or three times per semester on a Saturday, with the student doing multiple lab experiments each time.  This can save up to 90% of the space occupied by a “live” class.
  • You can offer the course purely online. 


There are several major issues with online instruction that need to be dealt with.

  • If a faculty member creates an online course, who owns it?  The faculty member?  The University?  Both (and in what way both)?
  • Should all students be allowed to take online courses?  Only those above a particular GPA?  Only those who have completed more than xx credits?
  • What about retention?  Online courses often have lower success rates than “live” courses.  Adherents claim it’s because many people who teach online don’t really know how to do so effectively.
  • How do you get faculty to teach online effectively?  How do you teach students to learn online effectively?  How much of this should be voluntary and how much compulsory?
  • What’s a reasonable online course size?  Many colleagues who teach online say no more than 25 students.  What does this mean when we often run “live” courses at larger size?
  • On a related note, how about workload?  It takes more time (starting from scratch) to develop an online course than a “live” one, I believe.  Should one get extra compensation for online course development?  How many times should one be able to get it?  Should we always start from scratch?
  • Submit your own question here! 


Offering more things online doesn’t mean that we have to do everything online.  We might decide that SPSU should offer all core courses online.  We might decide to offer everything but some specific courses (ENGL 1101? MATH 1111? SPCH 2400?) we feel must be taken “live”.  We might say “no freshman courses online”.  And so on. 


So, there are lots of questions and lots of decisions that need to be made.  So how do we move forward?  My personal take is that I think it would be a good idea for us to encourage (and support) several School of Arts and Sciences faculty to participate in the upcoming Teaching Academy for Distance Learning program we’ll be running (you’ll get an email on this in the near future); do a little research on if there are any good “canned” online core courses in their areas (so that we don’t have to start from square one); modify them (as they see appropriate); offer them once or twice; analyze the results (for quality, retention, etc.); and come back together to discuss.  I hope that the A+S departments will encourage some of their faculty to participate.  And I hope that we’ll continue to make progress in making our other key degree programs available online in appropriate ways, for appropriate audiences.


At the same time, I’d like to ask the Distance Learning Task Force to consider the various issues listed above, and make recommendations to the ALC and the faculty.  No doubt many of these issues have already been discussed in previous years, and those results can be captured, updated if necessary, and contextualized into a plan for moving forward to the next level, and what the next level should be.


OK, I’m on the record.  How about you?  Your comments, as always, are invited.


Congratulations to:

The ACCE visiting team finished its work evaluating the Construction Management program on Tuesday.  In their exit interview, they noted quite a few strengths of the program, including the quality of the faculty, the curriculum, the students, the department chair, alumni and industrial board relations, etc.   The challenges that they identified shouldn’t surprise anyone—a need for more faculty and more laboratory space for the program.  Congratulations to all involved for a successful visit.  Next at bat:  ABET.


Last Week’s Winner

Joyce Mills won the Nat King Cole CD with her correct definition that a transcription was a recording made for radio play, not for commercial release. 


This Week’s Trivia Challenge

Since one of my June Christy discs is among the missing, let’s make today’s trivia question about female vocalists.  Name the definitive song for which each of the following singers is known.  Some hints are provided below.


Ella Fitzgerald (her earliest big hit)

Billie Holiday (the #1 song about the South, according to the AJC)

June Christy (why she’s called “Cool Christy”)


No peeking on the web, now!  The first winner (or closest answer) gets a cool Oscar Peterson disc.