Thursday, November 15, 2012

Massive open online courses (MOOCs)


Something is in the works that could potentially turn higher education upside down.  Technology entrepreneurs are making college courses available to the masses.  Top professors at the very best universities in the world teach many of these courses.  One of the leaders in this effort is a technology startup called Coursera, which is working with universities to turn selected courses into MOOCs.  A single MOOC could enroll tens of thousands of students worldwide.

So far, the courses have been available for free.  Students completing an online course receive a certificate, but no academic credit from the university.  All that could be changing soon.

The American Council on Education (ACE) recently announced a joint effort with Coursera to determine the appropriate academic credit, if any, a university should give to a student completing a MOOC.  University leaders will be working with ACE to address issues in online delivery of college courses with an eye toward removing barriers to higher education – and tapping a vast market.

It is now clear why universities have been willing to provide some courses for free.  This has allowed them to understand the market potential for charging tuition, granting academic credit, and potentially awarding degrees to a multitude of students that require no brick and mortar investments in classroom buildings, dorms, dining halls, etc.

The implications are enormous.  With traditional college costs soaring, MOOCs taken for credit could make quality higher education more accessible than ever.  The traditional “college experience” could become a thing of the past.

Universities aren’t leading this charge.  It is being led by technology startups (some created by former professors) that advocate a new approach to higher education. Universities are cautious but are participating because they recognize this could be a game changer and they can’t afford to be left out.

There are clearly many issues to address with massive online learning and MOOCs.  This is something to watch carefully in the months and years ahead.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Some examples of characters and issues in my short stories


As promised in my previous post, here are some examples of characters in my stories and dilemmas they face.

In COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: A SHORT STORY ABOUT COLLEGE SPORTS IN OUR TIMES, athletic director Walter Wiggins of Lone Star State University (LSSU) is caught between a rock and a hard place.  He knows the only revenue source with growth potential is television, and he aggressively and successfully negotiates better and better TV contracts to keep his program afloat financially.  But expanded TV contracts put more games on the air and threaten to erode the season ticket base, potentially costing the school millions in lost ticket sales and loss of brand image.  Loyal fans like Will Spencer and his large family now have the option to follow their beloved Hornets from afar.  This may not be an endearing story to die hard college football fans, but it is a reality faced by more and more athletic directors at schools with major sports programs.

In EXTRA CREDIT: A SHORT STORY ABOUT HIGHER EDUCATION IN AMERICA, Professor Nathan Carter seems caught in a time warp.  He still thinks that a student should only get one shot at each test and that the grade of C represents average performance.  All the students and many of his faculty colleagues at Midway State University (MSU) have different ideas.  Extra credit and do-overs are commonplace at the school, and many MSU students have never made a C in their entire college career.  A clash of cultures takes place when a graduating senior competing for a prestigious award takes a course from Professor Carter in her last semester at the school.  Is the professor out of touch and hurting the student's opportunity for professional recognition, or should he hold to his standards?

In JOHNSON AND JOHNSON: A SHORT STORY ABOUT ATHLETICS AND ACADEMICS IN COLLEGE SPORTS (forthcoming in late summer or early fall 2012), two unrelated men with the same last name work at the same university and share the same driving passion for professional success.  Coach Johnson and Professor Johnson are both upstanding citizens who are well respected on campus and in their field.  Unfortunately, they get caught up in an ethical dilemma involving star athletes.  Their individual perspectives on the issue are very different, but not in the way you may think. Who will do the right thing?  What is the right thing?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Using short stories to present issues in higher education


I write short stories that illustrate interesting and important issues or dilemmas faced in higher education. All characters, locations, and events in my stories are fictional, but the underlying issues are very real and often quite complex.  There are no easy answers to some of the predicaments in my stories.

I develop my stories from professional experiences and current events in the world of higher education.  Anything on the higher education landscape is fair game including teaching philosophies, athletics versus academics, grade inflation, budget crises, tenure, teaching versus research, online courses, and the like.

My stories are issue based and not about any real-life persons or institutions.  I never compromise confidentiality of any official activities that I participated in during my career.

You will rarely find any villains in my stories.  My fictional characters are generally honest, competent, and motivated to do the right thing.  They are often caught in difficult circumstances beyond their control – usually the result of sociological, economic, and/or technological influences in the ever-changing world around them.  Irony and humor play a part in my stories.

I’ll give some specific examples in my next post.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The best time to write


The best time to write is when you have something to say.  Many years ago, when I was starting my academic career, I knew that to earn tenure I was expected to write and publish.  My biggest worry back then was that I might not have anything important to say.

It’s not a problem now.  My thirty-five years as a college professor have given me a wealth of experiences (mostly good) and a unique perspective on issues in higher education and college sports.  In addition to performing the normal faculty duties of teaching and research, I gained important perspectives on higher education through leadership roles on high-level institutional committees and service as a faculty representative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  As a retired professor and independent writer, my stories focus on interesting issues and dilemmas faced by higher education in America.

In my next post, I’ll explain how.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why write short stories?

Research shows that full-length books have a wider audience than short stories.  So, why would a writer specialize in short stories?

The answer is simple.  The short story may be the best form of expression for a given topic or writer, and may be the best way for the author to deliver a message or raise an issue that he/she considers important.