Outsourcing Education?

Outsourcing Education?

I just read this article today — yes it’s HuffPost, but it also does bring up a concern I’ve had for a while.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/enough-is-enough-pearson-_b_3146434.html

Pearson products are heavily used in my workplace, sometimes being used as a Learning Management system in place of our institutionally supplied LMS.

What’s the problem with this you ask? Well, I grew up in a Social Democracy and I’ve always believed that education should not be FOR PROFIT. With that being said, I understand that after the GFC in 2008, many cuts were made to education in the US. Cuts to salaries, cuts to resources, positions went away and the time and resources we had to create content for our students was reduced as a result.

That’s just the world we live in now. These parties exist and they seem to become more heavily used. Education, as a result is becoming more and more privatized.

Here are the dangers I see:

  • Curriculum being designed around products not outcomes
  • Students being assessed by products, not by their instructors
  • As product adoption goes up, the power we have as educators to change the product is reduced.

But aren’t textbooks products? Yes, and there is also a problem there (see Texas State Board of Education). Textbooks are reference materials. The teacher still has the ability to teach the course how they want. They are still able to assess, manage student progress and engage with students with freedom.

The danger isn’t really in the existence of these third party products, but with the degree to which they are adopted, and how that takes away freedom to teach the way we want to teach.

Personally, when i teach, I don’t use a textbook. I draw from my own expertise to write my own lectures, being sure to include citations. I also use freely accessible online videos and write my own assessments. This way, I’m not forcing the student to give up private information to a third party as well as make them pay for something, when tuition costs are already going up up up!

At my school, a huge company has no idea how we work, how our departments interact or the nuances of our student population. By adopting a generalized and unspecific platform and using it so heavily, we are actually breaking the first ruleof instructional design — teaching to a specific population of learners.

In closing, I don’t doubt the benefit some of these products bring to our students. Formative assessments, practice tasks and other exercises do help our students. There has to be a balance though. Do we outsource our teaching to companies who are just in it to make a quick buck that haven’t really earned their way into our schools? Or do we use these products wisely, balancing academic integrity and quality, while using them as a supplemental resource?

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