Posted by: Catherine Lugg | May 19, 2011

Karma is a strange thing

Lately, I have been posting on a theme of “cultivating thoughtlessness.” Well, karma or irony has struck. Below is a snip from an e-mail I received on Monday, from Laureate International Network (i.e., Walden University).

We are seeking a Subject Matter Expert (SME) to assist in the development of a new course in our PhD. program in Administration and Leadership.
To give you some background on the company, Laureate provides quality online and blended learning programs for working adults that are offered by a number of universities. We address many disciplines, including education, health, public administration, psychology, business, engineering, and IT at the doctoral, masters, and bachelors levels. The courses in our programs include online classrooms, texts and journal readings, websites, and a variety of video and multimedia components.

A hallmark of Laureate’s programs and courses is the collaboration with thought leaders and expert practitioners, such as you. We kick off the development of every course with a “summit,” which is scheduled for one eight-hour day. During the summit, a course developer, media producer, faculty representative from Walden University, and a subject matter expert create the initial design or “blueprint” for the course, which includes determining key learning objectives, assignments, and the selection of resources.

Your expertise would be valuable in developing this course.
We do provide travel expenses in addition to a $2000.00 consulting fee. This is intended to compensate you for your time to organize some preliminary thoughts on the course, to offer suggestions about course readings and other resources, and for spending a day brainstorming with us on developing the broad course outline.

I have a couple of reactions. Clearly, they stink at “due diligence,” since a fast Google search would quickly reveal my thoughts about on-line, fast-track doctoral education offered by organizations such as Walden. It’s also interesting that for a mere 2,000 pieces of silver (to wax Biblical), I’m encouraged to sell myself out, as well as my colleagues working in real doctoral programs in educational administration and leadership. Quite simply, YUCK.

Even during these hard economic times, when my home institution has refused to pay contractual raises for nearly a year–including promotion raises, there are principles that should not be up for sale. But that brings me to larger and worrisome issues. If you scan the website for Laureate International Network, you’ll see Bill Clinton and Richard Riley splashed about their web pages. Clearly, fame does have a certain price. Such high profile endorsements matter in the political world, and lowly state universities, and this includes state research universities these days, can’t afford to go out and literally buy a US president to enhance it’s cache. Furthermore, these endorsements matter when the US Congress is debating whether to impose accountability standards on a sector that strenuously resists them.

My own thoughts are pretty clear on this. I think states and the federal government need to stop subsidizing these on-line travesties via student loans and grants. Furthermore, states don’t have to accredit on-line preparation programs to prepare public school teachers and administrators. States do NOT do this for beauty and barbering schools, law schools and medical schools. Consequently, if you want public school educators to model the best pedagogies, it’s not found in an on-line environment, period (doesn’t ANYONE read Jerome Bruner anymore??).

Of course, there is a part of me that finds the e-mail solicitation from the Laureate International Network wildly ironic–but it is grimly ironic.


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