Senate meets Wed 3-5PM to weaken godless ethics policy, regulate faculty inputs to online classes, and then listen to our students if time permits

Senate Meeting – April 6, 2016. Browsing Room, Knight Library; 3:00-5:00 pm. 2015-2016Agendas,  Watch Live.

Synopsis: Ethics passed eventually. Online input policy passed. At the last minute VP for Student Life Robin Holmes bailed on the student-led discussion of the Mandatory Live-In Policy non-policy, probably preventing any substantive discussion before it goes into effect.

The UO Divest students gave a report on the goals of their sit-in, and reported that the administration has removed their divestment banner from the bush outside JH, claiming it was a “structural element”. This seems like an obvious violation of UO’s free -speech policy and the careful language in the Facilities Use Policy that the Senate negotiated with Lariviere in 2010.

3:00 pm    Introductory Remarks, Senate President Randy Sullivan

3:05 pm    1.   Call to Order, 3:05 pm    2.   Approval of Minutes  March 9, 2016

3:15 pm    4.   New Business

4.1     US15/16-21: Revision of the Code of Ethics in Response to Feedback from the University President; Senate Executive Committee

Live blog: Schill’s not sure why we are bothering with this either. Something we inherited from OUS and it would look bad to ditch it. We then proceed to debate the Public Accountability clause and “inclusivity”. Someone tries to add the dread word “collegiality”. Harbaugh objects unless it specifies “collegiality as defined by New York City best practices.” Collegiality fails. Freyd proposes a simplifying amendment to delete everything after the second period. Passes. Harbaugh moves to change “ensures” to “requires”. Schill agrees. Amendment passes. The Godless UO now has a code of ethics, though the administration reserves the right to take another look.

My post from yesterday:

Yes, AVP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett has brought this back to us once more, for still more debate. And he tells people it’s the *Senate* that wastes time on pointless unenforceable motions? It seems someone in JH has taken a red pen to the public accountability language:

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But our administrators have no problem with this language in the UOPD’s ethics policy:

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Is there none righteous among the Senate, not one, with the stones (or ovaries) to propose an amendment adding God to the UO ethics policy? I’ll second, I swear (or affirm) to it.

OK, so we’re all atheists, just as Ben Carson thought. Well how about sustainability then? Even the godless worship sustainability. Maybe especially the godless. But Triplett’s Policy Advisory Committee is proposing repealing UO’s policy on sustainability, which we inherited from Pernsteiner and Triplett from back when they ran OUS, and before they ran Lariviere out:

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While I don’t doubt that UO’s “green brand” brings in more good students than the Duck’s party school reputation, I’m all for ditching this vacuous policy about “how we can live sustainably on Earth.” Instead we should should support our UO Divest students, who have a practical, well thought out program for reducing CO2 emissions through collective action, which they are working hard to implement.

4.2     US15/16-22: Policy on Undergraduate Online and Hybrid Courses: Student Engagement; Academic Council

Provost Scott Coltrane has appointed VPAA Doug Blandy of all people to lead a task force on online education, but his task force has just begun meeting, and he won’t share the schedule or agenda. Instead this proposal comes from the Academic Council. It does not attempt to deal with cheating or grade inflation in online courses, or evaluate what students might learn from these courses. Instead it’s all about regulating faculty inputs.

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Live-blog: Dreiling wants to see the SEI, here:

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White explains the impetus from this proposal: students were complaining that some online classes consisted of nothing more than video lectures and a final exam.

Koopman asks why the policy does not provide more guidance on what is meant by engagement – instead of defining it as what it’s not.

White: We are working closely with Doug Blandy’s task force to provide more examples in the SEI and other documents. Doesn’t want to give faculty language they can just cut and paste into a course proposal.

Wolverton: Agrees with Koopman, thinks there should be more guidance in the policy. 2.1 should reference the SEI. Furthermore, the SEI tracks *student* engagement, this seems focused on faculty workload.

Question is called, policy passes.

3:45 pm    5.   Open Discussion

5.1       Proposed Mandatory Live In policy for all new incoming students.

Last meeting we had to cut this very interesting student-led discussion off early, for lack of time.

Apparently VPSL Robin Holmes was not prepared to continue discussing the Mandatory Live On Policy for freshman that came up last month.

Senators ask whether or not this is just a delaying tactic on the part of VPSL.  Say it ain’t so!

4:15 pm    6.   Reports

Two UO Divest students, Joey and Nicole report on the progress of their JH sit-in and protest, aimed at encouraging the UO Foundation to divest from those fossil fuel companies that still haven’t gone bankrupt.

The students report that, after 8 weeks of their JH sit-in, the administration has been removed their banner from outside JH.

Dreiling: WTF? Don’t we have a free-speech policy?

Students: They told us that we couldn’t even stand there, because that made us “structural elements of the building.”

Senator: There have been many other banners on Johnson Hall over the years, including one celebrating the last capital campaign. Sounds structural?

Harbaugh: In 2010 the Senate rejected GC Randy Geller’s attempt to write a policy that would allow the administration to remove your banner. Perhaps the Senate should revisit this

Sullivan: Can faculty help out with the sit-in?

Students: We’re there from 9-5.

4:50 pm    7.   Notice(s) of Motion

4:50 pm    8.   Other Business

5:00 pm    9.   Adjournment

Profs hire students to show how to cheat in an online class

It’s not hard. The Chronicle has the story here, which involved an experiment with a fake online class the professors set up to see if they could detect cheaters:

“Joey” emailed that he needed someone to take a 10-week accelerated course in introductory psychology, and inquired if the company was prepared to handle all aspects of the class. The company would not only take the whole course for Joey, its representative said, but promised to earn him an A.

After asking Joey for his contact information, which he submitted on the company’s website, and a copy of the course syllabus, the company sent him an invoice for $917. Joey asked to make the payments in two installments. He made the first using a prepaid credit card. Halfway through the course, he paid the second installment in the same way.

After receiving the first payment, the company took the first weekly quiz, earning a nearly perfect score. Soon afterward, it requested Joey’s help in purchasing a required textbook (he provided electronic access). From that point on, the company completed all of Joey’s work without any input, including quizzes, examinations, and discussion-board posts, receiving an A on every assignment.

… In the end, the professors caught several students plagiarizing material. But they did not detect that Joey Sanchez was a fraud. Both instructors gave him an A in the class.

“I certainly did not feel that ‘Joey’ was being ‘run’ by a cheating company,” Mr. Malesky wrote in the paper. “If anything, Joey struck me as a conscientious and motivated student who wanted to get as much out of the course as possible.”

UO Economics Professor Mark Thoma on online education

In the FT, here:

Is online education the solution to widening inequality, rapidly rising costs, and lack of access to high quality courses? Will it lead to the demise of traditional “brick and mortar” institutions? I was initially very skeptical about the claims being made about online education, but after teaching several of these course during the past academic year my own assessment has become much more positive.

My main worry, as expressed in a previous column, was that the availability of online courses degrees would create a two-tiered education system and exaggerate inequality instead of reducing it. I still worry about that, but I didn’t give online education enough credit for the things that it can do. Here are some of the positives and negatives of online versus traditional education gleaned from my experience teaching both types of courses.

Let me start with the negatives …

Thoma’s economics blog is here, and here’s a lecture from his undergrad econometrics course:

VPAA Doug Blandy pulls off daring $1M student credit hour heist

UO VPAA Doug Blandy:

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3/4/2013: Basically it’s another version of Michael Moffit’s CnC scam – but 5x bigger, thanks to the miracle of online education. And while the instructors in those CnC courses kept to pretty much the same curve as the rest of UO, 60% of the students in Doug Blandy’s courses got A’s – more than twice the normal percentage. It’s a long story, sorry:

Arts and Administration, a.k.a. AAD, is a longstanding MA program for arts administrators. Totally legit – but not very lucrative. For years they’ve also offered a few UO undergrad courses – AAD 250, 251, 252:

Starting somewhere around 2006, when Doug Blandy took over as AAD Director, the program started adding many new online versions of these classes, taught with underpaid adjuncts.

Let’s do some math: For 2011-12 they taught about 2100 students, 4 credits each. Under the Shelton/Bean budget model, AAA gets ~$112 per credit, maybe a bit more given all the “self-supporting” online and summer courses. Let’s call it $1,200,000 or so.  Gotta pay the adjuncts though. For the first one I checked, pay was $15,000, for 0.49 FTE. Slick – no benefits to worry about. Assume that’s for 4 courses, so labor costs are about $4000 a course. 44 courses or so a year, that’s $200,000 for labor, tops. So it looks like AAA and Blandy’s AAD program have been pulling down close to $1,000,000 a year, net, from this scheme.

But why would our undergrads go for these AAD courses? Wouldn’t they take art appreciation courses in the Art History department, from a professor with a respected research program, like, say, this one, or this one, or this one?

Well, no. The AAD courses satisfy both Arts and Letters *and* multicultural requirements. The legendary twofer. And even better, you can do the AAD courses online and get a friend to take the exams for you. And regular Art History courses are hard. The average grade is 2.9. Less than a 3% chance of an A+.

But in the AAD courses, as of Fall 2011, the average undergraduate grade was 3.4. This is almost the highest for any UO department, outside the Education school and Military Science. 19% of students got an A+.  60% of the students got an A:

Last year, when Russ Tomlin’s job opened up, the faculty wanted Barbara Altmann. Instead Interim Provost Lorraine Davis and Interim President Bob Berdahl handed it off Doug Blandy.

Yes, the man behind this online grade inflation scheme is now UO’s Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. Strange – but quite rewarding for Mr. Blandy, whose pay has gone from $78K in 2008 to $180K last year:

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RG compares online efforts at UO and OSU

11/25/2013: Diane Dietz has an excellent, thorough story in the RG today. The bottom line? OSU has a very organized, extensive effort, and is now giving OSU degrees to on-line only students with no indication that the students were never on campus. Presumably this is part of the reason for their recent enrollment increases. OSU tuition is actually higher for the online courses.

UO has a few programs with online classes delivered by using various lecture capture options, but no central direction. At UO, online education was another of Jim Bean’s pet projects, so the disarray is hardly surprising. Economics comes in for special mention as the [CAS] department with the most online students. They report the online courses are more difficult than the regular ones, and they tend to be taken by good, motivated students who want a faster pace. There’s no mention in the story of VPAA Doug Blandy’s AAD 250-252 courses and his daring $1M credit hour heist – 65% A’s! [AAD now has about 1500 UO students taking these online courses – great for their GPA’s.]

Please post a link and comments if you know of any particularly good general studies or reports on on-line ed – there’s a lot of stuff in the Chronicle etc., but I haven’t dug through it.

Online education and lobbying

From Inside Higher Ed:

Public universities have a long history of adapting to technological change, but they must speed up their embrace of online education — and work together to do so — to remain at the forefront of educating the citizens of their states and the country, argues a new report from two Washington research groups.

Meanwhile Betsy Hammond of the Oregonian has a report on how online-ed companies are lobbying the Oregon legislature for more K-12 courses:

In Oregon right now, K-12 Inc., which operates the statewide online charter school Oregon Virtual Academy, has two lobbyists working the Oregon Legislature.Connections Education LLC, which operates the even bigger online charter Oregon Connections Academy, also has two lobbyists working to influence the legislature.

The legislators are in love with on-line, even for higher ed, presumably this lobbying s part of that. Ms Hammond had an earlier report on OSU’s “top ten” online ed programs. From what I can tell UO’s programs are in disarray. The SSIL lab has a program for secure testing for on-line courses – described well in UO’s latest accreditation report – but only a small minority of UO courses use it. 4/23/2013.

NYT update: Online education at UO

2/19/2013: Good NYT editorial on the limitations of on-line education, with links to research.

10/22/2012: Dash Paulson has a good story in the ODE, with interviews of Cathleen Leue and Garron Hale, who have been working on this for about 10 years now, helping CAS build many successful online versions of regular UO courses. Good discussion of the issues and opportunities:

Leue stressed how important it is to be intentional with developing online software and courses. “Developing a quality online course is not cheap.” Leue said. “Administrators need to be cautioned that this might not be a big cost-saver necessarily. It takes the efforts of a department and everyone involved to deliver quality online classes.”

My department offers a few online classes. If you’re interested in learned more about online classes vs offline classes check out articles at places similar to Upskilled, by the way. The student evaluations consistently report that they are as difficult as our regular courses. Students take their exams in a testing center, while being monitored. There are many Universities that offer online courses though, such as the University of Southern California as just one example.

There is no mention in the story of UO’s new “Global and Online Education initiative”, pushed by a giddy Jim Bean for the past year or so, and run by yet another new $200K administrator. Their very nice website is here. I’ll be dammed if I can figure out what they actually do.

Updated with an old Beangram:

Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost
Message for August 17, 2012


In my previous messages, I gave a brief overview of some of the presentations covered at the July 24 Leadership Retreat. The retreat concluded with a discussion of technologically enhanced education.

Professor Yong Zhao, Associate Dean of Technical and Global Education, spoke to us from Beijing on the future of online education and how the UO can leverage global opportunities to expand our outreach and enhance the student educational experience.

Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Doug Blandy followed up with a presentation on what courses the UO is offering online now and student reasons for choosing online education. In a survey on self-support online courses for Winter and Spring 2012, the top reasons students cited for taking online courses were:

Schedule conflict (24%)
Meet UO requirement (19%)
Course only offered online (10%)
Work (9%)
Subject interest (9%)

On Wednesday, Aug. 15, as a follow-up to the retreat presentation and the request by faculty to look further into online education opportunities, we brought in an expert from the University of Michigan to help us explore policies and procedures for developing pilot courses.

While many believe that online education may never replace the face-to-face pedagogy our institution offers, the reality of the world requires us to consider appropriate uses for such an educational model. We will continue to examine how the UO can best use such technology to enhance the student experience.

In my next message, I will discuss the reality of classroom expansion at the UO.


Minnesota to jail Bean over online courses? Not likely.

Update: After a little computer hacking we’ve obtained a secret recording of a meeting between a UO Provost and his accounting expert. It’s not clear from the context if this discussion is about Bend, UO Portland, the new online initiatives, or some other deal the administration has not yet brought to the faculty. Comments welcome.

10/19/2012It’s possible, but given his record he’ll probably just piddle away another few million without anyone noticing, as with Bend and Portland.

UVA coup attempt explained in NYT Magazine

9/16/2012: It’s a long and complicated story, the Andrew Rice article is very comprehensive, I’m not going to even try and synthesize it just now. The issue has many other interesting education articles as well, e.g. this one on computerized tutoring. Comments welcome.