Migratory Faculty

A couple of my Web2.0 aware colleagues are also adjuncts that use personal blogs to post syllabi and conduct course discussions. They may also be using products such as, wikis, Writely  or perhaps  iRow.  My Course Management System (CMS)) roots go back to 1.1 or 1.2 of WebCT.  I have always been a strong supporter of web-based tools that help structure the learning experience. I have used them mostly in blended course design situations. 

At one time, it was also one of my responsibilities to promote the use of WebCT.  On more than one occasion, the issue of course quality or consistency within a program, would be raised.  There would be discussions regarding the balance between academic freedom, a consitent user experience, and the need for the insitution to brand the program or course.  These issues continue to be topics of discussion and now are taking a slightly new twist.

My colleague's decision to use Web2.0 sites, driven by their technological interests, as part of their instructional tool-set has opened another dimension to the issues.  I wonder how long before their approach to online instruction, i.e., using a set of loosely-coupled, web-based tools at whatever insitution they are presently instructing, becomes the norm?   How long before the pool of adjuncts, who often migrate between institutions, only use the CMS of a host institution because they must and only as jump-site to their own resources?  Clearly, this empowers the pool of adjuncts to create not only instructional content, but to use an instructional infrastructure that formally had been provided by the host institutions. 

What impact on institutional instructional quality control, as much as they exist, will this have?  How will institutions react to the commodification of the instructional experience by a migratory adjunct pool?  What policy issues will need to be revised as the walled-gardened gives way to the open range? With CMS, institutions could at least brand the experience as their own, but the adjunct who migrates, whether between Ivy or Public, with his or her own set of instructional tools will be providing essentially the same experience for their courses, regardless of where the students registered.  What additional opportunities will develop for off-shoring distance education courses?  The traditional stipend for an adjunct goes a lot further in India than in the USA.

Given higher ed.'s dependency on adjuncts, this is an interesting situation.