Forget MOOCs. How About MOOAs?

Benjamin Ginsberg, author of the Monthly’s September/October 2011 article on college costs and how about college administrators are responsible for jacking up tuition, has a fun new piece about technology, specifically MOOCs.

BGinsberg

MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, large-scale courses developed by professors and offered to students for free online, are the latest fad in education policy. Perhaps by delivering college courses though this service academic institutions can save money and innovate, operate more efficiently. No need to employ all of those professors or maintain all of those classrooms if everyone can just take online courses at home in his underwear, right?

But then, as Ginsberg writes, shouldn’t we really be focused on the wasteful stuff colleges do in assessing what we want our online innovators to replace? And so, he writes:

A Johns Hopkins University professor has announced plans for MOOA (massive open online administrations). Dr. Benjamin Ginsberg, author of The Fall of the Faculty, says that many colleges and universities face the same administrative issues every day. By having one experienced group of administrators make decisions for hundreds of campuses simultaneously, MOOA would help address these problems expeditiously and economically. Since MOOA would allow colleges to dispense with most of their own administrators, it would generate substantial cost savings in higher education.

“Studies show that about 30 percent of the cost increases in higher education over the past twenty-five years have been the result of administrative growth,” Ginsberg noted. He suggested that MOOA can reverse this spending growth. “Currently, hundreds, even thousands, of vice provosts and assistant deans attend the same meetings and undertake the same activities on campuses around the U.S. every day,” he said. “Imagine the cost savings if one vice provost could make these decisions for hundreds of campuses.”

Apparently Ginsberg has “named his MOOA ‘Administeria,’ and plans to begin operations in early 2014.”

He’s kidding, of course. Ginsberg is not really coming up with a plan and talking to investors and writing code for a new program.

Still, he’s got a point there. If we really want to save money and improve efficiency in academia, shouldn’t we be using technology to eliminate the wasteful stuff that colleges do, you know, all of those administrators who don’t really contribute to the core mission of the institutions?

Teaching students is the core function of a university. Teaching is the point. Shouldn’t we be using technology to try to eliminate that other stuff, the stuff that colleges do that’s really secondary to scholarship and learning?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer