Unions Try to Kill Online Learning at California Schools. Again.


The University of California system is out of money, so officials are looking for ways to do more with less. Online education is an obvious avenue to explore. Naturally, the unions representing non-tenured lecturers freaked out and demanded concessions from the state: 

"We believe that if courses are moved online, they will most likely be the classes currently taught by lecturers," reads a brief declaration against online education on the website of UC-AFT, the University of California chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, "and so we will use our collective bargaining power to make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members."

Now the California lecturers, who make up nearly half of the system's undergraduate teaching teachers, believe they have used that bargaining power to score a rare coup. The University of California last week tentatively agreed to a deal with UC-AFT that included a new provision barring the system and its campuses from creating online courses or programs that would result in "a change to a term or condition of employment" of any lecturer without first dealing with the union.

The unions think they have a veto, but the university system says otherwise: 

"They do not have the power to block the university from implementing new online programs," says Dianne Klein, a spokeswoman for the Office of the President.

This battle is likely to get even more contentious as the possiblity of using out-of-state teachers supplied by a for-profit education firm comes into play. Get ready for fireworks.

Read "Teachers Unions vs. Online Education" lots more on how this faceoff is playing out at the K-12 level.

NEXT: Another Nail in the Coffin of Teabaggers-Are-Racists Trope?

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  1. The article should simply be shortened to “Unions Try to Kill Learning”.

  2. damn it…you beat me to it. Thought the exact same thing. And in most states, they have succeeded. Exhibit A: OWS.

  3. this is too ez. here in ohio, the birthplace of illegal transfer of public monies to private charters, the local school districts started their own charters & virtual schools. and the best part is teh [UNIONZ] support is great. >cali is behind the curve

  4. What’s funny to me here is that complaining that lecturers would be replaced is basically saying, “This will replace people who should be replaced, and therefore we’re agin’ it!”

    Usually they go through the motions of arguing that professors do SO MUCH MORE than lecture, that online courses don’t REALLY substitute for classroom learning, etc.

    Here they’re basically not bothering with that obfuscation and are just straight up saying, “We’re not going to let you buy a wheelbarrow because that will replace all these guys in our union who carry loads of stuff on their heads”.

    1. I disagree. I believe their problem with online learning, is that most of the classes that they put online are fluff classes, history, art appreciation, etc.. The type of classes that students forget everything they have learned once they leave the class.

      1. So?

      2. The type of classes that students forget everything they have learned once they leave the class.
        as opposed to the in-class variety whose retention is everlasting? Come on. This is a union doing what unions do – fighting against anything that hints of competition and threatens its strangulation (not strangle hold) of an industry.

    2. Anybody who’s been in a typical first year required class can tell you that there is no advantage to sitting in the auditorium with 200 other students versus learning it online at your own pace.

      Hell, we felt lucky if we got a professor who spoke English, forget about the teaching assistants.

    3. When I was at Berkeley, the best and ultimately most useful classes I took tended to be those conducted by lecturers. I don’t have a problem with recording those classes and putting them online — IF IT FREES THE EFFECTIVE, CREATIVE LECTURERS TO DO NEW AND DIFFERENT COURSES. I think it would be a shame, however, were the result to be that lecturers were let go while professors, who may be far less effective in the classroom, kept their jobs with impunity.

  5. “and so we will use our collective bargaining power to make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members.”

    i.e. “we force new things to be implemented in such an inefficient and expensive way that consumers and management become exasperated and resign themselves to doing things the old-fashioned way…i.e., Our Way.”

    1. The UAW approves

  6. make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members.

    Oops! Someone forgot to say it’s for the kids instead of for the teachers. The union should have hired it’s PR staff based on ability rather than seniority.

    1. Of the two groups we can assume that the professors have more kids to raise than the students so it really is for the children.

  7. On-line education, a potential miracle in getting education out to the masses, and they want to kill it. Egad.

    1. Unions vs online ed would be a slaughter. A decade from now we’ll have a good laugh. Kahn Academy, Stanford are the tip of the iceberg. In a decade or two kids won’t be worried about degrees or colleges and they’ll be a major push to reform licensing requirements for engineers, etc.

      Of course between here and there will be some craptacular authoritarian horseshit to fight off the inevitable… but it’ll pass.

      1. This could be a quote from 1995. Or 1495, if you replace “online ed” with “reading printed books in a library”.

        There is nothing wrong with online learning as an alternative for people who (a) like to learn at their own pace, or (b) can’t get to campus on a regular basis for whatever reason. Both those groups are relatively small, though, and there is plenty of evidence now to show that online courses are *not* cheaper than regular courses and, for the average less-motivated student, the attrition rate is enormous.

        Most people are too easily distracted and too unmotivated to actually complete any self-paced course, especially one that requires actual studying. If you want to argue that those people don’t belong in college, I won’t disagree with you.

        Online courses are finding their niche, and will become entrenched as a viable alternative for some people, in some fields. I think it’s too early to say for certain what those fields are, and that could change if some grand new invention comes along.

      2. “and they’ll be a major push to reform licensing requirements for engineers”

        Hopefully you mean less protectionism? This “engineering profession needs to be made more like the medical profession” horseshit coming out of the rent-seeking professional organizations like ASCE pisses me off.

  8. The problem with e-learning, you see, is that it is insufficiently pompous for collegiate level education. My own personal studies have shown that anything short of tenured professorship produces woeful inadequate levels of pomposity. If we allow the e-learning industry to supplant the hallowed towers of academia, then I daresay we face a future shortage of narcissistic, self-righteous incompetents that will leave our political class with not choice to surrender its clout to the idiot masses of gun-toting, neanderthal individualists of the hinterlands with their “Don’t Tread on Me” and “Don’t Touch My Junk” slogans and stickers.

    1. so you’re saying there would be no new reality television like OWS?

      1. “so you’re saying there would be no new reality television like OWS?”

        Perish the thought!

        But really, now. OWSers are just useful idiots.

        Anybody could be a useful idiot.

        But tenured Leftoid professors are useless idiots. If it’s pointless, it’s artistic…

  9. Wait, could this possible lower my UC tuition by making classes less expensive to teach?

    So, once again, teachers really don’t give a shit about the students.

  10. we will use our collective bargaining power to make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members.”

    This quote should be on billboards all over California. The university system must be run for the benefit of the teachers’ fuck the students!

  11. done in a fair and just way

    Firings would be fair and just.

    1. Looks like the squirrels dropped ” squad”.

  12. Oops.

    “The university system must be run for the benefit of the teachers; fuck the students!”

    1. Costly labor intensive education good!

      Labor theory of value even better!

  13. As usual, people fear technology. If thousands of these lecturers could be replaced by one computer/server I’d say do it. They’d be worth more to the world serving drinks and spitting in people’s salads at Applebees as they frustratingly ponder why they ever got Phds in Marxist Basket Weaving for Disenfranschised Transgendered Youths with Progeria.

    1. Drax, I usually scroll through the comments pretty quickly but I always stop at yours. As always, well done, sir!

      1. Thanks sage. I can always use the ego boost.

  14. I’m wondering what these people think of MIT’s Open Course ware? Is MIT offering an inferior product for free that undercuts “real” education?

    1. We think MIT is in league with Hitler’s ghost! Which is, of course, a libertarian!

      1. Heh.

        I forgot to mention that UC Berkeley has online courses available as well through iTunes U…

        Fancy that…

  15. And after the tenured professors are summarily dismissed by these barbarian capitalists, what do you think will come of our most useful college curriculum?

    Just how long do you think these dangerous notions of “common sense” and “cost-benefit analysis” will spare such precious gems as Ethnomusicology (UCLA), Celtic Studies (UC Berkeley), Creative Writing (UC Berkeley), Dance (UC Berkeley), Ethnic Studies (UC Berkeley), Folklore (UC Berkeley), and Peace and Conflict Studies (UC Berkeley)?

    Soon, one may even be unable to obtain a degree in Marxist Studies (UC Riverside)!

    Worst of all, how many of you are aware that e-learning systems involve absolutely ZERO Scantron forms?!?!?! These colonial upstarts don’t even require the use of a number 2 lead pencil…I fear it is over – there is no longer anyplace for pompous, imperious, pretentious twits like me – except politics.

    1. The universities (especially the UC system) have been spending like drunken weasels on diversicrats for years and now the chickens are coming home to roost…

    2. who dat marxist marx? nobody nowhere heard of him. cant be dat important…like say my fantasy team

  16. Is MIT offering an inferior product for free that undercuts “real” education?

    The knowledge gained is tainted by lack of nurturing, so yes.

  17. It doesn’t matter.

    The end of traditional university is upon us. They can fight it all they want it won’t matter

    1. The traditional university has long been dead. Where you been?

    2. For many (but not all) subjects, online learning is an absolutely wonderful thing. It will make education less expensive, it will make education more accessible, and it will allow people to hold down real jobs and gain meaningful experience at something other than table-waiting or pizza delivery while they learn.

      For those who didn’t learn much in high school (for whatever reasons – their own, the school system’s, or both), online learning can help them to correct those deficiencies once they are ready (decided/matured) to do so. It can help people who learn very quickly as well as people who learn a bit more slowly. Depending on the format, it can be set up for use at the student’s chosen pace.

      If you look at the proliferation of software to produce educational content, practically anybody with moderate computer skills can produce instructional products on any subject they have the interest and motivation to instruct on. Seldom has there been such a wonderfully effective replacement for so many overpaid useless people.

  18. The interesting aspect of this will be what will happen to all of those high dollar facilities that the UC system has built over the last 15 years. Years and years of bond issues to construct buildings that they won’t need after online takes off.

  19. we will use our collective bargaining power to make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members.

    Glad to know their first concern is for their members and not, you know, for the students.

    Take it away, Adam Smith.

    People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

  20. I am part time ( non-tenured) faculty at a community college and teach 2 online classes. Online classes have actually allowed the college to add more classes for less cost, and therefore INCREASE the size of my contract.

  21. California. Unions. Jerry Brown. Online Learning D.O.A.

  22. Unions hate learning. Their membership is full of stupid, ignorant fucks.

    Never hire a union member.

  23. The real problem is tenure. If it’s impossible to fire certain employees, they lose all motivation to do a decent job. This is a very common pheomena. Tenure causes professors’ brains to shut down. They stop publishing and stop updating the curiculum.

    The lecturers, oddly, usualyl are much better, even if they are represented by unions. They can be fired, and their job depends on actually showing up for class and teaching.

  24. I await the first distance-learning graduating class to hold its official commencement ceremonies in World of Warcraft.

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