Racism and Online Ed

Online education is an engine of racial inequality, argue Christopher Newfield and Cameron Sublett, and no good higher ed policy can be created ignoring that fact.

Hear, hear! It’s a great article and it’s based on good research. I have no doubt I will have many opportunities to use it in the future battles against our online-obsessed university president. When he says “our students don’t need professors in classrooms because our students are not like the kids at Harvard”, that’s a deeply racist and classist comment.

10 thoughts on “Racism and Online Ed

  1. Whatever the “online racism” — my takeaway from that article is how California has one of the highest state tax systems in the country, and how it’s welcoming illegal aliens and coddling homeless dope fiends with open arms, and simultaneously driving corporations out of the state by the score. Its current governor — the same idiot who was in office and chasing a thin-skinny Linda Ronstadt when I was smart enough to permanently leave the state in 1976 — won’t even adequately fund the state university system.

    If I weren’t an atheist, I’d thank God every day that when I retired, I stopped moving west at the Arizona/California border.


    1. Bank Teller: ‘Will that be all for you today, sir?’


      Bank Teller (her face, frozen in a rictus): presses a button on the underside of her desk


  2. I wonder how much of the improved completion rate for online courses is due to changing composition of the students. On my campus, we’ve seen more and more students mixing one or two online courses into schedules that are mostly on campus courses. The students who are taking mostly on campus courses tend to do MUCH better in the online courses than students who are only taking online courses. I think the mostly on campus students tend to have better academic preparation and I think they benefit from being on campus and being in the rhythm of reading and studying in their on campus courses that carries over into the online courses.

    If there are any real savings to be had from technology that don’t sacrifice quality, it’s probably in the form of hybrid courses that are part online and part face to face.


    1. The hybrid course I teach is a lot better than the fully online but the only information that students retain from it is the information from the in-class sessions. 0% information from the online portion is retained. And this has been true for the entire 7 years that I’m teaching this course.


      1. Interesting. I’ve taught online, but I’ve never taught hybrid.

        I know quite a few people who do teach hybrid courses and they’ve reported mixed results. My take away from their experiences is that hybrid works when the online materials are really top quality and everything is set up so that it’s painfully clear to the students what they need to do online. My program has been able to push back on administrative pressure to do hybrid courses by arguing that the online materials available for our first and second year textbooks aren’t quite good enough to support hybrid instruction. I’m sure that won’t work forever, but we’ve been able to put it off so far.


      2. From your end: which students do you feel most comfortable giving the recommendations to? Is there a breakdown of who asks for more recommendations: fully online, hybrid, or just completely in-class?

        I’ve noticed that by design, with online classes students only have access to their submissions after the course (assuming they’ve saved everything to a separate flash drive/computer/etc.) They can’t access a read-only version of a discussion forum, or a read only version of Pearson assignments/software simulators, comments, etc.

        I noted the English major who gave me this blank speech about “saving stuff to the online portfolio” as if the problem was learning how to use software and not retaining access to documents or proving that you did good work. And the textbooks they sell at the community college are a load of crud in terms of longevity. They’re printed on three hole punch thin paper which tears at the slightest provocation and for which you have to buy binders. Two hundred dollars for this shit?

        Unless you have your own printer, you’ll end up spending a small fortune printing out notes for online classes.

        Of course it costs more to do any class with an online component on the student end.


        1. The online course is a blogspot blog. I record lectures and post them 3 times a week. Each lecture has discussion questions and students respond in the comments section.

          We also have a bunch of written assignments that they submit by email. I grade and return by email.

          The readings are all on Blackboard. The university has been trying to force me to place the entire course on Blackboard but I’m so not doing that. My lectures are very carefully made by me and it’s a lot of work. Everything is 100% original material that I create. There are no pre-canned lectures. I’ll be all kinds of fool if I just hand it all over to the university so that it can then hand them over to a minimum-wage admin to run my course. Oh no. If you want my teaching and my materials, you pay me.


            1. Yes. Letters of recommendations for internships, grad school applications, etc.

              I’ve never had an online/hybrid where the professor records themselves doing anything. Maybe the slides have notes written on them and those are generally from a text book. The system itself here is not set up to handle large files (either with a video or an audio recording.)


              1. That’s why I’m saying that my course is unusual and unusually good. And still completely useless. I approximated the in-class conditions as well as possible. It’s the same me delivering the same kind of material I do in class in the same manner. But as I said, the retention is zero. Not even 1% but zero. In class retention is about 70%.

                The online / hybrid students don’t ask for recommendations because they are not Spanish majors. These are students from other programs who take the course to fulfill a requirement. Once I was asked for a recommendation in this course and I refused because I don’t know these students. For a recommendation, I need somebody I have a working relationship with, like all of our majors and minors.


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