Next year there are elections in the Netherlands and political parties are already publishing their programmes. Due to the strict policy (budget cuts) and smart investments, government deficit has been reduced significantly. That means that there is money to spend and the different parties are claiming their priorities.
One of the priorities for many parties is more money for hiring more teachers in higher education. Although the workload of many teachers is high, I have my doubts if this will solve the problem.
Education is changing in higher education. One of the important changes is the digitization in education. I hear many universities and colleges say that blended education will be the default. This means that education will be a mix between classroom teaching and online learning.
This change means that the role of a teacher is changing, but also that more disciplines need to be involved to develop and run a course. Teaching has been a one man job for many centuries and I think it is time to rethink our perception on this
Education has become a complex balance between content, technology and pedagogy. It is very hard to find people that are subject matter expert, as well as tech-savvy as well as up-to-date on pedagogy (so no urban myths) and think about effective ways of examining learning outcomes - all at the same time. In addition, in most universities staff members also need to be researchers, grant experts, and (PhD) student supervisors. These are too many roles to ask of one person.
So we need to disperse these roles to a team of people, each with their own dedicated role and expertise.
In the last two years at TU Delft Extension School we have pushed that a teacher forms a course team to develop and run a course. The minimum for a course team is:
- Teacher: subject matter expert.
- E-learning developer: course design, assessment, constructive alignment.
- Student assistants: course builders, moderators.
Depending on the course objectives additional roles can be added. This is a list of the expertise we have in our support team to be added to the course teams:
- Assessment expert: digital testing is different from exams on paper.
- Graphic designer: create graphical elements, infographics.
- Multimedia expert: creating online videos, animations.
- Instructional designer: expert on how to technically implement your course in your platform.
- Copyright officer: to correctly use and reuse (open) content.
- Data Analyst: lots of data is generated that can be analysed and used to improve the course experience.
- Additional specialists for online labs, simulations, games, etc.
This approach has helped us to develop high quality online courses, but also lifted some of the burden from the shoulders of the teachers.
Conclusion: new perspective of teaching and support
Investing in extra teachers in higher education might seem like a proper way of spending extra budget. Investing in better course teams will have a much bigger effect to unburden teachers. Don’t invest in extra teachers, make existing teachers much more effective by properly supporting them. So better value for money!
Image Credit: CC-BY-SA Scott Maxwell