Monday, November 03, 2008

Expecting an Argument at WCET

I'll be heading to Phoenix this week for the annual WCET conference (at the Tapatio Cliffs, right). I have a presentation on Thursday with Al Essa from the MnSCU Office of the Chancellor which should be great fun. Al will be taking the pro side and I will be taking the con side in a debate about Second Life in higher ed. (Flickr CC photo by thorinside)

Immediately after that presentation late Thursday afternoon, I'll be heading to the airport to fly back to Minneapolis so that I can drive down to Mankato for their Teaching with Technology Conference on Friday morning.

Missing the WCET sessions on Friday is most unfortunate since they will be having a panel discussion about the distance education provisions in the Higher Ed Act recently passed and signed into law. I feel a very great need to be in that room on Friday to argue against the position that WCET seems to be taking in this whole debacle.

I've already written extensively about the clarifying language in the HEA that does NOT REQUIRE us to start using spy cameras in student homes, require test proctoring for every little thing, require authetication via personal data analytics (what street did you live on in the fourth grade?), or any such nonsense. All that the HEA requires us to do is authenticate students with a Username and Password each time they access course materials.

Why then is the WCET continuing to press their members to go much farther than what the law requires? In what possible way is this the student-friendly response to the HEA? I have little doubt that these big brother tactics will serve to reduce access to education for students both because of the added costs involved and especially because of the creepiness factor involved.

Even Educause is trying to fight against the FUD of the Higher Ed Act. However, I have already seen a memo from Barbara Beno, the President of Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (an accrediting body). "One source of information on best practice will be the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET), a division of the Western Interstate Cooperative for Higher Education. I will be attending the WCET annual conference this November and will share with member institutions any resources or information that I gain from that meeting. There may also be vendors who have suggestions for how an institution can meet this new requirement."

That's great! Not only are the accreditors looking to WCET for guidance (and they are misguided on this one), but they are looking for solutions from the vendors who are absolutely salivating at the thought of being able to tap into this massive market for their fun and profit. In fact, I have been seeing examples of places where the vendors are being allowed to shape the conversation and possibly even dominate it. What the hell is going on here? I continue to be baffled and disgusted at the way this whole thing is shaping up.

1 comment:

Chris Lott said...

I'll be checking the schedule and will try to attend the debate. What side are you taking? It's good to see more people talking about the WCET conference!