Sunday, May 12, 2013

UPenn’s Proposed Policy on Teaching Online Outside the University

The University of Pennsylvania has issued “for comment” a policy for professors interested in teaching online beyond the confines of the university. Here are the main policy principles:

  • A faculty member’s primary professional obligation is to the University. This includes both a primary commitment of time and effort to University activities and a commitment not to compete with the University without advance permission. 
  • The scope of this obligation is broad, in that it includes not engaging in extramural activities that conflict with the University’s “outstanding or prospective commitments for teaching and research.” (Policy II.2; emphasis added.)
  • With regard to teaching, this has always meant that faculty members may not teach elsewhere without advance permission.
  • With regard to faculty business engagements with outside firms or groups, the Policy makes clear that a faculty member may not take on outside assignments that might be “suitable and appropriate activities for execution within the University” (Policy III) without first offering that opportunity to the University and receiving University permission.
  • Because of the broad scope of the Policy, it is critical that faculty members make early and full disclosure to their department chair and dean of any situation or proposed engagement that potentially raises a conflict of interest.

  You can read more here. The policy fails to make any mention of a central consideration: money. This proposed restrictive policy limits the ability of professors to supplement their salaries.  To what extent will the university compensate the profs for their online efforts in house? Beyond that question, I think that online education is about to explode so massively that universities will not be able to contain it within the traditional institutional model of academia.


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