Online learning and the academic union

Michael Feldstein has an interesting post about the Common Cartridge practice recommended at Educause. Basically the idea of the Common Cartridge is to develop a standards-based learning management system practice. That is, let’s say you’re a professor who moves from one job to another, or more pointedly, you’re an adjunct who teaches at three different institutions in the same semester. Wouldn’t it make sense if you could move the course you developed at one institution to another? After all, it is supposed to be your intellectual property, right?

Feldstein suggests, and I agree, that unions should get involved in protecting their members’ intellectual property and help them make it more portable by encouraging institutions to work with learning management systems that support standards-based online learning.

Furthermore, this practice is also in the interest of the institutions if they do not wish to find themselves beholden to a particular vendor. It should be clear by now that walled gardens are not the way to go. This doesn’t mean that you have to go open source, but it’s a step toward recognizing that the future of higher education lies in collaboration.

While they’re at it, unions might have a thing to say about Blackboard as well. From my perspective, it seems that Blackboard threatens the integrity of higher education, engages in business practices that run counter to academic ethics, and perhaps even undermine academic freedom.


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