Under pressure

May 8, 2012 at 11:08 am | Posted in waffle | Leave a comment
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In my role as the Environmental officer for the local branch of the University and College Union (UCU), I today received a pre-print of a paper by Prof. Rosalind Gill, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at King’s College, London. Entitled Breaking the silence: The hidden injuries of neo-liberal academia, it explores the stresses, pressures and intensification of academic life, especially for those on short-term contracts. I highly recommend it, and fear that it will strike a chord with too many of my colleagues’ daily lived experience.

There was one part which dealt directly with TEL:

In teaching, for example, it is no longer enough to give a lecture and run some seminars, we are also expected to produce a set of resources for use on the new online communications platforms such as WebCT, Blackboard and Moodle. ‘It is not acceptable simply to upload your lecture notes’, comes the guidance from one University. ‘We encourage you to use WebCT creatively, with quizzes, hyperlinks, visual materials, etc. To learn more about the potential of WebCT for innovative teaching, come along to one of our training courses’. Oh great, I would think facetiously, on receiving yet another memo like this, another training course! And yet the pressure that is produced by such constant exhortations to be more creative, teach more innovatively, be at the cutting edge (etc) is undeniable — particularly because it meets an already existing set of desires and ethics around being professional and wanting to do a good job.

And there is the rub. We know that the skilled use of TEL can help students learn (and of course we want them to) but its does take time, effort and continued attention – and that must either supplant some current activity (research? teaching? administration?) or add to the burden. Of course, there are some aspects of TEL where an initial investment in time (extra work) could leave to savings later – but that saved time will be swallowed up by (at best)  further TEL development or (more likely) more admin and an ever-increasing deluge of emails.

The paper makes the point that academics are to some extent complicit in this problem by their silence on the subject, and that their institutions are simply responding to the prevailing political agenda and the demands of the market for ever-increasing ‘efficiencies’. But nevertheless, learning technologists need to be sensitive to this issue as we try to persuade our colleagues of the benefits of taking advantage of technology.

Gill, R (2009) Breaking the silence: The hidden injuries of neo-liberal academia in Flood,R. & Gill,R. (Eds.)
Secrecy and Silence in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections. London: Routledge


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