November 14th, 2010
What is a guild? A guild is…

… among other things, a closed enterprise that protects its own. See the university act as a guild.

A student in [University of Central Florida] Professor Richard Quinn’s business class posted a new video on YouTube. The video is from the first week of class, when Professor Quinn told students he writes his own mid-term and final exams.

But it seems Professor Quinn never wrote the mid-term exam his students cheated on. It was written by the publisher of the textbook for his business class. One student found a copy on the internet, and passed it on to others. [Quinn’s statement to the class is excellent pedagogical technique, no? Keep the students off the scent by telling them that you write your own exam. Don’t check the book! I write my own! You’d be wasting your time checking the book! … Yet one of his enterprising charges looked anyway! Shouldn’t Quinn give that person extra credit for business acumen? Never trust what other people say! Trust your instincts!]

… UCF spokesperson Grant Heston told WFTV “it’s not uncommon for higher education professors to use these pre-made exams produced by the publisher.” [Ah, Heston.  Guildmaster speaks.  Not uncommon, so that means, uh, perfectly fine so shut your face.  It’s a guild thing; you wouldn’t understand.]

… Eyewitness News asked if [Quinn] would be punished for using a test that’s so easily accessible online.

“It’s irrelevant. The focus shouldn’t be on the professor, but on the students who used the test inappropriately,” said Heston.  [Get the effing focus off my man!  This is how professors behave and did I already say shut your face?]

Background here.

And a new editorial in the local paper.

November 13th, 2010
Where the Simulacrum Ends, II

The important thing is not so much the technological details, but the synergy between professor and student.

Professor: Grading is outsourced.

Student: What’s being graded is outsourced.

Almost all of it’s going to India. An emerging tertiary education sector in India is made up of people learning lucrative new things by way of playing the parts of American and Australian students and professors.

Expect stories to come out pretty soon featuring American professors who have outsourced their entire online teaching classes to Indian graduate students and professors.

November 12th, 2010
Where the Simulacrum Ends

Back when UD was a hippie, Theodore Roszak’s book, Where the Wasteland Ends, was an enormously influential attack on technocracy.

Technocracy won, of course, and, in the case of universities, we now see, in both the for-profit and non-profit realms, a move toward the onlining of most higher education.

At the moment we’re in a transition phase, with rapidly increasing numbers of face to face classes featuring laptop use by students and PowerPoint use by professors. More and more professors also make lecture content available online.

A moment’s thought about this in-class arrangement tells us it cannot last, that it’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes you can accomplish online exactly what’s being accomplished in laptop/PowerPoint/downloadable content classes.

If you’re right now in a class of this sort, it will in a few years disappear from the physical realm and become part of the metaphysical.


The problem with online is that practically everyone cheats. Short of constant video surveillance of you in your home, it is impossible to determine that you are taking the course, and not someone else. It’s equally impossible to determine that the professor assigned to the online course is teaching it.

It is easy to envision a time when low-salaried drudges will play the parts of professor and student in this transaction – the professor-simulacrum will get a cut of the actual professor’s salary, while the student-simulacrum will receive a stipend from the actual student. One can also anticipate formal enterprises growing up around these needs. There is already a business professor at George Washington University who charges professors for outsourcing their reading of papers and exams, and their grading, to people in India.


Let’s estimate that, with several years of popular and easily available online courses behind us, we now have ten thousand Americans walking around who received A‘s in statistics courses in respectable American universities but who did not themselves take the courses. That means ten thousand Americans who do not know the difference between a statistic and a spastic colon.

Off they go to the workforce.

What we’ve done, see, is we’ve mainstreamed the old diploma mill problem. The old embarrassing disreputable diploma mill problem — it’s a problem schools as burnished as UC Berkeley will soon be up against. No one taught the diploma mill course; no one took the course. Money was exchanged, a degree was awarded. Now you’ve got this person working for you who doesn’t know shit – you begin to realize – about anything.

Same thing with lots of online courses.


Is this where the simulacrum ends? With the online high school statistics instructor who doesn’t know what statistics is, teaching statistics to students whose parents pay someone to take the statistics course for them?

No. It could go on like that forever. There’s no end to simulation.

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