Academic freedom versus quality assurance
There are a number of new and innovative ways to teach software engineering. These include extended learning, distance learning, and Internet (Mosaic-based) learning. While each of these methods has merit, these are certainly drifting from traditional department-based techniques for assuring and maintaining the levels of quality in the classroom. Traditionally faculty have been reticent to allow monitoring of their approach and technique in the classroom. This has been justified under the framework of academic freedom. It is not unreasonable to expect that this attitude will carry over to the new methods as well. If, however, classes are in a new and fairly untested format it would seem beneficial to allow a great deal of structure and material to be imposed on the instructor.
The debate about how to assure that the students are receiving a quality education heats up quickly when it is suggested that the question be resolved by an exam prepared by outside faculty. In addition, professors are extremely sensitive to testing in relation to what might be termed external reference points which are those thought to be important by those other than the professor. If a professor feels that his efforts are compared to some arbitrary standard that they cannot control, the professor might feel that his(her) professional judgment and basic integrity are in question.
One additional aspect that has not been mentioned is simply the adequacy of the training of the instructors. It has been assumed in the past that a traditional education in a field gives a person the ability to teach in that area. While this may be true for most areas, it may no longer apply when a person is expected to have a “TV” personality and has had no training in audio-visual communication. It is also possible that a faculty member would be asked to design a distance learning course with no background in cognitive learning or simple internet course design. Once again it may be in the best interest of the students to have a outside mentor monitor and even give direction on the instructor.
So, what are the trade-offs? Loose cannons in the classroom or “big-brother” over your shoulder?