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Canned courses 'new normal' for college communities

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Pre-packaged college courses courtesy of major publishing companies or designed by established faculty are helping universities and community colleges deal with competition from the for-profit online universities, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Southern New Hampshire University's online college has developed a new strategy to compete with online colleges, avoid expensive costs of providing a physical classroom for students to interact with degreed professors, incorporate eBooks, and streamline an unwieldy, growing population of students who must earn certain credits to satisfy the requirements of their degree plans while juggling earning a living, raising a family, and commuting from work or home to a physical classroom.

Higher education's teaching force, often supported by poorly paid and overworked adjunct faculty who receive as little as 9% of what full-time faculty earn while completing the same tasks, may well be changing if philosophy professor Delilah Caldwell's experience is indicative of the coming trend in college course work.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Caldwell has taught twenty online courses during the last academic year. She has instructed four sections normally averaging as many as 25 students every 8 weeks for five terms of service to Southern New Hampshire University, and receives a full-time salary with benefits. The difficulty might arise when she has only 72 hours to respond to one assignment from those 100 or so students, but Caldwell seems undaunted because of her increased salary and access to benefits plans.

The College of Online and Continuing Education at Southern New Hampshire University serves 37,000 students, many of whom are working and studying at the same time. Caldwell's full-time position arose out of a pilot program designed to create greater retention rates for students seeking degrees, and she seems pleased making the transition from a part-time adjunct position, which often requires employment at more than one educational institution, to a full-time salary and a higher profile status among her peers who also have college degrees.

McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson, and other publishing companies are constantly updating and creating pilot programs with a packaged syllabus and coursework designed to employ instructors to simply monitor progress and grade essays. In the 1980s, college English courses for freshman students often required as many as eight or nine essays. These "canned courses," as some traditional college instructors often refer to pre-packaged curriculum, only require three or four essays for course completion, half or less than a half of the coursework college students were required to complete in the 1980s.

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