Can Teaching Be Outsourced?

The World is FlatYou may recall I am reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat for an online PLU course. In chapter six, he describes the kinds of people who will be “untouchable,” that is their jobs will be safe in the flat world. I admit to thinking that teaching is one of those “untouchable” jobs. However, I am also taking this course online and specifically sought out an online masters program in Instructional Technology to apply to because I did not want to schlep downtown to classes two nights a week or go to a weekly professional development class at a school across town. I wanted the convenience of learning at my own pace, in my own home. And it’s not difficult anymore for adults to find an online program of study. What about K-12? Can teaching be outsourced? If it can, what do we as teachers need to be able to do in order to remain viable in the field of education. If it can’t be outsourced, why do you think that is the case? How will education change in view of the prospect of outsourcing?

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6 thoughts on “Can Teaching Be Outsourced?

  1. My experiences with online and distance learning have left me unimpressed. There is something about sitting in a room with your colleagues and professor that just can't be replaced. I want to experience them in a three-dimensional setting, with the ability to read their facial expressions and hear the inflections in their voices without the need for a computer. I'm not against technology; I just enjoy the physical presence of people.

  2. Of course, teaching can be outsourced.

    How much it will be outsourced has more to do with political struggles over who can legally offer credits that "count" than with anything truly germane to education.

    In Montana, for example, distance learning k-12 has been nearly shut down by laws making local school districts the only lawful providers. Even the state university had to get out of the business of providing courses to high schoolers. In theory, a major university could provide excellent courses to high school students all over the nation. In practice, state legislators will try to protect the turf of state-level power players, such as unions and school board associations.

    There are benefits of being in the same physical space for several weeks or months that can't be outsourced. Quite a lot happens in actual classrooms where teachers and students are together for prolonged periods of time that can't be outsourced. One can live a lifetime on contacts made among fellow graduate students at a prestigious university, for example.

    But a good deal of the market for "education" has much more to do with purchasing credentials than with what classroom teachers often mean by "education," and most of that transaction can be outsourced readily.

  3. Outsourcing is a scary word but I followed Friedman’s more optimistic approach and view of the flat world. My vision is to create more “in-sourcing” within the district I teach. I see a reduction in the need to offer bids to outside companies when so many teachers, administrators, and parents have the skills and knowledge to create new learning environments. Of course, they need to be compensated for their efforts.

    My state just launched a Virtual Instruction Program paid for by tax dollars and certain district contributions. This is what you could call outsourcing because my students could now sit at home, take a VIP course online through the state, and earn full credit through my district. In fact, it is a state law that districts have to accept completed course grades if taken through the VIP. Teachers at the VIP reach on average about 200 students in various courses. Separate “graders” complete the grading and the scores sent to the VIP teachers for final approval. Teaching without grading? To some this may seem like an oxymoron. On the other hand, is it the job of your dreams?

    My final hope is that districts can see past this and in-source their own teachers to create their own virtual instruction programs. That is what will make districts and teachers untouchable now because the future is already here.

  4. Like you, I'm in an online graduate program – I could never be pursuing my doctoral degree right now in a f2f structure.

    Teaching only exists to make learning possible. As learning becomes more and more accessible via other means – and as each generation becomes more comfortable learning by means such as online formats – the teaching to make that learning possible becomes ever more outsource-able.

    Schools can no longer count on captive audiences – so schools and teachers alike had better find ways to deliver a "product" that meets the needs of learners.

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