MOOCs—massively open online courses—are now a reality in higher education, with startups Coursera and EdX offering free courses taught by top faculty at selective institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and Cal Tech designed to replace the inefficient, lower-quality classes offered at down-market institutions. Now it’s time to implement MOOCAs, Massively Open Online Campus Administration, as well. According to Administrivia, the Silicon Valley startup that first conceived the idea, MOOCAs (rhymes with mochas) will be the next big thing in online education.
The idea behind MOOCAs is breathtakingly simple. By rendering college faculty from full professors to teaching assistants completely superfluous, MOOCs drastically cut the cost of college teaching, while significantly upping the quality of course content. MOOCAs do the same for higher education administration.
The MOOCA action plan is simple, too. Everyone knows that higher education is over-administered: while human instructors at institutions all over the country are being replaced by avatars who teach virtually for free, college administrators continue to multiply like rabbits. MOOCAs will help colleges slash their administration budgets, with no loss in oversight quality going forward (MOOCAs use administrator-speak just like human administrators).
MOOCs succeed in part because computers not only deliver educational materials, they can also read and assess student essays. In the world of MOOCs, one instructor can do the work of fifty. With MOOCAs, one online dean or provost can do the work of fifty as well.
MOOCAs come with scalable modules for hiring (JobX), faculty assessment (TenurX), termination (TerminX), courses and curricula (GradeX) and student complaints (ExpelX), eliminating the need for associate provosts, assistant provosts, and the countless microdeans and deanlets that no modern university up to now has been able to do without.
Instead of operating out of plush offices, hedged by a small army of administrative assistants and executive secretaries, every morning key administrators from top schools, say Yale, MIT, and the University of Michigan, will fan out to Starbucks strategically located in all the major time zones, fire up their laptops, and start making crucial decisions for land grant universities, second-tier state schools, liberal arts colleges, even faith-based institutions. One unanticipated benefit of putting administration online is that when students mount a protest, there’ll be no president’s office to occupy.
MOOCAs satisfy the public’s demand for accountability as well. Parents, along with state legislators and boards of trustees, will be relieved to know that between MOOCs and MOOCAs, every college keystroke will be recorded, providing a record, down to the nanosecond, of everything each administrator, faculty member, or student does or says, every web site they’ve visited, every Facebook update or tweet they’ve posted, everything they’ve read, calculated, dissected, graphed, scanned, or downloaded.
If MOOCs can tell us how fast and how accurately students do their homework, MOOCAs reveal how quickly and efficiently online administrators turn around each problem or complaint (your session may be monitored for quality control), and popup forms will allow everyone consulting a virtual administrator to give feedback indicating their level of satisfaction with the service (together with a chance to be entered into a drawing for a free iPad).
In addition to fully-operational programs for Academic Administration, Administrivia has developed online modules for Student Services and Psych Counseling. Some services are outsourced, which means even more savings: for example, WebMD provides complete medical care for students and staff at a fraction of the cost of conventional health insurance, and Lenscrafters is tasked with producing Vision2020 plans for participating campuses in about an hour. In addition, Administrivia developers are working hard to implement scalable online coaching for college sports as well. By FY 2015 they anticipate offering everything from Division I Fantasy Football to Div III virtual rugby and chess.
Students are reacting positively to the notion of the administrator-in-the-cloud as well. Already many students have installed programs on their laptops that do their MOOC assignments for them, taking their quizzes and uploading their computer-generated essays to be graded by computerized grading programs. And as MOOCAs come online, there’ll be no more cooling one’s heels in some administrator’s anteroom, or waiting for hours in the queue for a turn to live chat with someone in Bangalore. Already, computer-savvy students are developing automated bots to interact with the automated deans now tasked with automating online education.
Unfortunately, MOOCs and MOOCAs won’t lower the cost of going to college any time soon, because all that free Wi-fi actually turns out to be quite expensive. Administrivia calculates that the money saved by implementing online education and administration will need to be diverted to the college’s IT budget, providing the massive injection of new funding required for the campus CIO to design, maintain, and continually upgrade the level of computer services that the new virtual universities, and their faculties, students, and staff, are already coming to expect.