Z Education Online and School
This is something we have periodically tried - and, at the moment, it is merely a possibility and idea...
ZEO stands for Z Education Online. It is an offshoot of the Z Media Institute that operates entirely online - and it is a component of Z Communications and ZSpace that includes (or will include in the future):
- do it at your own speed instructionals with associated forums for discussion...
- text and audio lectures
- special presentations and chat sessions
- and extensive faculty-taught courses in ZSchool with associated forums, etc.
The ZSchool component of ZEO is a feature of ZSpace, available at all ONLY to ZCom members (and with course fee discounts to Sustainers - Join the Sustainer Program).
ZSchool will grow, we hope, to become a dynamic tool for education and community building. To get a feeling for the potential, imagine that there are 30 or perhaps even 60 courses a session, with upwards of 50 students per course, and perhaps more. That would mean we might have 1500 - 3000 or more students in each of four ten week sessions per year. Imagine 12,000 student/course completions a year. We hope you see the potential for this project.
Getting ZSchool Started
We expect to have our first ten week session of ZSchool courses in 2008. By Fall 2008, we expect to add diverse capabilities for Sustainers to participate at every level of the educational experience including...
- a means for Sustainers to sponsor courses of your own
- a means for student evaluations of all course and other offerings
- a student center for general socializing including live chat facilities
- facilities for creating discussion and reading/study groups with private forums, etc.
- a means for sustainers to post materials from university courses, etc.
ZSchool and/or ZMI Faculty(In time you will rollover names for bios and course names
or click for their ZSpace Page)
- Joann Landy
- Saul Landau
Evan Henshaw Plath
America Vera Zavala
ZSchool Structure and Process
We want school operations to be as pareconish as we can establish, which means incorporating as much self management and equitable remuneration as we can, recognizing contextual constraints that limit options.
The main complicating factor is having faculty from all over the world, each in different circumstances, and each wtih different interests and time but all very busy, and with little or no chance of regularly interacting personally. While all this precludes many face-to-face features that would be essential for a true pareconish university, it doesn't preclude all possibilities, so below we offer an initial plan, still under development. If you have any criticisms, alterations, additions, or whatever else to suggest, please send yoru ideas to us at email@example.com
Of course to be pareonish in one workplace, amidst the rest of our market driven lives and responsibilities, is never easy and with the faculty spread all over, difficulties mount. The key factors, nonetheless, for a single institution such as this are decision making, division of labor, and norms of remuneration.
ZSchool Decision Making Proposal
For decision making the ideal pareconish aim is self management - with each person who is involved having a say in decisions proportionate to the degree they are affected by them.
This means, at least, that decisions about the structure and content of each course in ZSchool are nearly entirely the purview of the faculty person teaching it.
It also means that the technical choices of software and the like are nearly entirely the purview of the staff hosting the operation. We have allready decided to use a system called Moodle - you can easily check it out on the internet. It is very widely used in universities around the world.
Beyond that, the staff and faculty of ZSchool will, all together, constitute ZSchool's workers council.
One particular set of decisions, very nearly the only recurring one, will be about accepting or rejecting proposals for courses, either due to content problems or due to redundancy with already existing courses. Since the course list reflects largely on the institution as a whole, we think one approach to dealing with this issue that avoids undo hassle for all, will be for course proposals to be made to ZSchool staff and initially accepted or rejected by them. If a course is redundant, however, of one that is already being taught, the faculty of the existing course can reject the "competing course" up to when the existing course is five sessions old. The staff contacts the faculty to see if that is his or her preference. [The idea is, if you create a course where the initial investment in time and energy in generating it is great, you don't want to teach it once and then be swamped out of having students by a pretty nearly identical course being added to the list.] If a course that isn't redundant is rejected by staff, the faculty person making the proposal can peitition for a full faculty vote on the course. In that case the proposal goes to the full faculty, with the reasons the staff rejected it, and if it gets majority plus one support by return email, it is undertaken even against staff objection.
Other than course selection, we think that there aren't likely to be many overarchiing decisions in a simple school of this sort. But when there are, given the time pressures of everyone involved, most likely it will make sense for staff to enumerate options and cull proposals, etc., and then for everyone to vote, though sometimes perhaps with different levels of say for the different constituencies - staff, teachers, and students. Those who don't participate will simply forego influence on the decision in question.
The students attending ZSchool at any given moment will also have a council. They are essentially the "consumers" of the school's main product, its courses. They will self manage their own participation, obviously, and will also evaluate courses and otherwise have means to intercommunicate.
ZSchool Division of Labor Proposal
The division of labor issue is difficult in general, in creating single pareconish institutions, and at least somewhat intractble in this case, due to diverse locations of faculty, but luckily to no great detriment. The motivation for what parecon calls balanced job complexes is to avoid a subset of employees monopolizing empowering circumtances while the rest do overwhelmingly only rote and obedient tasks, with the former group then dominating the latter. The reality of ZSchool seems to us to be that the staff will have to handle most of the hosting and technical matters, as well as diverse daily rote matters as contacting participants, dealing with student complaints, etc. Faculty will each have comparably empowering work and conditions as each other, at least, though there will be no overall balancing among staff and faculty, we suspect. But, that can be seen as a compromise for being a worthy institution in a sea of horrible other institutions and with employees spread all over the world. In any event, faculty will also have some rote responsibilities for their own courses, and it really doesn't seem that anyone by virtue of their tasks will be in position to dominate outcomes much less to do so in a self aggrandizing way.
ZSchool Remuneration Proposal
Remuneration is probably the biggest practical issue of ZSchool policy - there being few decisions other than those about courses, which are themselves easily self managed, and not much to decide about the division of labor, given constraints and the highly empowering content of most of the work. So how should ZSchool remunerate faculty?
The pareconish norm is that people get income for socially valued labor in proportion to the duration, intensity, and onerousness of their work. We think it is fair to assume that the conditions of work, at least due to the institution itself, will be comparable for all involved. So we are left with duration and intensity, and with the need that the work actually be generating socially valued output, as the factors determining income for teaching.
Assume, as a starting point, that each course is taught with comparable intensity, for comparable hours - in accord with a broad set of responsibilities for faculty outlined, for example in work guidelines - and that all teaching is socially valuable in all that is done. Given this baseline condition, all courses would get an equal share of the total ZSchool income, after a portion was taken by Z for its operations, etc.
For example, suppose there are 40 courses in a particular session. Suppose there are an average of 50 students per course, each paying $50. The total revenue of all the courses during the ten week session, if everyone paid the full fee, would then be $100,000. Suppose, this is still an open matter, that 40% of all income was to go to Z for staff salaries (marginal), for overhead of the system (modest too), and to help finance overall growth and development of all Z Systems (a bottompless well of potential). In this case, there would be $60,000 for faculty for courses taught, and so each course would, as a basic amount, be entitled to $1500.
Let's assume that all course discounts - and these will be rather extensive - to Sustainers or to low income students would come out of Z's share of the total pot, so that discounts become a non factor for faculty income. Now the question is, why should some faculty get more than $1,500 and others less than $1,500, with the sum total for all faculty being, again, in this case, $60,000? The answer would be either more than average time/intensity expended on a course, or less, out of the total ZSchool faculty workload. So how might we deal with that?
Well, one variable affecting workload for a particular course is how many students there are. Another variable is how the faculty person conducts the class, with what features and level of interaction, etc., and putting in how much effort for each aspect.
So one way to proceed is to poll faculty for their estimate of the amount of time they worked on the course, per week, each week - not counting initial preparation, which we would simply assume to be similar over time, for each faculty person per course. And we could then create an average per week work time figure which is entitled to base pay. That established, each faculty person could indicate whether they believe they are above or below average in their work outlay. We could allow categories for well below, below, average, above average, and well above average. Average gets the base pay, in this example that would be $1500. Below goes down 10%, well below goes down 20%, above goes up 10%, and well above goes up 20%, in this proposal. The school, which is to say all the faculty, simply do not agree on people receiving more or less than that range for income.
What if a faculty person is misevaluating him or herself? For this, we can add another component to the calculation: student evaluations. If a course is evaluated and the evaluation is lower than average, the remuneration level goes down one notch. If the student rating is abysmal, remuneration level goes down two notches. The assumption is that if the students, on average, give a low valuation, some of the labor simply wasn't worthwhile, or wasn't in fact intense, etc. Abysmal ratings will also call into question the continued sponsoring of courses.
It is complicated, written out as above, but not in practice, we think.