“Disaggregation”

Jay Conison, Dean at Valparaiso, has an interesting entry today on the Huffington Post blog, urging legal educators to consider intentional strategies for improving educational quality and efficiency/cost-effectiveness by disaggregating the components of the educational units we call courses:

Treated as a complex process, a course (to a first approximation) has five main elements: course design, course management, content development, delivery, and student assessment. On this understanding, we can disaggregate the elements of a course and work to reduce cost on a component-by-component basis. This may involve different persons taking responsibility for different course elements.

He points out that some aspects of legal education are already commonly outsourced by faculty, for example, the selection of course content by choosing a published book or compendium of excerpted cases. Instead of creating course content, faculty use their time to focus on other things (hopefully, effectively teaching the content and achieving learning outcomes – my comment).

Dean Conison’s post lists other examples of how disaggregating core components of course delivery can reduce costs, in particular, by having non-fulltime faculty deliver the content of courses designed and managed by fulltime faculty. But can disaggregation enhance the quality of education? If some faculty developed specializations in one or two areas, such as course development or assessment, while other faculty specialized in content or delivery, could learning outcomes improve? Or, do faculty already become de facto specialists in one or two of these components, while remaining responsible for (and perhaps less-than-effective in accomplishing) all five?

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