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Robert Ovetz

Research Findings

The algorithmic university and the struggle over academic labor

November 5, 2020

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has another casualty that has gotten little widespread attention—in person teaching and learning in higher education. As self-isolation and quarantines have suppressed the transmission of the virus, the turn toward remote work using new teleconferencing technology threatens to also sweep away many of the barriers to the spread of another epidemic—the digital automation and deskilling of teaching in higher education. The pandemic has created the ideal circumstances for “edtech” venture capitalists, textbook publishers, Learning Management Systems (LMS) companies, and online education advocacy groups to expand the widespread deskilling and automation of teaching in colleges and universities.  

This rationalization of academic labor has had profound effects on US public community colleges and universities. In the past decade, on-line education (OLE) in the US has been making slow and steady gains. The widespread reliance on teleconferencing platforms such as Zoom to move nearly all higher education into OLE during the pandemic has accelerated the reorganization of the academic work of higher education. 

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