Probably over 400 faculty from regents universities, community colleges and tech schools met at K-State—the auditorium was full.
While some discussions for basic lecture classes went smoothly, there was plenty of action in the biology sessions. The representatives had previously voted to approve requirements that microbiology labwork had to be genuine supervised labwork—twice. And twice the Board of Regent’s TAAC (Transfer and Articulation Committee) rejected it. It was returned to Kansas biology faculty for a third time.
While there was a faculty moderator who did a good job managing the discussion and voting, the real debate was with the TAAC representative. TAAC is charged with implementing the KBOR "vision" of having all 100 and 200-level courses in Kansas seamlessly articulate across all Kansas institutions.
The TAAC representative asserted that they did not approve it before (and would not likely approve it again) because we had gone beyond just listing competencies. In specifying genuine supervised labwork, we had dictated the "mode of teaching" and thus violated "academic freedom."
The real "bottom line" behind this is that there are six community colleges and tech schools in Kansas that offer their microbiology lab online. While the taxpayers of KS have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in genuine microbiology labs equipped with CSI-type equipment that students use to learn hands-on microbiology, these online programs offer nothing but canned computer simulations or cheap and simple Mr. Wizard kits to use at the kitchen sink each Friday.
Kansas biologists overwhelmingly rejected this "mode of teaching" argument. UC-Berkeley, San Diego, University of Minnesota, and many other high-reputation schools refuse to accept transfer science labs for exactly the same reason. It defies common sense to approve courses in swimming without a pool, training in welding using only a computer screen, or to graduate nurses who have never set foot in a hospital. But this is precisely the nonsense we were being coerced to accept.
K.U.'s Pharmacy program is a Kansas example that does not accept virtual lab course transfers. Because there is no distinction on a transcript whether a course is online or face-to-face (there should be) for an applicant student, K.U. Pharmacy phones Kansas feeder universities each year to determine if any of their chemistry labs have gone online. As a graduate program, they can restrict transfer. At the 100/200 level, we were being told that we cannot.
Kansas biologists said we had the right to specify hands-on because online cannot accomplish the competencies. You cannot learn to make sterile slides or handle bacterial media—and do it safely—without direct supervision and modern advanced equipment.
When the TAAC representative pointed out that a room of computers with a faculty member present could possibly be considered "supervised," the response was swift. Kansas faculty (one school, one vote) voted overwhelmingly to keep "supervised laboratory" in the microbiology criteria and even strengthen it to "supervised wet lab" to prevent any other interpretation.
Other real problems: 1) faculty requirements to teach at Community Colleges and Tech Schools lower than for high school teachers, 2) 3 credit hour courses offered in 2 weekends, and 3) why Tech Schools are allowed to offer any non-Tech academic courses at all—we were not allowed to address.
Unfortunately the KBOR "vision" to make all 100 and 200-level courses across Kansas "fully articulate" ignores the fact that a "baby" micro lab with a high school level text for training certified nursing assistants is not the same course as a major's microbiology lab preparing pre-Meds and nurses. The KBOR “vision” and their TAAC system is designed to address student's gripes when a course does not transfer. It is not designed to maintain quality.
If they bring the microbiology labs back to us next year—for the 4th time—it will be clear that the beatings will continue until we approve fraudulent labs. Just what part of “no” (to virtual labs) they do not understand?