We are familiar with the archetypal university classes seen in Hollywood movies. Bright students fill grand lecture halls, eagerly listening to their esteemed, dynamic professors. These on-screen professors are brilliant scholars who engage students, but, unfortunately, do not represent many university lecturers.
The quality of the education we receive depends on who teaches us. Students pay tuition to learn from leading professors, experts in their fields. But at universities students are often taught by graduate students serving as Teaching Assistants (TAs), particularly in introductory courses.
According to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the number of graduate students working as TAs has more than doubled since 1975. At American universities, TAs teach thousands of classes. AFT data does not reflect the totality of classes led by TAs; it only accounts for sections in which TAs are the listed teachers. But graduate employees serve as teacher’s aides and share teaching responsibilities. Between 16%-32% of undergraduate sections at public universities are estimated to be taught by TAs.
MOOCs ensure that professors, not TAs, teach classes. When registering for MOOCs, students know that they will be taught by experts who have dedicated hours of effort to recording lectures of the highest academic quality.
by Anna Meixler