ED MAP: Insights Blog

1.11.16 Higher Ed Weekly Read: Articles Worth Reviewing
By JoAnn Rollins

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

The 3 Things I’ll Say About EdTech in 2016. “People who work in higher education understand that the most important aspect of the undergraduate experience is learning how to learn. Tomorrow’s jobs will be different from today’s. Those able to succeed in the cognitive economy will have a strong foundation of analytical and social skills. The ability to gather and synthesize information, to make persuasive arguments using evidence, and to build strong relationships and coalitions across cultural, organizational and geographical barriers will determine success in the labor market.”

OER in 2016 and Beyond. “Whereas the traditional publisher model assumes knowledge is static and that teaching focuses on a single text, OER supports dynamic pedagogy, allowing faculty to customize materials based on present day changes to fields and industries, and access curricula shared by faculty nationwide. As students continue to equate the value of college with employment prospects, OER could have a major impact.”

Blackboard Replaces CEO Jay Bhatt: What happened. “While the official messaging is ‘full steam ahead’, to me this is a straightforward story that we have already been covering at e-Literate. In a nutshell, the attempted sale of Blackboard this year has failed, and the company has stalled in its turnaround attempts.”

What Blackboard’s New Ceo Needs to Do Now (and how you can tell if he’s doing it.) “Ballhaus inherits a company with a number of problems. Their customers are increasingly unhappy with the support they are getting on the current platform, unclear about how they will be affected by future development plans, and unconvinced that Blackboard will deliver a next-generation product in the near future that will be a compelling alternative to the competitors in the market. Schools going out to market for an LMS seem less and less likely to take Blackboard serious as a contender, which is particularly bad news since a significant proportion of those schools are currently Blackboard schools. The losses have been incremental so far, but it feels like we are at an inflection point.”

6 Education Stories To Watch in 2016. “Higher education leaders, or what presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio calls “the higher-ed cartel,” effectively killed the Obama administration’s attempt to create a more transparent, consumer-friendly way for students and parents to rate colleges. But with many of the presidential candidates calling for tuition-free or debt-free college, we’ll see these institutions undertake a more serious discussion about changing their pricing policies — largely out of fear that lawmakers in Washington will step in and do it for them.”

Can a Teaching Support Center also be an “Innovation Incubator”? “An effective approach for strategic impact requires that the institution have a Teaching and Learning Strategy in the strong sense of strategy: not just longer-term thinking about threats and opportunities, but a strong sense of how we contribute distinctive value as an institution and what it will require for us to maintain that distinction. We need this strong and deep focus in order to target our limited investments in strategic initiatives effectively.”

Diet, Exercise, Read More. “While I’m always ready to argue for the benefits of reading – there’s plenty of evidence that it’s good for your brain, enhances empathy, and exposes us to places and ideas we might not encounter otherwise – I’m amused that it’s treated like eating your vegetables, even when you gobble a shelf of books that offer less intellectual challenge than a single episode of The Wire.”

GM, Lyft, and Higher Education. “From GM’s perspective, the world of urban transport is set to undergo massive change. GM (and many others) see a future where city residents move to consuming transportation as a service.  The first step will be eschew car ownership for smart-phone activated ride-hailing.  Faster than we realize, these cars will become autonomously driven – a technological, social, and legal shift that will further lower transportation costs. GM wants to be a part of creating (and profiting) from this future, rather than a passive victim of this shift. What is the analogous shift in postsecondary education?”

Best Intersession Class You Ever Took. “At their best, intersession classes offer a kind of focus that most classes just can’t. Because they stuff so much class time into such a brief window, they fairly demand almost exclusive attention from students. I’ve had faculty tell me that intersession classes are their favorite ones to teach, because for two or three weeks, the students don’t do anything else. They have to jump in with both feet.”

How one Texas community college helped lift prospects for all students. “OC revamped course offerings and scheduling, changing from 16-week courses to 8-week courses to better fit the lifestyles of their students – predominantly minority, working-class, socio-economically disadvantaged individuals – many the first in their family to attend college. OC’s student-centered culture is dedicated to meeting student needs, understanding barriers they face and how to overcome them. All staff on campus are mindful of the competition for students.”

What Higher Education Can Learn from Fitbit. “As it turns out, when people realize how infrequently they move, or how little they sleep, they begin to walk up the stairs—or get to bed just a little earlier. Data leads to awareness. And awareness leads users to adapt their behavior in positive ways. We are only beginning to understand the impact of such data on the design of systems when we view the data in aggregate.”

Assessing the Process Not the Product of Learning. “I realized that as a teacher I learned much more about the students’ learning process while grading their work than I did about the quality of the games they produced. And I realized that this was the right thing to focus on, that it was what mattered to me ultimately, as much as I loved playing their actual games.”

5 important revelations from first year online learners. “1.False preconceived notions often lead to unrealistic study choices: According to the report, from the outset of the semester, students had relatively little concept of what it is actually like to study online. Because of this, students do not always make realistic study choices in light of their personal circumstances (family obligations and dependents, employment, financial issues and personal recreation). “Students commonly perceive that distance study will not only be flexibly scheduled around commitments, but also ‘condensable’ into the hours they have available,” note the researchers. As early as the orientation period, the perceived flexibility and self-paced nature of online learning creates a false sense of security, says the report, that seemed to invite some students to remain syllabus-bound, ignore non-essential tasks and—in the worst scenarios—to disengage and withdraw from courses.”

Public Colleges Lead in Adopting Competency-Based Programs. “Respondents were nearly universal in making learning and assessment a priority: 95 percent or more ‘strongly agreed’ that healthy programs must focus on learners, have meaningful assessments, and produce prepared graduates. Aspirations do not always match reality. For example, while 99 percent of respondents said it was important to establish clear standards to help students learn domain-specific content and generalizable theories, skills, and behaviors, only 65 percent said they had satisfied that goal.”

How to improve Education for low-income students. “Education was once thought of as the great equalizer by giving everyone a similar start in life. But too often it becomes a contributor to inequality by failing those who start out nearer the bottom – those who already face deficits in early learning and development. For example, although public high school graduation rates are now improving, there remain big gaps related to race and income. Moreover, a high school diploma typically is no longer enough in the modern economy, and so a college credential matters. But there again, there are large income and racial gaps in graduation. And although a college degree continues on average to produce a good income return on investment, even for students with loans, high drop-out rates and tuition and debt worries seem among the reasons there has been a startling drop in college enrollment among low-income students in recent years.”

Advice for Blackboard’s New CEO. “Focus Blackboard’s platform and services on enabling systems, schools, faculty, and students to utilize learning data to make actionable (and evidence-based) changes. What I’m suggesting is a fundamental re-conception of Blackboard from a Learning Management System (LMS) to a Learning Management Analytics System (LMAS). This means a commitment to stop chasing both market share and the full ecosystem of learning platforms, and to focus all the energy on the integration of the traditional platform with the expansion of user-facing analytics.”

Administrative Writing. “Put differently, some forms of self-censorship are what make organized life possible. Self-censorship sometimes comes from considering the needs of others. The act of thinking before speaking — or writing — may be tiring and frustrating, and in the hands of the less-skilled, may result in stilted prose. But it pushes us in directions we need to be pushed.”

Global Credit Transfer. “However, if an alliance of peer universities are willing to recognize one another’s courses for credit, it would massively expand the range of MOOCs on offer and their value to students, she explained. For instance, Delft offers about 25 MOOCs, but about 200 MOOCs are likely to be involved in the pilot if an agreement is reached.”

‘Foolproof’, Risk and Higher Ed. “Getting a conversation going on campus about the dangers of risk avoiding behaviors is always a worthy goal. Trying to get their schools more comfortable with experimentation and fast failure is a goal shared by every higher ed leader that I know. Many of us will defend the traditions and enduring values of our colleges and universities, but few of us will say that we go to work everyday to maintain the status quo. It seems to me that an important prerequisite to developing a more risk tolerant academic culture is a commitment to educational R&D (research and development).”

Raising the Bar on Higher Ed Debates. “In other words, the new wave of higher education reform plans are fundamentally about making it cheaper to go to the same, often -mediocre colleges we’ve had for a long time. What we really need is a large number of newer, cheaper, better higher education organizations—not necessarily “colleges” as we know them today—to serve the growing and increasingly diverse population of adults who need learning opportunities of all kinds. This is actually an area where Republicans and Democrats agree, even if they don’t entirely realize it yet.”

Information Literacy and Recent Graduates: New from PIL. “As the quote I opened with indicates, graduates feel pretty well prepared to make critical judgments about information sources and don’t just rely on the first thing that pops up. Of course not. This is real life, not a term paper due tomorrow. It’s good to hear that they feel their experiences in college have developed their ability to tell whether a source is worth paying attention to or not. Well done us. The bad news is that they don’t feel well prepared to develop their own questions. This should trouble us all, because that’s a pretty major function of higher education and one of the most important kind of learning that can happen in an academic library.”

Open Access at Both Ends. “The press is a response to a scholarly publishing market that many faculty members and librarians say is dominated by commercial publishers and large university presses. It is also an attempt to increase the visibility of the research produced at liberal arts colleges, including highly experimental work by scholars who feel “disenfranchised” by publishers who favor more traditional research or charge high article processing fees, said Charles T. Watkinson, director of the University of Michigan Press and associate university librarian for publishing.”

Equity and Access. “At a time when the growth of undergraduate enrollment is coming primarily from lower-income students, when 40 percent of undergraduates work at least 30 hours a week, and traditionally-aged, full-time residential students constitute only about a third of college and university enrollees, the issue of equity in educational resources has never been more pressing. It is up to public universities, which enroll nearly three-quarters of college students, to devise cost efficient, cost effective strategies to improve student outcomes.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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