ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Tough on Colleges, Arne Duncan Bequeaths Record of Advocacy for Students. “During Mr. Duncan’s tenure, the department eliminated banks from the student-loan system, simplified the process of applying for financial aid, and expanded options for income-based repayment of student loans. It toughened regulations to curb recruiting abuses by for-profit colleges and aligned with the White House to push for greater consumer information in all sectors of higher education.”

It’s Not a Game: Future Secretaries Must Respect Higher Education’s Complexity. “Higher education today is about so much more than traditional undergraduate education, and the new secretary must understand the big picture. The department’s own data warehouse reveals some of the depth and complexity of this industry, starting with the remarkable range of nontraditional characteristics of students and the vast array of academic programs across many degree and credential levels.”

Arne Duncan’s Legacy: The Difference That Strong Leadership Can Make. “Key to Duncan’s leadership has been his fundamental approach of putting students at the center of this work. If higher education is going to fulfill its mission, the system and government entities supporting it must undergo a similar shift and embrace a student-centric way of designing policies and practices.”

Data-Driven Teaching Practices: Rhetoric and Reality. “Numbers may be facts. Numbers may be objective. Numbers may smell scientific. But numbers have to be interpreted by those who do the daily work of classroom teaching. Data-driven instruction may be a worthwhile reform but as now driving evidence-based educational practice linked to student achievement, rhetoric notwithstanding, it is not there yet.”

Army U. “They will be in Army University: a soon-to-begin restructuring of the Army’s educational system that will be modeled after traditional civilian universities. The idea is to consolidate the Army’s many educational and training programs, to make them more flexible and adaptable, and to help students get more college credit for their military experience.”

A Nuanced Look at (Some) 2-Year Students. “The study finds that the recent high school graduates who started at four-year institutions were almost 50 percentage points likelier than those who started at two-year colleges to have earned a bachelor’s degree within six years. In both sectors, the institutions with stronger student bodies on the way in had better graduation rates. But after controlling for the students’ own PSAT scores and for the average SAT scores of their peers at the institutions where they enrolled — and some other things, such as per-student spending and size, and students’ educational intentions — about half of that gap remained; in other words, ‘four-year colleges have graduation rates about 25 percentage points higher than two-year colleges whose students have the same average PSAT.’”

Collision Mix. “The point is to get away from the hyper-individualized vision of an Uber for higher ed, and to move towards a vision of higher ed as part of the fabric of a society that is concerned for everyone. In that light, her distinction between ‘one hundred new Universities of Phoenix’ and public institutions makes sense. Institutions matter, and their missions matter. Public institutions are meant to protect the weak against the strong.”

Thursday in the Park With Students. “The focus wasn’t on following rules or procedures. Nobody told them what kind of sources they should use, or how many, or where they should look, or how to document them. Nobody told them they have to search differently now that they are in college, relying only a certain kind of source. Yet the quality and variety of materials they’d found was amazing.”

Cracks In The Foundation Of Disruptive Innovation. “Now there is even more evidence that the theory of disruptive innovation has some serious cracks in the foundation. In September’s MIT Sloan Management Review (you know, the other side of Cambridge) Dartmouth Professor Andrew King and UBC graduate student Baljir Baatartogtokh published the results of a study they led on the original claims in Christensen’s books. Titled ‘How Useful Is The Theory of Disruptive Innovation?’, the short answer is not very, even for the case studies claimed in the books.”

America: Abandon Your Reverence for the Bachelor’s Degree. “The lack of good options for my nephews and students like them up and down the income scale is not inevitable. It’s possible to envision a better option, one that rejects the false and damaging logic that job training and experience must always come after, not before, academic training. In fact, some colleges are experimenting with alternative “upside-down” degrees, in which students who choose job training and work experience right out of high school aren’t getting onto an educational dead-end road but, rather, onto a bridge that can lead, with a little more schooling, to a bachelor’s degree. But for these alternatives to become widespread, higher education will have to rethink some unquestioned—and highly questionable—assumptions about what a B.A. is or should be.”

Excelsior College awarded $1.9 million grant to assess student skills, predict future success. “DAACS is part of a strategic push by Excelsior to increase student success, retention, and persistence. Unlike traditional placement exams and remediation, DAACS offers a powerful, research-based alternative that does not derail a student’s path to degree completion. It will be open-access, offer students formative feedback on each of their assessed weaknesses, provide information for relearning content, and direct them to specific support services. The inclusion of both academic (i.e. reading, writing and math) and non-academic (i.e. academic self-regulation, grit, math anxiety, and test anxiety) assessments provides institutions and students a more complete picture of their abilities. Moreover, this allows for targeted interventions based upon each individual student’s needs.”

Scholars Talk Writing: Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. “When one is so concentrated on doing full justice to the ideas themselves, laying them out in their maximally logical order, one forgets about the reader, how to best lead her into the ideas and make her feel them as naturally as you do. I think about this problem a great deal in trying to figure out the best structure of a piece, where to start, the entry point. The most elegant structure, from the point of view of the ideas, isn’t always the most effective one from the point of view of the reader. We love our ideas, or we wouldn’t dedicate so much of our lives to them. But we have to love our readers, too.”

‘Revolution in Higher Education.’ “My take on this is that hype is often a good thing. Particularly when you’re thinking about new technologies. Hype fuels investment, for example. The initial excitement that you have over a technology — what some people would call hype — really fuels creativity. Expectations can be inflated, for sure, but investment that doesn’t have compelling value to underpin it eventually dries up. In the meantime, ecosystems spring up. At that point successful technologies begin a slower and more deliberate build-out. I personally don’t think that MOOCs have peaked yet. I see them entering new fields.”

Response to Robert Talbert: Pedagogical change is difficult, many need support. “Robert’s central point is that active learning should be thought of as an ethical issue, where it could be considered unethical to withhold treatment. He then asks why faculty might withhold active learning and listed four reasons: self-preservation, laziness, a weird and irrational superiority complex, and legitimate external forces (such as overly controlling school structure).”

MIT Master’s Program to Use MOOCs as ‘Admissions Test.’ “Students who do well in a series of free online courses and a related online examination offered through MIT’s MOOC project, MITx, will “enhance their chances” of being accepted to the on-site master’s program, according to a university statement. Students who come to the program after first taking the MOOCs will then essentially place out of the first half of the coursework, so they can finish the degree in a semester rather than an academic year. That effectively makes the master’s program half the usual price.”

MIT’s New Model. “Learners who complete the MOOCs but can’t afford or simply aren’t interested in finishing the degree won’t walk away empty-handed. MIT will offer those learners a new microcredential, called a MicroMaster’s, and is working with other organizations that offer supply chain management programs to ensure they will accept the credential toward degree completion.”

Let’s Bid Farewell to the Carnegie Unit. “But in the United States’ transition from an industrial to an information economy, the Carnegie Unit is becoming obsolete. The information economy focuses on common, fixed outcomes, yet the process and the time necessary to achieve them are variable. The concern in colleges and schools is shifting from teaching to learning — what students know and can do, not how long they are taught. Education at all levels is becoming more individualized, as students learn different subjects at different rates and learn best using different methods of instruction. As a result, educational institutions need a new accounting to replace the Carnegie Unit.”

Emails Unsent. “What I’ve realized, however, is that email can work against your goals.  If your goal is to persuade, build coalitions, and create relationships – really the modern work of leadership – than email will often be counterproductive to your goals. The problem is that email is not conversation. Long emails are like engaging in an interaction where you do all the talking.”

Open Access Without Tears. “There are studies that says making your scholarship open access will increase its visibility and the chances it will be cited. That’s nice – but that’s not why I personally am committed to open access. I just think scholarship is worth sharing, and it’s a shame to limit its potential audience to those who are in a position to pay or have affiliation with an institution that can pay on their behalf.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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