ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Instructure Files for IPO. “Also not a big surprise, but the numbers in the report show big growth. Subscription revenue rose 72% from 2013 to 2014. Coincidentally, Edutechinica just published its 3rd annual LMS Data Update. As you can see, Canvas went through the roof in US higher ed while the other major LMS players were either flat or close to it”

Yes, I did say that Knewton is “selling snake oil.” “But much of what Jose says, at least to the media, is the opposite. No responsible educator or parent should adopt a product—even if it is free—from a company whose CEO describes it as a ‘robot tutor in the sky that can semi-read your mind’ and give you content ‘proven most effective for people like you every single time.’ I’m sorry, but this sort of quasi-mystical garbage debases the very notion of education and harms Knewton’s brand in the process. If you want to sell me a product that helps students to learn, then don’t insult my intelligence. Explain what the damned thing does in clear, concrete, and straightforward language, with real-world examples when possible.”

The Costs of Publish or Perish. “ But while the negative consequences of the “publish or perish” paradigm, such as innovation costs and decreased attention to teaching and mentoring, are widely acknowledged, there’s been scant data to back them up. So a new study suggesting that publication pressures on scientists lead to more traditional, more likely to be published papers, at the expense of scientific breakthroughs, stands out.”

United to Regulate For-Profits. “The task force, led by Under Secretary Ted Mitchell of the Education Department, was created to build on the existing work already taking place by the department, the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Departments of Justice, Treasury and Veterans Affairs. State attorneys generals have also been invited to collaborate with the task force.”

3 Questions About Centers for Teaching and Learning. “There is an explosion of interest in learning. Part of this elevated interest can be traced to advances in our theoretical and empirical understanding of how learning works. The scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) is finding a wide audience across higher education. All the excitement around online learning, (both open and traditional), has also directed more attention to teaching and learning. Learning analytics promise to bring more evidence-based practices into course design and teaching.”

More Content Doesn’t Equal More Learning. “What our students need from us is assistance in navigating the waters in an ocean of information. We can become ‘content curators’ who judiciously select the best ‘artifacts’ for learning, much like the museum curator analyzes and documents all of the materials available before selecting the best representations for any given collection. Our students also need to learn the skills necessary to review and evaluate various sources of information—and be able to differentiate what’s relevant, accurate, and reliable, and why. If we teach research and critical thinking skills, our learners will develop the capacity to cope with information overload, a problem that is unlikely to disappear in the near future.”

Of MOOCs and Men. “No matter how good the text-based chat function is in a learning environment, it is not personal and does not truly connect. That connection is the first missing element in MOOCs. Others have helpfully identified the social element of learning that is key to success and that is not yet well replicated in these largely interaction free spaces. Physical meetups, while useful for a handful of learners in a massive course, simply don’t scale. The second missing element is professorial fallibility.”

5 Ways Online Teaching Benefits Residential Learning. “Before the growth of traditional and open online programs, how much discussion of learning theory and pedagogical research was going on on your campus? Creating and running effective online classes require a careful attention to research-based pedagogical practices. The same theoretical frameworks on student learning and the same teaching techniques around student engagement and active learning work equally well in the online and the physical classroom. Working with an instructional designer to create and teach an online class is marvelous training for all modes of teaching.”

“Good” Teaching. “I’ve heard from people both formally through my position and informally as I blogged that they can’t change their pedagogy because of the culture around teaching within their department/college/institution would punish them for incorporating student-centered pedagogy, project and collaborative learning, and/or technology-enhanced approaches.”

A New Product Line. “The boot camp model plays a different game. It leaves general education and difficult students to the publics, and instead selects the graduates most likely to succeed. It charges more, and offers a more customized product. It’s FedEx, as opposed to first-class mail. And it can specialize in whatever skill is hot at the moment, effectively ceding prestige in favor of good timing. The new for-profit model raises different questions. The old one raised questions of the maintenance of academic standards, given the pressure to produce graduates no matter what. The new one raises questions of access, given the high sticker price and (usually) the lack of financial aid.”

‘Double-Dipping’ With MOOCs. “The MOOC platforms have also changed since then. Coursera has found a promising business model in Specializations, sequences of career-focused courses. EdX, in addition to its code serving as the foundation for other platforms, is experimenting with online learning as a part of face-to-face education. Both have extensive international initiatives underway.”

A Boon to Boot Camps? U.S. Extends Aid to Campus Deals With Nontraditional Programs. “On Wednesday the department will announce a pilot program that will allow federal grants and loans to flow to educational-technology companies that team up with colleges and third-party ‘quality-assurance entities’ to offer coding boot camps, MOOCs, short-term certificates, and other credentials. The experiment has two chief aims: to make nontraditional programs more accessible to low-income students, and to test new ways of measuring program quality that are based on students’ outcomes.”

‘Higher Education and Employability.’ “His new book, Higher Education and EmployabilityNew Models for Integrating Study and Work (Harvard Education Press), argues that colleges and universities of all types need to take seriously their role in preparing graduates for a life of work — not exclusively, not above all else, but as an essential part of what they do. It’s not, as he says in the book, a matter of ‘either/or’ between academic study and work preparation, but ‘both/and.’ And the book is designed to be a guide about what institutions might do differently to embrace that role more successfully.”

Partial Credit: The 2015 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology. “New to this year’s survey is a pair of overarching questions about whether administrators and faculty members have seen improvements in student outcomes and, as a follow-up, if those results justify the spending. To answer the second question first — yes, 63 percent of faculty members and 84 percent of administrators surveyed say the portion of their institutions’ budgets that has gone toward ed tech is money well spent. But whatever increases they are seeing in student outcomes don’t appear to be greater than expected.”

Articulating How Centers for Teaching and Learning Are Changing. “One challenge for teaching centers is to continue providing safe spaces for professional development, while also partnering with university leaders to create campus environments more supportive of teaching excellence. Many are navigating this well, but it’s a challenge in some cases. A related shift I’ve noticed in teaching centers is a move away from working almost exclusively with individual instructors on their teaching, and towards working with departments, schools, and other units.”

One Perspective on Student-Centered Learning. “’Student-centered learning’ is not even a method. ‘Student-centered learning,’ at least as I understand it, is a philosophy that embraces the idea that learning something is the student’s responsibility, and that the most lasting learning tends to be rooted in complex challenges and multifaceted experiences.”

MSIs Need to Embrace Competency-Based Learning Strategies. “Faculty and administrators at institutions of all types, from community colleges to research universities, need to advance pedagogies that focus on students’ demonstration of learning, both inside and outside of classrooms. Competency-based education or competency-based learning (CBL) connotes the primacy of the learning process, which is vital in securing the economies and effectiveness that are increasingly demanded of higher education.”

State of the US Higher Education LMS Market: 2015 Edition. “A few items to note: The most important recent feature of the market – the rapid rise of Canvas, surpassing D2L and quickly closing in on Moodle – is quite visible now. Blackboard Learn appears to have stopped its well-documented losses in US higher ed and has even risen in the past year.”

Federal Watchdog Eyes Accreditor. “The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools received the civil investigative demand from the CFPB in August. It is unclear whether the council, which is the largest national accreditor, is the target of an investigation, or whether the request is linked to another probe.”

The Other Postsecondary Education. “Bridging the skills gap is not work that employers are prepared to do. In response, over the past several years we have seen a variety of intermediaries emerging at the intersection of higher education and the labor market in an area we call pre-hire training. Some focus solely on training. Some focus on training and placement or matching services. Others focus solely on matching candidates with employers. In terms of revenue, some seek revenue from job seekers. Others generate revenue from employers. Still others attempt to charge education providers.”

A Message for the “Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success.” “While I respect the principle behind the coalition’s initiative, that we should be assessing applicants on something other than standardized test scores, as the high school counselors recognize, without much more thought, the inevitable result will be to simply add an additional dimension to the higher ed admissions arms race. Additionally, this is a race that those children of privilege will inevitably win, defeating one of the core purposes of the coalition’s initiative, to extend opportunity to the less advantaged. As presently conceived, we’re simply looking at another dimension that can be gamed with more coaching, more consulting, more, more, more.”

Two Alternate Academic Models. “Might it be better if academics thought of themselves as practitioners rather than as professors? A practitioner is someone actively engaged in a discipline or a profession … To be sure, the term “practitioner” lacks the overtones of extreme intellectuality associated with the professoriate. … In contrast, a practitioner is by definition a doer who can therefore stand as a role model of someone skilled in the practice of a craft. By embracing the role of extreme practitioner, faculty members are encouraged to rethink their role – and their teaching — in innovative ways: Not as lecturers but, rather, as problem solvers  and answer formulators.”

The Library of Forking Paths. “I’m thinking about these changes since our first strategic plan, realizing that no matter how much progress we make on open access to scholarly research, we are always going to have multiple paths to follow as we trace ideas in the scholarly record. We still buy books, because at this point our community finds printed ones useful and we find the cost and the rights we would have to give up to shift to ebooks unacceptable. We still get some periodicals in print because we can’t afford the higher price of getting them electronically. … We’re always going to have to pay for the electronic content that is currently owned by corporations. Those copyrights were given away and authors aren’t getting them back. … We’re looking at how we can support new methods of open access publication. Though these are free to readers, they’re not without cost. It makes sense, it seems to me, for libraries to start devoting some of their budget and staff time to supporting these new, more equitable forms of publication even as we will continue to have to pay for content that is behind paywalls. We’ll have to keep paying for that paywalled content for generations because copyright lasts that long.”

Academic Freedom for Format, Not Just Content. “At the same time that the Feds are looking closely at alternative formats, though, they’re becoming much more exacting in enforcing the existing ones. … The common denominator, I think, is fear of abuse. But the real solution to that isn’t to tighten the screws on a format that even its partisans admit has nothing to do with student learning. It’s to focus intently on developing measures that show whether students are learning. If they do, I say, let a thousand methods bloom. Apply ‘academic freedom’ not only to content, but to format; as long as students get what they need, why count minutes?”

Community College Groups Seek Higher K-12 Standards. “The American Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Community College Trustees today announced that they will partner with the group Higher Ed for Higher Standards to commit to a push for more challenging academic standards in K-12. The two primary trade groups for the two-year college sector said in a joint statement that their goal is to better help prepare students for success in college and careers.”

Improving My Teaching via Podcast. “All of these companions have arrived in my life courtesy of the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, a free and fantastic resource for college and university faculty. Curated by Bonni Stachowiak, of Vanguard University, the podcast offers weekly episodes in which Bonni and her guests explore, in her words, ‘the art and science of being more effective at facilitating learning.’ Some episodes also focus on personal productivity for academics.”

Educating to Innovate. “But I knew that entrepreneurship and innovation are different, even if related. Both require seeing something that’s not there: ideas and solutions to improve life, new markets and so on. But whereas innovators focus on creation of value, entrepreneurs focus on realization of that value. The path of the entrepreneur is more or less the traditional path of business development: conducting market research, raising capital, developing long-term marketing and business plans, and so on. And college and university courses on entrepreneurship mirror that — covering subjects such as marketing, finance and the like. In contrast, the creativity, passion and broad vision necessary for successful innovation suggest that the very idea of a ‘traditional pathway’ to teaching innovation may be highly unlikely.”

College Scorecard Article Published In Washington Post. “In a nutshell, the College Scorecard combines data from multiple sources … and publishes the results of both as a consumer-facing Web site and an analyst-friendly data download. The essence of the problem is that throughout this process the data is filtered based on questionable assumptions, leading to the fuzzy lens viewing subsets of the real data.”

Google Gets Another Win in Book-Scanning Court Challenge. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit handed Google another victory on Friday in a high-profile case about copyright infringement, declaring that its scanning of books as part of the Google Books project constitutes fair use.”

ASAP Graduates. “There are many efforts around the country showing progress at improving community colleges’ graduation rates. But CUNY’s announcement today — including a goal of applying one of the most promising of these programs to an entire college — represents an effort to take such a program and bring it to scale, something that has not generally been attempted. The program … provides students with much more academic and financial support than most community college students receive: free tuition, textbooks and public transportation, and regular required contact with an adviser who has a relatively small caseload.”

The Allure of the Out-of-State Student. “The idea behind public colleges is to provide students with a quality education for a reasonable price. They often provide opportunities for middle-class students who wouldn’t qualify for need-based aid to attend private colleges or for first-generation college-goers who prefer to attend school close to home. These students feel the squeeze when institutional priorities shift toward their out-of-state peers. Efforts to adjust tuition or student-composition policies—which at public institutions typically require approval from state lawmakers or regents—can cause political tensions.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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