ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Small Changes in Teaching: The Minutes Before Class. “The more time I spend with students in that brief space before the start of class, the more I recognize that those warm-up minutes actually represent a fertile opportunity. I can use the time to enhance the learning that will take place in the hour that follows, to build a more positive atmosphere for class discussion, or simply to get to know my students a little better.”

Going Beyond the Pilot Project. “This week, however, APLU is taking that effort to the next level with a competitive grant process for members that want to use adaptive courseware in multiple general education courses that enroll large numbers of students, or ones with high failure rates. The project, which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding with a $4.6 million grant, also will focus on universities’ use of online tools to be proactive in advising students.”

High Impact, Largely Optional. “Likewise, a high percentage (78 percent) of colleges are tracking participation of all students in high-impact learning experiences. But much smaller percentages are tracking participation by racial/ethnic group (30 percent), socioeconomic status (16 percent) or parents’ educational attainment (12 percent). This means that despite apparent agreement that these practices matter, most colleges aren’t looking at whether all students or just some types of students are participating. And this become all the more important given that most colleges only offer and do not require such experiences for students.”

Tackling a Super Wicked Problem. “Higher education faces a number of wicked problems that are exceeding difficult to solve, precisely because any solutions are enormously expensive, exceptionally complex, and extremely divisive, and require implementation at scale. One wicked problem is how to moderating the growth of tuition in the face of a decline in per student public support. Another is how to address simultaneously the three components of the iron triangle of access, affordability, and quality. For many broad-access universities, moving the needle on student success is the super wicked problem. Piecemeal solutions have had only incremental impact; but more holistic and transformational solutions are exceedingly difficult to execute.”

Advising, Decades Later. “The common denominator to each story was remarkably consistent with what we’ve been hearing about best practices in advising. Everyone wanted information that was useful, rather than either comprehensive (the long list) or self-serving (take my course!). We wanted to know what we needed to take before making choices, and we probably would have benefited from return visits over time.”

Rapid Fire Feedback from #WCET15. “Our core business in higher education has not been wholly dependent on creating systems and processes to support meaningful interactions online. Harmony.com, however, has quite a bit invested in meaningful interactions online. Colleges and universities have long been in the business of information transference – a totally different purpose and one that is being fractured as our understanding of effective learning and teaching transforms. The legacy systems that still dominate the marketplace like LMSs are not designed for connection, they’re designed for information delivery and assessment. Student readiness and instructional design are of course, the other two core components of the triad of effective elearning, but this engagement component can, will, and is being tackled.”

Why We Should Teach Less, Not More. “In my own case, although I’m constantly revising and seeking to improve in the classroom for the sake of my students, I’m often severely constrained in what I’m actually able to do. I often find myself forced to take shortcuts — like including materials and assignments that I know don’t work as well as they should. My teaching load, when combined with other work responsibilities, is such that I don’t have the time to “do it all” in the classroom the way I’d like to. I’m sure that my effectiveness sometimes suffers because of that. Although I could, perhaps, forgo my publishing agenda, I’m convinced that being active in my field is essential to my identity in the classroom.”

Is the Whole Just a Collection of Parts? “So, it comes down to this—what is a college degree?  Is it a compilation of credits, or a coherent program designed by scholars, researchers, and administrators with multiple objectives to foster the personal and intellectual development of the individual recipients of that degree?  If it is meant to be a coherent program, then how many external pieces can be assembled before the whole is nothing more than a collection of parts?”

Challenges of an Accreditor Crackdown. “f the department were to remove the recognition of nearly any of the largest accreditors, it would jeopardize the flow of at least $1 billion in federal student loans and grants to colleges. Colleges affiliated with that accreditor would need to immediately secure approval from a different accrediting agency in order to continue allowing their students to receive federal loans and grants. And if any colleges were unable to do so and had to close, the Education Department would be stuck with the bill for wiping out students’ federal loans through closed school discharges.”

Major Study Finds OER Students Do Just as Well – or Better. “The study involved 5,000 students using OER and more than 11,000 “control” students using standard textbooks in courses at 10 different institutions around the country enrolled in 15 different undergraduate courses. It focused on five measures of student success — course completion, final grade, final grade of C- or higher, enrollment intensity and enrollment intensity in the following semester.”

5 Ways That Campus MOOC Initiatives Impact Local Residential Learning. “Any discussion about MOOCs will inevitably lead to a discussion of issues around postsecondary access, costs, and quality. Any discussion of MOOCs will bring up disagreements and divergent views on the evolving postsecondary competitive landscape. My experience is that MOOCs enable of a more egalitarian, inclusive, and vibrant discussion of the future of higher education than normally occurs on campus.”

Guided Pathways for Transfer. “Put differently, four-year publics need to be required to create “guided pathways” for community college transfer. That means keeping their own curricula in relative check, and vetoing departmental efforts to go rogue and construct idiosyncratic requirements to avoid “giving away” credits (or, in what amounts to the same thing, relegating them to “free elective” status). The easiest way, I think, would be to cap at sixty the number of credits that a destination school could require of someone with an associate’s degree. Let the four-year college departments fight out which sixty credits they can require; I have no dog in that fight.”

Students Still Financial Stressed. “In 2012, 27 percent of first-year students said they had eschewed buying required materials due to their cost. In 2015, 31 percent said they did not buy some materials. Among seniors, those who did not purchase required materials accounted for 40 percent of students. More than half of students — freshman and seniors alike — said they were worried about paying for college. About 40 percent of seniors and 23 percent of first-year students said their work schedule interfered with their academic performance.”

For Students, Expectations About Academic Rigor Are Far From Universal. “The number of hours students reported studying did seem to correlate somewhat with their sense that they’d been challenged to do their best work. Students’ self-reported level of challenge also tended to align with other measures that the survey tracks: the complexity of tasks students are asked to complete, the strategies they use to study, how they approach learning, and their perception of the clarity of teaching.”

OER Issues: Apples, Orchards and Infrastructure. “But whatever your perspective on these issues, the fact remains that commercial ancillaries and supplements are an established and important part of the instructional ecosystem and infrastructure in higher education.  If Open Education Resources are to supplant commercial course materials, OER providers must be prepared to compete on the quality , comprehensiveness, and value of their orchards – textbooks, ancillaries, and supplements – and not on the “as good” assessments of their apples (commercial textbook vs. OER textbook).”

The Prereq Temptation. “Individual prereqs can make sense, but when they proliferate — as they tend to do — they make timely completion of a degree much harder. A student who has to wait for a prereq class to fit her schedule may add a semester or a year to her time-to-completion, just because she’s following an unproven rule passed through a combination of ego and wishful thinking. To my mind, the burden of proof should be on prereqs. In the relatively rare cases in which the relevance is obvious and well-demonstrated, keep them.”

Shedding Light on “Going Dark”. “The reason academic librarians care so much about what we call information literacy is that we think it’s important for students to be in the habit of asking questions, prepared to seek information as they make their minds up, and to be critical about sources of information. This is a fairly fundamental prerequisite for being a free human being. In the past week, I’ve been struck by how much we all need these skills and dispositions, and how easily they fly out the window.”

Amateur Hour. “But you won’t be surprised to learn that the market is moving faster than colleges and universities. Providers like Udacity, Galvanize and ProSky are delivering the type of expertise most valued by students. They are doing this not only by connecting with employers, but also by wrapping themselves in the mantle of workforce development and recognizing that ‘skills’ also comprise higher-level executive function capabilities such as critical thinking and problem solving.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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