ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Edtech’s Next Big Disruption Is The College Degree. “Enter the second wave of education’s technology revolution: the New Credentialing. In the past few years, credentials such as online badges, course certificates and dynamic assessments have started to gain wide acceptance — and, in some fields, such as technology, are perhaps even preferred in certain instances because they offer more insight into hard skills — as a primary currency in the world of work and careers. This trend has been sparked by an implied demand, and because the communities aiming to innovate in education realized that credentialing is the missing link in the edtech revolution.”

Naming What We Know About Writing. “In reality these ideas about how information works and how students can participate in making meaning can’t really be grasped except through sustained experience. Since for most students that experience is likely to come through courses and majors, we librarians need to find ways to work with faculty (how often we have said this!) to share the responsibility and the teaching practices that will help our student cross the thresholds of understanding that we jointly believe are important.”

New Data on Adjuncts. “Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, said the survey demonstrates the need for a comprehensive national study of postsecondary faculty. She and other advocates were in Washington last week asking members of Congress to reinstate the Education Department’s National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, which was last conducted in 2004. While the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System collects basic demographic information about instructors, she said, the former study provided a more in-depth look at who was doing the teaching, under what circumstances.”

Language of Protest. “All six editors and all 31 editorial board members of Lingua, one of the top journals in linguistics, last week resigned to protest Elsevier’s policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online. As soon as January, when the departing editors’ noncompete contracts expire, they plan to start a new open-access journal to be called Glossa.”

The Case for Better Faculty Pay. “But a new study suggests that investing in instructional costs yields key returns on investment, including better undergraduate employment outcomes — especially for disadvantaged students. Data also suggest that spending on certain kinds of students services, such as career-oriented programs, correlates with better career outcomes for more advantaged students.”

Resisting techno-solutionism, resisting the Pied Piper, reclaiming the story: A personal reflection on Audrey Watter’s keynote at ICDE2015. “Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a location. This mindset celebrates heroes, inventors, smart risk taking, and of course, being white and male. Silicon-speak includes words such as innovation, disruption, and destruction. It privileges ‘new’, and everything it deems as old is doomed to be classified as obsolete. Everything is perpetually in need of an upgrade. ‘The Silicon Valley narrative has no memory, no history, unless it inverts one to suit its own purposes.’ It celebrates the individual at all costs and calls this ‘personalization.’ The Silicon Valley narrative does not neatly co-exist with public education – and we forget this at our own peril.”

The New Industrial Revolution. “The American dream involves more than just accumulating wealth, the historian argues. It’s about developing a sense of personal value by connecting work to a broader social mission, rather than as ‘a mechanical job, befitting of lowly manual laborer.’ Today, though, ‘there’s disillusionment with professions,’ Bledstein told me, noting that the logic of efficiency is often valued more than the quality of service.”

2 things you should know about Google ed evangelist’s vision [Educause 2015]. “Modern technology, he said, gives educators a means to implement the best suggestions of the last 30 years of research into making education engaging, relevant, personalized, and student-centric. … Rather than trying to build the classroom of the future, or automating old education and making it ‘faster,’ administrators and policymakers would be better served to work for continual improvement based on data, new ideas, and feedback from students, as well as program leaders beyond a given education level.”

Content vs. Skills in High Schools: 21st Century Arguments Echo 19th Century Conflicts. “I thought of that as I read more and more about “soft skills” as an essential for 21st century students eventually entering the workplace. Working in teams, being able to motivate others, persevere at tasks, navigate organizational tricky waters, and lead–these are the skills that high schools today should teach youth. Hey, what about content? What about intellectual acuity to develop and display a substantive argument anchored in facts?”

Many Colleges Now See Centers for Teaching With Technology as Part of ‘Innovation Infrastructure’. “One key change has been the creation of new or redefined administrative jobs at colleges intended “to lead their academic-change initiatives.” And the survey found that several colleges have reconstructed their centers for teaching and learning to focus more on student success than just on faculty development, working more often across various departments such as student services and academic affairs.”

Juiced: The Steroid Era of Content. “Today’s digital landscape is not too far removed from the baseball parks of 1998. We are bombarded with articles, blogs, videos, white papers, newsletters, emails, text alerts, and listicles clamoring for our attention. For years, we’ve witnessed this glut of content permeate every device and screen we interact with. Five years ago, audiences universally despised digital pop-up ads; whereas today, they are universally accepted in the interest of getting to the latest celebrity tidbit or thought leadership download. As a content professional, I’m still amazed at how we got here.”

Another Commission Will Take On the Future of Higher Education. “Mr. McPherson says he expects the first year of the commission’s three-year effort to be focused on developing a primer — with the help of well-known higher-education economists and others — on topics like college costs, enrollment and completion trends, demographic trends, and expectations about labor markets.”

Between Consortia and Mergers. “Instead, the report argues that more institutions should aim for what Thomas calls a “sweet spot” that is more flexible and sweeping than most consortia but less threatening and risky than mergers: strategic alliances in which they merge some of their some administrative functions (while retaining their distinct identities and structures) to both reduce costs and give them more capacity than colleges would have on their own.

3 Reasons Why Internal Communications At Small Schools Is So Hard. ““Organizational change moves at the speed of trust”. This is a quote that I heard at the EDUCAUSE conference last week – and it has really stuck with me.  Internal campus communications are one method to get the entire community on board for change.  We need to say why we are doing the various initiatives, projects, and investments that we are pushing forward. If your goal is organizational evolution, then the process of change will be regulated by the amount of trust within the community. Trust in the shared values and goals within the community. Trust that those doing the communicating are also listening.”

Confidential Memo from Acme Education Widgets to Casey Green. “2. How Do We Get To “Trust” Without First Going Broke? You write in your memo that the “trust is the coin of the realm” when it comes to “recommending, buying, and deploying.” We get that trust is important – but how can we accelerate this trust thing? We at Acme need to operate on a fiscal time scale, not the tectonic time scale that higher ed seems to follow. It is also clear to us at Acme that the best way to make a sale to college A is if college B is first a customer.  Why is it that colleges and universities spend so much time talking about ‘leadership’, but never want to lead in anything when it comes to purchasing a new technology?”

Instructure Dodges A Data Bullet. “I contacted the company Friday mid day while also conducting interviews with the schools and with Unizin. Apparently the issues quickly escalated within the company, and Friday evening I got a call from CEO Josh Coates. He said that they had held an internal meeting and decided that their plans were wrong and had to change. They would no longer charge for daily access to Canvas Data.”

What a Mass Exodus at a Linguistics Journal Means for Scholarly Publishing. “On Monday the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities issued a statement in support of Lingua’s editors. Electronic publication should reduce costs, the organization argued, but subscription fees are going up. ‘Publishers sell back to the universities the very content they as a group produced, and at steadily higher subscription prices,’ the statement said. ‘The system is fundamentally broken.’ While the association has supported low-cost access to information in the past, its formal statement signals a new level of support. In the future, its president, M. Peter McPherson, said, the organization will continue to comment on the issue.”

Higher Education Leaders Agree That Good Planning Is Important But Most Don’t Do It Well, Survey Reveals. “The survey results also revealed seven factors that are closely related to overall success in planning for colleges and universities, including (1) emphasize planning and create a “culture of planning” on the campus, (2) provide training on planning, (3) define effectiveness, (4) integrate planning across the campus (or across multiple campuses), (5) agree on planning priorities, (6) be agile, and (7) manage change.

The Structure of Instructure. “To put the amount into perspective: during the first half of 2015, Instructure brought in about $30.5 million in revenue. But the company spent $25.1 million on sales and marketing alone during those six months — more than it spent on research and development ($10.9 million) and administrative costs ($13.9 million) combined. It also cost the company $10.4 million to support its existing clients.”

Degree-Seeking, But Not Here. “But the financial aid rules, let alone IPEDS data, don’t make such fine-grained distinctions. As far as they’re concerned, ‘degree-seeking’ means ‘degree-seeking here.’ And that leads to some serious reality gaps.”

Recession-Era Woes Subside. “During the recession, college prices increased steeply while borrowing rose rapidly. Loan defaults increased, too. Now borrowing has declined slightly for the fourth straight year, defaults have steadied and tuition increases at public universities over the past three years have been at their lowest levels since the 1970s, according to the College Board’s 2015 ‘Trends in Higher Education’ reports.”

U.S. to Put New Requirements on Accreditors. “The measures are meant to more closely link accreditors to the outcomes of the institutions that they oversee and to provide more information to the public about how well the colleges under each accreditor perform. The department, too, says it will take into account student performance as it considers renewing accrediting agencies’ federal recognition. But the new requirements are limited, requiring information that is largely available to the public, though not consolidated in the way that the department now plans to present it.”

Take It Easy: The Wisdom of Robert Boice. “What, then, is the ideal state for working? The answer, as he tells us repeatedly, ismindfulness. The answer may sound suspiciously Buddhist; that’s because it is. (Pema Chödrön is one of the many sages quoted in this book, alongside Francis Bacon and Rita Mae Brown.) But it’s also because mindfulness leads to good results in the realm of academic productivity. A further reason, he notes, is that mindlessness stresses us out”

‘Taking College Teaching Seriously’ “Now a new book by Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York; Marisa Klages-Bombich, a professor at LaGuardia; and Knowledge in the Public Interest founders Diana D. Woolis and Susan G. Restler examines why the methods and development behind college teaching are important to boosting completion rates.”

Eight Professors, 43 Students. “The first-year students are taking the full 34 credits for their general education requirements this year — the equivalent of 13 courses. But all that material has been converted into one course that eight professors from different disciplines are teaching jointly.”

EDUCAUSE 2015: Would you like analytics or cloud with that? “The acts of normalizing, mapping, transforming, and moving data between disparate systems for analytics purposes have become big business in higher education. As new standards emerge that enable even more data to flow between systems, such as the IMS Caliper standard for learning events, this business opportunity will surely increase. Another reason that analytics has been slow to catch on in higher education is the lack of skilled data scientists who are trained in the ways of predictive modeling and the standard software best practices for looking at complex educational data sets and identifying the unasked questions.”

The Shift to Digital Learning: 10 Benefits. “5. Assessment for learning. Digital learning powers continuous feedback from content-embedded assessment, games, simulations, and adaptive learning. When students can track their own progress it can improve motivation and agency.”

Bad Data Can Lead To Bad Policy: College students don’t spend $1,200+ on textbooks. “Furthermore, the College Board data shows this category rising year over year. Why is that? The reason is that the College Board gets this data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS, official data for the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES), which last used a survey of actual student expenditures in 2008, and since then they have relied on self-reporting of campus financial aid offices which often want to maximize student eligibility of loans and grants. We have the College Board non-data implying that students spend more than $1,200 per year on textbooks, with that number rising each year, when the best data shows the expenditures of roughly half the amount, $600, with that number dropping.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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