ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Exclusive: University of Phoenix moving from homegrown platform to Blackboard Learn Ultra. “The driver for the University of Phoenix to move away from their homegrown system to Blackboard is an initiative called Project Bedrock. The concept is that they view a pyramid of functionality, where the bottom level is necessary infrastructure that can be provided with a commodity SaaS approach (e.g. HR systems with little differentiation), and the top level is unique value-add functionality where it is worth investing in a custom solution (e.g. learning analytics targeted at individual students in their specific demographics). The LMS, with its rosters and grade books is no longer viewed as worthy of internal development and investment.”

Research: Move to Digital Curriculum Calls for Teacher Training, New District Roles. “Most K-12 teachers involved in the transition to digital curriculum spend between two and five hours a week searching for digital resources for their lessons. Slightly fewer than half use digital content only a quarter to half of their time. And two thirds of schools and districts report that they’ve added new positions to deal with the expansion of the use of digital resources.”

Plus Ca Change: About that ed tech adoption curve. “Over the past few years I have increased my usage of the technology adoption curve – originating from Everett Rogers and extended by Geoffrey Moore – to explain some of the tension faced by ed tech support organizations. In a nutshell, a bigger determination of adoption patterns of pedagogical and technology-enabled changes in education is from social change issues rather than the innovation (whether purely pedagogical or tech-based) itself. It’s not technology, it’s people.”

Designing a Competency Based Education (CBE) Program: Context, Challenges, and Pivots. “CBE enables motivated students to maximize their prior experience and provides a pathway to the workforce by focusing on skills and competencies that are meaningful to employers. Utilizing the expertise of partners and industry experts, we have been able to develop competencies that are in alignment with workforce needs as well as addressing gaps in education but also in industry (demonstration of knowledge and workforce readiness).”

Seeing Jesus in toast: Irreverent ideas on some of the claims pertaining to learning analytics. “As the amount, velocity and variety of student data increase, so will the noise and the potential to see patterns which either don’t exist, or patterns that do not contribute to understanding student success as the result of increasingly messy and complex, non-linear interactions between context, students and institutions at the intersection of curricula, pedagogies, assessment and institutional (in)efficiencies and operations. We therefore need to slow down our conversations (e.g. Selwyn, 2014) on the potential of learning analytics and create spaces to think critically about our epistemologies and ontologies that shape our harvesting and analyses of student data.”

11 EdTech Advances That Will Not Happen by 2020. “#6 – A Learning Object Repository That Is Actually Used: Don’t get me wrong. I thought that Merlot.orgwas a great idea. The people behind MIT OpenCourseWare should all get Nobel Prizes. It turns out, however, that digital learning objects are not all that valuable when they are divorced from the educator. Put another way, we want to teach with things that we create. And our students want to learn from materials that are directly relevant to the course – which in practice often means from materials created by the professor who is teaching them. The real digital pedagogical revolution has been in the democratization of rapid authoring. Nowadays, we have less of a need for digital learning object repositories because digitally inclined instructors can create their own digital teaching materials.”

First Things First. “Broadly, the best answer to student precarity is a more robust and level economy, combined with a reversal in the trend of cost-shifting towards students. But in the short term, any number of other measures can help. OER can cut student costs. Free tuition would help even more. On-campus food pantries can make a difference, as could some sort of ‘free or reduced price lunch’ program for college students. I’m a fan of ‘career closets,’ which offer job-interview clothes to folks who can’t afford them.  Some campuses even have people on staff whose job it is to help connect students to the existing social services for which they’re eligible.”

That’s Not How It Looks From Here. “Second, I suspect, is that we’re using the same words to mean different things. When academics talk about student outcomes, we usually refer to some sort of demonstrated learning. That could mean looking at “artifacts” of student work, or juried performances, or presentations. The idea is to identify the areas in which students are falling short of the desired outcomes, and then changing something in the curriculum or delivery to improve it. But in the policy world, when they say “outcomes,” they tend to mean degrees and salaries. Learning is assumed, much as in the input-based model. Or it’s simply dismissed as irrelevant.”

Innovation: Closing the “Opportunity Gap” in Higher Education. “When it comes to the big data and analytics revolution, higher education has been slow to adopt because it hasn’t had the infrastructure, data culture, or in-house expertise. We are now at an inflection point where we see higher education leaders considering how to promote a data culture and actively use analytics to drive improvement across the student lifecycle. To access this avenue of innovation, higher education leaders must understand, negotiate, and work with the technology community. With so much investment flowing into edtech, there are more opportunities than ever to build a strategic data and analytics ecosystem. There is also a great deal of risk in deciding how to build that ecosystem because of the necessity of finding technology partners.”

Personalized Learning Is Not a Product. “In order to get good results from personalized learning products, ECC needs experienced faculty who believe in what they are doing and have had some professional development in how to teach. Even great software is not magic. If you want magic in the classroom, you need a great teacher. At its best, the software gives the magician a wand to work with. But as we learned from a great Disney movie, a magic wand wielded by a sorcerer’s apprentice generally does not produce the intended results. This is a lesson that is usually missed in the talk about successes with personalized learning products, but it’s always there if you read closely.”

Mastering MOOCS: Using Open Online Courses to Achieve Your Goals. “Many of the benefits of a MOOC can be found elsewhere on the learning spectrum: textbooks, workshops, webinars, executive education courses or college degrees. Each can provide similar benefits to lifelong learners. Where MOOCs have a unique advantage, however, is in their capacity to help self-directed learners more deeply immerse themselves in new knowledge or gain new skills with relatively few barriers.”

Turning Course Materials Into a Digital Magazine. “When textbook material gets dated — particularly in current affairs or business topics — what is an instructor to do? Some have found a solution in the Flipboard news reader, which aggregates stories in a magazine-format mobile app. Users can create customized magazines from their social network feeds and news outlets, compiling up-to-date content in an engaging interface.”

Math Geek Mom: The Naughty List. “Indeed, if you asked my students, many would also put me on the “naughty” list right now. It seems that assigning a final project and a final exam in the same semester is not something that they feel is fair. However, when all is done, I believe that they will have a better grasp on the material and that someday, perhaps next semester, perhaps not until graduate school, they will be grateful that I pounded Statistics into their brains. Until then, I am listed under ‘naughty.’”

On MOOCs and Mizzou. “We already knew that there are deep limits to the power of online learning; we already knew that a truly transformative education requires a blending of what both educational models have to offer. So what these student protests have done is just remind us that the purpose of the university is about much more than the delivery of information and that we need both the kindling of information and the spark of transformation.”

Evaluating Professionals In Academe. “Other professionals in colleges of agriculture, business, engineering, health, social sciences and veterinary medicine require diverse skill sets, create other products and deliver different services. But all these fields have in common the issue of what is valued vs. what is counted in annual reviews and P&T decisions, particularly when those decisions are informed by big data.”

A Degree when ‘Life Happens.’ “The growing number of reverse-transfer policies popping up at universities and colleges across the country seems to go hand in hand with national pushes to ease transfer pathways for students and to help more earn college degrees. Reverse transfer gives community college students who have transferred to four-year institutions the ability to send credits back to their two-year institutions in order to receive associate degrees.”

The Leaky Pipeline. “For example, the groups say the leaky transfer pipeline contributes to higher education’s equity gap, which is growing. That’s because research shows community college students who transfer to four-year institutions are more likely to be from low-income backgrounds than are their peers who first enroll in bachelor’s degree programs, even at nonselective colleges. And while 80 percent of community college students say they eventually want to earn a bachelor’s degree, few ever do.”

Refusing to Be Evaluated by a Formula. “But faculty members say that when they do the reviewing, they know in a way no formula can which journal article really made a difference to a field, which grant was particularly influential and which research helped a local community (even if it didn’t win a big grant). This type of information, they say, is why they don’t need a formula. Early on, critics of the program pointed to the fact that there was no consideration of teaching or service in Academic Analytics’ formula.”

2016 – the year of MOOC hard questions. “I’m not predicting MOOCs will disappear. I think what the above indicates is that MOOCs will need to be targeted to meet very specific aims and audiences. Whether this more finessed approach is viable with the external, commercially driven enterprises who rely on a continual intake of new courses and learners remains to be seen. As with OER, which is somewhat ahead of MOOCs in terms of maturity, they will need to adapt to meet the goals of the sector, and reflect on those initial claims.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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