ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Development Costly but Delivery Variable: Costing and Pricing Online Offerings. “As we continue to improve the total student experience at a distance there will continue to be new costs we haven’t even thought about yet, whether for technology, innovative pedagogical approaches, student support, or student engagement activities. Rapid improvements in learning and content management systems will reduce costs as we know them today. However, as I mentioned above, new technologies will add costs that we cannot fully predict today.”

An Idea Offered Freely to Candidates. “So, here’s the idea: matching funds for operating budgets. For every dollar a state or locality pours into a college, the feds put in one to match. So a state puts, say, five million towards a college, but its economy gets ten million worth of activity. (The exact multiplier is obviously adjustable; I’m just using one-to-one for the sake of simplicity.)  Given that colleges are, among other things, local employers, the appeal could be significant. And the one-for-one would work both ways; cuts to college budgets would mean leaving money on the table.”

Less Than 1%. “Less than 1 percent of the learners in the massive open online course partnership between Arizona State University and edX are eligible to earn credit for their work, according to enrollment numbers from the inaugural courses.”

McGraw Hill’s New Personalized Learning Authoring Product. “It may not seem like it, but by making this move, McGraw Hill is also making a bet on one possible future for personalized learning products. Specifically, they are making a bet against the software as a replacement for the teacher and against big data. As long as the content in SmartBooks is locked down, then it is possible to run machine learning algorithms against the clicks of millions of students using that content. To the degree that the platform is opened up for custom, newly created books, the controlled experiment goes away and the possibility of big data analysis goes with it.”

The Art & Science of Expectation Management. “There is, however, little coherence when it comes to meeting the expectations of the stakeholders. Our constituents are diverse in several dimensions – age, gender, technical expertise, appetite for change etc. – and while it might be a natural impulse to try to find a coherent set of expectations about the services we deliver, the sheer diversity makes such a tract a non-starter. Let us look then at the art of involving the community in managing expectations.”

Mystery Solved? “The program didn’t even follow the usual “script” for “disruptive innovations.” It came in at a higher cost than a respected, existing alternative. That’s not how disruption is supposed to work. I have to wonder at the implied invisibility of the single largest sector of American higher education, but that’s another discussion. ASU was essentially trying to charge premium prices for Prior Learning Assessment and hope nobody would notice. A savvy student could simply watch the MOOC and then take a CLEP exam for credit for less than a hundred bucks. I admire the audacity of the effort, though I admire more the clarity with which most people saw it.”

What’s So Funny About Unity, Focus and Understanding? “There’s an essential step before ‘marketing better.’ The real reason for marketing is to motivate the audience to do something. I don’t want to be dismissive of sincere efforts to wordsmith a brochure or webpage, improve a message, or inform the public. But before you request that logo, brochure and webpage, ask yourself the following three questions. Without clear answers your marketing trifecta is essentially worthless.”

EdTech and the Wider Higher Ed Conversation in 2016. “The answer, of course, is that technology alone will never address the fundamental challenges that we face in higher ed. Technology can wow, and technology can distract. Alternatively, technology can be an effective tool to reach our larger goals and to reflect our most important values. It all depends on how we go about using the technology.”

Fresh Perspectives on Alternative Credentials. “Both coding boot camps and ATP programs focus on supply and demand problems in particular sectors. We have yet to see an alternative credential provider attempt to span multiple disciplines or target the liberal arts. In which other fields might a supply and demand crunch push innovation? Federal assistance may be the only route to true scale, but it is interesting to see both boot camps and alternative teacher preparation programs offer financial aid through employer sponsorship and foundations.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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