ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

Photo credit- Zak Mensah

Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Looking Anew at How Teachers Teach. “Each tradition has its own goals (transmit knowledge to next generation vs. helping children grow into full human beings); practices (teacher-centered vs. student-centered); and desired outcomes (knowledgeable and skilled adults ready to enter the labor market and society versus an outcome of moral and civic engaged adults who use their knowledge and skills to help themselves and their communities). No evidence, then or now, has confirmed advocates’ claims for either tradition. These are choices anchored in beliefs. While posing these traditions as opposites, … most teachers, including the very best, combine both ways of teaching in their lessons.”

To Solve the Skills Gap in Hiring, Create Expectations in the Classroom. “The same study also concluded that the gap between the skill and performance levels of 51 percent of employees has an impact on company productivity, meaning that employees with performance issues are affecting the bottom line. No skills deficit was associated with specialized IT, management, administrative, or mechanical work. People know how to do jobs; they just don’t act like it. The skills that were not being met included personal accountability for work, self-motivation, strong work ethic, punctuality, time management, professionalism, and adaptability. Those are not skills that a business can expect to train and instill in its workers; hiring people who already have them is cheaper and easier.”

Low Income, High Graduation Rate. “College completion rates have stagnated, and lower-income students in particular face long odds of getting to graduation. Two new studies, however, show that low-income students can graduate at high rates when they receive financial and academic supports from external groups.”

Getting Past the Lazy Debate. “Or consider this: across the labor market, many of the jobs that are both fastest growing and in highest demand are those that bring together different skill sets, like marketing and data analysis, or graphic design and programming. Such positions, which have grown by 53 percent over the last four years alone, are often hard to fill because technically oriented training programs tend to be tightly focused. By contrast, these ‘hybrid jobs’ require people who can bridge domains and synthesize ideas. Liberal arts graduates may not have direct training in those domains, but the liberal arts live within the core framework of interdisciplinary synthesis and critical evaluation.

Improving Rates of Success in STEM Fields. “This multi-faceted outcomes-focused initiative is quite different from what usually falls under the banner of ‘competency-based education.’ For one thing, the B.S. in Biomedical Sciences is a hybrid program, which combines dynamic face-to-face interactions with an activity-driven, socially-interactive digital component that involves far more than learning in front of a screen. For another, faculty play a central role in every phase of the program, from knowledge graphing to curricular and learning experience design to instructional delivery, mentoring, and monitoring and evaluating student performance. In addition, the validity of the knowledge grid and assessment ecosystem are of pivotal importance, and are constructed with input from a wide range of subject area and assessment specialists, professional associations, standard-setting organizations, and industry experts to ensure that these conform to professional standards.”

When They Promise the Netflix for Education, Cover Your Wallet. “I teach a very traditional cohort of students, and the traditional college and university structure doesn’t make sense for everyone pursuing post-secondary education. There is indeed a role for competency-based education serving industries where discrete, demonstrable skills are necessary. Though, I remember a time when the business themselves provided this service and called it ‘training,’ but never mind. And I am not one to deny the very real problems institutions face. The cost of college to students is a crisis. Of course the cause of this crisis is the disinvestment of public money in education, a fact the disruptor crowd almost always ignores because to acknowledge it would mean casting doubt over the necessity for disruption.”

A Study I’d Like to See. “I bring this up because Sunday’s New York Times had a piece about competitive college admissions and some efforts to make them less stressful. Among other suggestions, it offered: ‘[C]olleges should say they’ll value community college courses just like A.P. courses in the admissions assessment. Even if their high schools offer few A.P.’s, most lower-income kids have access to community colleges.’ Wait, what? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

Why the OECD Wants a Global Effort to Measure Student Learning. “Schleicher says there are three reasons why measuring the outcome must be considered from an international angle. Higher education has become a global endeavour; there were opportunities to learn from diversity and there is an opportunity for capacity building. Yet, the reason no country has undertaken these measurements is its difficulty. Schleicher believes that in pooling expertise and experiences internationally, higher education can achieve greater strides more swiftly”.

Reaching Students Who “Don’t Need Writing.” “Psychologists who study motivation have developed the ‘self-determination theory.’ Workers, they say, need three things to be self-motivated — competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Put simply, the worker needs to feel powerful, have freedom, and feel socially connected. Game theorists point out that video games excel at all three, eliciting hours of unpaid work from players. So I put that theory to use in my seminar. With the avatar of the researcher and the winnable goal of answering a self-selected research question, I essentially set up a humanities-based videogame.”

Making Lab Sections Interactive: More evidence on potential of course redesign. “The UC Davis team focused first on redesigning the lab sections to move away from content delivery (TAs lecturing) to interactive sessions where students came to class prepared and then engaged in the material through group discussions (read the full EdSurge article for more context).”

Pushing education forward with education technology standards. “The NETP adeptly highlights issues that are worthy of attention of education policy stakeholders. The plan makes a number of recommendations. Among them are implementing education technology principles of Universal Design for Learning, training educators to be technologically literate, and supporting the development of open teaching tools. One policy mechanism that could help to achieve each of these objectives is the development of national education technology standards. The authors of the NETP do discuss the value of standards in a broad sense. But, the differing costs and benefits between technical standards over education standards like the Common Core are worthy of greater attention.”

NMC Horizon Report Reveals Top Tech, Trends, Troubles in Higher Ed. “On the technology trends side, movements toward redesigning learning spaces, shifting to deeper learning approaches and rethinking how institutions work represent a few of the projections in the report. Even though online and blended course models are becoming more popular, most institutions still have a residential program or some course components that happen in person. That’s why it’s important to design those spaces effectively for learning.”

The Struggle to Make Online Courses Accessible in Higher Ed. “Accessibility is not a compliance issue that universities should check off at the end of the course design process, Hill said; rather, it should be built in from the beginning of the course design process. That’s exactly what’s happening in the California Community Colleges System, he said, which is taking one of the most proactive, design-oriented approaches to accessibility in the U.S. Instead of focusing only on students with disabilities, the system’s Online Education Initiative works within the Universal Design for Learning framework, which helps instructors create a flexible curriculum that can be adapted for any learner.”

Small Changes in Teaching: Making Connections. “As the authors of How Learning Works argue, ‘One important way experts’ and novices’ knowledge organizations differ is the number or density of connections among the concepts, facts, and skills they know.’ Experts have thick tapestries weaving together all of the many things they know. New experiences are threaded easily into that tapestry, continually expanding and reshaping it. By contrast, new learners tend to have information, ideas, or skills lodged in their minds in discrete, isolated places. Connections that seem obvious to us may never occur to them.”

Why Is Tuition So High? “Over the last few decades, the amount of aid available to students has increased dramatically: subsidized loans were expanded, while an unsubsidized loan program made its debut. But looking at the big picture, does that money always offset the costs to students? The researchers say no. Instead, colleges increase tuition even more, because they know financial aid can cover the difference. Student aid may cover more of students’ tuition — but if the aid wasn’t available, tuition might not have gone up in the first place.”

Babson Bids Good-bye to Enrollment Numbers. “The group isn’t giving up on research, its co-director Jeff Seaman said, but will discontinue its annual report in favor of interactive publications — including a new website and infographics — and in-depth papers on strategy, policy and more.”

Automate This, Not That. “ I still have to advise students about the results of their audits and clear up the transcript discrepancies. In other words, it’s not an adviser-bot. Rather, it’s a program that automates the scut work of advising while maintaining the crucial human relationship at the center of the mentoring process. Unfortunately, not all computer programs designed to speed professorial processes are quite so respectful of what faculty do.”

Higher Ed and the Small-Big Life.Small Life: People who choose to spend their lives working at a college or university do so because they believe in the bigger goals of their disciplines and their institutions. We all see higher education as the best mechanism available to create both opportunity and new knowledge.  We develop very strong loyalties to our colleges and universities.  We tend to stick around – having careers that may have less upward mobility but perhaps high measures of personal satisfaction. Big Life: Anyone who chooses a mission driven life is living a big life.”

Professors Can Learn to Be More Effective Instructors. “While all development participants show changes in their teaching, those who are self-motivated to improve (versus motivated by a free lunch or outside pressures) show larger changes in their teaching, according to the study. And faculty members with a strong sense of self-efficacy who perceive little risk in trying out new teaching styles are more likely to make changes. Institutional teaching cultures that value experimentation and accept associated risk, such as those the authors observed at Carleton and among tenured faculty at Washington State, also support changes in practice.”

Making Metrics Meaningful. “Altmetrics and usage metrics present the possibility of adding new measurements that go beyond citations into the equation. Some of these metrics correlate highly with citation counts, while others don’t, but our job is to figure out what these new measurements say about the value of research. Additionally, altmetrics open the doorway to creating new definitions of meaningful impact that extend beyond scholarly impact, which need to be taken into consideration. The National Science Foundation, for example, now asks applicants for the potential broader impact of research when reviewing grant proposals.”

10 Ways to Fail When Creating an Online Program. “The decision to start an online program should be about playing to your school’s strengths and about serving the needs of your learners. The economics of online programs can be favorable, but only after a quality program has been running for some time, and only if the program aligns with mission.”

Applying ‘Black Box Thinking’ to Academic Transformation. “What would higher ed look like if we applied black box thinking to our industry? Very infrequently are randomized control trials applied to the interventions that we make to improve learning and student success.  We all love to talk about shifting our classrooms from passive to active learning environments, but how rigorous has our testing been of these programs?”

Teaching Failure as Opportunity. “How do we help today’s college students learn that uncertainty is just another word for opportunity? How can we teach resilience and show our students how to choose the best path for themselves when failure is a possible outcome? The answer certainly doesn’t lie in simply doing more of what worked in high school. If we do a good job of supporting these very intelligent young people at this critical juncture, we will not only help them past their immediate crises. We will also help them unlock capacity that they didn’t know existed and ways of tapping into it.”

The 4 conditions that support deeper learning. “The report’s authors also found that teachers who do achieve deeper learning with their students personalize learning experiences, apply real-world knowledge to learning, and use technology in a way that enhances and empowers student learning. Deeper learning refers to the competencies, knowledge, and skills that students must develop to be successful post-K-12.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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