ED MAP: Insights Blog

2.9.15 Higher Ed Weekly Read: Articles Worth Reviewing
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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Half of High-risk Students Coming Up Empty. “Rosenbaum’s report statistically sketches earnings for students based on whether they started school at a two-year or four-year college. It finds varying payoffs for students who earn credentials that range from graduate degrees to certificates, but no earnings payoff for students who have completed ‘some college.’”

Big Data. Big Obstacles. “However, what should be an opportunity for social science is now threatened by a three-headed monster of privatization, amateurization, and Balkanization. A coordinated public effort is needed to overcome all of these obstacles. While the availability of social-media data may obviate the problem of declining response rates, it introduces all sorts of problems with the level of access that researchers enjoy. Although some data can be culled from the web—Twitter feeds and Google searches—other data sit behind proprietary firewalls. And as individual users tune up their privacy settings, the typical university or independent researcher is increasingly locked out.”

10 Things the Best Digital Teachers Do. “The truth is: Face-to-face teaching has no direct digital analogue. However, digital technology has helped us have different kinds of interactions, and with a much more diverse set of students. Likewise, using digital tools has allowed our students to interact with a global community. The best digital teachers share certain perspectives on the use and abuse of technology in the traditional classroom or online; and most of those teachers have learned their techniques through experimentation and revision.”

Change in Ohio. “California is one of 20 states Hagan said have made a similar change. That number, however, depends on definitions. For example, Idaho and Minnesota technically allow two-year colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, but none do. Bruce Johnson, the president and CEO of Ohio’s Inter-University Council, confirmed that community college leaders in the state worked on the plan with their peers from public universities. He said the proposal’s language, which has yet to emerge, will prevent overlapping programs.”

Appealing to an Older Demographic. “Putting those trends together, it’s clear that if they want to maintain or build both their enrollments and their political clout, community colleges will need to appeal more to adults, and especially to senior citizens, who vote at the very highest rates. Many colleges are already trying the first strategy — including my own — through developing and marketing programs and/or delivery methods geared towards working adults. That usually involves a combination of career-oriented content, credit for prior learning, and flexible scheduling. It’s difficult to do well, but essential for both communities and community colleges. This is where you target the thirty-five-year-old who wants to get a better job. The second strategy is a little less obvious. Assuming that most senior citizens aren’t terribly interested in job changes, how do you win them over? One way, I suspect, is to offer regular, free, dedicated on-campus programming.”

5 Myths About Open Online Courses at Scale. “We need to discover what can only happen when faculty and students come together in time and space in a learning community. If there is learning that can happen at scale, via platforms such as edX, then great – let’s contribute to creating the best scaled learning materials and interactions possible. The real value add of higher education, however, cannot occur at web scale. It can only occur at human scale. At the place where a skilled and passionate educator interacts directly with a student to guide and shape their learning. If your institution decides to experiment with open online education at scale then it will be forced to really think about what can only happen on campus and in the classroom. These are essential conversations that every college and university needs to have in an age of information abundance.”

Innovation Alone Won’t Fix Social Problems. “Related to the emphasis institutions place on social innovation is the emphasis on leadership. Often ‘leadership’ is used to describe the entrepreneur or the one who generates the idea. Leadership in the arena of social change, however, demands much more than the idea. For example, how much innovation does it take to fund early-childhood education, something we have known for decades can make a huge difference in educational and social outcomes? Doing so is a question of political will, reordering of privilege and hierarchies, and reallocation of resources—but not necessarily of innovation.”

Lessons My Daughter Taught Me. “Now, when I hear a knock on my office door and turn to see one of my bright female students standing in the doorway, I’m ready for her. If she’s coming to me about a class assignment, I talk her through it. If she’s coming to me for help selecting next semester’s courses, I give my feedback. If I’m lucky, she’s there just to talk about life. And then I rely on the wisdom of my demanding, opinionated 3-year-old daughter at home—begging for a cookie to put on the table until after dinner—because she has taught me the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned as a woman: Ask for everything you want. Never take no for an answer. Find a way to have it all. And leave nothing on the table.”

The New Reference Shelf. “Online video libraries, including services like lynda.com, Pluralsight, Khan Academy and Udemy, provide a place to search and find, watch and learn, and—most importantly—create and do. Shared playlists have become the “new reference bookshelf” where projects, course materials, division prerequisites, textbook replacement, and assigned and curated learning paths are all possible methods to support the stakeholders in the online learning environment at a campus. These playlists and the ever-growing catalog of video courses on technology, business, and creative skills provide all members—staff, faculty and students—a way to discover, share and deepen the learning impact.”

Why are so many college students failing to gain job skills before graduation? “Bosses, of course, have long complained that newly minted college grads are not ready for the world of work, but there is a growing body of evidence that what students learn — or more likely don’t learn — in college makes them ill-prepared for the global job market. Two studies in just the past few weeks show that the clear signal a college degree once sent to employers that someone is ready for a job increasingly has a lot of noise surrounding it.”

Obama’s 2016 Budget: a Focus on College Cost, and an Uphill Climb in Congress. “In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argued that the president’s plan would help more students graduate from college, reducing income inequality and strengthening the economy. But in Congress, the budget will face an uphill climb, to say the least. Republican leaders have already dismissed Mr. Obama’s community-college and tax-reform plans as too costly.”

How Students’ Economic Diversity Varies by College Type. “Here’s one of the many charts featured in the report. It shows what share of dependent students come from each income group at different kinds of colleges. As you can see, low-income students enroll disproportionately in for-profit and two-year public colleges, while high-income students enroll disproportionately in colleges that grant doctoral degrees.”

Obama Seeks Funding Boost. “The administration’s budget features several big-ticket policy proposals that have been announced in recent weeks or previously proposed. Among them: free community college for some students, streamlining higher education tax breaks and a bonus grant program to reward colleges that graduate large numbers of low-income students. Many such proposals in the budget are largely aspirational in a Republican-controlled Congress with little appetite for more federal spending. But some proposals in the budget, especially those surrounding simplifying and streamlining student aid programs, may well get some traction, as they dovetail with similar efforts by Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican who chairs the Senate education committee.”

Zenith Education Group Transitions More Than 50 Corinthian Campuses to Nonprofit Status, Announces Suite of Changes Designed to Put Students First. “The sale creates the largest nonprofit career college system in America. It finalizes the terms of an original purchase agreement signed in November. Had the original purchase agreement not been reached, Corinthian could have been forced to close these schools. Effective immediately upon closing of the sale, Zenith announced it would implement key improvements in the areas of program quality, affordability, completion and job placement rates, and accountability and transparency”

#libedunbound, or ‘Forbidding Mourning.’ “In the knowledge economy, critical thinking and what we typically call skills are much more closely bound and more difficult to disentangle than they were at the inception of the liberal arts centuries ago or even in the relatively recent course of their 200-year history in U.S. higher education. As Gardner Campbell observed from the panel table, the new learning ecosystem offers innovative symbolic possibilities that liberal education has yet to explore. Our conception of the liberal arts will evolve with the learning ecosystem that it inhabits. That is the key point Ferrall missed: liberal education has never been static. An argument that presents it as such has already given up on its key component: learning as a never finished process, always renewed and always contextual. #Libedunbound may be one way to capture this idea”

Innovations Stalled by ‘Not-Invented-Here’? “Some of my colleagues in Europe have begun to apply similar principles to the transfer of emotional ownership for teaching innovations from the original developer-users to a next generation of user-adapters, we need to find better ways to foster creative collaborations early in the design process, long-term emotional bindings with the results and a view of innovation as a dynamic process in networks of trusted colleagues. We will want to position innovations in teaching as the product of ‘us’ as a professional community of teachers rather than coming from ‘them’ as some external or foreign group.”

DOCS not MOOCs. “Our real value add occurs in what can’t happen at scale. That is in the relationship between an educator and a learner. Open online education has done wonders to expose the true value of the gifted educator teaching in an environment that enables her to get to know her students as individuals. This is a very old model in education. Maybe closer to the tutorial or apprentice model. It is what liberal arts institutions build their values around, what we get in seminars and small classes, and what we experienced in graduate school.  It is a vision where we esteem (and pay) our educators at a level commensurate with the value add that they bring.”

The Widening Income Gap in Higher Education—and What to Do About It. “Despite those modest gains, the authors of the report, Margaret Cahalan and Laura Perna, find that the family-income difference in bachelor’s receipt by age 24 during roughly the same period skyrocketed. In 1970 dependent students from the wealthiest income quartile were 34 percentage points more likely to attain a bachelor’s degree than those from the bottom income quartile (40 percent vs. 6 percent). By 2013 that gap had ballooned to 68 percentage points (77 percent vs. 9 percent).”

Beware! The Second Coming of the Textbook Wars. “Amazon and Apple’s sought-after “democratization” of textbook production could alter education irrevocably in the coming years. And these developments may affect academic publishing more rapidly, as it’s an industry whose strengths are also its market weaknesses. The peer review process that lends academic publishing much of its prestige also requires slow, painstaking analysis. Add to this the brute fact that many university presses are run primarily to mitigate losses: this means they pay little to authors and sometimes fail to keep up with developments in a given field. You can see the appeal, in theory, of Amazon’s DIY platform.”

Define ‘Just Fine.’ “The reality for many, however, is that ‘just fine’ is defined by senior faculty, and junior faculty either feel or are explicitly told that they are to submit to whatever definition of ‘just fine’ exists or risk not getting tenure. I have worked with a number of junior faculty and graduate students who are innovative and effective pedagogues who are forced to hide their approaches to teaching because the environment isn’t one of collegiality and fostering agency, but one of imposing a rigidly defined ‘just fine’ structure. A Center like the one I work at can and should be an important advocate for those for whom their departments are not the ideal.”

Lifelong Learning and Its Discontents. “My personal understanding of ‘lifelong learning’ involves picking up the skills to be able to investigate and discover things on your own. That means a level of literacy and numeracy sufficient to navigate relatively complicated material without help, or at least without sustained or intensive help. Ideally, it also involves a lively curiosity. Without that, the skills are largely wasted. Sadly, higher education struggles as much with the curiosity piece as with the skill piece. If that were all it meant, I don’t expect that many people would object. But some take a more literal approach. They seem to envision graduates cycling back to credit-bearing courses every few years until retirement, if not longer.”

Amazon Releases Kindle Convert – Its First Paid Conversion App for the Kindle. “Amazon says that the app works by turning scans of English-language printed books and documents into ebooks. A user can either elect to leave a scanned page as an image, or run the image through Amazon’s OCR software and convert it to text. If you stick with the image, you can crop the image, rotate it, center it on a page, and perform other basic image editing tricks. The text generated via OCR can be edited to remove errors, and styled. Once a user is done cleaning up the source material, they can save the resulting ebook to their Kindle account. There’s no way to upload an ebook to the Kindle Store, but the app does offer the option of delivering the ebook to any of a user’s Kindle apps or devices.”

How to Make Micro-Credentials Matter. “But with an increasing number of organizations now offering digital badges (including CoSN, Pearson and Digital Promise), how does one badge relate or transfer to another? There’s no denying that micro-credentialing platforms will need some way to ‘talk to each other,’ as ‘micro-credentials should be able to travel between contexts,’ according to Digital Promise’s Karen Cator. However, whether there needs to be a universal standard across various platforms and geographic locations was a more contentious topic.”

Warrior and Scholar. “The syllabus includes both classic and modern scholarly works. Participants are encouraged to frame their ideas in academic context. They are also taught about how to translate their military skills and experiences to college. Smith said the program sets high expectations, keeping participants working until midnight most days. They learn how to balance an academic schedule, which is far less rigid than what most veterans experienced in the military. The boot camp helped Smith shorten his learning curve for getting back into an academic life, showing him he ‘could work at a high level with a proper level of support.’ The group dynamic was also important.”

Why Students Resist Active Learning. “And if last year’s HERI Faculty Survey is anything to go by, more and more instructors are moving away from strict adherence to the lecture model and toward a pedagogy that is much more student-centered. Over the past 25 years, the number of teachers using such approaches as class discussions, small-group collaborative learning, group projects, and peer review in most or all of their courses has trended consistently upward. Correspondingly, the number of teachers who reported using ‘extensive lecturing”’in most or all of their courses has gone slowly but steadily down. Still, if you mention to your colleagues that you are thinking of integrating more of these strategies into your classroom, you’ll probably hear dire warnings of student resistance, particularly in the form of poor student evaluations.”

Attending to Attendance. “All the same, it shouldn’t take much to bring out the key insight: College classrooms work when they take advantage of what they do, which is to put people together, in time and in space. They are meeting places, social places – places that have the potential to offer something you can’t get everywhere: an intersubjective learning experience.”

The MOOC Hype Fades, in 3 Charts. “Few people would now be willing to argue that massive open online courses are the future of higher education. The percentage of institutions offering a MOOC seems to be leveling off, at around 14 percent, while suspicions persist that MOOCs will not generate money or reduce costs for universities—and are not, in fact, sustainable.”

3 Things Academic Leaders Believe About Online Education. “1. Online education has become mission-critical, even at small colleges. The percentage of academic leaders who agreed that online education is critical to the long-term strategy of their institutions crept up steadily until 2013, when it fell slightly, from 69 percent to 66 percent. In 2014, however, the percentage was back up to 71 percent, the highest rate yet. The most-drastic recent shift in the perceived importance of online education was at small colleges (i.e., those with fewer than 1,500 students). In 2012, 60 percent of academic leaders at small colleges said online education was strategically crucial. Now that number is 70 percent—nearly the same as at universities with more than 15,000 students.”

Counting the Online Population. “While the data sources have changed, this year’s results suggest a return to normalcy. Last year, the survey captured its first-ever dip in the number of academic officers who said online learning is “critical” to their institution’s long-term strategies. The data point was likely a blip rather than a trend, as the share has this year grown to an all-time high of 70.8 percent. At the same time, only 8.6 percent of respondents — an all-time low — say online learning is not an important factor in strategic planning.”

U.S. Spends $1.1 Trillion on College and Job Training. “Colleges spent $407 billion in 2013 on formal education programs, while employers spent $177 billion, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The report found that employers also spent $413 billion on informal, on-the-job training. That means the workforce side of the total $1.1 trillion in expenditures on training outpaced that of higher education.”

Speaking “Innovation” with a Local Accent. “CCA has an entire list of recommendations that it insists should be implemented together, and as a whole. From a community college perspective, it’s hard not to notice that most of the institutions they cite as positive examples are four-year colleges and universities, and largely selective ones. Context matters. It’s possible to import the raw materials for ideas, but that they have to be adapted to the local context. You have to speak innovation with a local accent.”

6 Objections to Technology in Higher Ed. “Objection #5 – Investments in Campus Learning Management Systems (LMS) Work Against Educational Aims: There is a strong distrust of the rise of the ubiquitous campus LMS amongst many thoughtful educators. The objections are two-fold. First, many question why students should invest so much time learning a digital platform that they will never use in their work lives once they leave campus. Why not use the free or near-free consumer and social services and platforms, such as blogs and Twitter and Google Drive or DropBox or even Facebook, to perform the teaching and learning functions currently handled by the LMS? The second objection is the closed and siloed nature of most LMS courses. LMS skeptics ask why should students collaborate, create, and publish into systems that are closed off to everyone else in the world.”

Babson Study of Online Learning Released. “While the number of students taking distance courses has grown by the millions over the past decade, it has not come without considerable concerns. Faculty acceptance has lagged, concerns about student retention linger, and leaders continue to worry that online courses require more faculty effort than face-to-face instruction.”

Follow the Money. “Berkeley ran the data using two models, due to long-standing debate about which is most appropriate: one controlling for experience, field and rank, and the second controlling for just experience and field. Both models show that women earn less than their comparable colleagues who are white men, university-wide: 1.8 percent less, controlling for rank, and 4.3 percent less, not controlling for rank. There’s a smaller gap for ethnic minorities, compared to white men. For Asians, it’s about 1.8 percent in both models. For underrepresented minorities, it’s 1-1.2 percent, depending on the model. Digging deeper into the data reveals some gaps that are larger for certain groups in certain disciplines.”

Waiting for the FCC. “Most colleges don’t bother regulating personal hot spots. Since the devices don’t connect to the campus network, they don’t pose a security threat. Too many separate wireless networks in one place can lead to poor performance because of radio frequency interference, but then again, even household appliances such as microwave ovens may be sources of interference. Instead, campus I.T. offices often ban attempts to provide unauthorized access to or extend the network, for example by hooking up a wireless router in a dorm room to improve coverage for the students living there. With such policies in mind, other C.I.O.s said they believed their actions do not violate the F.C.C.’s policies.”

Cautions on E-books. “For all these reasons, born-digital e-books pose significant challenges to libraries’ abilities to operate effectively, protect their patrons and meet their needs, and acquire the books they need at a reasonable cost. If libraries are to continue to provide the unique services they offer, if they are to realize the “anyone, anytime, anywhere” vision, and if they are to support the future use of their holdings in ways we cannot yet imagine, they need to own, not merely license books. And e-book ownership needs to be more closely equivalent to ownership of a physical book than is currently the case.”

12 Tech Fads in Higher Ed. “#11 – Online PortfoliosPortfolios may be a bit close to home for you. We seem to have been talking about creating digital portfolios platforms for our students for as long as we’ve been teaching with the Web. Portfolios make perfect sense. A place where a student can store and tag all of their digital class work. A platform where they can show graduate school admission committees and future employers all their amazing work. Why haven’t digital portfolios gained any real traction in higher ed?”

A Few Updates on Previous Posts. “I’ve written before about two lawsuits brought in Canada against librarians. Both have been in the news again. Dale Askey, a librarian who shared his professional (low) opinion of Mellen Press on a blog before moving north of the border was sued by the owner of the press, as was the Canadian university that had hired him. Askey has announced that the suit against him is now settled. No win on either side in the courts, but it is a relief for those of us who support Askey and any other professional who shares a considered and informed analysis and shouldn’t be punished for it. He’s had to go through some harrowing times. My hat’s off to him.”

FCC Switcheroo Under Title II. “Always more complicated than a summary can master, the new path can nonetheless be boiled down to two points. First, rather than propose new rules, Wheeler now proposes a reclassification of the Internet from an information service to telecommunication. In short, that means that the FCC can regulate the Internet as if it were a utility, such as telephone services are, instead of leaving it in a classification that spares the heavy hand of government. Net neutrality principles are imbedded in this new classification. Remember a few years ago when Verizon initially disallowed NARAL from buying text messaging services, and then when reminded of regulatory requirements not to discriminate content reversed their position? That is as good an example as any of how rules under this classification support net neutrality.”

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