ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

Photo credit- Zak Mensah

Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Stuck With Profit. “The commission, however, decided that the proposed structure would move too much of Grand Canyon’s academic operations to the for-profit division. HLC said its requirements ‘do not allow for an institution to outsource all or the majority of its basic functions related to academic and student support services and curriculum development, even where the contract between the parties indicates that the accredited institution provides oversight of those services.’”

Non-Faculty Educators and Zero-Sum Thinking. “As teaching is increasingly mediated by digital platforms, and as the demand for online and blended education, the introduction of non-faculty educators to collaborate with faculty will be an important input to assure quality.  Faculty should always control academic content of the courses that they teach. Non-faculty educators can help faculty reach their teaching goals across diverse instructional mediums, as well as be key partners in faculty efforts to create the highest quality possible learning environments.”

When Success Gets Scarce. “And to the extent that we’re talking about relatively basic skills, I don’t see the point of a zero-sum model. The more people who can write clearly, use mathematical reasoning, and know something about the history of the world, the better. I see no point at all in hoarding those skills, or confining them to a select few. But it’s also true that the world is a competitive place.”

Donald Trump and the Value of College. “The rise of Trump and of Brexit forces shouldn’t make Americans and Brits smug about our systems of higher education. Quite the opposite. In the long run, keeping our politics civilized and rational will require the active participation of colleges, universities and employers to unbundle the bachelor’s degree and establish a more realistic world of differentiated and meaningful shorter and lower-cost credentials.”

Could Slack Be the Next Online Learning Platform? Despite these efforts, the challenge persists: how can we teach and assess subjects that are nuanced, nonlinear and deeply human on platforms that are increasingly adaptive and automated? Enter Slack. The online communication platform launched two years ago and now has more than 2.3 million users. It facilitates an online, supercharged version of watercooler conversation, enabling people to trade information and chat informally with colleagues. And it might just be a game changer for online education.

Personalized Learning: What It Really Is and Why It Really Matters. “Through these observations, we have been looking for the ground truth underneath the hype of personalized learning. As a result of this process, we observed a family of technology-enabled educational practices that are potentially useful for a range of educational challenges. We would like to share our framework, which we hope will be useful for thinking about (1) the circumstances under which personalized learning can help students and (2) the best way to evaluate the real educational value for products that are marketed under the personalized learning banner.”

What’s Really to Blame for the Failures of Our Learning-Management Systems. “Higher education needs to get better at academic needs assessment. That requires an entirely different and deeper set of questions than which features are important to put on a checklist. It requires an in-depth exploration of how teaching and learning happens in various corners of the campus community and what capabilities would be most helpful to support those efforts. That’s generally not work that can be carried out by a small, part-time committee on an ad hoc basis a few months before a product is selected.”

Small Changes in Teaching: The Last 5 Minutes of Class. “If we want students to obtain mastery and expertise in our subjects, they need to be capable of making their own connections between what they are learning and the world around them — current events, campus debates, personal experiences. The last five minutes of class represent an ideal opportunity for students to use the course material from that day and brainstorm some new connections.”

The Economy of Cheating. “If Tom Finn has a test on Hamlet, rather than reading the entire play, he can access extended summaries online — either before the test or with discreet peeks at his mobile phone during the exam. Similarly, a student needing help with a complex set of scientific or math problems can receive step-by-step assignment help. In all of these cases, the fees required to access the sites may be substantially less than the amount of money the students can earn in the hours they would need to spend reading, studying, calculating or writing to complete the assignments themselves.”

When State Politicians Can’t Compromise. “Leaders like Applegate worry that the obligation states feel to higher education is weakening. After eight months, if colleges are still deemed a nonessential entitlement, what does that say about the future of public higher education? Paul Lingenfelter, past president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers association, said higher education is different from other critical services because so much of its revenue comes from tuition and fees.”

The Power of Grad Student Teaching. “But what if those institutions have it backward, and graduate students are actually better ambassadors of their disciplines than full-time faculty members on and off the tenure track? What if the graduate students actually benefit in the long run from more teaching experience? New research on the impact of graduate student teaching on undergraduates and on graduate students’ preparation argues just that. And while the authors caution that their research is limited, they argue it may have significant implications for university policy.”

3 Critiques of EdTech at SXSWedu. “The gap between the perceptions of faculty, and the beliefs of edtech people, is bad for both colleges and companies. Colleges and universities must find a way to address our triple challenges around costs, access, and quality. Collaborations with edtech companies holds the potential to catalyze much needed improvements in student learning and retention.We can discover higher ed / industry (not-for-profit / for-profiit) partnership models where the interests and goals of both entities are aligned.”

Higher Ed and the 6 Best Practices for Red Teams. “Red Teaming is the practice of an internal team explicitly challenging an organizations culture, procedures, practices, operations, and assumptions.  The goal of a Red Team is to improve the resiliency, viability, and success of the target institution through the promotion of divergent thinking and unconventional analysis.”

Socially Engaged Learning. “We use a fundamentally different set of assumptions than traditional online classes, to revolutionize online courses with socially engaged learning. To this end, we have developed a five-point framework highlighting best practices for faculty to use in their courses to create a high level of student engagement: project-based instruction, peer group work, discussion, experiential learning, and assessment.”

Active Learning: In Need of Deeper Exploration. “Beyond figuring out how and where the strategies and approaches belong in the active learning domain, is the mostly absent critical analysis of which ones are best. Let’s not imagine a definitively right answer here, but more a sorting of the options with some guidelines that might allow us to determine what strategies fit well with what kinds of content, and what approaches promote learning most effectively for which students. Even a cursory review of what’s considered to be active learning, makes one feature clear: it engages students individually and collectively to different degrees.”

Take Note: How to Curate Learning Digitally. “Reading notes, lecture notes, discussion posts, assignment drafts, brainstorms — everything ends up in my OneNote notebook. I use this platform as an opportunity to construct my knowledge and understanding whether as typed or handwritten content. Each time I add a new element, I consider how the concept links back to something that I already knew. At any point in time, I can search through this notebook to see what I have learned and then ask more questions about what I still need to discover.”

Universities Run Into Problems When They Hire Presidents From The Business World. “Bernstein said that CEOs often compare students to customers when discussing the importance of running universities like a business. But he pointed out that the student-as-customer comparison doesn’t really work because students have to be challenged in order to receive the best education they can.”

Is Stone Soup Right? “Much of my work in edtech is motivated by the belief that the world’s most productive adaptive learning platform is a highly trained and experienced educator. Unfortunately, the push across higher education seems to be away from investing in faculty – and towards trying to replace the art of teaching with the efficiency of the algorithm and the screen.”

True in Both Directions. “The rules of engagement are different. But for some reason, recognition of that seems to run mostly in one direction. Part of it, I think, is that most people don’t give much thought to the difference between running a public college and running a public company. Their goals are different, their cultures are different, and their accountabilities are different.”

Identity and Leadership. “I know of no leader in higher education who does not understand and appreciate the need for accountability. We all recognize the economic challenges of higher education. And we are searching for ways to reduce costs and maximize revenues. But those goals are the by-products of the overarching goods to which we aspire. We exist to educate human beings. This process, and the outcomes we produce, cannot be reduced to metrics relating to student wages two years after graduation. It is not that metrics are irrelevant, but we must find the right ones and use them in their proper place. They cannot supplant the reason we exist.”

Preventing a ‘Digital Dark Age.’ “The issue of digital preservation is a contradictory consequence of an increasingly digital world. Under the right conditions, a book can survive for centuries. A Blu-ray disc may last for a couple of decades. A regular spinning hard drive, however, can die after a few years. Even though the digital revolution has created an explosion of content being created every day, much of it risks being lost forever unless it can be preserved for future generations. The alternative, experts warn, is a ‘digital dark age.’”

Rethinking Gen Ed. “Faculty members, meanwhile, seemed split on what they thought a general-education program should accomplish, Kelly said. Some adhered to a more classical ars vivendi model, in which students are exposed to courses that teach them how to live a meaningful life. Others adhered to a more medieval model, in which students gained knowledge in each of the liberal arts (or in an era of numerous such arts, a broad selection). And others still believed in a more Romantic model, in which student choice and self-cultivation were paramount.”

Earning a college degree means having skills other workers don’t have. “Do college graduates earn more because of the degree they got, or because of the knowledge they acquired in college? A new federal study released Wednesday suggests that adult workers with bachelor’s degrees have job-related skills that other workers don’t. But Americans still lag workers in other nations on tests of these skills.”

What Do Americans Think About Access to Education? “The survey found that big majorities of Americans, across racial, partisan, and generational lines, support expanding access to pre-school for more young children. And when asked what would do “the most to improve the economy in your local community” a plurality of those polled picked increasing spending on both K-12 and post-secondary education over alternatives including cutting taxes or reducing foreign imports and restricting immigration. But adults split much more closely—and fissured along more familiar political lines—over proposals to provide free, public higher education and to reduce the mounting burden of student debt.”

The Skeuomorphic Library. “The part of the essay that always grabs me, though, is where he describes the mechanical mean of storing and retrieving information and how it cannot replace the way people actually think – through connections grasped on the fly. ‘Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing,’ he wrote. ‘The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain.’ He imagined that we could improve upon the mechanized indexing of information by allowing scientists to create, record, and share trails of association, given automated access to the record.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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