ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

Do the Loudest ‘Expert’ Voices on Education Have the Least Expertise? “The researchers identified a striking disconnect between academic expertise and media influence. Among their key findings: Possession of a doctoral degree was, on average, associated with 67 percent fewer blog citations, 60 percent fewer newspaper mentions, and a lower Klout Score. Affiliation with a policy or advocacy organization substantially increased media presence. People associated with the American Enterprise Institute, for example, were, all else equal, nearly 2.5 times as likely as others to be cited in education media and about 1.5 times as likely to be mentioned in blogs.”

The 3 Essential Functions of Your Syllabus, Part 1. “Bain developed the notion of a promising syllabus by looking at the syllabi of dozens of highly effective and award-winning faculty members. What he saw there, he explains in his 2004 book ‘What the Best College Teachers Do,’ were syllabi in which faculty members would ‘lay out the promises or opportunities that the course offered to students. What kind of questions would it help students answer? What kind of intellectual, physical, emotional, or social abilities would it help them develop?’ The syllabus ‘represented an invitation to a feast, giving students a strong sense of control over whether they accepted.’ Does your syllabus offer students an invitation to an intellectual feast? Are you promising students that—if they put in the required work—your course will help them gain deep new insights into life? Or valuable skills that will benefit them throughout their careers? Or knowledge that will enable them to succeed in their chosen professions?”

ITC #eLearning2015 Keynote Video and Material. “This past week I had the opportunity to provide the keynote at the Instructional Technology Council (ITC) eLearning2015 conference in Las Vegas. ITC is a great group that provides leadership and professional development to faculty and staff in community and junior colleges in online education, and increasingly in hybrid course models. To save time on individual sharing, I have included most of the material below.”

Blurring the Nonprofit/For-Profit Divide. “Late last week the distinction between for-profit and nonprofit college blurred yet again, with the announcement that Alliant International University, a California nonprofit institution accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, had become the first of what are expected to be several universities becoming for-profit benefit corporations as part of a new system of health sciences institutions, Arist Education System. It is believed to be the first regionally accredited nonprofit college to make such a move.”

Rabbits, Ducks, and Professional Development. “There’s nothing wrong with the rabbit view. Disciplines evolve. Provincialism can become a real problem when people stay in one place forever and lose touch with the rest of the world. There’s an old joke about the HR director who asks the CEO ‘what if we develop our people, and they leave?’ The CEO responds ‘what if we don’t, and they stay?’ Faculty who lose touch with their disciplines are likely to become less effective in the classroom. And those networks have ancillary benefits that we shouldn’t discount. On the duck side, from an institutional perspective, professional development for faculty tends to revolve around classroom issues that transcend individual disciplines. That could mean online tools, universal design and working with students with disabilities, FERPA and other regulatory compliance, or simply finding ways to teach a class with an intimidatingly wide range of student preparation levels. None of this is specific to any one department or field.”

Teaching Is Collaborative. “I have long believed that what I most enjoy about teaching is the iterative process of the work. It is like writing in this way, a series of successes and failures, (more the latter than the former) where I stretch to give my best effort, and am simultaneously humbled by the falling short, but emerge emboldened to try again. Collaboration is important fuel for this process.”

3 Suggestions for Microsoft Stores. “Working on a residential campus causes me to think a good deal about physical space. Without pushing the analogy too far, a campus and a store have some things in common. Campuses and stores share a paradox, in that online options have made the physical spaces more, not less, important. There is little reason to move to a campus, or shop at a physical store, unless the living/shopping experience is superior to what can be had online. We are moving to a future of bifurcated campus/store experiences – one in which the environment is either very upscale or very stripped down. Those campuses, and those stores, left somewhere in the muddy middle will be in the most trouble.”

Competency-Based Education 2.0. “It is this conception of Competency-Based Education that has provoked a backlash from those who fear that this approach is at odds with the goal of a liberal education: To produce graduates with a well-rounded education that places a premium on critical thinking, written and oral communication, and fluency in an array of disciplines and methodologies. But an outcomes-driven education need not be fully online, self-directed, self-paced, or narrowly skills-focused.”

Students are returning to for-profit colleges. “What’s startling is that for-profit universities have halted their enrollment declines. They’re both recruiting more new students and hanging on to more of the ones they have. According to the same National Student Clearinghouse data, the number of enrolled students at for-profits dropped only 0.4 percent in the fall of 2014, compared to a year earlier. That’s a dramatic improvement from the previous year’s decline of 9.7 percent. The data show that for-profit colleges are particularly getting better at reaching out to younger students. The number of younger students enrolled at for-profits rose 2.8 percent, while the number of students older than 24 years fell 1.2 percent.  Overall, more than 80 percent of students at for-profits are still older than 24.”

First View of Bridge: The new corporate LMS from Instructure. “Taken together, the big story here is that Instructure seeks to change the situation where learning management in corporations is cloistered within HR, IT and instructional design units.. As they related today, they want to democratize content creation and center learning in the business units where the subject matter experts reside. Their future plans focus on engagement – getting feedback and dialogue from employees rather than just one-way content dissemination and compliance. If they are successful, this is where they will gain lasting differentiation in the market.”

How Google and Coursera may upend the traditional college degree. “Recently, the online education firm Coursera announced a new arrangement with Google, Instagram and other tech firms to launch what some are calling ‘microdegrees’ – a set of online courses plus a hands-on capstone project designed in conjunction with top universities and leading high-tech firms. Coursera is one of America’s leading MOOC developers (Massive Open Online Courses). Together with other developments, such as rival MOOC developer Udacity’s ‘nanodegree’ program, the Coursera announcement could be an important step in a radical shakeup of higher education. That shakeup holds the prospect of far less expensive and more customized degrees that are more in tune with the recruiting needs of major employers.”

Corinthian ‘Debt Strike.’ “Since the chaotic dismantling of Corinthian Colleges first began last summer, a key issue has been whether the for-profit education company’s current and former students will have their loans forgiven. Student and consumer groups, state authorities and some Senate Democrats have all pressed the U.S. Department of Education to provide direct relief for the borrowers. And on Monday, a group of student activists took that pitch for loan forgiveness to a new level. As part of what they’ve dubbed a ‘debt strike,’ 15 former students of Corinthian-owned colleges said they are refusing to pay back their federal student loans.”

Corporate Governance and Shared Governance. “Which is where a financial issue becomes a governance issue. Suddenly, “shared” governance isn’t just shared with people on campus, or in the legislature. Now it’s shared with bondholders, and those bondholders have different priorities and varying degrees of patience.  Unlike the other participants in shared governance, they may not have any particular obligation to the other parties at hand. It might not be worth their while to go for the quick kill, but that’s prudence, rather than deference. They aren’t big on deference, as a group. On the very same day, IHE ran a story about Alliant international University changing its status from non-profit to a ‘public benefit corporation.’ The idea is to maintain the mission-driven nature of a non-profit, while gaining access to the private investment capital that drives for-profits. I don’t know if the hybrid will work. It asks capital to be patient, in the manner of midcentury investors, but midcentury investors often had no choice. Now they do.

One vision of tomorrow’s college: Cheap, and you get an education, not a degree. “New systems like open badges will emerge to gather evidence of what people have learned, replacing traditional letter grades and diplomas. Most of that information will be extracted from regular academic work. Because so much of the learning process will be digitally recorded, courses will rely less on high-stakes standardized tests to assess what people know. There may be some costs associated with ensuring the integrity of the testing process — for example, hiring people to read students’ poems and essays and to evaluate portfolios of student work. So while future courses will be free, there may be some charges for assessment. But those costs will be more than manageable. (MIT charges $425, total, to assess students and issue certificates in its seven-course computer science sequence on edX.)”

e-Literate TV Preview: Essex County College and changing role of faculty. “In this video preview (about 4:18 in duration), we hear from two faculty members who have first-hand experience in using a personalized learning approach as well as a traditional approach to remedial math. We also hear from students on what they are learning about learning. In our case studies so far, the real faculty issue is not that software is being designed to replace faculty, but rather that successful implementation of personalized learning necessarily changes the role of faculty. One of our goals with e-Literate TV is to allow faculty, staff and students to describe direct experiences in their own words. Take a look.”

Piecing Together Publishing. “The foundation’s proposed solution is for groups of university presses to work together on testing new business models for publishing digital works, or tackle any of the moving parts that task is comprised of, including ‘(a) editing; (b) clearing rights to images and multimedia content; (c) the interaction of the publication on the Web with primary sources and other related materials; (d) production; (e) pre- and post-publication peer review; (f) marketing; (g) distribution; and (h) maintenance and preservation of digital content.’”

Make ’em Pay? “Mechanically, it would be a missed opportunity. If the school districts were invoiced directly, rather than doing reimbursements, students could conserve their Pell eligibility for future semesters. With Pell eligibility reduced to twelve semesters, that matters. Beyond that, though, the bill would work against innovations that involve embedding extra help into college-level classes. Isolating charges for remedial courses presumes the existence of freestanding remedial courses, but the most interesting and hopeful trends involve moving away from that model. The Accelerated Learning Program, developed by the Community College of Baltimore County, directs students straight into credit-bearing courses, and pairs up developmental sections to provide just-in-time, as-needed extra help. It’s expensive, but it has shown promising results, especially in English. Saddling high schools with the cost for that could kneecap efforts to improve the high schools, and thereby defeat the purpose.”

Are Alt-Acs Underutilized? “Alt-academics are all about service. Our loyalty is to our institutions, not our disciplines. While we may work to build strong relationships with peers and colleagues from other institutions, and we may contribute to professional groups in our fields, our career path is determined by our contributions to the colleges and universities that we work. Any opportunity to serve the institution will be one that we will usually jump at, as service does not detract from time spent on research and teaching – and is usually closely aligned with our “regular” academic tasks. Many alt-ac campus professionals will be, I think, particularly excited to jump at any service opportunities that involve students. We got into academics in the first place often because we liked teaching, and we see ourselves as educators. If we are not teaching (or teaching near a full-load), the opportunity to spend time with students in an education role (say in advising or a residential capacity) is appealing.”

Fair Use and MOOCs. “During course development the MOOC platform’s technicians highlighted the audio and video that was available through YouTube, and agreed to make the links inactive after a relatively short period. Of course, the files were still available on YouTube itself after that time, so it remained possible for students to return to them directly. This illustrates a balance of practicality and limitation of risk in the ever-changing and challenging environment of information provision of recorded sound and video. This provision remains the property of multi-national businesses that have very little interest in encouraging the educational use of their property, and even less in admitting that fair use principles apply to current modes of delivery.”

Will Professors Teach Differently in 10 Years? “Faculty members, as any other profession, are driven by a set of incentives, which range from personal achievements (recognition, different levels of influence, etc.) to more philanthropic goals (understanding nature and the universe, solution of a health or social problem, provide a good quality teaching, etc.). There are many parameters that are, or should, be considered in the career development of a professor, which can be roughly separated in terms of research, teaching and services to community. Generally speaking, research has, by far, more weight in faculty evaluation and rewards than the other activities. Besides being easier to evaluate (number of papers, impact factors, etc.), it is usually the most visible aspect of academic scholarship and performance. It takes a long time and effort to prepare a good lesson for an undergraduate course, especially if one has to develop new teaching strategies by designing an active class session. It is both easier and quicker to turn to the yellowed notes of past lectures or to a Powerpoint presentation that took a long time to prepare some years ago. Furthermore, many professors do not recognize the necessity for change in their classroom. They simply keep teaching the way they learned, without necessity or justification to change their approach. The universities must not only reward and promote innovations in the teaching methodologies, but must also provide teacher development programs, in order to cultivate and support new educational approaches.”

Program’s Extra Support for Community-College Students Is Paying Off. “A program at City University of New York that surrounds full-time students with intensive financial, academic, and career support has nearly doubled the three-year graduation rate for community-college students who start out in remedial classes, according to a study released on Wednesday. The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, also increased college enrollment and credits earned, lowered the cost per degree, and raised the number of students transferring to four-year colleges, says a 129-page report on the study, which was released by MDRC, a nonprofit education- and social-policy research group.”

LoudCloud Systems and FASTRAK: A non walled-garden approach to CBE. “What FASTRAK shows, however, is that CBE does not require a walled garden approach. Keep in mind the overall approach of starting with the competency framework through assessments and then academic program design. In this last area FASTRAK allows several approaches to bringing in pre-existing content and separate applications. The system, along with current version of LoudBooks, is LTI as well as SCORM compliant and uses this interoperability to give choices to faculty. Remember that FlatWorld prides themselves on deeply integrating content, mostly their own, into the platform. While they can bring in outside content like OER, it is the FlatWorld designers who have to do this work. LoudCloud, by contrast, puts this choice in the hands of faculty. Two very different approaches.”

OER as Retention Initiative. “What happens when students put off buying textbooks? Any seasoned instructor knows. They fall behind academically. What starts as a mostly economic issue quickly becomes an academic issue. Then, when they fail or withdraw, they may lose financial aid eligibility for failing to maintain “satisfactory academic progress,” and the small financial issue that become a large academic issue becomes a larger financial issue. The snowball keeps rolling. It doesn’t have to. What if textbooks were free? ‘Free community college’ would require major legal and financial changes, as well as some unusually farsighted political leadership. Free textbooks just require a little ingenuity. We can do this.”

How to Get a Degree Without Ever Paying for Textbooks. “Current estimates put the annual cost of textbooks at $1,328 for the average community college student, an increase of more than 80 percent over the past decade. Because of these costs, according to a recent report published by the United States Public Interest Research Group, almost two-thirds of students have forgone purchasing a textbook for at least one of their classes. More troubling, almost half of students have indicated that the cost of materials has caused them to enroll in fewer courses. That means textbook prices aren’t just driving up student costs—they are also negatively impacting student outcomes and overall time for degree completion.”

A New Report From Project Information Literacy. “Last week I was reflecting on whether our information literacy efforts truly support lifelong learning and whether there are practical ways to help students connect the kind of information analysis they conduct for college assignments with the ways they will use information later. Lucky me! A report from an ongoing Project Information Literacy study about lifelong learning has just been released.”

Greg Mankiw Thinks Greg Mankiw’s Textbook Is Fairly Priced. “One reason that textbook prices have not been responsive to market forces is that most faculty do not have strong incentives to search for less expensive textbooks and, to the contrary, have high switching costs. They have to both find an alternative that fits their curriculum and teaching approach—a non-trivial investment in itself—and then rejigger their course design to fit with the new book. A second part of the problem is that the publishers really can’t afford to lower the textbook prices at this point without speeding up their slow-motion train crash because their unit sales keep dropping as students find more creative ways to avoid buying the book. Their way of dealing with falling sales is to raise the price on each book that they sell. It’s a vicious cycle—one that could potentially be broken by the market forces that Mankiw seems so sure are providing fair pricing if only the people making the adoption decisions had motivations that were aligned with the people making the purchasing decisions.”

Editorial Policy: Notes on recent reviews of CBE learning platforms. “An interesting development I’ve observed is that the learning environment of the future might already be emerging on its own, but not necessarily coming from the institution-wide LMS market. Canvas, for all its market-changing power, is almost a half decade old. The area of competency-based education (CBE), with its hundreds of pilot programs, appears to be generating a new generation of learning platforms that are designed around the learner (rather than the course) and around learning (or at least the proxy of competency frameworks). It seems useful to get a more direct look at these platforms to understand the future of the market and to understand that the next generation environment is not necessarily a concept yet to be designed.”

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