ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Ability to ignore is a key part of paying attention, Johns Hopkins study finds. “In fact, the more information participants were able to ignore, the faster they found the target. Although trying to disregard distractions might initially slow people down, the researchers concluded that over time, people are more efficient when they know what’s not worth paying attention to. The ability to ignore is a key part of the ability to pay attention, the researchers said.”

What WALL-E Teaches Us About Adaptive and Personalized Learning. “Our world is awash in information. … Now, more than ever before, people are desperately in need of skills that will help them determine what is worthy of their attention, and how to effectively study and learn over their lifetime in this increasingly ill-structured and information-rich environment. Yet what is the primary purpose of most adaptive or personalized learning systems? To eliminate the complexity of deciding what to study, how to study or how long to study.”

Small Changes in Teaching: Giving Them a Say. “Education theorists sometimes distinguish between two orientations that students take toward learning: mastery or performance. Performance-oriented learners want to do well on tests, essays, or other assessments. Mastery-oriented learners want to grasp the material for its own sake, because they find it interesting, relevant, or beautiful. Plenty of research suggests that a mastery orientation creates deeper and longer learning. That same research suggests that we can help orient students toward mastery by giving them choices.”

Should Instructional Designers Be Called ‘Learning Engineers’? “What is perhaps different in how MIT looks at learning engineers from how we talk about instructional designers is scale.  MIT does not seem to be satisfied with a learning engineer collaborating with faculty to benefit the learners in a single course – or even a single institution.  A learning engineer -from the MIT perspective – also needs to know how to bring innovations in learning to internet scale.”

A Real Choice. “Culturally, there’s a tendency in higher ed to deny the concept of opportunity cost. Instead, it’s easier to behave as if budgetary constraints are either imaginary or a symptom of not trying hard enough. But they’re real, even in states that aren’t quite as far gone as, say, Illinois.  We’ve coped through a combination of wishful thinking, denial, buying time, and infighting. I’d rather try a strategy of coming to grips with reality, even if that sometimes means having some awkward conversations. So, I’ll start. Has anyone seen actual data contrasting the’“smaller sections with more adjuncts’ strategy to the ‘larger sections with more full-timers?’”

A Larger Role for Libraries. “Faculty members are showing increasing interest in supporting students and improving their learning outcomes, and say the library can play an important role in that work, a new study found. Ithaka S+R’s latest national faculty survey, released this morning, shows two storylines in higher education intersecting. The results suggest the pressure on colleges to improve retention and completion rates and prepare students for life after college appears to be influencing faculty members, who are more concerned than ever that undergraduates don’t know how to locate and evaluate scholarly information. At the same time, many faculty members view university libraries — which are engaged in a process of reinventing themselves and rethinking their services — as an increasingly important source not only of undergraduate support but also as an archive, a buyer, a gateway to research and more.”

Not just college: Technical education as a pathway to the middle class. “As Tamar Jacoby demonstrates, high-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs, culminating in industry-recognized post-secondary credentials, have great promise in engaging students, helping them succeed academically, boosting college completion rates, and brightening career prospects. By age 20, graduates of such programs have academic credentials, technical credentials, and work experience—and, usually, well-paying jobs:”

Only Half of U.S. Students Taking ‘College-Ready’ Courses. “The report found that 47 percent of students did not take a college or career ready curriculum. It found further that 31 percent took a college ready curriculum; 13 percent took a career ready curriculum; and only 8 percent took a curriculum that was considered both college and career ready. The problem is particularly pronounced among students from low-income families.”

Assessing the Impact of Emerging Credentials. “Third, technology-facilitated learning is too often incorrectly depicted as a competitive threat to traditional classroom-based learning. Analysis has shown, however, that participants in the courses offered by these service providers were not considering traditional classroom-based learning as an alternative: the accessibility offered by online learning did not come at the cost of an empty seat in a classroom.”

Evidence of Remediation Success. “The Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College also released research today that, based on the Tennessee findings, shows co-requisite remediation to be more cost-effective than the traditional prerequisite remedial model used in 2012. However, the co-requisite approach does cost more per student.”

Online Education as a Catalyst for Organizational Change? “The MIT report argues that like other legacy sectors, higher education is due for disruption. This higher ed disruption will come from a combination of learning science, new (scalable) online learning technologies, and an altered set of economic and political arrangements (such as competency based learning and government / employer supported alternative credentialing). Disrupting the power / position of legacy higher education institutions, according to the MIT report, will not be easy. The higher education status quo is supported by a nexus political (state support, accreditation), economic (tuition, credits, degrees, research funding), and social (discipline based organizational structures, status hierarchies) factors.”

Be Not Afraid of College Students. “As I see it, students protesting – even when I do not agree with the content of their protests – is actually an exercise in both resilience and agency, two of the most important skills we should be imparting via a college education. These students are engaging with the real world, a world for example, that is hostile to gay and transgender people. They do not care for this world; it is an affront to their values, and so they protest. What is more real world than this?”

Charter High School Grads Persist in College, Earn Higher Salaries. “One thing the study does not deal with are concerns that charter schools have been found in some instances to kick students out of school at higher rates than public schools. This is particularly true when it comes to Black students and students with disabilities.”

Understanding the Origins of Ed-Tech Snake Oil. “In order to get more trustworthy claims of real gains in educational outcomes, the academy needs to both pursue the highest standards of academic research and simultaneously take a long, hard look at the institutional processes that make that pursuit unnecessarily difficult. As part of that, if you want better learning science, then don’t push vendors out of academe. Instead, push them in. Make them show their work. Make them subject their research to peer review. Vendors should be accountable for their claims. As should universities. The goal for us all should be improving the lives of students, and the main tool for learning how to better achieve that goal should be rigorous research conducted in the context of a strong environment of collegial peer review.”

When States Tie Money to Colleges’ Performance, Low-Income Students May Suffer. “For the college it’s a good way to increase completion rates, but for the state as a whole the concern is that you end up with fewer people getting an education. And I’m not talking about admitting students who are not academically qualified. The students who may miss out are students who can handle the coursework, but their success is far from guaranteed.”

Fun With Aging. “But getting older also has some real upsides. The big one is pattern recognition. It becomes easier to spot personality types and to predict behavior. You learn the difference among implacable opposition, give-me-some-time-first opposition, and ritualistic opposition. You recognize cycles. You learn viscerally that time has a way of juggling priorities, and that it will again. You get some distance on yourself, and either beat yourself up or, if you’re lucky, cut yourself some slack. You start to see dynamics develop, and have a quick sense of “I know how this ends.” That saves all kinds of trouble. And you learn that rejection is survivable. That’s a big one.”

Types of OER user. “For instance, the OER as facilitator group want packaged solutions. It may be that we can identify five or so key aims here, eg teachers who want to flip their classrooms, those who want to create distance education type all inclusive courses, particular subject areas, etc. For these a packaged OER based solution can be created so they can more readily achieve their goal. This is the type of activity that commercial providers offer.”

Improving With Age. “… correctly wrote recently that there is little evidence that using accreditation to compel institutions to publicly state their desired student learning outcomes (SLOs), coupled with the rigid and frequently ritualistic ways in which many accreditation teams now apply these requirements, has done much to improve the quality of teaching and learning in this country. But the answer, surely, is not to abolish such statements. It is to use them as they were intended — as a way to articulate collective faculty intent about the desired impact of curricula and instruction.”

SLO Madness. “This story began in the 1990s, when reformers thought they could improve teaching and learning in college if they insisted that colleges declare their specific ‘learning goals,’ with instructors defining ‘the knowledge, intellectual skills, competencies and attitudes that each student is expected to gain.’ The reformers’ theory was that these faculty-enumerated learning objectives would serve as the hooks that would then be used by administrators to initiate reviews of actual student work, the key to improving teaching. That was the idea. But it hasn’t worked out that way.”

The 21st-Century Public Research University. “To move forward, the report suggests that research universities focus on expanding public-private partnerships. After all, the private sector already looks to these universities for research discoveries and workforce talent, and companies provide universities with funding and employment opportunities. But it isn’t always that simple: barriers to public-private partnerships come in the form of prohibitively complex licensing agreements. To make these partnerships easier, the report suggests simplifying those processes. And to attract potential partners, maintaining public trust is critical, the report says.”

Crisis Averted? “State disinvestment in public higher education might not be such a crisis after all, at least for the most vulnerable of students — those who are from low-income backgrounds and who largely lack family help to pay for tuition.The reason, according to a new study from New America, is that increases in federal aid spending from 1996 to 2012 fully offset declines in state and local government contributions for community college students and for independent students who attend four-year public institutions.”

A Digital Badge Initiative: Two Years Later. “The digital badge initiative at Coastal Carolina University still faces some big questions. At the forefront of our minds are philosophical issues such as how to translate the value of these badges into a real-world currency for our students and how earning badges can positively impact learners with low expectations of these courses. Other technological issues also persist, such as the permanency of the badges and online storage space. However, one thing is certain: This initiative supports collaboration and pedagogical innovation throughout our first-year composition program, and it makes visible our commitment to student learning and success in our composition courses.”

Effectiveness, Defined Broadly. “The papers in the volume provide evidence that the editors strive for a definition of effectiveness that goes well beyond degree production or faculty productivity. Two studies examine the quality of teaching and level of student achievement in science, mathematics, engineering and technology courses. Another examines historical data to make the case that the University of Wisconsin at Madison and some other flagship universities have over several decades expanded access for undergraduate students from the top income quartile at the expense of those in the middle two quartiles. Yet another finds that ‘students in states with particularly large increases in public four-year tuition costs were substantially more likely to enroll in less-selective public four-year and two-year institutions in the state.’”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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