ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

Overcode by MIT Scales Up Automatic Grading. “Researchers at MIT have developed a new system to better manage computer science assignments handed in by thousands of students. The system, named OverCode, will help instructors manage their classes in a faster and more effective manner. OverCode reviews online homework at scale by analyzing and comparing student’s code assignments to identify where these align and where they depart in their solution approach. The program then creates several templates of techniques that arrive to the right solution and groups students’ assignments according to these templates so that instructors can further process their solutions.”

Student and Shipbuilder. “Apprenticeships often are touted as a neglected alternative to enrolling in college, one that leads to jobs. A smattering of colleges, however, think apprenticeships can go hand in hand with earning a degree. Students at Old Dominion University, for example, now can do a four- to eight-year stint as apprentices at a nearby shipyard while simultaneously earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. The apprentices spend a day or two per week in the classroom and the rest of their workweek on the job at Newport News Shipbuilding.”

You’re Asking the Wrong Question. “This consideration for purpose is often overlooked because of assumptions we make. We, as course designers, faculty facilitators, or both, assume that we know the purpose of the discussion for which we are composing the questions. Yet, we have many different purposes of discussions. Some faculty believe that the purpose of the discussion is for students to demonstrate comprehension or application of the course concepts. Some folks think the purpose of the discussion is formative assessment, with a focus on instructor-student interaction. Still others believe that the purpose of the discussion is to get students talking to one another. And we are all right.”

Dear New York Times, “If Campos were to draw the connection between, say, Baumol’s Cost Disease and price increases, he would have been on much more solid ground. But like community colleges, Baumol’s Cost Disease is entirely absent from his piece. I guess it doesn’t fit his preferred narrative of administrative fat cats with seven-figure salaries. I would invite him to my state to find a single community college administrator here with a seven-figure salary — just one — but that would be, as he would put it, disingenuous. No such person exists. I’ve been in the room when fee increases have been discussed, debated, proposed, and approved. They’re about filling gaps. If you fail to understand those gaps and where they came from, you will fail to understand the increases.”

FT-PT Faculty Ratio: How Maricopa Plants to Improve Student Success by Increasing Full-Time Faculty. “The 60:40 move is tied to Maricopa’s Student Success Initiative, which places student retention and completion rates front and center in all Maricopa decision making. Maricopa administrators asked faculty how they could help the college achieve better student outcomes, and the answer they received was more full-time faculty, Glasper explains. A 2011 internal white paper drove the point home: ‘While adjunct faculty bring many virtues to the classroom, numerous studies support that student success suffers when students lack sufficient contact with full-time faculty. Our overreliance on adjunct faculty diminishes not only student success, but also generates increased legal, moral, and managerial risks for the system.’”

A Little-Known Student Loan Protection Remains Mired In Mystery. “Almost nothing is known about the defense to repayment clause: the Education Department has not specified how defense to repayment works or whether it has ever been used successfully in the past, and would not respond on the record to BuzzFeed News’ questions about its usage. There is no form for students to fill out, no fact sheet to consult. Legal aid lawyers, who have begun to file the defenses for poor clients mired in debt, are forced to do so with no guidance: The Education Department has not responded to a four-months-old Freedom of Information Act request by the New York Legal Assistance group meant to gather any possible shred of information about the clause, its usage, or its history. That is making it exceedingly difficult for borrowers who believe they have been wronged by their schools to take advantage of the clause.”

For-Profit Colleges: Here to Stay. “As federal money becomes more regulated, for-profit schools will face increasing pressure about producing better outcomes, no matter who they are serving. Deming says that the history of for-profit colleges is cyclical, and as the industry matures, he expects that for-profit colleges will specialize and find ways to survive. Stamping out for-profit colleges completely is likely not the answer, as it will reduce educational opportunities for those who have few other options. Moving forward, the policy question will become how to rebalance the incentives of these institutions so that they produce both profit for themselves and good outcomes for their students.”

A Simpler Path, Authors Say Is Key to Community-College Completion. “A typical reform involves a couple of sections of something, or counselors working with a small group of students. It allows reform to take place without getting into the basic operation of the college. It’s grant funded, and even if you can get some activist faculty to participate, when the funding runs out, they move on to something else. As a result, there’s a lot of appearance of reform, but not a lot of fundamental change taking place. This, on the other hand, is an approach to reform that takes account of the entire student experience from registration to graduation. It isn’t a narrow, highly-prescribed rail that students get on and can’t get off.”

Private Loan Takedown. “Direct, private loans from for-profit institutions to students can be risky for colleges, Silber said, adding that institutions don’t want to put their own balance sheets at risk and, as a result, some view it as a segment of the industry that is best left to banks. These days very few public companies offer private loans and if they do they’re limited, he said. The demographics of students at for-profits also make them inherently risky borrowers, Silber said.”

Community College Proves that Schools Don’t Need Textbooks. “To design the course, the material was built around what the students needed to learn, DeMarte explained. ‘We identified in the pilot mode the 21 courses we would use, we took everything out of those courses except the learning outcomes, and then those courses were rebuilt with OER matched to the outcome,’ he said. ‘So now it’s common to hear our faculty say that they are more efficient.’ The school is also able to continually improve its offerings by linking analytics to the content that students are studying. All of the educational resources are contained within the college’s learning management system (LMS), so professors can demonstrate how well their course is working to meet their students’ educational goals and make adjustments as needed.”

Higher Education: Overhaul or Digital Upgrade? (Industry Perspective). “Accenture recently completed a survey of 1,500 college-bound students across five countries (300 students per country), including the United States. It found that in the U.S., 86 percent of college-bound students said that digital capabilities, such as the integration of technology into the classroom, virtual coursework and online classes are a top determinant in choosing which university to attend. This trend was consistent with the views of current students and recent graduates, with the majority (70 percent) calling for greater use of digital tools for learning and content delivery.”

Relief for Community Colleges. “Officials last week unveiled a draft plan to expand the circumstances under which a college can appeal a high default rate on the basis that a low percentage of its students borrow money through the federal loan program. The changes to that appeal option — known as the participation rate index appeal — would largely help community colleges, where relatively few students take out loans to pay for their education.”

Rebundling College. “As a response to these challenges, my proposal to rebundle college preserves the primacy, integrity and identity of existing institutions. Rebundling college will benefit students, reduce costs and provide the necessary certification of a given program of study by a college or university faculty. This model will require many existing institutions to reorganize so that they, in effect, become the curators of an education for each enrolled student. Individualized degree programs will be culled and created from many sources, much in the way an art exhibit is curated so that separate pieces come together to form a coherent, integrated whole. With oversight from their enrolling institutions, students will select from a variety of traditional and emerging pedagogies as well as other academic and co-curricular resources that existing institutions provide.”

The 2.0x MOOC and the 1.0x Audiobook. “Maybe I’m participating in the wrong MOOCs. Or maybe we need to do MOOCs differently. The reason that I listen to MOOC videos as quickly as possible, and audiobooks as normally as possible, is that MOOCs and audiobooks serve different goals. With an audiobook I’m as much savoring the experience as taking in the information.  Watching MOOC videos is all about information intake.”

To adopt or not to adopt a textbook. “Right now, for myself, it boils down to this… for nonscience majors in introductory-level courses, can I still communicate the same content, and perhaps have a greater impact on increasing student engagement and scientific literacy, with a book from the popular press instead of using a traditional college textbook with all of the “bells and whistles” of electronic supplements provided by the publisher?  Or do I need both, a traditional textbook and book from the popular press?  Or neither?  A challenging question – and I have only a few more hours to decide the answer before my book order is due…”

New Digital Platform Focuses on Student Fatigue, Confidence Levels. “McGraw-Hill Education representatives say the new Connect Master platform offers two features other similar learning platforms don’t: an ability to measure students’ sense of confidence and fatigue, allowing it to make adjustments to the customized content, and a focus on deeper concepts as supposed to simple problem-solving.”

Three Quick Thoughts on Campos. “ The challenges to higher education are very real. And the one thing that it can no longer afford is to pretend to be outside of public policy’s reach. Here is where Campos, no matter what his particular shortcomings, has touched a nerve worth pulsing. Higher education – its institutions, its leaders and especially its beltway associations – are doing no one, least of all themselves, any good to play the Ivy Tower card and shy away from the fray. Jump in the middle of it! As a public good, higher education owes it to American society, and the world, to fight for its life.”

HBO Now, MOOCs, and Time. “The digital world that is coming in our laptops and tablets and smart phones can be, if one chooses, a world of quality choices. The expansion of alluring things to do on our screens, such as the availability of HBO Now, means that competition for our attention will only grow more fierce. MOOCs are not just competing against other MOOCs, but against HBO Now and Hulu and Netflix. All of which competes against books (which I read on a screen, maybe you read on dead trees), games (which I don’t do), and reading this blog post.”

Discounting and the Difference Principle. “Strategic discounting in these forms has real appeal. It uses pricing to motivate desired behavior, typically in the form of on-time program completion.  Done well and transparently, it could nudge students in the desired direction by aligning their personal short-term incentives with their long-term incentives (and the long-term incentives of the institution). But every version of discounting-as-incentive falls prey to the same objection. It tends to reward the students who are already the most resourced and capable, and therefore to punish the least resourced. Which is where I’m reminded of Rawls and his difference principle.”

Making It Official. “When Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, its first president proclaimed a commitment to a “great freedom” for faculty and students to pursue learning and research. But the modern Johns Hopkins University has no official statement outlining the core tenets of academic freedom. Senior administrators saw that as a hole in the university’s principles, one that was highlighted after a series of campus incidents in the past few years that involved academic freedom and free expression, said Robert Lieberman, provost and vice president of academic affairs. So last year, Lieberman and President Ronald Daniels announced the creation of a new task force to craft such a statement.”

The Many Meanings of Free. “The free community college idea isn’t new, but it has gained more attention since President Obama’s proposal to launch a national tuition-free initiative. But many colleges, cities and states aren’t waiting for Congress to adopt the president’s proposal. They’re launching their own programs. Hoover tracks the different free college initiatives and proposals across the country and found that most vary in offering free tuition based on economic and academic requirements, as well as in approaches to funding their programs. Those different funding approaches vary from sales taxes and state lottery revenue to endowments.”

Where 3 Accountability Measures Meet, a Hazardous Intersection. “My analysis identified 1,150 private nonprofit and for-profit colleges that faced sanctions or potential sanctions under one of those three metrics in the last three years. Public colleges were excluded because they do not receive financial-responsibility scores and very few have default rates high enough to face potential sanctions. Of these 1,150 colleges, 438 were subjected to heightened cash monitoring, 403 had a cohort default rate above 30 percent, and 635 faced additional oversight for their financial responsibility scores. There is some overlap among the three groups of institutions, but not much, as it turns out.”

Emerging Path to Federal Aid. “Political support is building for a system to encourage and oversee higher education upstarts that don’t look or act like colleges, such as online course providers and coding boot camps. And these emerging players soon may have a pathway to accreditation and even federal financial aid eligibility, albeit in limited or experimental form.”

ProQuest Acquires SIPX. “SIPX began as the Stanford Intellectual Property Exchange, a project at Stanford University to prevent students from paying for course materials the institution already subscribed to — effectively double spending on the same content. One analysis at the university found students wasted more than $100,000 during the 2010-11 academic year. SIPX spun off in 2012 to tackle that problem of how to make faculty members and students aware of the content already available to them. The start-up has since integrated its technology in campus bookstores, learning management systems and ‘everywhere teaching happens’ to cut down on redundant payments, said Franny Lee, co-founder of SIPX.”

Disrupting the Enablers. “Getting the various contractors to use a common set of standards — and riding herd on them to keep down the costs of integrating their products together — is one of several ways that Katzman asserts Noodle Partners will be able to keep the up-front cost to colleges of building out each online degree and nondegree program under $2 million. Strategic use of the increasingly available and improving open educational resources, massive open online courses and other low-cost but high-quality content (together with homegrown material developed by a college or university’s faculty) will also drive down the cost of producing the programs the partner network would help the institutions build.”

Apple’s Lessons for Higher Ed Inequality. “Behavioral solutions alone won’t eliminate socioeconomic inequalities in postsecondary access and success. But for a relatively small investment in these strategies, we can meaningfully improve the efficacy of existing programs and policies and expand college opportunity for hardworking but economically disadvantaged students.”

Danger! Obstacles Missing. “Cracking the code of student behavior sometimes involves thinking like Yogi Berra. Yogi-isms like “nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded” are both absurd and sort of intuitive. He famously claimed, in reference to baseball, that 90 percent of the game is half mental.  That’s ridiculous, but you know what he means. Guessing student interpretations of policy changes can be like that.”

“A Bit of a Tall Order” “…how important it is to engage students in the troublesome work of understanding deeply something that doesn’t come easily, that might not even be on the test, but is fundamental to understanding a discipline. This is knowledge that can lead to a ‘rupture in knowing’ and can be both exhilarating and anxiety-producing because it may change the way you see things. It involves not just an epistemological shift but an ontological one, and requires a discourse shift as well, learning a new ways of talking about things.”

3 trends changing the face of for-profit higher ed. “Apollo isn’t alone in falling enrollment. DeVry saw a 20% decline over last year and Bridgepoint Education’s enrollment fell around 14%. Career Education Corporation, on the other hand, narrowed its losses and saw online student enrollment grow 1%, while ITT Educational Services failed to file its annual 10-K by the March 16 deadline, receiving a non-compliance notice from the New York Stock Exchange. Beyond the for-profit space, though, higher ed enrollment at large is expected to take a hit due to an overall decline in the number of high school graduates, as Crain’s Chicago Business reports. This generation is simply smaller than the one preceding it.”

How ‘Elite’ Universities Are Using Online Education. “Degrees in fields like health care and teaching are in high demand, and many lesser-known players have grabbed big chunks of that market online by assuring prospective students that they can go back to school without upending their lives. Yale is not alone in its effort to claim its slice of the pie; graduate schools at the Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, the University of California at Berkeley, and others have also started offering online versions of their professional master’s programs. Online does not fundamentally threaten the appeal of professional programs, where the “student experience” is not as sacrosanct as it is at undergraduate colleges. Most people who enroll are working adults who already went through dorm life and student organizations and late-night philosophical chats with future members of their wedding parties. They are now mainly interested in learning a trade.”

Beyond the Bologna Process. “Meld theory and practice so that the learning process reflects the ways students will live as citizens and professionals. Few things make less educational sense than the traditional notion that theory is learned in the university and practice is learned in technical schools or in one’s later professional life. The separation serves primarily to isolate higher-education institutions from the very students they are teaching. This change will require rethinking the definition of a professor, introducing more clinical appointments into the faculty, and developing internships that are genuine learning experiences.”

A Higher Profile. “The purchase of lynda.com even goes a step farther, by allowing LinkedIn to offer its own content. LinkedIn won’t compete directly with colleges, said Bryant, at least not for now. That’s because lynda.com content is more about professional development than traditional academics. It also does not lead to college credit.”

GSV 2015 Review. “So yeah, there’s plenty of dumb money funding dumb companies, aided and abetted by dumb press coverage. But is there proportionally more dumb money, or is there just more dumb money in absolute terms as part of the overall increase in investment? This is an important question, because it is a strong indicator of whether the idiocy is just part of what comes when an immature industry grows or whether we are in a bubble. This particular kind of market analysis is somewhat outside my wheelhouse, but my sense, based on my fragmented experience of the conference added to other recent experiences and observations, is that it’s a bit of both. Parts of the market have clearly gotten ahead of themselves, but there also are some real businesses emerging.”

Why LinkedIn Matters. “…LinkedIn is really the only organization that’s in a position to find that evidence right now. This is the enormous implication of the Lynda.com acquisition that the press has mostly missed… . The primary value of the acquisition wasn’t content. It was data. It was providing additional, fine-grained nodes on the career graphs of their users. Which means that LinkedIn is likely to do more acquisitions and more partnerships that help accomplish the same end, including providing access of that data for companies and schools to do their own longitudinal outcomes research. Far from ‘killing ed tech,’ this is the first step toward building an ecosystem.”

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