ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

9 Reasons Why Digital Capabilities Matter. “The reasons why our digital capabilities matter is an ever-evolving mix. Here are 9 reasons that I consistently reference when thinking and talking about digital capabilities: Career Enhancement & Employability – The more you are able to utilize digital technologies, the greater chance you have for your career to be positively impacted by your overall capabilities with all things digital.”

We Don’t Need a ‘Revolution’ to Improve Teaching. “In this case, as much as I agree with Prof. Wieman about the need to improve undergraduate instruction and support his goal to study it, if we put our focus on the measuring of learning, rather than on teachers and learners, we will put a lot of effort into creating the apparatuses of measurement. This is the kind of privileging that Prof. Wieman finds objectionable (me too), when it comes to tenure and promotion at research universities. The truth is, thanks to Prof. Wieman and many others who came before him, we know a lot about the benefits of active learning. There isn’t really an argument to be had about which approach holds more promise. If we look at teaching from a foundation of values, rather than the surface-level of methods, there is a shorter path we could follow if we really care about student learning. Empower the people inside our institutions who are doing so much of the teaching – adjunct and contingent faculty – to teach in circumstances that are conducive to effective teaching.”

3 Learning Tech Observations From a Week of College Visits. “In my world (I’m a director of digital learning initiatives), technology is a differentiator. It is not the technology itself, but what it enables educators to accomplish that matters. The goal is always discovering new ways to develop the relationship between the educator and the learner.  To discover ways that technology can assist faculty in their goals to create active, experiential, and rigorous learning opportunities. During this week of college touring, I was surprised that the topic of innovation in teaching and learning almost never came up.”

Fees for Low-Enrolled Classes. “At the implementation level, for instance, it could be a bear. We typically report attendance as of the tenth day of the semester, which means that for a class on the borderline, students wouldn’t know the cost until they’d been in it for two weeks. At that point, their entire financial aid package might have to be redone, which is not a simple or quick process. For students who are paying their own way, they may or may not face an additional, unexpected cost two weeks into the term, at which point it’s too late to pick up another class. That’s a significant gamble. The add/drop period could get considerably weirder. I’d also worry about incentives”

Jumping to Conclusions. “I agree with Kelchen and Stedrak that more evaluation and discussion are needed on all forms of higher education finance formulas to better understand their effects on institutional behavior and student outcomes. Clearly, there are states that had, and in some cases continue to have, funding models designed in a way that could create perverse incentives for institutions to raise admissions standards or to respond in other ways that run contrary to raising attainment for all students, and for students of color in particular. As the Seton Hall researchers point out, priority should be given to understanding the differential effects of various elements that go into the design and implementation of state funding models.”

The Educational Power of Discomfort. “This will serve students well as they encounter their first jobs and careers, where following simple rules and meeting deadlines are a must. Two other essential skills we should give undergraduates are the ability to develop and support their own opinions and to actively listen to the opinions of others, no matter how unlike their own they may seem.”

Future Earnings Over Prestige: A New Measuring Stick for Higher Ed. “One of the issues with a lot of the more complicated rankings systems is that they don’t tend to single these things out. We know that for 80 percent of students, the primary reason they’re going to college is to launch a career, so their interest in earning and employment is very high. We’re simply focusing there.”

Here are the five critical skills every new college graduate should have. “Every graduate needs to be a learning animal. Schools are turning out students trained to take tests, but not those who have the ability to come up with answers to problems not yet imagined. For the first two decades of our lives, someone else directs our learning — parents, teachers, professors. But once young adults enter the workforce they need to self-direct their own learning for the rest of their lives. They need to be curious about what’s around them.”

4 Values That EdTech Leaders Should Value. “Be clear about the potential of technology as a tool (as a means) to improve learning, but only if technologies are utilized to empower and support educators. Be vocal in delineating the limits of technology for learning, acting as a counterbalancing force to the hype (and market pressures) that constantly push technical solutions for policy, cultural, organizational, and resource related challenges.”

The new push toward competency-based education. “CBE is the new operating system for higher education; we’re just awaiting the apps. As with smartphones – the development of iOS and Android were necessary, but not sufficient for adoption. Innovative and useful apps drove massive demand. We expect to see the same in higher education as new CBE-based apps reveal the true utility of CBE and usher in a Golden Age of American Education. Here are the CBE apps we’re most excited about: A CBE operating system opens to the door to the ‘double-click’ degree, or what Blackboard founder Matt Pittinsky refers to as the clickable credential: employer facing apps that allow employers to infer competencies from transcripts. These apps will allow employers to double click on courses to learn more about the competencies that graduates have demonstrated

‘The Slow Professor.’ “In a new book, two tenured professors propose applying the “slow movement” — which has thus far been applied to everything from food to parenting to science to sex — to academic work. And while it’s already raised some eyebrows as an example of ‘tenured privilege,’ it’s at once an important addition and possible antidote to the growing literature on the corporatization of the university.”

19 More Lessons About Teaching. “Required freshman- and sophomore-level survey courses demand that we cover a bunch of material in far too little time and provide essentially the last and only opportunity in an institution of higher education to show students how wonderfully complex, diverse and interesting our subjects are. After the vast majority of students take the required six credit hours in American history, they will never again take a history class and will likely never read another history book. I take seriously my only opportunity to show them how and why history is important and how and why anything and everything is history. While most students are not history majors and do not become history majors, so far my students say again and again that they leave my courses more aware of the history around them and embodied in everyday culture.”

State of Higher Ed LMS Market for US and Canada: Spring 2016 Edition. “As noted in previous years, the fastest-growing LMS is Canvas. There is no other solution close in terms of matching the Canvas growth. Blackboard continues to lose market share, although the vast majority of that reduction over the past two years has been from customers leaving ANGEL. Blackboard Learn lost only a handful of clients in the past year.”

Designing Next-Generation Universities. “Next generation technologies include interactive simulations, virtual laboratories, and truly immersive learning environments involving augmented or virtual reality.  These technologies allow students to conduct an experiment virtually or traverse a historical site or engage with a case study – or create a virtual museum exhibition, a digital story, or contribute to an online, multimedia encyclopedia.”

Seniors. The Other Kind. “Seniors can be incredible assets for class discussions. They also sometimes form bonds with younger students that become almost parental (or grandparental).  Seniors have both political and economic clout locally that can redound to the benefit of a college for which they feel affection. And they have a legitimate need for mental stimulation that a college is particularly well-suited to address. Mental stimulation is what we do.”

Enriching Public Culture. “By contrast, the Public Engagement Fellowships go to professors who have shown “a demonstrated commitment to using their scholarly expertise to reach wider audiences,” in order to fund ambitious projects designed to have direct and significant impact on a specific public outside the academy.” There are eight scholars in the fellowship’s inaugural cohort, including, for instance, Zoë Kontes, an associate professor of classics at Kenyon College, who will spend a semester creating a podcast to explore the black market in looted artifacts.

Love Letter to Blended Learning. “But the report is as much about the shortcomings of online education as it is about its potential. Most importantly, it recommends online education play a supporting role as a “dynamic digital scaffold.” Online education can offer personalized pathways through course content with short lecture videos and well-timed quizzes that help students retain knowledge, the report reads, but it is most effective in a blended setting where students regularly interact with faculty members face-to-face.”

21st-Century Learning Environments. “In the end, truly innovative learning environments can only be achieved through the seamless integration of pedagogy, technology and space, empowered by a supportive professional development program. Pedagogy. Preparation for the 21st-century workforce demands that educators shift the authority for learning to the students. After all, today’s workers are expected to function in collaborative and horizontal environments, as opposed to the “factory” driven, top-down, solitary worker spaces of yesterday. Therefore, contemporary learning environments should lean heavily on collaborative spaces, supported through personalized learning technologies. Good pedagogy encourages student engagement through complex collaborative projects based on real-world problems.”

The Tough-Love Advice Edtech Needs to Hear. “You may interpret administrators’ resistance as an inability to see the big picture or to get out from their bureaucratic rabbit holes. But they know the players and challenges, and have to take into account not just product, but people, to forecast the payoff. Rather than assuming that your product will change ingrained processes and behaviors, ask about the challenges administrators anticipate when adopting a new technology and work on answers. Be a problem-solver, not a product-pitcher.”

Lost (and Found) in Translation: What Online Students Want. “Students expect excellent instruction. We found a very high relationship between highly rated professors, interesting learning activities, and highly rated courses. Students want to use online resources, not just textbooks. Netflix and C-Span, interactive maps and data tables, and e-books are just a few examples. For written assignments seen by all students, they want several possible prompts instead of just one question the first two students answer and the rest of the students repeat. They like to be able to submit some assignments by video instead of text. And they like when the variety of materials, such as online readings, videos with transcripts, assignments, and the instructor’s videos and PowerPoint notes, complement each other logically. This may require more frontloading of coursework preparation, but it also creates more interesting ways of assessing student learning.”

Personalized Learning: Toward a Grand Unifying Theory. “Even though I may be holding out for a grand unification of academic technologies and big data to support our students, the most important part of this quest will be leadership—and quite possibly leadership in roles that may not yet exist. All the elements are in place, from the ever-growing social and academic footprint of each student to the emergence of data science. It is unlikely that any single platform will ever fulfill the potential of an increasingly data-rich world by seamlessly melding social, educational, economic, historical, and even psychological data sources into a force for student success. Rather, it will remain the task of visionary leadership to incorporate personalized learning into a grand unifying theory—to build both the culture and the systems needed to combine these data sources into an effective analytical engine for student success.”

Why Higher Education Needs to Be More Future-Focused. “Embrace Experimentation Collaborative curricular design, block scheduling, success coaches, peer mentoring, curriculum optimization, credit for prior learning—rather than treating these as threats, each of these innovations might be seen as a way to promote student success. The existing model is not working well for the roughly 40 percent of college students who never graduate. When that many students fail to reach the finish line, the problem is ours, not simply theirs.”

3 Ways Online Education Advances Residential Learning. “Standing up new online programs is an excellent way for a traditional residential institution to: a) develop new capacities, b) experiment and innovate, and c) bring in new resources. The capacities that a school develops in creating online / low-residency degree (or non-degree) programs are not technical. Every institution now has the infrastructure needed to teach online – as the learning management system (LMS) has become ubiquitous. Rather, the institutional capacities that online learning builds most directly are pedagogical.”

‘ThePhDictionary.’ “Beyond basic definitions, author Herb Childress, co-founder of the consulting firm Teleidoscope Group and former dean of research and assessment at the Boston Architectural College, illuminates each term with stories about his own off-the-beaten-path journey through graduate school and the professoriate.”

Look for the Exceptions. “But we have to remember that our role is, at the very least, twofold: We need to both evaluate and nurture. Even as we deal out consequences for those students who haven’t performed well, who have neglected their work, or who have submitted lazy work — and maybe especially then — we also have to remember that they are still our students. We are still responsible to some extent for their progress, no matter how slow. We should be looking for ways to get all of our students — including those who resist our help the most — to cultivate the habits of mind and of academic work that might lead to better performance down the line.”

Personalized learning is a useful tool, not a panacea. “Personalized learning describes Internet based learning platforms that respond to the user’s learning style, interests, and pre-existing knowledge. The RAND study describes five personalized practices from the schools in their study: learner profiles, personal learning pathways, competency-based progression, flexible learning environments, and emphasis on college and career readiness. There is no consensus definition of personalized learning, but a central component is education technology.”

Blackboard CEO’s First 100 Days: Reorganization and Learn Ultra Updates. “It is encouraging that Blackboard appears to be increasing its focus on getting the core LMS product updates, and we have also noticed a tighter message about Ultra over the past two months. There is now a Learn Ultra preview for educators, where people can sign up and play around with courses both in Original View (what you know as Learn 9.1) and Ultra View (the new UX). Part of the purpose of this preview is to enable customers to get a better feel of Learn SaaS and also to help them determine whether a Fall 2016 or a Spring 2017 Learn Ultra pilot makes sense for them.”

Scenes From Ed-Tech Heaven (or Hell). “It would be unfair to make it seem as if the college officials were wholly responsible for the shift in tone. Some of the most successful technology companies in the higher ed space have made it their business to treat universities as partners and faculty members as necessary collaborators in innovation rather than cogs to be innovated out of their jobs. And more and more tech leaders expressed similar sentiments at the ASU GSV Summit, seeming to have adopted the goal of working with existing institutions to improve rather than striving to create alternatives to them.”

OER in Higher Ed: ‘Huge Awareness-Raising Effort Needed.’ “When it comes to open educational resources (OER) adoption, is the glass half empty or half full? On the one hand, more than 1 billion works have been licensed using Creative Commons since the organization was founded 15 years ago, and in 2015 alone Creative Commons-licensed works were viewed online 136 billion times. Yet awareness of OER in higher education remains low. Approximately 75 percent of faculty respondents to a 2014 Babson Survey Research Group study didn’t know about or couldn’t accurately define OER or why it is important.”

Solving the remediation riddle in higher ed. “Ultimately, the mission has shifted from the old college-readiness approach that assigned remedial courses before students could gain any credit. Today’s highly targeted, retention-centered remediation models aim to keep students motivated and to propel them through courses most relevant to their majors.”

To Make Content Findable, Put It Everywhere. “I’ve mentioned before that the impulse many people have about OER — that we need a central high visibility location where we can put ALL THE OER and everyone will know to go there — is flawed. We know it’s flawed because it’s failed for 15 years or so (more if you count early learning object attempts). If you want someone to find something, don’t put it in one place — put it everywhere.”

Education Dept. Warns of More Scrutiny for Accreditors. “In particular, the letter says, accreditors should emphasize standards that consider how students are performing in areas such as graduation rates, retention rates, and job placements, depending on the type of college and its mission.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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