ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

No, Not New York City… “Most community colleges were established during a ten-year spread from the early sixties to the early seventies. That was roughly the peak of the postwar distributed-production model. In the 70’s, the cities now seen as the powerhouses of the economy and culture were considered crime-ridden embarrassments. Growth was in the suburbs of smaller cities. Community colleges were ways to bring the rapidly-growing provinces into the larger economy and culture. An industry comprised of hundreds (eventually, over a thousand) local outposts all around the country reflected where the country was at the time. … Now, though, most of the growth is concentrated in a few places. … Because community college funding is substantially local in many states (though not Massachusetts), the increasing austerity of the provinces stands in severe contrast to the resources available in the top five cities.”

We Have an Engagement Crisis, not a “Grit” Deficit. “We need to stop measuring product and instead engage with process, and we do this by listening to and valuing students as human beings who deserve the chance to practice agency. No, this is not coddling or pandering, but the opposite. ‘Engagement’ and ‘entertainment’ are not synonyms. Engagement means setting up challenges for students that are meaningful beyond getting a grade, challenges which encourage risk without unduly punishing failure so they may experience the pleasure of resiliency and be enthused about trying again. This is the building of ‘agency,’ which decades of research has shown to be the most important factor when it comes to success and well-being.”

8 Ways to Read ‘Leading Change’ as a Higher Ed Book. “My hope in recommending Kotter’s Leading Change is that we can agree on a common text, and a shared framework, for a learning design / edtech informed discussion of postsecondary organizational change.”

Providing Alternative Pathways to “15 to Finish.” “The realities of our students’ lives and the increasing costs of higher education often move the finish line of completion further and further into the future for our students, particularly who are often first generation students, working full-time, raising families, sometimes academically underprepared, and from low-income backgrounds, all creating obstacles to successfully attending full-time to lead to the most direct path to graduation. In the rush to ‘15 to Finish,’ we need to be careful that we do not set up a situation where more students are doomed to fail and drop out, rather than move toward achieving their goals.”

Overcoming the Obstacles: Student-Centricity Critical to Traditionally Underserved Student Success. “Creating postsecondary access and success pathways are a stated goal of many colleges and universities, but there are some structural obstacles that tend to minimize the positive impact of these efforts. Institution-centricity and the lack of understanding of the needs and experiences of traditionally underserved students have a tendency to create significant roadblocks to persistence and success for this demographic.

These are the Times That Try Men’s Souls. “What is higher education’s role in all of this flux? Not since the anti-Vietnam war and civil rights protests have colleges and universities enjoyed the chance to stand at the forefront. If ever our outreach or service missions held meaning it is in times such as these.  Higher education must stand for both free speech and tolerance, expression of ideas and the protection of safe spaces. Moreover, it should demonstrate to U.S., if not global culture, how to accomplish this complex feat.”

Designing Next-Generation Universities. “Implanting experiential learning in the pathway to a career makes sense. At a time when too many students drift for years after graduation, experiential learning might help them define their future direction. But that will require them to unpack their experience and engage in a process of reflection and critical analysis. It will require much more mentoring. As John Dewey put it, ‘Experience plus reflection equals learning.’”

A Delicate Marketing Challenge. “I heard multiple versions of that story, both biographical and autobiographical. The second-chance setting of a community college allowed someone who made some youthful mistakes an opportunity to recover. There’s real value in that. But it’s a tricky thing to publicize. College-as-rehab or college-as-purgatory isn’t the image we really want to put forward, even though we welcome students who might need exactly that. It’s the kind of message best sent through word-of-mouth, particularly via parents and grandparents.”

Reciprocity and Online Education. “Were New York to avoid signing the agreement, students who live in the state would end up with fewer choices, primarily from fewer nonprofit institutions that can operate there. Under SARA, New York students actually would have more consumer protection than currently exists as well as regulatory support for any complaint process, including from in-state agencies. Additionally, states systematically working in concert through SARA will more quickly find and deal with institutions that treat students poorly. This is far better than hypothetical, unfunded regulatory oversight by New York trying to operate independently from any other state.”

Grade Inflation, Higher and Higher. “The first major update in seven years of a database on grade inflation has found that grades continue to rise and that A is the most common grade earned at all kinds of colleges. Since the last significant release of the survey, faculty members at Princeton University and Wellesley College, among other institutions, have debated ways to limit grade inflation, despite criticism from some students who welcome the high averages. But the new study says these efforts have not been typical.”

Idea to retire: Technology alone can improve student learning. “For generations, the belief that new technology will either transform or make schools obsolete has persisted. … Yet each successive wave of technology has failed to live up to its hype, and millions have been spent trying to make technology do what it, alone, cannot do. Ultimately, it is not the technology that does the teaching. Technology is a tool that is wielded by people to accomplish specific ends. While it can serve as an accelerator, it can just as easily accelerate poor strategies as effective ones. It is the teaching approach—the pedagogy—that ultimately determines learning outcomes. Once this is understood, a series of other misconceptions also fade.”

Universities seek open-source solution to ‘absurd’ textbook prices. “In 2012, the government of British Columbia announced that it would provide funding to support the creation of open textbooks for the 40 most-popular undergraduate courses offered in the province. A later wave of funding added another 20 books for trades and technology subjects, but because of the continuous revision open textbooks allow, there are 140 resources in the BC Open Textbook Collection, not to mention the thousands of other open source course materials that have been created for other jurisdictions over the years. Jhangiani said students have saved ‘something like $174 million’ worldwide because their instructors have switched to open textbooks. In B.C. alone, students have saved more than $1 million, he said.”

Higher ed disruption underway – don’t get caught off-guard. “It pays to be able to interpret data. If you’ve seen the movie The Incredibles, the character Edna Mode has a great line: “Luck favors the prepared.” Luck might not be the right word, but success does favor the prepared. I don’t think the future belongs to the lucky. The stakes are too high. There are too many uncertainties. From 1993 to 2010, during which we had two of the longest economic expansions in U.S. history and the number of high school graduates rose sharply, you could make a lot of mistakes and still succeed. You can’t make those same mistakes now. You’ve got to know more. Colleges have to pay closer attention than ever.”

This student put 50 million stolen research articles online. And they’re free. “Elbakyan has studied neuroscience and consciousness in labs at Georgia Tech and Albert-Ludwigs University in Freiburg, Germany. At first, she pirated papers for herself and other researchers. She noticed so many requests that she decided to automate the process, setting up Sci-Hub four years ago. Sci-Hub connects to a database of stolen papers. If a user requests a paper in that database, Sci-Hub serves it up. If the paper is not there, Sci-Hub uses library passwords it has collected to find a paper, provides it to the searcher, then dumps the paper in the database. The site can be clunky to use, often sending users to Web pages in foreign languages.”

How Readers Discover Content in Scholarly Publications. “Search is important, of course, but it is by no means the only way that researchers discover scholarly content. The report finds that search accounts for approximately 40-45% of discovery of the last journal article the respondent accessed, a figure that varies only slightly by sector (figure 30). While the report emphasizes that ‘search is dominant,’ for me, the headline finding here is that the other means of discovery specified — everything from personal recommendations and social media to alerts and citations — collectively add up to drive more traffic than search. This will vary quite a bit by content provider, but it emphasizes the importance of not just seeing Google Scholar as one’s discoverability strategy.”

How Competency-Based Courses Are Changing the Education Game. “While self-paced, objectives-based learning is beneficial for students and institutions, it can be problematic for IT departments. That’s because the transition to this new learning model can touch an incredible number of technologies, including student information systems, analytics and reporting platforms, and customer relationship management tools.Learning management systems represent one of the biggest challenges for IT, as they need to be able to track days since a student enrolled, release new modules as students complete competencies and send out automated student feedback.

Changing Records of Learning through Innovations in Pedagogy and Technology. “This shift toward personalized learning and agile credentialing requires both technological and pedagogical innovation, much of which is already happening, although often in different divisions on our campuses. In this article we share our current thinking on the challenges of the conventional academic record, provide new frameworks for exploring integrative learning, and highlight promising, cross-cutting technological and pedagogical models that connect the dots toward agile, personalized evidence of learning.”

The Commodification of Higher Education. “Few would argue that the rankings have helped shape a world in which students are seen as consumers, and colleges and universities as commodities. The rankings are a key reason the higher-education landscape today operates like a marketplace in which institutions compete to convince the best students to buy their product. Still, as The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson once argued, ‘college rankings aren’t the monster here. They’re the gnats on the back of a monster.’”

New Books and MIT’s Uncommon Sense. “Libraries – at least larger ones – have in recent years added ‘scholarly communications’ offices and services, usually with a small staff and even smaller budgets and even less authority. These are the folks who help their community understand the value of open access to research, may help faculty make open access choices, and may be in charge of publishing support and/or an institutional repository where versions of research and other material can be made public, depending on what rights an author retains. These are good efforts, but they’re often seen as an extra, a frill, not the basic work of the library. What’s rare is for the entire library’s collections and services to be considered part of scholarly communications. Which, when you think about it, is a little weird. Why are journals and books not considered scholarly communications?”

The Gap Between Liberal Arts Values and EdTech Practices. “Perhaps the gap between the promise and the reality of educational technology has less to do with the specific technologies, and more to do with a failure to talk first about values. Should edtech companies, campus units, and professionals lead with values? And if so, what would be the values that would resonate with faculty? Learning Is A Relationship: This is a value that starts with a belief in the centrality of the educator / learner relationship. This is a value that puts a premium on the expertise, autonomy, and status of the educator.”

Digital Overtakes Print. “The results — if accurate — represent a major milestone for the education publishing industry. Analysts watching the market have long waited for the revenue streams to cross as a symbolic milestone that the transition from textbooks to digital course materials has entered a new phase. But the way publishers define ‘digital sale’ raises questions about whether or not their announcements may not reflect the nuance of the sales of course materials. At Cengage, for example, a digital sale can mean selling access to one if its digital products, but also selling an ebook, a textbook bundled with online components or digital supplementary material. McGraw-Hill Education does things slightly differently.”

Competency for the Traditional-Age Student. “Customization is a big part of the degree’s novelty. Incoming students will be able to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor to create personalized plans of study, Purdue said, which will blend technology-focused disciplines such as computing, construction management, engineering, and aviation with social sciences, the humanities and business.”

“I Love Learning; I Hate School.“ “Some of my inquiry was fueled by experience and some by academic inquiry, which over time converted into an emotional transformation. I think the epiphany was that I could study the structure of education and childhood from an anthropological perspective, rather than taking it all personally as the result of individual choices. Then there was slow and steady transformation as I came to see that all my assumptions about the naturalness and benefits of conventional schooling were mistaken. Most people don’t learn as well in school as they do outside school. People like me, who love school, are the exceptions.”

The GDP—Higher Ed Link. “They calculate that the increase in national GDP per person as a result of doubling the number of universities in just one region can be as high as 0.5 percent, with the development of research-based universities offering Ph.D.s in advanced Western economies appearing to have the greatest effect. Van Reenen told Times Higher Education that the findings were ‘consistent with the idea that there isn’t a natural block on wanting to expand the number of universities.’ Looking at GDP gave a fuller picture of universities’ economic impact than simply looking at graduate salaries, he argued.”

The Odd Couple: How Ed Tech Must Support Vastly Different Types of Professors. “To understand academic needs, it helps to gain a better understanding of the people making the decisions on whether and how to use an LMS. For a majority of institutions, this means professors. They are seen as the primary users, more so even than students. But one mistake to avoid is lumping all faculty members into an amorphous mass that can be measured with a simple metric of how fast they adopt the system. How many professors use these features? How many faculty members are satisfied with the system?”

The “Sacredness” of Social Media. “My posting and trolling on social media — well, it’s for me. As a professional, I want to be in conversation with others in the guild with whom distance, time and just plain inconvenience preclude our dialogue. A retweet here, a like there, and a message or two allows me to be in touch with colleagues and potential collaborators. This is the space where I can expand my academic, social and cultural horizons. I discover the latest article, the newest book or most recent political movement. This is not where I want to expend more energy fielding student inquiries about the syllabus or an assignment. Establishing such lines of professor-student demarcation is not about weariness from responding to student queries.”

A Flexible and Personal Learning Environment. “I appreciate three items in the SURF document that are particularly well-articulated. The first is coverage of the diverse perspectives of what “integration” means. The visual integration of learning tools and how they are accessed is a focus of this document as are the data/analytics perspective and the systems perspective. Sometimes, in my opinion, the first perspective is overlooked, and the second and third are lumped together.”

Undepersonalized Teaching vs. Learnification. “A central element of her talk was on the ‘learnification’ of education; that is, how the teacher disappears from the conversation about ‘good’ education and the whole thing gets reduced to learners gobbling up little learning objects to get their competency level-up, like a human game of Pac-Man. This is one reason why Phil and I felt it was important to reframe ‘personalized learning’ as a set of teaching practices that we called ‘undepersonalized teaching’ in our recent EDUCAUSE Review article.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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