ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

The List. “Simply releasing the watch list doesn’t amount to upfront quality control or regulation; at best, it’s a sort of rearguard action designed for damage control. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but we need much more.  The discussion needs to shift from “for profits good” vs. “for profits bad.” Let’s restrict the realm of competition to actual quality, and then let the best providers win, whoever they are.  In the meantime, I’m glad the list will be public. The public needs to know.”

The Internet of Things Is Coming for Your Children. “The kind of technology Max Meyers envisions is meant to bring greater efficiency to the classroom, but as I have argued many times in this space, efficiency is not a value that should be applied to education absent other considerations like community, or quality, or in the present case, equality. On the surface, perhaps the techno-futurist vision of focused and engaged learners is attractive, but we shouldn’t be so quick to discard the parts of the classroom experience that seem like chaff. The couple of minutes it takes to pass out that worksheet or transition to the next activity serves as a breather, a clearing of the senses and preparation for what’s next. The student staring into space whose EEG shows low cognitive energy may be daydreaming about what they might do ten years from that moment. That seems like a small price for a little inattention.”

On Labels, Institutional Sexism, and Dialogue. “What I do hope that our community can discuss is the power of social media to polarize. The role that Twitter and blogs and commenting can have in pushing us to the extremes of a debate. How the flip side of social media’s ability to democratize and open up our discussions is the mediums tendency to segregate us into opposing ideological camps. I also hope to discuss with all of you the power of labels.”

The End of College? Not so Fast. “In his claim that MOOCs and other online learning materials will replace colleges and universities, Carey also provides a very narrow view of the goals of higher education. A bachelor’s degree is more than just a collection of individual courses; college — when done right — also satisfies other developmental objectives, including extracurricular learning, developing interpersonal communication skills (of both the online and face-to-face variety), and instilling a sense of an individual’s role in a democratic society.”

Reshape Higher Ed by 2020. “The report cites 18 key technology topics that are expected to have a significant impact on higher education technology planning and decision-making worldwide over the next five years. These topics are further subdivided into six trends, challenges and developments. The six tech developments selected for the report should be familiar to anyone who has kept up with education trends over the past five years. But the Horizon Report goes a bit further than just familiarizing readers with each topic’s technological significance — it predicts how long it will be until the trends’ impacts are felt in higher education.”

About the Diverging Textbook Prices and Student Expenditures. “It is important to look at both types of data – textbook list prices and student expenditures – to see some of the important market dynamics at play. All in all, students are exercising their market power to keep their expenditures down – buying used, renting, borrowing, obtaining illegally, delaying purchase, or just not using at all. And textbook publishers are suffering, despite (or largely because of) their rising prices. But there are downsides for students. There are increasing number of students just not using their required course materials, and students often delay purchase until well into the academic term. Whether from perceived need or from rising prices, this is not a good situation for student retention and learning.”

Will a “teacherless” online learning model really work? “Dedicated students, she said, can earn a degree 30 percent more quickly and for half the cost of students enrolled at a traditional four-year university. Rather than offering semesters, WGU is organized into six-month periods, each costing roughly $3,000. Students can take as many classes as they can handle in each period. But a Washington State study of more than 50,000 students found that those who enrolled in online courses were more likely to fail or drop out of school than students who enrolled on brick-and-mortar campuses. A Columbia University study found similar results.”

Many Enroll, Few Finish, Moocs March On: How Online Courses Are Changing Higher Ed. “MOOCs are not over, however; they are evolving. And as they do, they are also changing the way courses are taught on campus. Anant Agarwal, MIT professor and CEO of EdX, likes to talk about “unbundling” the components of education, including content. He notes that most professors have long been comfortable teaching from textbooks written by other scholars. So why not use another’s lectures and slides? A MOOC, says Agarwal, can be seen as a “new-age textbook.” Other educators talk about using MOOCs to “flip the classroom”; that is, leaving lectures to the virtual experience, thereby freeing up precious classroom time for discussion, debate, and one-on-one interactions.”

Dept. Names More Than 550 Colleges It Has Put Under Extra Financial Scrutiny. “Of the 556 colleges on the list as of March 1, 69 face the stricter form of heightened cash monitoring known as HCM 2. Institutions under that level of scrutiny must first disburse to students the loans and grant money that they are entitled to, and must then provide detailed information on each recipient before being reimbursed by the department. The 69 institutions on the HCM-2 list include include six public universities, 18 private nonprofit colleges, and 39 for-profit colleges in the United States, plus six institutions overseas.”

Cash Monitoring List Unveiled. “The department continued to keep secret the identities of 21 of the 69 colleges that it placed on the highest level of monitoring, which means that department employees manually approve every dollar that flows to an institution. Nearly all of those unidentified colleges were on that status because a federal audit of the institution resulted in ‘severe findings.‘ ‘We have ongoing investigations at each of those institutions and we fear that, at this point, releasing those names would impede the progress of our investigation,’ Mitchell said in an interview. He said the names of those colleges would eventually be released as the investigations are completed.”

Will Ratings Displace Accreditation? “Accreditation is about judgment of academic quality in the hands of faculty members and academic administrators. It is about the commitment to peer review — academics reviewing academics yet accountable to the public — as the preferred, most effective mode of determining quality. It is about leadership for academic judgment when it comes to such factors as curriculum, programs, standards and strategic direction remaining in the hands of the academic community. In contrast, a ratings system is a path to a government model of quality review in place of the current model of academics as the primary judges of quality.”

Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Response. “RACC is best read as a counterargument to the position that holds that technology and unbundling will unlock great value. It suggests that colleges as institutions need to be more directive, not less, and that they need to double down on the human connections that actually matter for community college students. (The crash-and-burn experience of MOOCs at San Jose State stands as a spectacular test case.) It suggests that rather than ‘ending’ college as we know it, we need to redesign it around the needs of students. RACC is relatively non-prescriptive, befitting its epistemological honesty. But I think it’s fair to describe what its model could look like in concrete terms. A student would start in the first semester with an introductory course that would be a sort of sampler platter for subfields in a given area of interest: business, say, or STEM. That course would serve several purposes: it would give the student a taste of something she actually finds interesting right away, rather than asking her to slog through multiple semesters of generic developmental classes in subjects she never liked before seeing anything she cared about.  It would also help her identify interests within the larger area, so she could be steered accordingly. And it would embed some reinforcement of basic academic skills in a context she would appreciate.”

Collaboration, not Commoditization. “If we mostly wanted to prepare students for routine commoditized work, then of course it might make sense to have faculty focused mostly on transmitting commoditized content and supporting students in routine interactions. But if we want to prepare students for high-value knowledge-intensive work, we will want to have our faculty model those practices in their own work to create and implement opportunities for student learning. If we want students to work in high-value knowledge-intensive organizations, then their years of work in our teaching and learning environment should be an immersion – perhaps an apprenticeship? – in that kind of work culture.”

TOOLS FOR LEADERS: 5 Tables To Expand Your Thinking. “What I like about this table is that it provides three phases for projects: exploration, experimentation, and execution. The table articulates the different objectives and outcomes during those points. It also highlights the role of the leader. Exploring a new service requires a different mental model than implementing one. The ability to separate those processes is critical. It also emphasizes the need for prototyping — instead of rushing into launch.”

Why My MOOC is Not Built on Video. “Videos are nice, they can get you exposed to a new concept for the first time in an agreeable way, but they do not produce learning, on their own. Students need to engage with the concepts in various ways, interact with ideas and problems, work through a process of ‘digestion’ of the learning material. Granted, the general statement above refers to a particular kind of video: the expository ‘lecture video,’ usually a narrated Power Point and sometimes a “talking head” video. These are no better (or worse) than traditional lectures. They are simply convenient because there is no need to travel and sit in the same room with other students and instructor. And because you can rewind and watch again.”

In Due Time. “The prospect of a constant stream of student behavioral data also presents a tantalizing opportunity for researchers who see the internet of things as a means to personalize learning. These days, however, most of the interest in wearable technology concerns smartwatches and fitness bands — especially with Apple’s foray into the market next month — but academics have found limited uses for augmented reality as well, particularly in medicine.”

The Future of On-Campus Higher Education?The education will focus more on skill acquisition than disciplinary topics and therefore the university will be organized around competency hubs, rather than academic fields. This will change the focus of education from what students know to how they use the knowledge.  Faculty will work in cross-disciplinary teams to teach students various competencies and skills.  Based on this new way of teaching and learning, the school will replace transcripts with skill prints – a ‘dynamic portfolio of student skills and experiences . . . designed to show employers not what they have taken, but what they have to give.’”

Communication, Privilege, and Community. “The force the reaction to what I wrote on Friday took me by surprise. I had thought I was writing in defense of a less polarizing type of dialogue, but what I wrote was read as an attempt to silence and disempower. I had thought that what mattered was my intent, but my writing clearly caused pain and created a reaction that I had not expected or anticipated.  If my goal is to create more space for positive dialogue and understanding, then I need to act in a way that helps create more positive dialogue and understanding. I’m hoping that this post at least starts to open up that space.”

Innovative Knowledge-Practice Networks. “The good news is that infrastructures to enable such interactions with wider discipline communities for professional teaching are beginning to emerge ‒ and now need to be nurtured, tested, and extended.  As an example of the emerging innovations that take these ideas further, the development of open course frameworks is intended to provide an infrastructure for knowledge sharing and resource adaptation: the faculty community engages around a shared course resource base that can be Reused, Revised, Remixed, Redistributed and Retained. The base artifacts consist of a set of shared learning activities and resources for learning in a topic area, along with module and course designs using and adapting the shared resources for different contexts

What We Have and Haven’t Learned. “We’ve also come to understand that student learning is just as important as teaching and is not the inevitable outcome of teaching, even very good teaching. More than 15 years ago, student learning was rediscovered by college teachers and we’ve learned much about it since then. Our knowledge has been supplemented by recent advances in neuroscience that have moved us beyond a fixed set of learning styles and to the complexity and individuality of learning. Many teachers are exploring the instructional implications of what’s known about learning, but so far most of us are just scratching the surface. We have yet to truly understand that when learning becomes the expressed goal of teaching, that’s a radical realignment with the potential to change every aspect of instructional practice.”

Real Cost of Open Access Publishing. “Through a series of focus groups and surveys, as well as data collection, the partners will produce a financial model to help university administrators and librarians develop open access policies and strategies. Besides experts in scholarly communications, the project will also explore authors’ attitudes toward open access publishing fees and collaborate with information providers Elsevier, which produces Scopus; Thomson Reuters, which produces Web of Science; and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, whose membership includes several hundred scholarly and professional publishers.”

Who’s Taking MOOCs? Teachers. “In free online courses offered by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, teachers are increasingly the students. A study by the two universities has found that teachers are enrolling in their MOOCs in high numbers. The study examines data from some one million MOOC students who enrolled in courses at edX, the nonprofit learning platform started by Harvard and MIT. Some one-fifth of participants answered a survey about their background in teaching, and 39 percent of them said they were current or former teachers.”

How Lots of Community-College Data Fall Through the Cracks. “The omission stems from a classification problem in the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or Ipeds, which does not specifically identify ‘community colleges.’ Instead, colleges are grouped by the highest level of degree offered at the campus and the sector. When researchers want to isolate data on community colleges, they often pull associate-degree-granting institutions or two-year colleges. But that approach excludes community colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees — even if they make up less than 1 percent of degrees conferred. Of course this also causes a problem when classifying traditional colleges because some community colleges end up being counted with traditional four-year colleges and universities.”

Getting Students Thinking About Thinking. “At a certain point, students have to have the skills to learn from their mistakes. That’s where metacognition comes in. Metacognition is essentially ‘thinking about thinking.’ It’s the processes through which we analyze, monitor, and regulate our thinking and learning practices, with an eye to bettering those practices. There’s now more than 30 years of research into the value of metacognition in the classroom, and that research has led to a whole host of conclusions. But it’s fair to say that, broadly speaking, better metacognition equals better learning.”

Why America’s obsession with STEM education is dangerous. “This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future. The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that ‘it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.’ Innovation is not simply a technical matter but rather one of understanding how people and societies work, what they need and want.”

Increasing education: What it will and will not do for earnings and earnings inequality. “These observations will not come as a surprise to most labor economists. Those of us who argue for the imperative of increasing skills are not staking out that position because we believe it will close the gap between the rich and the middle—or between the exorbitantly rich and the merely rich. Rather, we take that position because higher levels of skills will improve the economic position of those around and below the middle of the current earnings distribution. On average, more education does translate into more-valuable skills, and the results of our simulation exercise support that view. At the same time, they make it clear that increasing the share of working-age men that have college degrees will do very little to decrease the overall level of earnings inequality.”

The digital divide: laptop equity at the University. “Fishman said the ‘digital divide’ is clearly and fundamentally an equity issue because students with personal laptops have a much easier time getting their work done. ‘Even when you provide a full scholarship to college, there’s all these unintended costs of college — so just buying books can be a struggle,’ he said. ‘And if you can afford to buy all the books that are on your course list and have them in your dorm room, that gives you an inherent advantage over someone who has to go read them on reserve all of the time. It’s the same thing with laptops and other kinds of technology.’ Fishman said instructors should be aware of what ‘implicit assumptions’ their course syllabi make about their students’ access to certain resources, such as technology. He said there are many contexts in which instructional technology is an imperative element of the learning process, but added that instructors should consider how to make the required technology available to all students.”

Surveying the MOOC Landscape. “The courses have faced an intense backlash in the years since The New York Times crowned 2012 the Year of the MOOC. What was once a promise to transform higher education has since developed largely in three directions: for faculty, MOOCs provide a laboratory to experiment with digital learning; for researchers, a source of learner data; and for users, an outlet for continuing-education credentials.”

Redesigning Community Colleges. “The focus on low-cost access has encouraged colleges to offer an array of often disconnected courses, programs and support services that students are expected to navigate mostly on their own. Students are confused by a plethora of poorly explained course, program and transfer choices and available programs often do not provide a clear path to success in further education and employment…. While advising, career services and other supports are provided to students who seek them out, those who need such services the most are the least likely to take advantage of them. Community college departments closely monitor enrollment in their courses, but they often do not know which students are pursuing programs of study in their fields and thus do not track students in their programs to ensure that they make steady progress toward achieving their goals for program completion and transfer. Finally, the focus on courses rather than on programs may undermine student learning. Because students are typically allowed to cobble together their schedules from a long list of electives, their programs often lack the sort of coherence that is essential for building skills across the curriculum. Meanwhile, faculty members conduct course design and instruction in isolation from one another.”

Fixing the Surveillance-Industrial Complex. “This faith in ordinary people is enormously valuable. In many ways, those who exploit our data depend upon us believing there is no alternative, that as individuals resistance is futile, that we can’t really do anything about the non-stop intrusive surveillance that is a feature of our everyday lives. Schneier thinks we can turn things around and so devotes a third of the book to solutions, which I’ll try to recap here. First, he spells out principles. We can have security and privacy at the same time, contrary to common rhetoric. Security and surveillance are ‘conflicting design requirements’ and weakening security of our systems to enable surveillance puts us all at risk. Transparency, independent oversight, and accountability are all necessary for society to function (and are all lacking in our surveillance regime). Resilient design will help us overcome imperfections in both technological and human systems. And finally, we need to think about our communications infrastructure as a global system, because when we drill holes in it so we can spy on our enemies (and our citizens), we make ourselves more vulnerable.”

iPads, Hotels, and Learning. “We should probably have a very high bar before we move any physical process to one that is digital. One area that I’m thinking of is grading and commenting on student papers. We seem to be moving quickly to adopt platforms that allow the paper never to be printed, the submission to be all digital, and the comments and grading to be all done on digital platforms. This method can have lots of advantages. Less printing (which is expensive), less paper to carry around, and the availability of digital assessment tools such as rubrics that can be built right into the grading process. Has anyone really stopped to investigate, however, if the act of handwriting marginal comments on a student paper improves the quality of the feedback? Or maybe if students physically get back a marked up paper then the act of receiving, and then processing, the physical paper might encourage greater introspection and thinking.”

The student debt revolt might just work. “On Tuesday, the strikers met with senior officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Education Department and Treasury Department to discuss having their loans discharged under a federal statute to protect college students from fraud. The strikers are among 400 former Corinthian students to have filed what’s known as defense to repayment claims, an appeal to the Education Department to forgive their federal loans on the grounds that Corinthian broke the law. The department has broad authority to cancel loans when colleges close or commit fraud against students.”

How Engaged Learning Can Invigorate Higher Education. “By integrating activities in and out of the classroom into a comprehensive learning experience, engaged scholarship enhances learning and better prepares students to pursue their passions and career goals after graduation. At Brown University, we recently launched an Engaged Scholars Program to explore opportunities to integrate engaged learning into the curriculum. We’re building on existing initiatives and experimenting with new ways to provide students an innovative, integrated educational experience. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned so far.”

Report: More Students Opting To Rent Course Materials. “The fall 2014 edition of Student Watch found that the number of students renting at least one course material in the fall 2014 term increased 100 percent over the fall 2011 term. The report also found that more students are opting for digital course materials and that students find the most value in those materials that their instructors incorporate into class instruction.”

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