ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

In Which I Consider Resorting to a T-Shirt Cannon. “Second, they demonstrate that, as I’ve argued here serially, “transfer is workforce.” Humanities majors at community colleges generally intend to transfer for four-year degrees and often beyond.  Many of the best-paying jobs require a bachelor’s degree or more. Given the steadily-increasing cost gap between two-year and four-year schools, the financial argument for transfer is getting stronger, and students are responding rationally. Politicians who look at “workforce” programs (that is, terminal associate’s or certificates) as “real” and transfer programs as “fuzzy” or “indulgent” miss the point. There is a cold, hard rationality to doing a transfer degree first, and students know it.”

Skin in the Game. “What’s missing from the equation is the idea that academic success is a two-way street where students’ academic preparation, motivation and effort do as much to shape the outcomes we care about as the resources institutions provide them. In its absence, the obvious consequences of policies that only hold colleges accountable for outcomes that they share control over is that they put their effort into the things they can control — which, in this case, is picking students they think are most likely to succeed. All of this means that the losers from skin-in-the-game proposals end up being students who have less academic preparation and who come from underresourced school districts.”

Untangling the Web of Student-Teacher Communication. “We use a range of communication strategies for helping students learn. Although I would like to tell you that there is a clear list that says “do this” and “don’t do that,” communicating with students is not that straightforward. Being good at it requires a high level of communication competence—an awareness of what’s appropriate for the situation, the skills to perform that way, and the motivation to do so. Additionally, our effectiveness grows from a willingness to challenge some of our beliefs about what good teachers say and do.”

Transfers are more common among college students, and schools must adapt. “For colleges and universities, the stats represent a test of institutional adaptability. Much is riding on Minnesota schools’ ability to serve transfer students well — academically, financially, socially. Schools are obliged to ensure that their policies governing transfer of academic credit are not unduly restrictive; that their financial-aid policies are realistic for older students; that their academic requirements and pricing policies are not punitive for those who don’t finish in four years, and that their orientation programs aren’t just for freshmen anymore.”

A Retrospective on Implementing Common Course Management Systems. “Last year we at MindWires helped OEI select a Common Course Management System (yes, they use the CMS language instead of LMS) by providing market analysis and facilitating the group decision-making process. This year they asked us to review similar efforts at other consortia in the US and Canada. The point of a CCMS is not the technology platform itself but rather what the common e-learning infrastructure could allow a consortium to do – address issues such as course redesign, professional development, student support, etc.”

Transforming Teaching at Fresno State with Tablets. “California State University, Fresno had all kinds of reasons to implement a mobile device program. For one thing, new students arriving from local high schools with broad 1-to-1 initiatives, including Fresno Unified School District, Clovis Unified and Central Unified, increasingly expected tech in the classroom. Also, like all public institutions, Fresno State is big on reducing the cost of college. Being able to use open educational resources widely across campus could go a long way toward that goal — achievable only if students were outfitted with a means for working with those digital resources. But perhaps the most compelling reason to launch “DISCOVERe,” the university’s tablet program, was to nudge its faculty into integrating technology into their courses and teaching.”

Predictive Analytics for Publishing. “Meta, formerly known as Sciencescape, believes data analytics can benefit all of those groups. The company has built a “knowledge graph” similar to the one Google uses for its own search service (though, at the moment, only for biomedical research) that aggregates data about who publishes, and who reads, what. … The public-facing side of the knowledge graph is a free literature discovery platform, Meta Science, which was introduced last month. At the time of launch, the platform featured more than 62 million journals, researchers and topics. Like Google, Meta Science learns about its users’ search patterns, ranking articles based on their interests and tracking trending topics.”

Jeff Selingo’s ‘There Is Life After College.’ “In particular, I hope that my colleagues at liberal arts institutions make time to read and discuss this book. Selingo does a real service in rejecting the typical liberal arts / occupational readiness divide.  His argument is that a liberal arts education is the best possible preparation for a dynamic and unpredictable job market, as skills in communication, problem solving, critical thinking, team work, and leadership will be most in demand.  At the same time, the analytical and communications skills stressed in a liberal arts program of study should be complemented with job and industry specific skills – such as facility with the computer applications and programs most utilized within a given occupation.”

The Student Debt Crisis at State Community College. “Still, community college students historically haven’t had to borrow to finance their education. Tuition usually runs a few thousand dollars a year — from $1,400 in California to $7,500 in Vermont. Low-income students who qualify for the maximum federal Pell Grant — $5,815 this year — usually find that their grant covers tuition. Yet increasingly, community college students are borrowing. In Virginia, one of the few states to publish detailed student debt information, the share of community college students graduating with debt has more than doubled over the past decade.”

The Battle for “Personalized Learning.” “We do not want or expect to create a definitive list of teaching techniques that define personalized learning. But higher ed needs a general term that focuses attention on student needs and teaching practices that can support those needs rather than on product features and computational plumbing. Since “personalized learning” is both widely known and nearly perfectly meaningless—all we know is that it has something to do with individual persons, learning, and technology—it seems like a good fit.”

The problem that school choice has not solved. “Has school choice been able to interrupt the strong link between home environments and academic success? Not yet, according to a new analysis of New York City high school graduation rates. Researchers found that — a decade after the city adopted a universal school choice policy for high school students — a child’s likelihood of graduating on time remains tightly linked to the poverty rate, household income and adult educational attainment in that child’s neighborhood.’

No More ‘Job for Life.’ “Ray Cross, president of the University of Wisconsin System, wrote in a March email to the vice president of the system’s Board of Regents, who was chairing a task force on controversial changes to layoff policies concerning tenured faculty members, that tenure should not mean ‘a job for life,; according to public records first obtained by the The Cap Times. ’That is a “union” argument,’ Cross wrote to Regent John Behling, comparing faculty members to railroad brakemen whom he said were kept on the job for years after they were no longer needed.

Barack Obama Is a College Graduate. “Barack Obama didn’t show up in IPEDS statistics as a college graduate. That’s because he transferred before graduating. I’d say he’s done okay for himself. I love the #CountAllStudents campaign. It’s an effort to share anecdotes of students who attended both community college and a four-year college, eventually graduating from the latter, but showing up in the official numbers of neither. Students who fit that profile are far more common than most people realize, and missing them can lead to terrible policy decisions.”

The Millennial Learners. “The change in the traits and needs of the learner is forcing the educational system to adapt to the learners, and not vice versa. EdTech has grown popular as Millennials have grown up in a dynamic and technology-driven environment. It features prominently in education. The approach to teaching the Millennial generation has also seen a change. With information being so easily available – just a Google search away, accessible anytime, anyplace – the role of a teacher is shifting to that of someone who facilitates learning.”

The open ed landscape. “Using this analogy allows some comparisons between the various areas in the open ed landscape. For instance some were more formalised and others more experimental and some are more fragile and others more robust. But there are common elements between all of them, which make them part of this landscape: Enabled by the network – obvious but digital technology drives all of these areas, so we have to understand the key aspects of the digital, networked environment Reallocation of resources – many of the models rely on spending money or using time in different ways, for example in producing open content rather than purchasing copyrighted works.”

We Have Personalization Backwards. “But the big advantage of a tutor is not that they personalize the task, it’s that they personalize the explanation. They look into the eyes of the other person and try to understand what material the student has locked in their head that could be leveraged into new understandings. If you find yourself teaching people something — anything — you’ll see this at work. How many times do you being with the phrase ‘So have you heard of X?’ There you are, looking for the way into the explanation.”

Why a ‘Big-Picture Education’ Has Never Been More Important. “ So an institution should have clear goals for the kind of big-picture learning students need – the broad learning in the liberal arts and sciences, clarity about intellectual skills, clarity about the kinds of practices that students ought to engage in, like research, like service, like project-based learning, collaborative learning. And they ought to have clarity that these things are well-designed into the curriculum.”

Philosophy at Home. “Before its emergence as a department within the modern research institution, philosophy had in fact long been deeply engaged with the world. At its heart, philosophy is a broad human activity requiring a heightened attunement to the environment we inhabit and a cultivated ability to respond to complexity with nuance and a sense for what is just.”

3 Theories Why We Are Intrigued By Mobile Learning. “In this vision, higher education is not a campus based activity.  Nor is higher education about seat time or diplomas.  Rather, higher education is a lifelong endeavor (following secondary graduation) that is competency based, occupation related, and mediated by the mobile phone.”

The Power of Community – Why Much of Scholarly Publishing Is Unlikely to Change Quickly. “But it’s three major business model shifts that have shaken community journals’ place in the world — because they make us think of journals as peddling commoditized content, not community assets. One of the first business model shifts that led us down this road toward thinking of content as a commodity to be traded in bulk rather than a community asset was the shift away from individual subscriptions and toward institutional site licenses. The response of the larger commercial publishers to create the “Big Deal” (a term which apparently demands both scare-quotes and initial caps, it is so anxiety-provoking) put a pin in the commoditization of content. No longer were we trading solely in relevance to a community — we were now dealing in both relevance and quantity. This change eroded the ability of journals to create affinity among academics and others with their parent membership organizations.”

Math Geek Mom: The Purpose of College. “At the end of the courses, a famous paper from Economics was discussed that describes education as a signal to employers that potential employees are hard workers. As someone who has recently stumbled into conversations with other parents about looming college costs and expectations, this brought back many memories of some recent and some long-ago discussions about what the purpose of a college education truly is.”

Is Your Content Creation Achieving Anything?Connection, Community, and Sharing – Engagement requires a conversation. Building community happens when everyone is feeling heard. If your content misses the context of what your community is “talking” about, your carefully constructed missives will rarely be shared and connections will not be fostered. Spend some time cultivating and tending…that will make your content creation much more meaningful.”

All Purpose. “In my library, we’re having heavy discussions about how we can better support teaching and learning. Students aren’t using the library the way they did even two years ago. Part of it may be that their residence halls offer more privacy and students no longer have to escape them to concentrate, so the library feels less busy. Or it could be that the information they need is easier to find than it once was, or the kinds of assignments faculty make are changing. We want to find out what’s going on and have come up with a research plan to do that next year, but the reason we want to know isn’t that we fear irrelevance. It’s because we believe it’s important for students to have experiences asking their own questions, that the experience of self-directed inquiry is an important and even transformative kind of learning, and we want to see that as many students as possible have those experiences.”

Friday Fragments. “I was heartened to see that the faculty-led panel on Open Educational Resources (OER) was standing-room-only. Even better, two of the professors who had used OER in their classes this Spring reported improved course completion rates, one by double digits. In a survey one professor conducted in two sections at the end of the semester, fewer than half of the students said they “always” buy assigned textbooks, and 16 percent said they never do. Apparently, when more students actually have the material, more of them do the reading. And when every student has the material from day one, fewer fall behind.”

Leave It in the Bag. “When faculty members at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point took away students’ computers and tablets in an introductory economics courses, their students’ grades jumped. The study of those faculty members’ findings, published this month by the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggests that male students and students with high grade point averages at the beginning of their college careers are most susceptible to their grades suffering from device-induced distraction.”

Developing a Flexible Degree. “However, developing a competency-based program, especially of the direct-assessment variety (no classes, per se), is not easy. Everything is new: identifying and describing competencies; developing meaningful assessments; gaining accreditation and federal approval (which we did); recruiting faculty and staff to participate; developing workarounds to student information systems while we develop new ones to support these programs; and explaining the concept again and again to the public, business and government leaders, and prospective students. Add to that the complexity that partnerships bring since, in our case, our current programs are offered in collaboration with other University of Wisconsin institutions.”

Bringing College to Students Who Can’t Leave Home. “Created in 2000, USG essentially lets Montgomery County residents earn bachelor’s and even master’s degrees from nine of the 12 schools that make up the state’s university system all at one stand-alone campus 20 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County. Most students go to local community colleges and then apply to a school (Towson University or the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, for instance) for the final half of a bachelor’s degree or for a graduate degree, specifying that they want to enroll at the USG campus. The individual universities hire their own faculty, and students’ diplomas don’t bear any mark of USG. Graduates are, for all intents and purposes, earning a degree from Towson or a degree from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. But they don’t have to move to do it. And local businesses, from Marriott to Lockheed Martin, know they’ve got college graduates nearby who are already committed to staying in the area.”

Lower income families less likely to use online learning tools. “Parents looking to help their children succeed academically can access free online educational programs, games and services to help them outside the classroom. A plethora of these tools have popped up in recent years in an attempt to close the achievement gap and digital divide between the rich and poor. Instead, the gap seems to be getting larger because of these tools, according to a new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Researchers found that low-income parents are less likely to use these extra resources or, when they do, they do so less effectively because of differences in motivation and parenting practices.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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