ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Rubik’s Cube and School Reform (Part1). “The Rubik Cube is complicated; school reform is complex. I and many others have pointed out the distinction between complicated and complex. This post offers another distinction, one that is crucial for policymakers, practitioners, parents, and researchers to consider before adopting and implementing policies in school curriculum, organization, governance, and pedagogy that touch children and youth. That distinction is: changing school structures and culture to reshape classroom pedagogy is far harder to do than solving Rubik’s Cube.”

Why EdTech Is A Good, But Not Great, Business. “When it comes to edtech, getting the quality and price of the service/platform right is completely insufficient to assure the success of the company. What is necessary is a focus on the relationship between the school and the company, and in particular the faculty and the company. Future edtech innovation needs to begin and be nurtured on our campuses. The problems that edtech players solve must be the challenges that faculty perceive.”

Like “Skin in the Game,” but Smarter. “Massachusetts is taking a smarter approach; instead of punishing institutions when students walk away, it’s rewarding students for staying. As I understand it, the new ‘Commonwealth Commitment’ offers students a ten percent rebate on tuition and fees for each semester that they’re enrolled full-time and get a GPA of 3.0 or better. (Massachusetts has an idiosyncratic relationship between tuition and fees; this applies to the sum of the two.)”

How to Pay for Success in higher education. “We don’t lack evidence-based strategies to increase college success among low-income and first-generation students. Rigorous research shows that investments of various resource intensity, from need-based financial aid grants and college coaching programs to simple email campaigns reminding students to renew their financial aid, can meaningfully improve persistence and completion rates. Nonprofits like Bottom Line and College Forward that have traditionally operated intensive college advising programs in high school are increasingly shifting their models to provide ongoing support to low-income students while they are in college. The challenge lies more in figuring out a way to pay to implement these strategies.”

Ideas and EdTech. “Not only does the edtech community believe in the traditional bundled residential university – we are passionate also believers in a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education – one that can be had at a small liberal arts college or within a larger research institution – is an education designed to teach students to think.”

Metaphor on Rails. “Apparently, the Metro system is faltering because decades of neglect have led to degraded service, which, in turn, is reducing ridership. And why, you ask, has the system been neglected for so long? Divided jurisdiction. With Maryland, Virginia, and DC sharing responsibility, nobody is responsible. Deferred maintenance and short-sighted political decisions. A lack of a dedicated funding stream for operating budgets. Nobody really believes in a safety-first culture; they only believe in it after the fact when something bad happens. Really what they believe in is ‘Me get home first.’ Let’s just say I saw some family resemblances.”

A Kinder, Gentler Syllabus? “The syllabus, like scaffolding that supports an emerging building, requires sound structure and ballast. And it needs a quality of resilience. As a green teacher, I learned that some students (even reluctant readers) are likely to seek loopholes.”

State Higher-Education Spending Is Up, but Not Above Pre-Recession Level. “Nationally, tuition grew just 2.5 percent on average in 2015, the report said, and now makes up a smaller share of per-student revenues, 46.5 percent, than it did two years ago. But that’s still 11 percentage points higher, over all, than it was before the nation’s economy stumbled. In 22 states, tuition still accounts for more than half of the per-student revenues at public colleges, the report said.”

State Support Recovering, but Not Recovered. “Now, as a result of the most recent recessions, public colleges are facing a new normal, the researchers write. Higher education is easier to cut than, say, health care, and those expenses will keep states from fully reinvesting in public colleges. Jane Wellman, a senior adviser with the College Futures Foundation, said that states tend to budget one year at a time. They spend more on public higher education when the economy improves, but they don’t plan for the future.”

Georgia Tech’s Next Steps. “Today, more than two years after launch, the program has seen its first students graduate. Administrators and faculty members at the institute describe it as a success. Students find it challenging but rewarding. Does it matter, then, if the program is not enrolling as many students or generating as much revenue as the institute thought it might three years ago?”

Fading Affordability. “The report defines affordability as reasonable estimates of the total educational expenses for students and families in each state, calculated as a percentage of family income. Educational expenses include tuition and costs of living, minus all grant-based financial aid from federal and state governments and institutions. Students who lack wealth have been hit hardest, the study found, as college has become less affordable since the Great Recession began.”

When You Can’t Check Your Privilege at the Door. “First, I can’t simply check my privilege at the door of the classroom. Acknowledging I’m white doesn’t change me from being a white woman trying to talk about race to a classroom full of students who have either experienced racism or not. I’ve also had to learn to change my expectations for this class and myself, including being okay with feeling uncomfortable for both me and the students.”

Simon’s Watchmakers and the Future of Courseware. “Rather than large, complete works that then accrue stimergic change, we should look forward to a shift towards evolution of sub-assemblies which are composed and recomposed into larger works. It’s this shift away from the industrial textbook model that will radically change (and is already radically changing) what is possible with OER.”

OER: Some Questions and Answers. “This result – that freely available resources can support student learning as well as very expensive resources – runs counter to people’s intuition that “you get what you pay for.” As we see in other areas (e.g., climate change), when the truth differs significantly from people’s beliefs, there can be a steep communications hill to climb. This has certainly been the case for OER, and is the primary reason why it is so critically important that more empirical research on the relative effectiveness of OER be conducted and published in peer-reviewed academic journals.”

The (Lasting?) Value of Libraries. “Perhaps our perspective – connected to all disciplines but beholden to none in particular, with a different perspective on students and how they manage their patchwork academic lives – can help our colleagues remember that we’re teaching students as well as subjects. In some programs, students will go on to work in the discipline they studied as undergraduates, but many don’t, and even if they do things will change quickly. The content knowledge they’re tested on and the readings they do will fade away or become obsolete, but the experience of having posed questions and proposing possible answers of their own may have lasting value.”

Sign of the Times. “Pennsylvania State University is rethinking how it trains future faculty members after doctoral students flocked to a crash course in online teaching. The university had hoped its free, noncredit certificate program, which launched in September, would attract about 30 students interested in developing their online teaching skills. Instead, the program beat that target by a factor of ten. The university is now planning to change its existing professional development program to fit the new course’s mold, emphasizing skills-based education over seat time.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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