ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

The Second Power of Open. “Many conversations about open education begin with cost savings because open is such a powerful lever for making immediate and dramatic progress on issues related to affordability. And because many more people understand cost than understand pedagogy, I don’t expect this will ever change. That’s fine – radically improving affordability is a completely worthy and honorable goal. Perhaps we should start talking about open pedagogy as the ‘second power of open.’ Perhaps that language, which has a clear and specific referent, would help a broader group of people understand that there’s even more to open than they realized.”

The Summer Shift. “Summer teaching is one of the best-kept secrets at community colleges. Many faculty swear that their summer classes are the best classes they teach all year. Every class is different, of course, but for the most part the reasons given are the same. One is acceleration, and the other is ‘visiting’ students. Summer terms are usually much shorter than the standard 15 week semester. Seven weeks is pretty standard, though I’ve seen variations involving four or five. Students typically take fewer classes at a time, and focus more intensely on the few they’re taking. From an instructional perspective, that offers a rare luxury. You can build rapport quickly when you see students four or five days a week, and their attention isn’t as divided as it can be when they’re taking five classes at a time. ‘Visiting’ students are students who are seeking degrees elsewhere (“matriculated”), but are taking classes at the community college over the summer.”

Previous LMS For Schools Moving to Canvas in US and Canada. “Josh could have answered that Canvas actually has picked up more clients formerly using Learn than those using ANGEL, but a small portion of Learn includes those using the discontinued Basic edition. Nevertheless, there are quite a few wins coming from systems that have not been discontinued, which I think was the main point of the question.”

6 Reasons to Jump at the Chance to Speak at Another College. “#1 – Preparation Requires Hard Work and Reflection: Getting ready to talk about your work with colleagues at another school forces you to think really hard about your work.  It is a challenge to synthesize the efforts that you are working on into a presentation that is concise, impactful, and related to what your audience cares about.”

Warrior Consciousness. “[O]ne of the first lessons I have to teach my students is that questions are good things. I tell them that I can’t know what they don’t know and need to know until they tell me what they need to know so I can help them be successful in the class, which, by the way, is what I’m paid to do — that is, help them be successful. I have to tell them over and over again that questions are valued. And I have to demonstrate that they can trust me that asking questions will not make them vulnerable to ridicule and further shaming. Questions drive the kind of learning college wants from us. And admitting that we don’t know something is the only way to target what we need to learn.”

Plato in Marketing Class. “Champlain has constraints — namely staying true to its pre-professional mission. The result is decidedly off-menu: a strict, interdisciplinary general education program with requirements for all four years, in which students must integrate what they’re learning in their other, more career-oriented courses. It’s not a traditional liberal arts curriculum, but Champlain’s vertical Core, as it’s known, achieves the dual aims of making the college distinct among its peers and adding texture and depth — and an arguable edge — to students’ pre-professional educations.”

Higher ed enrollments decline. Again. “These charts shows the data broken down by sector, and shows how the for-profit sector is the national leader in hemorrhaging students, losing 9.3% in just one term.  Community colleges are next, seeing a 2.8% drop.  Four-year institutions actually enjoyed increases, if puny ones (0.6 and 0.7, public and private). There’s an interesting age shift, with adult learners declining more rapidly than traditional-age students.”

Do Print Books Have a Future in Tomorrow’s Classroom? “Print, she notes, can’t complete with certain aspects of the digital experience, which in Willig’s view changes not just the role of content but its very definition. “’What is content?’ she says. ‘That is a fundamental question. If all it is a flat experience of a page of long-form reading, the value is starting to shift… When content is delivered within a higher-value proposition built around data — with a recommendation engine, remediation, all the things that data can inform — it’s a different story.’ What Willig is describing is at the heart of what makes McGraw-Hill a learning science company.”

7 Reasons To Treat Your Career as an Experiment. “5 – A Willingness to Fail: The process of knowledge creation is never smooth.  Big advances don’t happen without big failures. We think of experiments that don’t work as a normal part of the scientific method. If everything always goes well in our careers then we are probably doing something wrong. A totally smooth career is most likely a sign of inadequate ambitions. If we want to make a real difference in our work then we will have to accept that most of the time things will not work out as we planned. This sort of resilience is easy to talk about and hard to practice.”

Pledging to Graduate on Time. “The 1,479 incoming students who took the university’s pledge in 2012 signed their names on a piece of paper and promised to register for classes on time, follow a structured curricular plan and talk with an academic adviser at least once a semester. Students also took an assessment designed to help them choose a major and career path as part of the pledge. And they have to be in an approved major by the time they complete 60 credits, which typically is the midpoint to a bachelor’s degree.”

Opening Up the Repository. “The university believes automation is the answer. Last week, UF announced a first-of-its-kind pilot to link the repository with ScienceDirect, Elsevier’s online journal and ebook catalog. Instead of filling the repository with tens of thousands of journal articles, the university is using application programming interfaces (APIs) to search ScienceDirect on a regular basis for new articles published by UF researchers. The repository stores the metadata gathered from those searches, presenting it as though the researchers themselves took the time to type up and submit the articles’ titles, collaborators, time of publication and more.”

The Limits of Competition. “While those just above the threshold worked harder to maintain status, those below seemed to accept their fate as low achievers, fulfilling the prophecy with even worse performance. As sociologist Elizabeth Popp Berman says in a post commenting on the study, ‘The lesson here is that while yes, people respond to incentives, they do so in social contexts. You can’t just assume incentives are going to have similar effects on all groups of people, or ignore the effects of new status groups that are produced.’ Having been branded low achievers, these students fulfilled their “destinies.” They also experienced social costs and ostracizing.”

Limiting Loans? “If we want to avoid defaults, reducing access to loans is likely to lead to students working even more hours for pay. That will lead to more dropouts, and therefore to more defaults. Instead, we should reduce the _need_ to borrow. Students don’t borrow recreationally. They borrow because they need the money. Reduce the need, and you can reduce the borrowing. That could be accomplished through increased aid to colleges so they could hold down or reduce tuition. It could work through better pay for work-study jobs on campus, which have been shown to improve student success. It could work through a conscious national push for OER, to reduce textbook costs. It could work through streamlined developmental sequences, to reduce time to completion. But reducing access to loans isn’t the answer. It’s attacking the symptom.”

The University And The Future of Work. “Being a soloist is a dream for some and a necessity for others. The increase in independents include corporate downsizing, as well as the fact that many organizations can outsource creative work (everything from market research, to product design, to training and development); many people freelance for extra income, some pursue a post-retirement dream, others are looking to turn a hobby into a business, and others want to make their work fit their life instead of the other way around.”

“Transforming” Public Schools: Enough already with an Overhyped Word!What exactly is to be transformed?  school structures? Cultures? Classroom teaching? Learners? Public schools as an institution are complex organizations with many moving parts, some being tightly coupled to one another while some are often unconnected to one another. What, then is the target for the ‘transformation?’”

Whom Do College-Affordability Efforts Help the Most? “At a time when the presidential primaries have refocused attention on income disparity, and new data show the socioeconomic divide on campuses getting wider, some policymakers want to change these programs to better help lower-income students. Without these students, the United States can’t meet its goal of increasing the proportion of the population with degrees, a measure by which several economic rivals now have an advantage. But such reforms are given long odds even by the people who support them. Meanwhile, still more obstacles are being put up in the way of the same low-income students politicians and university officials say they want to help.”

“Grit” and Personalization. “I can’t help but see this through the lens of Choral Explanations. In that article we noticed that the way proficient programmers came to understand things on help sites was *not* by banging their head against the best explanation, but by scanning a number of alternate explanations until something ‘clicked’. This differs from the current “gritty textbooks” approach to teaching.”

Let Accreditors Do What Does the Most Good for Students. “But the department’s determination to have accreditors give greater weight to bright-line indicators — rates of retention, graduation, job placement, student-loan repayment and defaults — is disturbing. There are differences between the data we collect to assess quality, the data the department requires to enforce financial-aid and regulatory compliance, and the data legislators seek to develop policy. This new guidance “encourages” accrediting agencies to collect data for purposes that are clearly outside of their missions. As we’ve seen with the department’s heralded College Scorecard initiative, data dumps and rating systems lack any degree of nuance and force institutions to focus more on outcomes — some of which they have no control over — rather than explore the myriad underlying causes of low performance in an effort to map a path toward improvement.”

Determining a Student’s Place. “Community colleges have known for years now that placement tests alone aren’t a great measure for determining the skills of incoming students. So more colleges are using multiple measures for placement, such as students’ high school grade point averages or scores on college entrance exams. But even that comes with challenges, as colleges decide which measures carry the most weight and what to do for students who may not have those additional measurements.”

4 European higher education trends that could benefit the U.S. “Key focus areas for the upcoming decade identified by the Bologna Process and EHEA include equitable access and degree completion, lifelong learning, employability, student-centered learning, research and innovation, international mobility for students and faculty, optimization and improvement of data collection methodologies, and diverse funding models. There are also four key topics that center on becoming more globalized, including: public responsibility for and of higher education within national and regional contexts; global academic mobility; global and regional approaches to quality enhancement of higher education; and the contribution of higher education reforms to enhance graduate employability. All of these efforts have helped the United States to better understand the credentials of European students, and the increased openness has lead to a major rise in students crossing the Atlantic for college or pursing joint or dual degrees. While higher education faces similar challenges on both continents, this increased collaboration has helped both sides to work together to improve their systems and support a greater number of learners than ever before, notes the report.”

4 Ways My Alt-Ac Interests Have Changed. “Developing (and teaching in) online programs is the best opportunity to learn about learning.  Online learning programs have been the most consequential faculty development programs of the past two decades. Like most converts to learning theory, I became (and remain) a true believer. Technology is always interesting – in the sense that technology is really a code word for change. People impatient with the status quo tend to gravitate towards technology. The evolution from a technologist to a learning person involves accepting the idea that technology is never the goal, only the means.”

Appropriate use of MOOCs. “Today the OU, FutureLearn and University of Leeds announced a mechanism by which you can gain credit for studying MOOCs and transfer this to count towards a degree. Getting this set up is the type of thing that just takes ages and lots of negotiation (we never cracked it with SocialLearn), so well done to all those involved. Some will suggest this marks the beginning of the much heralded unbundling of higher education. But I am increasingly inclined to always resist big claims, and instead focus on more modest, realisable ones. I don’t think this model will appeal to everyone, and is unlikely to massively transform the university sector. But what it does allow is more flexibility in the higher education offering.”

Key Tensions in the Field of Learning Analytics. “Efforts have been made to distinguish learning analytics from its adjacent areas. Academic analytics, an area that was mostly inspired by business intelligence (Goldstein & Katz, 2005), have been mentioned frequently with learning analytics. In contrast to academic analytics, which is focused on institutions and administrators without much attention to pedagogy, learning analytics is more directly concerned with teachers and learners by attending to micro-patterns of learning (Long & Siemens, 2011). Educational Data Mining (EDM), a field that emerged a few years earlier, is also associated with learning analytics. According to Siemens (2013), while learning analytics is more concerned with sense making and action, EDM is more focused toward developing methods specifically for the exploration of data that are originated from educational settings.”

Comparing Fully-Online vs Mixed-Course Enrollment Data. “Some notes: For graduate students in all sectors, Fully-Online is more common than Mixed-Course; For private not-for-profit and for for-profit sectors, Fully-Online is more common than Mixed-Course; The predominant case where Mixed-Course is most common is for public institutions – both 4-year and 2-year – for undergraduate degrees (as Mike pointed out); and Due to the large size of those two public sectors – combined they represent 75% of all enrollments in the US – the overall numbers slightly favor Mixed-Course.”

More Than Tuition: Higher Education and the Social Safety Net. “The plight of low-income students is increasingly well-documented, and the higher education community is slowly but surely paying more attention to these students’ needs. From setting up on-campus food pantries for hungry students to partnering with early education programs to provide childcare while parents attend class, some colleges have found creative ways to address barriers to college attendance that are both inspiring and critical for student success. These in-kind services work in tandem with financial aid to help students cover their living costs, even in unpredictable situations. But what these combined forces have meant is that higher education has become for many the de facto social safety net: through loans and grants, low-income students enrolled in school have access to pivotal financial support, and are in a better place to access other services. This is a mission, however, that most colleges were never designed for, and as a result are often not well suited to provide.”

Large-Scale Adoption of Open Educational Resources as an Institutional Differentiator. “What is also clear is that fully realizing the potential of OER to achieve these outcomes will require a strategic approach, adequate institutional resources and a willingness to transform more fundamental aspects of the traditional model of delivering education. … ‘No additional cost to the student’ does not mean no cost for the institution. At UMUC, the large-scale transition from textbooks required a team-based approach for each step of development, from discovery of OER, to vetting for quality, to reviewing for licensing and ADA compliance, to embedding within the learning environment.”

What’s in a name? “This conflation of MOOC and online learning means that MOOC failures become the failure of all online learning, and MOOC future becomes the future of all online learning. It’s more important than that, so we shouldn’t cede the ground to lazy terminology. That’s why I’m pedantic about the use of the term. Or maybe I’m just pedantic.”

Enlisting Allies. “The key here is in recognizing that community colleges best serve struggling students when they’re well-funded, and their funding occurs in a political context. To the extent that people of influence and affluence see community colleges as social welfare agencies, they’ll treat them accordingly. To the extent they see community colleges as exciting and important, they’ll fund them accordingly.  And those funds will benefit those who most need it.”

Higher Ed Lessons From the Mall of America? “So what higher ed lessons (if any) can we learn from the Mall of America? There may be lessons around experiences vs. transactions.  You go to the Mall of America to experience the Mall of America.  Much of the money spent at Mall of America (I’m guessing) is for things like rides, dining, mini golf, and that aquarium.  The sheer spectacle of the place brings people through the door. Traditional campus based institutions that build their business models on transactional relationships will not have a bright future.  For at least part of the postsecondary market, the smart play will be bundle more value into the higher education experience.”

States that tie higher education funding to performance have it all wrong, report says. “Author Nicholas Hillman, an assistant professor of education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, argues that financial incentives are blunt policy instruments that fail to take into account the complexity of educational outcomes. Students can be derailed from graduating for many different reasons, including a lack of academic preparation or money. Colleges with ample resources can readily address those needs to raise graduation rates, but schools with limited means often struggle.”

UC Davis, Sakai, and Open Source. “In the meantime, I’d like to put the Scriba outage in context of how open source works in general and how the Sakai ecosystem works in particular. Because it is very easy for this stoy to reinforce preconceptions rather than looking at it carefully on its own merits.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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