ED MAP: Insights Blog

5.4.15 Higher Ed Weekly Read: Articles Worth Reviewing
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Photo credit- Zak Mensah

Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Bringing the Liberal Arts to Engineering Education. “We believe that integrating the liberal arts in engineering education positions future engineers to be successful at anticipating, defining, and solving these problems. Such integrated curricula provide what Richard K. Miller, president of Olin College of Engineering, has referred to as the “missing basics” of engineering education, which include design and creativity, teamwork and interdisciplinary thinking, and understanding the social, political, historical, and economic context of a project — all the hallmarks of a liberal-arts education. Indeed, these traits are recognized by the National Academy of Engineering as critical skill sets for the next generation of engineers. However, significant challenges make this integration difficult to bring about.”

In the Face of Colossal Cuts. “Louisiana’s general fund contribution to higher education this year will be $924 million. But unless the legislature takes action within the next 45 days, that number plummets to $391 million for the next fiscal year, which starts in July. Leaders of the state’s four college and university systems have faced a balancing act over the past few weeks. On one hand, they’ve focused on stressing the vital role higher education plays in the state and the damage the cuts would bring. But they also say they’ve only spent a small amount of time planning for them, because the cuts would be so deep and destructive that the administrators say they have to believe a solution will be found by the end of the Legislative session in June.”

Resource Allocation. “I would never argue with the desirability of having a more outcomes centric model of measuring performance and ultimately allocating resources. All of us in higher education are sensitive to the need for outcomes assessment and I believe the growing importance of measuring outcomes has strengthened the education we provide. But unless the model for judging college or university performance is properly sophisticated we may damage opportunity and undercut the quality of the education provided.”

The industrial education system myth. “When people suggest that schooling is the same as in the industrial change, as Morrissey would have it, this is true, and yet it’s false. I want to explore both the elements that are true (and why that’s not a bad thing) and those that are incorrect, by way of an analogy. … The first question to ask then, is why would you want reading to change? Why is an absence of change deemed a bad thing? Reading a book is a pretty good way to convey an idea, a story, and an enjoyable, enriching thing to do. That it hasn’t changed significantly in 150 years is testament to its value, not a sign of its weakness.”

The Coaching Transformation. “The reality of higher education is that learning rarely happens in rows of seats in front of which stands a charismatic professor in tweed. The academic landscape has changed in dramatic ways, particularly as we use new platforms and technologies to interact with students. Innovative approaches to teaching and learning, such as competency-based education, increasingly rely on coaching models, a method of learning that challenges our popular conception of what it means to be a professor. As faculty members in competency-based graduate and undergraduate programs, we have shifted from professors to coaches, a move that has yielded astounding results in terms of student learning, retention and graduation.”

Don’t Gloat When the Canary Dies. “Within the higher education world, it’s easy to look at the for-profits’ recent struggles as just desserts. In some cases, that’s substantially true. But it misses some key points. First, and most basically, for-profits found ways to serve students that nobody else bothered to serve. Some of those ways were unseemly or unethical, but some were just practical. For obvious reasons, for-profits have powerful incentives to enroll students, so they tend to take a cold, hard look at student success. After all, a retained student is a repeat customer. In my time at DeVry, for example, I noticed a distinct lack of application fees, a small number of majors, and a real reluctance to consign students to developmental or remedial courses. It took the rest of higher education another decade to catch up to some of those ideas.”

ASU / edX GFA Partnership. “The counter-argument is here is two-fold. First, at many postsecondary institutions (and perhaps at ASU) there is already little faculty / student interaction in the larger enrollment first-year introductory courses. The second argument is that, ASU giving credit for introductory open online courses through edX, will actually make courses (and schools) that offer first-year courses at a small (human) scale all the more valuable. What the ASU / edX initiative is replacing is something that nobody thinks makes much sense anyway – the vast and impersonal introductory course built on lectures and high stakes (often computer graded) assessments. What is valuable are classes that encourage and enable a relationship between the educator and the learner, the faculty and the student, and the ASU / edX move to lower the cost of introductory courses recognizes this reality.”

Individuals over Organizations: Five Changes to Prepare Higher Ed for Tomorrow, Today. “Most colleges don’t fully understand strategy. Strategic planning is not the same as setting goals and objectives. Strategy involves recognizing and confronting challenges, then identifying specific actions that will leverage the strength of the organization to address those challenges. This last piece is often difficult for higher education where long-term strategic plans often lose steam and are not implemented. Strategy that is not acted upon becomes just another institutional artifact. It takes discipline to stay the course. And as Jim Collins said in his book Good to Great in the Social Sectors, ‘A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness’.”

Money Talk. “Faculty members often bristle at the ways colleges attempt to cut those costs, either because they feel the logic is not sound — such as when a group of Harvard University professors protested benefit changes last year, saying the cuts wouldn’t save as much money as administrators claimed — or because they believe the proposed changes don’t align with the mission of a college. As more and more faculty resolutions against strategic plans and administrative actions surface, nearly all of them have a common thread: concern over not only the proposed changes, but how those changes are communicated.”

Fallout From Corinthian Collapse. “As Corinthian shut down its remaining campuses on Monday, the Education Department was again defending its role in dismantling the for-profit college chain and facing renewed pressure from congressional Democrats to relieve the federal loans of students who attended Corinthian. The sudden closure of those campuses, which displaced approximately 16,000 students, could cost taxpayers as much as $214 million, according to a department official, who declined to be named.”

Common Core Gets a Footing. “That’s starting to change. Earlier this month, four Delaware colleges announced they would use the Common Core-based Smarter Balanced assessment to measure college readiness and will accept scores in lieu of a separate placement exam. More than 100 colleges in California, 10 in Hawaii, 24 in Oregon, 49 in Washington and 6 in South Dakota use the Smarter Balanced assessment as a placement exam. Two colleges in Colorado and the members of the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents are using the Common Core-based PARCC exam, also known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, to evaluate college readiness.”

Rent Control. “In the academic library world, we’ve seen what happens when we give up ownership. We have a lot of convenience (one big bundle o’ stuff, one invoice, no more fiddling around with acquisition decisions) and seemingly more choice, but the rent goes up steeply and if we can’t pay it, we lose every cent we invested. Publishers consolidate and our intellectual heritage becomes intellectual property that we neither own nor control. The internet itself and the computers we use to access it have provided us with great potential, but as corporations control the “last mile” of access and the devices we use to connect become locked down, what we can do becomes seriously limited.”

Digital Learning Experiences. “One possibility is a digitized version of existing textbooks, supplemented with a wide array of ancillaries – videos, glossaries, quizzes, and links to web resources. These e-textbooks feature highlighting and note-taking tools. Another possibility is the customized textbook in which instructors draw content from a publisher’s asset vault. A growing number of publishers are unbundling their preexisting textbooks to create self-contained modules. But there is another possibility, offering far greater potential for enhancing outside the classroom learning: A next generation digital learning experience. It is a learning ecosystem rather than an e-book plus supplements.”

Louisiana. “With so much volatility in state appropriations, though, intelligent planning is essentially impossible. And people on campus know that, so they’re likely to go to one extreme or the other: either head-in-the-sand denial or outright panic.  In neither case are they likely to do their best work. If the crisis atmosphere continues for any length of time, people with options elsewhere will probably start taking them. At that point, you’re left with people nobody else wants, which means you’ve managed to cut your way to less efficient spending. Ouch.”

State Aid Should Change to Meet Needs of Students, Report Says. “The state aid programs should also be more flexible, the report says, allowing students to see what aid they might receive even before they are accepted into postsecondary programs or programs not tied to the traditional academic calendar. Lastly, the report recommends state aid programs that can be applied to students in nontraditional academic programs, such as competency-based models.”

New Rankings Gauge Colleges’ ‘Value Added’ by Measuring Alumni Outcomes. “The rankings consider how well colleges’ alumni performed on three economic measures: midcareer earnings, student-loan repayment, and ‘occupational earnings power,’ the average salary of occupations in which alumni work. To come up with value-added measures, the think tank compared the performance of a college’s alumni on each gauge to their expected performance based on student characteristics and college type.”

Universities seek alternatives to expensive textbooks. “The University of Minnesota was an early adopter of open resource learning and now maintains a library of roughly 175 open-source textbooks. In an effort to expand that library, the university is reaching out to other universities to build a network of faculty and other experts who can create textbooks from every academic discipline. Part of this process is holding workshops regarding open textbooks at universities across the country, educating faculty about what they are and how they can become involved in writing textbooks and open resource materials.”

Online M.B.A. Reboot. “USC’s balance between asynchronous and synchronous content is the most recent attempt to find a ratio that works for an online M.B.A. With the announcement, the university joins institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which in the past four years have begun to offer their selective M.B.A. programs online. Program directors at those universities say distance education and the technology to support that mode of delivery offer too many opportunities to justify simply recording a lecture and posting it online, but their opinions diverge on the importance of face-to-face meetings, the role of outside firms, pricing and pace, among other components.”

@GoogleForEdu and the Limits of Promoted Tweets. “I do care about what Google is doing in education, but I care about this through the lens of the people at Google. The investment that Google is making in promoting tweets from @GoogleForEdu is fine, it is just not nearly enough. What Google should be doing is investing (in all sorts of ways) in promoting the people who work in Google for Education. Invest in helping these people establish an authentic social media voice and presence. Invest in connecting these people to our larger higher ed community, both in virtual and in physical space. Invest in creating opportunities and platforms that Google education folks can have conversations with our larger postsecondary community. A social media strategy is not a substitute for an outreach and communications strategy.”

Higher Education 2.0 and the Next Few Hundred Years; or, How to Create a New Higher Education Ecosystem. “Of course, we have already moved past the simple model of students entering an institution, following a largely prescribed course of program study, and finishing with a degree that was carefully designed by faculty members. There is no longer only one pathway to a degree: students often cross the degree finish line with any number of unconventional zigs and zags in their journey, including prior learning credits, ACE credits for military training and education, transfer credits from more than one institution, changes of major, certificates earned, and more. Some of those educational experiences will “count” toward the completion of their degree. Others will be relegated to the elective column (adding cost and time to completion). Still others will not be accepted at all, depending on the policies of the institution that is trying to make sense of a student’s learning path.”

What Is Being Learned From MOOCs? New Report Takes Stock. “The goal of the MOOC Research Initiative was to take a step back and get a better understanding of MOOC research and literature. Though the public’s interest in MOOCs has dwindled, academic literature on the subject is on the rise. The researchers examined who was writing about MOOCs, what fields they represented, what type of research has been done, and the various themes in the research that has emerged, Mr. Siemens said. Five key research themes were identified in the report: student engagement and learning success, MOOC design and curriculum, self-regulated learning and social learning, social-network analysis and networked learning, and motivation, attitude, and success criteria.”

Performance-Based Assessment. “As higher education moves toward a more outcome-driven approach that emphasizes mastery rather than seat time, assessment become more and more intrinsic to teaching and learning. The challenge is to embed assessments in every stage of the learning process in ways that empower students and their instructors. Embedded assessments give students the opportunity to critically reflect on their learning and provide instructors with the information needed to assess students’ progress toward learning objectives and to adjust teaching methods to remedy weaknesses or confusions.”

6 Reasons To Help Your Best People Leave. “If your people see you making consistent and active efforts to aid their career development they are more likely to stay with you. Nothing build long-term loyalty faster than a belief that a boss cares about her people. You want your best people to stay in your unit because they want to be their. The job of the manager is increasingly to support those people actually doing the work. This is especially true in higher education, as the work is so complicated and variable that there is no way break it down into precise algorithms, or even to really monitor what is going on. Prioritizing career development, even if that means leaving the organization, will only aid in developing employee internal motivation.”

ASU = edX’s “Cleaner”. “Currently, we have a system where accredited institutions often deny transfer credits (sometimes unjustly) from other accredited institutions in an effort to require students to take more credit-bearing courses (for more money) under their roofs. There is no particular monetary incentive for schools to accept credits once a student has decided to transfer. In fact, it’s the opposite. But ASU is pledging to figure out a way, following “appropriate review and approval,” to give as much credit to edX MOOC completers as possible. The incentive is reversed.”

Sun Devils. “Articulation agreements are supposed to take the guesswork out of transfer. By spelling out in advance which credits will carry over, and for what, students can be assured that they won’t have any unpleasant surprises.  Articulation agreements have to be updated regularly to keep up with curricular changes, but that’s typically how they work. But in over a decade of doing these things at community colleges in two different states, I have never — not once, not ever — seen the acceptance of credits hinge on a fee. I have never seen that. That simply is not done.”

Grants for Today’s Student. “The report offers a number of suggestions beyond expanding the pool of students eligible for grants. It suggests that states make students aware of their grant award as early as possible, even before they enroll in an institution. It also suggests that aid not be tied to academic semesters or quarters, but that it be available for students in programs with alternative enrollment schedules. Authors call for grant aid to be student centered, rather than institution centered.”

Studies: Online Courses Unsuccessful at Community Colleges. “Despite the flexibility, it appears that many students find it hard to manage their time to complete the lectures and coursework throughout an entire semester. Prior studies in Virginia and Washington state, conducted by scholars at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2011 and 2013, found worse outcomes for community college students who take courses online. And two earlier studies, in 2012 and 2014, found the same result as in the recent California study. These are very different results from what researchers are finding for students at four-year colleges. Rigorous studies at four-year colleges have tended to find no difference in student performance between traditional face-to-face lecture courses and online courses.”

Faculty Survey Finds Awareness of Open Educational Resources Low. “Key Findings From the Report. Similar to BSRG’s previous findings for Chief Academic Officers, faculty have little awareness of open educational resources. Depending on the strictness of the awareness measure, between two-thirds and three quarters of faculty classify themselves as unaware of OER. Faculty appreciate the concepts of OER. When presented with the concept of OER, most state they are willing to give it a try. Awareness of OER is not a requirement for adoption of OER. Resource adoption, including OER materials, is often made without any awareness of the specific licensing of the material or its OER status.”

Open Textbooks: The Current State of Play. “Proponents of open textbooks say that they are a ready option, especially for lower-level courses, where much of the content is similar no matter what type of institution offers them. The other main benefit is that open textbooks can be readily updated to include relevant new knowledge, perhaps improving pedagogy. There is also an argument that open textbooks promote active learning by engaging the student more interactively with a text—or even giving that student a chance to contribute to the text’s development.”

Unhappy Anniversary, Google. “In higher education – representing the education sector overall – FERPA legal obligations and ethical considerations of the particular vulnerability young people in learning environments heightens concern and should sharpen our focus. As teachers, administrators and leaders, we have a responsibility to treat this matter with the upmost seriousness and critical scrutiny. That responsibility means asking hard questions about what Google, as well as all other technology education services, are doing with information garnered from education records and students information. That line of inquiry demands greater transparency of business models and accountability of contractual promises. In short, it boils down to genuine, not rhetorical, informed consent.  And it requires that any “mistakes” of the past, such as the construction of profiles on existing or past students, be destroyed in a verifiable process.”

Good or Bad. “One of the issues that consistently comes to the forefront of my thinking is the influence of leadership on organizational culture and how it all relates to technology adoption, experimentation, innovation, creativity, fear, and dissonance. The challenges that I’ve written about when it comes to digital leadership are the same challenges that people share with me when I’m at a campus. We can clearly identify what we know: our leaders influence our organizational culture in profound ways. And, when you add technology and/or social media to the mix, leadership is everything.”

6 Hypotheses Why Internal Campus Communication Is So Challenging. “Why are higher ed internal communications so challenging? What are the reasons that it is so difficult to have everyone on campus understand the thinking behind big initiatives, policy changes, and long term institutional investments? What are the barriers to everyone on campus at least gaining a shared understanding of leadership priorities, even if getting consensus on the wisdom of those priorities is a longer term effort? How can the various constituencies within a campus, the schools or departments or centers or units, get their work and their initiatives better known by the university community? Why is it that we spend so much time thinking about communications and outreach, but seem to have so little success in getting our messages out to the larger campus?”

Learning Moments, (Screen) Captured. “Screen capture, creating a short video of whatever appears on your computer screen and a recording of your voice, has proved to be one of my favorite tools in helping students successfully navigate the various programs required in a course. I won’t claim that screen capture will prevent madness, but it does: Increase student confidence: Although undergraduate students are wizards when it comes to using social media, they are quickly confused by software and web applications that are new to them. Over and over I have had to teach students the most basic principles of troubleshooting (“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”). By showing them exactly how to use a particular aspect of a program or talking them through the steps required to fix a problem, screen capture clarifies my description and creates an aid they can use in the future.”

Pushing for Free. “Since President Obama proposed a national free community college initiative, many have wondered if the idea has a chance of becoming reality. Few ideas seems to go anywhere in Washington, where political dysfunction runs rampant. At this month’s American Association of Community Colleges meeting, enthusiasm remained high for the proposal, even as some community college presidents expressed skepticism over the feasibility of the plan. Yet there are efforts to advance the free community college idea. A coalition — not yet formally announced — of business leaders, academics, mayors and foundations is looking to continue promoting the benefits and importance of the proposal.”

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