ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Faculty Members Must Play Their Part in Keeping Teaching Costs Under Control. “Structural modeling allows academic departments to examine the characteristics and costs of different teaching methods, to shape their portfolios of course offerings and instructor types, and to identify courses for redesign. Over time, the models will spur faculty members and administrators to develop better learning measures and then hone their own intuition about the cost-effectiveness of alternative approaches. In other words, universities will come to learn that, contrary to the traditional narrative, teaching costs can be managed without gutting quality.”

Zero-Sum Performance. “In most states or systems with performance funding, the overall level of funding — the pie to be sliced, if you prefer — is either flat or declining. Which means that if everyone improves by the same five percent, then everyone gets the same zero percent increase. You may be making progress, but you’re still essentially running in place. Worse, if you improve by three percent but the statewide average is five, you actually lose ground. Improvements generally cost money. Having your funding cut for not improving enough can become self-fulfilling, or even a death spiral.”

Shut Down the Parent Portals: The Dangers of Real-Time Data. “Having the opportunity to screw up and pay the (appropriate) price is one of the most important parts of becoming a resilient adult, of developing the kind of self-regulating behaviors that will be a big part of future success and happiness. Real-time data makes it too easy and too tempting to intervene. It also outsources responsibility from the student to the parent, which is a very comfortable place for students, who instead need to experience discomfort in order to develop resiliency.”

4 Reasons Why Online Learning Drives Classroom Innovation. “Coaching, collaboration, and rapid prototyping work best when faculty can work in a hands-on way with students. Teaching, even the teaching of abstract concepts, is a physical act. We often find ourselves, however, with physical classrooms that are misaligned with our pedagogical goals. We are figuring out where face-to-face learning can add value over online learning, but we are trying to do so in classroom designed for an older information transfer framework for teaching and learning.”

Has the Library Outlived its Usefulness in the Age of Internet? You’d be Surprised. “I believe that students are trekking to academic libraries because academic libraries have been actively reinventing themselves to meet the needs of today’s students. Academic library square footage is increasingly being converted from space to house printed books to space for students to study, collaborate, learn and, yes, socialize.”

Good Outcomes for Transfers. “Students who enrolled in community colleges were significantly less likely to earn bachelor’s degrees and had lower early-career earnings than peers who went directly to four-year institutions, but those who ultimately transferred to four-year colleges performed equally to those who went directly into four-year institutions, a new study has found.”

Lessons About Online Learning. “The major factor that consistently predicts successful performance outcomes is the student’s skill at learning to learn. By this we mean the student’s ability to persist in learning through an awareness of his or her learning needs, to effectively search for information and raise questions, to manage time to focus on learning, and to acquire or use support mechanisms to overcome challenges. Students with a high learning-to-learn ability will successfully prepare in advance how to progress and benefit from their learning experiences as well as persevere in finding the path to learning, despite adverse circumstances. We have continuously improved the learning model and the online learning environment by focusing  pedagogy, faculty-student interactions, student-to-student interactions, self-reflection and the variety of learning strategies and activities to support students in their improvement of this ability.”

No One Rule Fits All. “University administrators and higher education groups are urging the U.S. Department of Education to regulate all teacher preparation programs according to the same rules, regardless of whether students learn in the classroom or online. The department is still tweaking its proposed rules on how states should evaluate teacher preparation programs. Since April 1, the department has collected input specifically on how those rules would affect distance education programs, in which education is delivered in some setting other than a brick-and-mortar classroom — a growing segment of teacher education.”

No Pain, No Gain. “The study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University, looked at 20,000 students’ recreational activities during the 2013-14 school year. When students increased their weekly physical activities by one hour, they were nearly 50 percent more likely to graduate. And even in small amounts, exercise can help: for every one-hour increase in weekly physical activities, researchers found, students’ GPAs increased by 0.06.”

Toward Convergence. A Technical Guide for the Postsecondary Metrics Framework. “The resulting key metrics fall into three major categories: • Performance metrics measuring institutional performance related to student access, progress, completion, cost, and post-college outcomes • Efficiency measures considering how resources impact college completion, driven by increased interest in college costs and affordability • Equity metrics seeking to include all students and accurately represent the higher education experience of populations that are underserved and may be “invisible” in other data collections”

The opportunities and challenges of digital learning. “While technologies such as virtual instruction and intelligent tutoring offer great promise, unless the challenges that are associated with implementing them are fully understood and addressed their failure is almost surely guaranteed. To date, there is little evidence that digital learning can be implemented at scale in a way that improves outcomes for disadvantaged students.”

The Ignored Graduates. “The federal graduation rate includes only first-time, full-time students. More than half of all bachelor’s degree recipients attend more than one college, and millions of students who transferred or enrolled part time are excluded every year. … Critics argue that the federal data misrepresent colleges’ success rates and favor some colleges over others. Institutions with traditional students — just out of high school, studying full time, planning to stay in one place — are at an advantage. Right now, the federal data are widely accepted: prospective students use federal graduation rates during the college search. Policy makers use the data to make judgments about colleges’ performance, and institutions use the data to guide their own policies.”

The Liberal Arts at War. “The greatest advantage in battle occurs when the target is unaware of being under attack. The oblivious ‘we’ here are liberal arts educators, but beyond us, all advocates of reason. And the attacking forces consist in the fundamentalist dogmas that have arisen to an alarming degree over the last several years in the world and as populist dogma in the United States. A rejection of science, reason, understanding and even facticity itself threatens not merely the university but the crumbling of civil liberties into the primitive life that Hobbes described as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.’”

What I Learned at the ASU GSV Summit. “Great conference experiences are marked by engaging conversations. I usually think I’m doing well if I have 10-12 useful and informative conversations at a conference. This year at the ASU-GSV Summit, I was fortunate to have some three dozen really engaging and informative conversations because I was locked in a black box for three afternoons interviewing college presidents, the undersecretary of education, foundation officers, campus and K-12 officials, plus ed entrepreneurs and corporate executives – individuals that ed tech skeptics might cast as members of the ‘education-technology complex.’”

Differentiated Instruction in the College Classroom. “Differentiated instruction addresses differences in student preparation, interests, and strengths by offering a variety of learning pathways within the same classroom that differ in terms of content, focus, activities, or outcome. Differentiated instruction is not the same as tracking, which divides students into ability groups. Nor should it be confused with individualized instruction, since it involves team-based learning or small group activities. Differentiated instruction is an activity- or project-driven approach that divides students into teams which engage in a variety of projects, tasks, or problem-solving activities.”

Free the Public Universities. “There are a number of forces driving this convergence, besides the contraction of state funding: the expansion of federal research funding to private and public universities alike, the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act and the emergence of the knowledge economy, the growth of rankings and other third-party intermediaries in the education sector, the rise in income inequality and concern about college prices. This swirl of forces, taken together, is continuing to draw public and private institutions more closely together in function than ever before. And this convergence is bringing these institutions into ever greater competition in areas such as students, faculty, research grants, and donor dollars. But, as they seek to compete, public research universities are impaired by a set of onerous regulatory and governance obstacles, in sharp contrast to their private peers.”

Decode Data Science Speak With This Glossary for Higher Ed. “The application of predictive analytics is relatively nascent in higher education. The lexicon is still evolving. Presidents and provosts, enthusiastic about the potential, battle initiative fatigue and remain wary of the next big thing. In such a dynamic marketplace, it can be hard for institutional researchers and higher-education leaders to differentiate among hand-wavy generalizations to understand how data can demystify black-box problems or identify solutions that scale. How much data do we need to identify patterns over time? How do we know that predictive analytics are, in fact, predictive?”

Challenging Openness & Innovation – Takeaways from #OER16 & OLCInnovate. “A key takeaway from OER16 for me was the challenging of “open”. Not only what it means (which we have been doing for a while), and not only challenging the content-centredness of Open Educational Resources (that’s also been challenged a lot), but also challenging open as a necessarily good thing, and also as a necessarily web-dependent thing.”

Check Out LMS, Try Digital Options. “Over the past two years, he’s been working with the LMS staff on his campus to stay on top of the course materials being posted there and to find better alternatives for students and faculty while maintaining affordability and ease of use. That included exploring numerous partners to produce more custom content to fit the needs of instructors while offering students a choice of digital, print, and combination formats. Students coming into the store typically purchase the print version, while those ordering from the store’s website are more likely to buy digital.”

Sometimes I Don’t Hate Grading. Why? “The final assignment is different. It asks them to craft an argument of their own design aimed at an audience of their choosing. Their is to use the skills they’ve practiced earlier, and I am instead reading to discover what they have learned about the subjects they’ve chosen. Instead of a teacher, assessing skills, I am a reader, responding to ideas, and in many cases the students are presenting ideas and arguments I wasn’t aware existed. Reading these arguments I am learning, rather than judging.”

3 (Possible) Higher Ed Lessons From Tower Records. “Might we, as a higher education industry, be a little more vulnerable to experiencing a similar fate to Tower Records than we believe? As the documentary chronicles, Tower Records went from a billion dollar company in 1999 (one with huge brand equity) to bankruptcy in just 5 short years. No, colleges are not record stores .  And yes, the talk of a higher ed bubble – and the imminent closure of huge numbers of universities – is both misleading and inaccurate. But understanding that higher ed is different from other industries (such as record stores) that suffered rapid collapse should not stop us from trying to learn some lessons from their stories.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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