ED MAP: Insights Blog

6.1.15 Higher Ed Weekly Read: Articles Worth Reviewing
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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Universities Behaving Badly. “So there’s some excitement being generated this month with respect to the OECD’s Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO).  Roughly speaking, AHELO is the higher education equivalent of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), or the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).  It consists of a general test of critical thinking skills (based on the Collegiate Learning Assessment), plus a couple of subject-matter tests that test competencies in specific disciplines. AHELO completed its pilot phase a couple of years ago, and OECD is now looking to move this to a full-blown regular survey.”

More Thoughts About Engaging a Community. “Many believe that engaging in deep conversations with internal stakeholders allow people across an institution to clarify what is unique about its approach and programs and what distinguishes the education it offers. Engaging with internal audiences helps to uncover those distinctions, which are essential in developing an authentic and effective brand and may help an institution weather current the crisis in higher ed.”

Pedigree. “To the extent that community college courses are taken in the context of high school — whether on the college campus, the high school campus, online, or wherever — they carry the stamp of a community college. Compared to the typical high school, that may be impressive, but compared to upper tier colleges and universities, it lacks a certain prestige. Higher education tends to define excellence by exclusivity, which necessarily puts open-admission institutions at a disadvantage. The dual/concurrent enrollment model may present a dilemma for elite colleges.”

Professors These Days. “I then share my values. I tell them that, in my view, the process of learning is far more important than the product of a grade, that a C+ student may be better off than that B+ student, depending on where they’re coming from and where they’re going. I explain that I will never tell them how to get an ‘A,’ because to me, an A absent the development of a meaningful process that makes them self-regulating writers is meaningless. I tell them that I see my role as the person who will push them to be engaged with the work, to help them refine their process and if they follow that path, good things usually result.”

A New College for Old Credits. “College Unbound, a degree-completion program and now a private nonprofit college, will be allowed to award undergraduate degrees in Rhode Island, the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education ruled unanimously Wednesday. The program will continue as a tool for adults with unfinished bachelor’s degrees while it seeks accreditation to become an independent institution. College Unbound President Dennis Littky said the institution has already begun the process of pursuing accreditation through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.”

Fixing the Online Plumbing. “As more universities begin to offer certificates and degrees online, many believe that their marketing efforts will set them apart from the competition. It is also one of the main reasons why many universities enter into revenue sharing agreements with online program management companies, or enablers, who can handle not only marketing but a slew of other services, from curriculum development to student support. Ranku’s pitch to universities such as Columbia is that they don’t need to give up a large portion of their tuition revenue in return for marketing services, founder and CEO Kim Taylor said.”

The Minority Incentive for Community College. “For years, community colleges have been looked at as the 13th grade of sorts, housing for not only the economically challenged student, but an accommodation for students who never took high school seriously. More recently, it has become more of what its goal was intended to be: an affordable way to earn an associate degree, which can be a segue into a four-year bachelor’s program.”

4 Reasons Why I Finally Said Yes to a Twitter Chat. “Reason #2 – The Topic Is Really Great: It was hard to say no to the chance to discuss with a bunch of smart people how we are all going to navigate the next 10 years of higher ed change. Framing the conversation in terms of the institutional challenges to innovate in the face of declining state funding and new credentialing models is much more interesting then just talking about technology.”

When Shorthand Attacks. “Most educators didn’t go into the field to get rich. (That’s especially true in the community college world.) They do it because they believe in what they’re doing. Whether they’re teaching, tutoring, helping students navigate financial aid, counseling, or maintaining buildings, part of the joy of working in education is knowing that the core of what you do benefits other people.  When you do your work well, you make the world a better place. You leave your customers better than when you found them. There’s real satisfaction in that. Moving quickly from ‘colleges are institutions with budgets’ to ‘we’re capitalists’ does violence to the highest motives that educators have. It implicitly sends a message to the surviving faculty and staff that they’re just cogs, and that if they become defective, they’ll be replaced. This is not the way to motivate creative people. And I don’t want faculty and staff who aren’t creative.”

FTC Tangles With For-Profits. “The U.S. Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have in recent years joined with states’ attorneys general in cracking down on the for-profit college industry. Now the Federal Trade Commission is the latest agency to call for changes within the industry. On Tuesday the FTC announced it has charged the Georgia-based online Ashworth College with misrepresenting the training and credentials students could earn there, as well as whether credits from Ashworth would transfer to other institutions.”

Sometimes Permission, Always Forgiveness. “The ‘forgiveness or permission’ question, and whether we are willing to take the risks to innovate or are fearful of the risks of failure, is quite obviously tied to one’s position within the hierarchies that govern our employing institutions. Forgive me, reader, for generalizing, but I fear, and feel I often see, that the strict hierarchies of higher education, combined with difficult employment circumstances across most disciplines, have cowed faculty into avoiding risk taking, into always seeking permission and rarely forgiveness. I don’t believe that we should be taking risks simply for the sake of it. But I also realize that advances in teaching and research often only occur when conventional wisdom is bucked or caution is damned. Accountability to our institutions and the rules that govern those institutions of course matters, but so too does the promise of our own, sometimes unconventional, ideas.”

New Report Shares Personalized Learning Guidance. “A new report, ‘Technology-Enabled Personalized Learning Summit: Findings & Recommendations to Accelerate Implementation,’ is a 32-page cookbook for using technology to personalize education. The recipes are based on what was shared at a 2014 summit hosted by North Carolina State University’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. Among the essential ingredients: the right usage of data, content and curriculum, research and development, human capacity and technology architecture.”

Can we really prepare kids for both college and career? “The school trains students in one of four career fields: engineering, business, science and technology, and digital media. Sical says her experience in the engineering program led her to consider career possibilities she didn’t even know existed. California is making a big investment in ‘linked learning’ — career-centered programs like these. In response to the Common Core Standards’ call to make every student ‘college and career ready,’ linked learning programs not only aim to prepare high school students for college, but also set them on a career path.”

Report: Competency Ed Needs To Show ‘Credible Evidence’ To Prove Validity. “While many competency-based education (CBE) programs do a decent job of documenting the competencies students need to master and the types of assessments used to measure student proficiency, that doesn’t go far enough, according to a new report on the topic of assessment in CBE. Moving forward, a new report from Pearson recommended, CBE program designers ‘should work to clarify the links between the tasks students complete on an assessment and the competencies those tasks are designed to measure.’ On top of that, CBE programs need to be validated against external standards in order to prove to employers that a competency-based education is ‘credible evidence of students’ career readiness.’”

The Evolving and Expanding Service Landscape Across Academic Libraries. “When we talk about libraries as platforms it can get abstract quickly. (Guilty!) These four examples illustrate the concept though. By giving up a table for a few hours a week we can greatly expand how the library enables people to interact and the questions they can ask. A simple table becomes a transformative gateway for personal insight. Reference questions are declining but the questions amongst our communities are only becoming more complex and interpersonal. One of the best things we can do is provide that literal and figurative table for people to meet and get the help they need.”

Funding Woes. “And unlike in Illinois and Louisiana, where the legislatures plan to raise taxes to offset cuts proposed by their governors, Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature hasn’t showed a public willingness to lower the proposed cuts, although a joint committee on finance is expected to discuss the UW system this week. State higher education budgets are precarious things. They’re often first proposed by a governor as part of a state’s overall budget, and then sent to the state Legislature, which debates and refines funding proposals until a final state budget is passed, usually in May or June. Funding bills can change drastically in scope throughout the legislative process, depending on the politics involved.”

The Invisible Learners Taking MOOCs. “Flexibility and a flexible life are often essential for engaged participation. A significant proportion of the learners we interviewed either live flexible lives that enable them to participate or appear to be exceptional in their abilities to create time to participate in these courses. Individuals that live flexible lives are often retirees who frequently tell us that they have time available to explore topics that interest them. Numerous others shared with us that they create time to participate.”

Mark Meeker’s Internet Report. “2. From 1995 to 2014 the number of mobile phone users went from 80 million (1 percent of the population) to 5.2 billion (73% of the population). Does your college have a global mobile education and outreach strategy?”

Addressing the Inequity Gap. “Community colleges tend to receive the least amount of public financial support compared to other institutions, yet they are asked to push high numbers of low-income students into the middle class with few resources. A report released by the Century Foundation today — “How Higher Education Funding Shortchanges Community Colleges” — calls on states to reform funding models to better help two-year institutions jump-start social mobility.”

Higher Education Act Reauthorization: What You Need to Know. “Members of Congress are serious about overhauling the law, and their efforts are bolstered by the fact that it expired in 2013. But the same issues that stand to hold up the ESEA reauthorization could also delay the higher education reauthorization—a congested congressional calendar, forthcoming appropriations battles, and looming 2016 presidential politics. For now, however, education committees in both chambers are full-steam ahead.”

Serendipitous Learning on Twitter. “I have learned to mentor myself by observing peers and more experienced others in their interactions and connecting with them. This is sometimes intentional, as in I seek particular people, but it is also very often serendipitous, as in I encounter them unexpectedly, without preplanning. “

UF Online and Enrollment Warning Signs. “The fact that less than 10% of students accepted the offer is not necessarily news, as the campus provost predicted this situation last month (see the Washington Post article). What is more troubling is the hubris exhibited by how UF Online is reacting to enrollment problems. Administrators at the university seem to view UF Online as a mechanism to serve institutional needs and are not focused on meeting student needs. This distorted lens is leading to some poor decision-making that is likely making the enrollment situation worse in the long run. Rather than asking ‘which students need UF Online and what support do they need’, the institution is asking ‘what do we need and how can we use UF Online to fill any gaps’.”

Rethinking Poli-Sci. “Other political science departments have reported declines in numbers of majors since the recession, and there was a 4.5 percent drop in political science and government degrees conferred between 2008 and 2013, according to data from the Education Department’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System provided by the American Political Science Association. But Stanford’s numbers seemed extreme. So faculty members staged an intervention, working for over a year to design a new introductory course to whet students’ appetites and rethinking their pathways to the major to retain them. Grimmer said the new introductory course is based on four modules that represent ‘big, pressing political problems and how political scientists study those problems’: war, poverty and inequality, the environment, and collective decision making.”

Early Adapters. “However, some education technology experts remained skeptical about whether the new D2L tool or other faculty-facing adaptive engines will get much traction. Gates Bryant is a partner with Tyton Partners, … has published reports about various adaptive learning offerings from vendors, and about faculty views on digital course ware. Bryant said D2L’s attempt to give instructors ownership of its adaptive engine will be helpful. However, he said most faculty members see working with learning management systems as a ‘time suck.’ So the embedded aspect of LeaP, while interesting, might not lead to broad usage. Phil Hill, an education technology consultant and industry analyst, said D2L’s approach likely will encourage some colleges to explore adaptive learning with pilot programs. But Hill said he would be surprised to see it spread much father than that during the next few years. “

All “A’s” by 2064? “In a post titled What If Every Student At A University Truly Deserved To Get A’s In Every Class? Mark examines the premise that grades today are so much higher because today’s students are so much better prepared. Rather than disputing that the quality of students has improved over time, Mark makes the point that standards should also be evolving upwards with student quality. The proper response to better students is not to give everyone A’s, but to shift the curriculum so that advanced topics are taught to introductory students. By making all courses more academically rigorous (and therefore maintaining a more normal grading distribution), students would benefit by being pushed to: ‘Think harder and deeper about more nuanced subjects in the Arts and Humanities, ponder more forcefully the human condition in the Social Sciences, and explore the never-ending advances of theory and data in the Sciences.’

Digitally Divided. “Librarians are thinking about ways to make their websites and electronic resources more mobile-ready. It’s one thing to redesign the library’s site along responsive design principles. It’s another to imagine what it’s like to navigate a system when you’re (by default) all thumbs. How much harder is it for a cell-phone-dependent user to access their library account than for someone using a laptop? Our system requires typing in a 14-digit number to identify yourself. I don’t know about you, but my fingers feel awfully fat when typing in a numerical string that long, and I rarely get it right the first time. Then we have to think about our dozens of electronic resources. Vendors are working on making their search platforms mobile-ready, but it’s not a simple problem. What is the experience of students who don’t have easy access to the internet who need to read a 35-page article from JSTOR for class using a phone? Can they read the ebooks the library has licensed? These scholarly and technical collections tend to be far less mobile-friendly than books bought through Amazon or downloaded from the public library. Do we think about how frustrating it might be for people on a tight data plan to navigate page after page to find what they need?”

Education, Ideation and Dreams at #JiscCreativity. ” Organizational culture – Whenever great ideas are tossed around, organizational culture usually follows. Culture, as we know, eats strategy for lunch. Whatever projects come out of Jisc Creativity will have to work within existing organizational issues…or get really radical and make pushes for large-scale organizational changes in order to make space for innovative technology-based solutions.”

What’s Left After Higher Education Is Dismantled? “But they tell a similar story: There’s no set of institutions capable of or interested in providing quality, affordable higher education for a large population outside public schools. We must remember this as state legislatures continue to dismantle, defund and privatize public higher education, because as that project succeeds no one else will step into the void and provide the education that will disappear.”

In Defense of For-Profit Colleges. “Clearly the demand for these programs is high. If they were as devious as regulators are making them out to be, there would be no market for them. The free market is remarkably efficient at spotting incompetence. Sure, there are bad apples in every sector, and those should be weeded out. But rather than taking a knee-jerk, heavy-handed regulatory approach to these for-profit schools, it betters serve students, particularly minority students and veterans, to ensure these schools are able to stay open, so they can compete and innovate.”

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