ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Report Slams Accreditor of ‘Incapable’ of Assessing College Quality. “A study released on Monday by the Center for American Progress found that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools has continued to accredit 17 institutions or companies that are under state or federal investigation, taking little or no action to penalize them.”

Final Push for State Authorization Rule. “But that requirement could be softened by a recognition of initiatives that aim to simplify the process by which colleges become authorized to offer their programs in other states, such as the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA. Instead of a college navigating 50 sets of state-level regulations to become authorized to offer programs to students across the U.S., membership in SARA clears colleges to offer programs to students in states that also have joined (at the moment, SARA has 37 member states).”

From 4-Year to 2-Year. “But a sizable population of students is also moving the other direction. They’re transferring out of four-year universities and into community colleges for a number of reasons. A report from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University finds that this reverse transfer benefits struggling students.”

Buildings and People. “The more compelling objection, to my mind, is the animating assumption that supply creates demand. Just because it often did, or seemed to, doesn’t mean it always will. And when it doesn’t, you have a bigger problem on your hands than if you hadn’t built at all. You have the maintenance and utility costs of the new building that will come mostly from the operating budget, and (sometimes) you have debt service on the bonds. If you added staff to cover the new programs, you have those costs, too. What looked initially like a chance to grow your way out of a fiscal problem becomes a fiscal problem in its own right.”

36 Higher Ed Thoughts From Meeker’s Internet Trends Deck. “14. Tomorrow’s students will want to use their phones to create (video-centric) educational assignments in the same way that they use their phones to create video-centric social media communications. (Slide 79) 15. Traditional digital education will increasingly be combined with social media interaction, just as the process of consuming sports on entertainment is changing. (Slide 88)”

Talent Development and Personalization Central to Long-Term Institutional Success. “Talent development will increasingly become the focus of higher education. For a long time, knowledge ruled the roost. Skills came along more recently. Talent is a better substantive description of what a college should be focused on developing in its students. Talent is also a far better brand to effectively communicate the high value proposition higher education offers. Talent is what emerges from the intentional intersection of knowledge and skills. Talent includes, but goes far beyond, career goals.”

Colleges send too many into remedial classes who don’t need it, growing body of research shows. “College administrators typically rely on standardized tests to decide which students should proceed directly to college-level classes and which students should start in remedial courses. But a new Alaska study adds more weight to a growing body of research showing that standardized tests are a lousy way to make this decision, and that it would be much better to look at students’ high school grades instead.”

Ignore EdTech at Your Peril. “What I am recommending is that you do your best to keep abreast of technological developments in education and incorporate the ones that fit your existing teaching style and educational objectives. You might even consider changing those things if you are intrigued by a particular technological development that would require you to make adjustments.”

Community College Leaders Seek to Maximize Potential Benefits from Reauthorized Higher Education Act. “Community college students differ from the type of student who graduates from high school and goes straight on to college, community college presidents and policy experts said. Approximately 12.3 million students attend community college in the United States and their average age is 28. That means they are coming to college later in life and therefore have more responsibilities, such as a job or a family to care for. A further 36 percent of community college students identify as first generation to college and 58 percent of community college students depend on some form of federal aid.”

Focus on Certificates Boosts Completion Goals. “At the center, researchers determined that a high-quality certificate gets a student a job with earnings 20 percent above the median wage for holders of high school diplomas, said Anthony Carnevale, a research professor and the center’s director. The center didn’t distinguish whether a certificate was considered short term or long term based on the number of credits required or weeks taken to earn it. Carnevale also said the measurement only includes certificates from colleges and not industry-based certifications, which means they could be underestimating the true impact of these credentials on the economy.”

Blogging as Multi-Track. “Bracken reminds me that chorus need not be composed of different voices, necessarily. One of the patterns of blogging is to repeatedly explain the same concepts in different ways through different examples. And one of the joys of reading blogs is suddenly one day a post just clicks, and you get the idea someone has been trying to explain forever, and you get it in a deep an profound way.”

3 Reasons Why Technology Has Not Improved Car Buying. “The car buying process is transactional. The higher education process is relational. This transactional / relational difference is at the heart of why higher education is different.”

Time Out. “Community colleges were established to create and sustain a large middle class.  They’re struggling because that mission isn’t as widely accepted as it used to be.  Somewhere along the line, as a country, we decided that a majority of kids needing help to afford food was somehow okay. It’s not okay. In the rush of events, we shouldn’t lose track of the big things. More public school students get free or reduced price lunches than don’t. I hope we never get used to that.”

The Quest for Great Instructional Designers. “Colleges and universities, under unprecedented pressure to improve outcomes, are investing in technology at a breakneck pace. They are applying new modalities for learning (online, blended, flipped) to support faculty members and engage students. And therein lies the rub. Instructional designers are, in many ways, the linchpin of higher education’s digital transformation. But great instructional designers are hard to find.”

Higher Ed’s Biggest Gamble. “If higher education is to come to terms with its promise of producing critical thinkers, it must take some specific measures. First, no matter what they teach, professors must become much more familiar with the thinking skills debates occurring in the cognitive science, educational psychology and philosophical domains. In fact, if institutions disseminated essential readings in this area as a sort of primer to get people started, it would be time and money well spent. With a wider appreciation of the debate, faculty members must then begin to think about thinking within the context of their own disciplines. It does not make sense to impose some set of critical-thinking skills onto a subject area independent of the content being taught.”

The Real Reason Why Small Colleges Fail. “In reality, the pressures on small colleges are broadly identical to those on large colleges. However, the tolerance for institutional error and institutional crisis is exponentially minuscule at the small, the tuition-driven, the experimental, the curricularly focused, and the relatively new. I’m not privy to the details of Burlington’s slide to oblivion, but responsibility must lie, as at all colleges, with the board of trustees.”

Why I’m Not Worried About Robots. “Not that I don’t think that automation will not replace much of the current work that we all do. It will. It is. What I don’t buy is that rise of the robots will mean the end of our jobs. We will find other things to do. We will find better things to do. Assuming that we don’t give up on educating our population, investing in an infrastructure and an environment where people can thrive, and taking care of the least fortunate amongst us (all admittedly open questions) – I think that we will be just fine.”

Talking with Bonni Stachowiak of ‘Teaching in Higher Ed.’ “Don’t let your understanding of “teaching” be confined to the classroom—or to one kind of classroom. Bonni suggested that we can have a broader appreciation for the work of teaching if we can learn to see the teacher in his/her many roles, such as: ‘teacher as mediator, teacher as coach, teacher as leader, teacher as learner, teacher as critic, and teacher as provider of feedback.’ By focusing on these different functions of the teacher, we can break out of the paradigms that confine teaching to only one kind of environment — be it the college classroom, a K-12 institution, or otherwise. “

Where Libraries Go From Here. “Academic libraries and librarians, he suggests, should create an active research agenda, work shoulder to shoulder with students, incubate new forms of instruction, transform the university press into a community publisher that also produces apps and courseware, and help departments make informed tenure and promotion decisions.”

Senate Bill Backs Year-Round Pell. “A bipartisan effort to help low-income students and reinvest in biomedical research took a major step Tuesday as the U.S. Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations subcommittee approved a funding bill that would restore year-round Pell Grant eligibility and significantly increase funds for the National Institutes of Health.”

Online Program Management: A view of the market landscape. “The sweet spot of the market has been masters programs, but there are some OPM vendors also working with associates and bachelors programs. Certificates and direct ties to employment is a growing field, but even there there are differences – entry job skills, prof dev, career advancement. The other big question is what is the type of business model. There are five big players, in terms of number of clients and revenue, that most people know about. These are full-service, mostly tuition revenue-sharing. There are a growing number of similar companies who are not (yet) as large as the big 5. There are also firms taking a different approach, more a la carte and fee-based instead of tuition revenue sharing.”

No LMS – an argument for when your institution comes to review their Learning Management System. “This argument generally comes from people who know and use an LMS well, because they’ve complied. I haven’t met anyone who makes this argument who then says that a one stop convenient, reliable, private and secure online learning environment can’t be achieved using common every day online systems. Gaining this perspective is really just a simple exercise in removing the LMS from the equation (in thought only, if action is too radical) to begin imagining how all these elements can be achieved without it. The skills gained immediately transfer to other areas of academic work, such as community and industry engagement, and other contact groups that typically have no need for an LMS and much more need for people who expertly know and understand the Internet.”

The Textbook Duet. “Our current process for provisioning courses with OER looks like this: 1. Identify course content needs 2. Find materials that support those needs 3. Chose the best material for each need 4. Pull those materials into a coherent whole. In practice, items two and four take an awful lot of time, so many people punt and get an open textbook or get a course pre-assembled. That’s a bit of a shame, because textbooks do not provide Choral Explanations. They provide the explanation of concepts that works for the average reader. And is that what we really want? In reality, however, the slack is picked up by the teacher. The course becomes a duet between the instructor and the textbook.”

Liberal-Arts Majors Have Plenty of Job Prospects, if They Have Some Specific Skills, Too. “The knock that liberal-arts graduates can have a tough time landing a first job is borne out by the data. Yet a new analysis of help-wanted postings for entry-level jobs suggests that those graduates can improve their job prospects markedly by acquiring a small level of proficiency in one of eight specific skill sets, such as social media or data analysis. In most cases, those skills increase salary prospects markedly, as well.”

Paying attention to students’ psychological strain could improve outcomes. “Researchers in the College Transition Collaborative focus on problems caused by psychological friction, which, in turn, lead to lower academic performance, dropout, and decreased student satisfaction. One of their areas of focus is the issue of social belonging. An intervention targets a school’s freshman class, separating out students who will get the treatment and those in a control group. The intervention digs into the psychology that contributes to the challenges faced by students in new environments.”

When is the Library Open: PS. “I think open access to knowledge is really important. I think librarians need to be actively involved in making it happen in a way that doesn’t continue to privilege those with resources enough to play the game. In other words, I don’t want Elsevier and its cousins to make open access simply a new revenue model. But one issue that gets left out of most open access debates is whether we’re actually publishing too much and for all the wrong reasons. Mostly what I hear is ‘if you publish openly you can reach more people and collect more badges and show how productive you are!’ When did the word ‘productivity’ enter the academic lexicon? Why have we embraced it so uncritically?”

The Realization of What You are Teaching. “Whether one is an educator in a secondary or postsecondary school, research has shown that engaging students results in increased understanding, retention of the content and comprehensive learning. How educators promote interaction with and among their students obviously varies. Regardless of the methodologies facilitated by the instructor, such as class discussions, group projects or others, the challenge is in addressing how much time educators allocate to allowing students to practice this interaction that has been awarded such merit.”

Gen Ed Redesigns. “The general-education redesigns at SUNY Buffalo and UVA both represent attempts to reconcile the tension between providing students with specific skill sets and broad knowledge, Humphreys said.”

Why Faculty Advising Matters. “We faculty advisers offered ourselves as mentors to nonmajors, and by spring of sophomore year, were helping students find new mentors who matched their intellectual ambitions. We supported young people as they struggled to survive the routine traumas of the first 24 months at college: discovering that other students were as, or more, capable than they were; coping with a sudden illness; managing heavy reading burdens; and dealing with divorcing parents, class anxiety or coming out — to name a few. Those conversations helped to solve problems, but they also encouraged students to reconnect with their own resilience and self-confidence — essential qualities that college can quickly whittle away.”

Teaching Skills, Not Just Content. “Analytical thinking and the ability to marshal evidence in service of an argument are also widely applicable skills. It is also important to be able to assess the argument of another person and give reasons why you agree or disagree. I had my students react to the arguments of the books we read in class, as well as to the opinions I and other students would voice. Thinking critically about an authority’s opinion and being able to thoughtfully voice opposition are valuable skills that require honing.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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