ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Sakai Is Probably Healthier Than You Think. “I was at the Apereo conference this month and got to see a brief presentation on the forthcoming Sakai 11. What I saw was consistent with the picture we’re getting from Github. I was surprised at the amount of progress in this release. I did not get a deep dive or even a demo, so these are only first impressions. But it looked to me like the development team is finally making major progress on a much-needed user experience overhaul as well as a few other important areas where Sakai has lagged its competitors. Folks who haven’t looked at Sakai in a while may be surprised by what they see in this year’s release. I was.”

How to Fix Higher Education. “To paraphrase Charles Darwin, the species that are the most likely to survive are those that are best adapted for change. At this dynamic time in history, colleges and universities must evolve and rethink how we educate our students in and out of the classroom to prepare them to address both new and pressing societal challenges as well as emerging opportunities head on.”

Logging Off, Dropping Out. “At one research university, which Civitas did not identify, about 88 percent of students remained enrolled after their first year, Civitas said. But the university’s persistence rate dropped to 76 percent for students who interacted with the learning management system on fewer than five days during the first two weeks of the term, versus 92 percent for students with five or more days of activity during that period. The percentage dropped to 48 percent, meaning more than half will drop out, for students who use the software on one day or fewer. Colleges can use that level of specificity about which students are falling behind to reach out and offer support”

Take Charge of Curricular Glut. “Professors and the organizations that represent them will have difficulty amending budget models, addressing top-heavy administration, reducing salaries of presidents, urging corporations to stop agenda setting and rallying legislatures for more funding. But they and faculty senates can and should do something about glutted curricula.”

Curriculum and Cost. “The main stories around curriculum and cost are different. First is the loss of students through convoluted curricula. This is the insight behind the ‘guided pathways’ movement. Recognize student behavior — drawing insight from behavioral economics, among other places — and build curricula that tend to put students on clear tracks. That means reducing the number of places they can get lost. Second, most curricula denominate learning in units of time.”

Adaptive Learning Fails to Make the Grade. Or Does It?! “That said, the larger point is that it’s really hard to do educational research well. Rather than using these studies as Rorchach tests, we should be taking the time to improve our educational research literacy and better understand what each study can and cannot prove.”

LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Higher Ed. “One could imagine a much bigger role for LinkedIn as a competency based education (CBE) goes mainstream.  The switch from time-based to skill-based credentialing will be hugely important for some (although not all) sectors of higher education.   LinkedIn has the potential to combine professional networking with just-in-time training and alternative credentialing.”

Personalized learning: Trendy and true. “Next, we define personalization as a group of practices that ensures each learner’s instructional need is met—in other words, instructional practices that include differentiation or individualization of content, difficulty, and mode of instruction, among other things. In this chart, “personalization” means that modeling, scaffolding, guided, and independent practice occur as necessary at the level of each individual student’s need. Finally, we used several sources to determine what level of evidence exists for personalization.”

Americans and learning: a nation divided. “How do Americans think about learning? A recent Pew study* surveyed people about their attitudes concerning curiosity, school, and lifelong learning.  The results reveal a nation generally interested in knowledge, but disliking institutions and significantly split by class and race. The study offers a vital portrait of a nation supposedly transitioning into a knowledge economy, but actually growing its service sector.”

Predicting the Future. “The key in all these things is to try to truly understand where the value in the current system is, as well as what the true pain points are. And the key is to imagine technological solutions that that address the true pain points without taking away the existing value of the system. Synchronous Online manages to preserve valuable elements of synchronous learning while addressing its main problem: feelings of isolation and disengagement. Small Data builds on the strengths of a system built on the intuitions of the teacher, instead of the data analyst, and works backwards from their needs as a consumer of data.”

Pending Federal State Authorization Regulations-What Might Be Includ

ed? “Demonstrate Compliance. This is the most important provision. The institution would need to show that it has the right (whether authorization, registration, or other approval action) to serve students in each state (whether at a distance or face-to-face) in which the institution wishes to serve those students. The institution would need to demonstrate compliance during the financial aid review (lovingly labeled an ‘audit’ by some) that is held every few years. Additionally, the Department may request this information on demand. Institutions could be asked to refund federal aid for students in states for which your institution cannot demonstrate that you possess the proper approvals.”

Marc My Words: From Content Creation to Content Curation: The Importance of Curation. “The Internet is a terrific knowledge repository. The sheer size of the content stored on the web is unimaginable. And, within organizational intranets, the amount of content that is available is similarly impressive. But is it good content? Is it the right content for the right purpose? Is it up to date? Is it understandable? The more we have to ask these questions about online content, the more inefficient our search for the right information will be, and—even more of a concern—the more likely it might be that we will find bad content, act on it (believing it is correct), and suffer the consequences. Content curation focuses on the accuracy, relevance, usefulness, value, and other aspects of knowledge assets. Curators are less focused on finding more content than they are on making sure what they have is the right content.”

Update on UC Davis LMS Fiasco: Finishing the term with two partial systems. “May 28th: UC Davis proceeds with faculty-only testing of the campus-hosted system but also notifies students that the Scriba-hosted system is also available. The campus-hosted system becomes the ‘system of record’ and will be used to send grades to the student record system. There is no integration between the campus-hosted system that faculty and TAs can use and the Scriba-hosted system that students can use. Faculty are instructed on how to export grades from one system and manually upload into the other system. This is how UC Davis finishes its term – with two partial systems.”

An ‘Opportunity for Improvement.’ “Faculty development is routinely one of the most debated topics at ed-tech conferences, and faculty members consistently say colleges should spend more on such programs. A look at some of the programs running this summer shows that many colleges, whether by design or funding limitations, are betting that small, intensive programs can create a cascading effect where a ‘vanguard’ of faculty members go on to train their colleagues.”

Aggregating Course Evaluations. “But when answers to the same few questions from thousands of students can be sliced and diced quickly and easily, new uses suggest themselves. For example, with an active dataset, it’s no great challenge to isolate, say, one course from the rest. In a high-enrollment class with lots of sections taught by many different people — the English Comps and Intro to Psychs of the world — you could look at scores across the questions for the entire course to see if there are consistent trouble spots. If the same red flag pops up in nearly every section of the same class, regardless of who teaches it, then there’s probably a course issue. Administratively, that suggests a couple of things. First, don’t penalize instructors for a course issue. Second, target professional development or curricular design resources to those areas.”

Ed-Tech and the Commercialization of School. “There’s an inherent conflict, I’d argue, between a culture that demands learning efficiency and a culture that recognizes learning messiness. It’s one of the reasons that schools – public schools – have been viewed as spaces distinct from businesses. Humans are not widgets. The cultivation of a mind cannot be mechanized. It should not be mechanized. Nevertheless, that’s been the impetus – an automation of education – behind much of education technology throughout the twentieth century. The commercialization of education is just one part of this larger ideology.”

4 Simple Ways to Help Them Persist. “You would like to offer students multiple opportunities to take an exam or complete an assignment because you know that makes pedagogical sense. Yet the logistics keep getting in the way. Similarly, many instructors, myself included, understand the appeal of a grading system — like specifications grading — that emphasizes mastery of learning outcomes regardless of when that mastery is achieved. But departmental, institutional, or other constraints prevent us from switching.”

Development education and college readiness at the University of Alaska. “To improve the placement process and assign students to the highest level of coursework in which they are likely to succeed, colleges are beginning to use high school grades or high school grade point average in addition to test scores (Bracco et al., 2014; Dadgar, Collins, & Schaefer, 2015; Scott-Clayton, 2014). High school grade point average may be useful because it is not just a measure of cognitive ability; instead, it is a cumulative measure of academic achievement in multiple subjects across a student’s high school career and thus may signal a broader range of skills related to college readiness, such as a student’s academic tenacity and motivation”

The Right Way to Use Analytics Isn’t for Planning. “We must start to think differently about how business, management, and strategic intelligence works. What companies today need isn’t meticulous plans, but to constantly reassess the business and its markets and competitors. In other words, the goal for strategic intelligence is not to collect market information to make plans, but to use that information to generate insights that in turn support ever-changing perspectives. Eventually, these perspectives may result in action. Or not. The test of a capability is not in management action but in management learning.”

Virtually Connecting the OER Conspiracy Dots. “I guess, but what concerns me is at the same time as these money saving proclamations are being made we’re seeing state funding of public higher education at an all time low across the board in the U.S. I can’t help but feel that politically OER are being used as leverage to make the case that politicians are funding higher ed by making it more affordable for struggling students while at the same time cutting funding for public institutions.”

Is “The Web As a Tool for Thought” a Gating Item?Tool for thinking, not expression. Wikity is meant as a way to make you smarter, more empathetic, more aware of complexity and connection. You put stuff on your site not to express something, but because it’s ‘useful to think with’. By getting away from expression you also get away from the blinders (and occasional ugliness) being in persuasive mode comes with.”

Why Research Fails in the Classroom. “Finding evidence may seem simple, after all it’s really about research and development, and other industries do this well. But in higher education the process of publishing academic research and its application in courseware product development as well as use in the classroom is disjointed. We need a better bridge between these two arenas in higher education to help faculty and instructional designers make more informed decisions around digital learning and to support companies in their quests to build better tools.”

The Bias in Student Course Evaluations. “Focus on the measures that have higher levels of reliability. A student rating instrument is a survey. A basic rule for constructing questions for a survey is to minimize the errors that we make in collecting the data. An important strategy for doing that is to ask people only those questions that they can answer. Most respondents will try to provide an answer even when they lack adequate information, and there is no way to tell what criteria they are using when they do.”

Must Digital Divide? “There’s always some tug between learning ‘how to’ and learning about ideas. How to read a scholarly argument critically has to be learned even if it’s what’s in the argument that matters. How to write one has to be practiced, and the conventions for using sources . . . well, it all takes time, and that can crowd out the mental energy to understand the important stuff. Figuring out what we really want students to learn and how to strike the right balance between learning how and learning what is tricky.”

How Ten Key Developments Are Shaping The Future of Technology-Enabled Learning. “1. Student Expectations and Requirements Are Changing. Demand for higher education from recognized, quality institutions continues to grow, but who is making this demand and what they expect are likely to change significantly. In particular: More mature students, who are seeking flexible learning options, seek access to, and success, in programs. This in turn requires programs to provide varied routes to completion.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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