ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

The importance of faculty in the higher education experience. “The new role for faculty is to show how to be a practitioner in the field – be a carpenter, a physicist, etc. More, it is to show how you try, fail, learn, etc. To show the way you think about problems. To be open with your mistakes and your failings as well as your successes. To be a part of the learning community, the one who forges ahead, the one who discovers a new path. From the institutional perspective, the shift must be form management to meaning.”

Pioneering Study Reveals More Than 90 Percent Of Colleges And Universities Embrace Alternative Credentials. “A study released today by UPCEA (the University Professional and Continuing Education Association), Penn State and Pearson, at the UPCEA and the American Council on Education (ACE) Summit for Online Leadership in Washington, D.C., found widespread acceptance and use of alternative credentialing programs at American colleges and universities. Leading the way are millennial students, who the study found are more likely to favor an educational reward system that is built around badging and certificates, rather than the traditional bachelor’s degree.”

Free College Is Not Enough. “The current national dialogue around greater access to higher education is encouraging, but zeroing in on it leaves us dangerously close to overlooking the full spectrum of challenges facing today’s students. By limiting national debate to the financial barriers that prevent students from earning a college degree, presidential candidates ignore the larger problem: we are an undereducated nation. Too many of today’s students are unprepared to succeed in college and, worse, in life and work after they graduate.”

‘Passport’ for Transfer. “A framework of required learning in nine knowledge and skill areas (listed in box, below) is the passport’s undergirding. Faculty members at participating institutions can create a ‘passport block,’ or a list of courses and other learning experiences that satisfy the learning requirements in the nine areas. Students who complete those courses with a grade of C or better can transfer to another participating college without having to repeat course work for the lower division, general assignment courses that correspond to that institution’s passport block.”

The Danger of Predictions in Education. “When I think about predictions and education, however, I see danger, not merely because predictions can be wrong, particularly when we’re applying aggregated data to individual behavior, but also because those “predictions” – even the ‘data driven’ ones – often tell us more about what happened in the past, than what will happen in the future, and in focusing on the future, we turn a blind eye to remedying the conditions that allow the past to repeat with each successive generation of students.”

Sounds Wrong, But… “Magness shows two major periods of growth in the percentage of positions defined as adjunct. The first, in the early 1970’s, he correlates to the rise of community colleges. The second, in the 1990’s and 2000’s, correlates to the rise of for-profits. Underlying both trends, he notes, is an absolute increase in the number of full-time, tenure-track positions; the shift in percentages reflects the even greater growth in adjunct positions. In other words, adjunct positions weren’t primarily replacements for existing full-time ones, though they may have been alternatives to new full-time ones.”

Is Higher Education Suffering a Crisis of Budget, Buildings or Failure to Adapt? “While facilities are important, schools need to be focused on a curriculum and delivery method that accommodates the new economy – and that includes older workers, international students, those seeking certification as well as traditional learners. The days of having a degree take you from graduation to retirement are over, and while students and businesses seem to understand this, higher education has been slow to accept this new reality. Technology has not only transformed how we deliver an education, but it has become an integral part of society, and much of a worker’s career will be dependent on their ability to use and understand these advancements. And as technology evolves, so must workers’ skills, which will require a lifetime of learning.”

Taking More Courses May Help Solve the College Debt Crisis. “While finishing degrees faster and spending less to graduate are welcome signs to researchers and advocates, some worry about the impulse to mandate that students take 15 credits instead of 12. That goal may prove too burdensome to the millions of students who work part- or full-time and may also head households.”

10 important things AI teaches us about ‘learning.’ “But at a deeper level there’s something far more significant that’s happening; AI is re-shaping the learning landscape. Intriguingly, AI now draws its inspiration from evidence of how we actually learn. This should be a wake up call for those of us who work in the field. The AI community now shows us what works, practically, in learning theory, and what doesn’t. They do this by building ‘learners’, software that learns. Pedagogic change no longer comes from educational research (not sure that it ever did), it comes from insights in cognitive science and, increasingly, through this form of technological innovation. AI is the latest manifestation of digital pedagogy and the one that is now giving us confirmation about what works and doesn’t work.”

School Is Bad for Students. “Add in a climate of economic anxiety, the increasing costs of education (often in the form of loans that loom on the horizon), and a culture that encourages pursuit of “practical” studies that may be ill-suited to the spirit and desires of students, and you have an atmosphere that seems conducive to stress, depression, and anxiety. What is the economic and human of moving students through a system that does so much damage? How long will we treat the symptoms without examining the underlying causes?”

The Whole and the Sum of Its Parts. “In a ‘capstone’ model, students in an end-of-sequence course do work that gets assessed against the desired overall outcomes. Can the student in the 200 level history class write a paper showing reasonable command of sources? The capstone approach recognizes that the point of an education isn’t the serial checking of boxes, but the acquisition and refinement of skills and knowledge that can transfer beyond their original source.”

Simplify, Simplify. “Simplicity isn’t simple. It requires identifying the purpose of the enterprise, and putting considerable thought into the design phase. But it pays off in implementation. The same principle applies to much bigger issues.”

Is Student Success as Simple as Good Practices? “Why does this research help the field? It points to the fact that institutional expertise in the modality matters for student retention. Institutions who serve non-traditional adults must begin to get better at strategically aligning their practices to support students in multiple delivery modes.”

Do We Agree That College Should Be Affordable? “What’s striking to me, though, is that for those thirty-plus years there was no debate. We agreed that access to higher education was a shared public good and that the cost of that education should not be an unreasonable barrier. What’s happened since then? Lots of things.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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