ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

UC Davis Lessons: Open is as open does. “If the open source community wants to have broader influence in higher education, including a greater number of LMS adoptions of Moodle or Sakai, then I would suggest that there should be more emphasis on outside-in perspectives and ‘practical openness’, and less emphasis on pure software licensing and development models.”

Welfare Reform, For-Profit Education, and Community Colleges. “From the standpoint of 2016, we have a piecemeal but large and growing non-credit operation at most community colleges that has emerged as an unintended consequence of a shortsighted policy decision in 1996.”

How Microcredentials are Changing the Landscape of Higher and Technical Education. “Just ten years ago, one would never have considered the portability of credentials that could follow a person from location to location, allowing potential employers to verify a job candidate’s fit for a position quickly. However, that is just what has happened, and the explosion of interest in digital badging and microcredentials is changing the landscape of higher education.”

Navigating the CBE Frontier: A New Metrics Framework for Student and Program Success. “It was important for us to measure student and program success using metrics that capture actual student learning as well as individual variance in other aspects of the student experience—such as students’ expectations and goals for their own learning. We set as a principle that program success should aggregate from student-level metrics. Our framework, therefore, consisted of six variables: three individual-level variables of academic outcomespace, and goals, and each of these three aggregated to the program level.”

Human-Centered Design in Higher Education. “Over the past two years, the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies has moved away from planning that was mostly tactical, reactive and inward-looking to planning that is, we believe, more strategic, predictive and collaborative. Throughout a series of pilot projects, we have embraced a theory of planning that incorporates elements of human-centered Design (HCD) to drive innovation, quality and productivity.”

Flagships Must Create New Models to Preserve the Public Good. “As a society we have come to acknowledge the importance of education as a public good because we know that citizens will not become productive members of the economy without significant knowledge and that becoming a full citizen of a democracy requires more than a narrow skill set for a vocational goal. In recent years, however, the inclusion of higher education as a public good has been increasingly contested, even as the shifting of the responsibility for funding higher education from taxpayers to consumers has further compromised the general belief that higher education might be considered public at all.”

There’s No Such Thing as Asynchronous Teaching. “Plenty of research has demonstrated that the quality of a faculty member’s presence in an online class makes an enormous difference. But less well examined is how much that depends on the instructor being timely, responsive, and present. Far from being untethered, the online teaching environment requires a careful consideration of temporal uses and abuses, in the hopes that an auspicious time is had by all.”

Personalized Learning Explainer: Teaching to the Back Row. “When we go out into classrooms and see how products that have been labeled “personalized learning” are used in context, we find common, reality-grounded themes about best teaching practices. These practices are supported by the product capabilities that attach to the term “personalized learning” but they are independent from those capabilities. They can be achieved in different ways, with or without fancy products. Viewed through the lens of lived practice, the term ‘personalized learning’ means something like differentiated instruction writ large with the assistance of pedagogical productivity tools.”

Choral Explanations and OER: A Summary of Thinking to Date. “The idea of choral explanations in OER is that the textbook becomes an operating system on which multiple parallel community-provided explanations run. From the student perspective, the text branches off into multiple available explanations of the same concept, explanations authored individually by a wide range of instructors, researchers, and students. You can keep reading until you find the explanation that makes sense, or you can start with simpler explanations and work your way to nuance. (In the humanities and social sciences there are other more complex configurations that could be used, but we’ll leave those aside for the moment)”

The Benefits of Disorganized Learning. “Horgan argues for the benefits of ‘disorganization,’ as a way for kids to learn ‘skills they need to be successful adults, such as focus and concentration and repetition.’ That ‘goofing around,’ may be doing some real good. I started to think how this might apply to teaching writing.

7 Ways To Relate ‘The Inevitable’ to the Future of Higher Ed. “What a liberal arts education does best is to teach a set of timeless skills.  Expertise in collaboration, creativity, synthesis, and communication are the best defense for a labor market in which all routine tasks are automated.  My strong suspicion is that Kelly would argue that our higher ed industry is moving much too slowly in developing programs that prepare our graduates for a world of vastly smarter machines.”

The Perils of Using Technology to Solve Other People’s Problems. “The temptation of technology is that it promises fast and neat solutions to social problems. It usually fails to deliver. The problem with Morozov’s critique, though, is that technological solutions, combined with other paths to change, can sometimes turn intractable problems into solvable ones. The key is to understand technology’s role as a lever of change in conjunction with complementary levers.”

Angst and Hope for Liberal Arts Colleges. “Speaker after speaker described changing conditions that challenge the traditions of liberal arts colleges. And even as they extolled the value of the liberal arts colleges, they said that many institutions face real risks.”

Why Higher Ed Must Resist the ‘Platform Revolution.’ “Learning is hard, and best accomplished in the context of a (human) relationship between a well-supported / experienced educator and a motivated student. Technology, even platform technologies, can (and should) be an assistive tool for educators.”

Reflections of a Connected Learning Coach. “…connected learning is an experiential educational approach that encourages students to recognize, strategically reflect on, and forge new connections between people, contexts, ideas, and personal experiences for the purpose of deeper, more authentic learning. Digital environments are particularly powerful connected learning spaces, because they allow students to access more resources and authentic audiences, express themselves through near-professional grade media, and make more immediate connections via hyperlinks and personal learning networks.”

Will Virtual Reality Be Different? “It may be that VR will help some of our faculty solve some of their teaching challenges.  Great.  We should do everything we can then to partner with these faculty. What we need to continually do when talking about virtual reality is always to be saying that the role of technology is to assist.  Technology never replaces or substitutes for the work of the faculty, it only (and at best) aids the work of the educator.”

Five Reasons Why Pokemon Go Will Change Education, and One Reason Why It Won’t. “Education doesn’t happen to students, but inside them. I can’t remember where I heard that, but it’s true. We don’t need education to look more like Pokémon Go just because it’s popular. What makes Pokémon Go and enjoyable game may have nothing to do with making education compelling. The magic (if you want to call it that) of Pokémon Go isn’t the technology, but what the technology unlocks inside the person using it. If Pokémon Go is meant to inform the work of educators, let’s focus on that, rather than the technological tool itself.”

Digital Learning’s Pioneers Are Cautiously Optimistic. “These neatly packaged courses also raise questions about the role of faculty, and who decides what students need to learn. The companies building courseware products are developing increasingly complex algorithms that track students’ progress and recommend next steps in their learning paths. Faculty, researchers and even edtech companies are wary that the technology could become a runaway train, one that uses student data to make decisions—for better or worse—about what and how students should learn.”

3 Ways To Spot Strategic Institutional Investments In Learning. “The beauty is that instructional designers, once on campus, tend to work on courses beyond online courses.  Even better, the same faculty who teach online courses will often (usually?) teach residential courses. The same methodology that is used to create an effective online course (backwards course design, formative assessment, project based learning, rich interaction) applies to residential courses. Sound instructional design practices are independent of the mode of delivery. Online courses are great opportunities for faculty to re-think their established teaching methodologies.”

Are those hearts strings connected? – the power of fleeting connections in a digital pedagogy. “Identifying the ‘things’ that underpin practice are critical to providing the skills to repurpose, remix and reuse them for a newer, brighter context. It is in the fleeting connections that you are exposed to the ‘something different’ that are these newer, brighter contexts.  They represent a sense of randomness, uniqueness and sometimes disquiet and discomfort that challenge the constructed reality of knowledge handed down through the generations that comes from sitting on the same hard seats in the lecture theatre as your forefathers. You get to see how people look at and do things in new ways. Our pedagogy should be built on the ability to adapt, change and innovate when the context shifts around us.”

Memory Machines: Learning, Knowing, and Technological Change. “But nor are either human or computer memory quite the same as some previous information technologies, those to which we’ve outsourced our ‘memory’ in the past. Human memory is partial, contingent, malleable, contextual, erasable, fragile. It is prone to embellishment and error. It is designed to filter. It is designed to forget. Most information technologies are not. They are designed to be much more durable than memories stored in the human brain. These technologies fix memory and knowledge, in stone, on paper, in moveable type. From these technologies, we have gained permanence, stability, unchangeability, materiality. Digital information technologies aren’t quite any of those.”

Blackboard Learn Ultra: Ready or not? “The message I heard over and over from people who had tried the Learn Ultra “educator preview” matched what SUNY’s Doug Cohen shared in his session where Blackboard asked him to try out Learn Ultra and present his findings unfiltered. There are some nice design features in Ultra, and there have been vast improvements in functionality – both bug fixes and new features – added within the past four months. But as Doug shared, Learn Ultra is not ready to evaluate yet at an institutional level.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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