ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Guidelines for Quality Assurance and Accreditation. “Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have emerged as an educational innovation with the potential to increase access to and improve the quality of education. Different stakeholders in education view MOOCs from different perspectives. However, there are common questions related to the quality of these courses and to the granting of equivalent credits. This document provides a set of guidelines designed to support decision making about the sorts of quality measures that are appropriate in different contexts.” (Download site)

Should Colleges Really Eliminate the College Lecture? “It is probably not a coincidence that as teaching public speaking fell out of favor, so too did the quality of the average college lecture itself. Many college lectures today are deemed dull—and with good reason. … While the reasons are unclear, it’s hard to deny that professors are contending with a tenure system that overwhelmingly rewards scholarly research over good and exciting teaching—even if they want to cultivate their lecturing skills. Hence the commonly accepted wisdom that lectures are ineffective and should be jettisoned in favor of newer innovations that have been developed to take their place. But this is an accepted wisdom that many academics challenge.”

What Learning People Really Think About Lecturing. “This does not mean that inspiring lectures should not be lauded – or that lecturing as a skill should not be encouraged.  Rather, it is an admission that great lectures by themselves are no longer enough. Lectures can be a crucial part of the overall teaching and learning strategy, but they constitute only one segment of an overall approach to catalyze and support student learning.”

To Lecture of Not to Lecture. What Was the Question? “Over a period of years, I realized that one of the disservices I was doing with my highly competent lecturing about writing was to suggest to my students that I had won this struggle. Sure, it is nice to be the object of aspiration, but for me, it was also a lie, as every single day, I was engaged in the same struggle as my much less experienced students.”

Free College Is a Damaging Myth. “We badly need a more focused conversation about the right balance of taxpayer money, donor support and other university funds that can offset the cost to students. But in any scenario I can envision, short of creating a true K-16 entitlement, student loans are going to remain a necessary part of the mix.”

Opposable Thumbs. “Much of the debate around student debt gets these basic points wrong. It assumes that higher debt leads to higher default, which is exactly backwards; balances under $5k are the likeliest to default, since they mostly represent dropouts. It further assumes that colleges follow the economic logic of for-profit businesses. Anyone who has worked at a community college for any length of time can speak to the centrality of “mission” in staffing and budgetary calculations. And strikingly from the perspective of someone concerned about too heavy a reliance on adjuncts, the debate tends to assume that costs are a function of a lack of fiscal discipline. That may be true in some places, but it doesn’t explain the ubiquity of adjuncts. Reliance on part-time labor is a symptom of a much larger issue.”

What ‘Paper’ Says About Technological Change. “The argument that Kurlansky makes is that we tend to get the impact of technology backwards.  We tend to think that technology change drives historical change.  Kurlansky uses the history of paper (and printing) to demonstrate that the direction of causality is actually reversed – and that new technologies are usually created in response to specific societal needs.”

The Unspoken. “It’s about high performers who seem to have persistent blind spots, or isolated areas of chronic footdragging. It suggested that a common cause is an unspoken commitment that the spoken commitment seems to violate. The challenge for the manager is to get that unspoken commitment to the surface. I’ve been in that situation myself, so it resonated with me. For example, I believe strongly that widespread use of OER would be beneficial for students, and especially for lower-income students for whom textbook costs conflict with, say, rent. I also believe in the freedom of individual faculty to pick their own instructional materials. If I didn’t have the latter belief, I could push much harder on the former.”

Why tech industries are demanding more liberal arts graduates. “Set for release next month, the report discusses the changing landscape of higher education, with federal and state funding resources now encouraging performance-based funding metrics which reward development in science and technology, while marginalizing liberal arts degrees and preparation as an obstacle to career fulfillment. But that narrative doesn’t fit with the institutional goal of career preparation, and the necessity of liberal arts training in helping graduates to secure jobs.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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