ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

breakfast in bed

Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

The Importance of Scientific Management Training. “For decades, scholars have juxtaposed academe with industry as though they were completely different entities. When the opportunities within the two sectors are understood, however, it becomes clear that the skills necessary for success in each are more similar than they appear. Management skills, in particular, are relevant to the primary investigator (PI) role, a fact even our faculty miss. As a result, most graduate and postdoctoral training programs lack significant opportunities to properly prepare their trainees for one of the most competitive jobs for Ph.D.s, academic research.”

The for-profit student debt dilemma. “Overall, the patterns of for-profit student borrowing look most similar to private nonprofit student borrowing. Relative to students in the public sector, for-profit and private nonprofit students are much more likely to borrow to finance their higher education, they borrow larger amounts of money, and also supplement federal borrowing with borrowing from nonfederal sources, which tend to have less-favorable terms.”

Remix culture and education. “The digital age has given us many tools which can be used to easily remix the work of someone else. Garage Band for example, enables the production and reproduction of just about any musical instrument sound, and allows the user to mix these into a musical sequence. Photoshop is software that allows users to do the same thing with images. Vidding, modding, sampling and hacking are all techniques developed in the digital age to modify, remix and repurpose existing content. This article tells us why the remix culture is such an important movement because ‘all cultural artefacts are open to re-appropriation’ when the meaning ascribed to objects is transient. Remixing is a creative process. It takes imagination to adapt an existing piece of art or music into something new or apply it in a completely different context. However, in formal education settings, remixing is sometimes seen as undesirable. For example, some students copy and paste content from the web into their own work, and claim that it is their own. This is clearly plagiarism, and is considered an academic offence.”

LMS Outage: Exclusive View of UC Davis contract with Scriba. “In a nutshell, this was a screwup of colossal proportions by Scriba and Scriba alone. Furthermore, Scriba is no longer a Sakai Commercial Affiliate.”

A National Celebration of Teaching Quality – Briefly. “The news that the Office of Teaching and Learning is to be shut down has been met with a remarkable lack of fanfare. The OLT is the federal organisation that supports research and innovation in teaching and learning in Australia and provides rewards for outstanding teaching across the entire tertiary sector in the country.”

Where Are the Brains? “I will be the first to acknowledge my own brainless guilt. For years, I trumpeted the importance of learning styles in my administrative roles and in my teaching. It sounded good, this idea that all students learn differently and that I could vary my teaching style to meet their distinct learning needs. Medina, a highly trained brain scientist, wrote Brain Rules, in part, to debunk myths such as learning styles. (Note: Learning styles and multiple intelligences [MI] are distinct concepts. MI is supported by the research.)”

Preparing for ‘Era of Data Ubiquity.’ “… the 2016 reconvening was a recognition that, today, copious amounts of data are gathered about students regardless of whether they study online, in person or in a blended setting. Beyond ensuring that they collect the data, colleges now have to worry about whether or not the information is being put to good use, and also if the traditional college transcript is the best way to represent it. But many colleges are in their present state unprepared to use the data to improve teaching and learning, attendees and organizers said. Enabling them to do so will take the simultaneous development of new data systems, organizational models and ethical guidelines, they said.”

How to Count Higher Ed Costs. “Critics are launching another salvo in a long-simmering debate over the underlying math used to gauge changes in higher education finances over time, arguing a cost-adjustment index used in a closely watched report obscures true trends in revenue. At issue is the Higher Education Cost Adjustment, an inflationary index developed by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and used in its annual State Higher Education Finance report. The index was designed to estimate inflation in the costs that colleges and universities pay. But its critics say that by focusing on what institutions spend, rather than on what students pay, the adjustment is out of step with the rising costs students face — and actually hides a slight upward trend in revenue per student at colleges and universities.”

Hillary Clinton’s technology plan: first thoughts and implications for education. “Key components of the plan include: expanding STEM education; supporting entrepreneurship; “innovation clusters and entrepreneurship hubs, like Silicon Valley”; inviting more graduate degree-holding immigrants; expanding broadband access; supporting some emerging technologies (“Internet of Things, smart factories, driverless cars, and much more”; blockchain); net neutrality; reforming government communications; government-business partnerships.”

Six Things Faculty Can Do to Promote Student Engagement. “Design authentic assignments and learning experiences. Doing the work of the discipline is more likely to engage students than hearing how the discipline does its work. Try presenting students with a hypothesis and asking them to predict the results or introducing them to the concept of literary criticism and having them critique a reading. Will they do the work of the discipline well? Probably not. They’re novices working with difficult content in front of an expert. But making mistakes is how we learn. Furthermore, doing the work of the discipline feels like work that matters—and that motivates engagement.”

Open Educational Resources: American Ideals, Global Questions. “A complementary view of ‘open’ also emerged in the 1990s in order to designate the status of educational and other resources newly available on the Internet at no cost to users. Called by some ‘learning objects,’ these were envisioned as resources for independent learners but, more important, as building blocks for teaching and learning at all levels of the American educational system (Wiley, 2011). Thus, ‘Open Content’ was the phrase used to describe a diverse array of text, images, video, and audio that could be used and repurposed for learning and teaching. But ‘open content’ advocates, wishing to discourage plagiarism, turned to licensing in the organization in 2001 of Creative Commons (creativecommons.org), now the universally accepted format for registering resources as free, accessible, and re-usable (or ‘re-mixed’ [Lessig, 2008]).”

EDEN 2016: Re-imagining Learning Environments. “I was surprised at how much importance European institutions are still giving to MOOCs. There were by far more papers on MOOCs than on credit-based online learning or even blended learning. Even the Oxford debate this year was on the following motion: We Should Focus in the Short Term More on MOOCs than on OER. I was relieved when the motion was resoundingly defeated, although I am still a little disheartened that open education is still mainly focused on MOOCs and OERs, rather than on the broader concept of open textbooks, open research, and open data. It was noted that MOOCs are a product while open education is a movement, and it is important not to lose the idea that open education is as much about social justice and equity as it is about technology, as was pointed out by one of the participants, Ronald McIntyre.”

Snapshot Report – Certificate and Associate Degree Pathways. “One in Four Certificates Lead to Associate or Bachelor’s within Six Years. Of all certificates reported to the Clearinghouse for the 2009-10 academic year, 231,029 were earned by students with no previous degrees or certificates. Within the next six academic years, over 64 percent of these students enrolled in additional college courses and 26 percent earned an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or both. About 32 percent of certificate earners in the 20 and under age group went on to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree, the highest percentage of any age group. Twenty-nine percent of women who earned a certificate as their first credential went on to earn an associate or bachelor’s, compared to 23 percent of men.”

Pioneering Study Reveals More Than 90% 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.”

The technology of higher education. “It may be that technology’s transformation of higher education lies not in the transformation of teaching and learning, but the advent of a new digital language that connects higher education and the labor market and, in so doing, exerts profound changes on both.”

No News Would Be Bad News. “There are some parallels with scholarly and scientific publishing. Legacy practices ran on a revenue model that is no longer working, and finding one that works is proving tricky. Readers are getting increasingly used to finding articles online, but prestige still comes attached to publications that at least look as if they were printed. Discovery is harder in a crowded marketplace, which is increasingly crowded because people are publishing more. We’re all terribly reliant on third parties whose business model depends on the misuse of personal data, a model that could implode with serious implications. Both readers and authors expect the freedom to share – it’s a critical part of the discovery process today as well as a means of measuring impact – and that can be made difficult with subscription barriers, required sign-ups, or intrusive ads – especially as increasingly, we’re reading articles on our phones.”

Why Can’t My New Employees Write? “Writing is balancing, making choices while considering audience, purpose, occasion. The rhetorical situation has been at the core of writing instruction forever, and yet much of the writing we ask developing writers to do keeps them from fully wrestling with those choices because we strap on the training wheels and never take them off.”

“Need Blind.” “Discussions of “need-blind” admissions typically get framed as if need-blindness is the exclusive province of the ever-shrinking elite: Harvard, Princeton, and not many more. But that’s simply not true. Every community college in America is need-blind, as are many four-year public colleges. Good luck finding that mentioned in any of the press coverage, though.”

A Better Dashboard. “Since 2013, WSCUC has worked with a tool developed by one of us — John Etchemendy, provost at Stanford University and a WSCUC commissioner — that allows an institution and our commission to get a fuller and more inclusive picture of student completion. That tool, the graduation rate dashboard, takes into account all students who receive an undergraduate degree from an institution, regardless of how they matriculate (first time or transfer) or enroll (full time or part time). It is a rich source of information, enabling institutions to identify enrollment, retention and graduation patterns of all undergraduate students and to see how those patterns are interrelated — potentially leading to identifying and resolving issues that may be impeding student success.”

9 Tools for the Accidental Writing Teacher. “4. The word ‘confusing’ can be confusing. When you write ‘confusing’ in the margin of a student’s paper, that word can mean ‘I understand the meaning of your sentence, but the syntax is wrong’ or ‘I don’t understand the meaning of your sentence because the syntax gets in the way’ or ‘Your logic is flawed here.’ Instead of using a single word, try to explain the nature of the confusion and what the student can do to clarify. Make and use more boilerplate you can cut and paste to explain common types of confusion.”

Panel: Free Community College Plans Need More Focus on Adult Learners. “The way many free community college plans are crafted now, they include criteria that exclude people in the 26 to 64 age bracket, said Sarah Pingel, policy analyst for the Education Commission of the States, or ECS. For instance, she said, some of the plans include minimal high school GPAs or meeting certain FAFSA deadlines, which all signal an emphasis on more traditional students to the exclusion of adults.

How to Do Adaptive Learning Right. “What that device cannot do, however, is take a real world mathematical problem and solve it. To do that, you need the human brain. In order to do that, the human brain has to acquire two things, in particular: a rich and powerful set of general metacognitive problem solving skills, and a more specific ability known as mathematical thinking (a component of which is known as number sense, a term that crops up a lot in the K-8 math education world, since the development of number sense is the first key step toward mathematical thinking).”

How to use metaphors to generate badge-based pathways. “I’m a big believer that, consciously or unconsciously, we live a lot of our life through metaphor. We have mental models that help us make sense of the world and our place in it. One of these is what it means to ‘progress’ at something. While as educators we would freely admit to learning as being a messy affair, when it comes to demonstrating, mapping, or visualing ‘progression’ we tend to default to linear approaches.”

The Bipolar Literature on Technology in U.S. Schools. “Reform-minded researchers, techno-enthusiasts, and skeptics in the U.S. have created an immense, convoluted literature on the use and effectiveness of computers in classroom, schools, and districts. It is a literature that is bipolar. At one end there is the fiercely manic accumulation of success stories of teachers and schools that use devices imaginatively and, according to some researchers, demonstrate small to moderate gains in test scores, increased student engagement, teacher satisfaction, and other desired outcomes … . At the other end is the depressing collection of studies that show disappointing results, even losses, in academic achievement and the lack of substantial change in teaching methods during and after use of the new technologies.”

Listening at the Table. “These students were not about to go on a college scorecard site and compare statistics from various places around the state. They wanted to be within fifteen minutes of home. Going thirty minutes registered as a considerable sacrifice. In that sense, they struck me as pretty representative of the student body. For students who have significant work obligations, geography matters. These students are ‘commuters’ in every sense of the word; a longer commute is unpaid time out of the day, as well as an expense in itself. In policy terms, these are students for whom the idea of colleges competing with each other across a state — or between states — would be nonsense. They need the nearby one to be good.”

On the Latest Docudrama. “These documents (in this particular case a Standards document and a new Framework document) were developed by librarians out of a belief that students’ learning about how information works is an important part of education. Most academics would agree, though they are not likely to agree on what to call that kind of learning, how best to provide opportunities for that kind of learning or even, in fact, what exactly is to be learned. In a sense, though, these documents are testaments of faith in the educational value of libraries, and faith is pretty fundamental stuff. It’s that star that you look for in the night sky to remind yourself which way to head when you’re feeling lost. I wouldn’t enjoy my job much if I didn’t have that faith that at least some of the time I play a part in students learning things that matter. But doctrinal disputes can get ugly.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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