ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Prior Learning Assessments Done Right. “This is not personalized in the sense trying to figure out which institution-defined competencies you can check off on you way to an institution-defined collection of competencies that they call a “degree.” Rather, it’s an effort to have credentialed experts look at what you’ve done and what you know to find existing strengths that deserve to be recognized and credentialed.”

Google Classroom Addresses Major Barrier To Deeper Higher Ed Adoption. “Google directly addresses the course roster management in their announcement; in fact, this appears to be the primary use case they had in mind. I suspect this by itself will have a big impact in the K-12 market (would love to hear John Watson’s take on this if he addresses in his blog), making it far more manageable for district-wide and school-wide Google Classroom adoptions. The potential is also there for a third party to develop and integrate a viable grade book application available to an entire institution.”

ASU Is No Longer Using Khan Academic In Developmental Math Program. “Adrian does make it clear, however, that the key issue is the ability to integrate reliably between multiple systems. As noted in the interview, I think a key issue here is a mismatch of business models. ASU wants enterprise software applications where they can deeply integrate with a reliable API to allow a student experience without undue “cognitive load” of navigating between applications. Khan Academy’s core business model relies on people navigating to their portal on their website, and this does not fit the enterprise software model. I have not interviewed Khan Academy, but this is how it looks from the outside.”

U of Phoenix: Losing hundreds of millions on adaptive-learning LMS bet. “I wonder what the company will do with the patent and with Carnegie Learning assets now that they’re going with commercial products. I also wonder who is going to hire many of the developers. I don’t know the full story, but it is pretty clear that even with a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars and adjunct faculty with centralized course design, the University of Phoenix did not succeed in building the next generation learning platform.”

Succeeding in the PK-12 Space Requires Focus, Investment and Communication. “I believe there are several reasons why institutes of higher education have gained interest in PK-12 programming. Working with PK-12 helps to promote and market the institution and raise its public profile with the all-important student recruits. Engaging in partnerships with PK-12 is also an effective avenue in which to increase diversity on campus, particularly with first-generation college students. This type of programming—and branding—is a strategy that is starting to be used to create a pipeline from elementary to middle to high school and then to college as a way to recruit students. When universities engage with PK-12, they are practicing community outreach that provides needed and economically important support to surrounding communities, often resulting in the funding of work that would otherwise go unfunded.”

Better Than They Had To Be. “Following politics — partly by training, partly by vocation, and partly by virtue of working in the public sector — it’s easy to dismiss political speech as little more than advertising. It’s an unsatisfying mix of code words, evasions, and cynicism. As our politics become steadily more libertarian, the very idea of a ‘public’ to be addressed can seem quaint. Those of us who believe in the ‘public’ as a real thing — served, for example, by public higher education — the reduction of public speech to horse-trading and coded tribalism can be dispiriting. Over time, it’s easy to forget why we bother trying. But Justice Kennedy — a Republican appointee, for those keeping score — and President Obama each offered a more-than-welcome reminder of what public speech can be. At its best, it reminds us of the reality of aspirational ideals.  It affirms us as capable of more than what we’ve done. It validates hope, and shows that progress is real.”

Degree on Their Own Time. “The roughly 100 students in the weekend classes can continue in their programs, but no new students will be accepted. Instead, students can study business, communication or liberal studies with a weekly night session and online lessons supplemented by outside group work. Seventy-five percent of Alverno’s student body are first-generation students, and the college has recently experienced a significant increase in enrollment, primarily in graduate studies, while other institutions throughout the country have struggled to keep their numbers up.”

3 Ways Colleges Are Working to Improve Online Learning. “For many online students, the flexibility of an online degree or certification program outweighs the possibility of a less immersive student experience. But without having to physically walk into a classroom, an adviser’s office or a study session, experts say students who are struggling to keep up or stay interested in course work are sometimes more difficult to recognize and easier to ignore. As a result, some programs are using innovative methods to foster an online educational experience that is more supportive, engaging, and responsive to student demands. Among those tactics are the use of big, integrated data and analytics to help identify and support struggling students, the creation of research bodies devoted to studying online learning methods, and the development of collaborative relationships with virtual student clubs and associations.”

Learning Analytics in a Liberal Arts Context. “It is not immediately obvious exactly where learning analytics and big data can be applied to advancing the core values of a liberal arts education. Analytics depends on measurement. How do we measure judgement, honesty, bravery, integrity, and wisdom? The first step, I think, is to have an honest discussion about our goals – and about the potential (and limits) of analytics in reaching them.  It may be that our analytics are more about inputs than outputs. Our unit of analysis may need to move from the individual learner to the class or the program.  We may need to work harder to capture data from sources that are non-obvious. A longitudinal approach may be necessary.  The key is to get the conversation started.”

You Make the Call: Nevada Edition. “The key, I think, is in recognizing the new context, and distinguishing between substantial truth and perfect accuracy.  The public doesn’t require perfect accuracy; instead, it deals in general impressions.  If the critique is substantially true, there’s no point in nitpicking it or denying it.  Instead, place that truth within an even larger one.  Maintain your credibility.  Otherwise, you may wind up as fodder for an industry blog.”

Online Classmates or Bystanders. “In particular, Brody said, the findings suggest cyberbullying may be more likely to occur in massive open online courses and other settings where large numbers of students who don’t know one another outside of class gather.”

What Do Employers Want? “I teach courses and executive programs in leadership and management and, as part of my introduction to the class, explain to participants why what they are there to learn is vitally important: these skills are among the most important keys to lifelong career success. Regardless of the country, industry or job they work in, leadership, the ability to work well on a team, and communication skills – among the package known as ‘the soft skills’ – are what will make the crucial difference in their career.”

What’s wrong with going to a community college? How two-year colleges can be better than four-year universities. “For one, small first-year classes and low cost of community colleges allow students to explore careers before committing to a major at a four-year school, all while they earn valuable credits. Community colleges could also be an end in and of themselves. Only 17 percent of community-college students end up earning a bachelor’s degree within six years of starting school. Secondly, in some cases, a two-year degree pays off more than if students went on to get a bachelor’s degree.”

Value Innovation Will Reverse Four Years of Decline in Adult Enrollment. “Today’s innovations—competency-based learning, high-end production values, blended learning, and adaptive learning, to name a few—take the accessibility and convenience of online for granted and build from there. Adults want to gain a credential as efficiently as possible, but they also want quality and to be engaged. Today’s innovations are attempting a better balance between convenience and quality and between cost control and student engagement. A low cost, self-paced competency-based degree that isolates students will not go mainstream. Adaptive learning without sufficient faculty and advising support privileges automation over learning.”

Supply and Demand Dictate the Future of Higher Education. “Today’s education landscape has become a buyer’s market for students seeking a college degree. In the U.S., the number of higher education institutions continues to increase while enrollment has declined. Pair that with shrinking funding at the state and federal level for education and these economics require that universities evolve or become irrelevant.”

D2L Again Misusing Academic Date For Brightspace Marketing Claims. “While CSU Long Beach would not comment further on the situation, there are only two plausible explanations for the issue being resolved by D2L taking down the data. Either D2L was using legitimate data that they were not authorized to use (best case scenario) or D2L was using data that doesn’t really exist. I could speculate further, but the onus should be on D2L since they are the ones who made the claim.”

Is Adjuncting the ‘Kiss of Death’? “In short, the unequivocal responses I received reinforced my perception that adjuncting is not, in fact, “the kiss of death” at many community colleges. Why not? First of all, our colleges are teaching institutions. We don’t penalize people for teaching, even if it’s “only” part-time, nor do we penalize them for being unable to pursue an active research agenda while trying to eke out a living by teaching on multiple campuses. We’re much more likely than our four-year counterparts to recognize that effort for the commitment to the profession it really is.”

Ed-Tech Trends to Look for in 2015: Project-Based Learning, Maker Spaces. “Over the next few years, schools will increasingly count on technology to try to spark student creativity, independent learning, and innovation, rather using digital tools in passive, rote ways, a new report predicts. That’s one of the overriding trends forecast in the Horizon Report: 2015 Edition, released Monday at the International Society for Technology in Education conference … The annual report, which seeks to identify short- and longer-term developments in ed tech, predicts that schools’ interest in bring-your-own-device programs, blended learning, and other omnipresent strategies for improving learning through ed tech will continue to grow.”

Incident of AV Inattention Blindness. “The real kicker in all this is that I didn’t really need to use the built in high-end room AV. Setting my laptop on a table, and using the built in webcam and microphone and speaker, works just great. I was so focused on using all the room AV technology that I was unable to see the simpler solution (my laptop and a table) that I was literally holding in my hands.”

Like a Phoenix from the … oh, wait … “The real mistake, I think, was when it chose the wrong path for continued growth. It tried to compete with community colleges, which have significant cost advantages.  (At a basic level, they’re subsidized and untaxed. It’s hard to compete with that.) Instead, it could have used the boom times to focus on getting more selective and improving both retention and reputation. During the boom, they wouldn’t have had to choose between growth and improvement; they could have had both. Then, when the boom ended, they would have been in a very different market position.”

Designing a Federal Rating Tool. “Our research also finds that higher education stakeholders shouldn’t present students with too many options of comparison. With 7,000 colleges and universities to choose from, it’s critical that we figure out manageable ways for students to compare a limited set of schools that tailor to their interests, or they risk facing what we call the ‘tyranny of choice.’”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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