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8.10.15 Higher Ed Weekly Read: Articles Worth Reviewing
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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

A College Without Classes. “Called competency-based education, this new model looks at what students should know when they complete a certain degree, and allows them to acquire that knowledge by independently making their way through lessons. It also allows students who come into school with knowledge in a certain area to pass tests to prove it, rather than forcing them to take classes and pay for credits on information they already know.”

An Ignored Conflict of Interest. “Conflicts of interest are inherent in faculty control over curriculum. When not addressed, these conflicts can result in faculty behavior that is neither in the best interest of their students nor of their colleges and universities. Our proposed approach for mitigating such conflicts involves shared governance, with faculty and administrators facing, and mitigating, potential conflicts together.”

Media Day at HarvardX. “The ability for students to receive instant feedback on problem sets, review past content, and have a more immediate sense of how they are doing in a challenging course, has made the combination of traditional and online teaching a big hit. Her challenge now is less facilitating adoption of remixed MOOCs by faculty and students, but ‘reigning in’ (sic) all of the courses on the platform (nearly 200 campus courses are running at any given time) through more systematic efforts to understand broader trends, all the while not stifling faculty innovation and hacker culture.”

Economics of Higher Education. “When working with tenured faculty, especially in areas of reduced demand, the use of economic incentives is also increasing. Exit economic incentives are an important part of the effort to trim faculty (or administrators or staff) or reallocate faculty positions from areas of less demand to areas of more demand. And to limit the cost impact of more and more senior faculty, institutions are making use of more adjuncts.”

Hybrid Format Solves Online’s Student Engagement Challenges. “Fundamentally, human interaction drives learning. We have found that our students greatly value the direct, personal interactions they have with their instructors and peers. The hybrid model, which requires students to meet in person six times per year and participate in live online sessions with their professors weekly, provides students the flexibility of an online program as well as the rich human interactions and intangibles of a traditional in-classroom program.”

Using TAs As Key Component Of Active Learning Transformation at UC Davis. “We went into the introductory biology course here and did a rigorous practice-based training program where we trained the TAs on various techniques that have evidence of effectiveness and increasing student leaning. From that, we then have expanded into working with the instructors in that same biology course.”

Why Apple and Amazon Choose To Be ‘Frenemies.’ “That collaboration could make the two platforms differentiate themselves further, causing Apple to focus even more on device sales and Amazon more on book sales for their profits. Through their mathematical model, Zhu and his collaborators show this phenomenon holds true in the face of multiple scenarios.”

Blackboard Potential Sale: Market timing, financials, and some thoughts on potential buyers. “Assuming that the Reuters story is accurate, I believe the answer to the question on ‘why now’ is that this move is about market timing – Blackboard wants to ride the current ed tech investment wave, and Providence Equity Partners (their owners) believe they can get maximum value now. This consideration trumps the otherwise logical strategy of waiting until more of the risk from the new user experience and cloud platform roll-out is removed by getting real products into significant number of customers’ hands. VC investment and M&A activity are at high and potentially unsustainable levels.”

Triaging Textbook Costs. “Open educational resources are also harder to come by in upper-level courses — at least for now. Many OER and affordable textbook providers, seeking to gain a foothold in the market, have targeted large lecture courses. Creating affordable alternatives to the most expensive textbooks may save an individual student the most money, but for a company, such a strategy doesn’t make financial sense, publishers said.”

Placement Realities. “For the past few years the state’s universities have been working on finding the best pathway for freshmen who require remediation, while also trying to ensure that students will be successful at the four-year institution of their choice. Yet the road to making those two things happen has been difficult as the state works to create a better transfer system from a relatively new community college system as well as making sure they aren’t blocking higher education opportunities for struggling students. At the same time they’re also working to lessen the effect these changes have had on enrollment at some of the institutions, particularly the historically black colleges, which pride themselves on serving low-income students.”

Colleges in the 2016 Crosshairs. “Presidential candidates from both parties are tapping into Americans’ growing angst over paying for college, placing an unprecedented bright glare on higher education this election. For Democrats, the solution is making college cheaper, or free. Republicans want more innovation and efficiency.”

Carts Before Horses: Growth in Online Learning for Students, but Who Will Teach Their Instructors? “Online courses and programs can now effectively reach thousands of people, and we have devised ways that allow instructors to actually touch individual students to be sure they are comprehending material, being introduced to new perspectives, or being inspired by particular arguments. But in general most institutions fail to provide instructors with the support they need to use these new tools in ways that will enhance pedagogy and learning. Given the emphasis on personalization within education, it seems a contradictory impulse to hope to multiply an institution’s impact on students through establishing online programs while failing to give instructors the support they need to know students really are learning.”

IBM’s Misleading or Just Incorrect National Ad on Student Retention. “While IBM’s use of documented case studies is commendable, none of these back up the claims in the national ad. I contacted IBM to get more information, and they agreed to look into the matter. A representative for IBM’s Global Industry Marketing for Government and Education shared the same case studies on retention that I had already found. We had a phone call where I described the problem that nothing backed up the claim, and he said he would find out what the basis was for the commercial. 18 days later and no more responses despite several email reminders.”

College Textbook Prices Have Risen 1,041 Percent Since 1977. “According to NBC’s review of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, a 1,041 percent increase.”

Why the Best Teachers Won’t Ditch the Lecture. “This new model—the interactive lecture—leverages all of the purposes and benefits of traditional direct instruction, while integrating active learning activities throughout a lesson. In an interactive lecture, students engage with and reflect on content through listening, discussing, reading, writing, solving, collaborating, reflecting, and creating.”

The 3 Instructional Shifts That Will Redefine the College Professor. “The downside is that both jobs require significant expertise and commitment to do well. And so I often think about this question: would faculty be better teachers and produce superior student outcomes if we asked them to focus solely on instruction? If today’s answer is “maybe,” tomorrow’s will be “probably” due to three shifts that will make instruction more complex and involved, requiring specialized knowledge and skills and unquestionably a full-time commitment.”

The CEO Is the Difference. “In our view, the CEO’s strategic leadership includes three different skills: visioning, focusing and implementing. Visioning refers to the ability of the CEO to concisely foresee the future of the college, identify the opportunities that will transform the fate of the college, and conceptualize the long term path for growth. Focusing is the CEO’s ability to move the college constituencies from the current stagnant or downward spiraling situation to accept and commit to the new vision.”

Normal 3.0 in Post-Secondary Education: Gazing Into Higher Ed’s Future. “Normal 3.0 means in-time, on-time delivery of education when the student wants/needs it, and where the student wants/needs it. Normal 3.0 means some aspect of online learning and self-study. Think YouTube versus textbook. Normal 3.0 means using technology to delivery and measure education. Normal 3.0 means the credential or degree may not be the ultimate goal, but that gaining specific skills to do the current job is the short-term goal. Long term, the job is always changing, therefore the skills to go with it are changing as well.”

MOOC Professors’ Agency in the Face of Disruption. “With this focus on the changing faculty profession, MOOCs have been criticized as the ‘most expensive faculty development in history.’ MOOCs can be expensive — an expense that hardly seems justified for a multimedia facsimile of didactic face-to-face classes. At the same time, this criticism misses a key opportunity: MOOCs can be a seed investment in a grassroots, faculty-driven approach to open and digital education. We argue that MOOCs can serve as portals — not an end in themselves — that invite faculty to discover the value and varieties of open learning. They provide an entrée to new outlets for faculty to see their academic work impact broader audiences and to feel ‘empowered and supported in an expanded approach to teaching.’”

How Nanodegrees Are Disrupting Higher Education. “But in a recent report, Stuart Butler, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, pointed to the Udacity and Coursera certificate programs as examples of a trend that could result in ‘a radical shakeup of higher education.’ In particular, he wrote, the companies’ partnerships with industry and potential employers could represent ‘a game-changer’.”

A College System Measures How Low-Paying Degrees Serve the Public Good. “Ms. Whitfield also considers how important an industry is to a region. Activities related to coal mining and distilleries, for example, are more concentrated in Kentucky than in other parts of the country. And she looks at whether particular degree programs enroll a high percentage of minority students or attract a ‘nontraditional’ gender mix, such as women in heavy-machinery maintenance or men in nursing. In the end, her list of the careers with the most social utility comes as no surprise.”

Pioneer of Ed-Tech Innovation Says He’s Frustrated by Disruptors’ Narrative. “In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Siemens made a point of praising the Education Department for bringing together people from a range of areas, and he said he saw the White House meeting as a sign that big changes were coming to higher education. But he argued that he had come away wanting to push back against the idea that colleges are stagnant.”

My McSweeney’s/Education Story. “Narrowing education to the qualities and metrics that are most easily measured threaten the values that make education meaningful. Maybe we should be looking at ourselves as incubators, as sources of inspiration, where we introduce students to what’s possible and set them on a path of their own choosing. Maybe that’s more important than credentialing. Maybe this also allows for a much greater return on investment, including in the monetary sense.”

The Language of Learning Analytics. “Known as Caliper, the vocabulary — called metric profiles — and the mechanisms to detect the words in it — sensors — will serve as a framework for tracking and reporting learning analytics. Should Caliper be supported by a large number of colleges and vendors, it could become the standard for how student learning data are collected.”

Universities As Innovators That Have Difficulty Adopting Their Own Changes. “The point is, universities are not exceptional at adopting their own changes as there are structural barriers such as faculty reward, student expectations and student course evaluations. Change happens but it is difficult and slow. The faculty who lead change often do so at their own risk and in spite of their career needs, not in support of. None of this obviates George’s frustration at the no-change, “disrupt and transform” learning crowd (and I agree that is a big problem). But let’s not adopt the opposite viewpoint that all is well with the change process.”

Should there be a “driver’s license” for online programs? “Essentially, the report argues that the process for regulating postsecondary online courses and programs must become more uniform nationally in order to safeguard students and ensure that institutions can provide quality education at a reasonable cost. The need for greater national uniformity stems from the fact that much of the oversight and regulation of postsecondary education is carried out by the states. However, each state operates in vastly different ways in regards to this issue, especially when it comes to dealing with out-of-state institutions that want to operate within the state. Furthermore, each postsecondary institution in the U.S. that enrolls out-of-state students via online or distance education must identify the governmental agencies charged to oversee postsecondary education in all of the states, territories and districts; contact them; and determine and comply with their highly varying requirements.”

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