ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Search for Success. “To earn the scholarship, first-year students must attend a weekly speaker series and small group sessions with peer mentors, complete 10 hours of service a semester, have 30 hours of courses completed before their sophomore year, have a GPA of 2.0 or higher, and attend one to two network events each semester.”

Aid That Grows With Tuition. “Lower student debt and increased retention: those are the results the University of Dayton says it’s seeing two years after putting in place an unusual tuition strategy. The Midwestern Roman Catholic university scrapped its student fees in 2013 and is one of few universities to guarantee entering freshmen who receive aid the same net price for four years, or 144 credits, of instruction. Under Dayton’s strategy, while costs increase each year, aid also increases proportionately so students pay the same amount for tuition each year.”

Public, Private, and In-Between. “Is a college degree a public good or a private good? I’m starting to think the terms of the question are wrong. … As an erstwhile political theorist who works in the community college sector, I’m seeing two angles on the same question. In Western political thought, it was a commonplace to divide society into three sectors, rather than two: the state, civil society, and the home. ‘Civil society’ correlated broadly to what we would now call ‘the economy.’ It isn’t as tightly organized as the state, but it isn’t just private, either. It’s defined by the interactions among private interests, following rules set and enforced by the state. It’s intersubjective, by definition. It partakes of both public and private, and can’t really be reduced to either. It’s neither purely public nor purely private.”

Blackboard: Ask and Ye Shall Receive (Better Answers). “This is much, much better and forms the foundation of the communication they need to be having with customers and prospects. In addition to this, they need to continue to demonstrate what “Ultra” means in practical terms for teachers and studentsand talk about how the new capabilities are intimately connected to the new architecture. They need to play variations of this theme over and over and over again. And then they also need to have a constant drumbeat of both Ultra and non-Ultra updates, announced very clearly and loudly but without fanfare or hype.”

Clinton’s Big Plan for Higher Ed. “The plan touches on many other aspects of higher education policy beyond tuition and state support, promising lower interest rates on student loans, tougher rules for for-profit higher education, new grants for private colleges that have small endowments and serve large numbers of low-income and minority students, and a major expansion of AmeriCorps, through which those who perform national service may receive funds for college or repay student loans.”

Dear Students and Faculty: Please Go Digital. “Print has been an effective way of sharing information since the time of Gutenberg, but it simply hasn’t kept pace with the opportunities and demands of teaching and learning today. Of course, merely moving content from the print world to the digital ecosystem won’t make a difference on its own. But by combining digital content with software that harnesses the science of learning – essentially, how the mind masters new concepts – we can work with faculty to create experiences that make learning more effective and efficient. These types of technologies go far beyond what’s offered in an e-book, making learning entirely richer and more personalized. While it seems like this package would come at great expense, it’s actually available today for roughly half the price of print”.

Ends of Electronic? A Report from ELO2015. “Ignoring the larger critique that books and pens are as much a technology as anything, there’s still a question lingering: can anyone really teach without digital means at this stage of web integration? Is the choice to use words like ‘electronic’ or ‘digital’ to designate our work and pedagogy simply a reflection of a moment of transition, soon to be abandoned as such methods become universal, or is it still important to call attention to the use of technology as we push it towards new frontiers?”

A Key Question for Clinton’s College Affordability Plan: Will States Buy In? “Under the plan, which would cost $350 billion over 10 years, the federal government would make about $175 billion in grants available to states that guarantee students can cover tuition at four-year public universities without loans. But there’s a condition: States would need to arrest higher-education budget cuts and slow tuition growth in order to be eligible. In other words, taking the money would limit state lawmakers’ freedom to make cuts in one of the first categories of state spending they turn to when it comes time to tighten budgets, experts said.”

Clinton Issues a Promising Proposal for Tuition Reform. “Higher education is a textbook example of what economists call a ‘positive externality,’ providing many benefits even to those who do not get a college degree (for example, a more educated society has lower crime rates and a higher tax base), so public investment in the system is often desirable. Furthermore, research has shown that students who graduate with low levels of debt are far more likely to work in occupations that are beneficial to society as a whole … . There are thus good arguments to be made that the reforms laid out in Clinton’s proposal are beneficial to the economy as a whole.”

What the New Education Buzzwords Actually Mean. “Take motivation, for example. In the research world there exist two types: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is learning for the love of learning—the ideal mindset of a student, the report’s authors write. But for various reasons, that thirst for knowledge lags in many young people, and so researchers have come up with different approaches to spurring that enthusiasm for knowledge among students.”

Consortium Under Construction. “Unizin’s first major features are two ‘relays’ — one for content, the other for analytics. Details about the relays are still scarce. The content relay is more or less a search engine that would enable faculty members to quickly search repositories for learning objects and plug them into their courses, Littleworth said, while the analytics relay would collect information about how content, apps and platforms are used. The CourseLoad software will serve as the foundation for the content relay, but it still needs to be retooled to serve that purpose.”

Professors of Instruction. “Formerly various ranks of lecturer, Weinberg’s full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members are now “professors of instruction” at the assistant, associate and full levels. Proponents say the titles better communicate to those within Northwestern that this is a career path, and to those outside of Northwestern exactly what the job entails.”

‘Shadow Work’, Social Media and Robots. “Lambert’s point in Shadow Work is that the growth in cognitive and time consuming tasks that we must undertake for ourselves has gone largely unnoticed and unchallenged. We don’t like that we spend endless hours in phone trees with customer service, but we don’t think we have any alternatives. We don’t seem to mind the fact that we interact with ATM’s rather than bank tellers, ticket kiosks rather than gate agents, and online travel sites rather than travel agents. Audrey Watters’ #digped keynote adds another dimension to Lambert’s discussion of Shadow Work. Should we include our participation in social media has yet another unpaid task that overfills our days?”

New Technologies, Pedagogies, and Curriculum: A Practical Perspective. “As we shift from an instructor-led space to a learner-based environment, educational institutions must adapt and embrace changing pedagogies and develop curriculum accordingly or risk obsolescence. Curriculum shifts include focusing on various forms of active learning, flipped classrooms, scale up, team-based learning, and problem-based learning environments. Other components — including course content, the physical environment, learner involvement, instructor guidance, and technology solutions — must evolve to keep pace with these changes.”

Emerging Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Enable Active Learning. “Never underestimate the importance of informal learning spaces and the time students have between classes. While classroom time is highly valued, equally important is the environment that faculty and students use while they reflect, study, and actively engage with content and collaborate with others outside of the “formal” classroom and scheduled class time.”

Gauging Climate for Non-Tenure-Track Faculty. “Based on non-tenure-track faculty members’ responses, departments fall into one of four ‘cultures’ for adjuncts the Delphi Project has identified elsewhere in its research: destructive, neutral or invisible, inclusive, or ‘learning’ (in which tenure-track colleagues view and treat non-tenure-track faculty members as true peers). The tool includes descriptions of various aspects of departmental culture within each, in part for the benefit of departments looking to improve their climates and therefore improve student learning.”

It’s Harder Now to Change Students’ Lives, but No Less Important. “How do we let students know that college is easy only for those more interested in other people’s answers than their own imagination, curiosity, and drive? That college is easy only if you are satisfied with doing what you are told? How as professors do we create opportunities for freedom and creativity in a system that is often driven by uniformity and accountability?”

The 3 Orthodoxies of Educational Technology. “So we call the higher ed status quo unsustainable, and look to the power of new technologies (combined with new methods and new thinking) to disrupt and to displace. The danger is that we will unknowingly be complicit in the destruction of what is good in higher education, all the while cheering what will ultimately commoditize and devalue. Our edtech community needs to make a stand about what is worth preserving as well as what needs to be changed.”

Accelerator, Brake, Accelerate, Brake. “In the meantime, though, I’d love to see some thoughtful discussions of questions like the definition of FTE’s or SAP in the context of a competency-based program. I see great potential in hybrid programs, and in breaking down the barriers between prior learning assessment and CBE, but the Feds need to step up. Done right, the breakthroughs in these areas for which CBE is the catalyst could benefit all sorts of programs.”

ED and CBE: Example of higher ed “structural barrier to change” that is out of institutions’ control. “Rather than add my own commentary or conjecture on the subject, I would prefer to just highlight this situation and note how we need to look beyond just colleges and universities, and even faculty reward systems, to understand the structural barriers to change for higher education.”

Whatever Happened to the Department’s Competency-Based Education Experiments? “It took the Department nearly a year after the President’s announcement to issue a notice describing what the experiments would look like. Perhaps this could have been done more quickly, but CBE is complicated and it’s understandable that the Department wanted to be thorough in its review of the relevant laws and regulations (they turned out much more forward-thinking than I would have imagined). But the notice did go out, schools did apply, and schools were accepted to participate. But the experiment hasn’t started, because schools haven’t received guidance on how to do their experiments.”

Blackboard Acquires Large Latin American Moodle Provider. “And they are on top of the original acquisition of Moodlerooms and Netspot, two of the biggest Moodle providers around. There are some interesting—and complicated—long-term implications here for the governance and financial structure of the Moodle ecosystem that Phil and I will eventually write about, but for now it’s worth noting that Blackboard is making serious investments in Moodle and international growth.”

Reuters: Instructure has filed for IPO later this year. “Instructure has long stated its plans to eventually IPO, so the main question has been one of timing. Now we know that it is late 2015 (assuming Reuters story is correct, but they have been quite accurate with similar stories). Michael and I have written recently about Instructure’s strong performance, including this note about expanding markets and their consistent growth in higher ed, K-12 and potentially corporate learning.”

Establishment Goes Alternative. “The plan is for some of the online content to feature modular instruction, said Schejbal, meaning instructors will interact with students as they progress through the material — as with a conventional online course, but for a shorter duration. Sometimes, however, the microcredentials will hinge on direct assessment, where students demonstrate their mastery in predetermined areas solely by completing tests, papers and projects. The University of Wisconsin System uses a version of this latter model in its Flexible Option competency-based programs, where faculty members function as academic support coaches.”

Defining College. “AAC&U defines liberal education as an ‘approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest.’”

Situating Serendipity in the Research Process. “I’m a fan of browsing, but I usually don’t face the deadlines students have. Go on, you try completing  several essays about different subjects you don’t know much about within a few busy weeks.Besides, I have a lot of tacit knowledge that helps me sort things quickly and a tolerance for dead ends that I might not have if I was being graded. Which brings me to the font of serendipity that is academic Twitter. … It’s odd how much I rely on this strange mode of browsing that is not based on a classification system or searching for particular information, but on connecting with people who share reliably worthwhile things.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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