ED MAP: Insights Blog

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


Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

TechCrunch: “EdTech – 2-17’s big, untapped and safe investor opportunity”. “The challenge for ‘scaling’ in EdTech is not fundamentally about new technology. It is about finding out effective teaching practices and professional development efforts that leverage EdTech. The scaling or diffusion of innovations by the nature of education will be long and complex – not at all fast and disruptive in the same way as online payment processing or similar FinTech innovations.”

Three Principles of Learning Resources. “As we form partnerships with vendors, we have learned that accessibility is one of the most important conversations to have. It should also be one of the first. Our student population is growing rapidly, with our new students coming to us from across the country and the world. This diverse student population requires resources that can be accessed in different formats.”

Are the Liberal Arts an Antidote to Social Media? “A big part of a liberal arts education is the space to try out new ideas, to change your views and opinions, and to be open to different realities than you once thought possible.  Social media works the other way.  Our social media networks are made up of people who are likely to have similar backgrounds, and similar cultural and political orientations.”

From Visiting to Adjunct. “My adjunct position is an exemplar of how the position should be used, a local person with some expertise that comes in handy to fill a limited need. My responsibilities start and end with the students enrolled in my course. They will get my full attention. The contract between me and the institution is clear and clean. I am something supplemental, auxiliary, not the thing itself. The thing needs me to show up and teach one course, and this I will do well. In many ways these limits do not sit comfortably. I like teams and a sense of a larger mission. I’ve often aligned myself with institutions or organizations whose work I believe in, and have willingly sacrificed my well-being for those institutions, for the sake of the work. That list should feel like freedom, but instead I see loss.”

The Bright Future of Higher Ed. “Higher ed people love their disciplines, they love teaching and the work of developing people, and they are fully dedicated to the larger mission of expanding knowledge and opportunity.  The fact that our postsecondary workforce – our faculty and non-faculty educators – has become more diverse is another reason why I’m positive about the future of higher education. Those of us who work in higher ed are not without agency.  We have a role to play in shaping the priorities and practices of our institutions. I tend to trust that my colleagues in higher ed will play a part in leading our colleges and universities to a future that makes sense.”

Too Smart to Fail? “If students redirect their focus from the scoreboard to the game of learning, an interesting thing happens. Focusing on learning creates a direct relationship between input and outcome: the more effort they invest, the greater the opportunity to learn. However, the calculus of competence is fundamentally different depending on how you define success. When the goal is to be smart, the formula is reduced to maximizing grades while minimizing effort. When the goal is to learn, the formula becomes about maximizing learning while optimizing effort. The more effective their effort, the more they can learn.”

College as ‘Practice for Life’. “’Becoming liberally educated,’ they write, ‘is a complex and messy process involving making decisions and learning from them.’ The most valuable learning in college may arise from the continued practice students receive in confronting difficult situations, making choices, restarting their college experience, and growing from that process.”

People are sticky. “I’ve been thinking about why we like blogs and are a bit meh about OER sometimes (some OER is great of course, and many blogs are woeful, but you get my drift). Stickiness, for want of a better, less punchable phrase, may be the answer. Blogs are generally more personal, social content. People are sticky – we like reading certain people’s take on a subject precisely because it is human. … Two things about stickiness: it’s a continuum, not a binary; you don’t always want or need something to be sticky.”

Experiment With New Education Providers Also Tests New Ways to Measure Quality. “Ultimately, however, Equip could become just as significant for a second element of the program: its unusual approach to measuring the merits of the educational offerings. In addition to having accreditors oversee the partnerships between colleges and outside providers, each project is to be monitored by a third-party ‘quality assurance entity’ — including some, like the American National Standards Institute, not traditionally thought of as evaluators of higher-education.”

Breaking the ‘Iron Triangle.’ “Quality, cost, access — pick two. That’s the traditional view of higher education’s “iron triangle” — that trying to adjust for one of the three main factors of a college education will influence the other two. … The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is the latest institution to challenge that axiom. Over the last two academic years, the university has been involved in a project where faculty members redesigned four courses according to design principles they named CRAFT (the acronym is short for Create and curate content, Replace lectures with Active, and Flipped, Team-based learning). The project targeted general education requirements and courses with high rates of students withdrawing or earning a D, F or an incomplete.”

‘Discovery’ Curriculum Pushes Students to Find What’s Next. “Fully integrating discovery into the curriculum moves original undergraduate scholarship from an add-on experience for particularly motivated students to a core competency for all students, with lifelong benefits. When a student does original scholarship, no matter how incremental, the student explores the unknown under the guidance of a knowledgeable mentor and capitalizes on the resources of the larger learning environment. The student learns to take measured scholarly risks as an integral part of the undergraduate experience, which promotes curiosity and builds self-confidence.”

The Acceleration of Open Access. ” One fascinating aspect of this is trying to figure out how exactly the culture is changing. Librarians found out with their institutional repositories that building it alone doesn’t make them come. Hard work doesn’t necessarily bring on a cultural shift, either; institutional affiliation has less gravitational pull than disciplines and societies. Even within disciplines, it’s hard for projects like bioRxiv and MLA Commons to attract scholars and scientists who feel the systems they are familiar with are good enough, or that making their work open is too risky or too much work. But with so many projects taking off, and with such robust platforms rolling out to challenge whatever the big corporations will have to offer, I’m feeling pretty optimistic about our capacity to align the public value of scholarship with our daily practices – and optimistic about the willingness of rising scholars to change the system.”

6 Questions for a Digital Humanities Librarian. “These are questions that I have always asked myself, whatever kind of librarian I’ve been. I also do a lot of information gathering and sharing, around the library and our constituencies. Who is working on what project? How can we share resources and practices? Where do resources for support and collaboration exist around the institution? There’s some ‘concierge’ work: someone has a new idea for a project, and I help them figure out what resources are available, what they need, and how to get those resources. Sometimes I’m the resource — I’m finding open-access digital collections, or doing text markup, or helping design structured data.”

Note Taking as Stenography. “I haven’t been a student myself lately (as the allusion to secretaries taking dictation makes pretty clear), but I don’t recall being able by hand to record verbatim what was being discussed in class. Instead, I believe we were forced — due to the relatively slow rate at which one can take handwritten notes — to grasp, paraphrase and summarize in more or less outline form the information we were taking down. Laptops may, in other words, convert students into tape recorders whereby learning is postponed till whenever the transcript of a class is reviewed, corrupted by imperfections in the transcripts and impeded by the resultant inability to ask questions in class.”

Different Funding Systems, Same Underlying Problems. “A new policy report from the Urban Institute examines how national policies will need to recognize the variation and differences across the community college sector in order to be successful. That variation in tuition, missions and student bodies plays an important role in the overall success at colleges. All of those factors are impacted by a lack of sufficient funding, according to the report.”

The Digital Library’s Best-Kept Secret. “Why is this blessing of a resource center the university’s best-kept secret? The only plausible reason I could come up with is plain and simple: lack of awareness. This is not just a call for open textbooks, but for awareness of all library resources, and reimagining the role that the library will play in the 21st century university.”

The Rise of the Online Degree at Public and Nonprofit Universities. “Just over half of the 20 schools with the most online degree programs are public universities — online education is well-suited to help state schools carry out their mission of increasing access to education. But online education isn’t only for public institutions, as 9 of the top 20 schools on this list are private universities. Three of them — Harvard, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins — rank among U.S. News & World Report’s top 20 universities, indicating that learners can now earn online degrees from among the most prestigious schools in the world.”

New Models of Open and Distance Learning. “The first and most important lesson learned by distance educators concerns the role of the student in his or her own learning. Where students were once thought as passive recipients of learning, today it is understood that they must be willing collaborators in the educational process. And where once it was thought that an education consisted mostly of the facts and data to be remembered, today it is understood that becoming educated is a developmental process, like becoming physically fit. Understanding the student’s role is important because it directly informs the design and methodology employed by online learning technology. At one time, learning may have been thought of as the simple transfer of information from one person to another. In such a model, online learning could then consist just as the presentation of information – put up some videos, give students some texts, and they will learn. But because learning is more than just the transfer of content, online learning must consist of something more than the presentation of content.”

A solution as obvious as it is rare: Making high school graduates ready for college. “High schools in many parts of the country are judged on the proportion of their students who graduate, whether or not those students are ready for college. Surprisingly, scoring ‘proficient’ on state-mandated standardized tests required to receive high school diplomas, also does not necessarily mean that students are prepared for college-level work. Public colleges and universities, meanwhile, have historically been funded based on how many students they enroll, not how many actually receive degrees. And there’s little communication between high school teachers and university faculty about what students bound for college ought to know.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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