ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

One week of bad stories about higher education financing, and I feel fine. “Somedays it’s hard to discern signals about an emerging topic.  Other times they just fight with each other to leap across the transom. Today the subject is higher education finances in crisis.  One of the datapoints is personal, while the rest are public information.”

Emerging OER research discipline. “One of the things I’ve become increasingly interested in is how the OER discipline emerges. Having lived through it, you get to see the field evolve. I’m not sure it counts as a field, subject, discipline, or whatever. Is it part of a new open education discipline? Is there a unifying field at all? These are general questions I have, but one I was also interested in, was what themes have emerged in research over the years?”

Group Unveils a ‘Model Policy’ for Handling Student Data. “The materials released on Tuesday include summaries of Asilomar II discussions on three broad topics: the use of data in scholarly research about student learning; the use of data in systems like the admissions process or predictive-analytics programs that colleges use to spot students who should be referred to an academic counselor; and the ways colleges should treat nontraditional transcript data, alternative credentials, and other forms of documentation about students’ activities, such as badges, that recognize them for nonacademic skills.”

‘Safe Space’ for Experimentation or Dangerous ‘Loophole.’ “Unfortunately, EQUIP’s quality-assurance entities fall short of what is needed for purposes of validating hitherto untested providers. First of all, the entities themselves are untested in the roles to which they are assigned, a fact that makes them poor candidates for assessing a high-risk program. Furthermore, while I agree that the focus of their assessment of programmatic performance is shifted from inputs to outcomes, it is important to note that they are not actually observing the most crucial long-term outcomes, but are in effect vouching that they will be realized. I say this because it’ll be years into the future before we really learn how the programs might have affected the students on whom this experiment is being carried out.”

Understudied Barriers to Transfer. “First, community colleges need to pay much more attention to early student momentum and work to encourage and support students to take higher credit loads (while also adopting acceleration strategies that minimize the time students spend in remediation). Second, two- and four-year institutions should more clearly map out the pathways to successful transfer and also help students choose a transfer path, monitor their progress and provide advising and support when their progress stalls or students go off track. Finally, practitioners and researchers need to examine why so many community college students who seek a bachelor’s degree make good progress at their two-year institution but fail to transfer to a four-year institution.”

What’s the Future of Jobs? “The only real alternative to prepare our kids for the new era unfolding around us is to radically redesign our educational systems. What we need are learning environments that will draw out and nurture capabilities that today are only in the background, if present at all – capabilities like creativity, imagination, curiosity, and emotional and social intelligence that transcend conventional disciplinary boundaries.”

Exclusive: Worldwide LMS market size expected to triple in 5 years … or get cut in half. “I’ll give this to them – I’m willing to bet that the five-year reality will lie somewhere between those two forecasts. Of course both market analyses make a fundamental flaw in combining all things labeled LMS as a single market.”

Learning from ITT’s Failure. “First, it’s a mistake to refer to ‘for-profits’ as a monolith. To my mind, the key distinction is between those that are publicly traded and those that are privately held. The publicly traded ones — which included ITT and Corinthian, and still includes DeVry — are forced by the gravitational pull of the stock market to tend to quarterly returns. Higher education isn’t a quarterly business. The market rewards growth, rather than steady profits; ‘cash cows’ are milked, not prized. It’s easy to maintain standards while growing if you’re in a hot field that you have largely to yourself, as many for-profits did in the late ‘90’s. But when the field goes cold and/or competition increases, quality and quantity start to conflict. With ‘impatient capital,’ every institutional imperative will favor quantity over quality. Over the long run, that doesn’t lead anywhere good.”

What Is Higher Ed’s 3.5mm Headphone Jack? “What is our 3.5mm headphone jack? Some nominations: Syllabi: What if we got rid of each and every syllabus?  Every instructor would need to use the LMS to explain the logic of the course, and every student would need to go through the LMS course shell to understand how the course is laid out.”

Rethinking Rigor by Getting Out of the Way. “These definitions have very little to do with the amount of work or time the student puts into the course. The definitely do not track with “learning,” as I’ve heard many medical professionals confess to remembering almost nothing of the organic chem course that almost deep-sixed their career before it started. That definition of rigor also doesn’t take into account the process of learning itself, the questions students may need to confront about themselves or their motivations as they navigate the course. By denying my students the feedback they’re so conditioned to expect, I’m realizing that I have made the course more rigorous than when I was putting grades on their work. Those grades, even when they weren’t want the students wished for (anything less than an A), were nonetheless a comfort. By making students self-accountable to their own learning, I am creating discomfort, a challenge that requires them to construct and act on their own motivations.”

Open Educational Resources (OER) and the Evolving Higher Education Landscape. “Who’s using OER, who’s not, and why? Where is OER headed and do educational content providers fit into the picture? Out of primary and secondary research conducted by Cengage Learning in early 2016, a view emerged of the evolving OER landscape. As a former CEO of a non-profit technology company said, “The longer game with OER is really in the adaptive and customization capabilities to spur learning outcomes.” And, as new non-profit and for-profit organizations seek to carve out market niches, education and technology companies — with proven technology platforms suited to OER integration as well as expertise in content curation and quality content development — have an important role to play in adding value to the OER learning experience.”

Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2015-16. “Most higher education faculty are unaware of open educational resources (OER) – but they are interested and some are willing to give it a try. Survey results, using responses of over 3,000 U.S. faculty, show that OER is not a driving force in the selection of materials – with the most significant barrier being the effort required to find and evaluate such materials. Use of open resources is low overall, but somewhat higher for large enrollment introductory-level courses.”

Online Program Management: An updated view of the market landscape. “The OPM market is interesting and dynamic. Here we see strong arguments for both bundled revenue-sharing models and for unbundled fee-for-service models. I personally do not believe that the market is moving away from revenue sharing as much as there is pressure for additional models. There are a growing number of choices available to schools, but there is also a crowded marketplace that is becoming more difficult to understand and compare vendors.”

Once again, the “International MOOC Colloquium: The MOOC Identify” (a conference recap.) “There were presentations from administrator-types about how things like ‘SPOCs’ and ‘flipped classrooms’ are becoming a part of universities– something that’s been on the scene for a long time in the U.S. of course, though again, the ways that these things seem to be viewed in Europe is just a bit different.”

A Teaching Nightmare. “It seems a self-immolating move. Administrative leadership told the world and their students they don’t actually care who teaches their courses, that recruiting talent isn’t necessary, that with a textbook and a syllabus anyone can provide their brand of education. They burned their own village down in a preemptive move, supposedly to save it. Let’s hope this idea doesn’t spread like wildfire.”

England Seeks to Measure Learning. “Questions of how much and what students learn in college have proven frustratingly hard to answer. What methods are most appropriate for measuring gains in student learning, and what can’t be well measured? In England, a higher education funding and regulatory body is funding a series of research projects involving more than 70 colleges and universities to test various potential measures of learning gains. The research projects come at a time when the conservative government has embarked on a controversial effort to evaluate universities on ‘teaching excellence.’”

Digital Education, the ‘Mainstream Orthodoxy.’ “The major change as we approach the 2020s is that digital technology is no longer a niche addition to education. Instead digital technology is integral to contemporary education (and to contemporary society). The fundamental difference about ed-tech now as opposed to 10 years ago is that colleges are no longer simply experimenting with technology. Instead, colleges are basing their entire provision around technology. I would argue that digital education is not an edgy, experimental alternative to the mainstream orthodoxy of higher education. Instead, digital education is the mainstream orthodoxy. And like many orthodoxies, most people don’t have the time or energy to stop and think critically about what it is they are having to do with technology.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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