ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

breakfast in bed

Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Thinking Outside the Box. “Education is nested inside a series of boxes. There is one box we call the course. Another is called the semester. Yet a third is the school year. Then, too, there is the degree.  Credit hours, departments, majors, these, too, are boxes. What happens when we think outside these boxes? No longer forced to think in terms of courses, semesters, school years, or degrees, we are free to imagine other possibilities. Instead of the semester, we might think in terms of micro-lectures, lessons, practice exercises, modules, or missions. Ditto for the fixed-length semester. Once we break away from the notion of a quarter or semester, we can envisage more flexible term lengths that better conform to students’ learning needs, whether accelerated or slower paced.”

Are Backup Career Plans Worth It? “One last piece of advice on backup plans and keeping focus on your career of choice: the way you think about your career choice (and your potential for success) is affected by your locus of control — that is, having an internal locus (believing you can influence events and outcomes) versus an external locus (success is based on external factors or even luck). Cultivating an inner locus of control will allow you to be more resilient and adaptable in the career search process and won’t let you get stuck.”

Holding Data Up as a Mirror. “Timely data for targeted interventions. These leaders understand that their students struggle in real time — and that those working closest to them need information to intervene in real time. Further, they know from disaggregating data that all students don’t struggle at the same time with the same obstacles or need the same supports. They take time to parse data to understand the needs of all their students — first generation, transfer, black, Latino, immigrant and many others. They identify benchmarks and warning indicators to ensure that no student is left to languish and disappear at any point in their educational journey without real supports to turn the situation around.”

Re-Thinking Students’ Community Involvement and Education. “This experiential learning, as I understand it, is to involve being engaged in researching problems in the community (broadly defined) and developing real and meaningful solutions to those problems. The LEAP Challenge is different than, say, the kind of service learning where students may take one course in which they are partnered with a local non-profit for a semester to provide them with a community volunteering opportunity; instead, the AACU’s proposal involves making some fundamental changes to an entire course of student that results in a college degree.”

On Not Reading. “Trusting the literary press and the mechanisms of the market to curate the books we read and study is to hand over whole regions of literary curiosity and judgment before one even picks up a book. Because more books are published than ever before, thanks to the birth of desktop publishing software in the 1980s, to make reading a genuine choice, or an informed one, requires research well beyond The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, or the display shelves of the major chain bookstores or the ‘recommended for you’ titles on Amazon. The dream of an informed curation of reading is just that — a dream. Even a scholar dedicated to understanding the geography of contemporary publishing would never be able to survey the options fully enough to make decisions that consistently yield productive subjects of study and that are not simply synonymous with the decisions, values, or accidents of the market.”

Somebody Else’s Problem. ““The overarching takeaway is that it’s very unclear what ‘student outcomes’ means,” Wiley said in an interview. Without a clear sense of which metrics they should be looking at to determine how students are performing, colleges are creating uncertainty around what technology could benefit students and who should be responsible for managing that work, he said. The report identifies five obstacles hindering colleges from improving student outcomes, ranging from a lack of focus on teaching quality to organizational barriers. But the attitudes expressed by college leaders also raise questions about whether they feel the push to improve higher education should start on their own campuses.”

No, Banning Laptops Is Not the Answer. “In fact, a good case can be made that students can learn — or, more precisely, can be taught — to take notes effectively on their laptops, iPads, or other such devices. As Jeff McClurken has rightly argued, for most students the ‘problem isn’t which device (pencil, laptop, phone, quill) they use to take those notes, but how to take them and how to use them to learn.’ We as faculty could use the presence of laptops in the classroom as an opportunity to help students better understand how to learn, how to take notes (whether by hand or on a device), and how to learn from the process of taking notes.”

The open licence gift to the future. “One of those phrases that passes around on twitter is that “metadata is a love note to the future” (apparently coined by Jason Scott). A few recent news stories have made me reflect that an open licence is also a gift to future generations. In my Types of OER User piece I argued that there are groups of people who would benefit from OER who don’t know it yet, but that option may be closed off before they know OER is an option.”

Ask an Economist: How Can Today’s College Students Future-Proof Their Careers? “Finally, across nearly all industries, the impact of technological and other changes is shortening the shelf-life of employees’ skill sets. So no matter what you choose to study today, expect to have to keep learning throughout the course of your career. This requires governments and companies to give people learning and training opportunities throughout their lives, and, done right, could provide deeply fulfilling careers to future workers.”

The Changing Higher Education Landscape. “Also of interest is the clear countercyclical nature of the postsecondary education market, as the years immediately following the 2007-09 recession saw huge increases in the number of students (a 16 percent increase between 2008 and 2011) followed by a sharp decline between 2011 and 2015, when enrollment dropped 5 percent across all sectors. This decline was driven in large part by the for-profit schools. The post-recession period was also characterized by an aggressive expansion in the number of for-profit schools across all three sectors (less-than-two-year, two-year, and four-year, though for-profit enrollment is still overwhelmingly concentrated in the less-than-two-year institutions) and a decline in the number of for-profits when the labor market improved and demand eroded. Clearly, the for-profit schools have the flexibility and agility to respond to market changes.”

Faculty Are Laborers, Not ‘Knowledge Workers.’ “But if we are going to save that part of academic culture, it must be born out of the centrality of teaching and learning. We cannot claim to be knowledge workers when only some of the workers get the perks of knowledge work. We cannot claim that knowledge work is necessary for the labor of teaching when so many who teach do not have the privilege of doing knowledge work. Only by demonstrating the value of preserving this culture will we be able to maintain it, and there is only one group who can help us in this battle: students.”

College as Constant Restart: A Review of Practice for Life. “The constant orientation toward the future, as enacted by deadlines, makes college seem to go by even quicker than it actually does. The authors end up endorsing students who pursued balance in their time, rather than a ‘time management’ approach to getting things done, as a way to help students stay focused in the present.”

OSU Panel Discussion: Faculty experience with adaptive learning for Intro to Psychology course. “With that in mind, however, I noted in the panel discussion in response that the challenge of working with lower-performing students based on their study habits and support needs reminded me of the experience at Essex County College that we shared last year. In that case, a remedial math course was redesigned using adaptive learning tools – McGraw-Hill’s ALEKS – but with an important focus on self-regulated learning. Yes, students worked in the adaptive learning platform, but they also had class time devoted to supporting them with their study and work habits. Learning how to learn, which is very important for students that do not have a history of academic success.”

Determining Success of Technology Integration in Classrooms, Schools, and Districts (Part 4). “In effect, those teachers who have reached the top rung of the ladder have fully implemented technology to produce the highest levels of student involvement in learning content and skills. Implicitly, that top rung becomes the gold standard of effective teaching in integrating technologies into classroom lessons. And that is unfortunate. What many smart people ignore or forget is that describing exemplars of technology integration is not synonymous with student-centered teaching. And student-centered teaching is not the same as ‘success’ in student learning. This bias toward one form of teaching leading to student ‘success’–however defined–is historic.”

An Online Education Disconnect. “Perhaps, he said, students in remote locations feel the need to raise their hands and make a contribution every now and then just so the professor remembers they are there. It made sense: In my tiny class, I never felt pressured to force a contribution because I knew my professor could gauge my attention and understanding simply by reading the expression on my face. It was harder to do that with students in the remote setting with a not-so-great, fly-on-the-wall view.”

Open Source Textbook Report. “This report covers the state of Open Textbooks and Open Educational Resources from a national and state perspective, and describes the actions taken to date to raise the awareness of the appointed legislative task force, the faculty and key staff at institutions of higher education in Connecticut, and steps taken to analyze potential cost savings and identify barriers to adoption.”

The Overselling of Open. “I’m oversimplifying here of course, but at the same time the mad scramble around corporate sponsored MOOCs for elite universities from 2012 until just about now, coupled with the re-branding of OER, at least in the U.S., as predominantly a cost-saving measure left me fairly depressed. This was not all of ed-tech, for sure, but it certainly has demanded much of the time, energy, and resources of the field for years now. And I must admit I remain somewhat bitter about the funneling of massive resources almost exclusively into these two approaches—though I’m sure that has been part a significant part of their own struggle.”

ALT2016 Presentation – EdShare & OER Discoverability #altc. “The most concerning result was that only 46% of projects analysed were still active today – i.e. content was being updated, or further resources provided, information shared.  With the rate of change with technologies and services and how search algorithms constantly change, static content that never changes will slowly disappear if it is not looked after, a point echoed by the Jisc Spotlight report. We often talk about sustainability of OERs as another one of the other major challenges and frequently from a financial perspective.  The long term sustainability of individual resources must also be considered if they are to valuable to anyone beyond the short term.”

Institutionalized. “When I praise the Open Textbooks folks for understanding institutionality, this is what I’m praising. They get this at a deep level, and have been willing to engage on the fronts of policy and practice at once (I think they have underfunded technology, but that’s a different post). My sense is there are not quite as many people in open pedagogy who work these issues of policy, law, funding, architecture, institutional support. We’ve complained about FERPA in the U.S. for how long, and what have we done? In our own institutions we’ve perhaps done better, but we still struggle, I think, at the periphery of institutions, and I think there are things we could learn from the multi-prong approach of the Open Textbook crowd.”

Reclaim Your Buzzwords. “As someone who has spent much of my career in education technology, I’m generally an optimist. Technology, when used well, can empower educators to create effective learning experiences and scale powerful teaching. But faculty must play a role in ed-tech development and implementation if we’re see to those effective innovations come to light.”

Why ‘Innovation’ Has Become a Dirty Word Across Much of Higher Ed IT. “For many of these IT leaders, ‘innovation’ has become code for a set of beliefs and practices that have actually worked against the larger goals of the campus IT organization. There is a level of ‘innovation fatigue’ amongst many academic IT leaders. Why is that?”

Clippy and the History of the Future of Educational Chatbots. “Schank’s commentary underscores that, despite all the recent hype about advances in artificial intelligence, we do not have thinking machines. Not even close. We certainly don’t have caring machines. Yet we continue to build teaching machines that reduce pedagogy to its most instrumental form. We continue to build pedagogical agents that reduce helping to the most mechanical and scripted gestures.”

Indiana’s Grand Textbook Compromise. “Essentially, the eTexts initiative treats textbook acquisition as software licensing. In course sections where faculty members opt in to the program, the university is able to negotiate discounted prices by promising publishers that virtually every student in the section will buy the textbook. The course materials are then delivered through an ereading platform controlled by IU, giving the university control over the data collected about how students interact with their textbooks. Students themselves are notified if a course section they wish to enroll in uses an eText, telling them up front how much they will be charged.”

Is the Future of Liberal Arts Programs “K-Shaped”? “We see this emphasis on developing students’ capability for applying diverse ways of knowing within specific emerging knowledge practices ‒ in the workplace and elsewhere ‒ as complementing the knowledge and skills developed in their liberal arts majors and in the institutional essential learning outcomes expected of all students. We want to continue to develop depth of understanding for student majors in traditional liberal arts disciplines, with the new capability perhaps representing an additional specialization, minor area of study, etc. (with possibilities for students in other programs to also opt in). In terms of I-shaped and T-shaped, this seems to require a third element or ‘line’. In honor of the focus on Knowledge practices, we’d like to express this as K-shaped learning.”

Reimagining Regular and Substantive Interaction. “Timely substantive feedback is central to learning.  Feedback is the mechanism through which students learn about accuracy and expectations about quality. At its best, feedback is formative and developmental, helping a student learn how to grow, and engaged, by taking a student’s ideas seriously and critically. The ultimate goal is to build a student’s capacity for self-assessment. Feedback can, of course, take many forms.  It can be judgmental or constructive, positive or negative, evaluative or informational, formative or summative, specific or general, subjective or standards-based.  It can target an individual student or at a class, be presented orally or in writing, and focus on a small number of points or many points.”

Institutions and Openness. “People do not value education not because we have educational institutions. Rather, we have educational institutions because people value education. And educational institutions are only one of many ways people support their own education, because what people value is the education, not the institution. The people inside educational institutions often miss that point. We need policies that support education (or, more broadly construed, knowledge and learning). Because these are the things that are valued. And because people value education (and knowledge and learning), I believe they will value open access – indeed, that they have shown this to be the case – even though educational institutions do not.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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