ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

White House Unveils College Scorecard That Replaces Its Scuttled Ratings Plan. “The new College Scorecard site, which replaces an older one of the same name, features a more modern and user-friendly design and some new information about colleges not previously available on the predecessor site or from other federal data sources. Notably, for each college, it includes measurements of students’ earnings six and 10 years after they started at a college and data showing the proportion of the college’s students who are repaying their student loans.”

Time Is Right for Colleges to Shift From Assembly-Line Education. “In contrast, information economies focus on outcomes; process and time are variable. In education, this shifts the focus from teaching to learning. The emphasis is on the skills and knowledge that students must master in order to graduate rather than on the number of courses and credits they have to accumulate. Programs are individualized, and the length of instruction varies with student mastery. Competency-based education reflects this shift and heralds the coming transformation of education.”

College Scorecard: An example from UMUC on fundamental flaw in the data. “In other words, ED is fully aware of the problems of using IPEDS first-time full-time completion data, and they have plans to help improve the data, yet they chose to make fundamentally-flawed data a centerpiece of the College Scorecard.”

IDL: A Systematic Approach to Supporting Diverse Learners. “First, faculty can provide students with multiple means of representing content. Too often we rely on a narrow range of course materials that may present unnecessary barriers for some students. In addition to textbooks and lectures, we can provide students with a range of additional ways to represent important concepts and ideas in our courses. Both proprietary and open educational resources (OER) like videos, animations, simulations, and learning objects can provide helpful complementary entry points to concepts. Even using a variety of visuals, including concept maps and graphic organizers, in a lecture can assist students who have barriers related to auditory processing.”

Details, Details… “These may sound nitpicky or defensive, but they add up to something serious. Yes, trained academic researchers can do much better analyses now than before, and that’s great; I hope some of them come up with tools or discoveries that move the discussion forward. But putting such badly flawed data in such innocent-looking, user-friendly bar charts implies a solidity to them that they don’t warrant.  I’d hate to see potential students make decisions based on information with such serious flaws.”

To “Quit Lit” or not to “Quit Lit.” What Was the Question? “If your quit lit essay is the first and last time you have publicly voiced concerns about the systemic problems in academia, and you then promptly disappear from the discussion, you have written a ‘Pointless bitching’ essay.”

Breakup in Florida? “The University of Florida has told Pearson that it may terminate a much scrutinized deal under which the company provides numerous services to market and manage UF Online, which was created by the Florida Legislature to offer online degrees. But both the university and Pearson say that discussions continue on a possible continued role for Pearson. The university says it has the right to back out of the deal because UF Online — while exceeding overall enrollment goals — is not enrolling the target number of out-of-state students, who would be paying more in tuition than Florida residents do.”

Would-Be Disruptor Shifts Gears. “Modern States is the latest organization to see MOOCs as a way to let students quickly earn college credit. Earlier this year, Arizona State University and edX, a MOOC provider created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced Global Freshman Academy, a set of MOOCs through which students can earn up to a year’s worth of credit from Arizona State.”

Online Assistance Available for California Community College Faculty. “The one-week intensive training is designed to equip educators with the tools needed to facilitate relationship building to support men of color in the classroom. It includes video modules, readings, live interactive sessions and learning assessments.”

Looking Beyond the Tale of Two Tech Company Sales. “Specifically campus IT leaders will want to know a) if Blackboard’s and Ellucian’s new owners will seek to recover the cost of the purchase and follow-on investments by raising licensing fees; (b) if the new owners will make necessary investments to upgrade and enhance products and services; and (c) who on the current executive suite management team and which field personnel (who deal directly with campus clients) will remain in the months after the Blackboard and Ellucian transactions close.”

CBE, PLA, and Residency Requirements. “In a pure CBE system, of course, there’s no such thing as credits. And because assessment and instruction have been separated, you might never get ‘instruction’ from the CBE institution. In that context, specifying a residency requirement takes some work. College for America, as I understand it, does it by mapping competencies to courses and credits in a sort of backwards compatibility exercise. Modern States comes closer to a ‘test prep’ model at this point, with the tests modeled on existing credit courses.”

Success of Nontraditional Students. “It is no secret, however, that the Scorecard has attracted widespread criticism, not least from my colleagues at large public universities, whose concerns I share regarding broader methodological flaws in it — particularly the failure to include data on students who did not receive Title IV funds (data currently unavailable to the department under federal law). And even the data about Title IV recipients presents major challenges. They paint a skewed view of graduation rates that I believe does a particular disservice to students and prospective working adult learners — the very people this tool should help.”

17% Of Community Colleges Are Not Included In College Scorecard. “In addition to the highly-misleading usage of ‘first-time full-time’ qualification for official graduate rates reported in the College Scorecard, there appears to be another major issue with the data. In particular, the Education Department (ED) is using a questionable method of determining whether an institution is degree-granting rather than relying on the IPEDS data source. In a nutshell, if an institution awarded more certificates than degrees, then it is not labeled as ‘predominantly awarded 2-year or 4-yeard degrees’ and therefore excluded.”

Remember the Panopticon? “But awareness of the possibility of that kind of surveillance also rewards a certain blandness, grounded in a warranted paranoia. If you don’t know when you’re being watched, you start to watch yourself. Error avoidance can easily become risk avoidance.  From there, it’s a short step to stagnation and decline. Innovation is messy. We need some tolerance for messiness if we want it to thrive.”

Using Two Cool Tools. “PressBooks is also wonderfully easy for those of us who don’t have the time or inclination to build our own book generator. Based on WordPress, it lets you import blog posts or other writing, rearrange and revise the chapters and sections, add front matter and book metadata, choose from a number of attractive template, and then – really, it feels like magic – with the push of a button make it all into a beautiful book. There are four formats you can generate with that single button, a PDF that’s ready to use with a print-on-demand service, ebook files for both epub and mobi formats, and an html version.

When You See Yourself. “I don’t even want to discount the importance of representation. The personal narratives that have surfaced online around Manzano’s retirement only reinforce the influence a visible role model who in some way represents who you are, how you look, what you are interested in, and/or how you speak can have. It’s why diversity is still an important issue in higher education in terms of the ranks of faculty, staff, and administrators; as the demographics of the country change, so too must we be willing and able to change along with it.”

Is Moodle “Bigger than Martin”? “When you add to that the size of Moodle’s adoption footprint, one can make the case that Martin Dougiamas is one of the most consequential figures in the history of educational technology. Which is why it is so remarkable that Phil and I are hearing, for the first time ever, from a number of different, independent sources, the phrase, ‘Moodle is bigger than Martin now.’ It is another indicator that Moodle is reaching an inflection point.”

In Online Courses, Students Learn More by Doing Than by Watching. “When students listen to a lecture or read text, Mr. Koedinger says, it is easy for them to feel confident that they know the material. But that feeling is deceptive, because sometimes students come away from lectures with misconceptions. And without trying to replicate what they’ve learned in lectures or receiving feedback on their work, they won’t know when they’re making mistakes.”

College Scorecard Problem Gets Worse: One in three associate’s degree institutions are not included. “Fully one in four Public Associate’s Degree institutions (mostly community colleges) are not listed on College Scorecard. More than four in ten For-profit Associate’s Degree institutions are not listed.Overall, almost one in three Associate’s Degree institutions are not listed.”

Valuing the Faculty. “Who needs the faculty? A new working paper by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, a coalition of faculty unions and other academic associations, asks that question and answers resoundingly that face time with faculty members is key to student success. Unfortunately, it says, colleges and universities continue to divert funds away from instruction in an attempt to cut costs — a strategy that actually hurts them in the long run.”

Blueprint for a post-LMS, Part 3. “The core lesson of “Dammit, the LMS” is that platform innovations will not propagate unless the pedagogical changes that take advantages of those changes also propagate, and pedagogical changes will not propagate without changes in the institutional culture in which they are embedded. … When we get to part 4 of the series, I hope to show how the platform, pedagogy, and culture might co-evolve through a combination of curriculum design, learning design, platform design, prepared for faculty as participants in a low-stakes environment. But before we get there, I have to first put some building blocks in place related to fostering and assessing educational conversation. That’s what I’m going to try to do in this post.”

When Regulation Pays. “he biggest player in the rapidly expanding boot camp and coding academy space, General Assembly, has been through the regulatory approval process in eight states so far. And the experience hasn’t been too painful. In fact, company officials said it has helped them cope with General Assembly’s growth.”

Of MOOCs and Metrics. “In practical terms, I call on executive education groups to create boot camps for people like university provosts and deans, who generally come from the Ph.D.’d faculty ranks.  Teach them some things like basic agile techniques. Teach them about the endless spreadsheets and project plans that will take up their lives for their 12-month positions, with no summers off again, ever. Teach them to build and work in dynamic, functional teams. Teach them how to manage massive, multi-year projects and to send people on their way to do their tasks with a clear sense of mission and purpose. Arm them with the tools of industry, but draw them from the ranks of academia.”

The EdTech Debate Within Our Progressive Community. “Those on the other side of the debate believe that authentic learning best occurs in the context of a relationship between a student and a highly skilled and experienced educator. This group is worried about the corporatization and commodification of education, and rejects the idea that the goal for postsecondary innovation should be improved efficiency. Educational technology, for these folks, is best utilized when it enables educators to achieve the relational model of teaching, one where learner and professor together co-construct knowledge and create meaning.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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