ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Somebody’s Gotta Do It. “That’s why I recently made a commitment to start teaching online, beginning in the fall of 2016. My plan is to create a rigorous and engaging online U.S. history survey course while I’m still in a position to dictate terms. After all, if I create a respectable, popular class that takes advantage of the Internet to do things that can’t be done in person, then it will be harder for future online courses at my university (or elsewhere for that matter) to fail to live up to that example. In short, I want to stake out the high ground in the online education space before that ground becomes completely inaccessible. The only way for this to happen is for caring tenured faculty to start teaching online themselves.”

The University As Ed Tech Startup: UMUC, Global Campus, Texas, and SNHU roll their own. “Are these efforts paving the way for universities who know their own business to create profitable ed tech and services offerings based on unique insights into how schools really work, or are they vehicles for star-struck administrators seeing glory and easy revenues? Or both? Only time will tell, but I would expect to see more announcements of a similar nature over the next year or two.”

“Lack of Computers in Schools May Be a Blessing” – OECCD Report (Part 1). “What is newsworthy to me, of course, is that one-leg of the three-legged stool justifying buying these devices since the 1980s was academic improvement. The other two were that the new technologies would transform teaching and get students ready for an information-driven labor market. The academic improvement leg has wobbled badly since then from the scarcity of evidence to support the claim of improved achievement. The OECD report severs improved test scores from the list of reasons to buy tablets, laptops, hand-held devices, and accompanying software. What about the other two legs of that stool justifying purchase of new hardware and software? Transforming teaching from teacher-directed to student-centered has been a pipe dream.”

Doing Our Copyright Homework. “There are two significant things about this opinion that pertain to the kinds of fair-use decisions academics have to make constantly. First, as Kevin Smith emphasizes, fair use is not simply an affirmative defense, it is a right. The court says so definitively. Second, owners of intellectual property must consider whether a use is fair before issuing a take-down notice. This is a fair use win.”

Receiving Your Doctorate to Work… at a Community College? “Graduate students who are interested in personally connecting with students, working with significant numbers of nontraditional and first-generation students, and contributing significant service to a community should strongly consider positions at 2-year colleges.  I am not trying to belittle 4-year schools and research institutions.  The world needs the brilliance and talent that exists at 4-year schools.  Rather, I am trying to convey that the same opportunities to develop brilliance and talent exist at the 2-year level.”

Amazon Does Downloading; Do You? “Yet I suspect that most of current campus video content is streamed, but not available for downloading. And wireless is not everywhere. There is great convenience to having either segments or a the full 30/60/90 minute video from a challenging class session/lecture on my mobile device (laptop, phone, or tablet) as opposed to being location-dependent (my residence, my campus, or a local Starbucks) for high speed signal that provides access to video course resources. Admittedly, enabling students to download video course resources involves more than just flipping the proverbial (digital) switch. There are technology and copyright issues that must be addressed.”

4 Reasons Why Every Educator Should Read ‘The Gift of Failure.’The Gift of Failure is all about the journey to independent adulthood. Lahey builds a detailed argument for the benefit of autonomy parenting, an approach that is the opposite of over-parenting. The real goal of parenting, she argues, is not to maximize happiness in the moment – but to help kids develop the long-term tools and habits necessary for independent and productive lives. How can we take those lessons into our postsecondary classrooms? What can we do to think of time spent in college as preparation for independent adulthood?”

‘Beyond Measure’ and ‘Why We Work.’ “But the real reasons that pulls us to our work, and certainly inspires us to do great work, have little to do with monetary incentives. Rather, the drivers for good work have everything to do with internal motivation and a calling around the goals of the organization. We are inspired to do good work when we have autonomy, a belief that we are supported and appreciated, and when we have the time to develop strong social capital with our colleagues and our stakeholders.”

The Niche Conundrum. “Many small private colleges are facing a similar issue now. For that matter, so are some ‘comprehensive’ community colleges. In a competitive and crowded marketplace, what do you offer that others don’t? It might be prestige, if you have that option. It might be demographic specificity, as in the case of HBCU’s, single-sex colleges, or denominational colleges. It might be distinction in a particular major or field. It might be location. But it needs to be something. In an expanding market, being similar-and-almost-as-good can be enough. In a tightening one, though, you need a hook, a niche. You need a hook. You need a personality.”

What We’ve Learned From MOOCs. “First, MOOCs are not college courses. They are a new instructional genre — somewhere between a digital textbook and a successful college course. Although they can provide much richer learning experiences than a printed book alone, current MOOCs pale in any comparison with face-to-face instruction by a thoughtfully invested human instructor.”

What the Results of a Survey of Coursera Students Mean for Online Learning. “The report sorted students into two categories: career builders and education seekers. Most of the career builders, 87 percent, reported ‘career benefits’ from the courses. But that category comprises things as varied as starting a business and becoming better equipped for a current job. Thirty-three percent reported what the researchers call “tangible career benefits,” like finding a new job or getting a promotion.”

Slowing Down: 6 Strategies for Deep Listening. “What I like about the idea of deep listening, which might seem counterintuitive, is the active part of it. Deep listening calls upon us to be active as we engage with others, as well as open to what they are saying without judging their ideas or attempting to control the discourse or discursive context. It calls upon us to be group-centered, rather than self-centered. I also think the classroom presents many opportunities to teach deep listening through discussion-based pedagogy, the use of story circles, and other practices that get students to do slow learning, distraction-free learning, and thereby engage with their peers in unexpectedly transformative ways. Deep listening echoes strategies of reflection and focusing and mindfulness we might already be familiar with, like journaling, which also help to improve retention of information and critical thinking.”

Smart Libraries Will Power the Transition to Personalized Learning. “But a library’s role in powering this digital transformation doesn’t end with access. Smart libraries hold the potential to make Netflix-like content recommendations based on student outcomes or faculty preferences. Selected materials can then be pushed to the appropriate course site via the LMS. By mining their deep collection of content, tomorrow’s libraries will present the most relevant materials to instructors, enabling them to efficiently and effectively search, discover, and select the best sources to help students succeed in their courses.”

Davidson Next. “The comments overall provide an important message for anyone starting a pilot rollout: teachers and students largely expect polished products. Our students and teachers strongly disliked bugs and technical issues associated with piloting content.  It is crucial to set accurate expectations and build strong relationships to weather the inevitable problems that occur. … The teachers provided several other useful lessons. They reported having much more success with Davidson Next when they were more highly involved.”

So you want to slash college debt? “6. Let bankrupt borrowers discharge their loans. What makes student loans especially onerous is that they’re one of the only forms of debt that can almost never be discharged: They follow borrowers even through bankruptcy, and the federal government can even garnish wages or tax returns from graduates who default. As President Barack Obama works to cement his higher education legacy, the White House has floated making it easier to discharge some loans, those taken out from private lenders that aren’t federally guaranteed, in an effort to help ease student debt.”

America’s college students have changed. Will federal policy keep pace? “Over the last four decades, the gap between the percentage of low-income and high-income students enrolling in college has narrowed substantially – from a 46-point gap in 1970 to a 36-point gap in 2012 – but in the growth in college completion among low-income students hasn’t kept pace. Just 9 percent of students from the lowest-income families earned bachelor’s degrees in 2013, up from 6 percent in 1970, according to a study released this year by the Pell Institute and the University of Pennsylvania. And low-income students aren’t the only group who are struggling to complete college. Only a quarter of part-time students graduate, even when given twice as long to complete, and 38 percent of students with additional work and family obligations leave school within their first year.”

The Book ‘Machines of Loving Grace.’ “The second big theme in Machines of Loving Grace is the intellectual divide between the AI (artificial intelligence) and the IA (intelligence augmentation) communities. Where AI seeks to mimic, and ultimately supplant, human thinking – IA seeks to work alongside people as a helper. … There is a big divide in the roboticist community as to if the focus should be on developing AI or IA systems, and about which approach will ultimately most benefit the most people. The AI/IA framing may be helpful in our thinking about learning technologies, as one part of our community is focusing on scale (which involves replacing educators), and the other on intensifying the educator/learner relationship.”

Gaps in Success for Pell Grant Students. “Beyond differences in graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients among similar institutions, the report also shows gaps on the same campus between how frequently Pell Grant recipients graduate compared to their non-Pell peers. Nationally, the six-year graduation rate for Pell Grant students at the colleges in the report was 51 percent compared to 65 percent for non-Pell students, a 14-point gap. But compared to their non-Pell peers on the same campus, Pell Grant recipients lagged behind in graduating by an average of 5.7 percentage points …”

Are They Learning? “But by getting professors from around the country to (a) agree on a set of general education outcomes and (b) use that rubric to judge actual classroom work from representative groups of students at colleges around the country, the AAC&U project could produce a cross-institutional method of judging student learning that can win the trust of instructors skeptical about most national forms of learning assessment. Lest one think the faculty-driven process will paint a rosy picture of student learning, however, the results from the effort’s first, pilot year largely confirm other studies showing many students scoring low on key outcomes.”

In the Mind of a Student. “Imagine if schoolteachers and college professors were immediately able to identify how each of their students learns, what learning style works best for each child and what new topics he or she is struggling with. Research faculty members at the University of Wisconsin at Madison are hoping that this can be the future of education. Their research uses a combination of psychology and computer science to determine how best to optimize teaching for individual students.”

Take Courage. “Librarians need to take our commitment to intellectual freedom to heart and fight back when fear is used as a weapon against the right to inquire and explore. Reading must never be considered evidence of a crime. And (a critical information literacy concept) we need to be alert to the uses of fear in controlling and shaping public issues.”

Newspapers, Colleges, and ‘Geeks Bearing Gifts.’ “Still, there are cautionary tales for higher ed in the decimation of the newspaper world – and some of these lessons can be found in Geeks Bearing Gifts. The main argument that Jarvis makes in this concise book is that the news business needs to move from a producer and disseminator of content to a connector and nurturer of communities. He chides the newspaper industry for failing to understand that digital tools are not simply opportunities for doing old things (producing and disseminating news) in new ways, but rather platforms to catalyze an informed and productive conversation.”

Digital Identity Dev is a Process. “Share and Engage: I’m a big fan of using social media as a listening platform. However, digital spaces are great realms for sharing and engaging. It sounds simple, but social media continue to provide avenues for communication that span the globe and are literally changing the way the world works. Connect, curate, and converse and you will be on a lifelong journey of learning.

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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