ED MAP: Insights Blog

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

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Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

CliffNotes for Credit. “No writing or presenting of any kind, no interaction with an instructor beyond being able to ask questions electronically, no interaction with other students taking the course, no expectation of any kind of higher order thinking, analysis, or grappling with big questions, no inspiring students to want to learn more by showing them the deep and powerful insights into our social world that sociology can provide. I can’t imagine any student being inspired by this course to want to know more about sociology, and I do not believe that any skills beyond improving short-term memory will be developed through taking it. So what to make of this? I believe my JumpCourse failed on its own terms…”

General Ed Cheap and Easy. “Answering incorrectly three times in a row — which is in many cases hard to accomplish, given that the questions are multiple choice, matching or simple fill in the blank — forces the learner to move on to the next question. After enough wrong answers, the same questions will reappear. Repeat the process enough times, and the mastery level eventually reaches 90 percent.”

Why the tech world highly values a liberal arts degree. “But I think those of us who teach, advise, and administrate in these schools routinely fail in explaining to our students just what liberal arts are — and why they matter.  I don’t mean the historical explanation based on Abelard. I mean an explanation that seeks to show how and why learning to think critically, to reason, to push the boundaries of received knowledge is the value that they should seek to gain from their college education.  Economic value, career value, and social value.  Great and successful careers rarely end up having much connection to majors.  They do to intelligence, leadership, innovation, creativity, aptitude in assessing uncertainty, ability. Not surprisingly, the corporate representatives I have interviewed to gain insight about why they recruit from Dartmouth routinely echo Abelard in what they are looking for: critical thinking, an ability to deal with ambiguity, to reach conclusions based on considered mastery of research and context, and so forth.”

Alt-Ac Challenges, Continued. “As Josh notes, we see ourselves collaborating with faculty in their work, but we cannot start with the assumption that faculty are always ready to value what we bring to the collaboration. I know many faculty and alt-ac people who have successfully bridged that gap, but I think we should be ready to start every collaboration recognizing that the faculty member may see us as just one more member of the support staff …. . It’s not our motives that are suspect, but our competence as potential partners in collaboration, and we need to become very skillful at meeting the challenge of demonstrating the intellectual substance and quality of the work that we do.”

College Calculus. “Cappelli stresses the change in corporate hiring patterns. In the old days, Fortune 500 companies such as General Motors, Citigroup, and I.B.M. took on large numbers of college graduates and trained them for a lifetime at the company. But corporations now invest less in education and training, and, instead of promoting someone, or finding someone in the company to fill a specialized role, they tend to hire from outside. Grooming the next generation of leadership is much less of a concern.”

No Love, But No Alternative. “But accreditors now perform so many functions — historical ones like helping institutions improve themselves, plus an ever-growing array of regulatory demands imposed on them by Congress and the Education Department — that jettisoning them would almost certainly require the federal government to take on a much stronger role in higher education, which most observers see as a distasteful outcome. What that means is that as politicians and policy makers seek solutions to what they see as the underperformance of American higher education, they are likely to try to supplement and challenge the existing accreditation system — layering in other ways of trying to measure quality and value in higher education — rather than replace it.”

Navigation as a New Gen Ed. “I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about the seeming disconnect between an economy in which paths to prosperity are ever more complicated and opaque, and the move afoot on campuses to make pathways simpler and clearer. They actually make sense together. They assume that the ability to navigate complexity is the new Gen Ed.”

3 Higher Ed Lessons From Chelsea Market. “Quality can mean different things depending on which part of the institution you rely on for your paycheck. It is therefore up to leadership to articulate the few areas of quality at the institution that will receive a disproportionate investment of resources. The need to narrow the institutional quality focus will mean that good leadership will be unpopular. There will be winners and losers. But the only viable path to long-term economic sustainability is a consistent and long-term focus on quality.”

Cultivating MOOCs One Learner at a Time. “Online learning hasn’t yet revolutionized—or democratized—education. But as more and more people of all demographics come online (according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 80 percent of African-Americans are internet users and 62 percent have home broadband access), we can design online learning experiences to reach learners of all ages, races, and income levels. This will mean not just thinking about the technology and the content, but listening to what whole segments of America’s population are thinking and doing.”

Shift in Focus. “Instead the conversation has shifted to affordability in general with Republican presidential candidates talking about lowering the cost of higher education — or providing higher education in innovative ways — and Democrats focused on how to pay for college, Winograd said.”

When the Only Seat Is in Front of a Computer. “UCF, like many of Florida’s public institutions, has more qualified applicants than it has room for. To address the issue of overcrowded introductory courses, UCF has opted for a ‘first-come, first-served’ strategy: pile as many students into lecture halls as possible, and use lecture-capture technology to both live stream and record sessions for students who can’t find a seat.”

What Would It Take to Make College Debt-free? “Along with rising college costs, these affordability gaps have become more common–and larger–over time. As per student expenditures and total enrollment have increased, funding education has become more and more difficult for both students and colleges. The maximum Pell Grant available to students has increased, but its purchasing power has fallen sharply. At the same time, states have struggled to sustain per student funding to public institutions in the face of a recession and competing budget priorities. And many institutions – particularly those with small endowments – have insufficient resources to cover the resulting unmet need. These factors have each worked against the goal of providing affordable higher education, even as the population of students enrolling in college has consistently expanded and now includes more low-income and other nontraditional students than ever before.”

Interview With Martin Dougiamas On Changes To Moodle Community This Year. “However, rather than any kind of dictatorship we see our mission as being *servants* to the community of teachers and learners who need Moodle and quality open source Free software. Our core duty is to give away the software we develop. Our values are to support educators with respect, integrity, openness and innovation. … This is in contrast to multi-billion companies whose value is in increasing their EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] before a sale, and whose mission is to expand by acquiring markets in other countries.”

Breaking: Totara LMS Forks From Moodle And Changes Relationship. “This is a significant move for several reasons, including the following: The long-term relationship of Richard and others in Totara to the Moodle Community, which will now diverge;The importance of corporate learning for many, if not most, Moodle Partners,”

These Videos Could Change How You Think About Teaching. “But the focus of Mr. Wesch’s new site is to talk about the heart of teaching, not the mechanics of his digital experiments. As he put it, he’s interested in encouraging teaching that focuses on ‘transforming the learner.’”

Seeing the Matrix. “I’ve seen a few different ways of managing online classes, but they all (with one clear exception) lead to ‘matrix management,’ or cross-cutting responsibilities that often create diseconomies of scale. In other words, the org chart starts to look like a drawer full of unmatched socks, and the resulting conflicts wind up consuming far more organizational resources than they should.”

Franzen’s ‘Purity’ and the New iPhone. “The fact that the new Franzen book is so much more important for our culture than a new iPhone release tells us some interesting things about the future of work. The creative economy is ascendant. The gadget economy is commoditized. At some point, none of us need much more from our technology.”

Maker Spaces. “To be sure, a growing number of programs, particularly in engineering, are integrating hands-on problem solving into their curriculum. … I would suggest that many smart, driven students, brimming with exciting ideas, might benefit enormously if they had the opportunity to pursue ambitious technology-enhanced projects as part of their formal education and received the kinds of multidisciplinary support and mentoring they need to bring these projects to fruition. It is far too facile to dismiss such an approach as vocational training. Rather, it would be an education that is inquiry-based and challenge-driven with real-world implications.”

Investment in Access Must Be Matched By Investment in Success. “If we want to reduce the cost burden for students so that more can access college and participate in our economy, we have to discuss opportunities to expand financial aid beyond tuition/fees and we have to discuss ways in which we can support our students to complete college on time.”

School and Library Spotlight: How Schools Buy and Use E-Books. “Schools that want to purchase e-books must assess the cost of the e-books and also the cost of purchasing devices on which to read the e-books, as well as ensuring the proper tech setups (adequate Wi-Fi access, Internet filters, bandwidth, and storage) to allow access to the books on site. Schools that can afford it must decide which devices to buy and how many. Schools that have a BYOD (bring your own device) plan need to be certain that the digital content they purchase will work smoothly on a variety of devices without hiccups. Most schools’ e-book collections are accessible remotely as well, but requires that students have Internet access.”

Can You Really Work with an iPad? “An iPad with a physical keyboard is much more capable. So, can you really work with only an iPad? Of course you can. It will be a slower experience and you won’t be able to do as much as you can with a laptop, but you’ll still be able to work.”

Cool Tools for School. “Finally, something I haven’t used much yet, but which I imagine could be really useful for close reading, analysis, or debate, is Hypothes.is, an annotation tool for web documents. I really like the fact that this project doesn’t rely on monetizing user data (what Shoshana Zuboff recently called ‘surveillance capitalism’), and it’s a non-profit that uses open standards and isn’t operating on magical venture capital dust like so many for-profit tech ventures.”

In Defense of the Lecture. “One of the big takeaways from the conversation, for me, is that our cultural notion of the pedagogical work that happens in a good lecture is pretty impoverished relative to the reality. We don’t have a clear understanding of all the things that a good lecture accomplishes, and therefore we often lose valuable elements of student support when we try to replace it. This has pretty serious implications for MOOCs, flipped classrooms, personalized learning, and a wide array of pedagogical approaches that replace a traditional in-person lecture with something else.

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

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