Well, yeah. There’s not going to be much improvement in outcomes until:
- We, including the administration and the IT support folks along with all faculty, get our hands dirty changing and monitoring what goes on inside the course – the teaching, the design, the assessments, etc. No amount of high level data and/or policy changes will do much with changing the insides of the courses.
- We get serious about assessment of teaching and learning inside the course. All ATD does is focus on success rates by course or larger aggregation. That doesn’t really help faculty know what or how to change. It’s a step. But ATD is like providing a baseball coach/football coach with a win-loss record. Yeah, it’s essential, but the team’s performance won’t change until we have data on things that are more granular. In baseball you have a wealth of stats on each phase of the game: ERA, batting average, slugging average, etc. Same with football. In college teaching all we have is gut intuition. We’re flying blind.
Higher Education Needs Higher Productivity
Tuesday, March 15, 2011SUSIE GHARIB: When it comes to education, states should pay more attention to productivity. So says tonight’s commentator, Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation.
JAMIE MERISOTIS, PRES., & CEO, LUMINA FOUNDATION: America is home to some of the most productive and successful businesses in the world. Recent government data shows that U.S. productivity is at the highest level in many years. But one place where productivity is lagging is in the hallowed halls of our great colleges and universities. Now, productivity may not be a word you automatically associate with higher education. And yet, productivity is consistent with the loftier goals of academia. Higher education productivity is about making the system more efficient, more innovative and more cost-effective. We need a more productive higher education system because the U.S. needs a lot more college-qualified people to power our economy. And research shows that the public wants this. Some states are working hard to increase productivity by paying for results, embracing new course and program delivery models and making campus operations much more efficient. But the work must continue, because one thing we know for sure is that if companies or colleges, don’t meet the challenge, competitors will find openings and take advantage of them. And that would make a less productive and less prosperous, nation for all of us. I’m Jamie Merisotis.
From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
Textbook Publisher Announces ‘App’ Approach to Learning Materials
March 2, 2011, 10:00 am
By Jeff Young
Long Beach — The phrase “there’s an app for that” may be coming to textbooks.
Today a major textbook company, Cengage Learning, announced a new e-textbook publishing platform that lets professors plug in apps, some made by other software companies, to add to traditional textbook content features like tutoring services or the ability to trade margin notes with other students.
The system is called MindTap, and it is scheduled to be announced at the annual TED conference here. When Chris Vento, Cengage’s executive vice president for technology and development, explained the system to a reporter, he felt the need to put the word “textbook” in air quotes, since traditional textbook content is a small part of the new product. These digital textbooks essentially bundle together several products sold by Cengage and its subsidiaries, including their electronic test-bank system, called Aplia, as well as videos and other materials that the company owns the rights to, including the archives of Newsweek. And MindTap allows professors to customize the presentation of the material, by adding their own slides, video lectures, articles, or free online content from elsewhere.
The wider implications of this view–the textbook as a small part of a learning experience that’s now focused on related interactive software–were spelled out for publishing as a whole last week by William D. Rieders, executive vice president for new media at the company, in an interview with The Chronicle.
Competing textbook publishers already offer similar bundles of learning materials, but what appears unique is that Cengage officials are working with third-party e-learning companies to let them build add-ons that can be added directly into the e-textbooks. In that way, the system might work something like Apple’s popular online store for apps that work on its smartphones or tablet computers.
Students will read the online textbooks via a standard Web browser, though Mr. Vento says the Web pages are coded so that they adapt to fit whatever device the student is using, whether it is a laptop, iPad, or a smartphone. The system’s interface consists of two side-by-side windows, one displaying a page of a textbook and the other allowing users to open another app within the system, such as a notebook page to type and share notes, or any of the other apps that a professor enabled for his or her course.
In some ways, the Cengage system appears to be competing with course-management systems like Blackboard, which have also added features and customization so that professors can bring together learning materials and services in one interface. Mr. Vento said his company was not trying to compete with course-management providers, however, noting that professors will still want to use a course-management system for things like managing enrollment and submitting grades.
The move is the latest in a growing platform war among textbook publishers, as traditional textbook companies seek to define what a textbook should be in the digital age and possibly even control the online storefront for textbook publishing.
Cengage officials said that nine colleges and universities are testing MindTap, though it declined to name them. It plans to make it more widely available for sale starting in June.
From Stephen Downes:
Tony Bates reports on the launch of a new Ontario Online Institute and the appointment of Maxim Jean-Louis as its director. Ontario has a solid record of success in online learning (see also: Ontario Learn and Ontario edubloggers). And Jean-Louis is perfectly positioned, coming from years of experience with Contact North. Citing numerous submissions from stakeholders, Bates reports “there already seems to be a high level of consensus among stakeholders on the form and function of the Institute. All argue that a large, new central institution offering its own credentials should be avoided, and that the focus of the Institute should be to add value at a system level to the wide range of services already offered by the individual institutions.”
Bates also looks at what Ontario can learn from B.C. success such as BC Campus. Paul Stacey, who has been with BC Campus for years, offers a comprehensive overview of the project. Bates summarizes:
- Setting aside a relatively small amount of money each year to address gaps in the system and to encourage collaboration can have a very big pay-off
- Central funding with conditions enables the development of a wide range of sharable open educational resources.
- Collaboration between institutions enables students to access a wider range of credentials across the whole province
- Collaborative programming has been helped tremendously by a comprehensive system of pre-agreed credit transfers between institutions.
Originally posted at BaselineScenario:
For Profit or For Students?
This guest post is contributed by Mark Paul and Anastasia Wilson. Both are members of the class of 2011 at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
For-profit colleges are expanding enrollments at a rapid pace, but it is questionable whether these revenue-seeking universities give adequate consideration to students’ welfare, retention/graduation rates, and overall economic well-being alongside their bottom line profits.
A new post by Judith Scott-Clayton, a professor at Columbia Teachers College and new weekly contributor to the New York Times Economix blog, explores the merits of for-profit colleges, arguing that in many ways these schools are more efficient at seeking funding opportunities for students and adopting new teaching technologies. These schools procure more Federal dollars per student and employ more cost-saving technologies, in the classroom and online, than their non-profit public and private competitors.
However, the real question is not a matter of efficiency, but instead concerns students and the taxpayers funding Federal loans and grants consumed by for-profits. Are the relative merits of profit-oriented schools, including their comparative advantage in securing Federal funding, being used to improve the return on investment for students or for their shareholders? On the macro level, does the growth of for-profit higher education promote new risks in the economy, as drop-out and loan default rates continue to increase?
The relative efficiency or effectiveness of for-profit schools is not necessarily what has been driving record enrollment rates, which were up 25% just over the past year. The Great Recession has pushed many students and unemployed folk towards higher education, as better credentials often mean better job prospects. With the unemployment rate for those holding a bachelors degree at 4.2%, there are incentives to enroll. In fact, applications and enrollments for colleges are up across the board, perhaps meaning the overflow from more selective schools is being crowded into the fast-growing for-profit institutions.
Though increased enrollment appears to imply increased opportunity, many students are in higher risk of drop-out and loan default when choosing a for-profit college. The for-profit education sector is in large part to blame for the sharp rise in student loan defaults, accounting for almost half of total defaulters. In the graph below, the Department of Education has concluded that despite only having 12% of total enrollments, for-profit schools disproportionally account for 48% of total student debt defaults. Since for-profits are so effective in securing Federal loans and grants for their students, this means that the schools are in essence receiving an indirect subsidy from the government and taxpayers, while leaving students in the red.
While an increasing number of students enroll in for-profits and take on large amounts of student debt, they also increase their risk of drop-out. A report published last year by the Education Trust shows how devastating dropout rates are, with only 22% of students enrolled at for-profit four-year universities graduating within six years, as compared to 55% and 65% at public and private non-profit universities, respectively. Many students enrolling in these institutions are left without credentials and burdened with debt, yet the schools are able to retain their profits made from students’ tuition.
The increased prevalence of for-profit universities, with their dangerous combination of drop-out and default, may be aggravating a looming student debt crisis. Overall, the volume of loans in default grew to $50.8 billion in 2009, up 30% from the year before. As more students enroll in risky for-profit schools, these rates are likely to increase, perhaps leading to another consumer debt crisis similar to the foreclosure fiasco.
Although many are well aware of these alarming facts, our elected officials appear to continue favoring the implicit tax dollar handouts to for-profit colleges. The spending bill recently passed by House Republicans even blocks the Department of Education from enforcing a new rule that could limit for-profit schools’ access to Federal money. While arguments can be made that profit-seeking schools give wider access to higher education, it seems that the profit motive and shareholder loyalty are overtaking concerns for the well-being of students and the economy at large. Instead of allowing Federal dollars to support for-profit education, the money ordinarily received by these schools should be used to increase the capacity of public higher education and provide “finish line” grants to those facing financial struggles in their final year of study.
As the Obama administration seeks to increase enrollment, graduation rates, and investment in higher education, policy makers need to consider redirecting their funding towards students and not into the pockets of shareholders by subsidizing private profits.
Social media and research workflowCIBER, University College London, Emerald Group Publishing Ltd, February 23, 2011.As Academic Impressions summarizes this report, “A new survey shows that social scientists, humanists, and biologists — many of them frustrated by traditional publishing — are increasingly using Facebook and Twitter to share research.” The report states, “Researchers are using social media tools to support every phase of the research lifecycle: from identifying research opportunities to disseminating findings at the end. They may not be the same tools, and they are certainly not the same researchers, but social media are most definitely making an impact on scholarly workflow.”