It’s hard to dispute the claim that society now is more inter-connected than it has ever been. Most of the time this hyperconnectivity is touted as a positive influence on society, but what are the risks involved?
Via jean lievens
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IMI New Delhi ( International Management Institute ) New Delhi organized its 3 day Annual cultural fest KRITVA�14 from Oct 17 to Oct 19, 2014. The inaugural ceremony evening on Oct 16, 2014 was graced by many illustrious dignitaries such as the Direc
Via Sanchita Patel
More than half of all colleges award at least some credit for military and career experience, according to the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, or CAEL. The number of transcripts from military and corporate training courses submitted for college credit through an accreditation service provided by ACE rose 35 percent in the last 10 years, and a consortium of colleges that agree to accept credit for military experience now awards an average of just under 18 credits per year to each of more than 45,000 service members.
Some states, including Colorado, Minnesota, and Vermont, aren’t waiting for their public universities to award credit for military and career experience. They’re ordering them to start that process. And a proposal in the California state Senate would push public universities in that state to accept credit for certain outside online courses, including some provided by for-profit companies.
One reason for all of this attention is that unconventional credit is often cheaper than the traditional kind, for both students and taxpayers. Applicants usually must pay fees to prove they’ve actually learned something elsewhere―say, by submitting portfolios or taking assessment tests―but a student who earns 15 credits for career experience can save from $1,605 at a large public university to $6,000 at a private one, according to CAEL. It also saves time. With their credits from “real-world” experience, Western Governors University says its students take an average of 35 months to earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to more than 50 months at other higher-education institutions. In March, the government gave the idea another boost by saying federal financial aid could be applied to the cost of assessing prior learning in this way.
“I don’t have anything against universities or colleges,” says Stephens, who received a fellowship from billionaire Facebook founder Peter Thiel that pays students under 20 a $100,000 stipend to drop out of college and become entrepreneurs. “My problem is with people going to universities or colleges simply because they think that’s what expected of them.”
As colleges begin using massive open online courses (MOOC) to reduce faculty costs, a Johns Hopkins University professor has announced plans for MOOA (massive open online administrations). Dr. Benjamin Ginsberg, author of The Fall of the Faculty, says that many colleges and universities face the same administrative issues every day. By having one experienced group of administrators make decisions for hundreds of campuses simultaneously, MOOA would help address these problems expeditiously and economically. Since MOOA would allow colleges to dispense with most of their own administrators, it would generate substantial cost savings in higher education.
"Studies show that about 30 percent of the cost increases in higher education over the past twenty-five years have been the result of administrative growth," Ginsberg noted. He suggested that MOOA can reverse this spending growth. "Currently, hundreds, even thousands, of vice provosts and assistant deans attend the same meetings and undertake the same activities on campuses around the U.S. every day," he said. "Imagine the cost savings if one vice provost could make these decisions for hundreds of campuses."
Asked if this "one size fits all" administrative concept was realistic given the diversity of problems faced by thousands of schools, Ginsberg noted that a "best practices" philosophy already leads administrators to blindly follow one another's leads in such realms as planning, staffing, personnel issues, campus diversity, branding and, curriculum planning. The MOOA, said Ginsberg, would take "best practices" a step further and utilize it to realize substantial cost savings.
Ginsberg pointed to the realm of strategic planning. He said that thanks to to the best practices concept, hundreds of schools currently use virtually identical strategic plans. Despite the similarities, however, these plans cost each school hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to develop. The MOOA would formalize the already extant cooperation by developing one plan that could be used by all colleges. Ginsberg estimates that had the MOOA planning concept been in use over the past ten years, schools would have saved more than a half billion dollars. "One way to look at it," he said, "Is that through their tuitions students paid about $500 million for strategic planning that might have been used for curricular development or other educational purposes." The MOOA plan, he declared, would end such wasteful duplication.
According to Ginsberg, another place where the MOOA concept is immediately relevant is "branding." Following contemporary business models, hundreds of schools pay consulting firms hundreds of thousands of dollars to help them improve their "brand" identities. The results of these expensive individual efforts often seem quite similar. For example, after a major and costly rebranding effort, the University of Chicago School of Medicine declared that its brand would be "University of Chicago Medicine." After working with consultants, the Johns Hopkins Medical School decided that its brand would be "Johns Hopkins Medicine." And, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School was helped by its consultants to coin the brand, "Penn Medicine." A MOOA might have identified a brand that all medical schools would be happy to use, such as "[School's Name] Medicine."
Ginsberg also suggested that the "best practices" philosophy has led administrators at many schools to develop similar tasks and projects. At his own university, administrators created a "committee on traditions" to rediscover forgotten school traditions or, if necessary, to invent new ones. Similar committees had also been created by administrators on a number of other campuses including Emory, Duke, Middlebury, and Bowling Green. "Interestingly," said Ginsberg, "administrators meeting on dozens of campuses have uncovered or devised very similar traditions." Substituting one MOOA "committee on traditions" for the dozens, perhaps hundreds of such committees would generate significant savings.
Ginsberg has named his MOOA "Administeria," and plans to begin operations in early 2014. He admits that widespread use of MOOAs could result in substantial unemployment among college bureaucrats. However, he noted that their skill sets make them qualified for work in such burgeoning industries as retail sales, hospitality, food services, event planning, and horticultural design.
Benjamin Ginsberg is David Bernstein Professor of Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University.
Digital badge initiatives at colleges and universities across the country are challenging assumptions about learning and assessment.
In 2011, as the University of California, Davis added a new major in sustainable agriculture and food systems, it sought to create a curriculum that would help students develop competencies for addressing the environmental, social, and economic challenges involving agriculture.
Because much of the work takes place outside the classroom, administrators wanted students to create their own portfolios where they could demonstrate all types of learning and activities. "This seemed to match well with digital badges," says Joanna Normoyle, internship coordinator and undergraduate adviser for UC-Davis' Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI). "We want to help students organize their thinking about their different learning experiences and tell their story. It seemed to us that badges could help take something that is highly abstract and concretize it."
The new major was selected as one of 30 winners of a MacArthur Foundation Digital Media & Learning Competition grant. That funding is supporting development of a digital portfolio that helps students build badges they can display on LinkedIn, Facebook, and to future employers. ASI initially worked with some third-party software developers but is now transitioning the badge system in-house. After 18 months of development work, the system is set to launch this fall.
"We want to roll it out carefully in our program," Normoyle says. "We are focused on the individual student experience of building a portfolio and earning badges, and ways that faculty can comment and connect with [students] as they do it."
Badges Get Serious
But badges are only as valuable as the metadata behind them, and that is why the Mozilla Open Badges infrastructure is important, he asserts. "The badge image itself means nothing," Wisser says. "But with Mozilla there is something behind it that links back to the issuer, the criteria it was issued under, and evidence verifying the credential."
Wisser, who will give a presentation on digital badges next month at the Campus Technology 2013conference in Boston, has some experience with badge deployment. Last year, he helped doctoral students at HGSE design a badge program to experiment with alternative credentialing. "They decided to create a badge system to get at the core theories in areas such as urban education and craft pathways to understanding," he explains.
The badges have several layers, Wisser says. While the top level signifies that you completed elements of the coursework, the badges have stripes for other accomplishments such as leading a discussion or teaching peers. "These badges are visible to other students, and if you are struggling in one area, you could turn to someone more accomplished--as shown by their badge--for help. Or if you were strong in a certain area and saw someone else was struggling, you could reach out to that person."
A badge effort may take more than a year to get off the ground. People from different parts of campus may come together and have different problems they want to solve, and that leads to different answers about the infrastructure they need and what types of assessment are required, Grant says. Universities that already embrace a competency-based model of curriculum development and assessment are able to move much faster on badges, she notes.
Adopting badges at the university level will present many challenges to the pioneers who try it, saysDan Hickey, associate professor of learning sciences and research scientist at the Center for Research on Learning and Technology at Indiana University. "People don't know what they are getting into and it touches the whole ecosystem." Hickey is working on a grant from Google to offer a massive open online course (MOOC) that uses badges. "I have to negotiate with the university about whether I am allowed to use 'IU' on the badges I plan to issue with the course," he says. IU is basically telling early adopters to go ahead and innovate, and it will work through any policy issues later, Hickey says. "So they are pleased with our efforts and not hindering us," he adds, "but they see that there are some risks involved."
In his blog posts, Hickey has noted that efforts to implement badges within accredited academic programs could get complicated because changing accountability usually changes assessment, and changing assessment often calls for changes in instruction. One of the challenges, he says, is aligning badges with learning outcomes. "When they go to issue badges, teachers sometimes realize the claims they want to make are not really linked to evidence. They don't have the evidence of the learning outcomes."
Hickey is leading the DML Badges Design Principles Documentation project to document the badge design principles that emerge from the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning program. He suggests university officials ask themselves some initial questions about learning when considering using digital badges:
What sorts of claims will your badges make about the earners and what evidence will your badges contain to support those claims?What assumptions about learning will frame your consideration and implementation of badges?How will your badges program be introduced? Will it be a centralized effort or pockets of innovation?
Purdue has created the technology infrastructure to support badges, including tools to capture evidence, store it, and provide privacy controls. (Purdue's Passport platform integrates with the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure, including Mozilla Backpack.)
In one early example of Passport's use, instructors are giving out badges for students who pass an 8-week MOOC-like course in nanotechnology that doesn't have credit attached. In another example, the provost's office has created a badge related to intercultural learning that students can earn for their work in different disciplines and departments. "One key element is the information attached to the badge, including who issued it," Bowen says. "Some of these fields are quite small, so who the instructor is can be important."
The next question for Purdue to explore is how to balance the ad-hoc use of badges as an element in a course or co-curricular activity vs. how they might be officially issued by the university. What would a more official collection of badges look like? "We are working on a way to articulate how evidence is captured and assessed within our core curriculum," Bowen says. "It will take time."
How to Move Forward?
With badges in mind, Longwood is now rethinking its approach to continuing education. "For instance," Langlie adds, "our statisticians in the business college are interested in teaching a class for K-12 teachers. They would get certifications in the form of a badge."
Yet Langlie believes that if you asked most faculty members on his campus, they would say they have no interest in badges. "They might say it is an interesting concept, but they would not be interested in using it in the traditional for-credit environment," he says. "And I think the upper administration is even more worried about assessment and accreditation issues. There needs to be more awareness that this doesn't supplant traditional assessment; it complements it. It would also help if accrediting agencies would express an opinion about digital badges."
Setting aside course credit, some universities are experimenting with digital badges to encourage engagement with the campus to improve student retention. Seton Hall University (NJ) students, for instance, can earn badges for participating in campus events.
There is a diversity of opinions in the badge community about giving badges for participation, says HASTAC's Grant. Some think if the badge system does not demonstrate a level of skill and tangible value, it may water down the concept of badging overall. While IU's Hickey agrees, he is excited by badges' potential role in deep engagement and participatory education. "We need to do a lot of work to understand motivation. The intrinsic/extrinsic motivation model is outdated and too narrow," he says. "The real question is, how does the introduction of the badge transform discourse? Do the students engage more deeply?"
Grant estimates that it may be five years before university presidents and provosts start feeling real pressure to have badge programs. "But I think it is only going to take one university coming up with a scalable model to get the momentum going, and I think one of the land grant universities will do it."
Referring to her own graduate work, Grant notes that if there were two top Ph.D. programs in her field, one that allowed her to work toward badges in defined competencies through a combination of coursework and field experience and another that didn't, "there's no question which one I would choose."
HGSE's Wisser thinks the digital badge movement will stay at the faculty level for a while longer as technology companies and open source consortia work to make badges easier to deploy. "We will see more educational research on their use and impact," he says, "and more buy-in and slow growth as part of the electronic portfolio."
There is no question that education is an unusual industry: Nonprofit ventures compete with for-profits. (In fact, it’s frequently hard to tell them apart.) The “users” of products aren’t typically the folks who are the “buyers” of products.
Need To Grow Your EdTech Startup? Edtech Incubators Are Popping Up Everywhere
There is no question that education is an unusual industry: Nonprofit ventures compete with for-profits. (In fact, it’s frequently hard to tell them apart.) The “users” of products aren’t typically the folks who are the “buyers” of products. The marketplace is a jigsaw puzzle of districts, charters, and others, crisscrossed with bureaucracy and conflicting demands. And the entrepreneurs are, for the most part, young and untested in the ways of building businesses.
For those kinds of reasons, it made perfect sense when three experienced Internet businessmen started an education technology incubator, Imagine K12, in early 2011.
More choice is better for all the participants involved, from kids and teachers to startups themselves.
And since incubators are kind of geographic hot spots, it made sense that entrepreneurs on the East Coast should have one, too. And maybe in the middle of the country. And in the south. Then there were more. (Here’s our list of the current state of edtech incubators.)
So far in 2013, the U.S. alone has seen five new edtech incubators and accelerators. And whether by coincidence or design, all five decided to announce their arrival this February, making the month look like a weekly show of one-upmanship.
It’s a telling sign of the convergence of dynamic energies: a supply of talented and passionate entrepreneurs devoted to the space, renewed faith in the education market among investors, and a global belief in the potential for technology to better education. But is it too much?
FEBRUARY’S FAB FIVE
Boston-based nonprofit LearnLaunch got the ball rolling on February 1 when it announced the LearnLaunchX accelerator program. LearnLaunch grew out of an existing organization, EdTechup, that had organized a regular series of local meetups and events around education entrepreneurship. The six to eight startups selected for LearnLaunchX will start school on April 1.
Socratic Labs, based in New York City, debuted its inaugural class a week later on February 7 (even though it quietly began operations in fall 2012). It will run two cohorts a year, with eight to 10 startups per cohort. The three founding directors--Heather Gilchrist, Rusty Grieff, and Farb Nivi--all hail from Grockit. Particularly notable is a program Gilchrist is spearheading called Edtech Passport: entrepreneurs involved with Socratic, LearnLaunch, 4.0 Schools (a “pre-incubator” in New Orleans), and others will have a “passport” to travel among the incubators that are part of the network and “enjoy the perks of a local network in regional hubs across the country.” This includes attending classes, using work spaces, and sharing access to each other’s networks of schools, investors, and other community resources and stakeholders. Socratic’s mantra: “Education is not a zero-sum game.”
Education is not a zero-sum game.
On February 18, TechStars CEO and founder David Cohen, along with Kaplan CEO Andy Rosen, announced they were joining forces for the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator. The program boasts a flashy lineup of mentors, including Deborah Quazzo, founder of GSV Advisors, and CEOs from big-name edtech startups like Knewton and Dreambox Learning. The program, also based in NYC, will work with ten startups every year, beginning this June.
Two days after the Kaplan-TechStars announcement, Pearson launched its own incubator, Catalyst. It’s an incubator in the loosest sense: Ten startups with “products that complement or enhance a Pearson brand” will be partnered with those teams and work together. (This has raised eyebrows and dismissals of the program as an “easy-bake oven” that takes piggyback technologies from others to promote existing Pearson products.)
That very same day, FurtherEd, which made its name in the online continuing education space for professionals, announced its very own edtech incubator in partnership withProgress Partners, a finance and M&A advisory firm. FurtherEd CEO Schnurman is still finalizing financial details of his program, but he plans to work with up to 10 small (2- to 3-person) teams in FurtherEd’s new downtown New York office.
The United States is not alone with the edu-bator craze. Other countries have caught the bug as well:
London recently welcomed the U.K.’s first edtech incubator, the “Edtech Incubator” (so much for a name). And there are rumors of another one on the way.Israel is building an education technology oasis with MindCET, which offers two programs for startups. In its first year, the accelerator is currently working with 10 startups in different stages of development.The Brazilian government is also getting in on the dance with Startup Brasil, which offers up to $100K to woo tech entrepreneurs, particularly those working on education, to set up shop in the country. There’s a bit of a competitive streak going on there, too: Startup Chile is on track to host 1,000 startups by 2014.MAKING SENSE OF THE NUMBERS
Too many? Are they fueling a bubble? “From the ecosystem perspective, more choice is better for all the participants involved, from kids and teachers to startups themselves,” says Alan Louie, a founding partner at Imagine K12 (who is stepping back from his day-to-day role). “Education is not a unified market by any means. There are a lot of cultural differences between regions, which means they each have different strengths and needs.”
Even so, that collection of incubators promise easily more than 100 edtech startups a year. How many of them will survive? NewSchools Venture Fund counted 34 seed financings in 2012. We’re keeping count, too. From there, a portion are likely to get snapped up in acquisitions: CB Insights counted 99 M&A edtech deals in 2011 and 2012. Traditional publishers like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Wiley & Sons have been among the top acquirers, with the top disclosed deal worth $650 million. Startups are getting into the action as well, as seen in Edmodo’s acquisition of Root-1 in March 2013 orRosetta Stone’s recent purchase of Livemocha.
And that might be enough momentum to keep the incubators going. Our back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that most incubators have about a $1 million-a-year burn rate. (Figure $400,000 for the 20 startups, a similar amount for managing partners, and the rest for rent, other services, and events.) Just a few deals should keep the incubators humming.
“We [the U.S] probably can’t support 20 of these things, but five is probably more reasonable,” quipped Louie.
But some final words of wisdom for those thinking about joining the incubator bandwagon: It’s more than just offering money, work space, and connections. “Most people don’t realize how much work they have to put in,” says Gilchrist. “Imagine managing eight startups, on top of your own.”
By Tony Wan, Associate Editor, Ed Surge
A CERTAIN drama has become familiar in the United States (and some other advanced industrialized countries): Bankers encourage people to borrow beyond their means, preying especially on those who are financially unsophisticated. They use their political influence to get favorable treatment of one form or another. Debts mount. Journalists record the human toll. Then comes bewilderment: How could we let this happen again? Officials promise to fix things. Something is done about the most egregious abuses. People move on, reassured that the crisis has abated, but suspecting that it will recur soon.
The crisis that is about to break out involves student debt and how we finance higher education. Like the housing crisis that preceded it, this crisis is intimately connected to America’s soaring inequality, and how, as Americans on the bottom rungs of the ladder strive to climb up, they are inevitably pulled down — some to a point even lower than where they began.
This new crisis is emerging even before the last one has been resolved, and the two are becoming intertwined. In the decades after World War II, homeownership and higher education became signs of success in America.
Everyone recognizes that education is the only way up, but as a college degree becomes increasingly essential to making one’s way in a 21st-century economy, education for those not to the manner born is increasingly unaffordable. Student debt for seniors graduating with loans now exceeds $26,000, about a 40 percent increase (not adjusted for inflation) in just seven years. But an “average” like this masks huge variations.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, almost 13 percent of student-loan borrowers of all ages owe more than $50,000, and nearly 4 percent owe more than $100,000. These debts are beyond students’ ability to repay, (especially in our nearly jobless recovery); this is demonstrated by the fact that delinquency and default rates are soaring. Some 17 percent of student-loan borrowers were 90 days or more behind in payments at the end of 2012. When only those in repayment were counted — in other words, not including borrowers who were in loan deferment or forbearance — more than 30 percent were 90 days or more behind. For federal loans taken out in the 2009 fiscal year, three-year default ratesexceeded 13 percent.
America is distinctive among advanced industrialized countries in the burden it places on students and their parents for financing higher education. America is also exceptional among comparable countries for the high cost of a college degree, including at public universities.Average tuition, and room and board, at four-year colleges is just short of $22,000 a year, up from under $9,000 (adjusted for inflation) in 1980-81.
Compare this more-than-doubling in tuition with the stagnation in median family income, which is now about $50,000, compared to $46,000 in 1980 (adjusted for inflation).
Like much else, the problem of student debt worsened during the Great Recession: tuition costs at public universities increased by 27 percent in the past five years — partly because of cutbacks — while median income shrank. In California, inflation-adjusted tuition more than doubled in public two-year community colleges (which for poorer Americans are often the key to upward mobility), and by more than 70 percent in four-year public schools, from 2007-8 to 2012-13.
With costs soaring, incomes stagnating and little help from government, it was not surprising that total student debt, around $1 trillion, surpassed total credit-card debt last year. Responsible Americans have learned how to curb their credit-card debt — many have forsaken them for debit cards, or educated themselves about usurious interest rates, fees and penalties charged by card issuers — but the challenge of controlling student debt is even more unsettling.
Curbing student debt is tantamount to curbing social and economic opportunity. College graduates earn $12,000 more per year than those without college degrees; the gap has almost tripled just since 1980. Our economy is increasingly reliant on knowledge-related industries. No matter what happens with currency wars and trade balances, the United States is not going to return to making textiles. Unemployment rates among college graduates are much lower than among those with only a high school diploma.
America — home of the land-grant university, the G.I. Bill and world-class public universities from California to Michigan to Texas — has fallen from the top in terms of university education. With strangling student debt, we are likely to fall further. What economists call “human capital” — investing in people — is a key to long-term growth. To be competitive in the 21st century is to have a highly educated labor force, one with college and advanced degrees. Instead, we are foreclosing on our future as a nation.
Student debt also is a drag on the slow recovery that began in 2009. By dampening consumption, it hinders economic growth. It is also holding back recovery in real estate, the sector where the Great Recession started.
It’s true that housing prices seem to be on the upswing, but home construction is far from the levels reached in the years before the bubble burst of 2007.
Those with huge debts are likely to be cautious before undertaking the additional burdens of a family. But even when they do, they will find it more difficult to get a mortgage. And if they do, it will be smaller, and the real estate recovery will consequently be weaker. (One study of recent Rutgers University graduates showed that 40 percent had delayed making a major home purchase, and for a quarter, the high level of debt had an effect on household formation or getting further education. Another recent study showed that homeownership among 30-year-olds with a history of student debt fell by more than 10 percentage points during the Great Recession and in its aftermath.)
It’s a vicious cycle: lack of demand for housing contributes to a lack of jobs, which contributes to weak household formation, which contributes to a lack of demand for housing.
As bad as things are, they may get worse. With budgetary pressures mounting — along with demands for cutbacks in “discretionary domestic programs” (read: K-12 education subsidies, Pell Grants for poor kids to attend college, research money) — students and families are left to fend for themselves. College costs will continue to rise far faster than incomes. As has been repeatedly observed, all of the economic gains since the Great Recession have gone to the top 1 percent.
Consider another dubious distinction: student debt is almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy proceedings.
We’re a long way from the debtors’ prisons Dickens described. We don’t send debtors to penal colonies or put them in bonded labor. Although personal bankruptcy laws have been tightened, the principle that bankrupt individuals should be allowed a fresh start, and a chance to discharge excessive debt, is an established principle. This helps debt markets work better, and also provides incentives for creditors to assess the creditworthiness of borrowers.
Yet education loans are almost impossible to write off in bankruptcy court — even when for-profit schools didn’t deliver what they promised and didn’t provide an education that would let the borrower get a job that paid enough to pay back the loan.
We should cut off federal support for these for-profit schools when they fail to graduate students, who don’t get jobs and then default on their loans.
To its credit, the Obama administration tried to make it tougher for these predatory schools to lure students with false promises. Under the new rules, schools had to meet one of three tests, or lose their eligibility for federal student aid: at least 35 percent of graduates had to be repaying their loans; the typical graduate’s estimated annual loan payments could not exceed 12 percent of earnings; or the payments could not exceed 30 percent of discretionary income. But in 2012, a federal judge struck down the rules as arbitrary; the rules remain in legal limbo.
The combination of predatory for-profit schools and predatory lenders is a leech on America’s poor. These schools have even gone after young veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are heart-rending stories of parents who co-signed student loans — only to see their child killed in an accident or die of cancer or another disease — and, like students, can’t easily discharge these debts.
Interest rates on federal Stafford loans were set to double in July, to 6.8 percent. Good news came on Friday: it appears that there is a temporary reprieve, as Republicans have come around. But the stay would be temporary and would not address a more fundamental issue: if the Federal Reserve is willing to lend to the banks that caused the crisis at just 0.75 percent, shouldn’t it be willing to lend to students, who will be crucial to our long-term recovery, at an appropriately low rate? The government shouldn’t be profiting from our poorest while subsidizing our richest. A proposal by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, for lower student-loan interest rates is a step in the right direction.
Along with tougher regulation of for-profit schools and the banks they connive with, and more humane bankruptcy laws, we must give more support to middle-class families struggling to send their children to college, to ensure that they have a standard of living at least equal to that of their parents.
But a real long-term solution requires rethinking how we finance higher education. Australia has designed a system of publicly provided income-contingent loans that all students must take out. Repayments vary according to individual income after graduation. This aligns the incentives of the providers of education and the receivers. Both have an incentive to see that students do well. It means that if an unfortunate event happens, like an illness or an accident, the loan obligation is automatically reduced. It means that the burden of the debt is always commensurate with an individual’s ability to repay. The repayments are collected through the tax system, minimizing the administrative costs.
Some wonder how the American ideal of equality of opportunity has eroded so much. The way we finance higher education provides part of the answer. Student debt has become an integral part of the story of American inequality. Robust higher education, with healthy public support, was once the linchpin in a system that promised opportunity for dedicated students of any means. We now have a pay-to-play, winner-take-all game where the wealthiest are assured a spot, and the rest are compelled to take a gamble on huge debts, with no guarantee of a payoff.
Even if compassion isn’t a factor — even if we focus just on recovery now and growth and innovation tomorrow — we must do something about student debt. Those concerned about the damage America’s growing divide is doing to our ideals and our moral character should put student debt at the top of any reform agenda.
Navigation and simulation technology solves challenges of online learning systems
Sunnyvale, CA and Cambridge, MA, June 17, 2013 — At the Sixth Conference of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Learning International Networks Consortium (LINC), Fujitsu Laboratories of America, Inc. and MIT have jointly announced a first-of-its-kind, revolutionary asynchronous, personalized learning platform – Guided Learning Pathways.
Guided Learning Pathways is a result of the companies’ joint research program focused on overcoming the challenges in traditional online learning systems, including finding appropriate learning materials and personalizing learning pathway of learners. Guided Learning Pathways is designed to address these critical problems for learners. As a result, two technologies have been developed and applied in the research. One is navigation technology, which can organize massive online learning materials into multi-layer topics. The other technology developed is the students’ learning behavior simulation based on an advanced probabilistic learner model. Fujitsu Laboratories of America and MIT will continuously research and develop Guided Learning Pathways, and apply it to the massive online learning systems for colleges and enterprises.
“We are pleased to collaborate with MIT to address a critical need in today’s online education environments” said Yasunori Kimura, President and CEO of Fujitsu Laboratories of America. “Our joint solution will enable students to rapidly acquire knowledge that is customized to their learning requirements”.
Full details of the research will be presented at the conference being held from June 16-19, 2013.
These 21st Century Internet-enabled developments have not, however, been matched by comparable developments in methods of presenting educational materials to students in ways compatible with their varying learning styles and educational needs. Almost always the educational content is accepted to be a ‘course’ as in college course, where all the students learn a “course’s worth” of identical material and at the same speed. This old-fashioned industrial model acts on students as if they were identical mechanical widgets passing through a production process. But in fact no two students learn the same way nor do they naturally at the same speed.
GLP Concept Design
Nuggets are learning materials that teach a single, atomistic concept with a domain like calculus (for example, derivatives). Examples of nuggets are a homework problem to be done online; a video snippet (e.g., lecture, real world application, Khan Academy video), shorter than ten minutes; a pop quiz for self-assessment of content knowledge; an animation, possibly interactive; a simulation, also possibly interactive; a web-based lab experiment; a short educational game; or a small section of textual material, typically less than one page in length.
By breaking domains into atomistic concepts and populating each concept with a wide variety of learning nuggets, GLP will be able to eliminate the Industrial Age “course” and tailor each individual’s education to suit their interests. As shown in Figure 1, each learner can follow his or her own pathway through the material. We can imagine that learners engage with nuggets that fit their non-academic interests, and intelligent tutors in GLP understand their strengths and weaknesses. Badging and rewards can also bring a fun element to learning and show learners how academic topics relate to the “real world”. For example, a learner studying calculus who loves music might go to an interactive simulation, which examines the singing behaviors of musicians. Among other things, it shows spectral patterns of the singing, the first and second derivatives of various elements of each song (e.g., decibels, real time change in frequency), and it allows the learner to alter recorded voices according to some calculus parameters to hear what the singer would have sounded like under those revised circumstances.
Figure 1: Learning Path and Nugget Recommendations
Newly Developed Technology
Figure 2: Learning material navigation with multi-layer topics
Figure 3: Software Architecture of GLP Platform
Nugget App & Service manage how learners view and interact with nuggets, or individual learning materials. Each nugget teaches a single concept topic and is “bite-sized”. This app requests the nugget (i.e. a video, set of lecture notes, animation, simulation, etc.) from the appropriate location on a server, and displays it with appropriate user controls. It collects analytics on how the user interacts with the nugget.
Nugget Recommendation App & Service calculate which nuggets would most likely be useful for each individual learner, and ranks them accordingly. The apps can use factors such as learning styles, non-academic interests, and results from other learners. The returned result is a list of nuggets, much like a search engine’s results page.
Intelligent Tutor App & Service present assessment-type problems to each learner. As learners solve the problems, the tutor builds up a model of each learner’s understanding. When appropriate, it provides personalized hints and explanations to improve each learner’s understanding.
Content Topic Map App & Service display the content topics relevant to each learner’s learning goals. Each content topic map consists of individual topics; for example, within the calculus map are topics like derivatives, integrals, and limits. The topics are thus a subset of all topics within GLP—for example, someone studying calculus would not see the topics related to basic algebra. Each topic has a set of learning nuggets associated with it that learners can study from.
Content Topic Recommendation App & Service determine which topics a learner is prepared to study, from the ones needed to reach her learning goals. A learner is prepared to study topics where she has mastered all of the pre-requisites at a sufficient level.
Education Dashboard App & Service allow educators to manage groups of learners. They can set a shared learning goal, but also adjust learning goals and activities for individual learners. Educators can also see group and individual progress.
User Registration App & Service allow users to register for GLP. Each type of user will follow a different process. For example, learners will experience a learning styles assessment and a knowledge level assessment, whereas content creators might experience a verification of their expertise.
Glossary and Notes
Fujitsu is the leading Japanese information and communication technology (ICT) company offering a full range of technology products, solutions and services. Over 170,000 Fujitsu people support customers in more than 100 countries. We use our experience and the power of ICT to shape the future of society with our customers. Fujitsu Limited (TSE:6702) reported consolidated revenues of 4.5 trillion yen (US$54 billion) for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2012.
About Fujitsu Laboratories of America, Inc.
Fujitsu Laboratories of America, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. (Japan), focusing on research on Internet, interconnect technologies, software development and solutions for several industry verticals. Conducting research in an open environment, it contributes to the global research community and the IT industry. It is headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA.
About the Professor
Professor Richard Larson is Mitsui Professor of Engineering Systems and Director of Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals. The majority of his career has focused on operations research as applied to services industries including technology-enabled education. Since 2010, Professor Larson has started collaboration with Fujitsu Laboratories of America, Inc, on education research, which is a key component of Human-centric Intelligent Society project. Please see: http://linc.mit.edu/
About Fujitsu Laboratories Limited
Founded in 1968 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu Limited, Fujitsu Laboratories Limited is one of the premier research centers in the world. With a global network of laboratories in Japan, China, the United States and Europe, the organization conducts a wide range of basic and applied research in the areas of Next-generation Services, Computer Servers, Networks, Electronic Devices and Advanced Materials.