A number of major problems facing higher education will force significant changes in coming years. Let me mention just three of them. First, the costs of attending college has been rising far faster than people’s incomes. Second, the strong financial advantages from attending college are proving increasingly elusive for recent college graduates, with large proportions of them clearly being underemployed. Third, there is growing evidence that students are learning relatively little while in college, showing only marginal gains in critical thinking and writing skills, and spending more time socializing and exercising their bodies through sports and sex than in exercising their minds. So we need to ask ourselves: What are the missions of the modern university, and how are we doing in accomplishing them?
Computer-mediated instruction is not new, but the proliferation of technology and data is. The quality and quantity of data available opens up new opportunities to deliver effective personalized learning experiences, but with it, certainly challenges.
MOOCs today have not evolved significantly in approach beyond those available in 2012. If next generation MOOCs are to appear, they will need to draw upon the experience of online retailers, journalism, online dating services, and social networking sites. Here are ten challenges facing MOOCs and lessons they might learn from the commercial world.
We all know how the liberal arts have marginalized themselves out of existence: Read the course catalogues of so many college and see how, for instance, departments of literature have become shells of their former selves. With the rise of graduate school analyses and specialization that is now so much a part of the undergraduate curriculum, how much vitality has been lost from literature. Gone today in too many places are all the stories that showed us the world with its joys and sorrows, gone all our marveling over the varieties of human types or stories of honor and treachery, of hopes ascendant and hopes dashed. All replaced by more ideologically-driven studies; all replaced with our contemporary infatuation with race and class and politics.
It seems reckless to discard the intellectual traditions of the past that have supported us for so long. The humanities may provide a rudder that we don’t even perceive now but whose loss we would recognize by our drifting and purposelessness.
Even as more faculty members experiment with online education, they continue to fear that the record-high number of students taking those classes are receiving an inferior experience to what can be delivered in the classroom, Inside Higher Ed’s new Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology suggests.
Fixing the education system is the civil rights challenge of our era. A starting point is to embrace an ethos that was born in America but is now an expatriate: that we owe all children a fair start in life in the form of access to an education escalator.
CBE offers the potential to do a lot of good where it is implemented well and a lot of harm where it is implemented poorly. There are steps faculty can take to increase the chances of a positive outcome.
Adaptive technology’s greatest strength comes in its ability to conform and compliment student learning. Through personalized instruction students control their own destinies as they navigate through curricula and coursework. In the right hands such technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we perceive traditional learning, and although not yet fully realized, adaptive learning’s potential lies not within the subject but the student. If implemented, these new tools will not only change the face of higher education—they’ll transform the way we approach postsecondary pedagogy.
The world is changing fast, but the value of the liberal arts remains higher than ever. As we move into the 21st century, our nation needs workers who are agile and adaptable, citizens who are thoughtful and informed, and human beings to have been exposed to the very best that has been thought and said.
Transforming ourselves in this way has altered our way of thinking. We used to see strategic plans, advisory boards, and development efforts as standard practices only for business schools. No longer. With every new program, excitement about the value and relevance of the humanities—from students, faculty members, and even the administration—continues to bubble up.
The insular and politically correct environments at American colleges and universities would be more tolerable if these institutions were actually demanding excellence from students and preparing them for the rigors of life afterward. Instead, they fall shorter and shorter of this goal with every passing year, all the while raising tuition and demanding ever-greater subsidies from taxpayers.
The companies that rode to fame on the MOOC wave had visions (and still do) of offering unfettered elite education to the masses and driving down college tuition. But the sweet spot for MOOCs is far less inspirational and compelling. The courses have become an important supplement to classroom learning and a tool for professional development.
US higher education reformers have encouraged accreditors to change their standards and speed up their approval processes to accommodate innovative educational models, but this jeopardizes accreditation’s beneficial quality-assurance mechanisms.
A major barrier to colleges and universities entering the higher education market is that as unaccredited institutions, they cannot enroll students with financial aid needs, but having students is a prerequisite for accreditation.
A new system in which institutions can become provisionally approved for federal student financial aid before they achieve official accreditation could create a streamlined path for new institutions to enter the market.
U.S. News & World Report’s annual global college rankings are out, and Harvard University tops the list, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, and the University of Oxford. The list’s methodology favors global reputation and research volume, among other factors.
Education of the whole person is about more than self-actualization; it also attempts to cultivate students’ social, emotional, physical, and ethical development and to foster creativity, promote psychological well-being, stimulate a rich and thoughtful interior life, explore core beliefs, encourage social engagement, and cultivate empathy and an ethic of service and caring.
Learning happens inside and outside the classroom, and rewarding prior experience instead of requiring students to use both time and money to "re-learn" information makes sense. With about 20 million students attending classes at American colleges and universities this fall -- many over the age of 25 -- it is imperative that higher education institutions offer opportunities for adult students to leverage all of their expertise, regardless of where it is attained.
Rather than a means of punishment and blame, a thorough and ongoing grounding in the data will help decision makers figure out who needs help and, over time, whether retention programs are making a difference. That's worth listening to.
The time is now to consider carefully how all our educational institutions need to change, what must be preserved and what must be updated, to choose what to repair and what to replace, and to invest our time, energy, resources, and social capital accordingly.
From a Lumina Foundation Grant Awarded for Landmark Reverse Transfer Project, the National Student Clearinghouse is working on a project to create a standardized and centralized way for colleges to exchange reverse-transfer credits.