HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice.
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How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps

How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are now movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.


So, here is the recipe for killing universities. 


1. Defund public higher education.

2. Deprofessionalize and impoverish the professors (and continue to create a surplus of underemployed and unemployed Ph.D.s)

3. Move in a managerial/administrative class who take over governance of the university.

4. Move in corporate culture and corporate money focused on career prep over well-rounded education 

5. Destroy the students through dumbed-down curriculum, take away fulltime faculty who mentor and advise, and make it insanely unaffordable. 

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HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice.
While many demanded new ways to make their horses run faster, a few crazies strayed and invented the car.
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A Few Forces to Redefine Higher Education

A Few Forces to Redefine Higher Education | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
A Few Forces to Redefine Higher Education

In the last decade, we have stood witness as other knowledge and content-based industries such as publishing and media entertainment have experienced enormous transformation. There have been both winners and losers. The same will be true in higher education. Analyzing these other competitive landscapes, some common principles are evident among the winners – namely a “digital first” strategy, value innovation, agile operations, economies of scale, and research-based design and development. Some characterize the perfect storm as a trilogy of a) the rise in for-profits, b) open educational resources and c) mobile technologies (see Sir John Daniels video), but I think it’s much more than that. Here’s a few other forces that will undoubtedly be the agents reshaping higher education in the coming decade.


* MOOCs - Massive Online Open Courses (and soon full programs) — more than for-profits have mastered online courses, the MOOC movement (George Siemens, Sebastian Thurn formerly at Stanford now at Udacity, Coursera - Stanfords rush to compete with Udacity, Udemy, etc.) have really figured out the design of scaling courses to almost 200,000 students while maintaining high quality. It’s real.


* Big Data, Learning Analytics, and Predictive Analytics — For the last decade, we all have ‘saved money’ at the grocery store using our club card which is basically the grocer paying us for our data so they can more effectively target market segments, manage inventory and distribution, mitigate risk, forecast, and develop new business strategies. This is starting to take off in education where we have systems that track student activity, profiles, etc. While there’s all sorts of ethical issues involved, there is enormous opportunity to empower faculty and institutions to be more responsive to student learning needs, enrollment trends, but this will no doubt reshape educational strategies (and empower those who have the data analytics figured out.)


* The Great Unbundling: New Credentialing and/or Digital Badges - one reason universities have not changed while every other knowledge-based industry has turned upside down is because we’ve long held a monopoly in our closed bundled system of teaching/learning, assessment, and credentialing (i.e. degrees.) But a new system that opens not just educational resources (OER) but also credentials that employers can really use. Right now, most employers still don’t know what their new employees know or can do, because degrees are too inconsistent from institution to institution. So they’ve had to rely on name brand (ivy league hires only), their own assessments, or luck. Badges will break it down to demonstrable competencies which degrades the value of a degree.


* Edupreneurs and Startups - In 2009, when we all were still crying in our beers about the economy, budget cuts (state schools), and shrinking enrollments (private schools), educational startups were reeling in record amounts of venture capital to unapologetically disrupt higher ed. In 2011, over $429-million venture capital sunk into new education startups.


* Consumerization - we’ve all seen what the consumerization of IT has done — where new vendors and service providers go straight to the consumer, skipping over an organization’s IT department who long had control over what technology everyone in that organization used. Well, that’s now happening with teaching and learning — thanks to all these new startups. Universities have long had control over what students need to learn. But just like empowered consumers with affordable and powerful technology who ask “who needs our IT division’”, empowered learning will turn to the the startups who provide affordable yet high quality learning and credentials asking “who needs the university.”

* New Online Economies - We’re all familiar with the new online platforms that help people help each other (and make money from the connections and transactions) — craigslist, facebook, ebay, airbnb, yelp, etc. The same is starting to happen with education. The truth of the matter is there’s more than just faculty in the world who are experts (or expert enough) to help people learn. Also, digital goods (video lectures, online assessments, etc) unlike material goods, do not follow the standard supply and demand models. They can be replicated and shared in scale without depleting inventory or devaluation. So the whole economics of online learning is vastly different when developed in a networked platform — which is what 90% of the startups are. Online economies disrupting traditional models are analogous to quantum physics did to newtonian physics or what film did to theater. Perhaps the traditional models will still exist in a limited space, just like newtonian laws and stage productions are not defunked, they just play a relatively smaller role in the big scheme of things now.

— kudos to my friends Clark Shah-Nelson @clarkshahnelson who facilitates the EDUCAUSE Blended Learning community/discussion for inspiring this post.

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As Graduate-Student Debt Booms, Just a Few Colleges Are Largely Responsible

As Graduate-Student Debt Booms, Just a Few Colleges Are Largely Responsible | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
Free for 24 hours. Only 20 institutions account for nearly one-fifth of all graduate-student loans issued last year, according to a new analysis.


the share of graduate-student debt emanating from those 20 institutions outstrips their share of enrollment. Together, the 20 colleges accounted for 12 percent of all graduate students but almost 20 percent of the loans.

Five prestigious nonprofit colleges make the list too, with two in Washington, D.C. (Georgetown University and George Washington University), two in New York City (NYU and Columbia University), and one in Los Angeles (University of Southern California). As at other universities on the list, most graduate students at those institutions earn master’s degrees, in disciplines like journalism, fine arts, government, and the sciences. Graduate students at those universities borrowed $207 million to $472 million.

The runaway cost of graduate education calls into question the value students are getting for their money, and whether students understand the risks and consequences of their educational decisions.

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College Completion: Graduation Rates and Data for 3,800 Colleges

College Completion: Graduation Rates and Data for 3,800 Colleges | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
A Web site on who graduates from college, who doesn’t, and why it matters, from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
susangautsch's insight:

bring on the data that tells an interesting story about college completion (or not.) 

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Young Adults, Student Debt and Economic Well-Being

Young Adults, Student Debt and Economic Well-Being | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
Student debt burdens are weighing on the economic fortunes of today’s young adults. Among the college-educated, those with outstanding student debt are lagging far behind those who are debt free in terms of household wealth.
susangautsch's insight:

Go for the scholarships when push comes to shove. 

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Connected Learning Principles | Connected Learning

Connected Learning Principles | Connected Learning | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
susangautsch's insight:

We are living in a historical moment of transformation and realignment in the creation and sharing of knowledge, in social, political and economic life, and in global connectedness. There is wide agreement that we need new models of education suited to this historic moment, and not simply new models of schooling, but entirely new visions of learning better suited to the increasing complexity, connectivity, and velocity of our new knowledge society. Fortunately, we are also able to harness the same technologies and social processes that have powered these transformations in order to provide the next generation with learning experiences that open doors to academic achievement, economic opportunity, and civic engagement.

Specifically, we now have the capability to reimagine where, when, and how learning takes place; to empower and motivate youth to pursue knowledge and develop expertise at a pace, to a degree, and on a path that takes advantage of their unique interests and potential; and to build on innovations across a growing spectrum of learning institutions able to support a range of learning experiences for youth that were unimaginable even 15 years ago.

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Colleges move to digital transcripts managed by outside firms | Inside Higher Ed

Colleges move to digital transcripts managed by outside firms | Inside Higher Ed | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
susangautsch's insight:

The much-maligned college transcript is finally going digital.

A small group of private firms are seeing increasing demand for their repositories for e-transcripts, as colleges move away from paper versions for both incoming and outgoing students.


Electronic transcripts can include more information, often including links to descriptions and examples of students’ work, knowledge and skills. For example, Reilly points to Stanford University’s electronic transcripts, which can feature “hot links” to a wealth of information that a static, paper version could not convey.


When they are used this way, digital transcripts share similarities with other emerging forms of credentials, including digital badges, competency-based transcripts and new skills certifications from testing firms.


Pittinsky, an ed-tech veteran who co-founded Blackboard, has been pushing the concept of a “next gen” transcript that would be digital, standardized, portable and national -- or even global. Something like this already exists in the United Kingdom – the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).


Ideally digital transcripts would be “stackable,” Pittinsky said, meaning students could easily bring them along as they earn additional degrees, certificates and other credentials.


But he said a set of broadly agreed-upon standards and a common document structure are necessary for that idea to take off. “The challenge is that we end up in the tower of Babel,” said Pittinsky.

Officials at colleges that have made the switch said digital transcripts are cheaper and more efficient than paper versions. Those savings can benefit both students and institutions.


Cateret recently signed on with Parchment. The company handles student requests for transcripts as well as their distribution. 

Student accounts with Parchment are free. And they can stack all their credentials with the company’s transcript exchange.

Parchment charges institutions for the outsourced transcript processing. And students typically pay a small amount -- ranging from $3 to $10 -- to institutions to have digital transcripts distributed, printed and mailed. Colleges often use that revenue to help offset the Parchment fee.

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5 Factors Influencing Design in Digital Education in 2014 | Acrobatiq

5 Factors Influencing Design in Digital Education in 2014 | Acrobatiq | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
Five factors are elevating the role of design in digital higher education, and specifically, in the course design and development process.
susangautsch's insight:

1. Design and learner data - quick synthesis & frictionless navigation

2. Design as a competitive differentiator -- as Dan Pink noted, Apple proved

3. Consumer-education apps crossover - We all use consumer tools in class

4. Big media investing in education - high production values

5. The Design Quality of apps - drive our usage

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Fujitsu and MIT Announce First-of-its-kind Breakthrough Higher Education Learning Platform : Fujitsu Canada

Fujitsu and MIT Announce First-of-its-kind Breakthrough Higher Education Learning Platform : Fujitsu Canada | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
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.

From high schools, through college, and continuing to early and mid-career, increasingly learners throughout the world are using the Internet to gain new knowledge and skills. The goals may be to study for a pre-college Advanced Placement (AP) test, to learning subject matter toward a bachelor’s degree, to obtaining knowledge and skills that are directly needed in one’s job, and much more. The trend towards online learning has grown recently due to the prevalence of Open Educational Resources (OER), where educational content is available free of charge. Additional growth is due to very recent creation of, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), where over 100,000 students may take a course at one time.

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
Online technology is allowing the ultimate personalization of the Internet experience—why not for education as well? E-commerce sites recommend things that you can buy that other shoppers—similar to you—also bought. Search engines tailor results that fit your personal interests. The same concepts and technologies can be brought to bear on education, to recommend to learners which “learning nuggets” to study.

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


Technological Issues
Many technological challenges exist for creating GLP; our research project has addressed some critical issues. First, while there are huge amount of OER available which are promising for GLP, it is difficult to organize them as learning nuggets into appropriate topics in learning pathways. Second, successful GLP applications require effective recommendations. However, field evaluations of educational technology are very resource intensive—evaluating recommendation algorithms would require a large number of students from diverse backgrounds in order to see significant results. Before taking a platform to students, though, we wanted to be able to narrow down the types of recommendation algorithms to field test.

Newly Developed Technology
For populating each topic in learning pathways with well-organized and reused learning nuggets from OERs, we provide an advanced approach to explore and organize learning nuggets with multi-layer topics having different granularity based on a probabilistic topic model (Latent Dirichlet Allocation) framework, which is more efficient and effective compared with conventional keyword search. Because for a new learner with limited knowledge to a new domain, it is very hard to obtain appropriate search keywords and find wanted contents. In order to evaluate different recommendation algorithms outside of the classroom, we created a simulation model based on a stochastic, Bayesian Knowledge Tracing algorithm. We also include a topic-graph generator that allows us to generalize across domains and test large-scale systems. Finally, we utilize an implicit rating system for learning materials, in which learning nuggets are not rated by learners directly, and instead their ratings are calculated based on learning outcome of learners. These components’ parameters were set using published field evaluations and give us a general sense of which recommendation algorithms we should test in a deployed system.

Figure 2: Learning material navigation with multi-layer topics


Future Plans
Atomistic topic maps are currently emerging in other MIT projects, such as some led by MIT’s OEIT (Office of Educational Innovation and Technology) and ODL (Office of Digital Learning), and the GLP team is speaking with these groups to explore future collaborations, and also introducing GLP to edX project. We expect that our ideas will blend with theirs to form stronger and more innovative learning projects that will be deployed within the MIT community. In general, the future seems bright for the many GLP concepts that have been demonstrated by independent organizations, such as personalized digital learning, massive enrollments in online classes, and collaborative, online learning. We look forward to unifying these concepts into a single platform and creating additional GLP components to serve learners around the world. As shown in Figure 2, we needed to define a software architecture to hold all the parts together, yet one that would also allow for GLP’s long-term growth and success. Based on GLP platform, Fujitsu is also planning to apply corresponding technology to its future business, which is not only involving traditional school education but also informal and lifelong corporate learning.

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

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aiming at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and TAs. MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.

2. OER:
Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible, usually openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, educational, assessment and research purposes.

3. edX:
edX is a massive open online course platform founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University to offer online university-level courses in a wide range of disciplines to a worldwide audience at no charge, please see: https://www.edx.org/ ;

About Fujitsu

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. 
For more information, please see: : www.fujitsu.com

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. 
For more information, please see: : www.fla.fujitsu.com

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. 
For more information, please see: : jpfujitsu.com/labs/en

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Catching on at last - The Economist

Catching on at last - The Economist | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

 New technology is poised to disrupt America’s schools, and then the world’s
IN A small school on the South Side of Chicago, 40 children between the ages of five and six sit quietly learning in a classroom. In front of each of them is a computer running software called Reading Eggs. Some are reading a short story, others building sentences with words they are learning. The least advanced are capturing all the upper- and lower-case Bs that fly past in the sky. As they complete each task they move through a cartoon map that shows how far they have progressed in reading and writing. Along the way they collect eggs which they can use to buy objects in the game, such as items to furnish their avatar’s apartment. Now and then a child will be taken aside for scheduled reading periods with one of the two monitoring teachers.

The director of North Kenwood-Oakland school says this sort of teaching, blending software with human intervention, helps her pupils learn faster. It also allows teachers at this school—which, like other charter schools, is publicly funded but has some freedom to teach as it likes—to spend more time teaching and less time marking written work and leading pupils through dull drills of words and numbers. On top of that the school gains an accurate, continuous record of each child’s performance through the data its various programs collect and analyse.


The idea that technology can revolutionise education is not new. In the 20th century almost every new invention was supposed to have big implications for schools. Companies promoting typewriters, moving pictures, film projectors, educational television, computers and CD-ROMS have all promised to improve student performance. A great deal of money went into computers for education in the dot.com boom of the late 1990s, to little avail, though big claims were advanced for the difference they would make.

These claims were not entirely false: some bright, motivated children did use new technologies to learn things they would have missed otherwise. In many classrooms, too, computers have been used to improve efficiency and keep pupils engaged. But they did not transform learning in the way their boosters predicted. It is wise, therefore, to be sceptical about the claims made for the current wave of innovation. Yet there are also reasons to believe that a profound shift is occurring.

Over the course of the 20th century mass education produced populations more literate, numerate and productive than any the world had seen before. But it did so, usually, in an impersonal manner, with regimented rows of children chanting their times-tables as Teacher tapped the blackboard with a cane. Schooling could never be tailored to each child, unless you employed lots of teachers.

Teaching programs that monitor children’s progress can change that, performing a role more like that of the private tutors and governesses employed long ago in wealthier households. Data derived from each child’s responses can be used to tailor what he sees or hears next on the computer screen. The same data also allow continual assessment of his abilities and shortcomings, letting schools, teachers and parents understand both the pupil himself and the way human beings learn.

Such learning—called “adaptive” in the trade—is not the only advantage technology offers to today’s teachers and pupils. Online resources, from wikis to podcasts to training videos, are allowing both children and adults to pursue education on their own, either instead of learning in schools or colleges or as a supplement. It is, in the words of Bill Gates, who follows developments in this area closely and whose foundation funds some of them, “a special time in education”.

This is in part because it is a special time for information technologies in general. The capacity, and mindset, to design systems that use and make sense of large amounts of data gathered on the fly is coming of age. This makes it possible to track things like the “decay curve”, which governs a pupil’s fading recall of what has been taught. And more or less everything is getting remarkably cheap to provide, thanks to faster processing, widely available broadband and the resources of cloud computing. Mr Gates says that putting an hour of video online cost $400 in the late 1990s. Today it costs around two cents.

The main reason for optimism, though, is the evidence coming in from classrooms. Adoption of education technology in America’s state-funded schools was given a boost by a requirement to measure pupil performance in the No Child Left Behind Act, signed by George W. Bush. Online learning was first picked up in some surprising places, including rural Idaho, where schools were looking for ways to expand the limited curriculums they were able to offer. Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative gave a further shove, making billions of dollars available to states willing to innovate. At the beginning of June his administration announced a plan to give 99% of America’s students access to high-speed internet within five years.

Those schools that have pressed on have done rather well. Rocketship, a chain of seven charter schools in San Jose, California, blends traditional teaching with at least an hour a day of individualised online instruction in mathematics, literacy and comprehension. Its low-income pupils outperform those living in the wealthiest districts in the state. Over on the east coast Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville graded school district in North Carolina, introduced personalised learning on laptops for all pupils aged ten and over in 2009. His district is now one of the state’s leading performers, despite being close to the bottom in funding per pupil. Between 2009 and 2012 the share of its pupils considered proficient in maths, science and reading rose from 73% to 88%.

As well as evidence from these schools, the effectiveness of particular bits of software has been studied. The Department of Education spent four years evaluating literacy programs; it concluded that Read 180, a program to help students who have fallen behind in reading, was good at combating adult illiteracy. A randomised control trial of Cognitive Tutor, which helps teachers identify weaknesses and strengths in maths, among 400 15-year-olds in Oklahoma found that children using the program reached the same level of proficiency as the control group in 12% less time.

Meanwhile, the Khan Academy, a creator of online tutorials widely used as a form of home tutoring, is beginning to provide hard evidence for why it is considered one of edtech’s rising stars. At Oakland Unity, in tough inner-city Oakland, test scores for 16-17-year-olds in algebra and geometry have risen significantly in the two years since Khan courses were introduced. These courses are now being adopted by the Los Altos school district, also in California, which is already one of the best-performing in America. Khan Academy pinpoints the way in which edtech can turn conventional education on its head: in its “flipped classroom” pupils are no longer given lectures in the classroom and set problems as homework, but watch instructional videos at home and work on problems in class, where teachers and peers can help them.

Game theory for investors

In short, though, this latest wave of education technology is too new and eclectic to have proved its worth definitively. It is still mostly a matter of patching together different bits; only Amplify, the education arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, claims to have a product (available on tablets) that offers an integrated curriculum for a child. Research also suggests that the way the technology is used in the classroom is at least as important as having it there. “It is appalling how little is actually known about the outcomes produced by various forms of online learning,” says William Bowen, once president of Princeton University and author of a new book on technology in higher education, a field that is also being revolutionised thanks to online courses known as MOOCs.

This uncertainty has not stopped companies from wagering lots of money on its success. Several big education companies have been investing heavily in technology ever since the 1990s. Pearson (a part-owner of The Economist) says it has spent over $9 billion in the past decade on technological upgrades for its education business. News Corp is also taking a big bet on Amplify, run by Joel Klein, a former chancellor of schools in New York City (and one-time antitrust nemesis of Mr Gates). Amplify’s office, in an old warehouse in New York’s DUMBO district, contains not only classrooms, where students and teachers use new technology, but groups of former teachers working with software engineers, graphic artists, psychometricians and game designers to produce new content.

Much of the new technology at Amplify and elsewhere leans strongly on what has been learned in the games industry and in social-network businesses. Games get pupils more engaged, says Nt Etuk, the founder of DimensionU, which develops interactive games to teach mathematics and science. A lot of programming, design and artistry go into creating apps where students can compete with or assist each other, and which reward successful activity. One of the main global mathematics websites, Mathletics—used by children in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Britain and New Zealand as well as America—allows children to earn certificates, appear on international leader boards and earn “gold coins” which they can use to buy upgrades to their avatars. Kaplan, an education company owned by the Washington Post, has recently announced a partnership with Badgeville, a “gamification” specialist that works in all sorts of industries, to come up with learning games that can recognise good achievement by displaying badges on the screen.

Other organisations funding the application of all this potential to education include companies who, like Pearson, are already established in education as providers of textbooks and other resources; companies already established in technology who see big new markets (Apple says it sold 3m iPads to American educational institutions last year); and companies established in other businesses who see edtech as a big opportunity.

Then there are legions of start-ups, backed by an American venture-capital crowd that has proclaimed edtech to be the new thing. According to GSV Advisors, a consultancy, investment in edtech soared to $1.1 billion in 2012. The Education Innovation Summit held in Scottsdale in April was crawling with would-be investors; presentations from new companies were packed. Investment in the education sector in 2011 was almost as high in nominal terms as the dot.com peak, and was higher in terms of volume (see chart).

Hurdles to jump

Data-driven technology may have more impact on education in developing countries, but the first big wave of investment and experimentation is in America, which has a large technology industry, venture capitalists and philanthropists with experience in the field, and a culture of eagerly trying new things. It also has the promise of markets both large (the state school curriculum is increasingly uniform) and niche (in specialised schools).

For all that, formidable barriers still exist to getting education technology into America’s schools. These range from the prosaic to the ideological. America’s 13,000 school districts still upgrade their texts and equipment on slow, unsynchronised cycles and follow a bewildering range of procurement processes. Glenn Anderson, a former Washington state legislator and consultant on education policy, emphasises that education is a highly regulated public utility in which rules can govern everything, from what goes into textbooks to how many children there are in a class. And local politicians can change rules or policy unpredictably. This causes problems for a start-up which wants to get its technology into a lot of schools. Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, takes the problem so seriously that it avoids any edtech investment in which a school or school district would be the main buyer.

One way round this is for small companies to be swallowed up by the education arms of established corporate giants. Wireless Generation, a personalised-learning firm that has become the core of Amplify, was bought by News Corp in 2010 for $340m. McGraw-Hill Education bought Bookette, a company that provides online performance measurement, in 2011, and an adaptive-learning company, Aleks Corp, in June. Pearson acquired Schoolnet, another personalised-learning firm, for $230m in 2011 and Embanet Compass, which provides online services to higher education, for $650m in 2012.

Another start-up strategy, which avoids having to deal with the difficulties of winning procurement contracts in such a complex market, is to give the wares away. This, the companies hope, will convince students, teachers and parents to adopt the technology on their own or push to make it more available. Quizlet offers a flashcard tool this way; Noodle, a course-recommendation service; Chegg, help with homework. Their theory is that once the technology is widely used it will be easier to persuade schools to spend money on expensive offerings.

Persuading schools to buy is only the first step, though. America’s teaching unions fear a hidden agenda of replacing properly trained humans with some combination of technology and less qualified manpower, or possibly just technology. Unions have filed lawsuits to close down online charter schools, including what looks like a deliberately obtuse proposal to limit enrolment at such virtual schools to those who live in their districts.

These concerns are not completely unfounded. Teachers at Rocketship’s schools in San Jose earn 20% more than the local going rate, but will have up to 100 children in a class when they are working one-to-one in online learning laboratories. This gives Rocketship lower costs compared with schools of a similar size. It also means fewer teachers per pupil. Unions also suspect that more technology implies heavy-handed monitoring of teacher performance, a worry reinforced when Mr Gates proposed putting a camera in every classroom to help with assessments.

The promise in all this for teachers is less drudgery, since some of their duller tasks can be automated, and interesting new challenges as they work out how to reorganise their classes. If the technology can be used as an extra pair of hands in the classroom, teachers will find it possible to do more. The American Federation of Teachers has invested $10m alongside TSL Education, a British firm, in a joint venture called sharemylesson.com, a website that lets teachers share lesson plans and other tips. Lore, a New York start up recently acquired by Noodle, has developed a platform somewhat like Facebook where teachers can share coursework and grades, and where pupils can converse with their teacher and each other. A similar network, called Edmodo, lets parents in too.

Even if teachers and their unions can be persuaded, two worries will linger. One is what all those pupil-data will be used for. “We get millions of data points per day,” says Jose Ferreira, the founder of Knewton, a New York company which offers ways of adapting content to individual pupils, and makes it easier to spot when a pupil will fail. “We know more about our users than any company has ever known about anyone.” As with any enterprise involving big data, it is possible to imagine such stores of information being misused.

The second worry is that the benefits of all this change may end up disproportionately with the rich, the bright and the highly motivated, who already make most use of online resources. The worry may be misplaced, though. Used properly, edtech offers both the struggling and the brilliant a route to higher achievement. The point is to maximise the potential of every child.

As the Council on Foreign Relations reported recently, America continues to slip down the international rankings in education, falling during the past three decades from first to tenth in the educational level of those leaving high school, and from third to 13th for college students. Education technology could reverse this trend—if it is not jinxed by politics, bureaucracy and outdated institutional structures. Countries where it is not now have the chance to race ahead.

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Forget MOOCs--Let's Use MOOA

Forget MOOCs--Let's Use MOOA | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

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.

- See more at: http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2013/06/forget_moocslets_use_mooa.html#sthash.cx3QvK4s.dpuf

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Clinton Project Promotes ‘Open Badges’ Online Credentials

Clinton Project Promotes ‘Open Badges’ Online Credentials | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

Working with Mozilla, the MacArthur Foundation and a consortium interested in virtual learning, former President Bill Clinton announced a project on Thursday to expand the use of Open Badges — online credentials that employers or universities can use in hiring, admissions, promotions or awarding credit. The badges serve as credentials that can help self-taught computer programmers, veterans returning to civilian life and others show skills they learned outside a classroom. At the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago Thursday, DePaul University and the Information Technology Industry Council pledged to incorporate badges into their hiring, admissions or credentialing.

Sanford Arbogast's comment, June 17, 2013 7:52 AM
here is the full blog post http://goo.gl/HNJf3
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Cal State moving to offer online science labs

Cal State moving to offer online science labs | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

California State University is moving aggressively to offer web-based science labs, a systemwide virtual campus and online advising as remedies for "bottlenecks" that impede student progress and graduation rates, officials said Tuesday.


Cal State moving to offer online science labsMay 21, 2013, 8:38 p.m.

California State University is moving aggressively to offer web-based science labs, a systemwide virtual campus and online advising as remedies for "bottlenecks" that impede student progress and graduation rates, officials said Tuesday. Some of these efforts will be ready to roll out this fall.


The detailed strategies were presented in a meeting of the Cal State Board of Trustees in Long Beach as a response to Gov. Jerry Brown's call for the Cal State and University of California systems to improve student performance in exchange for long-term funding increases.

Brown's 2013-14 budget provides $125 million in new funding each for the two systems, including $10 million each to boost online learning and develop other technologies to help students attain degrees faster.


Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White has also committed an additional $7.2 million to support the system's Graduation Initiative, launched in 2009 with a goal of improving the six-year graduation rate for freshmen by 8%.

White said that campuses will adopt solutions depending on their needs. He also acknowledged concerns of some faculty and others that online education is not suited for all students or courses.


"It's a very exciting time, but not without controversy," White said. "We have to be nuanced when thinking about innovations ... You may have a bottleneck at campus X but not the same issues at campus Y. So when we set out systemwide initiatives, we have to recognize the [differences] across campuses."


Currently, Cal State graduates just over 50% of its students in six years. By 2015, that rate is expected to increase to 54%. Many schools and the federal government use the six-year rate. The governor wants both UC and Cal State to focus more on four-year rates, which he has said should be "the norm."


But there are a number of obstacles, including limited facilities with well-equipped labs that slow down students majoring in the sciences, math, engineering and technology.


If a campus provided more labs online, officials said, additional sections could be added to increase capacity.

Cal State already has an online lab program which uses 3-D technology and simulations that replicate a physical laboratory as much as possible. Those courses will be ramped up beginning this fall and will include more faculty training.

Another bottleneck is created when students, because of geographic limitations, are unable to enroll in a course that isn't offered at their home campus. Cal State is working to make 24 high-demand courses available online for any student at its 23 campuses.

The list of systemwide courses would be available in the summer and is expected to grow. Campuses offering the courses would get extra funding to meet demand for new sections.

Officials are also working to redesign some courses with new instructional approaches, reducing the need for students to repeat them without compromising academic standards. About one-third of current courses are estimated to be composed of repeat students hoping for a grade of C or better to complete requirements for their major.

Examples of the high-demand, low-success courses include general education biology and chemistry, college algebra and statistics, micro and macro economics, psychology and American government/politics.

Cal State will also boost online advising, tutoring and collaboration with other online providers that would be available for students 24/7.

Campuses will submit proposals for redesigned courses that could be expanded and offered to students systemwide for review this summer.

Collaboration will be instrumental to the success of the new strategies, said trustee Bernadette Cheyne, who represents faculty.

"I appreciated how many times I heard the word faculty when talking about these new initiatives being pursued," Cheyne said. "Especially with the tight timeline, I hope faculty will remain at the heart of new policies."

Concerns about the online push have been raised by some professors who fear that faculty will not be consulted, that positions and departments will be dismantled and that the educational experience for students in subjects such as the humanities will suffer.

The online proposals do not require a vote of the trustees. On Tuesday, a committee discussed the matter; the full board is set to hear a report on Wednesday.

Sanford Arbogast's curator insight, May 24, 2013 8:41 AM

We used to offer online courses with home labs, until one of hte schools we feed into told our president that if we continue they will stop accepting all science course credits.

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The 1 Percent Are Only Half the Problem

The 1 Percent Are Only Half the Problem | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
The other half of the inequality story, the skills gap, should also command our attention.


Most recent discussion about economic inequality in the United States has focused on the top 1 percent of the nation’s income distribution, a group whose incomes average $1 million (with a bottom threshold of about $367,000). “We are the 99 percent,” declared the Occupy protesters, unexpectedly popularizing researchfindings by two economists, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, that had previously drawn attention mainly from academics. But the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent is only half the story.

Granted, it’s an important half. Since 1979, the one-percenters havedoubled their share of the nation’s collective income from about 10 percent to about 20 percent. And between 2009, when the Great Recession ended, and 2011, the one-percenters saw their average income rise by 11 percent even as the 99-percenters saw theirs fall slightly. Some recovery!

This dismal litany invites the conclusion that if we would just put a tight enough choke chain on the 1 percent, then we’d solve the problem of income inequality. But alas, that isn’t true, because it wouldn’t address the other half of the story: the rise of the educated class.

Since 1979 the income gap between people with college or graduate degrees and people whose education ended in high school has grown. Broadly speaking, this is a gap between working-class families in the middle 20 percent (with incomes roughly between $39,000 and $62,000) and affluent-to-rich families (say, the top 10 percent, with incomes exceeding $111,000). This skills-based gap is the inequality most Americans see in their everyday lives.

Conservatives don’t typically like to talk about income inequality. It stirs up uncomfortable questions about economic fairness. (That’s why as a candidate Mitt Romney told a TV interviewer that inequality was best discussed in “quiet rooms.”) On those rare occasions when conservatives do bring it up, it’s the skills-based gap that usually draws their attention, because it offers an opportunity to criticize our government-run system of public education and especially teachers’ unions.

Liberals resist talking about the skills-based gap because they don’t want to tell the working classes that they’re losing ground because they didn’t study hard enough. Liberals prefer to focus on the 1 percent-based gap. Conceiving of inequality as something caused by the very richest people has obvious political appeal, especially since (by definition) nearly all of us belong to the 99 percent. There’s also a pleasing simplicity to the causes of the growing gap between the 1 and the 99. There are only two, and both are familiar liberal targets: the rise of a deregulated financial sector and the erosion of accountability in compensating top executives outside finance. (The cohort most reflective of these trends is actually the top 0.1 percent, who make $1.6 million or more, but let’s not quibble.)

Both halves of the inequality story should command our attention, because both represent a dramatic reversal of economic trends that prevailed in the United States for most of the 20th century. From the 1930s through the 1970s the 1 percent saw its share of national income decline, while the “college premium” either fell or followed no clear up-or-down pattern over time.

At least some of the tools to restore these more egalitarian trends shouldn’t be divisive ideologically. Liberals and conservatives both recognize the benefits of preschool education, which President Obama has proposed making universally available. I’ve never met an affluent 4-year-old who wasn’t enrolled in preschool, but nationwide about one-third of kids that age aren’t.

Another reform both conservatives and liberals have supported — though at different times — is withholding federal aid from colleges and universities that can’t control tuition increases. Mr. Obama proposed it in his last two State of the Union addresses; House Speaker John A. Boehner was a sponsor of a bill to do the same in 2003.

THERE is also more bipartisan support than you might suppose for restricting some of the Wall Street excesses that enrich the 1 percent. The impetus to do so isn’t inequality so much as fear that an out-of-control banking sector will once again create economic crisis and compel Congress to bail out the big banks. Congressional Republicans have been blocking proper implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, but a growing chorus of conservative voices, including the columnist George F. Will, the former Utah governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. and Richard W. Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, favor breaking up the big banks. Senators David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, and Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, have sponsored a bill to require the largest banks to hold more capital reserves, or become smaller.

One reason the left plays down the growing skills-based gap is that it accepts at face value the conservative claim that educational failure is its root cause. But the decline of labor unions is just as important. At one time union membership was highly effective at reducing or eliminating the wage gap between college and high school graduates. That’s much less true today. Only about 7 percent of the private-sector labor force is covered by union contracts, about the same proportion as before the New Deal. Six decades ago it was nearly 40 percent.

The decline of labor unions is what connects the skills-based gap to the 1 percent-based gap. Although conservatives often insist that the 1 percent’s richesse doesn’t come out of the pockets of the 99 percent, that assertion ignores the fact that labor’s share of gross domestic product is shrinking while capital’s share is growing. Since 1979, except for a brief period during the tech boom of the late 1990s, labor’s share of corporate income has fallen. Pension funds have blurred somewhat the venerable distinction between capital and labor. But that’s easy to exaggerate, since only about one-sixth of all households own stocks whose value exceeds $7,000. According to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, the G.D.P. shift from labor to capital explains fully one-third of the 1 percent’s run-up in its share of national income. It couldn’t have happened if private-sector unionism had remained strong.

Reviving labor unions is, sadly, anathema to the right; even many mainstream liberals resist the idea. But if economic growth depends on rewarding effort, we should all worry that the middle classes aren’t getting pay increases commensurate with the wealth they create for their bosses. Bosses aren’t going to fix this problem. That’s the job of unions, and finding ways to rebuild them is liberalism’s most challenging task. A bipartisan effort to revive the labor movement is hardly likely, but halting inequality’s growth will depend, at the very least, on liberals and conservatives better understanding each other’s definition of where the problem lies.

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The Myth of Quality Time

The Myth of Quality Time | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
Nothing nourishes intimacy and love like an investment of hours.


EVERY summer for many years now, my family has kept to our ritual. All 20 of us — my siblings, my dad, our better halves, my nieces and nephews — find a beach house big enough to fit the whole unruly clan. 

That’s right: a solid week. ... Wouldn’t a long weekend suffice? And wouldn’t it ward off a few spats and simplify the planning?


The answer to the second question is yes, but to the first, an emphatic no. I used to think that shorter would be better, and in the past, I arrived for these beach vacations a day late or fled two days early, telling myself that I had to when in truth I also wanted to — because I crave my space and my quiet, and because I weary of marinating in sunscreen and discovering sand in strange places. But in recent years, I’ve showed up at the start and stayed for the duration, and I’ve noticed a difference.

There’s simply no real substitute for physical presence.

People tend not to operate on cue. At least our moods and emotions don’t. We reach out for help at odd points; we bloom at unpredictable ones. The surest way to see the brightest colors, or the darkest ones, is to be watching and waiting and ready for them.


It’s because I was present. It’s because I was there.


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Higher education isn’t in crisis - By Janet Napolitano

Higher education isn’t in crisis - By Janet Napolitano | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

Imagine, if you will, an American business that other countries, from China to Saudi Arabia, seek to emulate. A business that routinely accounts for the advances in science, medicine, technology, arts and humanities that have established the United States as the most innovative nation in the world. 


Why, then, is it routinely characterized as in crisis? This diagnosis comes mainly from three groups: those who believe that technology inevitably, and radically, will transform how education is delivered, whether the traditionalists want it to or not; others who cite rising tuition prices and foresee an escalation of the divide between the privileged and the disadvantaged; and finally, and I consider myself in this camp, advocates for public higher education who are raising alarms about a retreat from the commonwealth ideal that gave rise to this nation’s great public universities in the first place.


So let’s be clear. Higher education in this country is not in crisis. Instead, it is in motion, and it always has been.  As our universities and colleges undergo an intense period of evolution driven by advances in technology and better understanding of cognitive learning, and by concerns about cost and job-market demands, we should be asking ourselves questions, but they should be the right questions: Is higher education evolving in the right way? Will it continue to be able to meet the needs of students and their families, to keep pace with an expanding list of responsibilities that range from promoting civil discourse to preparing the next generation of scientists and researchers, and to ensure that the fundamentals of American higher education — fundamentals that have served this country so well — remain strong?



susangautsch's insight:

A book report + cry for more funding and less biz = her argument. If you're going to talk about online learning's shortfalls, also talk about the value it presents. 

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Despite Promises, Little Progress in Drawing Poor to Elite Colleges

Despite Promises, Little Progress in Drawing Poor to Elite Colleges | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
Surveys of top colleges found virtually no change from the 1990s to 2012 in enrollment of students who are less well off despite a huge increase in the number of such students going to college.
susangautsch's insight:

It's still easy to court the families paying cash than the students with need-based financial aid.  

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What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but Should)

What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but Should) | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
Students have more tools than ever to decipher and compare financial aid packages. But why is it still so confusing, and why can’t you afford what colleges say you can?
susangautsch's insight:

How's anyone to
 understand how colleges define basic, crucial terms like “need,” “aid” or “need-blind admission,” and she does not know that those definitions vary from place to place. Her confusion is distressingly common, as demonstrated in studies, surveys and interviews with students and parents.

An array of policy analysts from think tanks to the White House say things should change. “It’s a ridiculously complicated system, if you can even call it a system, and a lot of people don’t get it,” said Sandy Baum, a research professor at George Washington University’s graduate education school, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a leading expert on college pricing. “If you put five aid offers from different colleges together, they’re all different, and it’s very, very difficult to compare. That problem could be solved.”

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Massive open online forces

Massive open online forces | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
UNIVERSITIES have not changed much since students first gathered in Oxford and Bologna in the 11th century. Teaching has been constrained by technology. Until...
susangautsch's insight:

In essence: Less selective institutions are close substitutes for MOOCs. Elite institutions face very different circumstances. 

They aim to cultivate a sense of belonging and gratitude in students in order to recoup their investment decades later in the form of donations from successful alumni.


Ironically, these universities may have threatened their own business model by embracing MOOCs. Online courses break the personal link between students and university and, if offered cheaply to outsiders, may make regular graduates feel more like chumps than the chosen few. For top schools, the best bet may simply be to preserve their exclusivity.

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Blackboard Buys Student-Centric Web Platform MyEdu – Wired Campus - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Blackboard Buys Student-Centric Web Platform MyEdu – Wired Campus - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
susangautsch's insight:

Blackboard Inc., whose learning-management system is used by more than two-fifths of nonprofit colleges in the United States, said on Wednesday that it would acquire the student-centric web platform MyEdu.

Jay Bhatt, Blackboard’s chief executive, declined to disclose the purchase price. He described the acquisition as “small” compared with others that Blackboard has made in the past several years, but “extremely strategic.”

Based in Austin, Tex., MyEdu employs about 20 people. Its platform is designed to help students showcase skills to potential employers. The user profile functions like a résumé, with pertinent academic and work experience organized in colorful, easily viewable tiles.

“One of the big focus areas that we have been pursuing is student-centric application development and student-centric personas around our tools,” Mr. Bhatt said. “For far too long, I think, software vendors have built technologies for only certain constituents—IT administrators or even faculty.”

The service will remain a free tool for students, he said. Blackboard plans to integrate the platform into its learning-management system.

MyEdu was started in 2008 as Pick-A-Prof, a website that allowed students to rate their professors. A year later, it got a new name and a new focus—equipping students to map out their most efficient and cost-effective paths toward degrees.

The platform dovetails with continuing conversations about competency-based education, Mr. Bhatt said. User profiles allow students to share entire projects with would-be employers, showing relevant skills rather than just listing a major. In January the company started MyEdu for Employers, which allows businesses to list internships and jobs, and matches the listings with students’ profiles.

Officials at MyEdu said the platform had been used by about a million students at more than 800 colleges. It is the first acquisition for Blackboard since 2012, when the education-software giant bought Moodlerooms and NetSpot, both built around the open-source platform Moodle.

In addition to its core learning-management system, Blackboard has built out—often through acquiring other companies—a range of education-technology products, including administrative- and academic-support services, data-analytics tools, and, last year, a mobile application.

The company went public in 2004 but was taken private again in 2011 with a $1.64-billion buyout by its current parent, Providence Equity Partners.

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Reinventing education for millennials: Anant Agarwal at TEDGlobal 2013 | TED Blog

Reinventing education for millennials: Anant Agarwal at TEDGlobal 2013 | TED Blog | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
Anant Agarwal shares insights from EdX.com, a program offering "massively open online courses" (MOOCs) from prestigious universities
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News Corp.’s Amplify is latest with a MOOC for the high school crowd

News Corp.’s Amplify is latest with a MOOC for the high school crowd | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
News Corp.’s education division Amplify is the latest to roll out a massive open online course (MOOC) for high school students.


News Corp.’s education division Amplify is the latest to roll out a massive open online course (MOOC) for high school students.

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High school kids across the country are getting the chance to make potentially thousands of new Facebook friends. That’s because massive open online courses (MOOCs), which have historically targeted college-age students and lifelong learners, are making their way to the pre-college crowd.

This week, News Corp.’s education arm Amplify announced a high school MOOC for AP Computer Science. The course, which kicks off in August, is intended to give students two semesters of academic instruction in preparation for the College Board’s exam. The online program, taught by an experienced high school teacher, is free to students. And an added option, called MOOC Local, which provides schools with students in the CS MOOC additional resources, will cost $200 per student but is free to schools for the first year.

While high school MOOCs are a relatively new wrinkle in the MOOC movement, their numbers seem to be gaining.  Earlier this month, MIT, edX and the City of Chicago announced a six-week MOOC-style programming course for the city’s high school students as part of larger city-wide summer education initiative. And, in April, Brown University launched a free online engineering course to introduce high school students to the field. Those courses don’t lead to certificates (like the ones provided by MOOC provider Coursera, for example) but they do give students good exposure to college-level content, not to mention a way to gloss up a college application.

Given the massive hype surrounding massive online classes, it’s not surprising to see them filter down to the K-12 level. And, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, they may make a lot of sense.  As we and others have covered before, schools are currently woefully unprepared to provide students with the instruction they need to meet the job market’s demands in science and technology.

While programming jobs are growing at double the pace of other jobs, courses in that subject are not offered at 90 percent of U.S. schools, says the non-profitCode.org. And, according to the College Board, just 11 percent of the 26,000 public and private high schools in the country offer AP computer science.

While it remains to be seen how effective MOOCs can be in teaching high school students (even though some high school students are already having success with them, overall attrition and engagement rates tend to be low), massive online courses and other digital learning tools could go a long way in giving students greater access to instruction in different areas.

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How Badges Really Work in Higher Education -- Campus Technology

How Badges Really Work in Higher Education -- Campus Technology | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
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 
Digital badges are getting a serious look on many university campuses because they may allow students to demonstrate a greater variety of skills. "A diploma says as much about the institution you attended as it does about you," notes Bill Wisser, instructional designer in the Graduate School of Education (HGSE) at Harvard University (MA). "A portfolio gets more granular, and badges can show individual records of accomplishment."

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."

Wisser notes that at Harvard, there is not yet support for badges from upper-level administrators. "It is too early and it just hasn't come onto their radar yet," he says. Digital badge efforts are beginning to bubble up from the middle of universities, agrees Sheryl Grant, director of social networking for theHASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition and a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information and Library Science. "It's not so much individual faculty members working alone and it's not the top administrators, but alliances of people on campus who are agitating from the middle," she says.

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's Passport 
One university that has embraced the concept of badges is Purdue (IN), which has developed its own Passport platform for their development. "We saw this as an emerging model for alternative credentialing and a means to provide students a way to capture evidence of the work they've done and align that with embedded learning outcomes," says Kyle Bowen, director of informatics in Information Technology. "We also think faculty can get creative with new forms of assessment."

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? 
Nicholas Langlie, director of planning, innovation, and implementation at Longwood University (VA), developed a badge system for use with a MOOC course on post-secondary readiness skills offered to high school students. The first time the course ran, 28 percent of those who signed up worked through 10 individual badges and completed the course. "Students found it engaging," Langlie says. "They can now show up for an interview or a college application with a digital representation [of their skills]. That might make them stand out."

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."

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College's Closure Signals Problems for Others, Credit-Rating Agency Says - Bottom Line - The Chronicle of Higher Education

College's Closure Signals Problems for Others, Credit-Rating Agency Says - Bottom Line - The Chronicle of Higher Education | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it
Saint Paul’s College, a small, private, historically black college founded in 1888 in Lawrenceville, Va., announced on June 3 that it would shut its doors at the end of the month after a proposed merger with another institution fell through.

In its weekly credit outlook, the credit-rating agency Moody’s Investors Service cautioned on Thursday that more shutdowns could follow.

“The pending closure is credit negative for a small subset of the higher-education sector with similar attributes to Saint Paul’s and other closed colleges: very small, private colleges with a high reliance on student charges, indistinct market positions, and limited donor support,” Moody’s analysts said. “We anticipate more closures for these types of colleges given the current pressures on all higher-education revenue sources and increased accreditation scrutiny.”

Saint Paul’s lost its accreditation last year and then regained it on a probationary basis. But last fall the college was down to just 111 students, according to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

A 2012 analysis of nearly 1,700 public and private nonprofit colleges by the consulting firm Bain & Company found that a third of the institutions had been on an “unsustainable financial path” and that an additional 28 percent were “at risk of slipping into an unsustainable condition.”

Nonetheless, closures of traditional four-year colleges remain rare, Moody’s said, with just three in the 2012 fiscal year. But the agency noted a troubling rise in such incidents over the past four years.

Moody’s reports are available to its subscribers only.

Last week at the Summer Seminar, a higher-education conference organized in Minneapolis by the admissions and marketing consultants Hardwick-Day and the Lawlor Group, a Moody’s analyst commented on predictions about impending college closures and a “bubble” in the higher-education market.

“We don’t believe that there is a bubble,” said Eva Bogaty, a member of the Moody’s higher-education and not-for-profit team. The higher-education sector went through the “baby bust” two decades ago, and a number of pundits predicted then that scores of colleges would go out of business. In the end, just one-half of 1 percent did.

Ms. Bogaty ascribed that fact to a fundamental demand for higher education, as college degrees are still connected to stronger earnings and better job prospects.

She noted, however, that the news media have focused on rising costs among colleges and debt among students—usually in articles that are far out of proportion with reality—and that predictions of the vulnerability of colleges are coming back.

“We are not saying that colleges are going out of business like gangbusters,” she said. But the environment has changed, with limited prospects for tuition-revenue growth, strained nontuition-revenue sources, rising debt burdens among students, and a longstanding decline in the buying power of Americans.

In 2007, Moody’s issued 29 ratings upgrades in the sector; in 2012, it issued only two. Ms. Bogaty showed a graph that charted a steep decline in private colleges’ operating revenues against fairly steady spending by the colleges.

“It is really interesting that—in 2010, the worst of it for universities—that less than 30 percent of private universities cut expenses,” she said. “I’m interested to know if we looked at corporate, what would that be? It wouldn’t be less than 30 percent.”

She argued that colleges needed to find more efficiencies, and that some should consider mergers and sharing services. “That is going to be a wave of the future,” she said.

She also mentioned faculty members. “The elephant in the room is obviously faculty and the shared-governance structure,” Ms. Bogaty said. “How do you deal with that? There is no way that you can operate in the environment that we are in without a major shift in that shared governance.”

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Higher Ed 2018 | Inside Higher Ed

Higher Ed 2018 | Inside Higher Ed | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

Rising tuition, declining government subsidies, stagnant endowments, and increased competition are challenging higher education like never before. College and university leaders are struggling to understand where these changes will lead and how they can make higher education more affordable, more accessible, and of greater quality for an increasingly diverse and aspiring student. Based on our interaction with university leaders and policy makers, we believe that the timeline for transformational change has shortened to five years.  During this time, higher education will have moved from a provider-driven model to a consumer-driven one and, in so doing, upend a system that had endured for centuries.

Half a decade from now, almost all universities will offer their students the option of undertaking their coursework in high-demand degree programs online. However, online offerings will no longer be the competitive advantage they are today. Most online enrollment will be open or provisional and more than 80 percent of professional degree programs, such as MBA, RN-to-BSN, and M.Ed., will be earned online.  Additionally, by 2018, new types of widely accepted degrees will have emerged that are less time-consuming, less expensive, and more relevant to 21st century jobs.

The vast majority of on-campus students will be enrolled in some online courses, a movement already afoot, with the Sloan Consortium’s 2012 Survey of Online Learning finding that approximately a third of all U.S. college students took at least one online course during the fall 2011 term.  The increase of nearly 10 percent in online enrollments over the previous year is particularly meaningful given that overall enrollment declined in the United States for the first time in 15 years, and continued its decline across the developed world.

Foreign universities with growing stature and competitive pricing will be aggressively recruiting U.S. students for their online programs. With thousands of universities in the United States and around the world online, students will have more choices in higher education than in any other consumer category.  This unprecedented competition and the availability of many high-quality, low-priced options will have caused the tuition bubble to burst and the cost of attending college to tumble, putting even greater pressure on institutional budgets.

While the relative cost of instruction will have declined due to increased scale, the incomes of many professors providing online instruction will have risen sharply.  Some of these professors will have become the free agents of academe, with their courses widely accepted at both public and private universities around the world.

While some international students will continue to come to the United States to study, we expect that almost all enrollment growth at U.S. universities will come from international students enrolled in online programs. Some public and private universities will have reached iconic status, ushering in a new breed of multinational educational organizations. These large multinational universities will provide curriculum and instruction in multiple languages and offer competitive pricing designed to suit local markets. Capitalizing on their reputations, they will have become leading global brands with student bodies well in excess of 100,000 choosing from many newly added degree programs designed to meet demand in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and India.

As a result of greater use of technology in the delivery of higher education, construction of new buildings on the campuses of tax-supported institutions will have slowed significantly. At the same time, we expect that over the next five years university systems will be consolidating campuses at an increasing rate as trustees and legislators come to understand the economics of online learning and how vastly it can expand the reach of an institution. Companies like ours —  Academic Partnerships — are helping universities respond to this transformative moment in higher education.

Critics of the current university ranking system abound — and rightfully so. With metrics such as class size and alumni giving determining a university’s placement, these rankings will become even more antiquated amidst the fundamental changes we are now observing.  By 2018, we expect that the university ranking system will focus on consumer choice vis-a-vis growth as a key criterion, along with completion rates, the employability of a university’s graduates, and their subsequent job performance.

Universities will have become more transparent, publishing meaningful standardized metrics that permit consumers to better assess which university is right for them. The relationship between universities and employers will have changed as well, with these groups routinely working together to develop content for degree programs that is aligned with specific jobs and career-related competencies.

At the same time, we expect that a majority of college-bound students will graduate high school with some college credits and that several states will have converted the last year of high school to the first year of college. Entering college with a head start on credit hours and exposure to online programs, by 2018 most full-time students will be completing a four-year degree program in four years, compared to just 60 percent of students who do so today in six years.

We believe that public universities that have moved with urgency to embrace this new reality will thrive. And so, too, will the students they serve. By 2018, higher education will be truly globalized and we will see greatly expanded access, reduced costs, more virtual campuses, and, most important of all, the increased competitiveness of our universities and our students. That’s a future we should all embrace.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/05/23/essay-predicting-radical-change-higher-education-over-next-five-years#ixzz2XFLYAP7T ;
Inside Higher Ed

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Eduventures | Touching the Third Rail: Making Online Learning Work Harder

Eduventures | Touching the Third Rail: Making Online Learning Work Harder | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

Online degree programs have been great at saving students money indirectly, but rarely have schools used online to lower tuition. Connecting technology innovation to instructional cost reduction in higher education often feels like touching the third rail – certain death, so you don’t do it. But the climate may be changing.



Online degree programs have been great at saving students money indirectly (avoid commuting and childcare costs, easier to combine study with full-time work), but rarely have schools used online to lower tuition. This is partly because at many schools the way online is organized means cost actually go up, and partly reflects institutional hesitation about lower pricing sending unpredictable signals about quality and the relative value of the traditional campus. Connecting technology innovation to instructional cost reduction in higher education often feels like touching the third rail – certain death, so you don’t do it.

But the climate may be changing. Take two recent announcements from Florida and South Carolina. Florida’s decision to create a new wholly online public university, managed by the University of Florida, includes a requirement that tuition is no more than 75% of standard campus pricing. The new university will focus on Bachelor’s degrees. University of South Carolina has launched Palmetto College, a new branch of the university focused on online Bachelor’s completion. For state residents, tuition per semester will be $900 lower than normal. Rarely have mandated cost savings been such an explicit part of new online initiatives.

At the same time, other fashionable online-related developments such as MOOCs, competency and adaptive learning, all explicitly target cost reduction alongside pedagogic gains.

These are logical next-step trajectories for online higher education. If online cannot squarely address the major frictions in U.S. higher education – cost, time, attainment, quality – it risks the marginalization that has accompanied the maturation of all prior forms of distance learning. Online has performed in terms of access and convenience, but only indirectly in terms of cost and price, and not clearly on attainment or quality.

But why is cost reduction rising up the agenda now? The confluence of declining traditional student demographics, weak state appropriations, sluggish endowments and looking back on twenty plus years of tuition outpacing inflation comes to mind. The revolutionary air of MOOCs has got lawmakers attention, and given credibility to the idea that technology can lower costs not only in nearly every other industry but in higher education, too.

According to IPEDS, wages and benefits make up 80%+ of instructional costs in U.S. higher education. Unless you believe that lots of new public funding is forthcoming, and instructional artisanship is the only way, some form of cost reduction, likely involving technology, seems the responsible way forward. The recent pushback from the Philosophy Department at San Jose State University, in the wake of expanded use of third party MOOC courses at the institution, is a perfect example of the assertion that academic quality is inherently bound up with faculty labor, and technology can be no more than a minor aid.

At this point, the debate quickly escalates and complicates, and you find yourself hopelessly tangled amid differing values, ideals and perceptions of reality.

Yet curiously, quality-enhancing cost reduction strategies are well-understood. Most notably, for the past 15 years, the National Center for Academic Transformation, led by Carol Twigg, has steadily demonstrated how to simultaneously improve access, enhance quality and lower costs using technology and other techniques. The N-CAT approach has produced results, albeit at small scale, all over the country in a multitude of disciplines and institutions. Moreover, N-CAT techniques are very faculty-centric, simple and locally-oriented, and not about more “radical” MOOCs and competency. It might be argued that N-CAT is about preserving the traditional academy by means of common sense cost reduction and quality enhancement methods, and not about disruption.

A recent newsletter found Carol complaining that despite endless debate about rising costs, N-CAT still seems to be the “only ones in higher education who want to do it [i.e. cost reduction] and, unfortunately, the only ones who seem to know how to do it.” Course-level pilots too often fail to take root or spread, and funders want scale. It is striking that online programs, and nontraditional schools most prominent in the online program market, have not engaged with, or been engaged by, N-CAT.

N-CAT’s work makes cost reduction practical and safe, yet lacks the glamour of unproven MOOCs. You can touch the third rail and not expire (although it is foolish to imagine that significant cost reduction is consistent with zero reduction in labor). Carol and colleagues have decided to cease demonstration projects and move to broader change strategies. It will be interesting to see the progress Carol makes with N-CAT’s new focus. With enough pain in the system, and pretenders circling, the timing may be quite good.

At Eduventures, we’re seeking insights into online program cost structures, among other things, in our latest Benchmarking Online Operations survey, which invited Online Higher Education Knowledge Community members are currently completing. If your institution is interested in taking part, please get in touch.

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Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream

Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream | HigherEd: Disrupted or Disruptor? Your Choice. | Scoop.it

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.

Before the housing bubble burst in 2007, banks persuaded low- and moderate-income homeowners that they could turn their houses and apartments into piggy banks. They seduced them into taking out home-equity loans — and in the end, millions lost their homes. In other cases, the banks, mortgage brokers and real-estate agents pushed aspiring homeowners to borrow beyond their means. The wizards of finance, who prided themselves on risk management, sold toxic mortgages that were designed to explode. They bundled the dubious loans into complex financial instruments and sold them to unsuspecting investors.

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.

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