Could We Please, Finally, Move Forward? Reinventing the Wheel in Digital Higher Ed Research

I keep hearing that the pace of change is picking up in digital higher education in 2017; that higher education is in a period of “transformation”.  And yet . . . as if to splash cold water on such happy thoughts, this morning I read a short article in the Times Higher Education Supplement (source) which suggests otherwise.

The National Tertiary Education Union in Australia just released a report that, according to one of the authors, “explodes the myth” that it takes less time to prepare and teach an online course than on-campus courses. (Report: study)

Okaaaay.

As the report suggests, it is important that we have a sense of how much time is devoted to different roles and responsibilities within the institution. But it has been long known that online courses take longer to prepare than classroom versions. Did the authors not do any secondary research? Frankly, they could have simply walked down the hall and asked one of the staff that specialize in online education. We’ve known this for at least fifteen years. How could a major survey like this be funded, involve the participation of multiple academics from different institutions, and yet fail to know that there is little debate about the question they seek to answer.

More troubling, though, is that there are still people working in this field that doesn’t recognize that a well designed and resource-rich online course should take much longer to build if we take our jobs as educators seriously. Much longer. Moreover, most courses shouldn’t be built by a single faculty member – which this report and many others assume. Individual faculty don’t have the range of skills required, the time to devote to the process, ample professional incentives, or funds. As a result, most courses that rely on in-house content development rely on repurposed classroom materials. This approach ensures that the course falls short of realizing the full potential of the online environment.

The Australian study isn’t an isolated incident. Have you attended a conference focused on digital higher education in the last year? I am consistently stunned by presentations by well-intentioned professionals who, one after another, ask and answer questions that were raised fifteen years ago by other professionals – sometimes at the very same conference. By and large, I’ve stopped attending conferences. Sure, they can be useful for setting up multiple meetings, but I’m not hearing much of anything new. Are you?

 

Is That All There Is? Higher Education’s Struggle to Leverage Digital Teaching and Learning

“What would become of such a child of the 17th and 18th centuries, when he should wake up to find himself required to play the game of the 20th century?”
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, what we might now call “the early days” of online higher education, advocates of technology-mediated learning imagined themselves as outsiders, rebels working on the margins of higher education. Their goal, broadly, was to bring the transformative power of Internet technology to a change-adverse, centuries-old institution. Keenly aware of the presence of naysayers among them in the institution who believed that technology was an anathema to “real education”, our rebels adopted an us-against-them stance, the technology evangelists against the Luddites; the cutting edge against those that simply “didn’t get it.”

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It would be difficult for these rebels to maintain the posture of an outsider in 2017. During the last two decades, and particularly the last few years, instructional technology has become thoroughly mainstream across much of education, a major influence on corporate, K12, and higher education. In higher education, online learning has become synonymous with all that is thought to be forward-thinking and innovative in the sector, fairly or not. Digital learning has shifted from a little understood, and marginal activity carried out by a handful of restless academics and dishevelled tech staff working out of the university’s basement, to the single greatest hope for an institution facing unsustainable increases in operating costs, shifting student demographics, and increasingly strident calls for improved and demonstrable learning outcomes.

Even major news sources began to pay attention. The Atlantic, New York Times, Huffington Post and others have helped promote the idea that higher education is being transformed by technology. One after another, university Presidents, not typically revolutionaries, proudly proclaimed that their universities and colleges were part of this transformation. Others in and outside of the academy were less enthusiastic – envisioning Internet technology and its demands would serve as the trojan horse to upset all that was good and holy about this centuries-old institution. Public intellectuals argued that technology would disrupt higher education, just as it did the music recording industry, newspapers, and bookstores. We’re next, they warned.

The Potential . . .

I’ve been working in the digital higher education space since the late-1990s, first as a member of a university faculty, followed by an eight-year stint as the Director of a large online learning unit. I now serve as an analyst and consultant. Over the years, my views on digital higher education have evolved. But through it all, I count myself among the growing number of the allegiant. I’m convinced that thoughtfully designed instructional technology and media can play an important, even transformative role, in teaching and learning in higher education. I’ve seen enough evidence to state confidently that it has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of learning, meet the needs of a wider range of people, and improve the overall quality of learning. In short, I’m a believer.

The potential is truly extraordinary. Given the unique economics of the Internet, it’s possible to produce and share instructional media with production value that rivals the best of Madison Avenue advertising. Storytelling and other creative arts can engage students in new ways. The rapidly expanding field of data analytics can help us understand how well students are learning and, when done properly, be used to modify curriculum in real-time to meet the unique needs of each learner. Dashboards can help students understand how they learn most effectively and where and when they need help. Simulations can be built that allow students to “learn-by-doing” in a realistic, risk-free environment. Games can increase the time students spend on tasks, thereby increasing their chances at mastery.

. . . And the Reality

I’m confident then about the potential of technology-enabled learning. However, I’ve grown increasingly less confident that the institution of higher education can play a major role in realising this potential. Evidence is mounting that the institution of higher education, as it is currently designed, is largely ill-suited to developing and leveraging more advanced uses of technology for teaching and learning. And given the institution’s near monopoly on widely recognised adult education in much of the West – higher education is likely inhibiting the development of more advanced forms of instructional technology and media, as well as new ways to bring these new forms to people at lower costs.

Since the spread of Internet access in the latter half of the 1990s, colleges and universities have demonstrated a remarkable inability to leverage these networks and related technologies to improve the quality and cost-efficiency of learning. This is the state of affairs despite the fact that universities were quick to turn to the Internet – and before that, various other technologies (e.g. CDs) – for teaching purposes. The situation exists despite the level of attention and investment directed at online learning during the past two decades, and despite the extraordinary advancements in technology that we have witnessed in other sectors over the same period of time.

In the late 90s and early 00’s, a handful of pundits concluded that higher education would have no choice but to be reconfigured by the extraordinary capacity of the Internet. They put two and two together and predicted that students all over the world – once connected – would have access to the very best educators, practitioners, intellectuals. Economies of scale would drive down costs dramatically, ensuring access to high-quality learning opportunities for even under-represented student populations. A new crop of talented professionals from education, design, and software would quickly start building digital-born instructional models that would stimulate learning in ways simply not possible in classrooms, lecture halls, and labs. Education is too important, demand growing too quickly, and costs declining too rapidly for us not to take full advantage of the opportunities the technology could obviously enable.

But for the past two decades, the institution of higher education has made few substantive changes to how it operates. While virtually every institution across the OECD has invested in digital learning, and university presidents now routinely pepper their speeches with the appropriate keywords signalling their commitment to digital education, the actual steps made to leverage the dramatic changes in technology in higher education have remained tentative, unimaginative, marred by self-interest, and ultimately lacking in ambition. Despite endless talk of “transformation”, “revolution”, and, of course, “disruption”, initiatives with the potential to improve learning and reduce costs through technology have either failed to gain sufficient traction, or were rejected out-of-hand because they challenged the culture, interests, and processes of the institution and its’ deeply ingrained conventions.

Tuition for online students has not dropped; indeed, online programs frequently have higher fees than on-campus versions. Students are regularly presented with digital course materials that are nothing more than repurposed classroom materials, reflecting the fact that the bulk of the responsibility for the design and development of course content falls largely on the shoulders of individual academics without the incentives, time, or skills required to do more ambitious work. The dominant technology in online education – the learning management system – serves primarily as a course management tool; an expensive and over-complicated filing cabinet for repurposed classroom materials. The LMS was quickly adopted across higher education not because of its capacity to transform learning, but because the technology fit so easily into the traditional practices, roles, and responsibilities of classroom education.

More troubling still is the mounting evidence that a common understanding has already begun to solidify in higher education about “how we do online learning”. For a surprisingly large number of professionals in higher education, simply “putting courses online” – shorthand for uploading static classroom instructional content into an LMS – is taken as evidence that an institution is a bonafide member of the digital age. After twenty years of online learning, the use of high-quality educational media, simulations, adaptivity, game-based learning, and other experiences made possible by advances in technology and the economics of the Internet constitute a mere fraction of the total higher education experience in North America. Can it be that the value higher education is able to extract from the Internet already reaching its peak? Has the proverbial S-curve of innovation already flat-lined? Is that all there is? (In the immortal words of Peggy Lee. Here’s a much darker version of the song from the post-punk era: Christina: Is That All There Is?)

By no means am I tech evangelist. I don’t believe that digital learning is the silver bullet for all that ails higher education. Despite the great attention it currently receives, digital learning is just one piece of the very large and very complex puzzle of how we improve student learning outcomes. And learning takes many forms. Conversation, reading, writing, travel; all are important. I certainly don’t want my daughters to learn online exclusively. But if we’re going to make digital learning part of the education mix, and I think we should, we need to take it seriously; we need to actually to begin to leverage the possibilities it affords us, which we are currently failing to do.

In a series of upcoming posts, I set out to decipher what stands in the way of significant improvements for the use of instructional technologies and digital media to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of learning in traditional colleges and universities. This effort takes the form of a series of essays (see “Notes” below); each a vehicle for the author – and hopefully the reader – to understand why higher education has yet to take substantial steps toward leveraging the new possibilities and why, in certain cases, it may not.

Notes

I like the logic of the “essay”. Wikipedia provides a good definition: From late 15th century (as a verb in the sense ‘test the quality of’): alteration of assay, by association with Old French essayer, based on late Latin exagium ‘weighing,’ from the base of exigere ‘ascertain, weigh’; the noun (late 16th century) is from Old French essai ‘trial.’ Source: Wikipedia.

Acting Like a Professional, Costs, and Escorts, Et Cetera: Leaders’ Collection 10.25.2016

A hand-picked (lovingly) collection of news, reports,  and essays of interest to leaders in higher education by Keith Hampson, PhD. 

photo-1474776707116-d2ab67d97547Impact and Nonimpact of Online Competition

A summary by Inside Higher Ed of a useful paper by David J. Deming, Michael Lovenheim and Richard W. Patterson (Summary). The original paper is available here (requires sign-in).
The paper finds the growth of fully online degree programs has led to increased spending and falling enrollments at some place-based colleges but had little impact on tuition rates.
“In a well-functioning marketplace, the new availability of a cost-saving technology should increase efficiency, because colleges compete with each other to provide the highest-quality education at the lowest price,” the paper, which has not yet been peer reviewed, reads. “Nonselective public institutions in less dense areas either are local monopoly providers of education or have considerable market power. Online education has the potential to disrupt these local monopolies by introducing competition from alternative providers that do not require students to leave home to attend.”
The researchers, who are based at Cornell University, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the United States Military Academy, used data collected by the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to track enrollment, revenue, expenditure and tuition trends between 2000-2013 — before and after the rule change. They used the data to test three predictions: that competition from more fully online programs would lower tuition rates for face-to-face programs, lead to increased spending on instruction and student support services, and drive down enrollment in areas with low competition between colleges.
The data only provided support for two of those predictions. For one, colleges located in areas with low competition were more likely than others to experience a decline in enrollment. The finding was only statistically significant for less selective private institutions, which saw enrollment declines following the 2006 rule change. Instructional spending also increased at public institutions, though the trend began before the rule change — perhaps because the colleges were anticipating increased competition from online programs, the paper suggests.”
Read the full review of the paper here. The original paper can be found here (sign-in required).

Over Exposed: Where are the International Students?

By David Morris
“To that end, I have compiled data from HESA for the 2014-15 academic year to look at which institutions might be most vulnerable to Theresa May’s challenge to create a business model without international student recruitment. I have also compared the numbers of international students with the results of the EU referendum, to try and establish whether areas that voted to Leave have high numbers of student immigrants that may be causing anxiety in those communities.
Where in the UK are international students?
International students are spread across the UK. Northern Ireland has much lower numbers as a proportion than England, Scotland and Wales. International students are roughly evenly split between undergraduates and postgraduates, meaning that postgraduate courses are far more reliant on international students as a proportion of their total.”

Read the full post here.

Note: WonkHE has followed up the above article with “International Recruitment and TEF: Modelling the Amber Warnings. Available here.

NCAA Confirms Escort Allegations at Louisville

To those outside of the USA, the behaviour of big-league NCAA (college/university) athletics is almost “Trumpesque” in its idiocy and its obvious disconnect from the mission of higher education. This story concerns the use of “escorts” at the University of Louisville for the basketball team. This sort of activity has been going on for years. A former coach of mine was recruited by a SEC university in the 1970s. During his visit to the campus, he was asked to select from a list of available escorts – photos included. (Incidentally, he chose to study in Canada and later earned a Rhodes Scholarship.)
“Last year, Louisville’s supporters scoffed at charges. Now NCAA has confirmed them and the university is objecting to the association’s finding that powerful head coach failed to monitor his program. The coach is invoking 9/11.
The University of Louisville committed four major National Collegiate Athletic Association violations when a former men’s basketball assistant paid an escort service to provide strip shows and sex for recruits and other players, the NCAA stated in a notice of allegations sent to the university Thursday. The Level I violations charge the program’s head coach, Rick Pitino, with “failure to monitor” his employee, a serious allegation that could result in a suspension for the coach.”

Read the article here. 

Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology

An annual report – more useful than most. The highlights are available here. Highlights. The full report can be found here (requires submitting your email address, name, etc.): Full Report.
“Most faculty members say data-driven assessments and accountability efforts aren’t helping them improve the quality of teaching and learning at their colleges and universities, according to the 2016 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology. Instead, instructors and a large share of academic technology administrators say the efforts are mainly designed to satisfy accreditors and politicians — not to increase degree completion rates.
It has been another tumultuous year in educational technology. The past 12 months have seen new ways to deliver education and course materialsnew start-upspromising to revolutionize teaching and research, and new questions about the role of technology in and outside the classroom.”

Professionalization and the Skillz to Pay the Bills

by Dr Aimee Morrison
A long-overdue rant about the tendency of academics to conduct themselves in an unprofessional manner; failing to learn basic technical skills found in virtually every other work setting, etc. Humorous, but important, too.
“Last week, I was ranting on Facebook about the number of students who won’t check their emails at all (YOU ARE ALL GOING TO FLUNK OUT BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE WE SEND DEADLINES), who won’t use their university accounts (FORWARD TO YOUR GMAIL IF YOU WANT BUT THIS IS A WORKPLACE), or who just never attach their names to their emails so that everytime I want to email them, I have to actually look through the university directory. Or they email me, and I have to reverse lookup the email address to figure out the name of the student.”
. . .
“My sister works in the private sector. She wears real pants to work every day, uses a corporate intranet, meets deadlines, writes professional emails, uses spreadsheets, runs meetings. She has no patience at all for the life of the mind I describe to her, where everyone habitually misses deadlines, no one is trained on the main parts of their jobs, no one knows the org chart or the policies or the paperwork. Use a spreadsheet. Add. Their. Names. To. Their. Emails. And it is ridiculous, really.”

Student Debt and the Class of 2015

By the Institute for College Access and Success

The average student loan debt has surpassed $30K in the US. Might be worth cross-referencing this report with the one the above (see “Impact and Nonimpact of Online Competition”) which notes the limited impact of costs by online education, to date.

“Student debt for college grads is on the rise, according to the latest figures from The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS). The nonprofit released its eleventh annual report on the student loan debt of recent graduates from four-year colleges. The report includes national, state and college data on student debt from federal and private loans.”
Read the full report here.

This Week’s Worthwhile Diversion

I Used to be a Human Being

An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too.
By Andrew Sullivan

Unbundling, Design Thinking, Et Cetera: Leaders’ Collection 10.18.2016

A hand-picked (lovingly) collection of news, reports,  and essays of interest to leaders in higher education by Keith Hampson, PhD. 

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Unbundling is ‘Separating Gold from Gravel’

Georgetown U’s Carnevale on labour and higher ed shares insights on future of intertwined industries.

Full Interview

An Introduction to Design Thinking: Process Guide

From Stanford’s d.school.

Access the document (pdf)

How to Conduct Strategic Planning

A high-quality description of the strategic planning process – well-suited to higher education. From the World Economic Forum.

Access the document (pdf)

What Makes a College President?

Experts weigh in on critical higher ed leadership traits needed for surely one of the world’s least desirable jobs (IMO). From EducationDive.

Read the full interview.

The Impact of Ambiguous “Student Outcomes” on Technology. By James Wiley, Eduventures.

Read the full article.

The Academic Job Market Is Tottering, But Nobody’s Telling Graduate Students

A reminder of the dismal prospects for graduate students hoping to land a full-time gig – from the Pope Center – one of the few conservative-leaning (US-style) voices in higher education.

Read the full article. 

Universities Are Churning Out the Next Generation of Higher Ed Bureaucrats

Read the full article.

Learnings from colleges that have gone through mergers and transformation from the good people at JISC.

Access the podcast.

Original blog. 

Diversion of the Week

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes . . . (Leaders Collection, 10-11-2016)

This week’s collection of essays, news, and reports for leaders in higher education. 
::

Change Management Canvas: A Model

by Travis Barker
A useful set of tools that outline the process of designing and initiating a change management plan, a concept I on the minds of an increasing number of higher education leaders.

Delivering Design-Led Innovation

A practical, well-written report on how to use design to drive innovation.

4 Lessons for Aspiring Administrators

by Kevin Gannon
A set of tips from Kevin Gannon for new academic administrators on how to navigate treacherous terrain in higher ed.

Google Search Results to Include Student Outcomes Data from College Scorecard

by Marguerite McNeal
In a rather bold move, Google has incorporated data from the College Scorecard directly into its search results.

Disrupting Business Education

by David Rath.
Describes an interesting example of unbundling (on the academic side of the house, no less.)

Public Opinion on Higher Education

by Public Agenda
A sobering and largely ignored report on changing perceptions amongst Americans about the value of higher education.

Read the full report

Majority of Americans Want College to be Free

by Polly Mosendz (Bloomberg
Not surprising, of course. But approximately 1/2 of the survey respondents don’t want to pay higher taxes, as a result.

The Intersection of Higher Ed and Hiring: Q&A with Sean Gallagher

Dr Sean Gallagher is the Chief Strategy Officer for Northeastern University’s Global Network. Sean is a nationally recognised expert with more than 15 years of experience in strategy and innovation in higher education. His first book, “The Future of University Credentials: New Developments at the Intersection of Higher Education and Hiring,” was published in 2016.

::

KH: If you publish a book in 2016 that deals with the relationship between higher ed and hiring, I would imagine that you find yourself invariably wading into the headline that’s been bouncing around for the past couple of years: that higher ed is no longer the great return on the investment it was once – at least in terms of employability. What does the research tell us?

SG: On average, college is absolutely worth the investment. In fact, of any investment one can make, it has one of the highest rates of return – incidentally that’s even more true in today’s low–rate world. Yet it’s key to remember any calculation of “return” depends on the inputs – and it matters tremendously what you study, which school you earn a credential from, and how much you spend or borrow. Historically I don’t think students, families, politicians, etc. thought critically enough about that, because the train that is our existing system just keeps moving. What people have increasingly been asking is, are we reaching a breaking point. There are certainly hundreds of mediocre institutions and programs out there, many of them charging too much, and it’s appropriate to get serious about outcomes and costs. But on the whole, the economic data – tens of millions of data points, too – is irrefutable. Employers continue to demand and hire more people with college degrees, and they pay them substantially higher wages.

screenshot-2016-10-02-11-37-16

At the core of my research is interviewing actual employers. Given the headlines that have dominated the higher education media – and even the global business media – you would think employers would say that degrees are useless, that they’re doing away with them in hiring, investing in microcredentials, and only hiring from coding bootcamps. Indeed, degrees are not perfect and are not always the answer, and there’s plenty of inequity in how our system, our marketplace works – but it’s the very rare employer that is not demanding more college graduates, escalating its hiring requirements, or trying to skill up its existing workforce.

KH: That sounds about right. But at the same time, the nature of work is undergoing substantial modifications. And education has always followed the demands of labour, albeit imperfectly.

SG: We’re at an inflection point in a structural economic evolution and a series of fundamental changes in society that have been playing out over many decades. I’ll focus on the U.S., but it’s a similar situation worldwide. 30 or 40 years ago, you could earn middle-class wages and live a fairly comfortable life with only a high school diploma. That was in a more production-focused economy. Beginning in the 1980s and then accelerating in the 1990s, economic growth became dominated by knowledge work. That requires – or at least favors – higher levels of education. Bachelor’s degrees grew to become the ticket to the middle-class workforce. Economists such as David Autor at MIT and others have shown that the workforce has become highly polarized. The better educated are pulling ahead, while those without college education – and especially completed credentials – are falling behind. We can also see this in the polarization in our political dialogues, and the discussion about income inequality and if capitalism is working. Meanwhile, the cost of higher education has risen, and borrowing to fund it has certainly gone up dramatically – and this elevates the scrutiny on is the return worth the investment.

I think some of the crispest work that’s been done on this recently is by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Jaison Abel and Richard Dietz (see Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs? andAre Recent College Graduates Finding Good Jobs?). What’s interesting is I’ve seen one their statistics cited constantly as evidence that there’s a crisis in terms of higher education and how it relates to the job market: that 44% of recent college graduates are “underemployed,” – that is, working in jobs that do not “require” a college degree. That’s not a good statistic, but they show that rate is fairly typical for the historical pattern; spiked due to recent recession; and is, in fact, lower than the rate after the 1990 recession. Yet, the underemployment rate has indeed been rising since around 2000. That’s also when the “college wage premium” flattened out: the wage premium that you earn by completing a degree is right at historical highs, but it’s no longer moving upward like it did in the ‘80s. Interestingly, the premium for advanced degrees has grown – but it’s stayed flat for the bachelor’s. So we’re in a situation where a bachelor’s degree is no longer about “getting ahead” and instead it is many times the price of admission to the professional workforce.

KH: Assessment of learners and learning is one of the connecting points between higher ed and labour. During the last couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic climb in the interest of higher ed in competency-based education. If it’s taken seriously, CBE could provide employers and other gatekeepers with a far more detailed and comprehensive picture of a person’s abilities. But is this the kind of information that employers want? Are they in a position to make use of it?

SG: The marketplace is definitely trending toward more transparent documentation of learning outcomes and graduates being able to digitally present employers with their skills and capabilities. This is a dominant theme that cuts across many segments of the market and institution types – everything from online microcredentials offered by non-institutional providers, to the traditional undergraduate experience, and professional master’s programs from elite universities. “Badges” for example can be thought about as more micro-level illustrations of the competencies gained in a program – a complement to rather than a substitute for a degree.

I like to think of competency-based education in its simplest sense, as a philosophy in which the educational outcomes are purposefully aligned with specific skills and competencies. For many, the word “competencies” evokes the vocational and technical skills, and thus it gets dismissed it certain circles, but competencies can be things like problem-solving or critical thinking and analysis. CBE has great promise – but employers still don’t fully understand it: there needs to be more “customer education” from higher education institutions in that sense. In 2015, Parthenon–EY did a survey of nearly 500 hiring managers and found that only 9% of employers had a strong understanding of what competency–based education was.

Meanwhile, employers themselves are still moving toward competency-based hiring – that’s a prominent trend that HR leaders are talking about in 2016, and it is increasingly being enabled by technology. Often within employers, job descriptions and goals are not well designed or thoughtful and consistent, and many hiring decisions are still made based on instinct in notions like cultural fit. For competency-based education in all its variants to reach its full potential as a higher resolution signal in hiring, the employer side of the equation needs to have its job definitions and ability to analyze hiring trends in order.

There are many new exciting firms, technologies, and experiments related to things like e-portfolios and extended transcripts – ways to document learning in greater detail and present it to the outside world – but employers are not necessarily ready to integrate more information into their hiring systems, and transcripts and grades aren’t especially meaningful to most. This is where investor Ryan Craig’s notion of “competency marketplaces” like LinkedIn are truly disruptive and bear monitoring – you have central repositories developing that bridge professional work and experience, and learning outcomes and credentials. In general, there needs to be more connectivity and integration between the “data” produced on the educational side and the data input into employers’ hiring systems. Cloud computing and our data-rich society will increasingly enable this. If certain platforms gain traction and become dominant, things can change quickly.

Grade Inflation, Frugal Librarians, and More: Useful News for 09.19.2016

The Typical Undergraduate Takes More Than 5 Years to Graduate

The average undergraduate takes between five and six years to complete a degree, according to a new report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The average bachelor’s-degree candidate takes just over five years to graduate.

The findings of the report, which pulled data from 3,600 postsecondary institutions across the country, fly in the face of much of the popular perception of college-enrollment patterns, Doug Shapiro, executive director of the research center, said in a news release.

“These nontraditional behaviors have a dramatic effect on time to degree,” he said. “Each additional term or semester has the potential to increase the cost to the student, both through forgone earnings and additional tuition expenses.”

A photo by Thanun Buranapong. unsplash.com/photos/JbeBraLha7URead the full article at The Chronicle of Higher Ed

Chinese university allows students to pick age of lecturers

A university in China is letting students choose the age and personality of their lecturers, according to local reports.
Students at the metallurgy and chemical engineering department of Jiangxi University of Science and Technology said that they preferred academics aged between 25 and 40 years old, and those who have a “funny” and “positive” attitude, according to the China Daily.
As a result, the university, which is based in the city of Ganzhou in south-eastern China, has assigned a group of young lecturers to teach the cohort.

Grade expectations: An “A” is not what it used to be

“WE DO not release statistics on grade-point averages so we can’t speak to the accuracy of the information you have.” That was a flack for Yale, but other Ivy League colleges—with the partial exception of Princeton—were equally reluctant to discuss their grading practices with the Economist.

Are they trying to hide something? Perhaps. Stuart Rojstaczer, a critic of grade inflation, has estimated average grades over time by combining dozens of unofficial and official sources. The results are startling (see chart). In 1950, Mr Rojstaczer estimates, Harvard’s average grade was a C-plus. An article from 2013 in the Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper, revealed that the median grade had soared to A-minus: the most commonly awarded grade is an A. The students may be much cleverer than before: the Ivies are no longer gentlemen’s clubs for rich knuckleheads. But most probably, their marks mean less.

Universities pump up grades because many students like it. Administrators claim that tough grading leads to rivalry and stress for students. But if that is true, why have grades at all? Brilliant students complain that, thanks to grade inflation, little distinguishes them from their so-so classmates. Employers agree. When so many students get As, it is hard to figure out who is clever and who is not.

Read the full article at The Economist (US)

$1 Million Of Frugal Librarian’s Bequest To N.H. School Goes To Football Scoreboard

News that late librarian Robert Morin left the University of New Hampshire $4 million has been hailed as a symbol of Morin’s dedication and generosity. But the school’s decision to spend $1 million of that money on a new video scoreboard for the football stadium is being criticized.

A life lived in frugality, spent frivolously” on a million-dollar scoreboard, one commenter wrote on a local newspaper site, calling the decision “an assault” on Morin’s life. Others say it’s simply a shame that more of the money didn’t go to the university’s Dimond Library, where Morin spent much of his life.

Read the full article at NPR.org

Why It’s Time to Disrupt Higher Education by Separating Learning From Credentialing

Across modern economies, innovators and entrepreneurs are marshaling the power of information technology to reorganize business processes and reimagine entire industries, thereby improving quality and lowering the costs of goods and services. But higher education has largely escaped such disruption, even as IT and the Internet have created new ways to research, learn, and impart knowledge. The reason is that colleges and universities hold a unique franchise: They are responsible for educating students and for granting them degrees. Schools thus lack incentive to help students learn outside the classroom, even if it would lower costs or be more effective, since it would cut into their revenue, and they lack incentive to raise standards for their degrees because it would drive away customers. Students meanwhile have little incentive to push themselves harder than necessary to earn their degrees, since degrees are opaque, deriving their value from institutional brands rather than clear measures of academic achievement. This paper argues that the federal government should spur reform by promoting alternatives to traditional college diplomas that allow individuals to more effectively demonstrate educational mastery to prospective employers. This would give students the freedom to pursue their own best options for learning, incentivize students to study harder and schools to teach better, and apply competitive pressure on colleges and universities to reduce the costs of education.

Read the full article at ITIF