An educational system built for another time, another student demographic — by Lloyd Armstrong, University Professor and Provost Emeritus at the University of Southern California




…This is probably because much of our education system originally was designed around the traditional student and his or her needs, and the leading institutions in the system still serve primarily the traditional student. As a consequence, potential changes in educational approach or organization are most often judged according to whether or not they will benefit those traditional students who enjoy the benefits of residential life and a manageable financial burden. But, as this report describes, times have changed, the composition of the student body has changed, and because many of our institutions have not changed accordingly, the results are not pretty.

In particular, the report focuses on the plight of part time students, and shows that graduation rates for part time students at all levels – certificates, associates, and bachelors – are only about 40% as high as for full time students (if one looks at a time period twice the nominal period required for graduation). Graduation rates for both full time and part time students who are African-American, Hispanic, older, or low income are considerably lower than for the general student body, and the part-time “penalty” is somewhat higher than for the general population.

All in all, a very important report, with sensible and meaningful recommendations. I can’t give it an A, however, because I think its basic conclusion in not bold enough – and maybe not even correct. The recommendation is basically to fiddle the system to enable part time students to behave more like full time students, assuming that if they can behave more like full time students they will graduate like full time students. That is not a bad idea, of course, but why not start from the premise that the system itself needs to be redesigned so that it focuses on the needs of the part time students? Maybe the problem is not simply the full time/part time divide, but that the system responds or does not respond to the many and highly varied needs of part time (and by extension, non-traditional) students.


 From DSC:
Nice report — well done.  My only wish here would be that the costs of obtaining an education were discussed more — as one of the causes of this issue but also a potential/significant piece of the solution.  I think cost is one of the key factors as to why more students are becoming part-time students — and thus are more likely susceptible to “life getting in the way.”

There was some mention of this in the solution proposed — which was good to see:

4. Restructure programs to fit busy lives. It’s time to face facts: College students today are going to have to work while trying to graduate. What else can they do when college is so expensive? (emphasis DSC)




The Digital Revolution and Higher Education — from the Pew Research Center by Kim Parker, Amanda Lenhart, and Kathleen Moore
College Presidents, Public Differ on Value of Online Learning


This report is based on findings from a pair of Pew Research Center surveys conducted in spring 2011. One is a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,142 adults ages 18 and older. The other is an online survey, done in association with the Chronicle of Higher Education, among the presidents of 1,055 two-year and four-year private, public, and for-profit colleges and universities.

Here is a summary of key findings…


From DSC:
First, [perhaps it’s in the appendices, but] how many of the people out in the public who were surveyed have actually taken an online class? If so, how many classes (each) have they taken and when did they take them? From whom did they take them? My guess is that most of them have never taken a class online.

Secondly, I wonder how many people thought that the telephone was a useful instrument/communication device shortly after it was introduced? Perhaps not too many…but did you use one today? Yesterday? I bet you did. I did…several times; and I bet that the same will be true of online learning (as online learning didn’t really begin to be used until the late 90’s).

The question is not whether online learning will blow away the face-to-face classroom, it’s when this will occur…? There will be many reasons for this, but the key one will be that you are putting up a team of specialists instead of using just one person. If they are reeeeaaaalllyy good (and a rare talent), that person can do the trick for now; but their success/job will continue to be increasingly difficult to perform, as they continue to pick up new hats each year, as the students’ attention spans and expectations continue to change, as lower cost models continue to emerge, etc, etc…

As Christensen, Horn, and Johnson assert, the innovation is taking place in the online learning world, and it will eventually surpass what’s possible (if it hasn’t already) in the face-to-face classrooms.



How data and analytics can improve education –from O’Reilly by by Audrey Watters
George Siemens on the applications and challenges of education data.


Schools have long amassed data: tracking grades, attendance, textbook purchases, test scores, cafeteria meals, and the like. But little has actually been done with this information — whether due to privacy issues or technical capacities — to enhance students’ learning.

With the adoption of technology in more schools and with a push for more open government data, there are clearly a lot of opportunities for better data gathering and analysis in education. But what will that look like? It’s a politically charged question, no doubt, as some states are turning to things like standardized test score data in order to gauge teacher effectiveness and, in turn, retention and promotion.

I asked education theorist George Siemens, from the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University, about the possibilities and challenges for data, teaching, and learning.

Our interview follows.

From DSC:
My thanks to Stephen Downes for his posting on this:

Traditional embraces Transmedia – to great effect in kid’s storytelling — from by Adriana Hamacher


The current buzz around Transmedia is justified to its capital T, to listen to some of the original and fascinating ways theatre, film and even toys are being developed. The award winning Unlimited Theatre Co. and Makieworld were two of the best which showcased at the Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield, UK, last week.

From MakieLab:

MakieLab is a new games-and-toys company, founded this year and based in London. We’re making a new kind of toy: customisable, 3D-printed, locally made, and internet-enabled.

Tagged with:  

Key education issues dividing public, college presidents, study finds — from the WSJ by Kevin Helliker

The general public and university presidents disagree about the purpose of college, who ought to pay for it and whether today’s students are getting their money’s worth.

But university presidents and the average American agree that the cost of higher education now exceeds the reach of most people.

Those are broad findings from a pair of surveys released late Sunday from the nonprofit Pew Research Center. The surveys took place this March and April, one posing college-related questions to 2,142 American adults, the other to 1,055 presidents of colleges large, small, public, private and for-profit. The two surveys contained some identical questions and some peculiar to each group.

Excerpt of report:

As is the case with all Center reports, our research is not designed to promote any cause, ideology or policy proposal. Our only goal is to inform the public on important topics that shape their lives and their society.

Higher education is one such topic. The debate about its value and mission has been triggered not just by rising costs, but also by hard economic times; by changing demands on the nation’s workforce; by rising global competition; by growing pressures to reduce education funding; and by the ambitious goal set by President Obama for the United States to lead the world by 2020 in the share of young adults who have a college degree.


Higher education’s toughest test — from by Jon Bischke and Semil Shah

In the debate sparked by Peter Thiel’s “20 Under 20 Fellowship” (which pays bright students to drop out of college), one fact stands out: the cost of U.S. post-secondary education is spiraling upward, out of control. Thiel calls this a “bubble,” similar to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, where hopeful property owners over-leveraged themselves to lay claim to a coveted piece of the American dream: home ownership.

Today, however, the credentialing provided by universities is becoming decoupled from the knowledge and skills acquired by students. The cost of obtaining learning materials is falling, with OpenCourseWare resources from MIT and iTunes U leading the charge. Classes can be taken online on sites like Udemy and eduFire, either for free or a fraction of the cost to learn similar material at a university, and sites like Veri, which recently launched at TechStars NYC Demo Day, aims to organize and spread one’s accumulated knowledge.

The fresh cadavers from the shakeouts in the music and publishing industries should provide motivation to presidents, chancellors, and provosts to look seriously at this problem, as many of the same dynamics that disrupted those industries are now at play in higher education. As students around the world start preparing for their year-end exams, it will be interesting to see how seriously leaders of universities prepare for one of the toughest tests that they’ll ever face.


From DSC:
I have been trying to get these trends/warnings/messages across to others for years — more people are starting to raise the same red flags on some of these same topics as well.

There is great danger in the status quo these days. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a firm believer in education, especially liberal arts education. But the traditional model is simply not sustainable it continually shuts more people out of the system and/or puts such a burden on students’ backs as to significantly influence — if not downright limit — their future options and experiences.

But as the saying goes, “Change is optional — survival is not mandatory.”




Educause: The Changing Landscape of Higher Education— by David Staley and Dennis Trinkle
The authors identify ten fissures in the landscape that are creating areas of potentially tectonic change.

What goes up...must come down -- by Daniel S. Christian

A perfect storm has been building within higher education. Numerous, powerful forces have been converging that either already are or soon will be impacting the way higher education is offered and experienced. This paper focuses on one of those forces – the increasing price tag of obtaining a degree within higher education.  It will seek to show that what goes up…must come down.  Some less expensive alternatives are already here today; but the most significant changes and market “corrections” appear to be right around the corner. That is, higher education is a bubble about to burst.

Online Learning: An opportunity to transform public education in Georgia — from by Michael Horn [via Ray Schroeder]

From DSC:
Below are some excerpts that caught my eye:

Nationwide, online learning is booming. A decade ago, fewer than 50,000 K-12 students took an online course; today more than 3 million students do, and the growth of online learning is accelerating. Twenty-seven percent of high school students report taking at least one online course in 2009.

Increasingly, students are enrolling in blended or hybrid arrangements, where they learn at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery.

Change in education is gradual, yet happening much faster than one might expect.

The final direction is still unknown, but one hypothesis is that there will be, broadly speaking, three different roles for teachers of the future:

  • Master teachers who are content experts and can answer content-specific questions.
  • Coaches whose job it is to mentor and motivate students to stay on task and work with them to find solutions for their individual problems when they are stuck.
  • Case workers who work with children who have problems nonacademic in nature.

Expect many teachers to spend less day-to-day time on lesson planning, delivering one-size-fits-none lectures and classroom management.

Teachers already in online environments are reporting that, by and large, they get to know each student far better than they ever did or could in a traditional classroom environment.

The university lacks capacity to change education — from George Siemens

Make no mistake, dramatic changes are occurring in education. These changes, due to the reluctance of the academy to map activities to the reality of the external world, are driven by external innovation. Quite simply, higher education is not in control of its fate as it has failed to develop the capacity to be self-reliant in times of change. I’ve seen universities (such as University of Manitoba) reach out to consulting and accounting firms to provide structural and funding change recommendations. I’ve seen universities begin to partner with online course providers such as StraighterLine to extend course offerings because they (the university) are simply not capable of fulfilling these roles themselves – they lack capacity to participate in this new space of learning. I used to think that higher education and open access would do away with the dominant role of traditional publishers. It looks like I was wrong. Publishers are now offering full course content packages that blend textbooks with faculty-produced materials (i.e. McGraw-Hill’s purchase of Tegrity – a lecture capture software). The university’s reliance on external offerings to fill their capacity gaps is a growing trend. For some (traditional liberal education advocates) it’s a concern. For others (entrepreneurs) it’s a blessing. And for still others (traditional publishers and content creators), it’s a way to stay relevant and perhaps even become more integrated with educational institutions than was possible with a textbook publishing model.

From DSC:
Sorry George, but I just have to post this in its entirety, as I think that you are right on the mark here!

From behind my “lenses” the way I “see” this is that:

  • Higher ed must become more nimble, willing to change, and work to address our shortcomings.
  • We must be responsive to changes outside of our control (which is the majority)
  • We must experiment with things and be willing to fail. Because…

…we are not nearly as in control of things as we suppose.

Traditional instructional methods versus intelligent tutoring systems —

From DSC:
I’m not crazy about the VS. part here…this post isn’t mean to stir competitive juices or put some folks out there on the defensive. Rather, I thought it had some interesting, understandable things to say about intelligent tutoring systems and what benefits they might provide.

A potential solution to this problem is the use of novel software known as “Intelligent Tutoring Systems” (ITS), with built-in artificial intelligence. These systems, which adapt themselves to the current knowledge stage of the learner and support different learning strategies on an individual basis, could be integrated with the Web for effective training and tutoring.

Intelligent tutoring systems (ITSs) are software programs that give support to the learning activity. These systems can be used in the conventional educational process, distant learning courses as well corporate training, either under the form of CDROMs or as applications that deliver knowledge over the Internet. They present new ways for education, which can change the role of the human tutor or teacher, and enhance it.

They present educational materials in a flexible and personalized way that is similar to one-to-one tutoring. In particular, ITSs have the ability to provide learners with tailored instructions and feedback. The basic underlying idea of ITSs is to realise that each student is unique.

They use simulations and other highly interactive learning environments that require people to apply their knowledge and skills. These active, situated learning environments help them retain and apply knowledge and skills more effectively in operational settings.

An intelligent tutoring system personalizes the instruction based on the background and the progress of each individual student. In this way, the learner is able to receive immediate feedback on his performance. Today, prototype and operational ITS systems provide practice-based instruction to support corporate training, high school and college education, military training etc.

The goal of intelligent tutoring systems is to provide the benefits of one-on-one instruction automatically and cost effectively. Intelligent tutoring systems enable participants to practice their skills by carrying out tasks within highly interactive learning environments…

The world changed, colleges missed it — from by Tom Vander Ark

A bunch of colleges are going out of business, only they don’t know it. They pretend that trimming costs and jacking tuition is a solution.  They haven’t come to terms with a world where anyone can learn anything almost anywhere for free or cheap. Art Levine, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, sees three major change forces: new competition, a convergence of knowledge producers, and changing demographics.

To Art’s list of three big change forces, add shrinking government support, the press for more accountability, and emerging technology…the next few decades will be marked by a lumpy move to competency-based learninginstant information and the ability to learn anything anywhere.

The shift to personal digital learning is on.  Some colleges get that.  Others will seek bailouts until they go out of business.  Working adults are getting smart on their own terms.


From DSC:
Time will tell if Tom’s assertions are too harsh here, but personally, I think he’s right.

I have it that:

  • There is a bubble in higher ed
  • There also exists a perfect storm that’s been forming for years within higher ed and the waves are cresting
    .The perfect storm in higher ed -- by Daniel S. Christian

  • Institutions of higher education need to check themselves before they become the next Blockbuster
    .Do not underestimate the disruptive impact of technology -- June 2009

  • We must not discount the disruptive powers of technology nor the trends taking place today (for a list of some of these trends, see the work of Gary Marx, as well as Yankelovish’s (2005) Ferment and Change: Higher Education in 2015)
  • Innovation is not an option for those who want to survive and thrive in the future.

Specifically, I have it that we should be experimenting with:

  • Significantly lowering the price of getting an education (by 50%+)
  • Providing greater access (worldwide)
  • Offering content in as many different ways as we can afford to produce
  • Seeking to provide interactive, multimedia-based content that is created by teams of specialists — for anytime, anywhere, on any-device type of learning (24x7x365)at any pace!
  • “Breaking down the walls” of the physical classroom
  • Pooling resources and creating consortiums
  • Reflecting on what it will mean if online-based exchanges are setup to help folks develop competencies
  • Working to change our cultures to be more willing to innovate and change
  • Thinking about how to become more nimble as organizations
  • Turning more control over to individual learner and having them create the content
  • Creating and implementing more cross-disciplinary assignments



© 2024 | Daniel Christian