Monday, October 28, 2013

Lists That Rank Colleges’ Value Are on the Rise

Rankings that privilege affordability and "return on investment" are becoming more common.  They tend to look very different from more conventional lists.  It becomes problematic if one falls into the false dichotomy trap: either you care about ROI or you care about "intellectual, social and civic value of education."  One advantage of a liberal arts education is that it teaches you "both/and" as well as "either/or" thinking.  We need to recognize that paying attention to cost and career value does not mean abandoning other education fundamentals.

From The New York Times
Published: October 27, 2013

Looking out over the quadrangle before him as students dashed from one class to the next, James Muyskens was feeling proud one recent afternoon, and why not?

The college he had led for the past 11 years had just been awarded second place in a new ranking of American higher education — ahead of flagship state universities, ahead of elite liberal arts colleges, even ahead of all eight Ivy League universities.

The college is Queens College, a part of the City University of New York with an annual tuition of $5,730, and a view of the Long Island Expressway.

Catering to working-class students, more than half of whom were born in other countries, Queens does not typically find itself at the top of national rankings. Then again, this was not a typical ranking. It was a list of colleges that offer the “best bang for the buck.”

“Elation,” said Dr. Muyskens, recalling his delight when he learned of the honor. “Thrilled!”

Purists might regard such bottom-line calculations as an insult to the intellectual, social and civic value of education. But dollars-and-cents tabulations like that one (which was compiled by Washington Monthly), are the fastest-growing sector of the college rankings industry, with ever more analyses vying for the attention of high school students and their parents who are anxious about finances.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Developments in the 10,000 Dollar Degree Movement

From The New York Times 18 October

Low-Cost B.A. Starting Slowly in Two States

Friday, October 18, 2013

Six Hats and Better Meetings

Almost nobody likes meetings and almost everybody will agree that precious little ever seems to get accomplished in meetings.  And yet we keep on having them.  There are a lot of ideas out there about how to improve meetings and one useful insight is that there are different kinds of meetings and some techniques work better for some kinds than for others.

One intriguing approach for meetings of collaborative teams developed by E. deBono is called "six hats."  I first came across it when my step-son learned about it in a week-long workshop on team-work that he participated in during "Independent Activities Period" (IAP) at MIT.  They are teaching it to young engineers as a set of skills right alongside integration by parts and balancing equations.

The basic idea is to recognize that there are different genres of contribution to conversations and that it can be helpful to recognize and manage/organize these.  They are:

  • Yellow = ideas, speculation, "how about...", "what if..."
  • Red = feelings, emotions, intuitions
  • Blue = agenda, sequence, process, rules of the road
  • Green = creative, options, alternatives
  • White = facts & figures, observations not interpretations, usuble info, checked facts
  • Black = criticism, flaw-finding, no need to be balanced or fair

Participants can self-consciously identify the kind of contribution they are making, a facilitator can ask for specific genres, or the agenda can be dedicated to a specific sequence of contribution types.

Here are some slides from a 2010 talk I gave for Division of Student Life staff on the technique:

See Also

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Technology and Learning around the Country

Although examples of the technology tail wagging the pedagogical dog are a dime a dozen, there are places that seem to be doing a noteworthy job of building an infrastructure that supports the use of technology in innovative teaching.  The elements of such infrastructures include things like high quality training, ongoing colloquia series, two-way conversations between teachers and instructional technologists, institutional subscriptions to vetted products, release time for tooling up and content creation, and staff support for faculty teaching innovation.

A few examples that highlight various avenues:

Online Learning and Liberal Arts Colleges

From Inside Higher Ed

June 29, 2012


Online learning is no longer foreign to traditional universities, where courses formerly held in large lecture halls are migrating to the Web. But at residential liberal arts colleges, whose appeal often lies in the promise of small classes and regular face time with professors, online education has had a harder time gaining a foothold.
That could soon change. Several top-rated liberal arts colleges have begun experimenting with online course modules. Professors at those colleges hope the technology, which tutors students in certain concepts via artificially intelligent tutoring software in lieu of static textbooks or human lecturers, will help level the playing field for academically underprepared students while giving instructors more flexibility in planning their syllabuses.
Professors at Bryn Mawr College and Wesleyan University, two colleges that stake their value on intimate classroom experiences, have begun experimenting with online courses developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI), a project that is more frequently discussed in conversations about the power of artificially intelligent learning platforms to take over certain teaching functions from human instructors. The OLI modules are designed to guide students through the equivalent of textbook material while quizzing them frequently along the way. By constantly gauging comprehension, the software gets a detailed read on the strengths and weaknesses of individual students and generates new tips and exercises aimed at closing gaps in their understanding.

Read more at Inside Higher Ed

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Access? Affordability? Quality? Success?


College’s Identity Crisis

IS a college degree’s worth best measured by the income its recipient makes 5 or 10 years down the road? Is college primarily a catapult to wealth? These were questions implicitly raised by President Obama’s recent proposal that the federal government look at graduates’ earnings when rating schools in an effort to steer students toward the best ones.

Is time in the military, in a store or at home with children comparable to time in a classroom, and should it count in some way toward a degree? There are university administrators who think so and who are trying to increase “completion rates” — the percentage of students who make it all the way to degrees — by giving credit for experiences far away from campus, so that students have a less lengthy, costly route to a diploma.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The New, Nonlinear Path Through College

The Innovator's DNA (Dryer, Gregersen, & Christensen 2011)

From Google Books:

Kiran Sethi: Kids, take charge (TED 2009)

Shimon Schocken: The self-organizing computer course (TED 2012)

Shulman's "Inventing the Future" (2000)

Porter on Skills Gap


Stubborn Skills Gap in America’s Work Force

One of the few things that nearly everyone in Washington agrees on is that American workers are the best. More productive than any on earth,” President Obama has said of them. They “build better products than anybody else.

Republicans, somewhat less exuberant, are nonetheless sure that American workers “can surpass the competition” on any level playing field. Even the United States Chamber of Commerce — not always a worker’s best friend — asserts that, along with the nation’s entrepreneurs and companies, America’s workers “are the best in the world.”

Friedman on MOOCs (2013)


The Professors’ Big Stage

Published: March 5, 2013

I just spent the last two days at a great conference convened by M.I.T. and Harvard on “Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education” — a k a “How can colleges charge $50,000 a year if my kid can learn it all free from massive open online courses?”

You may think this MOOCs revolution is hyped, but my driver in Boston disagrees. You see, I was picked up at Logan Airport by my old friend Michael Sandel, who teaches the famous Socratic, 1,000-student “Justice” course at Harvard, which is launching March 12 as the first humanities offering on the M.I.T.-Harvard edX online learning platform. When he met me at the airport I saw he was wearing some very colorful sneakers.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Example of Video Embedding

The EU Higher Education Modernistation Agenda

If we are serious about "internationalization" perhaps we should think about it in terms that go beyond expanding study abroad or adding minors and majors that have something to do with other places.  Perhaps we should pay attention to what's going on in higher education internationally and try to be a leading American institution in structuring our degree in a manner that would be internationally compatible.  Perhaps we might learn a few things from the European agenda:
"Higher education, with its links with research and innovation, plays a crucial role in personal development and economic growth, providing the highly qualified people and the articulate citizens that Europe needs to create jobs and prosperity.

"If Europe is not to lose out to global competition in the fields of education, research and innovation, national higher education systems must be able to respond effectively to the requirements of the knowledge economy."

This from See, especially, sidebar links to:

Example of Form Embedded in Post