Wednesday, January 21, 2015

BAs at CCs

From the Sacramento Bee

California community colleges board approves 15 pilot bachelor’s degrees

01/20/2015 3:08 PM 

 01/21/2015 10:40 AM

Read more here:

Bachelor’s degrees in mortuary work, ranch management and consumer technology design will soon be coming to California community colleges.
Under legislation signed last fall by Gov. Jerry Brown, the system’s governing board on Tuesday tentatively approved four-year degree programs at 15 community college campuses that will be introduced over the next three academic years.
“This is an historic day in our system,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said.
Changing technology and educational expectations have driven employers in fields such as dental hygiene, respiratory therapy and automotive technology – which once required only two-year associate degrees – to seek workers with a baccalaureate.
Advocates of community college bachelor’s degrees, which already are in place in 21 other states, have pushed for their introduction in California to generate up to an additional 1 million degrees in the state workforce by 2025. Senate Bill 850 allowed for up to 15 pilot degreesin majors not offered by the University of California or California State University, with the aim of meeting demand for highly trained workers in technical fields.
The community college system’s “core mission of job training means we have to change to four-year degrees,” Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who authored SB 850, said at a news conference following the vote. “California should never be behind the curve, and now we are no longer behind the curve.”
A committee selected the 15 college programs from among “34 tremendously done proposals,” Harris said, considering labor market needs and the ability of colleges to deliver on their applications, as well as geographic, institutional and subject diversity.
The board will consider final approval for the plan in March, after consulting with UC and CSU. The pilot degrees must be carried out by the 2017-18 academic year and will sunset in 2022-23.
Following a vote of nine ayes and two abstentions, the audience at the meeting erupted in applause. Block and Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, who led the push for community college bachelor’s degrees in California, were honored by the board for their efforts.
“This is a game-changer,” Carroll said.
Board member Thomas Epstein praised the rapid turnaround on applications that were first solicited in November. “It’s rare that something this important gets done this quickly by government,” he said
Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.
▪ Antelope Valley College: airframe manufacturing
▪ Bakersfield College: industrial automation
▪ Crafton Hills College: emergency services and allied health systems
▪ Cypress College: mortuary science
▪ Feather River College: equine industry
▪ Foothill College: dental hygiene
▪ MiraCosta College: biomanufacturing
▪ Modesto Junior College: respiratory care
▪ Rio Hondo College: automotive technology
▪ San Diego Mesa College: health information management
▪ Santa Ana College: occupational studies
▪ Santa Monica College: interaction design
▪ Shasta College: health information management
▪ Skyline College: respiratory therapy
▪ West Los Angeles College: dental hygiene

Read more here:

Monday, January 12, 2015

Is "fix education by starving it" an idea whose time has gone in California?

Nice to see a political analysis of California's higher education problem.  Higher Ed Austerity as political offspring of a failing coalition. (h/t, KTS)

From Inside Higher Ed

The Higher Ed Austerity Deal Is Falling Apart

January 12, 2015
For years now, the main trend in public university policy has been to impose budgetary austerity on them. Regardless of the revenue level that universities seek or the efficiencies they announce, the result is always the same: inadequate public funding coupled with rising tuition and student debt.
On the surface, 2015 promises more of the same: more austerity, more fees, more adjuncts, more tech, more management, and more metrics— metrics as a substitute for money. Years of attacks on austerity economics by prominent critics like Paul Krugman have not damaged austerity politics, which favors some powerful interests and which has hardened into a political culture. Our public universities have been stuck in a policy deadlock that I think of as halfway privatization. This has meant the worst of both worlds: not enough tuition and endowment income to escape the perma-austerity of state legislatures, and not enough public funding to rebuild the educational core. 
There are signs now that this framework is coming unglued. One of them is the tuition debate that started up again at the University of California Board of Regents meeting in November 2014. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Genres for Teaching and Learning I

I've been thinking recently about new genres for teaching and learning. Frankly, I've grown bored by thinking in only terms of lectures, class discussions, slide shows, participatory exercises, and the like. I want to put some of my creative teaching energy into practices that have legs, that will engage and be effective in various contexts including when I'm not there. 

What's out there? My previous post of an animation created to accompany the audio of a TED talk was one example. Here is another from Kindea Labs a startup that produces short animated videos it calls "conceptual animation."

One reaction is that this is a creepy mad-men-ification of intellectual life. But what if these work to motivate people to have a look or to get a student interested in something she would have otherwise ignored?

I find myself thinking: could I make one of these for each of my courses? For each section? For each session?  The exercise is useful quite apart from whether I'll ever do it: what is the gist that justifies the cognitive attention I am hoping to motivate? It forces me to do some hard thinking and that's a good thing.

What would a 60 second spot for your favorite course or your research look like?

Promo for Article by Two Carnegie Mellon Professors

Ancient Economies: Promo for Yale Classics Professor

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Two Years of Free Community College for Every American???

President Obama will propose free 2 years of community college for all in his State of the Union Whitehouse page with 2 minute presentation by the president.  And here's a paper from last year proposing a variation on what Obama will put forward in SOTU address - main author is the colleague I wrote op-ed post with the other day.
Address (plan is to announce it Friday in Tennessee which has a sort of program). Here's the

It's got potential in terms of combating social inequality in the US, but also potential impact on the business model of non-elite colleges and universities.   If the popular understanding becomes "our society will let you complete the first two years of college for free," it's going to make a whole lot of sense for a large fraction of American families to think in terms of 2+2.

Yes, it's going to mean that CCs are going to have to up their game and they'll need far more comprehensive funding than they are currently receiving.  But assuming things move in that direction, the non-elites might find themselves exposed to price sensitivity like they've never seen before.

These schools may have to choose between more intense competition for dwindling supply of folks who can borrow enough to pay (hiring PR firms to sell the benefits of 4!) or do some serious design thinking about how to thrive in such an environment.  At a minimum, can we expect such schools to have articulation agreements in place for every major with all the top transfer feeder schools?   But will that be enough?  Some careful financial modeling may be in order - to figure out whether there are actually enough dollars out there for the business of degree completion to be sustainable.

Still, the new policy proposal is change you can believe in, as they say.

An Animated Lecture About Education

You could do a lot worse things with the next 11 minutes than watching this video. I'm very intrigued by the genre it represents: taking the audio from a talk or lecture and building a complementary animation. Very interesting possibilities for education.

Plus, Ken Robinson has smart things to say about education.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Collaboration is About Results, Not Feelings of Inclusion

To the degree that our recent op-ed post at the Chronicle of Higher Education (with Sara Goldrick-Rab) struck some commenters as an over-the-top, standard faculty griping about administrators, I take responsibility for not making our point clearly enough.

It was a simple one: stop thinking of shared governance as either splitting the authority cake or faculty limiting administrative discretion or administrators conceding that faculty should have a say. William Bowen and Eugene Tobin, whose book excerpt motivated our essay, seem sincerely to exhort faculty and administration to more effective collaboration, but they don't quite manage to transcend the basic political framing. 

Faculty involvement in institutional governance is about drawing on all the human capital available in an institution to avoid errors. Institutional decision making should be based on information, data, analysis, and system-level insight rather than hunches, theories-du-jour, convictions, career-building, chasing funding, or myths about who knows better.

Some of the particulars Bowen and Tobin cite, the need to think "institutionally," for example, are spot on. What is wrong is the common presumption that this skill comes naturally to those who play administrative roles but unnaturally to those who do not.

"Administrative accountability" gets center play because Bowen and Tobin use it as a pivot point: administrators should have final say because they are the ones held accountable for decisions. We think that is misleading. Metrics are few (especially any measuring system effects) and reviews are generally less institutionalized than in other parts of the university (cf. peer review of research and student/peer review of teaching). And turnover is high meaning most administrators do not have to live with long term effects of decisions.

So, this is primarily an objection to how Bowen and Tobin framed the question. I will follow this with a more solution-oriented post soon. 


Administrators, Authority, and Accountability

The battle over who should lead colleges and universities has been raging since the inception of higher education. It is most often, and stereotypically, cast as a fight between administrators and faculty members. Supposedly both interested in what students need, those parties are alternately said to be effective governors of higher education and major impediments to effective leadership.
On Monday, William Bowen and Eugene Tobin jumped into the fray with an excerpt from their new book, Locus of Authority, about governance and the role of faculty members in the future reform of education.
This book appears to be written at least partly in service of Ithaka’s and Bowen’s promotion of online education. (Ithaka, a nonprofit organization that claims to help the academic community use digital technologies, is a co-publisher of the book. Bowen is the founding chairman of Ithaka and a self-proclaimed advocate of online learning.) As Bowen noted in his last book, Higher Education in the Digital Age, efforts to make online learning a more central aspect of higher education have repeatedly faced challenges from faculty members at shared-governance institutions.
Now he and Tobin take on the issue directly, though under the guise of a concern about productivity and cost-effectiveness.
In fact, their argument is an unfortunate distraction. Now is the time for a serious and open discussion about the purpose, financing, and governance of higher education going forward—not a fight over who will possess the “locus of authority.” Bowen and Tobin would seem to agree, and they claim to be above that fight, seesawing back and forth as they suggest that faculty members and administrators need to find new ways of collaborating if institutions of higher education are going to successfully adapt to changes in the world around them. They are careful along the way to offer equivocating olive branches to the various participants in this longstanding conversation, but, when push comes to shove, they are quite clear, writing that “… Final decision-making authority … in our view, needs to be located unambiguously in the hands of senior administrators with campus-, university-, and sector-wide perspectives who can be—and should be—held accountable for their decisions.”
That statement cuts to the core of this difficult discussion and illustrates why data, not convictions about who knows best or myths about accountability, must be used in developing new approaches to governance. The claim that occupants of administrative positions possess salutary perspective superiority is unsupported. The administrative career ladder is not designed to develop or ensure those perspectives.
One need not engage in stereotypes about administrator-brain; we know from organizational science that this sort of assumed wisdom is easily dominated by bureaucratically local imperatives (extreme examples come easily to mind). A recent study by Robert E. Martin, a professor emeritus of economics at Centre College, for example, shows that college costs continued to grow even as administrator say in institutional priorities grew and faculty say declined nationwide from 1987 to 2008. Bowen and Tobin, by virtue of their long careers, may well have acquired such wisdom, but projecting that wisdom onto college administrators in general is “going beyond the data.”
The second part of their argument is also flawed. In an age when “accountability” for classroom teachers is trumpeted, and in a world where research is subject to peer review, where is the equivalent for administrative performance? How many university administrators are really held accountable for their decisions in the manner implied by Bowen and Tobin’s statement?
While they do counsel administrators to be less dismissive of faculty input, and while they urge faculty members and administrators to deal with one another with less cynicism, Bowen and Tobin would have been much more provocative if they had noted that administrators need to recognize that they often don’t get it. Administrators need to seek and use the expertise and insight of faculty members not because of shared-governance considerations but because doing so reduces their likelihood of error, as well as the penalty for such errors. The same, of course, goes for faculty members.
In fact, done right, shared governance accomplishes what Bowen and Tobin appear to desire: It helps faculty members work across departmental lines and even across campus boundaries. At Penn State, shared governance leads faculty members on all campuses to come together in meetings. At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the Faculty Senate meets as one, irrespective of department. But many reforms being pushed by administrators, including new budget models that devolve responsibility for budgeting to schools and colleges, work against that sort of horizontal approach to organization. Instead, these approaches create incentives for faculty members to work only within their departments and units, and to refrain from collaborating. In doing so, they generate more inefficiency (picture the Shakespeare courses taught in business schools that David Kirp famously invoked), not less.
We agree with Bowen and Tobin: Shared governance today is a pale shadow of what it once was or in the future could or should be. Where, for example, are the students in discussions of shared governance in the “student centered” university? But we also think that in the interest of students and the public, a data-driven discussion is required in order to develop effective and durable new forms of leading higher education. The interplay of faculty members and administrators may be messy, but it is far from clear that such interplay is the source of the challenges facing higher education.
Indeed, leadership in a democracy is inherently messy—that is partly of its charm and partly by design. We need not abandon it simply because it is inefficient. There is no reason that final decision-making authority should reside with senior administrators, especially given that estimates indicate expected turnover rates as high as 50 percent—far higher than those for faculty members and most businesses. Faculty members are primarily responsible for doing the academic work of institutions; it is remarkable to suggest that they should be so quickly dismissed as also being responsible for governing that work, or to suggest that administrators need to be coaxed into considering seriously their input.
In the introduction to their book, Bowen and Tobin write that “these challenges have to be addressed on the basis of a deep understanding of faculty roles, and how they have evolved over time.” Why not also include a reassessment of administrator roles, and how those have changed? As Benjamin Ginsberg has noted, administrators have taken over—though they might say taken on—responsibilities faculty members once held, and in many ways that has introduced more distance between students and their educators. Does this serve students’ interests? Given the closer relationship between faculty members and students, it would seem important to ensure that more faculty members move into administrative positions and, even more important, then return to serving in faculty positions, helping to blur the line between the two and to enrich the information available to both.
Contrary to accusations that professors believe that strategic thinking and shared governance are antithetical to one another, scholars have a long history of developing smart, new solutions to difficult problems, including those involving governance. They should be empowered to lead, not told to get out of the way.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Machine Learning and Teaching

I just responded to an unsolicited email from a consultant working for Pearson publishing - perhaps you received one too. The sender was requesting my participation in the following scheme:
They provide five essay questions that I can assign to my students. My students enter the essays through an online portal. The essays will then be graded by "subject area experts" and the grades and comments will be returned to me - I am free to pass these on to students or use as I like. For my trouble: "you would have a couple of essays graded for you. Also, Pearson will pay you $100." 
They will use the students' work to "build the bank of student essays needed to develop the product." The product is a "computer-assisted grading program that will support you and your students when assigning short writing assignments."
What they are up to, one suspects, is developing a training corpus for machine learning algorithms.  It's a relatively straight-forward classification problem.  They don't need to figure out what makes a good answer to a given essay question - if they have enough human evaluated examples, they can train the machine to do just as well as the humans.  Just as well, that is, as the "subject area experts" they hire.

In my email response to the consultant I raised a different question: how much are they planning to compensate the students whose copyrighted intellectual property they are asking me to facilitate them obtaining for the development of a commercial product. I asked what advice their lawyers had given them regarding the commercial use of material that students are compelled to produce and submit as a requirement of a class.

Would you require your students to send their work to Pearson?  Would you accept payment for doing so?   Even if this is considered fair use under copyright law*, should institutions and instructors be in the business of building up Pearson's content for a product that Pearson will then turn around and sell back to us?

Personally, I say no thanks. Seems to me just one more step toward making colleges mere franchises and store fronts for educational publishers. It's too bad we are not collectively producing tools like this for the public benefit rather than being coopted into contributing to the progressive privatization of pedagogy.

And I think I'll start recommending that my students consider appending a CC BY-NC 4.0 license to work they are willing to share.

*A similar question has arisen in connection with Turn-It-In a service that checks for plagiarism. That company has prevailed so far in lawsuits that claim it makes illegal use of copyrighted student material.

See Also