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334,114: The minimum number of credentials that education nonprofit Credential Engine estimates is in the higher-ed landscape. The count, released Thursday, includes high school diplomas, coding bootcamp certificates, degrees from Title IV institutions ranging from associate’s degrees to PhD’s, microcredentials and more. The organization says it is still working to college data on other credentials, however, such as digital badges, and considers the number released this week as only “partial.”
How do you deal with cheating if you can’t be sure it’s happening? For universities across the country, it’s an important question as online services and message boards have made it increasingly easy for students to buy whole, made-to-order essays and pass them off as their own. It’s very difficult for professors to catch, and no one is sure just how big an issue it is.
One study published in 2015 suggested that half of all students surveyed at three universities in the U.K. would consider purchasing assignments, with men slightly more willing to take the risk than women. Students don’t have to search very far for essay-writing services, either. Websites like bestessays.com, gonerdify.com, boomessays.com and EduBirdie.com advertise unique, original essays with turn-around in just a few days. Writers also advertise their services on Upwork and Kijiji, allowing buyers to negotiate prices directly. Depending on the length, subject and complexity of the piece, students could have a finished essay in their hands for a few hundred dollars, or a PhD thesis for a few thousand. (University Affairs contacted EduBirdie.com, one of the highest user-rated essay services in the country, for an interview, but received no response.)
Innovation has reached buzzword status inside colleges and universities.
Higher education institutions are creating innovation offices and chief innovation officer positions, launching various online and competency-based offerings, and, in some cases, answering to nervous boards of trustees regarding whether their institutions are doing enough to prepare students for an increasingly uncertain future.
Despite the frenetic tone of some of the hype, the concerns fueling this move toward innovation aren’t misplaced.
New disruptive innovations that are faster and cheaper than traditional programs have entered the postsecondary landscape. There is more pressure on institutions for accountability—to not only enroll students, but also to help them succeed up to and after graduation. College costs have continued to rise even as the average applicant is less able to pay, which has called into question many colleges’ sustainability.
As the student body becomes much older and non-traditional enrollees return to enhance their education, fast-track degree options may be more appealing and help institutions stand out. But at the same time a school offers the program, it must balance offering a quality education while also providing students with the types of experiences that make them more well-rounded and prepared employees — such as hands-on learning, internships, study abroad opportunities, community engagement and the ability to test out the workforce environment.
This is especially important as students taking intensive courses may need opportunities to step back and enjoy these college experiences in order to stay on track. Not only that, participating in things like study abroad are also key to helping students stand out when they go to the workforce, as a 2017 study from Institute of International Education shows that in a survey of 4,500 alumni from U.S. higher education institutions who studied abroad between 1999 and 2017, 68% of those who studied abroad for an extended period of time said the experience contributed to a job offer or promotion.
A decade ago, Michael Horn shook the K-12 world awake with his book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. He envisioned an education environment in which teachers’ embrace of technology would radically transform the classroom.
In subsequent years, Horn promoted that vision, first as founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation — a nonprofit think tank — and more recently as a consultant to a host of organizations in the education technology space, including the Entangled Group, a venture studio focused on the education ecosystem.
Horn has broadened his horizons: These days he is looking beyond K-12 to consider the disruptive impact of technology in higher education. He’s excited by what he sees, and optimistic that colleges and universities will soon take even bigger strides in the direction of digital learning.
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In a wide-ranging conversation, Dr. Kecia Ray, executive director of the Center for Digital Education (CDE), spoke with Horn about the evolving digital landscape within higher education.
A group of University of Oxford academics just launched Woolf University, the first university to operate on the blockchain, the digital ledger technology behind bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The project’s white paper states that for “for students, it will be the Uber of degree courses; for teachers, it will be the Airbnb of course hosting, but for both parties the use of blockchain technology will provide the contractual stability needed to complete a full course of study.”
Woolf University will not have lecture halls or studying facilities. Students and professors will meet through an app to arrange one-to-one or one-to-two tutorial sessions. Course credits will be registered through smart contracts on the blockchain, and then accredited by traditional institutions.
The project’s creators hope this new model of higher education will reduce tuition fees (the university aims to charge $57,600 for its first degrees), and enable academics to take control of their employment; firstly by enabling the university to reduce administrative and overhead costs; secondly, by allowing for the decentralized autonomous organization between teachers and learners.
Many economists call the current era of technology growth a boom era, not unlike previous gold rushes such as the Dot-com bubble. But the thing about bubbles is, they usually pop. And that has some people concerned. Is another bust on the horizon?
It’s not only tech employees who are paying attention to these patterns. In higher education, the number of computer science bachelor’s degrees follows market trends in finance and technology in particular—growing when times are good and plummeting when economies crash.
Since 2010, computer science majors have again been increasing, going from about 39,000 to more than 64,000 in 2016. And the Computer Science Research Center claims that the current enrollment surge has in fact exceeded previous CS booms. But what have we learned from these patterns? And what can it tell us about the future?
In 2017, Stephen DeRue, dean of University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, wrote a Forbes column arguing that, in order to make higher education more affordable, we needed to move towards an “iTunes model for education.”
“In the future,” he wrote, “I envision three tiers of education that look a lot like the music industry of today. First, akin to music streaming on Pandora or Spotify, the basic knowledge is widely accessible for consumption, either free or heavily subsidized…The next step is separating marketable academic credentials from the whole degree, just as iTunes enabled us to buy individual songs rather than the whole album…The third tier is an enhanced residential experience.”
DeRue was prescient, but his suggestions have problematic implications for educators—who are the equivalent of musicians in the iTunes analogy. Many online learning platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning and MasterClass, are indeed pivoting towards business models that look a lot like subscription-based streaming services Pandora, Spotify or Netflix. Customers can now pay a monthly fee to get access to a library of content.
Students at Sachse High School have created a virtual reality training program customized for the city of Sachse and its fire department.
It’s an ongoing, three-year project for third-year animation and computer science classes at the high school. It’s lead by animation teacher, Erik Bushland, and computer science teacher, Jessica Garcia. The project initially sought to give students a chance to practice skills learned in class such as coding, animation, and business strategies, but then lead to a partnership with the city’s fire department.
“The fire department has been very supportive;they’re our client. It doesn’t matter what we like, it’s what they like and need. So [the students] are getting that experience,” Bushland said.
High school graduation rates have soared across the country over the last decade, accompanied by the cheers of educators and lawmakers alike. But in the vast majority of states, simply attaining a high school diploma does not qualify students to attend a public university, according to a study released Monday by the Center for American Progress.
The report examines coursework requirements in math, English, science, social studies, foreign languages, art, physical education, and electives for both graduation from a public high school and entrance to a public university in every state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Each state issues different mandates for different subjects, and a handful want to see a demonstration of mastery rather than completion of specific courses.
“Within a state, it should be clear — and it should be aligned — that if I go to a public high school system, I should be eligible for a public university system in my state,” study co-author Laura Jimenez, the director of standards and accountability at the Center for American Progress, told The 74. “There really just isn’t agreement within the states about what it means to be college- and career-ready, and that’s why we’re seeing these different sets of policies.”
The Rev. Vivian Nixon remembers the first time she met with the Justice Department to brainstorm about ways to keep people from returning to prison once they got out. It was 2010, and she was one of a handful of formerly incarcerated people at the table.
“They actually asked us what is important,” said Nixon, the executive director of the New York-based College and Community Fellowship, which helps women get access to education after incarceration. Among the group’s suggestions were restoring Pell grants for prisoners. The grants help low-income students pay for higher education and were available for prisoners until 1994, when Congress banned inmates from the program.
Congress hasn’t changed its mind, but at the urging of advocates like Nixon, the Department of Education under former President Barack Obama greenlit a pilot program in 2015 that extended Pell grants to thousands of inmates. The program is set to expire at the end of 2018.
Its future is now uncertain.
“We had an administration that embraced reform,” Nixon said. “Now they don’t return my calls.”
When instructional designers are involved in online course design, student-to-student interaction goes up, according to a new survey of online education leaders from Quality Matters and Eduventures Research. The survey compared reported student interaction levels at institutions where instructional design support is required for online course development vs. those where such support is absent or optional. Perhaps not surprisingly, respondents perceived interactivity to be significantly higher for the former.
How much do we really know about the effectiveness of online education? What happens to the personal data that students are required to provide to online learning providers? And, for that matter, what exactly is online education?
These and other questions are addressed in a new report that is a primer for parents and anyone else who wants to understand key issues surrounding what we call online learning.
The report, “Online Learning: What Every Parent Should Know,” says that “shifting terminology of online learning is confusing, making it difficult for researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and the general public to know what K-12 online learning really is.”
University students are coming to class with more than just a college-ruled notebook. Modern classes look nothing like what they did just 10 years ago, thanks to an increase of technology in higher education classrooms.
As digital tools have reshaped the world around us, Susan Smith Nash, a blogger, educator and early ed tech adopter, isn’t surprised that technology has become a major part of the higher ed classroom.
“The classroom should be a laboratory for life,” she says.
For professors who aren’t sure how best to integrate tech into the classroom, Nash recommends they start with the tools they use every day, like email or social media.
Also, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are the primary technology tool for many students and professors.
In fact, many students like the flexibility of cloud apps because they are able to work and collaborate on the devices that fit in their pockets.
Carnegie Mellon, Brown, Connecticut and Iowa State universities, among others, have invested millions of dollars in creating campus innovations centers. Their goal is to attract nontraditional business students to campus for entrepreneurial development, and to create a pipeline of corporate partnership to the campuses, according to a recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.