[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education.]
Embracing universality in post-secondary education would come at tremendous financial cost but would also rob us of the byproducts of a competitive marketplace — innovation, quality and adequacy of supply.
(Elizabeth Akers, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, encouraged lawmakers to turn away from models that make college “free.”)
Things That Caught My Attention
According to this article in Education Next, differences in the performance on math, reading, and science tests between disadvantaged and advantaged U.S. students have remained essentially unchanged for nearly half a century. Authors Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, Laura M. Talpey, and Ludger Woessmann write:
Contrary to recent perceptions, we find the opportunity gap—that is, the relationship between socioeconomic status and achievement—has not grown over the past 50 years. But neither has it closed. Instead, the gap between the haves and have-nots has persisted.
The stubborn endurance of achievement inequalities suggests the need to reconsider policies and practices aimed at shrinking the gap. Although policymakers have repeatedly tried to break the link between students’ learning and their socioeconomic background, these interventions thus far have been unable to dent the relationship between socioeconomic status and achievement. Perhaps it is time to consider alternatives.
In other K-12 news, it seems that education leaders worldwide are struggling with smartphones in the classroom.
Schools and governments around the world are struggling to figure out how to deal with smartphones in the classroom. Last year, France passed a law that banned students from using smart devices at school, and now in the UK politicians are discussing joining in, with UK schools minister Nick Gibb recently saying there should be a new policy introduced to ban phones from schools.
In many ways, this is just more evidence of the growing gap between an education model developed int he last century and 21st-century demands for new literacies and competencies.
Affordability is all the rage in Washington D.C., with congressional leaders holding hearings related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Among those providing testimony at a recent hearing was Douglas Webber, associate professor of economics at Temple University. “According to his research, the costs of college (with financial aid benefits considered) have risen 75 percent at public four-year schools and private institutions. These rising costs come at a time when the average per-student support from state and local sources has decreased by a third over the past three decades.”
Speaking of affordability, an APM Research survey found:
- Altogether, 72 percent of Americans say they would support free tuition at public colleges and universities for qualified applicants.
- Despite the widespread desire for free college, a majority of Americans agree that college is worth its current high price tag: Nearly 6 in 10 Americans—regardless whether they attended college or not—say the cost of college is worth the investment.
- However, 36 percent of Americans say that college is not worth the cost. When this group was asked to choose which of two responses was closer to why they believe this, the majority (60%) said, “people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt.”
As enrollments decline nationally, colleges are also feeling the economic squeeze. According to a recent report by credit-ratings firm S&P Global, ”With enrollment and tuition revenue under pressure across the country, many colleges — especially small, private nonprofits — are under financial stress and could look to merge or face closure. Of those scenarios, closure is more likely given the difficulties in merging colleges.”
We already see universities taking proactive steps to position themselves for potential future economic upheaval is the University of Akron. This past week, the university “offered a buy-out to about 47 percent of faculty on Monday in an effort to balance its budget. The offer is to full-time permanent (non-visiting) faculty who are not in what the university calls a ‘Strategic Investment Area.’ No law school, polymer science, or engineering faculty can take the offer.”
According to UA spokesperson Wayne Hill:
We designed this VSRP to ensure that areas of strategic investment at the university will continue to have the needed faculty members to achieve the investment goals,” UA chief financial officer Nathan Mortimer said in a news release. “For those who are eligible for the VSRP, this offering may enable them to take their career in a different direction or to retire, depending on their personal situation.”
One opportunity for colleges and universities is to begin serving as a foundational bridge to employment in the new skills and competencies workplace. A report produced by Education Design Lab is the result of work with more than a hundred colleges and universities over the last five years to design and implement new approaches for delivering their programs and increasing student success. The report suggests five models for college innovation.
- The “platform facilitator,” described as “distribution curators” that license courses, credentials and other services from “content providers.”
- The “experiential curator,” schools that bundle online and hybrid education with new forms of assessment to create educational experiences that exist outside the boundaries of campus.
- The “learning certifier” takes what students pick up in class, work, gaming and other experiences to “translate them into a coherent whole that makes sense.”
- The “workforce integrator” is an institution that draws on employers to help map out competencies and allow faculty to integrate “in-demand workforce competencies” into their courses.
- The “specializer” model will appeal to smaller colleges that “are known for a niche.” These schools will have opportunities to deliver their areas of focus to larger audiences.
Over at e-Literate, Kevin Kelly has a terrific three-part series on course design rubrics. The series is divided into the following parts.
- Part 1: WHAT? A comparison of the seven most widely used online course design rubrics, along with their collective strengths and limitations
- Part 2: SO WHAT? A discussion of why using these rubrics has become so important, and some early evidence of impact
- Part 3: NOW WHAT? Recommendations for what the rubric providers and adopters should do next to increase online student success further
Kelly has done a great job aggregating the many different course design rubrics across U.S. universities and placing them in categories for practical reuse.
Interesting Media and Technology Developments
AI continues to make its presence felt in many areas of society. In Asia, for example, AI is being used with facial recognition to revolutionize security.
AI is now smart enough to detect if a person is acting out of the ordinary and flag these “exceptions” to the central command center, where human operators can decide on the course of action.
For low-level actions like a smoke detector being activated, AI can automatically tell personnel on the ground to check and report. Depending on the level of sophistication, high-definition cameras with thermal imaging can determine whether there is a fire, negating the need for human officers to visit the site and cutting down response time.
Ground sensors along perimeter fences mean that there is no need for human patrols because any movement would trigger an alert. The use of analytics also frees up human operators from having to constantly monitor banks of screens and dealing with cases flagged by the software.
AI is also making big waves in education. According to a new market analysis report by ISC, “Education will experience the third-largest growth of any sector, coming in slightly behind government (44.3 percent) and “personal and consumer services” (43.3 percent).”
Other big technology news this week included Google’s announcement of its new Stadia streaming for gaming. The platform is 100% cloud-based and will be available everywhere that Chrome is: PCs, phones, tablets, and televisions, with current hardware.
Research Articles and Posts for the Week
TEL Library Posts You May Have Missed
New Business Models for Higher Education (Daily Takes)
The Two Dresses (Parables on Learning)
Higher Education – the Last Bastion? Distance and e-Learning Policy and Development – The Role of e-Learning and Distance Education in the Modernisation Process of Economies, Societies and Education Systems