Response to Robert Talbert: Pedagogical change is difficult, many need support

On Monday Robert Talbert, associate professor at Grand Valley State University and author of the Casting Out Nines blog, wrote a provocative and important post titled “Active learning as an ethical issue”. Robert noted:

The recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study stands out among these recent studies. It is a meta-study of 225 prior studies on active learning, and the results are bracing: students in these studies who were in classes focused on lecture and direct instruction in the classroom were 55% more likely to fail their courses than their counterparts in active learning focused classes, and scored almost half a standard deviation lower than their active learning counterparts on exams.

This sentence from the PNAS study stopped me in my tracks when I first read it:

“If the experiments analyzed here had been conducted as randomized controlled trials of medical interventions, they may have been stopped for benefit—meaning that enrolling patients in the control condition might be discontinued because the treatment being tested was clearly more beneficial.”

Robert’s central point is that active learning should be thought of as an ethical issue, where it could be considered unethical to withhold treatment. He then asks why faculty might withhold active learning and listed four reasons: self-preservation, laziness, a weird and irrational superiority complex, and legitimate external forces (such as overly controlling school structure).

The argument is an interesting and compelling one based on the study, and it is worth reading the whole article and his follow-up post. I wish we treated teaching and learning more often as an ethical issue,but I would add one additional reason that the active learning treatment is not more prevalent. This one comes from our discussions with faculty and support staff as part of our e-Literate TV series on personalized learning, and Michael and I summarized the point in the introduction episode. Continue reading

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Cracks In The Foundation Of Disruptive Innovation

The overuse of Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation theory has rightly been criticized in education circles for years. I say rightly in that judging a non-commodity public good with the same theory as disk drives is a silly notion without some extensive analysis to back up that extrapolation. As Audrey Watters wrote in 2013:

Rather, my assigning “myth” to “disruptive innovation” is meant to highlight the ways in which this narrative has been widely accepted as unassailably true. No doubt (as a Harvard professor) Christensen has faced very little skepticism or criticism about his theory about the transformation of industries— why, it’s as if The Innovator’s Dilemma were some sort of sacred text.
Helping to enhance its mythic status, the storytelling around “disruptive innovation” has taken on another, broader and looser dimension as well, as the term is now frequently invoked in many quarters to mean things quite different from Christensen’s original arguments in The Innovator’s Dilemma.

Referring back to Audrey’s posts, Jim Groom and Brian Lamb made efforts to “reclaim innovation” in 2014:

To understand much of the disconnect between higher education and innovation, we should take a look at innovation’s unruly cousin: disruption. Certainly, when surveying the rapid pace of change in digital and networked technologies and assessing the wreckage of organizations and industries that have, in one way or another, been swept aside, disruption as a descriptive term is not without merit. But unless we are prepared to rebuild from the wreckage and create something that represents a meaningful advance, it’s difficult to see the value in disruption for its own sake. Continue reading

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Forbes Fantasies: Why Hillsdale College is not in the College Scorecard (hint, boring reasons)

Richard Vedder wrote a particularly uninformed article in Forbes on Friday about the Education Department (ED) not including Hillsdale College in the new College Scorecard. Freed from the burden of facts or research, Vedder let loose the dogs of conspiracy [emphasis in original].

The Obama Administration, with much hype, released its College Scorecard recently, designed to help students find the college that best fits their interest. The Scorecard includes some interesting information, such as data on student repayment of college loan debt, the average post-graduate earnings, et cetera. But as we delve more into it, something arguably sinister is revealed: the Scorecard excludes mention of several prominent colleges with a conservative or traditional academic orientation.

Vedder then speculates that the reasons for the omission are A) Hillsdale not accepting any form of federal financial assistance and the associated regulations and B) Hillsdale having a conservative orientation. At the end of the short post Vedder comes back to reality.

It may be my sinister thinking is unwarranted, that there were reasons unrelated to ideology or refusal to accept financial aid that figure in the exclusion of these schools. But even so, they are legitimate, even accredited, educational institutions, and their exclusion diminishes the utility and the perceived integrity of the new Scorecard.

Would that Richard of the First Paragraph would talk to Richard of the Last Paragraph before posting, because Richard the Last got it right. The sinister thinking is unwarranted. Continue reading

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The University As Ed Tech Startup: UMUC, Global Campus, Texas, and SNHU roll their own

Today the University of Maryland University Campus (UMUC) announced its plans to spin off their Office of Analytics into a separate for-profit ed tech company.

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents today approved a University of Maryland University College (UMUC) plan to spin off its Office of Analytics into a new company, HelioCampus, that will provide business intelligence products and services to universities nationwide. [snip]

The new company will provide a foundational analytics platform and data analysis services. This comprehensive offering will include all the tools needed to support or jumpstart an analytics program. HelioCampus will host a secure platform in the cloud that will include flexible data models and best-in-class visual analytics to accelerate analysis.

The technology will be complemented by a team of higher-education and business-intelligence experts. Each institution will be assigned a dedicated analyst that will partner with key stakeholders to interpret the data and highlight key trends.

The Chronicle quotes two UMUC execs – CIO Pete Young (staying at UMUC) and VP for Analytics Darren Catalano (leaving UMUC to become HelioCampus’ chief executive). It is worth noting, as Stephen deFilipo did on Twitter, that both Pete Young and Darren Catalano come from Rosetta Stone. Continue reading

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College Scorecard Problem Gets Worse: One in three associate’s degree institutions are not included

Late yesterday I posted about the Education Department (ED) new College Scorecard and how it omits a large number of community colleges based on an arbitrary metric.

In particular, the Education Department (ED) is using a questionable method of determining whether an institution is degree-granting rather than relying on the IPEDS data source. In a nutshell, if an institution awarded more certificates than degrees, then it is not labeled as “predominantly awarded 2-year or 4-yeard degrees” and therefore excluded.

I am not quite confident that the explanation for the vast majority of missing schools is based on this finding. In short, if an institutions awards more certificates than degrees, ED removes them from the public-facing website even if they are technically degree-granting institutions.

Originally it appeared this situation encompassed 17% of all community colleges, but further analysis shows it to be more significant. Continue reading

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