08
Nov

Lessons From Disruption

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

I coined a phrase several years ago about change — “if you want to surf, you’ve got to get ahead of the wave.” And that time is now for higher education, as its moment of truth approaches.

I want to acknowledge the current situation from the perspective of existing institutions. But I also want to get beyond the fact and the fear of disruption to focus on the potential that it brings; services and applications can change the face of opportunity in America — economically, socially, civically and personally. Coincidentally, the forces driving disruptive change also contain solutions to the problems of access, persistence, success and the very quality of learning and assessment that have eluded us for decades. So, not only will higher education’s economic and organizational models be upset, but our ability to also achieve consistent quality across an ever-more diverse population of learners will be deepened.

First, let’s examine some important lessons regarding disruption. As he defined disruption, Clayton Christensen used the example of collapsing computer companies in the late 1990s. He identified one company that survived, IBM, and suggested the reason why. A decade or more before the collapse, IBM peeled off employees and money, sent them to a new location, and directed them to explore alternatives for the future that were fundamentally different from their existing business model. IBM’s leaders sensed that big change was coming, and they wanted to prepare for and adapt to it.

In so doing, they created an alternative business model and future, which saved IBM in the late ’90s as its competitors went out of business. There are many generic lessons to be learned from Christensen’s analysis, but two stand out for me.

First, the companies that failed, Wang and Digital among them, failed to anticipate and recognize that their historic strengths, the very sources and drivers of their enormous success, would become lethal liabilities, the seeds of their failure, as the technology and marketplace changed. Their customers and stockholders were happy and life was good. Simultaneously, vastly cheaper, yet ultimately more powerful and adaptive products came upon the scene in the mid- to late ’90s. And with them came the demand for different and new services and supports. By the time the established companies saw the threat, it was too late to adjust to the changing marketplace, and they failed.

IBM, by taking the long view, gave itself the time to analyze the changing marketplace, evaluate the new forms of competition, conceive new approaches and develop a new business model that would thrive in the changing world.

Second, by separating its developmental work from its core business, IBM gave itself the protection to continue its core business unimpeded while developing a new business model on a parallel track. So, the core business was protected from any problems generated by the invention. And the invention was not compromised by the mother ship’s way of doing business.

Understanding the extraordinary importance of these two lessons is a critical beginning point to charting the future for education and employment in America.

Aging academic traditions, long our sources of strength, are being challenged by emerging competitors, services and capacities. These newcomers have the potential to bring equal or greater quality, improved effectiveness, new solutions, a more responsive customer experience, and lower prices to the table. In short, the disruption has the potential to bring new and better solutions to the problems that colleges and universities have been working on since the GI Bill was passed.

Our historic strengths are becoming liabilities in a changing marketplace. And this situation is not coming soon. It is already under way in its early stages, a slow-motion train wreck of traditional practices and economics characterized by declining external support and a dwindling base of traditional customers within a societal context of innovation, change, increasing need (demand) and redefined services from new providers. And the time needed to prepare for the new environment is short while the consequences of inaction are extreme.

We must take stock and act quickly.

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23
Oct

Educational Opportunity in the Age of Disruption

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Since the publication of my book, Free-Range Learning in the Digital Age: The Emerging Revolution in College, Career, and Education, in mid-2018, and after a year of listening, learning and reflecting, I would like to explore and look at the future of learning and work with refreshed eyes and new understandings. I am writing not as a critic but as a friend and longtime observer of higher education, learners, learning and opportunity.

I have, however, been fundamentally changed by the book and its aftermath. Looking past American postsecondary education’s amazing achievements, I now want to focus on those people who have not benefited, those who have remained marginalized and underserved, and to look for ways that disruption in the education and work space can be harnessed to bring them opportunities that have, heretofore, been beyond their reach.

That will be the theme running throughout this series. Disruption of the campus-based model brings with it the potential to fundamentally reframe education and employment opportunity. The development of “opportunity pathways” through higher education to good jobs has been very successful in the years since the GI Bill was passed. A majority of Americans, however, are still denied the higher education opportunity by campus models, traditions and values coupled with broader societal norms. For them, the higher education opportunity pathway was, in fact, an opportunity monopoly that operated beyond their reach.

With that in mind, there are five distinct topic areas that I want to address:

  • First, I want to examine how we got to where we currently are regarding the role of higher education and its contributions to opportunity and work. In these blog posts I will discuss the stages of development that higher education, as a driver of opportunity, has gone through since the passage of the GI Bill and where we are, roughly, in 2019.
  • Second, I want to discuss some of the essential lessons we can learn from Clayton Christiansen’s theory and examples of disruption. Much has been written, and more said, about Christiansen’s theory. I believe that Christiansen’s analysis contains two to three critical lessons that, if we harness their power, can reframe the education-opportunity debate.
  • Third, I want to evaluate the current state of postsecondary education and lifelong learning as the core opportunity driver in America. We have had notable successes. But there is much work left to be done. I will describe the hidden social and economic costs of our current “opportunity structure” in higher education. Yes, it may be the best ever, but is it the best it can be?
  • Fourth, turning to the solution side of the coin, I will discuss how disruption can add value to the opportunity proposition and redefine great teaching and learning in the process.
  • Finally, I will present examples of new practices and new knowledge that are contributing to the redefinition of opportunity through disruption. There are myriad new services, practices and applications, all technologically enhanced and data driven. Using current examples, I will describe how some of those innovations, riding the crest of the disruption wave, can change the world of learning and work opportunity for the better.

As I write, this seems like a tall, indeed daunting, order. And these will be blog posts, not academic articles or whole books. This is my effort to make sense out of where we are and where we need to go. I hope it will be a conversation that you will join as it unfolds.

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13
Jul

Guest Post: Reclaiming Assessment’s Promise

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

New guidance from the Department of Education could help. A guest post from David Eubanks, Vice President of Insitutional Effectiveness at Furman University.

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19
Jun

Emerging Roles of AI in Education

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Don’t get me wrong, human beings are now and will be in the future at the core of our field — administering education, teaching and learning. But if we are the bus designers, bus drivers and bus riders, artificial intelligence is the engine of the vehicle that we are using and will be using more often in the education field. It will design, drive and assess our efforts in teaching and learning.

Nothing is infallible, especially emerging technology. So there will be mistakes, failures and glitches along the way. But even today, AI is improving our field in dozens of ways. In language learning, adaptive learning, math and technical field learning, and dozens of other areas, AI is engaged in making our teaching and learning better than ever before.

There is no doubt that AI is changing the way we conduct recruitment, admissions and retention of students. Over all, Wiley Education Services says that a college’s bottom line and reputational value will improve through the use of artificial intelligence tools to enhance the marketing, assessment of applicants and monitoring success of students.

As we move forward, the algorithms will become ever more sophisticated, predictive and autonomous. As next steps, the RAND Corporation reports, “AI has so far found a perch in three ‘core challenges’ of teaching: intelligent tutoring systems, automated essay scoring and early warning systems to identify struggling students who may be at risk of not graduating.”

Artificial intelligence is becoming so entrenched in societies around the world that there is a worldwide competition shaping up to see which countries, societies and cultures will control the future of commerce, education, entertainment and more. We are challenged to take the lead in providing the best educational opportunities to build a work force of AI developers. The Brookings Institution reports,

Control over the research and development of AI will become increasingly vital, and the winners of this upcoming AI-defined era in human history will be the countries and companies that can create the most powerful algorithms, assemble the most talent, collect the most data and marshal the most computing power. This is the next great technology race of our generation and the stakes are high, particularly for the United States. If American society is to embrace the full range of social and political changes that these technologies will introduce, then it is the education and training we provide our youth and workers that will fuel the engines of future AI, and therefore geopolitical success.

Forbes’s Bernard Marr suggests that personalized learning, universal access and smart tutoring are among the leading developments in education that we will see implemented in the near future. These will lead the way in an ever-expanding and more sophisticated suite of AI-driven tools to enhance the learning experience.

TeachThought goes even further to point to AI tools for education that may well change the role of teachers, give students the freedom to fail and try again, and change where students learn, who teaches them and how they acquire skills.

As we retool with AI algorithms, making the right choices and implementing them as soon as they are reliable and ready will be key to keeping a competitive advantage. That will be art and science of effective use of this most powerful technology — applying it to the right tasks, assessing effectiveness and continuing the cycle of improvement.

All across the spectrum of higher education, we will see artificial intelligence emerge. From educating the work force to applying the technology to advancing the efficiency and quality of our core business of recruiting, teaching and certifying learning, AI will be our new partner in education. Prepare for this partnership by closely following the field and including AI in discussions and planning for the future of your students, your departments and your university.

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31
Oct

Is U.S. International Education Building a Wall?

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

The 2019 Conference of the Americas on International Education attracted a record number of almost 1,000 participants from Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, Europe, China and New Zealand, but little participation from the U.S.

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06
Sep

Adaptive Learning to Personalized Learning

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Computer-driven adaptive learning has been around for decades; in its most basic form, it is simply the computer program branching the learning path based upon responses the student makes. Some learners may be best served by materials delivered in a different format — for example, case studies rather than theoretical study. Others may need refresher learning for underpinning skills, principles and theories upon which more advanced learning is built.

Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) has enabled this kind of learning program for half a century and more. I recall working with others in the 1970s as we programmed simple lessons that would quiz students and branch their learning path based on right answers as well as wrong answers. Simple coding in the PLATO TUTOR language would allow programmers to branch to different review or new materials based upon which answer was selected.

More sophisticated adaptive-learning programs that have been developed recently aggregate much more data from the learner to better adapt the learning path. These data can include stored prior learning experiences and performances; self-expressed student preferences in modes of delivery; analytical prediction of likelihood of success for the individual student through different modes of delivery; and much more.

For the past half dozen years, Khan Academy has developed and enhanced their flow-of-learning model. These and other like programs can more finely and accurately identify and address gaps in learning. Coupled with effective support modules, they can fill in the gaps on an individualized basis. “Particularly in high-enrollment classes, adaptive learning can provide tailored support and guidance to all students,” says this primer from Educause. Adaptive learning has effectively been used by many publishers for their online homework and supplementary materials.

Adaptive learning, while it has provided an important step forward in helping to assure that all learners get the material that they need to achieve learning outcomes, has fallen short in cultivating full engagement with the individual student. That’s where personalized learning takes the next step. It is defined by the Glossary for Education Reform as:

The term personalized learning, or personalization, refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

This takes student-centered learning to the next level. It goes beyond simply responding to requests from students. Instead, students become part of the process of defining the learning outcomes, pedagogy and practices of the learning experience. Until recently, it has not seemed feasible to meet student needs in this way. To customize learning for each of 30 or 40 students in a class, monitor their individual progress and provide meaningful feedback just is too time-consuming.

Now, machine learning can synthesize the huge volume of data needed to more fully deliver student-centered learning. It can assemble the background, take input from the individual learner regarding their self-determined needs and expectations, identify learning deficits and needs, and produce and present the learning path to best accomplish those goals.

In this case, the role of the faculty member shifts from directly delivering materials and grading based on a single syllabus to advising, assisting and assessing personalized learning that meets the needs of both the individual and the prescribed outcomes of the program. Certainly, this is a change for the faculty member. It is no longer administering a one-size-fits-all class. Instead it is a much more personal, individualized mentoring of each of the students while AI assembles the learning stack for each student.

Have you incorporated any of the adaptive-learning tools in your classes?

Are you preparing for the next step of personalized learning?

Are you preparing your faculty colleagues for this process?

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13
Aug

Privatization and Kazakhstan’s Emerging Higher Education System

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Since the introduction of neoliberal reforms, government spending on higher education has decreased dramatically.

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27
Jun

Considering the alternatives

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Considering the plethora of lower-cost (in both dollars and time) alternatives to the traditional degree, it is no surprise that enrollment at the bachelor’s level in higher ed has dropped for the past half-dozen years. Sure, a robust economy has contributed to the decline, but applications to the University of California system and other major universities, as well as most midsized and smaller colleges, are down for 2019.

The situation is not getting better. Students are weighing alternatives in terms of cost, time to completion and employability. And the alternatives are proliferating. One website, Alternatives to College, matches prospective students to 200 different boot camps, apprenticeships, code academies, income share, online short courses and more. Many of these are agile small start-ups that can release new programs just in time to meet employer needs and student demands.

Then, of course, there are the giant MOOC providers offering courses, certificates and degrees. Coursera recently revealed that it is valued at well more than a billion dollars. And, with nearly 40 million students, the company’s momentum is massive. Udacity and edX are also thriving while reaching tens of millions of learners.

FutureLearn, a subsidiary of the UK Open University, is serving millions of learners in 18 countries with its 200 courses from 120 universities. And, China’s XuetangX now reaches 16 million learners and offers 1,900 classes from universities in China as well as Stanford, Berkeley and others. All of these alternatives provide credentials that are certified and badged, in many cases with learning outcomes carefully designed to meet employer needs.

Some very large employers are reassessing the need for the baccalaureate. Apple CEO Tim Cook says nearly half of Apple’s U.S. employment last year was made up of non-degree holders. He says most colleges don’t build the skills business leaders need most, such as coding. And, Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton says in the past the degree requirement merely helped hiring managers to identify a smaller qualified candidate group.

With the average new college graduate earning about $ 50,000, it is noteworthy that there are many job categories where non-degree holders start at more than $ 70,000 with no huge college loans to pay back, saving both time and money.

Institutions are responding in a variety of ways. The Brookings Institution has identified some of the key causes and responses:

Around the world, tuition at universities is rising at a much faster rate than inflation and challenging students’ return on investment. Reduced government funding and higher operating costs are driving the need for change at universities. The mismatch in employer needs and employee skills is leaving over seven million jobs unfilled in the U.S. … There will undoubtedly be on-going opportunities for new approaches and actors to innovate in higher education as the sector continues to face high costs, decreasing returns on investment, and skills mis-matches.

So, how do we make a value case to prospective students and employers? We can offer our own short-courses and professional education options. Certainly, the degree is far more than vocational training. The general education portion of our degrees cultivates both creative and critical thinking. Diverse communication skills — one of the top-rated areas desired by employers — is another area in which we can excel. These are just a few of the areas in which baccalaureate holders have an edge over their less-educated competitors. We must document these skills.

One group of 13 universities in the Virginia and D.C. area is doing just that. The institutions are collaborating with businesses to create a digital credential that certifies learning in a number of digital tech literacy courses. “It is neither a major, nor a minor, nor a formal certificate. It is, rather, a recognition that students have taken a short sequence of courses (five at GMU) that cover knowledge and skills in high demand.”

Considering the alternatives, we can no longer depend upon just our “good name” and reputation; prospective students and employers expect explicit proof that we are meeting their needs. To fall short of that expectation will feed continued decline in enrollments. What steps are you taking to demonstrate and certify to employers that your graduates have the skills and abilities that they need?

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19
May

What’s So Special About That Purple Cow, Anyway?

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

At this moment in higher education history, when achieving revenue goals has never been more consequential to more institutions, is being perceived as different than your primary competitors all it takes to win?

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