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Irrational Optimism and the Digital Learning Evangelist

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 01:00:00 +0000

3 questions.




Mlodinow's 'Elastic' and What a Liberal Arts Education Does to Your Brain

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 01:00:00 +0000

A book on the cognitive science behind flexible thinking.




'Meltdown: Why Our [Higher Ed Tech] Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It’

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 01:00:00 +0000

Why I added “Higher Ed Tech” to the title of this book.




Is Academia.edu Worth $99 A Year?

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 01:00:00 +0000

Online reputation tracking for alt-acs, and the monetization of the higher ed status economy.




Read 'Robot-Proof' if you only read one higher ed book this year

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 07:00:00 +0000

Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Joseph E. Aoun (MIT Press, 2017) It is not an accident that I’m putting my review of Robot-Proof in "Inside Digital Learning." My goal is to drive maximum awareness of this book among anyone thinking about the future of higher education. Aoun, a linguist who also happens to head Northeastern University, makes the case that our economy is on the cusp of enormous change. He is largely supportive of the argument that accelerating improvements in the bundle of technologies that comprise artificial intelligence (sensors, processing, big data analysis) will drive fundamental changes at every level of our economy. This artificial intelligence driven shift will be as consequential as the two earlier large-scale economic shifts, that of agricultural to manufacturing and then from manufacturing to services. Our higher education sector, according to Aoun, is not moving fast enough in the face of this large-scale economic change. Just as our colleges and universities are finally getting aligned with today’s service-based labor market, we are doing too little to prepare our students for an age of smart machines. What is the recipe for higher education to become robot-proof? This answer will be context dependent, as every institution must build on its own strengths and traditions. Aoun does not claim to offer any algorithm for organizational change. He is sensitive to the complexity of our institutions, and is not an advocate of simplistic notions around disruption. What Aoun does forcefully for is an end to the traditional thinking which places a liberal arts education in opposition to preparation for employment. He finds that liberal arts / employment preparation dichotomy no longer accurate, or particularly useful in evolving our institutions. We should, argues Aoun, seek to align teaching and learning at our colleges and universities with the research on learning. What this scholarship demonstrates is that there are limits to both abstract and applied learning. The two must be married. Active and experiential learning opportunities are critical components of a valuable postsecondary education. Aoun believes that in an economy where smart robots do much of the work that people do today -- including the information-based service work (accounting, legal services, etc.) that was previously protected from automation -- that the skills prioritized in a liberal arts education will be increasingly in demand. These skills include judgment, collaboration, curiosity, communication, empathy, team work, leadership and many others. These creative, social and leadership qualities represent tasks that can’t be automated. These classical attributes of a liberal arts education, however, will hold little value, Aoun argues, unless students have the opportunity to apply these skills. The learning cycle between abstraction and action needs to be shortened. What you learn in college and what you do with that learning are not separate things. They reinforce one another. The approach that each college or university takes to integrate thinking and doing, the abstract and the concrete, will differ by institution. Aoun describes Northeastern’s co-op program in some detail. This is one model for prioritizing experiential learning. There are many others.   Aoun never says it this directly, but you get the sense after reading Robot-Proof that any school that is not significantly re-orienting all their teaching practices to align with the research on learning -- and in particular is not prioritizing active and experiential learning -- is committing education malpractice. Robot-Proof is a bold call for change in the business of usual of higher education. There is much else in this book that anyone who is thinking about the future of college will find interesting. The model that Aoun proposes for our institutions being places of lifelong learning is fascinating. [...]



Hans Rosling's 'Factfulness' and Other Books on Progress

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 01:00:00 +0000

Prog Lit.




Thinking About Dual Academic Jobs as a Single Academic Career

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 01:00:00 +0000

Are you also one-half of a dual-career academic couple? How do you do it?




3 Reasons Why Kids In Business Class Is Annoying

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 01:00:00 +0000

And how this could possibly relate to higher ed.




Googling "How To Be A Director of Digital Learning Initiatives”

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 01:00:00 +0000

Are you in a higher ed job that did not previously exist?




OPM Companies Should Think Like an Industry

Wed, 11 Apr 2018 07:00:00 +0000

This week I’m in Chicago, speaking at the Pearson Higher Education Executive Leadership Forum. Many of you know -- and some of you don’t -- that Pearson is a major player in the OPM (online program management) industry. Currently, Pearson has about 45 campus partners and 250 online programs. Many of the schools that partner with Pearson to run online programs, such as ASU, Maryville and George Washington, are here at this meeting. Unlike most representatives of universities at this meeting, my school is not a Pearson partner. While we have some small, high-quality, low-residency master's programs in health care delivery science and public health, we have not gone the OPM route in building these programs. While I am an online learning evangelist, I am also an OPM industry critic. To Pearson’s credit, it is my critique of the OPM industry that largely motivated the company to have me come speak at their online learning event. It is not that I’m against the idea of a partnership model. My openness to the idea of school/company partnerships in developing and running online programs already sets me apart from many of my colleagues in the online learning space. It is more that I’m concerned about the direction of the OPM industry as a whole. Today, the online programs management industry is fragmented and chaotic. There are few agreed-upon standards of transparency in contracts. We have no independent sources that I know of, aggregating data on both student and institutional outcomes from across all school/company online partnerships. It is not clear, at least to me, how the different OPM providers in the sector are differentiated from another. Every for-profit online program management company will tell you that they put the needs of the institution and the learner first. That they are willing to be flexible and nimble. That they know how to build quality programs and market to prospective students better than their competitors. And that their partner schools are not only happy with the partnership, but happier than the average school/OPM provider partnership. This can’t all be true. Every OPM can’t be above average. Like universities, the various OPM providers (and there are something like 25) must have strengths and weaknesses. So I’m here in Chicago to advocate that the OPM players, including Pearson, begin to think about their industry as a whole -- rather than only on their own business. Leadership in the for-profit online learning space means not only building out a range of services that are both attractive to partner universities and serve the needs of students (and faculty), but also advance the OPM sector as a whole. I think the various companies in the OPM space need to recognize that there is a growing level of distrust among many in higher education about the OPM model. Many people on campuses that I speak with are concerned about the revenue sharing, long-term contracts, and outsourcing of core capabilities (such as learning design) that characterize many school/OPM contracts. The various companies in the OPM industry also need to recognize that the people (like me) who evangelize the development of new online programs talk to our counterparts at other schools. A bad experience with a single OPM provider can sour us on the model for the entire industry. The presence of bad actors in the OPM space, or at least bad fits between schools and companies, is not a competitive advantage for the other OPM providers. In short, I think that individual OPM companies need to make the transition to thinking in terms of an industry. They need to focus on growing the potential partnership pie as much as competing with other companies. They need to move toward a middle ground in being willing to share data and methods that today they hold as proprietary. [...]