Why we need to know more, not less, about what students get from college

By Mark Schneider of Hechinger Report

The federal government, in concert with the states and institutions, could do more to increase transparency and enhance market accountability in higher education.

More effectively reporting data that it already collects and collecting better data on cost, quality and value would provide a number of benefits.

Students could use the information to avoid investing in schools or programs that do not provide a positive return on investment and to discover options that they may have eliminated on the basis of incomplete or faulty information.

Researchers and policymakers could more readily judge where investments in federal aid are paying off and where reforms could improve efficiency and reduce waste. Private firms could use data to come up with rankings and ratings to reflect the unique preferences of different students.

Private lenders and funders could use labor-market outcome data to improve underwriting and extend credit on the basis of a student’s potential rather than the student’s past experience with credit products. 

Perhaps the most visible attempt to rewrite the federal role was the Obama administration’s failed attempt to build a Postsecondary Institutional Rating System (PIRS).  In 2013, the White House decided that the nation needed a rating system that would evaluate the approximately 7,000 post-secondary institutions that participate in federal student-aid programs. (Read More...)

Building Community in Online Courses

Authored by Dr. Kathleen Stone, Western Governors University

In November, I presented at the AAACE annual conference on research I completed as part of an Ed.D in Higher Education and Adult Learning. My research explored how adult online students at a small rural community college described a sense of school community when completing online courses. I wanted to understand their perceptions of the presence of a sense of school community and what aspects they felt could contribute to successful completion of online courses. From this small qualitative case study, I found students did not perceive a sense of school community, yet they felt having a greater sense of school community would help them successfully complete online courses. What is school community and why look at this factor when exploring online course completion rates?

A sense of community in an online environment includes two distinct aspects: classroom community and school community. A sense of community in the online classroom has been the focus of much research in distance learning (Childress & Spurgin, 2009; Rovai, Wighting, & Lucking, 2004). However, less attention and research has been given to the culture and climate that makes up a school community in the online environment (Childress & Spurgin, 2009; Rovai, Wighting, & Liu, 2005). School community has two dimensions: social community and learning community. A school’s social community involves “spirit, cohesion, trust, safety, trade, interdependence, and a sense of belonging” (Rovai et al., 2004, p. 267). A school’s learning community consists of the feelings of learning community members regarding the degree to which they share group norms and values and the extent to which their educational goals and expectations are satisfied by group membership (Rovai et al., 2004, p. 267). (Read More...)

 

Community engagement and collaborations can strengthen the bottom line of nonprofits

Coming Together from a Place of Strength, Not Weakness

Nonprofits are facing increased pressure to develop new and more efficient ways to deliver on their missions. Thoughtful and unconventional collaborations can strengthen the bottom line of nonprofits while delivering added value to their communities.

Authored by Carrie Fox

Authored by Carrie Fox

In January, Leadership Montgomery, a small but influential nonprofit leadership center in Maryland, unveiled its new strategic plan, complete with a new mission, vision, and way of talking about the organization’s community impact.

This shift followed a time of deep reflection for the organization. For nearly 30 years, Leadership Montgomery had brought together private, public, and nonprofit professionals through leadership trainings and service activities that broaden perspectives and build connections for community improvement. But with a new CEO at the helm, it was time for a step back to move forward—to reframe tired language and re-examine the organization’s role and relevance within the community.

Leadership Montgomery timed the unveiling of its new strategic plan so that it coincided with the announcement of a major expansion of its programming—via the addition of another small but influential nonprofit called the Corporate Volunteer Council of Montgomery County (CVC). CVC trains businesses on how to build effective volunteer and charitable programs, and it too had been going through a time of reflection; its board wondered how it would or could scale CVC’s model to more effectively interlace with the region’s business and community leaders.

“The needs of our county have evolved,” said Leadership Montgomery’s new CEO during the public announcement. “As I’ve listened to what our members, our graduates, and our partners desire in leadership programming, I’ve realized without hesitation that with CVC, we can deliver more for those whom we support, and we can pull our community closer together in the process.” (Read more...)

How to Cold Call Your Future Mentor

Getting that first meeting with an in-demand executive or potential mentor can change the course of a person’s career. But how do you break through with someone you’ve never met before? PHOTO: ISTOCK

Getting that first meeting with an in-demand executive or potential mentor can change the course of a person’s career. But how do you break through with someone you’ve never met before? PHOTO: ISTOCK

Getting a meeting with an influential person you admire actually could change your life, by opening doors and providing inspiration or advice.

But how do you connect with a total stranger who is in demand and make that person want to meet with you? Pulling off the career equivalent of a moon landing requires a first contact that is pitch-perfect: the perfect subject line, a winning introduction, a request that isn’t too big or vague, and—a subtle touch that’s often overlooked—a hint of what you can offer in return.

Most people reach out by email, and these emails are often swiftly deleted, experts and executives say. Often, the sender is asking for too much time—even an hour is usually too long—or too much commitment, such as saying outright, “Will you help me get a job?” Unfocused requests for pointless conversations, such as asking about the recipient’s accomplishments or background, also tend to land straight in the trash.

That first email should show that the sender is well informed and prepared for a purposeful discussion. Give a succinct summary of who you are, what you want to accomplish, what you are asking for and if possible, something you can offer.  (Read More...)

Leapfrogging in higher ed

Authored by Hunt Lambert, Dean of Continuing Education at Harvard University

In the late 1980s, China’s growing economy demanded connectivity as it struggled to reach the United States’ 90 percent household telephone penetration rate. As it turned out, wiring China was a physical and economic impossibility: social and technological realities stood in stark opposition to large-scale needs.

And yet, in just a few short years, China’s telecommunications progress came to define what we now describe as “leapfrogging” — pioneering the application of new technologies to bypass the older framework in place to unlock their 1.5 billion citizens’ economic potential.

Today, higher education faces a similar dilemma. Against a backdrop of upcredentialing, the imperative for degree completion has never been greater. And yet, former President Obama’s call for the United States to lead the world in college completion by 2020 remains a distant possibility.

No public or private entities in the world have the money to build the campuses — let alone develop the quality faculty — needed to produce the billions of college graduates our global economy demands. MOOCs have failed to live up to their democratic promise of access, completion or meaningful learning outcomes. And even if higher education as we know it could scale over time, consumer preferences are evolving even faster. In an uncertain economy, many students are increasingly skeptical that degrees are a worthwhile investment of time and money.

Should we throw in the towel? Or, is higher education poised for a revolution on par with the telecom explosion of the past two decades?

Here’s what we know: The degree is still the coin of the realm in our information economy, but there is unprecedented demand for — and recognition of — non-degree credentials. Indeed, 41 million adults currently hold some form of non-degree credential, and there is growing acknowledgment that tomorrow’s students, dubbed “the new normal” by former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, will demand a mix of non-traditional programs and partnerships providing learning opportunities across a work life that is likely to span 60 years or more. (Read More...)

Social Networks & Friends May Affect Student Success

As college parents, we have witnessed the influence of our children’s friends.  From elementary school to high school many of us have taken steps to encourage certain friendships or even to discourage other friendships.

We also know that great teachers, good study habits, and the right environment are important combinations to completing college. Now an associate professor at Dartmouth College, Janice M. McCabe, demonstrates through new research, another vital factor determining a student’s academic success that most of us tend to overlook: who they hang out with. “Surveying a range of different kinds of college friendships, Connecting in College details the fascinatingly complex ways students’ social and academic lives intertwine and how students attempt to balance the two in their pursuit of straight As, good times, or both.”

The book was featured recently in a National Public Radio story titled – How College Friendships May Affect Student Success.  It is a useful story that is worth considering from the point of view of college parents and families. The story reminds us to think about how these friendships might affect the path to graduation.

According to NPR, “Her conclusion? “It’s important to realize that friends can have academic as well as social benefits.” And the type of network you have matters a lot. McCabe found that college students’ networks fell into three basic types.

Tight-knitters” had a single cluster of friends who all knew each other and did seemingly everything together. They often described those friends as like “home” or like “family.” Their social network resembles a ball of yarn.”

Compartmentalizers” had between two and four unrelated clusters of friends (Read More...)

Online Education Trends in 2017

KUPICOO/GETTY IMAGES

KUPICOO/GETTY IMAGES

By Jordan Friedman of US News

Online students: There's a lot in store for you in 2017.

In the past few years, more students enrolled in online courses, more organizations offered alternative credentials such as digital badges and nanodegrees and more employers accepted online degrees from job candidates.

[Learn what employers ask job applicants with online degrees.]

Here are five trends experts say students might see in online education in 2017.

1. Greater emphasis on nontraditional credentials: Companies in recent years have started offering credentials other than degrees to online learners, ranging from digital badges to showcase achievements, to various certificate programs that highlight skills.

In 2017, many experts predict, colleges and universities will become more involved in granting what are often referred to as "micro credentials." 

At universities, "I think there's going to be more focus on how to best serve individuals, whether they are new to education or whether they are returning professionals seeking different credentials or different learning experiences," says Karen Pedersen, chief knowledge officer for the Online Learning Consortium, a group that aims to improve online higher education worldwide.

The massive open online course, or MOOC, provider edX expects to launch more MicroMasters programs in partnership with universities worldwide, for example, a company spokeswoman says. Students complete a portion of a graduate degree through MOOCs and can then apply to finish the full curriculum on campus at a lower total cost.

The U.S. Department of Education is also in the process of reviewing federal financial aid opportunities for low-income students in some non-degree programs such as coding boot camps, through eight partnerships between universities and organizations.

2. Increased use of big data to measure student performance: Because online students complete their coursework virtually, course providers and universities are collecting data "in really kind of remarkable quantities," says Richard DeMillo, executive director of Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for 21st Century Universities, which tracks technology innovations in higher education.  (Read More...)

 

The Critical Voice of Parents in Education

Authored by Tiffany Taber

Ed Home Room

Parents are critical assets in education. Parents can be a voice for high expectations for children and for supporting educators in creating schools where all children receive what they need to succeed. An excellent education is every child’s civil right; and while our nation has made great strides—with a record high school graduation rate and college enrollment at all-time highs—we have much further to go to ensure that every child has equal opportunity to learn.

Parents can play a key role in demanding the world-class education that their children deserve. But, for many parents and families, it can be an uncertain task determining the best ways to support their children or the right questions to ask to ensure their children are learning and growing.

That’s why, today, speaking from the perspective of a father of two young children, Secretary Arne Duncan described a set of educational rights that should belong to every family in America in a speech at the National PTA Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. This set of three foundational family rights can unite everyone who works to ensure that students are prepared to thrive in school and in life. These rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree. (Read More...)

The 5 Biggest Higher Education Tech Trends in 2016

Authored by Meghan Bogardus Cortez

EdTech

This year was ripe for higher ed innovation. Just take a look at coverage from EDUCAUSE, which highlights the trends that have flourished in 2016. Colleges across the country have transformed learning spaces, advanced their libraries technologically, and bolstered campus security.

Along with increases in cloud adoption, the rise of virtual reality and stronger cybersecurity programs, here’s a look back at the biggest higher ed tech trends of 2016.

1. Understanding the Power of Data

This year, data has been a huge factor for a lot of industries, higher education included. Tech decision-makers on a number of campuses have started to examine where data might fit into daily operations.

Data has also powered some significant positive changes across campuses. At Middle Tennessee State Universitypredictive analytics fueled by student data have helped advisors to bring their retention rate up to 95 percent.

University of Maryland University College has made analytics an integral part of their operations, and because of it they could reduce marketing spending by 20 percent.

It turns out students actually don’t mind that universities are collecting more information on them than ever before. Ninety-eight percent of student respondents to an Ellucian survey said they want their schools to use their personal information to improve the overall college experience.

A KPMG survey found that 41 percent of universities were using data for forecasting and predictive analytics. This number is only expected to rise next year, with EDUCAUSE naming data-informed decision-making and predictive analytics to improve student success to their 2017 Top IT Issues list. (Read More...)

What The People Who Read Your College Application Really Think

Mouni Feddag for NPR

Mouni Feddag for NPR

Authored by Kirk Carapezza

 

Time to get together the transcripts and the test scores and put the final touches on those personal essays. It's college application season, again.

To a lot of students, the process seems wrapped in a shroud of mystery. What exactly happens when you send your application out into the unknown only to ... wait?

Well, here's a glimpse behind the curtain at one school.

Inside a tiny conference room at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., the admissions committee is preparing to review 23 applications. The committee members will spend about two minutes on each before deciding whether to accept or deny admission or place the application on hold.

To speed things along, the committee members use a lot of jargon, like "L-B-B" for late blooming boy, and "R-J" for rejection.

If it sounds like they are cutting corners, know that before the committee meets around the table, each application gets a close look from two of the members.

Then it's condensed into a single one-page profile. The one for this student says he comes off just a bit arrogant in his essay and interview:

"Academically he has everything. I wonder if a counselor call might be enlightening?" asks one member of the committee.

"It sounds like maybe he could work on it and be cognizant of it. I mean, he's strong academically," says another.

A third member chimes in, chuckling, "I think his classmates could bring him down to reality. (Read More...)