Fiona Deller – Need to Read: Scottish apprenticeships, Australian budgets and, oh, about those lectures

Sharing the best in postsecondary news and commentary

Germany isn’t the only game in town. Scotland just doubled its number of apprentices in five years by setting a goal, expanding the types of apprenticeships available, launching a nationwide marketing campaign, creating new financial incentives and introducing new government apprenticeships. Interestingly, 52% of new apprentices in Scotland are youth under 19, and over 43% are women. An article from the Centre for American Progress considers whether or not the US can learn from the Scottish approach. Are there lessons there for Canada as well?

Speaking of places doing radical things, Australia is attempting to pass a budget that will likely have a significant effect on its postsecondary education system.  Highlights include fully deregulated tuition fees, a drop in research funding and higher interest fees on student loans. For an analysis of what this could all mean see Gavin Moodie’s piece or University World News’ coverage.

Recently I saw a headline that proclaimed the death of MOOCs. I remain sceptical; there are still some very interesting debates going on. The University World News summarizesone such debate at a recent Going Global conference, where attendees (including Coursera and FutureLearn) debated the value of MOOCs in the developing world.

This great post from University Ventures takes a different tack, explaining (through the lens of Sesame Street’s This is Your Life) how MOOCs and online learning can be (intentionally?) misunderstood and therefore more easily dismissed.

In her post on Acrobatique, Kim Henry calls for some calm in the rush to disruptive innovation in online learning and more of a focus on sustaining innovation, saying: “Forensic analyses of any disruptive innovation will show that sustaining innovations made it possible”. Absolutely right!

Two final thoughts. Steve Mintz considers student retention and engagement in Inside Higher Ed where he discusses the “degree vertical,” an industry-aligned, competency-based, personalized-adaptive pathway. Steve’s idea is that the degree vertical would provide a clearly defined pathway designed to optimize time to degree.  It is designed to begin in high school; its endpoint is a career or admission into graduate school.  It is competency- and outcomes-based by design. Sound good?

Lastly, the American Association for the Advancement of Science tackles the death of the lecture and the title says it all: Lectures aren’t just boring, they’re ineffective too. If you are interested in the full academic study, you can find it here, more reasonably titledActive learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. And that distinction (because active learning can happen in a lecture) is why I was happy to see this commentary from the Chronicle of Higher Education, which offers a compelling explanation of why the lecture – if done well – still has an important place in the undergraduate classroom.

Happy reading.

-Fiona Deller, Executive Director, Policy & Partnerships

One reply on “Fiona Deller – Need to Read: Scottish apprenticeships, Australian budgets and, oh, about those lectures”

Thanks for pointing out the Kim Henry article, Fiona. The idea that today’s “revolutionary” developments are in fact aggregations of several incremental steps – with good evidence behind them – is something David Trick and I talked about in our HEQCO report last year. I wish we had known then about the paper by Kelly and Hess referenced in the Kim Henry, as it makes the case in more detail than we could do :).

An extended approach to the ‘degree vertical’ is a ‘stackable’ set of credentials, in which the pathway has regular milestones with an accompanying recognition of capability (and possible point to step out and later resume the program).

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