Fiona Deller – Need to Read: The future of higher ed (again), MOOCs and more

Sharing the best in postsecondary news and commentary

A couple of weeks ago I posted a few pieces on the future of the lecture. Is it good, bad or a neutral teaching tool that can be used in a variety of ways? Lloyd Armstrong jumps into the debate with a good summary of the methodology used in the National Academy of Science’s article (in case you missed it the first time) and some cheerleading for active learning.

Here is a report from Deloitte University Press, Reimaging Higher Education: How Colleges, Universities, Businesses and Governments can prepare for a Future of Lifelong Learning. There isn’t anything incredibly new here, the business of writing about the future of higher education being a bit of a cottage industry right now, but the ideas are collected and summarized in a nice way and it is an enjoyable read if you like this kind of thing.

Harvard and MITx released some data on their MOOCs, which The Chronicle has summed up with the most interesting thread to pull being engagement (students enrolled in more than one MOOC were more likely to engage with the material, until they enroll in more than six, when engagement begins to drop). It would be nice to see more of this type of thing. Google has announced that it will fund Carnegie Mellon’s exploration of what MOOCs can do and I expect that neither got the memo that MOOCs are dead. My favourite quote from this article -“Unless the MOOCs pay attention to how people actually learn, they will not be able to improve effectiveness, and will end up as just a passing fad.”

An American organization called Learning House has published its third annual survey of students enrolled in online courses. Some key findings: the number of students in online learning has increased, although the rate of growth is slowing down; the number of students studying more than 100 miles from home continues to increase; financial aid is a concern, but not the most important deciding factor in studying online; a majority of online students have credit from elsewhere and being able to transfer credit is important to them.

Pearson recently put out a report called The Learning Curve: Education and Skills for the 21st Century. It highlights eight skills necessary for the 21st century student. You might quibble with the categorization of these skills – I would have a different list – but I find it interesting that this exploration of the necessary skills and competencies to succeed at school, in work, at life, is becoming part of our everyday reading.

I leave you with this: what would David Lee Roth do if he ran a university? It’s smarter than you think (unless you are a Van Halen fan and know the M&Ms story), and it involves the use of metrics to improve student engagement and learning.

Happy Reading.

-Fiona Deller, Executive Director, Policy & Partnerships

One reply on “Fiona Deller – Need to Read: The future of higher ed (again), MOOCs and more”

I loved the M&Ms story – but once the story is public, the concert promoters know how to game the system: be sure you take out the brown M&Ms, whether or not you ensure the rest of the needed facilities are in place.

The suggestion that measures of student engagement become the brown M&Ms signal is thus all too valid: any formulaic way to measure student performance can be gamed with superficial activities (and superficial – or at best strategic – learning).

I was in a conversation last week at a west coast university where they were talking about “student investment” instead of student engagement: how much did students care about the problem they were working to solve – not just the task on which they were to be graded. A lot harder to measure, but a lot more effective as a signal that real learning is likely to happen…

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