Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, July 18, 2014 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Erika Engstrom, professor of communications at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, discusses made-for-television portrayals of weddings and brides, and the way these glitzy Hollywood renditions are unrealistic. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

A new study in PLOS ONE has found that scholars -- especially women and those starting their careers -- experience sexual harassment and sexual asault when doing field studies in anthropology, archaeology, geology, and other fields. A survey of 142 men and 516 women found that a majority (64 percent) had experienced sexual harassment (defined as inappropriate sexual remarks, comments about physical beauty, or jokes about cognitive sex differences, for example). More than 20 percent reported they had been the victims of sexual assault (defined as unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature, including touching, physical threats, or rape).

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 4:30am

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the University of Wisconsin System had valid reasons to obtain an injunction against a former student who repeatedly disrupted meetings and events, the Associated Press reported. The disruptions went beyond protest, and thus were legitimate to ban, the ruling said. The former student argues that he was engaged in protest over the way the university system campuses use student fees. The court, however, also found that the injunction -- barring the former student from all campuses and interacting with all university employees -- was too broad, and so ordered a lower court to narrow it.


Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

A couple who made their fortunes in founding the Chinese real estate company SOHO China are setting up a $100 million fund to send low-income Chinese students to elite universities abroad, an initiative they launched on Tuesday by signing a $15 million gift agreement with Harvard University, The Wall Street Journal reported. Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi are looking to set up similar endowments at other universities in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Gordon College, whose policies barring sex outside of heterosexual marriage and request for an exemption from federal antidiscrimination requirements have drawn significant attention in recent weeks, has "no chance" of having its institutional accreditation withdrawn in the coming months over the policies according to its accreditor, the Boston Business Journal reported. In a letter to Gordon's president, the head of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges' Commission on Institutions of Higher Education said that its planned discussion of Gordon's policies at the commission's September meeting was "common practice" when an institution has been in the news over matters that relate to policies covered by accreditation. "Being on the agenda only indicates that the Commission will discuss the matter and decide what action, if any, to take," wrote Barbara Brittingham, the agency's president. "But ... the range of actions the Commission could take at the September meeting would not include withdrawal of accreditation or probation."



Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Blackboard will soon offer a version of its learning management system, Learn, in the public cloud, the company announced on Wednesday during its annual conference in Las Vegas. During his morning keynote, CEO Jay Bhatt also previewed a redesigned user interface. The company is also packaging its products together, giving institutions access to products that Blackboard services that are often used together.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

Not even six weeks after M.B.A. programs were found to be safe from the threat of massive open online courses, a new report from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has bad news for business schools. MOOCs, or more specifically the video snippets they often use in place of lectures, "[have] the potential to destroy full-time M.B.A. programs as we know them today," write Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich, professors at the university. The authors have some good news for business schools, though: "However, if used differently, the same technology can be used to strengthen today’s business schools by boosting student learning and leveraging faculty and other expensive assets."

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

This week Pearson introduced a new learning model for competency-based education. The company's seven-step "platform" seeks to help colleges prepare, build and sustain successful competency-based programs. It includes advice on market analysis, curriculum design and using data to evaluate student performance.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

The American Council on Education on Wednesday released two reports from its Presidential Innovation Lab. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded lab asks more than a dozen chief executives to think about how technological, pedagogical, organizational and structural innovations can close the student achievement gap.

The first paper, called "Unbundling Versus Designing Faculty Roles," traces the evolving role of the faculty, from mainly tutors in the 18 and 19th centuries, to the increasingly professionalized faculty of the early and mid-20th century, to contemporary professors, for whom teaching, research, service and others duties increasingly are “unbundled” or disaggregated. The paper argues that this unbundling is particularly acute in large introductory courses, where instructors mainly teach rather than design courses, and in massive, open, online courses, or MOOCs. At the same time, the paper says, unbundling is occurring in myriad ways, and “there is no single model.”

A common concern related to such unbundling, the paper says, is the potential for the decline of the “complete scholar,” whose research, teaching and service combine to positively impact students. But, the paper notes, community college teachers understandably may focus more on teaching than research. The paper also says that technology can help integrate teaching and research by making teaching more inquiry-driven, and by making teaching a kind of research process through student data analytics. The paper concludes that unbundling of professor duties is not necessarily bad for students, but that it requires further study. Colleges and universities may do well to study unbundling within their institutions and more intentionally assign faculty roles based on their evolving duties, as some institutions have done. But those conversations also should happen at the national level, the paper says.

The second paper, called "Beyond the Inflection Point: Reimagining Business Models for Higher Education," raises a broad range of questions about possible changes to higher education’s various business models. For example, the 10-page primer mentions the role of online education in potentially depressing tuition prices across the academy. It also looks at how competency-based education and prior-learning assessment could increase the acceptance of alternative credentialing in higher education. The context for these changes includes more scrutiny of costs in higher education and of the use of cross-subsidization among programs. While the paper doesn't provide firm answers to these challenges, it makes several suggestions, including a call for more collaboration between colleges and for institutions to consider outsourcing the teaching of introductory courses.

Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, John Finley, professor at Louisiana State University’s College of Agriculture, plugs the power of cocoa. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



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