Higher Ed Innovation Weekly Roundup 1.29.18

A new feature.


January 29, 2018

Welcome to the Weekly Higher Ed Innovation Roundup. Inspired by Matt Reed (aka Dean Dad) and Anya Kamenetz, I am trying something new - a weekly roundup on stories covering “innovation” in higher ed. (I know the term is controversial and I’m just going to go with it. I’m not using “disruptive”.)

2U is an online program management company. WeWork is a co-working space company. 2U is using WeWork space to meet learner-workers where they are. The goal is to tap into the lifelong learner market - what we used to call (and sometimes still do) adult ed/professional development/ non credit/ continuing ed. We in higher ed struggle to be innovative in this space, and corporate entities like 2U and WeWork have moved in quickly. The partners will provide spaces and scholarships and it is interesting to note that WeWork has been working on starting a private elementary school. The two companies will also work together to create a Future of Learning and Work center - again, learner/worker/learner. One goal of this partnership is to provide meaningful space for face-to-face interaction.

WeWork's tagline is Make a life, not just a living, and has a focus on creativity and community. I would love to think they have an expansive view of work. Will they create the WeConnect model that moves us beyond WeWork?

Who will create the learner/citizen/activist/learner space and/or are 2U and WeWork interested in a WeVote WeProtest WeMakeChangeHappen model?


"Saving the Associate of Arts Degree," a new report from the American Enterprise Institute focuses on critiquing the "value" of A.A. degrees awarded by community colleges. They look specifically at the intersection of the number of degrees awarded to the number of job postings that require an associate of arts degree. One could/should argue that the value of learning goes beyond job preparation. The authors then move on to highlight average earnings (less than 40k five years after graduation) and state that part of the reason the earnings are so low is that AA degrees prepare students to transfer into bachelor programs rather than equipping them with marketable skills. I can’t help but see this as somewhat of an attack on liberal arts. They did not look at the AS degrees. Typically AA degrees prepare students to transfer, and AS degrees prepare students for direct entry into the workforce and for transfer. Typical AS degrees include accounting, biotechnology, culinary arts, and medical lab technician. AA degrees include English, fine arts, history, liberal arts, physics, and mathematics.

To “save” the AA degree, they recommend embedding skills in the following areas: coding and software knowledge, management and business skills, and sales skills. It is interesting that their own analysis shows that writing and communication skills are the top skills that cut across all the major career areas they highlight, but they do not stress these as skills to embed. Other top skills that cut across multiple areas: creativity, teamwork/collaboration, and organizational skills. Skills they recommend we embed: coding, knowledge of Salesforce, budgeting, customer complaint resolution.

They end with this, "By equipping students with marketable skills aligned to the kinds of jobs that will be immediately open to them, colleges can ensure that students with A.A.

degrees achieve higher salaries and greater mobility in the job market—instead of a transfer ticket that may never be punched." I would argue that we are already teaching those skills and perhaps we need to do a better job of helping students articulate these on their resumes and to prospective employers. We also need to educate employers on the value of an A.A. degree as it currently stands. We need to do this translation for ourselves, our colleagues in other areas, our students, and society at large. (I’m not sure this counts as “innovative” but perhaps the translation piece would be on the innovative side)

“At most institutions, a face-to-face class is conducted face-to-face, and an online class is conducted online. In blended classes, instructors mix elements of both, though students are generally expected to attend scheduled class sessions.

But maybe there’s (yet) another way. Enter blendflex, an alternative mode pioneered at the two-year Central Georgia Technical College, and hyflex, an equivalent mode with a different name at the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota. Each class in the blendflex mode has face-to-face, synchronous online and asynchronous online experiences running simultaneously. Students can choose to attend as many or as few face-to-face sessions as they want, and complete the rest of the course online with no penalty.”

I love this idea! Some colleagues and I had been talking about something like this for an online RN-BSN we developed a few years ago. We recognized the need (and desire) for students to meet face-to-face on occasion. However, the desire to do so is often stronger than the ability. Just knowing that this type of interaction was available (but not required) was reassuring to students who were hesitant to commit to fully online programs. When I was an undergrad in the 80s, I experienced a version of this for the lecture portion of a biology course. The professor would videotape the lectures in a live 8am session and then we could watch the lectures later that day/week on cable in our dorms or apts or go to a classroom on campus where a teaching assistant would play the video for a group of us and answer questions after we watched the lecture. This provided students with the flexibility of doing it where and when we were able and the ability to watch the lecture more than once.  

Other interesting higher ed news from the week:

What did I miss? What should I cover next week? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @mary_churchill.


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