Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

April 13, 2015

Higher education software provider Ellucian's plans for the next two years include transitioning to the cloud and preparing for more colleges and universities to experiment with competency-based learning.

At its user conference in New Orleans, Ellucian announced the acquisition of Helix Education's learning management system. The company will "blend" the software, which supports nontraditional methods of tracking student progress, into its student information system, said Mark Jones, chief product officer at Ellucian. While he stressed that the company is not planning to become a major learning management system provider, Ellucian will make the system available to departments interested in offering competency-based education.

"The initial goal and focus is on enabling competency-based education programs to flourish," Jones said. "In terms of being a broader L.M.S. solution, if our customers find value… we will certainly have that conversation."

Ellucian also announced plans to offer its full enterprise resource planning software, Banner and Colleague, as cloud-hosted services. The option to host the software in the cloud, rather than on campus, will be rolled out incrementally and completed by the end of 2016. Ellucian already offers some products, such as its recruitment and continuing education software, in the cloud.

Jones said he expects higher education will be slower to move to the cloud than the commercial sector, and that the transition would take "the better part of a decade."

April 13, 2015

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce regularly releases analyses on education and job-market trends. A new report out today looks back over decades to track some of the long-term trends -- and they reinforce the importance of higher education. For example, college-educated workers make up only 32 percent of the workforce but produce over 50 percent of the nation’s economic output. That's up from 13 percent in 1967. "The dramatic increase in the economic value generated by college-educated workers is directly linked to the rise of a college-educated service economy," says a summary of the report.

April 13, 2015

On the new edition of "This Week," Inside Higher Ed's free news podcast, Harper College's Ken Ender and Patricia Melton of New Haven Promise join Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik and moderator Casey Green to discuss the nuances of the movement to provide free community college. In our other segment, Judith Eaton of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and General Assembly's Jake Schwartz explore the prospect of extending accreditation (and potentially federal aid) to noninstitutional providers of education and training. An archive of past podcasts is available here.


April 13, 2015

Julia O’Sullivan, dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, is considering legal action against critics, many of them professors, who have been urging her removal, The Globe and Mail reported. Faculty members have criticized recent decisions on the budget and the elimination a bachelor's degree in education. O'Sullivan's lawyer said that she is being unfairly maligned for decisions made by her bosses. She “may be only a messenger and decisions have been made by the university and by government. The dean is charged with communicating those decisions. Public castigation at that level is offensive and could cause reputational damage,” said the lawyer.


April 13, 2015

Early Sunday morning, students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison created a 12,000-pound Rice Krispies treat, which they believe to be a new world record for the cereal-marshmallow mixture, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. While the 12,000-pound treat exceeds the previous record of about 10,000 pounds, it falls short of the original 15,000-pound goal, which inspired the name for the student group, Project Freshman 15,000 -- also a play on the "freshman 15" weight gain.


April 13, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Nancy Gallagher of the University of Maryland at College Park offers an analysis of the public perception of this deal. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.



April 10, 2015

For the first time in its history, Harvard University hired an equal number of women and men as junior faculty members in 2014-15, according to a new report from its Office of Faculty Development and Diversity. Harvard took on 62 new tenure-track faculty members this year, exactly half of whom were women; 24 percent were minority. Some 28 percent of the Harvard ladder faculty over all are women -- at 438 faculty members, that's about 90 more than even 10 years ago. Harvard says it’s cautiously optimistic that the gender parity can be maintained over time; while many factors play into such an outcome, the university's made a significant effort to welcome more women onto the faculty in recent years by conducting broader, more inclusive faculty searches and through various pipeline efforts aimed at increasing the number of female faculty members. Harvard’s diversity tactics are somewhat similar to those recently announced by Brown University, which pledged to double its proportion of underrepresented minority faculty in 10 years. 

“Over the past several years, Harvard, like many institutions, has worked diligently to diversify its faculty at all levels,” Judith D. Singer, Harvard’s senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity and James Bryant Conant Professor of Education, said via email. “While we cannot guarantee that the same will happen next year, this year’s success is a remarkable fact that was entirely unimaginable when I joined the faculty 30 years ago.”

April 10, 2015

The governing board for Phi Theta Kappa, a community college honor society, on Thursday released a written statement responding to allegations from two students about Rod Risley, the group's director. Inside Higher Ed recently reported on the controversy.

The two women, who are former student leaders for the group, said they experienced sexual harassment, intimidation, inappropriate touching and unprofessional behavior by Risley. The response from the board, which is investigating those allegations, challenged what it said is "incorrect and misleading information concerning the history" of the women's complaints and how the board has handled them.

The statement said the board was not aware of any of the allegations by Toni Marek, one of the two students, before she resigned from Phi Theta Kappa. The first time board members heard about the complaints of the second student, Rachel Reeck, according to the statement, was after Marek had filed a lawsuit. A court later dismissed that lawsuit.

Regarding the ongoing investigation, the board said it was being handled by a law firm that reports to the board, not Risley. The board also has hired another law firm to conclude and verify the inquiry.

Risley has stepped down, voluntarily, during the course of the investigation, the statement said, beginning on April 14. A spokeswoman for a member of the board said Risley will continue to be paid during his leave.

The statement also pushed back on Inside Higher Ed's reporting about Risley's compensation, which was $743,000 in 2013, according to the group's most recently available tax filing. The reported amount is "misleading," the board said. His base salary is $321,000. The additional compensation includes contributions such as a performance bonus, car allowance and health insurance. The board also said Risley's compensation reflects his 38 years of work for the honor society.

However, Risley made more the previous year. The group's 2012 tax form shows a total compensation of $1,052,813 (including $293,551 in base pay, $60,000 in bonus pay and $699,262 in other compensation). He received an additional $317,322 in other compensation from the honor society or related organizations, according to the form.

                                                          -- Paul Fain

April 10, 2015

The National Communication Association released its 2014 faculty jobs report Thursday, reporting that the number of faculty positions in communication is up 1.6 percent over 2013. While that gain is modest, the number of positions is double that of 2009. The top specializations in faculty job listings in the field: digital/new media, public relations, mass communication, health and rhetoric.


April 10, 2015

The doctors who work in clinics for students at the University of California System started a rolling strike Thursday, The Los Angeles Times reported. The doctors plan to strike for four days at the campuses in Northern and Central California, and then for four days at the campuses in Southern California. The university said that management doctors would fill in as much as possible, but that some nonessential appointments for students were being moved. The doctors' union says that the university has engaged in unfair labor practices in contract negotiations -- a charge the university denies.



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