Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

January 17, 2013

With great fanfare and big names in the student learning world behind it, the Lumina Foundation two years ago unveiled its Degree Qualifications Profile with the hope that it would prod faculty members and college leaders to better define and drive their students to show what they should know and be able to do at various degree levels. Despite experimentation on scores of campuses and by accreditors and others, the profile's impact has been muted, and in a new paper released today by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, two of the crafters of the profile, Peter Ewell and Carol Geary Schneider, seek to give faculty members and administrators reasons (and tools) to embrace its use.

Both Ewell's paper, which is the core of the document, and Schneider's afterword, subtly concede that the degree profile has not been fully accepted or understood. Ewell offers a "tasting menu" of practical ways that faculty members and institutions can develop "the needed assignments, examination questions, and projects that enable the collection of meaningful evidence of student mastery," the profile's underlying goal. Contrary to the widely assumed view (from some faculty critics) that the profile is designed to lead to a standardized, reductionist way of capturing student learning, Ewell writes, "engaging assessment in the context of the DQP requires faculty to be much more systematic and intentional than is currently the case at most colleges and universities." 

Schneider more pointedly seeks to understand and explain why the degree profile "faces very real challenges" on campuses, which she attributes largely to faculty fears about standardization and the fragmented way (in departments, programs, etc.) learning is delivered on many campuses. The profile, she writes, "is a bold effort to help higher education move beyond credit hours to competency and beyond the fragmented learning too many students experience to intentionally preparing students to integrate and apply their learning to unscripted problems and responsibilities."

January 17, 2013

The University of Amsterdam held its annual faculty party last week, and many who attended wish they hadn't. The Associated Press reported that apparent food poisoning left 230 guests sickened, many of them violently ill with stomach ailments.

January 17, 2013

Rasmussen College, a midsized for-profit institution with roots in the Midwest, this week announced a tuition cut that averages 12 percent across the institution. Some students will see a 24 percent tuition reduction, the college said. Rasmussen is also locking in tuition rates for continuously enrolled students. The college has joined several other for-profits that are cutting their prices, freezing tuition rates and offering scholarships amid broad enrollment declines across the sector. Rasmussen said it was able to cut prices by having reduced overall operating expenses.

January 17, 2013

The Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program has released a guide to labor market data aimed at community colleges. The guide seeks to help college leaders find and use data from various sources to boost student success by tracking the employment and earnings of graduates. For example, colleges could use good data on labor markets to decide which academic programs to offer and how many graduates the college should ideally produce to fill available jobs in that field.

January 17, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Robin Macaluso of the University of Northern Colorado turns us on to the energy-saving benefits of LED lighting. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

January 17, 2013

Tulane University, which late last year acknowledged having submitted inaccurate information about its M.B.A. program to U.S. News & World Report for rankings, has now issued more information about the fabricated data. The university said that "a single business school employee falsified data and submitted it" and that the "individual is no longer at the school." The university also said that it now believes that inaccurate data were submitted for the classes that entered the program from 2007 through 2011, and that U.S. News has been provided with details on the information submitted.

A statement from Michael Bernstein, the provost, said that "I sincerely regret that these events occurred and that one person could so negatively impact how others see us as a place of learning." However, Bernstein said he was "proud" of the way the business school was open about the false data, and the steps it has taken to assure the accuracy of data going forward.

January 17, 2013

The College of Visual Arts, in Minnesota, has announced that it will close at the end of the academic year. Enrollment has dropped 21 percent in the last year. A statement from Ann Ledy, president of the college, said: "Although CVA’s tuition is one of the lowest in the state, students have found it more and more difficult to pay their way. With declining federal and state financial aid support, and the challenges surrounding private loans, students cannot afford the college of their dreams."

January 17, 2013

Days after the other public institutions in the state announced expanded initiatives to incorporate massive open online courses into their curriculums, leaders of the University of California said they would soon bolster their own efforts to use digital courses to expand student access in a more cost-effective way, the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press reported. Speaking at a Board of Regents meeting at which officials of the MOOC providers Coursera, Udacity and edX made presentations and regents discussed a position paper on online learning, President Mark G. Yudof said the university had "hit a wall with regard to traditional instructional methods," and suggested that online learning was largely the way way out. Yudof said the university would soon be announcing several expansions of its fledgling campaign to expand online learning, which has faced significant pushback from some faculty members. He vowed that the new efforts would be of high quality and not lead to layoffs of instructors.

 

January 16, 2013

The Senate of Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been considering and is expected to vote for a proposal to allow doctoral theses to be submitted in English, Haaretz reported. While it is currently possible to obtain special permission to submit a thesis in English, the requirement is that they be submitted in Hebrew. David Aviner, a professor who is head of the Authority for Research Students in the Experimental Sciences, said the rule change reflects the need to use English because one or more committee members come from outside Israel. Further, he noted the issue of disseminating findings. "If the doctorates were written in Hebrew, two people in the hallway would read it instead of hundreds of colleagues among research groups overseas," he said.

The president of Israel's Hebrew Language Academy, Moshe Bar-Asher, sent a letter of protest to Senate members. "There's a new version of the rules, saying 'Doctorates are to be submitted in Hebrew or English,' and thus this dignified institution ... announces that the status of Hebrew has been devalued," he wrote. "In the end, studying in English will outweigh everything else, and this process will result in the teaching of English in elementary and high schools."

January 16, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Juliana Fernandes of the University of Miami explores the downside of negative political ads. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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