Posts published in October, 2012
Performing Under Pressure
“State lawmakers increasingly want to tie public funding of higher education to colleges’ performance. But measuring sticks that reflect the differences between institutions and who they serve are hard to find. HCM Strategists and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are trying to fill that gap with a series of new research papers and issue briefs. The campaign, dubbed ‘Context for Success,’ attempts to give policymakers and colleges tools to better judge what works in higher education. For example, graduation rates are a common way of sizing up colleges. But missing in this and other popular ‘accountability’ measures is detailed information about incoming students – such as their academic preparation and risk factors.”
Guest Blogger: Sarah Rawson
If you’ve just completed your college degree or are about to, despite the sense of accomplishment you feel, you might wonder, “What now?”
Even if you achieve successfully employment, you may still want to consider continuing your education. However, with student loans to be paid and other ongoing life responsibilities that may seem a daunting prospect, despite the obvious advantages. Online learning is an excellent solution as it allows you to pursue an advanced degree while still enabling you to get on with your life.
Don’t be left behind
The online market in higher education has grown at an incredible rate and more than two million Americans took college level courses online in the last year alone. The advantages for a student are obvious when compared to traditional teaching methods, especially someone who is already in the workplace and wants to improve their skills and job prospects by taking a further degree. Online learning enables the student to be free from geographical constraints and they can fit a course around their work schedule, which is a huge advantage and an obvious reason why the trend for E-Learning is growing year on year. Before you enrol on any online course you should check their accreditation details and ensure that the qualification that you are considering is recognised and accepted widely, especially by your potential or existing employer.
One of the aspects of our working life that seems to be changing is the fact that many of us now experience not just one but a series of careers in sometimes altogether different environments and pursuits. Quite often people will re-evaluate their life goals and also maybe consider changing the work that they do in order to gain more job satisfaction or simply to take on a new challenge. Online learning gives you the opportunity to gain a new set of skills and qualifications that you can then use to find a new career, whilst still maintaining that all important regular pay check in your existing work.
Keeping a lid on costs
A key consideration in many choices that we make in our life relates to the costs involved and affordability is certainly an issue when considering further education. Many online courses are less expensive than traditional schooling as the provider does not have the same overheads of maintaining a building etc that they would have to pass on to the student. Another good point is that many courses offer digital textbooks which of course can enable you to make substantial savings compared to the cost of buying textbooks. Many of the courses available offer an inclusive price that includes all the modules and coursework materials, so you will very often have no unexpected or hidden costs to contend with. You should bear in mind that whilst there are obvious benefits and savings to digital textbooks, they are unlikely in certain circumstances to offer the same comprehensive level of information as a purchased text book and some people prefer having the hard copy to refer to as a n aid for revision and sometimes for ease of reference, so you should consider what is best for you.
The fact that you can complete your course online and within a timeframe that works for you is excellent flexibility in itself, but you can also enjoy the benefit of being able to transfer course credits in certain circumstances and even if for some reason you decide that an online course you have chosen is not right for you, there are a good number of colleges who will accept what credits you have gained rather than make you start all over again. You should make every effort to check the acceptability level of the course that you are considering online and it is unwise to assume that all courses have the same level of acceptance and recognition, if you fail to research this aspect thoroughly you could in some circumstances paying for a course that will not be accepted by you potential employer of by a traditional college if you are moving on to them afterwards.
The key to online learning is that you always have a fair degree of control. With the added control comes the ability to achieve your goals at a pace suitable to your own personal circumstances and finances.
Sarah Rawson is an avid blogger and independent researcher of distance learning programs. She has recently been researching various Pharmacy courses and the benefits of studying for a Doctorate of Pharmacy online. She reports her findings to various higher education blogs.
In the Fight over Financial Aid Award Letters, Students Must be Heard
Higher Ed Watch
In the debate over whether financial aid award letters should be standardized, an important voice has been missing: students.
From Molly Malone of College Finder
Here is a whitepaper about the different stances Obama and Romney take on higher education matters, including college choices and loan debt policies. It’s a great resource that I think your readers will find helpful. It also does a good job of breaking down complicated educational policy matters and can further educate students on how they might want to vote.
Here is a link to check it out: https://www.ecollegefinder.org/pdfs/ecf_presidentialpolicies.pdf.
Onlineclasses.org recently published an article, “The Disadvantages of Graduating Early”, that I think is tailor-made for my readers. Here’s the link: http://www.onlineclasses.org/2012/10/21/the-disadvantages-of-graduating-early/
NEW YORK, NY (October 22, 2012) – College 101 courses, which serve as extended college orientations for entering students, hold promise for helping students persist in and complete college, but need strengthening to achieve long-term impacts on student outcomes, according to a new study from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.
College 101 courses, often referred to as “student success” courses, typically try to impart non-academic college “know-how” by providing information about college and campus services, assistance with academic and career planning, and instruction in study habits and personal skills. These courses are based on the premise that non-academic skills and behaviors are often as germane to college success as academic preparation, and are an increasingly popular intervention as two- and four-year institutions seek to improve graduation rates.
The study, which consisted of interviews with almost two hundred students, faculty, and staff, and observations of 19 College 101 classrooms across one community college system, found that College 101 improved students’ knowledge of college resources and success skills, and were deemed useful by students and college personnel. However, the courses—which sought to address a broad range of topics in limited classroom hours— did not offer students strong opportunities to apply and practice important skills. Additionally, the courses were isolated from the colleges’ academic departments so that lessons were not reinforced in academic classes.
Previous CCRC research indicates that students who take College 101 courses in their first year accrue more college credits and are more likely to persist to a second year of college. Other research, however, suggests that these early positive results fade over time. The current study was designed to identify how student success courses might be improved to generate long-lasting impacts.
The study’s authors make a series of recommendations for how colleges can design more effective College 101 courses. These recommendations derive largely from the premise that students must have the opportunity to practice learned skills, and that, typically, student success courses cover too broad an array of topics to permit in-depth study and practice of the skills most relevant to college success.
To address this issue, the authors suggest that college faculty and staff work together to identify the most important non-academic skills students must master to succeed in college, and, based on these identified skills, develop a limited number of learning objectives that drive the pedagogy, curriculum, and assignments for College 101 courses. For instance, if becoming familiar with the transfer process is a key learning goal of the course, instructors should model filling out an application to a four-year college in their class, then assign students to complete their own application.
The authors point out that learning objectives should also drive staffing decisions for the courses. Academic faculty, who are familiar with the skills students need to do well in their courses—such as note-taking and library research—may be the most appropriate instructors for courses designed around these learning objectives. The experience teaching such courses would, additionally, make faculty more likely to reinforce and contextualize College 101 lessons in their academic classes.
For more information, and to read the complete studies, please visit http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=1142 .
###The Community College Research Center (CCRC) (http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/) is the leading independent authority on the nation’s nearly 1,200 two-year colleges.
From PEN Newsblast
An article in the latest issue of Voices in Urban Education profiles the College Readiness Indicator System (CRIS) initiative, which is developing a menu of signals and supports on students’ academic progress, tenacity, and college knowledge at the individual, school, and district levels. Working with certain districts to address the college-readiness gap, the John W. Gardner Center employs the CRIS framework, which enhances early warning systems in three ways. Its indicators look beyond academic preparedness to include student knowledge and attitudes for successfully accessing college and overcoming obstacles to college graduation. Its approach generates and uses data that reflect activities, processes, and outcomes at the individual, setting (classroom or school), and district levels. And its iterative “design-build” approach incorporates feedback from key stakeholders, and affords attention to local variation in capacity, needs, and opportunities. The CRIS project also employs a Cycle of Inquiry (COI) to help districts think through necessary conditions for effective use of indicators: When are the data available? Who ensures data are entered accurately? At what threshold is intervention warranted? What actions are taken? The COI requires districts to reflect on the meaning of their selected indicators and make explicit rules and cut scores that connect those indicators to action. The article also offers lessons and key factors that influence the speed and depth at which districts can build their CRIS.
Read more: http://www.annenberginstitute.org/VUE/vue35-gurantz
I love keeping up with your blog and wanted to get in touch to talk more about Freshman Mistakes, I actually just published an article called (7 Mistakes Every Freshman Makes : http://www.onlinedegreeprograms.com/blog/2012/7-mistakes-every-freshman-makes/
SCHOOLS FIND NEW WAYS TO WELCOME COMMUNITY COLLEGE TRANSFERS
The 200 transfer students ate Huli Huli chicken and wore plastic leis at a recent luau held in their honor at USC. But more important than food or party favors, participants said, was the camaraderie and encouragement to join the campus mainstream. Among the organizers was Rebecca Obadia, who transferred from Santa Monica College to USC last year and experienced the stress of starting at a new university midway through a degree program. Obadia, 26, a public relations major, helped revive a transfer student group at USC and is now its president. Transfer students “don’t have the same needs as freshmen and were not welcomed the way they should have been all these years,” she said. That reception and other new efforts at private and public schools are part of a trend here and nationwide to better address the needs of these students and ease “transfer shock” as they jump into new academic and social lives long after other students. Colleges and universities are tailoring orientation sessions for them, requiring special classes, bolstering counseling, establishing clubs, setting aside housing and offering more scholarships. The article is in the Los Angeles Times via Carnegie Foundation
Redefining Universities For Global On Line Education: Government Role In Quality And Student Attainment: Proposal to the Global Economic Symposium, Brazil by Michael W. Kirst, Stanford University
Idea: Create government entities that enable students to obtain degrees/certificates by aggregating online course from anywhere in the world.
Background and Rationale: Many students lack access to high quality postsecondary education. Delivery costs for traditional brick and mortar postsecondary programs are high and rising rapidly. In the United States, where breadth of access has a particularly strong tradition, 85 percent of students are “nontraditional” working adults, or ethnic minorities. Eighty percent of them attend institutions that are non-selective. Many countries are cutting support for public postsecondary education. While the capacity of public institutions stagnates, for-profit colleges are the only sector expanding significantly in the USA.
Universities have provided a single physical location for many educational and social functions. But modern technology makes it possible that courses as well as faculty are no longer tied to a geographic location. Students can complete an expanding array of online courses worldwide. Many post-secondary online initiatives focus on training for specific vocations, or basic introductory courses. Introductory courses like economics, computer science, and statistics have become commodities that sell online for less than $100 US dollars.
In making use of these opportunities, students create personal learning paths that combine classroom, online and work experience. Online students have online teachers and teaching materials, and are digitally networked to help each other.
Prestigious USA universities created two competing online entities called edX and Coursera, and both groups of institutions offer “massive open online courses” (MOOC) for a marginal cost between $3 and $7. Two-year community colleges provide career-oriented technical courses packaged for specific vocations for $38 per credit hour. Private for profit postsecondary institutions have been in the online space for decades. The worldwide University of the People is tuition-free, and enrolls students from 132 countries. Some postsecondary institutions require students to take exams in a secure proctored setting before awarding course credit.
Role of Government and Public Policy
In spite of this richness of opportunities, students find it difficult to aggregate or “stack up” their personal array of courses from various providers so as to obtain a degree/certificate in recognition of their overall attainment. An array of perfectly solid courses taken online may have less labor market value than courses offered by a recognized traditional college. It is difficult for students to transfer online courses taken at one institution to another one. Articulation agreements for course transfer between postsecondary institutions are haphazard and incoherent.
Governments should therefore create and enable systems to help students aggregate online courses and programs obtained from different providers. At the same time, nations need to collaborate in establishing quality assurance for combinations of online and traditional courses from multiple suppliers as well as appropriate metrics for the mutual recognition and transfer of credit (as in the case of the European Credit Transfer System [ECTS]). One alternative would be for governments to establish criteria and standards for exams that students must take after the completion of online courses and programs of study, and to make those criteria nationally and internationally known. Two examples are the Collegiate Learning Assessment in the USA and the UK Open University.
A second alternative would be for government to set up a professional review of online course content and quality, and for the approval of specific courses and coherent programs of study. A third alternative would be for governments, or government-appointed professional review boards, to approve an online provider as an accredited institution, which would then automatically confer approval on all of its course offerings.
While government should initiate these measures and be in control of their procedural integrity, the actual certification of course offerings might best be in the hands of professional boards made up of experienced educators, researchers, and employers. An example of this in USA is Council For Adult and Experiential Learning that assesses the validity of prior learning for acceptance at participating postsecondary institutions.
With the help of these government-initiated safeguards, a student would be able to design his or her own post secondary program that has value and recognition in the labor market. Employers would be encouraged to provide feedback to governments and the review boards concerning the job performance of students served by online providers. Since the quality of online instruction is variable and evolving, a reliable and transparent quality assurance mechanism sponsored by international or national governments is crucial for the acceptance of these offerings by both students and employers.
A strong role for government concerning the quality control of online education is essential because experience shows that some post-secondary administrations and faculty will resist competition. The market will not function optimally if decisions about new forms of instruction and of measuring pupil attainment are solely left in the hands of existing institutions.