This Week’s Trends in Education and Technology (March 1-8)
[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education.]
“We are going to have to come back to learning in some sort of way, and it’s probably not going to be with our universities,” Weise said. “If we are fumbling it right now, why would I return as a 55-year-old male who is finding his skills are waning? Why would I go back to the school that made it so difficult for me in the first place?” (Michelle Weise, chief innovation officer at the Strada Institute for the Future of Work)
Things That Caught My Attention
This week, the UMass System announced its intentions to become a mega-university with a strong online presence nationwide. If successful, this will move UMass into the mega-university category along with existing institutions such as Southern New Hampshire University, Western Governors University, and Arizona State University. At the other end of the spectrum, Southern Vermont College has officially announced that it will shut its doors.
These announcements are part of larger trends in higher education that are being fueled by long-term enrollment declines, changes in workforce opportunities, and increased competition within and across state boundaries. What will be particularly interesting to track over the coming year is the effect of a possible economic downturn on both ends of the higher education spectrum.
Of course, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters in higher education, especially with all the hype we the industry generates over new technology solutions. As Michael Feldstein concludes in his post:
But the thing about chasing the hype is that it is exhausting and expensive. After a while, it wears you down. That’s what I think we’re in now. A period of exhaustion. We have enough people who have been burned enough times in rapid succession, and who are trying to solve enough serious and immediate problems, that they just can’t afford to be burned chasing the next shiny thing right now. They have to focus on solving the hard problems, because those are the real problems that just might move the needle for their respective institutions. That’s good news for almost everyone, from the students, to the faculty, to the universities, to the ed tech companies that want to do the right thing.
Workforce Readiness and Education
Speaking of keeping your eye on the important things that need to be solved, there was a panel this week at SXSW EDU that discussed the need to fix the college-to-career handoff. According to panelist Bridget Burns, executive director of the University Innovation Alliance, “We need to intentionally design a handoff so we are integrating the curriculum experience and what will prepare (students) for the workforce and it’s a seamless transition.”
On the same theme, a recent study reported that 43 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed in their first jobs. One possibility for this statistic is that, in fact, we are not being successful in giving students the essential skills they need to find career success.
One of the most important skills for all future-ready adults is critical thinking. As David Ross writes, “Business and education may be struggling to define critical thinking, but they know it when they see it, and they know we all need it to be successful in college, career, and life.”
On the high school front, we are seeing continued growth in dual-enrollment classes. As I wrote in today’s Daily Take post, dual-enrollment and concurrent-enrollment programs have a number of positive benefits.
- Taking college-level courses in high school helps prepare students for the academic rigors of college study, which can improve the likelihood of attaining a degree.
- Both dual-enrollment and concurrent-enrollment studies lower the cost of college in multiple ways.
- Dual-enrollment and concurrent-enrollment programs can provide valuable curricular options for students, particularly in schools or groups that, due to small size or inadequate funding, are unable to offer interesting and impactful course options.
- Completing college-credit courses in high school also gives students a more realistic understanding of the academic and social skills that they will need to succeed in college.
One area where dual-enrollment can have the biggest impact is in rural school districts. That said, many colleges have been unable or unwilling to cover “the last mile” between their traditional offerings and what is needed by rural districts. Higher education institutions have also lagged behind in extending their recruiting to rural areas.
Speaking of rural districts and schools, one challenge they face is the lack of adequate digital resources. The authors of a recent report “ found that, compared to non-rural students, those living in rural areas frequently still lack reliable access to online resources and learning opportunities.” Perhaps this digital divide will be addressed in the future by Facebook and Google expanded connectivity efforts.
Other Items of Interest
Evidently, in the U.S. we are still committed to reading books. According to the Pew Research Center:
About three-quarters (74%) of Americans have read a book in the past 12 months in any format, a figure that has remained largely unchanged since 2012, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January. Print books remain the most popular format for reading, with 67% of Americans having read a print book in the past year.
Finally, I thought it would be a good idea to remind everyone that next Thursday is Pi Day. Here’s a handy Pi primer for those who feel the need to brush up on their Pi knowledge for the celebration.