Saturday, April 16, 2016

Thoughts on Higher Ed while Coming up on Ten-Year Anniversary of this blog

I started this blog in April of 2006, but I started it with a false name and my first three or four posts were just experimental and I should probably delete them now.  On May 2 I admitted to my real name and started blogging in earnest.  Therefore, I consider May 2 the beginning, and I will be blogging regularly up until then, on themes of higher education, communication, arts, and Christian thought in order to get to an even 1500 posts in ten years.

I try to make this blog a sort of direction point, by posting ideas and links to other things.  I hope it is provocative and not just a place for me to rant, although I do that, too, especially about "the Donald."

What I don't do well is the visual part.  I did post photos of Emily Dickinson's home in 2013.  That is important, I realize, to bringing in traffic.

I was able to attend a conference on higher education issues this week, and will be attending one next week in South Carolina.  This is my field.  Hot topics are OERs, CBE, first and second year transitions, and high impact pedagogies.  As with any field, acronyms abound.

OER means open educational resources, which essentially means open copyright (Creative Commons is a wonderful organization), low-cost textbooks and ancillaries.  I am working on research related to that, since the real impact of them is not known yet and anyone wanting to know should read work by Hilton and Robinson.

 CBE is Competency-based education, which may or may not be a MOOC rebound.  MOOCs have not gone away (I took one last summer on film noir, and it was quite good), nor will CBE, but the investment needed to start and maintain them may discourage wide acceptance.  I like the concept but it's a hard sell to typical faculty.

Second year transitions is big as a theme because colleges are losing students in the second year; the students come back for the fall of sophomore year but get lost.  I think this is due to life issues, money, inadequate academic progress, and not getting into selective programs.

High impact pedagogies are a list of ten things all colleges should be doing and that have shown to increase graduation.  They are supported and advocated by the AAC&U and can be found on their website. 

Dalton State, of which I am a proud member, is concerned about all of these except maybe the CBE right now, although the University System of Georgia is looking into it.

What is apparent is that with the democratization of higher ed (more access), the needs for supports go up.  Access used to be the buzzword.  Now it's completion.

I think one of the wisest things (and most supported by evidence) was by John Gardner, "It doesn't matter how much socialization and fun the students are having in the first year.  If they aren't passing their classes, they aren't successful and aren't going to graduate."  Higher education is about academics; student life activities, while important and potentially supportive of curriculum, is not the main thing.

The challenge is to retain rigor and high standards and bring the students up to them, not lower the standards to the students, which is the easier thing to do.  Most students are unprepared for college, if not academically then socially or psychologically.  The number of students on psychotropic meds is astounding.   Higher education is getting the problems of P-12 pushed up to its level.

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