Trends, challenges, and developments for higher education’s next 5 years

NMC Horizon Report 2015 coverWhat’s coming up for education and technology over the next five years?  The New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report for higher education* just derived eighteen concepts for its upcoming report.  Check ’em out, and tell the team if you have a project that fits into one or more of them.

A quick note before approaching these: remember that the technology items are only 1/3rd of the current report.  People often forget this, or only pay attention to the tech.  Please remember the other 2/3rds about challenges and developments!


I. Key Trends Accelerating Higher Education Technology Adoption

Long-Term Impact Trends: Accelerating technology adoption in Higher Education for five or more years

  • Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation
  • Rethinking How Institutions Work

Mid-Term Impact Trends: Accelerating technology adoption in Higher Education for the next three to five years

  • Redesigning Learning Spaces
  • Shift to Deep Learning Approaches

Short-Term Impact Trends: Accelerating technology adoption in Higher Education for the next one to two years

  • Growing Focus on Measuring Learning
  • Increasing Use of Blended Learning Designs


II. Significant Challenges Impeding Higher Education Technology Adoption

Solvable Challenges: Those which we both understand and know how to solve

  • Blending Formal and Informal Learning
  • Improving Digital Literacy

Difficult Challenges: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive

  • Competing Models of Education
  • Personalizing Learning

Wicked Challenges: Those that are complex to even define, much less address

  • Balancing Our Connected and Unconnected Lives
  • Keeping Education Relevant

Continue reading

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Fewer and richer high school grads heading to college: ACE analysis

High school grads heading to college 2008-2013, IHE summary of ACE findings

Inside Higher Ed’s summary of ACE findings.

Changes in higher education enrollment can sound very bland or abstract.  We’re talking large numbers, tens of millions of students, and thousands of campuses.  But I can sum up recent data and research more concretely.  Fewer American high school grads are going to college, and fewer still from poorer families.  It’s peak higher education and increasing income inequality combined.

This information comes from Christopher Nellum and Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education (ACE), and is based on analysis of US Census data.  Key findings:

  • Overall enrollment decline for high school grads: “Since 2008, the percentage of all high school graduates who immediately enroll in college has fallen from 69 percent to 66 percent in 2013.”

High school grads going to college, 2008-2013

  • It’s worse than it sounds, because high schools actually graduated more people: “During roughly the same period, the overall high school graduation rate increased from 75 percent to 81 percent, meaning that the pool of potential college students has increased.”
  • On income: “the percentage of students from low-income families enrolling in higher education immediately after graduating from high school has declined by 10 percentage points since 2008, from 56 percent of graduates to just 46 percent.”  We’ve been discussing graduation rates as problematic, but not just getting into college is becoming more rare.
  • A major, maybe the major policy response, isn’t working: “The dramatic decline in enrollment among low-income students in two- and four-year colleges and universities occurred despite a massive increase in grant aid. Between the 2008-09 academic year and 2013-14, the total increased by roughly 50 percent, from $82 billion in 2008-09 to $123 billion in 2013-14.”
  • The income gap is worse than it sounds: “While the percentage of low-income students in elementary and secondary schools is increasing, the percentage of low-income students who go on to college is falling.” Or “at the same time that low-income individuals are enrolling in college at lower rates, the majority of young adults in the pre-college education pipeline are from those same low-income communities…”

These trends connect with other, recent institutional trends.  For example, campuses recruiting more international students, and public universities going after out-of-state students makes sense as the traditional-age population declines.  This also makes more sense of the growing centrality of adult learners in American higher ed.

ACE offers this trend to watch:

The long-term implications of a society with a growing number of low-income students attending public primary and secondary schools but a shrinking presence of those low-income students in postsecondary education are ominous.

If you think not everyone should go to college, a growing proportion of high school grads, especially the poor folks, agree.

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Revolution in Higher Education: chapter 4

Revolution in Higher Education, coverContinuing with our reading of Richard DeMillo’s Revolution in Higher Education: How a Small Band of Innovators Will Make College Accessible and Affordable (2015) (publisher; Amazon): this week we’re discussing chapter 4, “Technology Curves.”

Here DeMillo changes tack from neuroscience (chapter 3) and returns to technology, but not very much to MOOCs.  The focus now is technology for personalized learning, including data analytics.

That’s not where the chapter begins.  Instead we start with TED Talks, which I didn’t expect, then move on to Britain’s Open University, and MIT’s OpenCourseWare, all of which DeMillo approves, but aren’t what he’s looking for.

They were Chautauqua performances… the vast majority of these open courses carried no credit, did not constitute a curriculum, and did not lead to a degree.  Interaction was destined to replace [these]… with something else entirely. (1966)

None of these offer the kind of teaching DeMillo wants, starting with what he identified last chapter: “The effect of feedback is stronger than almost any other single factor in stunt achievement” (1999).   Allied to feedback is “testing that is spaced out appropriately over time as opposed to a single, cumulative test.  In fact, the frequency of treating alone accounts for most of the variation in learning outcomes…”  Plug this into the digital world, and

technology-enhanced learning makes it more likely that feedback and formative evaluations along with a dozen other techniques that are known to have a major effect on achievement will be carried out. (2008)

Just using a clicker for formative assessment makes a big difference (2023) (paging Derek Bruff!).  Web-based peer review can also do the trick (2083), which inspired at least one start-up, NovoEd.  Pushing hard on the digital front, Georgia State University and the Education Advisory Board piloted a promising use of data analytics (2210ff).

In this chapter DeMillo returns to one major theme,  broadening access to higher education.  He wants us to consider the possibility that big data and analytics could address social problems, citing Michael Crow, ASU:

“The exciting thing is that we may finally be able to attack unfairness in the system by overcoming the limits of culture and individual circumstance… Can we take kids from any background that have a certain capability and ‘net out’ their individual circumstance?”(2138)

It’s a cliche to toss around “revolution” these days, but DeMillo really wants us to think along those lines, at this point in his book. Revolution in Higher Education now sees us in the midst of a complex breakthrough in teaching and learning.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • This is a very pro-technology chapter, from the first page on.  “In virtually every known category of learning, technology appears to be driving improvements in learning achievement.” (2247)
  • “learning analytics will certainly be in widespread use by the time [this book] is published” (1796).  Not quite.
  • There’s a strong swipe at instructors who connect well with learners.  “[I]mmediacy has almost no noticeable effect on [academic] achievement.” (1990)  Even mentoring gets the treatment.
  • Notice the, ah, interesting case of a company recruiting unpaid tutors for online learning (2100).

What do you make of it?

Next week, starting November 30th, is chapter 5: Internet Scale.

Would you like to follow along?  Simply snag a copy of the book from your library or MIT Press or the local bookshop or Amazon (etc.), and get reading.  I’ll post about each chapter at the start of each week, so you can add comments there.  I’ve set up a tag for all posts: demillorevolution.  Twitter’s also a fine place to chat (I’m @BryanAlexander).  If you’re into Goodreads, let us know so we can catch up (here’s me).

(thanks to Todd Bryant for keen-eyed correction)

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Inequality and optimism in higher education

Last month the EDUCAUSE media team asked me two really good questions during a video interview: where is the greatest inequality in higher education, and what keeps my optimism going? I answered in just over 3 minutes.

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Does social media control our lives? An upcoming discussion on Malta

Does social media control our lives?  This is the question Alex Grech and I will be discussing Thursday night in Valetta, Malta.

The public lecture is organised by the Office of the European Parliament and the Strickland Foundation in collaboration with the Malta Communications Authority.
Partners for the event are Villa Bologna Working Estates & Gardens and Times of Malta.

Entrance is free but attendees have to register by sending an e-mail to

Alex Grech on social media

Alex is a terrific thinker and strategist.  I look forward to his thoughts, and also to audience participation.

Posted in presentations and talks, technology | 3 Comments

Revolution in Higher Education: chapter 3

Revolution in Higher Education, coverContinuing with our reading of Richard DeMillo’s Revolution in Higher Education: How a Small Band of Innovators Will Make College Accessible and Affordable (2015) (publisher; Amazon): this week we’re discussing chapter 3.

“Levity, Brevity, and Repitition” alters the book’s course by leaving technology behind and addressing the recently advanced science(s) of learning.  We explore short-, long-term, and working memory, P300 waves, the value of repetition, the Flynn Effect,  Bloom’s 2 sigmas and mastery technique, dopamine hits, multiple intelligences, motivations, and what teachers cannot and can control.

The brain and neurochemistry are the point here, and DeMillo notes that this is a controversial focus, since it leaves behind social contexts (1446).  While celebrating the science, the author is careful to hedge his enthusiasm: “[t]hink of this chapter as a short primer on how to wash your hands* before you start learning about learning and teaching – how to do no harm.” (1472)

A key takeaway is the claim that teachers control very little that matters when it comes to learning, except “repetition and emotional excitement” (1530). “[S]tudent aptitude… and the environment in which the student lives” are beyond a teacher’s ability to control (1693).  Yet with the tools they do have, instructors can flip the classroom (1615) and teach through mastery learning (1713ff).

That’s the face-to-face classroom.  DeMillo also sees data analytics and automated tutor(ial)s conducting mastery learning online (1663).  “[A]rtificial intelligence software can create a personalized experience, and billions of keystrokes can be mined to discover better ways of teaching and learning.” (1761)

Once again we read DeMillo’s passion and historical claims for what he dubs “the Revolution” in learning, which “for the first time makes it feasible to teach students to learn like the brain does.” (1761)

Only one major theme from earlier in the book recurs here, the ways higher education administrators face change.  DeMillo relates a story of a university president who asks his trustees to imagine never building another lecture hall. (1615) Continue reading

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How public universities support athletics – and students – badly

How are America’s public universities supporting athletics?  Badly on a number of levels, according to a new report from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Huffington Post.  The key finding here is that campuses are increasingly supporting sports by ramping up student fees, and usually without making money on the deal.

Schulman and Bowen, The Game of LifeThis is in many ways not news, at least not to anyone who’s read Bowen and Schulman’s ground-breaking, massively researched, and often devastating Game of Life (2002).  We know that the overwhelming majority of college and university sports programs either lose money or fail to make a profit, and that some touted benefits, like alumni donations, are seriously overstated.  The Chron/HuffPo study not only reminds us of these, but adds an important focus on student fees.

For instance, one key finding: “In the past five years, public universities pumped more than $10.3 billion in mandatory student fees and other subsidies into their sports programs,” a serious amount of money.  It’s also a rising amount:

The average athletic subsidy that these colleges and their students have paid to their athletic departments increased 16 percent during that time. Student fees, which accounted for nearly half of all subsidies, increased by 10 percent.

Defenders of college sports often point to enthusiastic fans who demand the games.  However, this seems to be quite different from reality at a number of institutions:

subsidy rates tend to be highest at colleges where ticket sales and other revenue are the lowest — meaning that students who have the least interest in their college’s sports teams are often required to pay the most to support them. [emphases added]

The study goes on to find that higher fees fall disproportionately on poorer student bodies.  “Many colleges that heavily subsidize [sports] also serve poorer populations than colleges that can depend more on outside revenue…”

Once more, defenders of big sports cite non-economic reasons.  One school’s leader argued that “the addition of a football program could yield ‘many intangible benefits,’ such as building a sense of community for students.”

So why does this matter? Continue reading

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