I brood about the future of learning for Inside Higher Ed

I discuss the future of higher education on The Pulse, the Inside Higher Ed podcast.

In this month’s edition, Bryan Alexander of the New Media Consortium discusses the future of higher education, the role of technology, and issues such as the Carnegie Unit and the adjunctification of the faculty.

The Pulse
I appreciate the opportunity to keep working with Inside Higher Ed.

Posted in interviews | 1 Comment

What to do with a good old wiki resource?

Several years ago I launched a wiki for a desperate purpose.  Now I ponder its fate, and ask you, dear readers, for your thoughts. Consider this a case study in evolving social media.

Here’s the story.  Back in 2007 I traveled a great deal (and still do), which meant (and means) spending a lot of time in airports.  Among the many indignities airports inflict upon the suffering traveler is bad food, especially in the form of few and often lame restaurants.

Late one night, after a long trip and facing another delayed flight, I found myself within view of the melancholy House of Usher in front of a Portuguese restaurant.  It had good food, china service (!), and friendly waitstaff.  I couldn’t wait to share the news of this discovery.  But how?

A nice restaurant in the Newark airport

A very nice restaurant for the Newark airport. Sadly, it’s no longer there – the restaurant, not the airport.

A wiki was the logical choice.  That way I could add information incrementally, as I moved from airport to airport.  Better still, other people could join in, building up a collective wisdom of crowds.  I blogged about this idea on Infocult (ah, back in the day that was my general blog base) and received some support. And so it came to be, what is now the Restaurants in Airports Wiki.

Within a few days people added content (for example). Over the years the wiki grew further.  People contributed notes from airports around the world.  I edited in my own discoveries and uploaded the occasional photo.  People used this resource as they flew and hungered. Continue reading

Posted in technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 8 Comments

The governor of Illinois picks up the ax

Illinois governor RaunerThe governor of Illinois proposed a state budget, and it includes massive cuts to public higher education.  Bruce Rauner offered a $387 reduction in state support, down about one third from the current level.  It could be another state-mandated queen sacrifice in the making.

What would this do to Illinois public universities?  Here’s one instance.

The University of Illinois, the state’s largest provider of higher education, said the proposed cut would mean a reduction of about one-third of its state funding, or nearly $209 million.

Here’s another:

Doug Baker, president of Northern Illinois University, said the DeKalb school would endure a 31.5 percent cut in its state appropriations. That would mean the state’s contribution to NIU’s budget would drop to $63.8 million from the current $93.1 million. Already, the university receives less than 25 percent of its $426 million budget from state funds.

Would these cuts fall on faculty and academic programs?  I’m not sure, since I don’t know how many staff have been cut in recent years. In budgetary language, I’m not aware of how much “fat” there is.  But I can imagine institutions selecting low-enrollment departments to share the financial burden.

However, campuses might dodge this particular ax.  While Rauner is a Republic executive, Democrats control the Illinois legislature.  Their control is apparently veto-proof. So the proposal might just be a very strong opening move for negotiation purposes, .

Several notes to add: Continue reading

Posted in research topics, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Scientists and social media: an important new study

Pew Research Center logoOut of all academics, how are scientists using new technologies to communicate?  Pew has a new study, based on surveying nearly 4,000 scientists, and the results are important for higher education and technology.

The short version: the future belongs to young and female Earth scientists.

Pew researchers presenting to AAAS

Pew researchers presenting to AAAS

The long version: there are many observations about science and communication in the study as a whole, but I’ll focus here just on implications for education.

It’s unsurprising but useful to know that 87% of the AAAS respondents saw communication with the public – not just their peers – as important.  Broadly speaking, science is not a cloistered field.   Put another way, communication isn’t being forced on an unwilling group of disciplines.

When it comes to communicating with their peers, scientists use a variety of media, with an emphasis on old-school methods:

scientists communicating by different venues

When it comes to digitally communicating with one’s peers, the leading technology for scientists is… Continue reading

Posted in education and technology, Uncategorized | Tagged | 5 Comments

A wave of state-mandated queen sacrifices for American public universities

axThe Wisconsin governor’s call to sharply cut funding to that state’s public universities seems to have spawned similar moves in other states.  This could lead to a series of queen sacrifices, where core academic programs shrink or disappear.

Illinois: new governor Bruce Rauner called for significant cuts to higher education.  One source, a college presidents, reports “legislators are considering… reducing higher education funding by 20 to 30 percent”.

Louisiana: governor Bobby Jindal announced his intention to plug that state’s budget deficit by cutting public higher education funding, in part.  One story notes

[a] nearly $400 million cut to higher education would mean anywhere from a 40 to 60 percent state funding reduction on most of Louisiana’s public universities, forcing programs and possibly campuses to shutter.

Arizona: new governor Doug Ducey would like to cut public higher education funding by $75 million.

Kansas: recently reelected governor Sam Brownback has ordered a 2% cut to public higher education funding.

West Virginia: more state cuts are on their way, thanks to governor Earl Ray Tomblin, including $2 million from one university.  $11 million in reductions across West Virginia’s public higher education system is on the legislature’s table now.

[ADDED] Ohio: governor Kasic encouraged higher education leaders to make cuts, or else he’ll take a hand.  To wit: “He said he would give higher-education leaders “a chance to do this before we take an ax to them.””

Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s chancellor is telling staff (not faculty, as far as I can tell) to expect layoffs over the next few months.

Note that all but one of these governors is a Republican, and some are rising stars in that party’s firmament.  Note, too, that several of these gentlemen are facing revenue shortfalls driven in part by their own tax policies.  Will we see a wave of higher education cuts sweep the many Republican-led states?  Will this elicit Democratic opposition?

Now, this is early days.  All but Kansas still have legislative process to go through, which will probably change these plans.  We don’t know how the cuts will turn out, should they come to pass.  But there’s a lot of energy here, and it might shape the near-term future of American higher education.

(thanks to George Station, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, Mark Lewis, Karen, and other friends for their information and conversation)

Posted in research topics, Uncategorized | Tagged | 5 Comments

The current state of online learning: the Babson report

"Grade Level" report coverWhat’s the current state of online learning?  A new report from Babson, Pearson, the Online Learning Consortium et al, Grade Level (pdf), offers some intriguing observations about campus strategy and leadership.

One is that a huge gap yawns open between chief academic officers (academic deans, provosts, vice presidents) and their faculty on digital learning.  A clear majority of the former,  70.8%, see online learning as “critical to their institution’s long term strategy.” Three quarters of those CAOs, 74.1%, deem “the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face instruction”.  Meanwhile, “28.0% of academic leaders say that their faculty accept the “value and legitimacy of online education.”  The deans are pushing hard for online learning, generally, while professors are not.

Similarly, while most deans etc. think open education resources are a good thing,  faculty don’t know enough to judge, as “a bit more than one-third [of instructors] claimed to have some level of awareness” of OER (emphasis added).

faculty and CAOs awareness of OER

Academic leaders are far more aware of Open Educational Resources than are their faculty members. Four times as many leaders report that they are very aware than do faculty (26.0% compared to 5.1% for faculty). Far fewer leaders say that they are unaware of OER, with only one in five so reporting (20.1%) — a rate far lower than that reported by teaching faculty (65.9%)

Which brings up an interesting problem.  If these results are correct, how did CAOs get so well informed, while faculty have not?  Put differently: is this a success for campus CIOs and instructional technologists? Continue reading

Posted in education and technology, future of education | Tagged | 8 Comments

George Howard Brett II, 1948 – 2015

Today my friend George Brett died.  He was 67.

I want to write about him now.

George inspired and taught me with every conversation.  He had a gift for looking hard at people, weighing them to see what they needed, then quietly presenting a dollop of idea, a germ for a mental revolution, a glimpse of a vista to behold.

In 2010 I took a photo of him reading aloud at home, and with his last name lurking on a bookshelf beyond.  This is him feeding my hungry brain:

George Brett reading

His face shows him thrust deeply into the book, wringing from it a tale and words to bring back and share, dripping in the daylight.

But a few seconds later I saw this through my camera, too, a subtly different view: Continue reading

Posted in personal | Tagged | 19 Comments