Queen sacrifice in New Hampshire

NHTIAnother American campus is laying off full-time faculty.   The New Hampshire Technical Institute, Concord’s Community College (NHTI), is ending fourteen “teaching positions“.

This fits into my queen sacrifice model pretty well, whereby an institution cuts core personnel (faculty) and reduces certain programs.  The institution cites rising costs and drops in the number of students.  “The cuts are based largely on increases in payroll and health insurance costs, and declining enrollment, according to NHTI”.  More: “NHTI enrollment since 2010 has been declining by 2 percent a year while enrollment grows across the entire system. Total student enrollment for fall 2013 was 5,079, down almost 5 percent from 2010.”

In addition, there are faculty complaints of excessive administrative growth.
“Members of the faculty group have major concerns. They say the limited money is being spent to support administrative positions and activity, not academic programs.”

However, I cannot find detailed information about the nature of the cuts, namely, which departments are facing the ax.  Not can I discover news about any programs being expanded or added, in order to meet rising student demand.

As we approach the 2014-2015 academic year, perhaps we should expect to see more queen sacrifices ahead, unless conditions change.

(thanks to George Station)

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On keynoting: how I create my talks

Bryan speaking to Northern Voice, 2010I have the privilege of being invited to address many academic, nonprofit, and business groups.  After doing this for a decade, and following some social media brooding on keynotes, I thought I’d put down some thoughts on how this works for me.

NB: for reasons of time I won’t cover the tactics of good speechmaking.  Maybe that’s for another post.

Refresh some content It’s vital to keep trying out new content in each presentation.  Some audiences will overlap across events, especially when talks occur in a related industry or the same geographical area.  Digital media also gives us access to speakers, so it’s increasingly likely that audiences will have seen your earlier work.    Avoid boredom by refreshing your material.

Keynoters are supposed to energize their people, to inspire and excite them.  Wearying your audience is a fatal crime for keynoters to commit.  Fatal for the audience, and lethal for the speaker.

It’s also intellectually sound to revise your stuff.  If the topic is current, things may have changed since you last took the podium.  Include that.  If the topic is historical, attitudes and reception might have shifted, so you can address those.

FTTEFor me, I connect my presentations to one of my research projects, Future Trends in Technology and Education (FTTE).  I conduct FTTE research just about every day of every month.  This yields all kinds of news stories, analyses, case studies, and other material which can find its way into my presentations.  I don’t recommend that everyone maintain a regular report like this, but do commend continual reflection and inquiry, especially through social media.

Keep other content the same On the other hand, keynoters have to rely on some material.  That’s partly because event organizers usually invite someone to speak because of a known quality, and expect to see that in play.  It’s also because you can test out a content chunk, honing it over time, and take advantage of that.  Representing familiar material can free a speaker up to improvise more, and to demonstrate confidence.

It can also save time, which matters a great deal. Continue reading

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Joining the New Media Consortium

NMCThis week I’m excited to report that I’ve joined the staff of the New Media Consortium (NMC) as their new senior researcher.

NMC and I go back a while.  I’ve been involved with NMC many times over the years.  Speaking at their conferences and online events, relying on their Second Life materials, contributing to and presenting on the Horizon Report: I’ve appreciated the opportunity to connect with the NMC network and their fine staff.  My current futures work owes much to NMC’s Horizon project.

So now I’m ramping up my NMC involvement.  Let’s have a FAQ:

Q: What will you be doing, Bryan?
A: As a researcher I’ll have two primary areas. From the announcement:

As a senior researcher, Bryan will be focused on expanding the work of the NMC Horizon Project to include country-specific reports that analyze the landscape and technology trends in geographic areas across the world. Additionally, he will be helping to grow a new series of business intelligence reports that are available to NMC strategic partners and Option 2 members.

Q: What happens to Bryan Alexander Consulting?
A: BAC is still going strong.  Think of NMC as one of my biggest clients.

Q: Will you have to move from Vermont?
A: No.  I do NMC work, like the rest of BAC work, from home and perhaps with some travel.

I’m very excited about this opportunity.

EDITED TO ADD: the torrent of social media responses to this announcement has been very sweet.  Thank you, friends!

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Higher ed could survive, just like the big banks did

Twitter too big to failHere’s one possible way for colleges and universities to survive the current crisis.  We could deem higher education too big to fail.

Background: the linked article refers to the recent brush with institutional death experienced by the City College of San Francisco (CCSF).  Its accreditor had repeatedly found CCSF to be deeply flawed on financial and administrative levels, and ultimately recommended the college be stripped of accredited status.   The evaluating body still thinks CCSF should lose it, but granted the large school a two-year grace period.

Kevin Carey thinks this outcome is like the one enjoyed by the largest American financial institutions after the 2008 crisis*.  The banking sector was too well connected and simply too deeply embedded in the global economy, and its destruction would have been too damaging to the world and to well-represented sectors.  Applying this analogy to that college,

The political backlash was fierce. The faculty union lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Education against the accreditor… Politicians including the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, whose district includes part of City College, issued public condemnations…

Because the consequences of closing these institutions are so severe, they have become, in effect, “too big to fail.”

Perhaps this is one near- and medium-term future for much of American higher education.  Not every institution faces this level of accreditation challenge, of course; some face equally serious threats from other sources.  No matter how many queen sacrifices campuses perform, or how many bad financial ratings schools receive, or how furious families are at the specter of debt, we won’t allow colleges and universities to shut down. Continue reading

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Making MOOCs work on campus

Ithaka S+R logoWhat can we do with MOOCs in 2014, after that bubble has popped?

In “Interactive Online Learning on Campus: Testing MOOCs and Other Platforms in Hybrid Formats in the University System of Maryland” (pdf) Rebecca Griffiths, Matthew Chingos, Christine, and Mulhern Richard Spies describe studying hybrid learning experiments at the University of Maryland. Building on two previous Ithaka MOOC studies, they conclude that MOOCs can support hybrid learning on campus.

Let me dig into some of the findings.

Overall, my major takeaway is this: “online technology can be used to deliver hybrid courses with reduced class time without compromising student outcomes”. Put another way, “MOOCs can offer benefits to instructors and students when embedded in campus-based courses”.

faculty can take advantage of existing online content—sometimes created by professors at other institutions—to redesign their courses and benefit their students [emphasis added

Students in the hybrids did as well or statistically better on a variety of scores: “pass rates, scores on common assessments (a final exam or post-test administered as part of the study), and grades”.

And these are seriously hybrid classes, shifting a major amount of time from the physical classroom to online: “hybrid sections had on average 72 minutes of class time per week, compared to 126 for traditional sections”.

This has major implications.  First, it strengthens arguments for blended/hybrid learning.  Second, the decrease in f2f time will surely appeal to financially stressed campuses (and not a few instructors).  Third, it’s a vindication for remix pedagogy, although not necessarily for open; to their credit, the Ithaka team are careful with this.

We can imagine a progression in which faculty gain familiarity with what MOOCs can offer (perhaps without the MOOC label) and grow more open to using these materials in different ways to solve problems for their students. Continue reading

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On the hope and hype of MOOCs

OCLC NextSpace logoLast fall I participated in an OCLC panel on MOOCs. This week OCLC published an article on that panel in the new issue of their NextSpace journal. The article is called “The hope and hype of MOOCs”, and offers a fine view of the many issues and ideas that flew between us.

“Us” meant a swarm of very smart people, including Audrey Watters, Anya Kamenetz, Ray Schroeder, and Cathy De Rosa.  Kudos to them for presenting insights brilliantly, and to OCLC for sponsoring then distilling the session.

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How can we reform the adjunct system?

How can American academia’s adjunct situation be improved?  What’s the best way to address this humanitarian crisis?  Can we fix this labor disaster?

This question surfaced during a Twitter discussion today.  Several of us were criticizing the increased casualization of academic labor, and saw few ways forward.   Then VCVaile wondered,

hard to change attitude but is it impossible? what would it take?

asking the question

This is a great question. Indeed, it should be one of the leading questions for academia to answer today.

How, then, can we improve the situation of adjuncts?

Let’s brainstorm.  And let’s seed the storm with some ideas:

1. State governments could be the hero here.  One common suggestion (one I’ve made) is that we need to reverse the decline in state support for public higher education.  Simply put, if states stopped cutting their subsidies but, instead, increased their support for colleges and universities, we could expand the ranks of tenure-track faculty back to Baby Boomer levels.

Naturally this isn’t happening, except for rare exceptions, like oil-rich North Dakota.  State budgets are being squeezed by all kinds of forces, economic, ideological, and political.  Moreover, the politics simply aren’t there to reverse the course of defunding.  Additionally, private institutions wouldn’t be directly affected, although the overall market could pull them along.

But maybe, just maybe this adjunct reform could occur if the US economy started growing at a serious level and/or if we see a change of political climate. Continue reading

Posted in future of education, research topics, Uncategorized | 34 Comments