Friday, June 20, 2014

Who ARE you, online student?

If, as many surveys indicate:

why is our solution to make education quicker, less structured, and more removed?

Times Union/Siena Research Institute poll conducted earlier this month turned up a wide variety of opinions about education in upstate New York. Some were contradictory and some were nuanced, but there was near-unanimity on one point: Our schools need to do a better job of giving students the job skills to survive in the modern economy. [emphasis mine]
This article from Times Union is suggesting that the results of this poll indicate that respondents value skills more than a college degree, specifically the kind of skills you might acquire at a technical college. The article goes on to say:
...there will always be jobs that require skill and training but not necessarily a college degree. 
Others in the education field say that some high schools simply want to be able to say they send their students off to four-year-colleges. That's the kind of thing that looks good on rankings of schools.
But now students are taking note of programs offered by BOCES offices, or career-focused schools that can serve as pipelines to the job market; others provide actual workplace experiences.
Hmm. So is the real problem that we aren't graduating students with degrees? Or that we aren't putting a quality education behind that degree?  It seems that we place the responsibility for the quality - the "what" and "how" - of an education on the instructor and the curriculum. That would leave technology's job to help out the graduation rate - the "how," "when," and "where."  

There's one question we often ignore: WHO?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Elephants in the Coffee Shop

The announcement today that Starbucks Will Pay For Employees To Complete College (Minnesota Public Radio News) has gotten plenty of coverage, and for good reason. The rising costs of college, the shrinking number of college students who finish or who start and stop, and the "is college worth it?" question needed a fresh, positive component. But is this the answer? 

It's a very nice start. But no. 

However wonderful it is to see a company willing to substantially invest in the education of its employees, especially without any obligation to those employees, this still won't address all the elephants in the coffee shop. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An Odd Agreement

Usually, an opinion written by the owner of a for-profit education business would completely turn me off. But this public comment from former Washington Post CEO Don Graham to Education Secretary Arne Duncan prompted a few thoughtful nods. Although I don't agree with everything Graham writes, the predicted effect of regulation on colleges is worth talking about. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

From All Sides

One of my co-workers brings something invaluable to her classroom: perspective. Her greatest strength is her ability to explain difficult, complex math concepts to struggling students because her own struggle allows her to see where the potential blocks are. I imagine that academic and "student" skills associated with success in school were not a struggle for many college decision-makers. As a result, it may be more difficult for some administrators to understand what those struggles are or what is needed to overcome them. The approach to the issue of remediation in college, then, becomes misdirected.

Yet another example of how out-of-touch some decision-makers are made an appearance in the Journal-Sentinel article "Regents: Are students in remedial classes set up to fail?" The article summarizes what was discussed at the Board of Regents meeting for the University of Wisconsin system, particularly on the function and responsibility of post-secondary for students who need remediation before beginning college-level classes. Although there are several points that are a relief to hear come from such a high decision-making level, I can't help but notice how much isn't being included.

The essential question is not, as the article says, "Why are these students drawn into [college] with so little chance of success?" Instead, the essential question is "What do these students need in order to be prepared?" There are as many answers to that question as there are college students currently enrolled.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Accountability Can Be Good

My work style pegs me as one who uses feedback and recognition to find meaning in my work. Some, like author Lauren Stiller Rikleen, might attribute that more to the fact that I'm a Millenial. Whatever the root cause of it is, that feedback and recognition holds me accountable to what I do. If I were a college, I'd be a horrible employee.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Faculty: The Missing Voice
The power of questions is one that is severely underutilized in higher education, if only because of who we're asking those questions.

As a review, it's the people - specifically, the instructors - who ultimately make a student's college experience successful or not. After all, they're the ones teaching the class, evaluating labs, submitting the grades, bringing in industry, and carefully guiding students through their academic plan. We know that improved academic performance ultimately leads to improved student retention and graduation. Who better to know how to improve the classroom?

It turns out the faculty aren't even being asked.