Full Committee Hearing – Emerging Risk? An Overview of the Federal Investment in For-Profit Education
Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions
June 24 2010, 10:00 AM
Panel I: Kathleen Tighe , inspector general, Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Education.
Panel II: Yasmine Issa, former student, Sanford Brown Institute; Margaret Reiter, former supervising deputy attorney general for the Office of the Attorney General, California Department of Justice; Sharon Thomas Parrott, senior vice president for government and regulatory affairs and chief compliance officer, DeVry, Inc.; and Steven Eisman, portfolio manager for FrontPoint Financial Services Fund, LP.
‘Bad Apples’ or Something More?
by Jennifer Epstein
June 24, 2010, Inside Higher Ed
“Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other Obama administration officials have often sought to characterize their probing of the for-profit sector as aimed at identifying “bad actors” and as part of a search for new measures of “value” for postsecondary institutions of all types, be they public, independent or corporate. But the rhetoric and activity coming from Congress has thus far been harsher, suggesting skepticism among lawmakers in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle about the behavior of — and appropriate role in higher education for — private sector colleges.” . . .
“When the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today holds the first in a series of oversight hearings examining for-profit colleges and the rapidly increasing federal education dollars that flow to them through students, the discourse is likely to be anything but friendly toward the sector.”
Standardization and Savings
by Steve Kolowich
June 24, 2010, Inside Higher Ed
“Most conversations about dramatically reducing the amount colleges and students spend on textbooks center on e-books as cheaper, nimbler, and more era-appropriate alternatives to the dead-tree doorstops that students have been hauling around campuses since time immemorial. But Rio Salado College, a mostly online community college in Arizona, has taken a different tack: using the same printed textbooks in all sections of each course. And so far, it reports substantial savings for students and few complaints from faculty.”
In January 2008, Rio Salado cut a deal with the publishing giant Pearson to be its sole supplier of textbooks to the community college’s roughly 60,000 students. The textbooks would be customized according to the specifications of the college — which, it says, sometimes included snippets from other publishers to supplement Pearson’s foundational content. At the time, the arrangement was heralded as an attempt to dramatically cut textbook costs without necessitating a switch to e-books or rented textbooks.” . . .
Seed of Doubt
by Steve Kolowich
June 22, 2010, Inside Higher Ed
“Is online education as good as traditional, face-to-face education? It is a loaded question. Online programs comprise the fastest-growing segment of higher education, with brick-and-mortar colleges — many ailing from budget cuts — seeing online as a way to make money and expand their footprints. Meanwhile, some politicians are eager for public institutions to embrace online education as a way to educate more people at a lower cost. These movements have much invested in online education being equal or superior to the old-fashioned kind. And since a Department of Education meta-analysis last summer concluded that “on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction,” many advocates now consider the matter closed.”
“Not so fast, say researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research. The Education Department’s study was deeply flawed and its implications have been overblown, say the authors of a working paper released this month by the bureau. ‘None of the studies cited in the widely-publicized meta-analysis released by the U.S. Department of Education included randomly-assigned students taking a full-term course, with live versus online delivery mechanisms, in settings that could be directly compared (i.e., similar instructional materials delivered by the same instructor),’ they write. ‘The evidence base on the relative benefits of live versus online education is therefore tenuous at best.’ ” . . .
“In spring 2007, they randomly assigned 327 volunteers enrolled in an introductory microeconomics course to either attend the class lectures live or watch them online. Both groups would have access to the same ancillary materials and access to office hours and graduate assistants; the only difference would be the mode of lecture delivery. They found no statistically significant differences between the academic performances of the two groups generally. However, they did find that Hispanic students, male students, and low-achieving students in the online group fared significantly worse than their counterparts in the live-attendance group.” . . .
Comment from Christine Mullins on June 22, 2010
“No question, online courses do require a lot of self discipline to be sure and online learning is not for everyone. It is also true that it is difficult to compare apples to apples. Colleges who want to save money by instituting online courses are doing so for the wrong reasons – they will probably take shortcuts that could undermine the courses – by not insisting on the dynamic interaction and other best practices our successful colleges do implement.”
“Often these steps require money – like installing quality faculty training and mentoring programs, using the most appropriate learning management system to its greatest capacity, installing and maintaining the correct technology. Online learning is serving an awful lot of students who would otherwise be out of luck and student demand is surging. The Department of Education study emphasized that one of the huge benefits online courses provide students is the ability to review the material – over and over if they need to – until they are sure they get it. They found that this is one of the major reason why students were more successful.”
“The problem with a lecture class is that if the student misses something, cannot get good written notes from a friend, or cannot make it to office hours to review the material with a TA or the professor, he or she is out of luck. As for the University of Florida study – I am not surprised students did not do as well if they had to view the material – as a static talking head performance. I would be bored too and probably wouldn’t have done as well! At least in a live lecture hall your fellow students might help keep you awake! We are not talking apples and apples.”
“A good online course is much more dynamic – with video clips, links to study materials, online discussion boards, group work that uses wikis and other collaboration tools, regular quizzes to make sure students are on track, and lots of interaction I never would have dreamed of in my four-year ivy league university lecture hall 20 years ago. It just makes sense.”
Also see the article “Video Lectures May Slightly Hurt Student Performance,” by Sophia Li in the Chronicle of Higher Education at http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Online-Learning-May-Slightly/24963/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
New Chief for 2-Year-College Group
by Doug Lederman
Inside Higher Ed, June 22, 2010
“The American Association of Community Colleges announced Monday that it had selected Walter G. Bumphus, who has led two-year institutions of all types in nearly 40 years in higher education, as its new president and chief executive officer. Bumphus, now A.M. Aikin Regents Chair in Community College Leadership at the University of Texas at Austin, will succeed George R. Boggs as AACC’s top official in January. The former president of Brookhaven College, Baton Rouge Community College, and Louisiana’s two-year-college system will take the reins of the 1,200-member community college association at a time when the institutions are in the public policy spotlight — and potentially the cross hairs — as never before.”
FCC Eyes Broadband For Indian Reservations
by Laura Sydell
June 22, 2010, National Public Radio
“Only 63 percent of all Americans have high-speed Internet connections. That’s low compared with other countries. But when it comes to American Indians, the Federal Communications Commission estimates that fewer than 10 percent are connected. On Tuesday, the FCC announced the appointment of a special liaison to the American Indian community to oversee efforts to get broadband to reservations. . . . Small businesses and consumers aren’t the only ones pushing for change. Sisqtel, which is an old phone provider with a long history in Siskiyou County, tried to purchase the rights to build out phone and Internet service to Orleans. But a Sisqtel spokesperson says Verizon, which declined to be interviewed for this story, won’t sell. California does gives phone companies, such as Verizon, monopolies in rural parts of the state to entice them to build out in what are considered low-profit areas.”
“But the cost of building compared with the return is one of the reasons American Indian communities have a long history of neglect when it comes to basic infrastructure. To help change that, at least for broadband, the FCC announced the appointment of Geoffrey Blackwell to lead its initiatives on American Indian affairs. Unfortunately, Blackwell says, the situation in Orleans is typical of American Indian country. ‘We’re not just talking about rural America; we’re talking about remote America,’ he says. ‘We’re talking about challenging terrain. We’re talking about places that, by their design, where tribes were placed, didn’t necessarily benefit from certain eras of federal infrastructure development like the Eisenhower interstate system.’ Blackwell’s appointment is part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, which emphasizes rural connectivity — in particular for the more than 1.4 million American Indians who live in remote areas. And the FCC has asked Congress to set aside funding to help with this part of the plan.” . . .
Finding Applicants Who Plagiarize
by Scott Jaschik
June 23, 2010, Inside Higher Ed
. . . “the Penn State business program has become the first college or university program to go public about using a new admissions essay service offered by Turnitin, the dominant player in the plagiarism detection software for reviewing work submitted by college students. The company recently introduced a new software service for admissions essays, for which it is gathering admissions essays that will go into a database to be checked (along with various other Web resources and student papers).” . . .
‘Augmented Reality’ on Smartphones Brings Teaching Down to Earth
by Sophia Li
June 20, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Ed
. . . “Video and computer games are commonly criticized for isolating players from reality, but augmented-reality developers who work in higher education see the technology as a way to accomplish just the opposite. ‘Real life is pretty high-res,’ says David J. Gagnon, a faculty consultant and instructional designer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Augmented-reality games, he says, are a way to help people ‘get out and see that.’ Mr. Gagnon is the lead developer of a software tool called ARIS, or Augmented Reality and Interactive Storytelling. ARIS lets designers link text, images, video, or audio to a physical location, making the real world into a map of virtual characters and objects that people can navigate with iPhones, iPads, or iPod Touches. The open-source tool, which is the brainchild of a Madison research group that focuses on games and learning, was built with students and educators in mind. It has not yet been released to the public; developers are aiming for a fall rollout.” . . .
by Evgeny Morozov
June 16, 2010, Boston Review
Review of “Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age” by Clay Shirky
. . . “Shirky argues that free time became a problem after the end of WWII, as Western economies grew more automated and more prosperous. Heavy consumption of television provided an initial solution. Gin, that ‘critical lubricant that eased our transition from one kind of society to another,’ gave way to the sitcom. More recently TV viewing has given way to the Internet. Shirky argues that much of today’s online culture — including videos of toilet-flushing cats and Wikipedia editors wasting 19,000 (!) words on an argument about whether the neologism “malamanteau” belongs on the site — is much better than television. Better because, while sitcoms give us couch potatoes, the Internet nudges us toward creative work.”
“That said, Cognitive Surplus is not a celebration of digital creativity along the lines of Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman or Lawrence Lessig’s ‘remix culture.’ Shirky instead focuses on the sharing aspect of online creation: we are, he asserts, by nature social, so the Internet, unlike television, lets us be who we really are. ‘No one would create a lolcat to keep for themselves,’ Shirky argues, referring to the bête noire of Internet-bashers, the humorous photos of cats spiced up with funny and provocative captions. ‘Cognitive surplus’ is what results when we multiply our constantly expanding free time by the tremendous power of the Internet to enable us do more with less, and to do it together with others.” . . .
A Political Online Push
by Steve Kolowich
June 17, 2010, Inside Higher Ed
“When Jon Stewart asked Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty last week for some examples of how he intended to administer ‘limited and effective’ government, the Republican governor did not roll out boilerplate rhetoric on welfare or farm subsidies. Instead, he took square aim at traditional higher education. ‘Do you really think in 20 years somebody’s going to put on their backpack, drive a half hour to the University of Minnesota from the suburbs, haul their keister across campus, and sit and listen to some boring person drone on about econ 101 or Spanish 101?’ Pawlenty asked Stewart, host of ‘The Daily Show.’ ‘Can’t I just pull that down on my iPhone or iPad whenever the heck I feel like it, from wherever I feel like it?’ he said. ‘And instead of paying thousands of dollars, can I pay $199 for iCollege instead of 99 cents for iTunes?’ “
“This was not a new tune for Pawlenty; in 2008, he challenged the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to more than double the percentage of credits it awards for online courses, setting a goal of 25 percent by 2015. This makes his portrayal of traditional higher education as an anathema to government efficiency, and of mobile-based online education as the cure, a potentially controversial flashpoint for the national conversation about distance learning. Pawlenty’s mainstage advocacy of online education comes at a time when several other state higher education systems, notably in Pennsylvania and Indiana, have sought to leverage online technologies to cut costs. In Pennsylvania, some faculty members are viewing with alarm an idea being pushed in the state system to use technology to combine foreign language and other programs across several campuses. In Indiana, the addition of a Western Governors University campus — in which credit is awarded online for demonstrating competencies learned — is supplementing existing campuses.” . . .
Judge Junks Viacom’s YouTube Suit
by Rob Pegoraro
June 23, 2010, The Washington Post
“Google won an immense legal victory when a federal judge dismissed a $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom against its YouTube video-sharing site. U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted YouTube’s request for summary judgment Wednesday afternoon–that is, declaring Viacom’s arguments too weak to deserve further examination. As copyright litigation goes, this is a Big Deal. Stanton held that YouTube complied with the relevant provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that require Internet services to remove infringing copies of copyrighted content when asked by copyright holders, but which don’t require online firms to look for copyright violations themselves. These “notice and takedown” provisions boil down to the principle that Internet providers and Web hosts aren’t cops and shouldn’t have to act like them.”
Later this summer, Educause will launch Next Gen Learning Challenges, a project that will “provide grants to innovators, build evidence of what works, and foster an engaged community of professionals committed to helping students and young adults prepare for college and successfully complete their postsecondary educations.” The first “wave” will focus on higher education and the following challenges:
1: Open Core Courseware — Expand access to high-quality, openly licensed courseware for developmental and general education.
2: Web 2.0 Engagement — Integrate interactive Web 2.0 approaches to stimulate deeper learning and ultimately improve college readiness and completion.
3: Blended Learning — Expand the use of established, effective online and face-to-face learning models on a cost-effective basis.
4: Learning Analytics — Foster the development and implementation of easily accessible learning analytics for those directly involved in student success.
Educause invites you to join the conversation for the next six weeks at http://www.nextgenlearning.com to “learn about college readiness and completion in the United States; contribute research, resources, and perspectives on the four challenges; contribute ideas for future challenges, the next of which will focus on secondary education; engage in discussion forums targeting key questions; and, explore the challenges with your colleagues through workshops.”
The project is a partnership among the Gates Foundation, EDUCAUSE, the League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association of K-12 Online Learning, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
BroadbandMatch Web Site Tool: Request for Comments
National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce
Deadline for written comments: Aug. 23, 2010
. . . “In coordination with the White House’s Open Government Initiative that seeks to promote transparency, openness and collaboration, NTIA decided to create a tool that would allow larger anchor institutions, smaller satellite organizations, Internet service providers and technical experts to find one another and create mutually beneficial partnerships.”
“The tool, BroadbandMatch (available at http://match.broadbandusa.gov), allows potential applicants to find partners for broadband projects, helping them to combine expertise and create stronger proposals. Now, in support of the Recovery Act’s goals to create jobs, promote economic growth, and encourage participation of socially and economically disadvantaged small business concerns, BroadbandMatch includes small disadvantaged businesses desiring to provide goods and services for broadband projects around the country. It is a helpful resource for firms seeking contracting opportunities with BTOP grantees, among other participants, and for purchasers intending to diversify their suppliers.”
“Current participants will be solicited to continue their participation in the program by opting in; potentially, new participants will be encouraged through publicizing of BroadbandMatch using the press, conferences, and conversations between applicants/ grantees and Federal program officers. Participants in BroadbandMatch fill out an organizational profile form, containing information such as category or type of organization, preferred partnerships, geographic location, and basic contact information.” . . .
Grant: Creativity and Aging in America: Lifelong Learning in the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
Application Deadline: July 21, 2010
The NEA aims to select an organization to launch a technical assistance effort to advance arts opportunities for older Americans. As its primary task, the organization will create an online directory and resource database of national, state, and local arts learning programs for older Americans, identifying key services and best practices for artists working with older adults. The organization will also work with the NEA to create and convene a national task force to serve as a project resource for this activity; develop a comprehensive, online training course for artists seeking to build skills for engaging older adults in high quality arts learning, including intergenerational activities; create a basic online self-evaluation tool that will enable users to measure how successfully they have absorbed the training material and how well they understand the major competencies required; and work with the NEA Public Affairs Office, through the NEA project director, to develop and conduct a marketing and distribution strategy to disseminate and publicize the online resources to the arts, aging, and education communities.