Category: Blog

The Higher Education Technology Paradox

Source:  (by Hank Lucas)

The academic rewards system will continue to stymie technology adoption unless higher ed administrators promote organizational change.

The number one paradox in higher education is that technology is both transforming and disrupting universities around the world. Institutions that adapt to the technology and become content producers will survive and flourish; those confined to being content consumers will struggle to stay in business.

Many colleges and universities are in financial difficulty today: According to an article in The New York Times, Moody’s Investors Service estimates that the number of four-year nonprofit colleges going out of business could triple (from five to 15 per year) over the next few years, and the merger rate will more than double from two or three today. The inability to keep up with technology-enhanced teaching and learning will only exacerbate the problems of financially challenged colleges.

What kind of technology has such great potential for positive and negative outcomes?

Flipped classes have students studying (asynchronous) course materials on their own time usually by accessing content posted to a learning management system on the Internet. Physical class time is spent working on problems, team projects, discussion issues and similar activities. Blended classes are like flipped classes, but typically the time in a physical class meeting is reduced to compensate for the time students spend studying asynchronous materials. Online classes eliminate physical class sessions. There are two types of online classes: those that have no synchronous interaction among faculty and students and those that use videoconferencing software to hold a real-time, synchronous class. Online programs with synchronous classes are the most expensive and labor-intensive to offer, but provide the best online experience. MOOCs are massive open online classes that students can take for free, or pay for in order to earn a certificate or specialization. These classes are available on three major platforms, Coursera, edX and Udacity; anyone with an Internet connection can access asynchronous materials, bulletin boards and instructor videos that constitute the course. Some universities (Georgia Tech, U. of Illinois, Arizona State) are building for-credit classes and degree programs around MOOCs, which is a huge threat to traditional universities and degree programs.

What does it take for a university to develop the kind of materials described above? Obviously, it requires money, but more than money it needs a motivated and committed faculty. The reward system in most institutions and the inherent conservatism of faculty members create a huge barrier to adopting new technologies for education. (Many faculty members are in denial that the technology can improve student learning and that it will be widely implemented.)

How does the reward system impact technology adoption?

Assistant professors at research universities are rewarded for publishing scholarly articles and books, which they must do to be granted tenure. They cannot risk the time needed to master the new technologies. Tenured faculty can largely do what they want, and by the time they have received tenure have fallen into a rhythm of research and teaching; once tenured they are expected to undertake more service to the institution. Where does the time come from to adopt a new approach to the classroom? Non-tenure track instructors are employed because they are good, or at least adequate, teachers. Adopting new technology in the classroom is risky and could result in lower student evaluations, which in turn could affect their employment status.

It is true that not all students are ready for technology in learning. An undergraduate in the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland complained after a flipped statistics class that he was paying all of this tuition to teach himself. What a great outcome! In less than three years when he graduates there will be no one to teach him, so learning how to learn was a tremendous byproduct of the class. As technology-enabled classes become the norm in K–12 schools and at universities, these students will adapt — and they will probably adapt faster than the faculty.

Deans and other administrators are going to have to motivate the faculty and modify rewards in order to move their institutions ahead. They have to lead the charge in collaboration with faculty who are positive and enthusiastic about new ways of teaching and learning. Yes, there are some faculty who want to change, and they come from all of the groups above. Maybe some are risk takers, others like technology, and possibly all of them see the advantages of technology in the classroom. The technology can help change teaching and learning from a largely passive exercise to an active one in which students are heavily engaged and involved in their learning.

Administrators, then, will have to become the prime movers for adopting this new round of educational technology. They have to encourage adoption and organizational change in as many ways as possible: appointing associate deans for classroom innovation, investments in technology and instructional designers, and by rewarding those who step forward to participate. The administration has to bring faculty, staff and students together to transform higher education with technology.

Hank Lucas is the author of Technology and the Disruption of Higher Education: Saving the American University.

Higher Education Needs a Re-think to Train Tomorrow’s Workforce

Source article and video:  

The ways in which the nature of work is changing beyond our control necessitate a more flexible education system, with “students” no longer being defined just as 18-to-22-year-olds on college campuses. In this era of Netflix subscriptions and Blue Apron dinner deliveries, it’s high time we embrace an education system that’s flexible, accessible and affordable, whether it’s by streaming classes onto our laptops at home or by hitting the pavement to get to class.

Today, students go off to college at age 18, spend four to six years there, graduate and go to work, often tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And if they dare to go another route, by postponing or breaking up their years of attendance, they’re often considered unsuccessful dropouts. There has to be a better way. Higher education is ripe for transformation — one in which technology will allow online education to become as relevant and compelling a choice as on-campus education, leading us to blended learning where online and in-person education coexist. The key to this future vision? Massive open online courses (MOOCs).

MOOCs are not a new concept; they have been around for nearly six years. But the potential of MOOCs to educate large numbers of people in a scalable way at very low marginal cost is still incredibly important, relevant and meaningful, and just beginning to be appreciated. The next phase of MOOCs, and the innovation that we’re really excited about right now, is courses and programs that offer pathways to credit at a college or university by blending the best of online and in-person programs.

To offer credit-grade MOOCs, online learning providers must have a platform with high academic integrity — one that maintains high standards and facilitates rigorous assessments. This could include integrating virtual proctoring, hand grading and peer grading, as well as innovative, rich assessments that go well beyond multiple choice. New partnerships between universities and online platforms must also be developed to support such innovative models.

One fine example of a credit-grade MOOC program offered on a credit-grade platform is MITx’s Supply Chain Management MicroMasters program, which was the pilot program for the MicroMasters initiative offered on edX. From this group of MicroMasters learners, who completed their credentials in June 2017, MIT has admitted 40 students into the traditional on-campus program. These MicroMasters students will be able to complete the on-campus master’s program in half the time and at half the cost.

This is such an exciting initiative. Programs like this are breaking down the traditional barriers of higher education — getting away from the “one size fits all” view. As more colleges and universities begin to accept MOOCs for credit, online learning options will create modularity and offer students more options.

There are three ways in which these new, innovative approaches can come to life by blending the best of in-person and digital delivery:


Fully online, stacked-credential master’s programs are a big innovation in online learning. The groundbreaking Georgia Tech Online Master of Science in Analytics, in partnership with edX, enables learners to earn a graduate degree for less than $10,000. Accepted students complete a MicroMasters credential, which is about 30 percent of the degree. While some will be able to enter the workforce with that credential, others of these graduates will then funnel into the full master’s program, where they will complete additional courses online to graduate from that program. This unbundling of the full master’s degree into a MicroMasters component allows more learners more options and access to education and, in turn, successful careers.


MIT recently conducted an experiment where it offered a fully online version of its popular on-campus Circuits and Electronics course to on-campus students for credit in an attempt to help students facing scheduling issues. The results? Students not only performed well but also reported feeling less stress and having more flexibility. Many other universities have begun toying with this online-while-on-campus delivery, which will inevitably pave the way for more schools to look at how this type of coursework can benefit both students and faculty.


Online credentials with a pathway to campus credit is another blend that is not only impacting the delivery of education, but also admissions, as it supports an inverted entry process. The Global Freshman Academy and the MicroMasters program, both available on edX, are examples of this blend. It lets universities include in their evaluation of degree applicants a student’s performance in an online credential program, which signals an applicant’s commitment to learning and demonstrates an applicant’s ability to tackle rigorous content and succeed in an on-campus program. Students also benefit from an inverted admissions process because they are able to try and complete coursework in a field at low cost before committing significant time and money toward applying for and enrolling in a degree program.

These approaches to delivering high-quality education are just a few examples of how education is being transformed. Much more potential from MOOCs remains to be unlocked, and I look forward to seeing and working to share this evolution.

(Anant Agarwal is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the CEO of edX, the online learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT.)


Higher Education is Getting Digital

Source: WISE

There has been “digital” in higher education for a very long time. From the earliest computers to the beginnings of the internet, higher education has always found ways to use technology to capitalize on the power, scale, and efficiency of digital.

When I was an undergraduate student at university, email was an emerging digital technology. It was an exciting time to be a student. Staff were able to scale their interactions with students and students were able to build digital connections with their campus communities. Email was an exciting technology that fundamentally changed how people communicated around the globe.
Fast forward to the present and we’re still talking about digital in higher education. Numerous technologies have given universities new ways to enhance teaching, learning, and the student experience.
Technologies like big data, OER, learning analytics, augmented/virtual reality, social media, machine learning, bots/messaging, next generation learning environments, blockchain and the cloud are all part of today’s higher education technology mix.
What are the emerging opportunities that run in parallel with all of these new technologies?
First and foremost is the ability for universities to scale the student experience to a larger, more distributed group of learners. Enhanced mobile connectivity and social media allow academics and administrators to connect with campus communities anytime anywhere in educationally relevant ways.
Additionally, as more and more learner data is collected, learner analytics can be used to create individualized pathways for student success. Knowing more about each individual student’s academic journey leads universities to create a more bespoke learner experience.
New technologies can also make a higher education credential more secure. For example, MIT’s new digital diploma uses blockchain technology to ensure the legitimacy of a degree. This brings new benefit to the institution, the student, and to any potential future employer.
With great power comes great responsibility. In our ever-connected world, the importance of data security is paramount. Universities are gathering vast amounts of data in order to make processes more efficient, scale online learning, and engage in hyper-focused recruitment. All of this data requires a lot of security and institutional commitment to data protection and utilization schemes.
The more digitally connected we become, the more vulnerable we are to manipulation. The recent use of social networks to influence political outcomes has taught us that social media are powerful tools for connectivity and learning. The university experience is no longer just about a brick-and-mortar-based learner journey. Learning how to critically navigate and analyze digital content and networks has become an absolute necessity.
Student Success
Everything that a university does with digital is eventually about student success. Any and all digital university processes will eventually benefit students. While some, like learning analytics, are more direct, there are many ways that universities can use digital to benefit students.
Benefitting All Learners
My favorite aspect of how higher education is getting digital is the fact that technology creates more overall access for learners. Online learning environments allow distributed learners the opportunity to access the best that higher education has to offer regardless of locale.
In addition, the accessibility of virtual learning environments, student information systems, library content repositories, and app-driven content is a game-changer for students with disabilities. Driven by universal design principles, universities are creating courses content that is readily accessible for all students.
Digital Capabilities
Our digital capabilities matter. Digital represents core aspects of institutional efficiency and access, enhanced critical thinking and career development. Higher education continues to get digital on a daily basis.

EU to prioritise deeper HE cooperation and mobility

Source:  University World News 

European leaders and the European Commission have backed proposals to step up higher education mobility and exchanges and create a network of European universities with integrated study programmes and curricula that enable students to study abroad.

The plans signal a new era in which education and culture will be put high on the European Union’s agenda after years of being a low priority, according to the European University Association.

European heads of state or government, meeting at an informal summit at Gothenburg in Sweden on 17 November, supported the measures to deepen higher education cooperation and agreed to:


  • Promote mutual recognition of upper secondary education diplomas and the development of new curricula allowing for exchanges across European high school systems.
  • Promote multilingualism by aiming at all students speaking at least two additional European languages.
  • Launch a reflection on the ‘Future of Learning’ to respond to future trends and the digital revolution, including artificial intelligence.
  • Promote the mobility and participation of students in cultural activities through a ‘European Student Card’.

They had met to discuss the social dimension of Europe, including education and culture and responses to the challenges of digitalisation, future skills demands and the rise of ‘fake’ news, xenophobia and extremism.

That the discussion of education and culture was the first debate under the European Leaders’ Agenda signalled that education and culture are being given a higher priority than in the past.

Following the meeting, European Council President Donald Tusk said they had constructive discussion about eight ideas, which “were suggested not by Brussels, not by the institutions, but by member states”.

“One example is to make the Erasmus programme more inclusive, so that an increasing number of Europeans benefit from getting to know each other’s cultures, while living and studying in another EU country.

“The second example is the European Student Card, which started out as a cooperation between France and Italy. It was later expanded to cover Germany and Ireland. Now the idea is to extend the geographical scope of this initiative and to offer cardholders access to cultural sites and activities across Europe.”

Tusk said that during the meeting “we established political support for these ideas” and “will make sure that this support is included in the conclusions of the European Council”. The financial aspect of the plans will have to be reflected in the next multi-annual budget discussion.

…Continue at University World News 



How Artificial Intelligence Can Change Higher Education | Smithsonian

Sebastian Thrun, winner of the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for education takes is redefining the modern classroom

Source: How Artificial Intelligence Can Change Higher Education | People & Places | Smithsonian

(…) Now, most MOOCs consist essentially of lectures posted on the Internet—“very boring and uninspirational,” Thrun says. He compares the situation to the dawn of any medium, such as film. “The first full feature movies were recordings of the physical play, end to end. They hadn’t even realized you could make gaps and cut the movie afterwards.” Udacity is rewriting the script: Rather than a talking head, there’s Thrun’s hand, writing on a whiteboard (“The hand came along by accident,” he says, “but people loved it”); rather than a quiz a week later, the lesson is peppered with on-the-spot problem-solving. What sets Udacity apart from traditional educational institutions—and from its online predecessors—is this emphasis on identifying and solving problems. “I firmly believe that learning occurs when people think and work,” Thrun says. Udacity’s website says, “It’s not about grades. It’s about mastery.” One satisfied student wrote that Udacity had defined the difference between putting a university course online and creating an online university course.

Read more at Smithsoinanmag

Poverty will continue to significantly hinder further grad rate increases


Poverty remains a significant hurdle to achievement for many students, and while those struggles have gained more attention in recent years, they are still far from being solved. California, for example, has over 200,000 students considered homeless under federal standards, and that population has risen 20% since 2014.

Families facing poverty are unlikely to have the same resources — like books, broadband internet and access to some extracurricular services or activities — that enable success among students from more affluent families or communities. And many may have home situations that combine several households in a single dwelling or parents who are incarcerated, which isn’t conducive to concentration or learning. Add on the likelihood of food insecurity and the situation then demands that the effects of hunger on student engagement be taken into consideration.

To address these issues, schools can start by reaching out to the local community for food drives and assistance with volunteer programming. But administrators must also engage lawmakers to drive home the needs that they’re seeing in their schools and make the case for additional supports.

(...continue at source)

5 Strategies to Thwart Cyberattacks in Higher Education

Source:   (Center for Digital Education & Converge)

Of all the IT challenges in higher education, cybersecurity is at the top of the list. As cyberattacks become more sophisticated and targeted, phishing emails are more difficult to detect. End users are increasingly clicking on phishing links and discarding warnings designed to help protect them. The risks of providing credentials to nefarious hackers can be catastrophic for the individual and for your enterprise. While corporate cyberattacks have been in the headlines, academic institutions possess a treasure trove of important data, identities, sensitive financial information, Social Security numbers and private research.

Today, there are many defensive software and hardware tools available to thwart cyberattacks, but equally important are having strategies to create effective communications, information and awareness. These strategies can cost little — or are free — but can yield impressive dividends and create a proactive first line of defense. End users can become confident in protecting themselves and their data from aggressive phishing, spamming, and ransomware attacks.

While end users are beginning to recognize the dangers of cyberattacks, many do not fully understand security risk, how to protect themselves from data theft, and how to spot phishing attacks. To protect your institution, it’s important to change your campus cybersecurity culture to ensure people are safe, informed, and secure. Having an effective communications and awareness program is an important first step. How do you start?

(…continue at source)


The GUNI network and the Responsible Research and Innovation

The GUNI Network (Global University Network for Innovation) is working hard on bringing universities together with the rest of the stakeholders involved on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  As stated in their website, “The Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi) is an international network created in 1999 and supported by the UNESCO, the United Nations University (UNU) and the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), which hosts its secretariat and presidency.”

Among their many activities, last September conference brought together universities, governments, cities and public and social agencies from different countries.  Knowledge, ideas, experiences and expectations around the challenges involved with the SDGs where shared and discussed.  Obviously, this is the way to go: making sure that the Sustainable Development Goals are not only a mere declaration but are translated into concrete actions, by the actors involved, in every part of the world and with the implication of the Higher Education institutions.

More than 200 HE institutions are already members of GUNI.  Of course, the stronger the network gets, the more effectively will it fulfill its goals, so I would suggest every university to join and work actively in its projects.  Actions are needed and we are already late.

Poland: Experts call for radical changes in higher education

Source: Experts call for radical changes in higher education – University World News

‘Suboptimal’ is the key word used as a panel of European experts of the Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility describe the present state of higher education in Poland.
The Peer Review of Poland’s Higher Education and Science Systemreport, prepared by the panel, has been a point of departure in the process of drafting a new law regulating the sector of science and higher education in Poland.
Unfortunately, a large portion of the report’s recommendations has not been included in the proposed new law, announced last Tuesday in Krakow.
The report was prepared at the request of Jaroslaw Gowin, deputy prime minister and minister of science and higher education.
The experts diagnosed several key challenges facing Polish higher education:

  • Underfunding (not a surprise);
  • Fragmentation of the higher education system (too many small, narrow specialised institutions);
  • Lack of diversity of institutional missions;
  • System of quality assurance and evaluation of higher education and research insufficiently aligned with international standards; and
  • The fact that a large part of Poland’s research, development and innovation capacity is outside of universities.

In order to enhance the diversification and profiling of higher education institutions, the panel of experts proposed to strengthen a group of research-intensive universities and clearly distinguish them from a robust and dynamic vocational higher education sector.  (…)

Growing demand for higher education puts affirmative action in the spotlight — World Education Blog

By Michaela Martin and Alexandra Waldhorn, IIEP-UNESCO and Taya Louise Owens, GEM Report UNESCO Affirmative action in higher education is a controversial topic for many. On the one hand, some believe strongly that it is the route to equitable access in tertiary education; others believe it can amount to unfair discrimination. The latest policy paper, […]

via Growing demand for higher education puts affirmative action in the spotlight — World Education Blog