by Stephen Downes
Oct 25, 2016
This report (89 page PDF) provides an overview of competency-based education (CBE) and then drills down to look at some lessons learned in New England. CBE is motivated by three major strands of thought, according to the report: first, the current system is focused on delivery, not results, with the result that students have gaps in their learning; second, CBE ensures that students move on to the next grade level only after they have acquired the required competencies; and third, a system defined by CBE is rooted in equity and transparent process. "Rather than expecting compliance from students, competency-based schools seek to ensure students feel safe, respected, valued and empowered." You have to more than just provide opportunity; steps need to be taken to support and engage students. The report discusses the challenges of implementing a paradigm-changing program, and stresses providing support and a focus on results. The assessment of the New England experience is generally rosy.
Th unbundling of the university is more story than fact, writes Michael Feldstein, but the unbundling of publishing is imminent. This tipping point may be open educational resources (OER), which are making textbook publishing unprofitable. He writes, "The real money will be in a few areas:
Will these separate services be offered under a single brand, or are we seeing the beginning of a marketplace with multiple players? As usual, the answer is "yes".
This article opens as an account of the nature and history of open educational resources. But then it turns sceptical. Michael Q. McShane writes, "open resources are offered free to users, but they are not necessarily free to produce... the people who create them want to be paid for doing so." Fair enough, and for the most part creators are paid by their school, company, university or government department. The article then turns to a criticism of a (U.S.) federal government program. "It is important to examine what productive role, if any, the federal government can play in the evolution of OER... the federal government is putting its thumb on the scale for one particular type of content-creation mechanism, and that could disrupt the marketplace." This presumption that there is some 'natural' state of the marketplace that is 'distorted' by government intervention is of course a fallacy, as is the presumption that the government has no business being involved in the education of its citizens.
I think we all knew this, but in this review of Yves Gingras's Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation: Uses and Abuses we read of a detailed examination of the topic. "While study of publication and citation patterns, “on the proper scale, provides a unique tool for analyzing global dynamics of science over time,” the book says, the 'entrenchment' of increasingly (and often ill-defined) quantitative indicators in the formal evaluation of institutions and researchers gives way to their abuses."
I haven't seen this topic covered elsewhere, which is by itself something to recommend it. "Paying to promote posts—either to the organic audience or to a target audience.... is becoming the norm in higher ed. Of the 1,100 respondents to the 2016 CASE Social Media in Advancement Survey, 59% said they paid to promote posts on Facebook, and 18% paid for Twitter promotion." In addition to paying social media companies, institutions will also need to budget for staff. "Engagement assistants are given 'the keys' to social media accounts to publish content and respond to inquiries." And of course there are software costs for tracking and monitoring response. "Don’t start by contacting vendors. First, know what data you need. Then, find a tool (paid or free) that provides you with that data."
Bryan Alexander hits the mark again and again with this lighthearted look at terminology in our field. Also published in Medium.
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