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Student Loan Debt Triples Overnight

TRIPLED!! Or so you’d be led to believe if you were in the room at #WCET11 when Josh Jarrett of the Gates Foundation was speaking about High Quality Online Institutions that Scale. Apparently he said something that led to this tweet.

Which was then re-tweeted. Then I saw it and tried to set the record straight (falling on deaf ears, no doubt), as follows:

I learn a great deal from my Twitter network every day. But I also see a great deal of misinformation – mostly from the twitter feed at conferences.

For the record, student loan debt hasn’t yet topped the 1 trillion dollar mark – although it is expected to do so before the end of the year. The current (10/28/11) amount is $952+ billion, according the the Student Loan Debt Clock.

“Alarming stats” indeed! Alarming because they’re just not even close to the truth.

 

Higher Ed – Role Models for Plagiarism?

Plagiarism brand Dog Food

I’ve been doing some contract work for a college by building them a 5-module orientation for new online students. One module is an introduction to online learning which includes a section on the characteristics of a successful online learner. Another module is on academic honesty, which includes a great deal of information about plagiarism.

While scouring websites for resources that might be helpful when forming the list of characteristics of successful students, I saw a disturbing trend. Maybe more of a tsunami and less of a trend.

One of the characteristics that I’ve seen before but never totally accepted goes a little something like this: “Be open-minded about sharing life, work, and educational experiences as part of the learning process.” Personally I think that this should not be a one-size-fits-all sort of suggestion. In fact, sharing too much about your life and especially your work can sometimes put you in a tough spot.

However, the purpose of this post is not to debate whether this is good advice, but whether colleges and universities are eating their own dog food when it comes to academic integrity. To that point, I am simply amazed at how many college websites have used this 16-word phrase, word-for-word, without any attribution to where they got it.

Not all colleges that use the phrase are offenders. A good example of how it should be done can be found from  my friends at VCU where they have a page that references different collections of characteristics of successful online students, with full attribution to sources ECAR and ION. Kudos to them.

The goofy little graphic below comes from one of the offending schools. Let’s just say that their initials are CCC. Funny (to me), but this little “Don’t Plagiarize!!!” admonition is placed on the same page where they plagiarize a great deal of information from other sites. “You must give credit where credit is due.” Unless you’re us, of course.

This community college says don't plagiarize, while they do just that.

I’m kinda pretty sure (or a little less) that the original source for this 16-word phrase about being open-minded is the Illinois Online Network (ION). Unless, of course, it isn’t. Most of the websites that use the 16-word phrase in question also use much of the rest of the ION language from “What Makes a Successful Online Student?”

You will get over 1,200 hits in the Google search results if you use the quotation marks with the phrase “Be open-minded about sharing life, work, and educational experiences as part of the learning process.” Of those 1,200+ hits – most of the top 100 are from educational institutions of some sort – mostly higher ed. As best I can tell – about 20% of them cite the source of this phrase. The other 80% provide no citation – and of course, they claim their own copyright to these pages.

I was going to provide a list of some of those schools where you can (easily) find this exact same sentence (and usually much more than just the one lifted sentence) and where no attribution is given. However, I decided against that. Anyone who has an interest can easily do the same thing. Along with a couple of Big12 schools, you’ll find lots of community colleges, some for-profit proprietary colleges, some K-12 virtual schools, and lots of other varieties of educational institutions. You’ll also find a few individual faculty syllabi where you would think they would know better.

In closing – let me draw attention to a few of the schools that DO give some sort of attribution.

  1. Isothermal Community College – attribution given to UW-Stevens Point
  2. UW-Stevens Point – attribution given to ION
  3. Iowa State University – permission given and attribution to ION
  4. Bloomfield College – attribution given to ION
  5. Walters State CC Math Division – attribution given to ION
  6. Brescia University – attribution given to ION

The other 80% could learn a lot from these schools listed above who are giving credit where credit is due.

Infographic on the #10Kdegree

Here’s a new infographic  from OnlineCollege.org, via Edudemic: Connecting Education & Technology. I know that you can’t visit a website without getting slapped in the face by an infographic these days – well, now that includes Barry Dahl dot com.

I look forward to the first interactive infographic – you know, one that you can argue with.

  • I take exception to their use of the USN&WR info about “Best Value” in colleges (section 4). This is so completely biased toward elite colleges and the rich people who can afford to go to them. You want real value? Try the University of Wyoming or BYU-Idaho. They are doing great things there at a much lower price tag. Just because US News says something,  doesn’t mean it’s true.
  • I also don’t care for section 2 which shows the cost increases from 2000 to 2009. You want a dramatic chart? Show the increases from 1980 to 2009 and also show the rise in health care (about 70% of the rise in education) and the rise in general inflation (about 30% of the rise in education). That would be a chart worth looking at.
(Click image to enlarge)

Affordable Education for All
Via: Online College Experts

Tightwad Tech Podcast on $10K Degree

Earlier this week I was interviewed by Shawn and Mark of the Tightwad Tech Podcast at Element Opie Productions. That podcast was posted this morning (10/13/2011). My portion of the recording begins at the 12:30 mark.

Listen to the Podcast at their site.

A couple of points/corrections:

  1. I mentioned (off the top of my head at 32:00) that the cost of college has increased more than inflation and health care – but I didn’t have the numbers at the ready. Here they are. Since 1980, according to HuffPost:
    1. general inflation has risen “only” 300%
    2. health care costs have increased 700%
    3. college costs have increased 1000%
    4. So, to be accurate (I wasn’t in the podcast), college costs have gone up almost 50% more than health care costs, and over 3 times the general inflation rate.
  2. I mentioned the Vedder study about faculty salaries at UT-Austin at the 27:10 mark. More information about this is available in my Post #8 about the $10Kdegree.
  3. At 36:20, I mention that Western Governor’s enrollment is up to 15,000 students. It’s more like 25,000 students, according to their May, 2011 press release.
  4. Good gawd, I am a heavy breather. Really bothers me to listen to the audio as I sound like I’m gasping for air. I hope it doesn’t bother you as much as it bothers me.
The guys from Tightwad Tech were a pleasure to work with. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be a regular listerner from now on.

Say What? How Big is Student Debt Load?

In a recent Educause Live webinar (10/10/11), Dr. David Wiley was speaking about “Openness: Decoupling the Future to Radically Improve Access to Education.” In that broadcast he used the slide below while stating that student loan debt exceeds mortgage debt. With all due respect to the learned Dr. Wiley, a man that I respect very much – ummh, sorry, but that’s not even close to being true.
My guess is that this one piece of erroneous information (in an otherwise great presentation) was just a simple mistake. About a year ago it was widely reported that student loan debt ($829B in Aug 2010) in the U.S. topped credit card debt ($826B) for the first time ever.  For a current figure, let’s consult the Student Loan Debt Clock.
So, currently, student loan debt is approaching 950 billion dollars. However, mortgage debt is much, MUCH, larger than the student debt loads. I’m finding conflicting data about the size of mortgage debt, but you’ll see numbers between $10 trillion and $14.6 trillion. That’s trillion, WITH A “T” – big difference between that and 948 billion. Just sayin.

Animated GIFs with Screencast-O-Matic

New feature released today at Screencast-O-Matic. Make an animated GIF. Here’s just a goofy little thing I recorded to try it out. BTW, the window cleaner overlay is mine, not from their site.

Just playing around

Here’s a little video they made about animated GIFs.  Here’s some info about the rest of their new features.

They also have a new service called Quick ScreenShare. This is what they say about it.

QuickScreenShare.com is the simplest way to share screens with anybody:

  • No registration required and completely free.
  • Nothing to install for sharer or sharee (assuming you have Java).
  • Works on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • Even lets you remotely control mouse and keyboard!

This free service is a side project from the creators of Screencast-O-Matic.com and is still in BETA. We use it extensively for remote user support and collaboration. The current version creates a direct peer-to-peer connection, so if you’re on a super duper secure school or company network it may or may not be able to connect, but in most cases you’ll find it works quite well so give it a shot!

Barry: yep, I’ll have it to give it a shot.

The $10K Degree – Learn at the Mall of Education

This is the final post in the series of twelve. Unless I decide to keep going. All posts are categorized as $10K Degree.

I’ve probably gone too far. I might have had a useful nugget or two, but I’ve probably taken these ideas to an extreme point where almost everyone will say something like: “That’s crazy talk. It’ll never work.” Sigh.

Maybe my thinking has been influenced too much by living close to the Mall of America (MoA). Maybe my thoughts that public education should be done in public are just too weird for general consumption. Maybe it’s my thoughts that traditional faculty work belongs in traditional universities – and that new institutions need to reinvent what it means to be a faculty member. Maybe it’s my ideas around how college students (yes, lowly college students) can actually produce goods and services of value – and that they shouldn’t have to pay for the chance to do so. Maybe the agrarian academic calendar just doesn’t make sense in the world of today – but of course I must be wrong about that. Maybe a college just isn’t a college unless it has rooms with rows of seats and/or computers with the authority figure standing up front demanding attention, whether it is deserved or not. Maybe I’m just totally out to lunch. Maybe.

But here goes —– Welcome to the Mall of Education

The Mall of Education

The Mall of Education (MoE) is a real mall. (Sidebar: yes, I know that malls are the bane of our existence – that they are a blight on society – but maybe that’s because we’ve been using them wrong.) Rather than build elaborate classroom and office buildings for this new educational venture – we just take over one of the dying malls in this country. Or 100 of them.

What happens at the MoE? All kinds of things, many of which you just don’t see in traditional colleges and universities.

  • The general public comes and goes at the MoE. They are welcome on “campus,” in fact they are needed for the college to survive and thrive. The general public can come to learn along with the students, to teach along with the faculty, and to seek and purchase real goods and services at the MoE. You want real, not artificially created, interaction? That’s what will happen every day at the MoE. This is a different twist on the concept of Open Education Resources or the Open University – this is Education in the Open.
  • Let’s say that Billy Bob lives in the community where MoE is located. Billy comes to the MoE because he has heard that the web design students create real websites for real people and real businesses. Those students also maintain and improve the college website. Billy is starting a new business and he needs a website. He can’t pay thousands of dollars, but he can pay a few hundred dollars to have his site created by the students who work alongside the web design faculty member, who just so happens to be a real-deal web developer – who can also teach others how to do it. Billy Bob gets what he needs, the students get a real education in web design, and the community benefits in many ways.
  • Similar to the web design students, the auto service students work in a real auto repair space (probably originally occupied by a Sears or Firestone store). Real people bring their cars to be fixed at the MoE. Students deal with the customers just like they’ll have to deal with customers out in the “real world.” In case you haven’t noticed, the MoE will be the real world.
  • All students, regardless of degree program, will receive education related to providing superior customer service. Someday, somewhere, they’ll be in a position where that will be important. When it comes along, they’ll be ready. Yes, even the English students.
  • What? English students? How in the world do English students fit into the concept of the MoE? Just like everybody else does. Since they won’t be getting jobs working in the English industry, they will experience many different jobs at the MoE. They’ll revise and improve the menus at the restaurant, they’ll engage in public literature readings for pre-school children. They’ll hold court in the MoE public spaces for their weekly Poetry Slam – where dozens of community people will come to listen and encourage and engage. I know that sounds crazy – but yes, public speaking will actually be done in public rather than in the controlled, private, traditional classroom environment. The English students will also work with the automotive and web design students (and others) who need to improve their language skills. Then they’ll graduate and be successful in whatever comes next.
  • Students in health career fields will serve the public in community clinics similar to the way they do at Lake Superior College (see previous post).  People who are able to pay some fees will pay those fees to help support the MoE. Maybe health insurance can be used to help pay for the care received at the MoE. Maybe people with low income can afford $100 to get some dental care. The local dentists will hate it. They’ll cry bloody murder that the MoE is damaging their businesses. They’ll be wrong about that. Everyone will benefit from this arrangement. This same concept can be applied to many, if not all, of the  health career programs.
  • Speaking of competing with local businesses; in some states the MoE would not be allowed without legislation being passed to specifically allow it. In Minnesota, for example, there is a state law prohibiting colleges and universities from directly competing with private businesses (or so I’ve been told several times). In other words, they want college students to learn how to be competitive in the global environment, as long as they don’t compete with the local business environment. Too damn bad. Get over it. This is how we will be able to afford education in the future – don’t shut it down (before it opens) due to 19th/20th century policies.
  • The mall needs to have several different restaurants, so it’ll have a large culinary program where the students earn competencies in various different cuisines. Lots of other students also find work to do that is needed in a restaurant, but is also relevant to their program area. Customer comment cards become one piece of evidence that is used to determine when the students have achieved needed competency levels, along with the input from assessment professionals.
  • What about art students? Too easy. How about art students who create their art (paintings, drawings, ceramics, etc.) in public? There is a constant student art show – renamed as the Student Art Store. People buy artwork for gifts, for home decoration, or just to support the art students and the MoE.
  • Something else about the art students (and all others as well) – they have to achieve the required competencies related to entrepreneurship. Imagine that! An artist who learns how to survive in the business world. How to run their own business because that’s really what most of them want to do – they just don’t know it yet. Whether or not they have current plans to be a small business owner, someday they will. All students will be required to achieve competencies in entrepreneurship prior to graduation. Currently, almost no graduates of American colleges and universities know the first thing about running their own business. No surprise that 50% of all small businesses fail within the first 4 years. We can change that. (BTW, I’m talking about modern entrepreneurship practices, not the 1970’s curriculum taught by most continuing ed departments.)
  • Music, theater, and dance? Sure. Every day there would be public performances or just open practices at the MoE. Come and enjoy. If they need a few extras and someone from the public would like to join in – well, wouldn’t that be great?
  • I taught accounting for 17 years. How will accounting students learn at the MoE? Easy. Working with the accounting faculty, they will be responsible for the bookkeeping and accounting work needed for the different “businesses” (programs) at the MoE, as well as accounting for the college as a whole. They”ll learn accounting by doing it rather than trying to learn just out of a textbook. Trust me, they’ll learn much more. They’ll also be responsible for teaching other students about how to manage their personal finances (after the accounting students learn it first). Normal colleges do a poor job of teaching students about the lifelong skills they’ll need related to investments, taxes, insurance, and the like. MoE will do it for every student who comes through the electronic sliding door. There is a huge disconnect in American education that we almost NEVER teach lifelong financial knowledge/skills to students at any level.
  • All students, regardless of program choice, will engage in the liberal arts through the Great Books, similar to St. John’s College.
    • As they say at St. John’s, “Students study from the classics of literature, philosophy, theology, psychology, political science, economics, history, mathematics, laboratory sciences, and music.”
    • Yep, even the automotive students.
    • Basically this would look like lots of reading circles, and yes, the public can join in the conversation if they like – or just come and lurk and learn while the faculty and students discuss the great books in public forums.
    • Maybe we need some Latin in the learning mix as well.
  • Nobody escapes from demonstrating the competencies for critical thinking, nor learning about etiquette and netiquette, nor conflict resolution, nor any of the other soft skills mentioned in post #10. Doesn’t matter which program area you are in, these things are important – and they become more important as you shift through various jobs/careers in your life.
  • You might be thinking that this is just on-the-job-training (OJT). You wouldn’t be wrong, but I’d say it’s OJT++, where the first plus is soft skills and the second plus in entrepreneurship. It might be better to call it College in the Real World (CRW). Besides, “training” always makes me think of training dogs – and we’re talking about people here.
  • Maybe it’s time that we consider a new degree classification. I’ve been struggling with the thought that many of these degrees won’t “look like” a baccalaureate to many people. Of course those people are stuck in the past with an inflexible idea of what B.S. (or B.A.) “should” look like. Still, rather than fight that idea, maybe we need another classification. Not necessarily something that fits in between two existing degree levels – but something that stands alone. Something that is considered to be different – precisely because it is different.
    • Rovy Branon replied to one of these posts on Google+ with an idea that deserves consideration. Rovy suggests that we look at the GED for inspiration. The next two bullets are his words. See his whole thought at his Google+ post.
    • “My question is this: we have a GED for high school. It does not imply that the person went through the whole high school experience but shows that they have certain, specific knowledge outcomes that might be expected of a high school graduate.”
    • “What about a BDE? A BDE is a Bachelor’s Degree Equivalency assessment program that demonstrates an expected college knowledge competency level without implying the rest of the college experience. Such programs might open doors for adults, AND protect the significance of earning a bachelor’s degree.”
  • Keep in mind a few of the other things mentioned in previous posts:
    • The MoE would provide opportunities for some students to opt-out of the last year or two of high school and get an early start on their college degree. A la Simon’s Rock. (Post #11)
    • Less emphasis on specific skills and more emphasis on lifelong learning and knowing how to learn and stay current in your career field(s).
    • Heavy emphasis on OER and other resources freely available. Expensive textbooks not required. The Great Books are free or very inexpensive.
    • When the general public comes through our doors, they are agreeing to participate in the act of public education. Students will survey them and learn from them and in other ways conduct applied research with them as subjects.
  • At the MoE, students work with faculty members, rather than sit and listen. Faculty work is substantially different than what you’ll find just about anywhere else. Both students and faculty are there to serve the public while they teach and learn. Some other examples of programs where students and faculty could serve the public while they learn include:
    • graphic design
    • e-commerce and marketing
    • administrative assistants
    • hospitality management
    • machining and integrated manufacturing
    • journalism
    • video production
    • I could add several more, but I think you get the picture
    • However, it will not be the home for all degree options. We’ll still need traditional schools for much of that (at least in the short term).

Just to clarify a few things before I sign off:

  1. Since I’ve been heavily involved in developing online learning opportunities, many people probably assumed that I would be recommending a heavy dose of online learning as the solution to the high price tags of education. Nope. Not at all. There are already lots of people working in the build out of online learning. I’m not trying to change education through online learning.  I’m interested in changing place-bound education.
  2. However, there would be some online learning involved at the MoE – primarily for those things that don’t need to be covered while the students are on site. It also could be very effective as a preparation for students before they ever begin to work/learn on site. It’s kind of like the idea of the flipped classroom (only better). There won’t be any traditional lectures (closed off in a classroom) at the MoE, but some instructional delivery could be done online, if appropriate and valuable.
  3. Nothing in education is ever one-size-fits-all. I’m not proposing that all colleges and universities should adopt this model. Not even close. I could see two or three schools of this type being supported in every state in the U.S. Yes, public schools, supported by public dollars. But, no, these schools wouldn’t be for everybody.
    1. Faculty who want to do academic research will continue be able to get jobs at the thousands of universities that will still be out there.
    2. Students who really need a football team to cheer for, will still be able to go to all of those other universities and colleges.
    3. Students and faculty who prefer the “sit-n-git” approach to learning and teaching will still have lots of places where they can go for that. Just not to the Mall of Education.
    4. Administrators who prefer to sit in an endless array of meetings each and every day – will still be able to do that in traditional academia.

Final Question:  What will this cost the students?

Sorry, I can’t be 100% sure about the answer to this question. This is a big idea that requires lots of details. I haven’t built a detailed business plan since that would require a boatload of hours for this thought exercise. If it remains just a thought exercise without any real chance to build such an educational opportunity, it’s really not worth the effort to work out all the gritty details. But as far as the sticker price goes, I can take a wild guess.

I’m most familiar with the state funding provided to 2-year schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (worked there for 15 years). Although the funding continues to shrink, I’m pretty sure that the allocation of state dollars works out to about $5K per equivalent full-time student per year. State universities in the same system probably receive a higher amount per student .

If a state government was willing to fund the MoE at a rate comparable to the current rate of $5K per student or so, per year – I’m pretty sure that students could earn their degrees without paying any tuition or fees. Through their labor and creativity and sweat, they will generate the rest of the money needed for the school to operate. Those eligible for federal and state financial aid will be able to pay their living expenses with that aid. Yes, this is a lot like Berea College and the College of the Ozarks (see post #11) – students work their way through the degree program – with a little help from their friends, including the state legislators.

College in the Real World

I used the phrase “comparable rate” for a reason in the previous para. This will not be a “four-year degree” because students will be able to earn their competencies at a rate that is appropriate for them. Some might do it in 2 or 3 years. Some might take much longer. The state funding model based on how long the student attends if rife with problems (“we’re not going to let you graduate yet because we need more money!”) – so, we’ll need a new model. Possibly a formula that provides funding to the school based on (a) # of students starting a program, (b) another chunk for each student who reaches 25% of the competencies, (c) a chunk at  50%, (d) another at 75%, and (e) another upon graduation. Or something along those lines.

In conclusion: I believe that a state funded school could be run efficiently, effectively, and under a completely different model where students and employees serve the public – and that type of education could be free to the students.

Ready? Fire! Aim. – I’ll appreciate reading any shots that you’d like to take at this plan in the comments.