Noticias relacionadas con la Innovación Educativa

Learning analytics, student satisfaction, and student performance at the UK Open University

Tony Bates - Vie, 11 Mayo 2018 - 19:49

There is very little correlation between student satisfaction and student performance. Image: Bart Rienties. Click on image to see the video.

Rienties, B. and Toetenel, L. (2016) The impact of learning design on student behaviour, satisfaction and performance: A cross-institutional comparison across 151 modules, Computers in Human Behaviour, Vol. 60, pp.333-341

Li, N. et al. (2017) Online learning experiences of new versus continuing learners: a large-scale replication study, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 42, No. 4, pp.657-672

It’s never too late to learn

It’s been a hectic month with two trips from Vancouver to Ontario and back and one to the UK and back, a total of four keynotes, two panel sessions and two one day consultancies. By the time I got to the end of the month’s travels, I had learned so much that at a conference in Toronto I had to go to my room and lie down  – I just couldn’t take any more!

At my age, it takes time to process all this new information, but I will try to summarise the main points of what I learned in the next three posts.

Learning analytics at the Open University

The Open University, with over 100,000 students and more than 1,000 courses (modules), and most of its teaching online in one form or another, is an ideal context for the application of learning analytics. Fortunately the OU has some of the world leaders in this field. 

At the conference on STEM teaching at the Open University that I attended as the opening keynote, the closing keynote was given by Bart Rienties, Professor of Learning Analytics at the Institute of Educational Technology at the UK Open University. Rienties and his team linked 151 modules (courses) and 111,256 students with students’ behaviour, satisfaction and performance at the Open University UK, using multiple regression models. 

His whole presentation (40 minutes, including questions) can be accessed online, and is well worth viewing, as it provides a clear summary of the results published in the two detailed papers listed above. As always, if you find my summary of results below of interest or challenging, I strongly recommend you view Bart’s video first, then read the two articles in more detail. Here’s what I took away.

There is little correlation between student course evaluations and student performance

This result is a bit of a zinger. The core dependent variable used was academic retention (the number of learners who completed and passed the module relative to the number of learners who registered for each module). As Rientes and Toetenel (p.340) comment, almost as an aside, 

it is remarkable that learner satisfaction and academic retention were not even mildly related to each other….Our findings seem to indicate that students may not always be the best judge of their own learning experience and what helps them in achieving the best outcome.’

The design of the course matters

One of the big challenges in online and blended learning is getting subject matter experts to recognise the importance of what the Open University calls ‘learning design.’ 

Conole (2012, p121) describes learning design as:

a methodology for enabling teachers/designers to make more informed decisions in how they go about designing learning activities and interventions, which is pedagogically informed and makes effective use of appropriate resources and technologies. LD is focussed on ‘what students do’ as part of their learning, rather than the ‘teaching’ which is focussed on the content that will be delivered.

Thus learning design is more than just instructional design.

However, Rienties at al. comment that ‘only a few studies have investigated how educators in practice are actually planning and designing their courses and whether this is then implemented as intended in the design phase.’ 

The OU has done a good job in breaking down some of the elements of learning design. The OU has mapped the elements of learning design in nearly 200 different courses. The elements of this mapping can be seen below (Rientes and Toetenal, 2016, p.335):

Rientes and Toetenel then analysed the correlations between each of these learning design elements against both learner satisfaction and learner performance. What they found is that what OU students liked did not match with learner performance. For instance, students were most satisfied with ‘assimilative’ activities, which are primarily content focused, and disliked communication activities, which are primarily social activities. However, better student retention was most strongly associated with communication activities, and overall, with the quality of the learning design.

Rientes and Toetenel conclude:

although more than 80% of learners were satisfied with their learning experience, learning does not always need to be a nice, pleasant experience. Learning can be hard and difficult at times, and making mistakes, persistence, receiving good feedback and support are important factors for continued learning….

An exclusive focus on learner satisfaction might distract institutions from understanding the impact of LD on learning experiences and academic retention. If our findings are replicated in other contexts, a crucial debate with academics, students and managers needs to develop whether universities should focus on happy students and customers, or whether universities should design learning activities that stretch learners to their maximum abilities and ensuring that they eventually pass the module. Where possible, appropriate communication tasks that align with the learning objectives of the course may seem to be a way forward to enhance academic retention.

Be careful what you measure

As Rientes and Toetenel put it:

Simple LA metrics (e.g., number of clicks, number of downloads) may actually hamper the advancement of LA research. For example, using a longitudinal data analysis of over 120 variables from three different VLE/LMS systems and a range of motivational, emotions and learning styles indicators, Tempelaar et al. (2015) found that most of the 40 proxies of “simple” VLE LA metrics provided limited insights into the complexity of learning dynamics over time. On average, these clicking behaviour proxies were only able to explain around 10% of variation in academic performance.

In contrast, learning motivations, emotions (attitudes), and learners’ activities during continuous assessments (behaviour) significantly improved explained variance (up to 50%) and could provide an opportunity for teachers to help at-risk learners at a relatively early stage of their university studies.

My conclusions

Student feedback on the quality of a course is really important but it is more useful as a conversation between students and instructors/designers than as a quantitative ranking of the quality of a course.  In fact using learner satisfaction as a way to rank teaching is highly misleading. Learner satisfaction encompasses a very wide range of factors as well as the teaching of a particular course. It is possible to imagine a highly effective course where teaching in a transmissive or assimilative manner is minimal, but student activities are wide, varied and relevant to the development of significant learning outcomes. Students, at least initially, may not like this because this may be a new experience for them, and because they must take more responsibility for their learning. Thus good communication and explanation of why particular approaches to teaching have been chosen is essential (see my comment to a question on the video).

Perhaps though the biggest limitation of student satisfaction for assessing the quality of the teaching is the often very low response rates from students, limited evaluation questions due to standardization (the same questions irrespective of the nature of the course), and the poor quality of the student responses. This is no way to assess the quality of an individual teacher or a whole institution, yet far too many institutions and governments are building this into their evaluation of teachers/instructors and institutions.

I have been fairly skeptical of learning analytics up to now, because of the tendency to focus more on what is easily measurable (simple metrics) than on what students actually do qualitatively when they are learning. The focus on learning design variables in these studies is refreshing and important but so will be analysis of student learning habits.

Finally, this research provides quantitative evidence of the importance of learning design in online and distance teaching. Good design leads to better learning outcomes. Why then are we not applying this knowledge to the design of all university and college courses, and not just online courses? We need a shift in the power balance between university and college subject experts and learning designers resulting in the latter being treated as at least equals in the teaching process.

References

Conole, G. (2012). Designing for learning in an open world. Dordrecht: Springer

Tempelaar, D. T., Rienties, B., & Giesbers, B. (2015). In search for the most informative data for feedback generation: learning analytics in a data-rich context. Computers in Human Behavior, 47, 157e167. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.038.

 

Colleges are turning to women philanthropists as source of new money for fund-raising campaigns

Inside Higher Education - Vie, 11 Mayo 2018 - 02:00

Mildred Topp Othmer is not a household name, but the late benefactor enjoyed some renown in philanthropic circles. When she died in 1998, she left the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, her alma mater, $125 million in her will.

The bequest made headlines back then because it was the largest ever single, private donation given to the university. But left unsaid was that Othmer had created her own wealth, independent of her husband.

And just last week the death of an unassuming legal secretary in Brooklyn who left $8.2 million to college scholarship funds made the front page of The New York Times. The woman, Sylvia Bloom, bequeathed a portion of the funds to her alma mater, Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Institutional fund-raisers have taken note.

Last month, Dartmouth College announced a fund-raising campaign targeted at women donors. It has a goal of raising $1 million apiece from 100 alumnae. The launch of the gender-specific campaign, which is part of the college’s overall $3 billion fund-raising campaign, reflects the growing “influence of women’s philanthropy,” according to the college. It’s also an example of the increased recognition of a new and still largely untapped pool of money for institutions seeking to expand their donor base.

While Dartmouth’s new effort is unique in terms of scale and ambition, the college is hardly alone in creating women-centered, so-called giving societies or giving circles.

For instance, members of the Women of Chapman have pledged $2.5 million in support of three major capital campaigns at Chapman University. The group has given $6.25 million to the California institution during the last four decades.

Members of Arizona State University’s Women and Philanthropy investor program make annual contributions to a pooled fund and vote on how to distribute it among university initiatives. The university’s current fund-raising effort, Campaign ASU 2020, has a goal of $1.5 billion.

And the Women’s Philanthropy Circle raises funds for women students attending colleges within the Maricopa County Community College District, also in Arizona. The group has a dual purpose, to reduce barriers to higher education for women students and to cultivate women philanthropists.

A number of factors are driving this growing focus on women’s philanthropy, said Sue Cunningham, president and CEO of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

“It speaks to emerging trends,” she said. “The wage gap between women and men is closing. Women on average live four years longer than men and are inheriting money from their parents and their husbands, so their capacity to give can be significant.”

“In terms of the number of donors, we’re seeing more women giving, and they’re giving more broadly.”

What’s more, the donations are also giving women donors more influence on college campuses, through appointments on university governing boards and advisory panels, more access to top administrators, and more say in how the institutions are managed and how their long-term strategic plans are prioritized.

Duke University’s Women’s Impact Network, or WIN, a relatively new organization that offers membership to donors who have given $100,000 or more, is focused on those very issues.

“Part of it is elevating the conversation about women with money, whether earned, inherited or co-managed with spouses,” said Bridget Booher, the director of WIN. “Whether we think of ourselves as guardians of money or owners of money, how do we talk about it? We have women already doing that, talking with other women and having them thinking about it.”

Unlike the groups at other colleges focused on getting women donors to give to a particular appeal, scholarship program or capital improvement project, Booher said Duke’s program, launched just three years ago during the university’s last fund-raising campaign, wants “women to give where their passions are.”

“We're trying to broaden, accelerate and elevate what it means to have meaningful impact,” she said. “We want them to think strategically and ambitiously about how they want to have impact with their philanthropy.

“We started to look at women’s giving patterns over time and their volunteer activities on Duke boards,” she said. They found that women were underrepresented. Memberships on boards are often tied to philanthropic leadership,” Booher said. “We wanted to get them into the pipeline for board service, to get them into the leadership pipeline and have them really step into philanthropy and go big.”

Women are interested in giving that is "relational" and "motivational," such as giving for financial aid, Booher said. While there are women and men who have all kinds of philanthropic approaches, she said that men typically are more likely to care about "high visibility," such as having their name on a building.

Another reason for the growth in female philanthropy is that colleges are graduating more women, not only over all but in fields that were long dominated by men. For the first time ever, more women than men graduated from Dartmouth with engineering degrees in 2016. College administrators said it was first institution in the country to do that. A large portion of the graduates being tapped for donations are in their peak earning years or are nearing retirement and have more discretionary income.

At Dartmouth some 53 alumnae have already agreed to donate $1 million each to the campaign targeting 100 women.

“The best evidence of how people are responding to this is that we’re already at the halfway mark,” said Caroline Hribar, one of the architects of the campaign and of another effort to raise $25 million among alumnae and widows of Dartmouth graduates to help renovate Dartmouth Hall, an iconic academic building on the New Hampshire campus. “Over all the response has been terrific.”

Beth Cogan Fascitelli, an alumna and trustee of the college who is spearheading the fund-raising initiatives, said the effort sends an important message at the college, which started admitting women only 46 years ago.

“We want the next generation of students, male and female, to know that women and men are equally committed to the power of a Dartmouth education,” she said in an announcement released by the college. “This initiative is inviting women to come forward, work together and have impact through philanthropy.”

Hribar said the effort is more focused on moving forward than looking back.

”We’re talking about building Dartmouth’s future, and the entire Dartmouth community needs to be involved,” she said. “Women are one piece of the story.”

There is also an effort at Dartmouth to increase the membership of “the Centennial Circle,” a donor group representing five decades of women graduates, to 250 members by 2019, when the college marks its 250th anniversary. The larger objective is to raise enough money annually to provide scholarships for 250 students. (The group has 188 members and is for alumnae who make gifts of at least $100,000 to the Dartmouth College Fund. It was created four years ago and has raised $30 million so far.)

Hribar, a founder of the Centennial Circle and a 2000 graduate of the college, said the enthusiasm for the campaign to enlist 100 women donors “was better, was louder and came together faster than I had even hoped.”

“I knew we could do this from the very beginning but to see the enthusiasm has been really exciting,” she said. “It was the circle that allowed us to set our sights so high. It proved that the women of Dartmouth could come together to achieve extraordinary goals.”

Cunningham, the CASE president, noted that women control $14 trillion of the personal wealth in the United States (or 51 percent of the total) and that number is expected to rise to $22 trillion by 2020. Women also account for 45 percent of the millionaires in the U.S.

Billionaire Rhonda Stryker is among top women donors. She and her husband gave $100 million to Western Michigan University in 2011 to create a school of medicine. In 2016 the couple pledged $20 million to Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health.

While large gifts are obviously welcomed, Cogan Fascitelli said college fund-raisers are careful that such donations don’t alienate or intimidate potential donors who might want to give smaller amounts but worry their gift could be seen as inconsequential.

“Not everyone can give a million dollars. They can give $10 or $100; every dollar does matter,” she said. “The point is to get women in general interested in becoming givers.”

Cogan Fascitelli, a partner at Goldman Sachs and chief operating officer of Merchant Bank Worldwide, said her first donation to Dartmouth after she graduated was $100.

“Thirty-five years later, I gave substantially more,” she said. She declined to say how much.

Her early experiences as a new donor are why many of institutions have lower giving thresholds for young alumni -- to get them into a pattern of giving so they might become bigger philanthropists later in life.

“As you get involved in giving every year, eventually you give more,” she said.

That’s why colleges should start paying more attention to their women graduates, she said, noting that 31 percent of Dartmouth graduates and 50 percent of the current student body are women. (Women make up 38 percent of the Board of Trustees.)

What’s more, 35 percent of alumnae donate to the college, which is not significantly less than the 37 percent of male graduates who do so. (The average annual gift from women is $1,217, the average from men is $1,852.)

Hribar said the campaign is already starting to resonate with some women students at Dartmouth. She hopes they’ll view the effort as donors looking out for them and think, “There’s this whole network that’s there for us now and will be there waiting for us when we graduate from Dartmouth.”

The irony that the once all-male Dartmouth was the last Ivy League institution to admit women, in 1972, is not lost on the women involved in the campaign -- or, for that matter, the men.

“There’s a certain level of pride among male alumni that the women are doing this,” said Bob Lasher, Dartmouth’s senior vice president for advancement. “New leaders are being seen, new forums are emerging, advisory groups and boards have larger representations of women. There wouldn’t have been so many good women leaders if they hadn’t emerged from the Centennial Circle.

“We’re breaking the sound barrier by doing something unprecedented at Dartmouth,” he said. “What I love about it is that it’s very deliberative, aspirational and bold.”

Hribar said for too long philanthropy and the influence that comes with it were spaces traditionally occupied by “men talking to other men.”

“Women now have power and resources, and people are figuring out that they have talk to them,” she said.

The Women’s Philanthropy Council at the University of Wisconsin may deserve much of the credit. The self-proclaimed pioneer in “the national women’s philanthropy movement” was founded in 1988.

According to its website, “The program was the first major gifts and leadership initiative for women at a coeducational institution. It has since become a national model.”

Council members contribute a minimum of $50,000 each and collectively have given more than $85 million to the University of Wisconsin Madison, the website says. The organization also says it has influenced more than $500 million in gifts by women to the University of Wisconsin Foundation since 1988.

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Ohio State professor's technology ban finds positive reaction and results

Inside Higher Education - Vie, 11 Mayo 2018 - 02:00

This fall, all first-year students at Ohio State University will be handed an iPad Pro as part of an institutionwide initiative to incorporate Apple technology into students’ learning experience.

But there’s at least one lecture hall where iPads may not be welcome.

Trevon Logan, a professor of economics at Ohio State, posted on Twitter this week that he had banned all electronics from his courses, with positive results.

“I thought I would get much more pushback on this from students, and I didn’t think student outcomes would be so significant,” Logan said in a Twitter thread. “Given these results, I’m very encouraged to continue with the policy.”

This Spring semester I was moved by the @nytimes open by @dynarski to enact a technology ban in my courses. No laptops, tablets, phones, nothing. I was curious to see what would happen. Now the results are now in!

— Trevon D Logan (@TrevonDLogan) May 9, 2018

Logan, who enacted the ban this semester, reported that student performance had improved significantly in midterms compared with previous years. “Results were significant -- average scores were about half a standard deviation higher than previous offerings,” he said.

The most surprising finding, said Logan, was that students seemed to like the policy. About 25 percent mentioned the policy in their open-ended course evaluations, “and everyone who talked about it enthusiastically endorsed it.”

Logan said the students reported that the policy had helped them to maintain focus and to take better notes, kept them engaged, and increased their enjoyment of the course. “I did not expect this at all,” said Logan.

Logan said that he was inspired to try out the technology ban by a New York Times op-ed by Susan Dynarski, professor of public policy, education and economics at the University of Michigan. “I was curious to see what would happen,” he said.

In an email, Dynarski said that following publication of her article, she was contacted by many professors considering a ban. Dynarski advised that anyone considering such a ban should do so “armed with the best evidence, creating policies that fit the content and culture of their classes.” She added, “Professor Logan did exactly this, and with great success.”

The debate about banning laptops in classrooms has been raging for some time, leading some observers to call for a more nuanced discussion about bans.

One of the key objections to laptop bans is that it might stigmatize students with learning disabilities who rely on learning technologies. Logan said this was a “big worry,” but that he purposefully designed a policy in which anyone, even those without a disability, could email and petition for an exception. So far, no students have asked for an exception, said Logan.

Here is the policy. pic.twitter.com/8sGiged7MW

— Trevon D Logan (@TrevonDLogan) May 9, 2018

Though the reaction to Logan’s ban was relatively warm, Darren Rosenblum, a professor at the Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, said he had not had experienced such a positive reaction from students for a similar policy.

Rosenblum, who has banned technology in his classes for about five years, said that students frequently ask for exceptions, saying that they have “always taken notes on a laptop,” or that their “handwriting is horrible.”

But Rosenblum tells his students that note taking by hand is an important skill for lawyers, who might not be allowed to bring laptops into hearings. Additionally, Rosenblum says, he has noticed that students are easily distracted by their neighbors’ screens. For students with disabilities, the law school at Pace pays for professional note takers, whom (if they use a laptop) Rosenblum asks to sit near the back of the class so as not to distract other students.

Both Rosenblum and John Craven, associate professor of education at Fordham University, praised Logan’s scientific approach to trialing a ban.

“A deep understanding of when and how the use of smart devices and other technologies should be diluted or entirely removed from the learning environment remains elusive,” said Craven. “Dr. Logan’s willingness to shed light on this topic is commendable particularly given the potential of rebellion from students who are currently all too often addicted to their smart devices.”

“As more universities (including Ohio State with their new Apple program) roll out iPads and tablets to all students we need to think long and hard about whether and how this technology will be beneficial,” said Logan. “It does work in some settings; it doesn’t work in others.”

Asked for comment, an Ohio State spokesman said, “Teaching and learning is the first pillar of Ohio State’s strategic plan. We are committed to adopting innovative approaches of all types that will improve student outcomes, and we know our faculty share this commitment. Some innovations will incorporate new technology and others will not.” He added that Ohio State’s initiative with Apple, called the Digital Flagship, “is just one of the ways we’re working to improve student success in the classroom.”

Aside from quantitative benefits, Logan said that the atmosphere in the classroom had improved.

Students talk to each other more and are "much more interactive" as they are not constantly on their phones or looking at their laptop screens. Asked how he gets students to follow the rules, Logan said that early on, you have to show you mean business.

"There will always be a few students who do not believe you are serious," he said. Warn students in advance and make a scene the first time you see someone breaking the rules.

"Stop midsentence and call them out."

Teaching With TechnologyEditorial Tags: TeachingTechnologyImage Source: Jane Kelly / iStockIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Trending text: Laptop BanTrending order: 1College: Ohio State University

Info-rich course planning apps may lower grades

Inside Higher Education - Vie, 11 Mayo 2018 - 02:00

When is a rich trove of course data too rich? Perhaps when it helps lower an undergraduate’s grade point average a quarter point?

New findings by researchers at Stanford University suggest that academically competitive college students actually perform worse over all when they get access to digital course-planning platforms that show how previous students performed.

In a paper being presented next month at the ACM Conference on Learning at Scale in London, the researchers say they’re not entirely sure what’s at work, but that the effects are noticeable: using the platform corresponded to an average drop of 0.16 units in overall GPA -- enough to move a B-plus grade about half the distance to a B.

Researcher Mitchell L. Stevens, of Stanford Graduate School of Education, invoked an economist’s phrase, calling the effect “nontrivial.” He added that it’s “enough to catch someone’s attention.”

Freshmen and sophomores who used the platform saw the worst declines, at 0.26 units, while juniors and seniors saw their GPAs drop by just 0.09 on average.

Stanford’s Sorathan Chaturapruek, a graduate student in computer science, is the lead author on the study, which finds that the drop isn’t due to students choosing harder courses but to “their behavior within courses.”

Developed by the researchers, the platform gives students information about the distribution of prior students’ grades, the percentage of students who dropped the course or withdrew, the average student evaluation and the number of hours per week students reported spending studying, among other details. It also offers advice from past students to classmates who are considering the course. A few education experts have theorized that sharing such information would have a positive result on learning and course completion.

The researchers found that offering a peek at past students’ grades had the biggest impact on GPA. They also found, by contrast, that showing how much time students spent on the course actually had a positive effect on GPA.

Since the researchers tested the platform at an unnamed, highly selective university, Stevens said it’s safe to assume that the subjects are used to being top performers, with A’s as “common events” in course work.

“So it may be that when you see a grade distribution in which the majority of people who have taken the class get A-plus, A or A-minus,” he said, “it may make students overconfident about the investment of work they need to do well.”

The preponderance of A’s gives them “a sense of false comfort,” he said. “They may somewhat underinvest, under the presumption that they’re going to do OK.”

Stevens said the findings should be a warning to universities that giving students more information is not necessarily better than less.

“Expectations that students have access to academic information is only going up,” he said. Going forward, universities will have to think hard about how the “amount and form in which that information is provided enhances academic endeavor -- or undermines it.”

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Report: Violence against educational institutions, students and staff rising

Inside Higher Education - Vie, 11 Mayo 2018 - 02:00

Attacks directed against students, educators and their institutions appear to be on the rise worldwide, according to a new report from the Global Coalition to Protect Education From Attack, a coalition of education- and human rights-focused organizations.

The report notes that comparisons are difficult across time due to limitations in monitoring and reporting, and raises the possibility that increases in reported incidents could be the result of better monitoring. Still, the authors conclude that the data "strongly suggest" that attacks against education increased in the four-year period covered in the report, 2013 to 2017, compared to the four-year reporting period covered in a previous installment of the report published in 2014.

The authors of the report identified more than 12,700 attacks against educators, students, schools and universities that occurred between 2013 and 2017, collectively harming more than 21,000 students, academics, teachers and other education personnel.

The new report includes profiles of 28 countries that experienced at least 20 attacks on education during the reporting period: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen.

The six categories of attack identified in the report, which encompasses education at all levels, not just higher education, are: “physical attacks or threats of attacks on schools,” “physical attacks or threats directed at students, teachers, and other education personnel,” “military use of schools and universities,” “child recruitment at, or en route to or from, school or university,” “sexual violence by armed parties at, or en route to or from, school or university,” and “attacks on higher education.”

Attacks on higher education were identified in 52 countries. The category includes attacks on university facilities as well as assaults that target students, professor or other higher education staff.

Amy Kapit, the lead researcher and writer of the report, said that attacks on higher education facilities included instances in which universities were damaged by bombings, air strikes or fighting that occurred as part of armed conflicts as well as targeted attacks. Some of the largest targeted attacks during the reporting period were the 2015 attack, claimed by the militant group al Shabaab, on Kenya's Garissa University College, which killed at least 142 students; the attack by militants on the American University of Afghanistan in 2015, which killed 15 people, including seven students and one professor; and a Pakistani Taliban-claimed attack on the Agricultural Training Institute in Pakistan in 2017, which reportedly killed at least nine people and injured 37 more, most of them students.

Kapit said that one key trend worldwide at the higher education level “is the violent repression of students and professors and education personnel who are engaged in protest and the use of force to disperse those protests." (This article has been updated to remove a part of a quote that inaccurately referred to the number of countries in which violent repression was found.)

Another trend Kapit noted was the use of universities for military purposes. "There have been some very significant cases of armed groups going in and using university campuses as bases," she said. "The most significant case was the use of Mosul University in Iraq by the Islamic State. A number of campuses in Libya have also been used for military purposes in similar ways. I think people are maybe more familiar with the military use of schools, but universities too are used for military purposes."

The report identifies several trends that contributed to the violence against educational institutions and their students and personnel. These include the rise of extremist armed groups, most significantly those associated with the Islamic State; the use of aerial bombardment to fight armed groups and resulting collateral damage to schools and universities; and the aforementioned violence against students and educators during school and university protests.

The report also identifies a number of reported motivation for attacks, including attacks by nonstate armed groups looking to delegitimize the government (educational institutions being “one of the most visible symbols of state authority”), objections on the part of armed groups to the content of the curriculum or the values being taught, including objections to the education of women and girls; and the use of schools for military purposes or for polling locations.

The authors of the report identified attacks on education in 74 countries, including the 28 countries profiled. Forty-one countries experienced at least five attacks, including one that was intentional or deadly, during the reporting period -- up from 30 countries in the 2014 version of the report.

The authors make a number of recommendations, including adoption of the Safe Schools Declaration, which the report describes as "perhaps the most visible representation of a global consensus that education should be protected from attacks and military use." Seventy-four countries, not including the U.S., have endorsed the declaration, in which states commit to a series of actions, including the adoption of common guidelines on protecting schools and universities from military use during armed conflict and a commitment to collecting data and investigating alleged attacks and prosecuting alleged perpetrators when appropriate.

The coalition has also released a series of principles for states on how to protect higher education institutions in particular from attack.

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Federal panel's take on industry-recognized apprenticeships

Inside Higher Education - Vie, 11 Mayo 2018 - 02:00

President Trump last year issued an executive order calling for an expansion of apprenticeship opportunities while also increasing federal funding for such programs by roughly $100 million.

The U.S. Department of Labor subsequently pulled together a 20-member task force of experts, including the secretaries of education, labor and commerce, to develop recommendations to make that expansion a reality.

Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a senior White House adviser, was on the task force. Representing traditional higher education were Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, and Mark Rosenberg, president of Florida International University and a member of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

On Thursday the Labor Department issued the group's report to the White House. The document lays out a "roadmap for advancing apprenticeships, including through the development of a new and more flexible apprenticeship model, the industry-recognized apprenticeship," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote in the document's preamble.

The report also criticizes traditional higher education for failing to adequately prepare its graduates to join the work force.

The proposed system, as described by the federal panel, would encourage employers to offer apprenticeships by simplifying and updating criteria for federal subsidies of these programs, as well as "streamlining state grant access, and exploring sector-led financial options."

To better determine where the programs could grow, the report said federal agencies should "conduct and make available a needs analysis to identify existing skills shortages and quantify the benefits of apprenticeships in meeting labor challenges, and also compile apprenticeship information in a single, online, centralized website."

The task force also encouraged a pilot program in an industry without well-established apprenticeships. And it said the industry-recognized programs "should focus on mastery and competency, not just seat-time or training hours, and that program implementation guidelines should spell out the quality standards."

Experts said many questions remain about the contours of this alternative approach, which apparently would exist in parallel with the current federal registration process for apprenticeships. The existing system, which many describe as overly balky, also includes quality-control requirements that some fear would be missing in the industry-recognized model.

For example, the report calls for the involvement of industry certifiers of apprenticeships. But "it's not clear who's going to be certifying the certifiers," said Brent Parton, deputy director of the Center on Education & Skills with the education policy program at New America.

The task force's strategy appears to be to "make it easier for employers to offer apprenticeship programs," Parton said. "That’s a good thing -- without more employers, there cannot be more apprentices. But watering down the requirements of apprenticeship programs, namely ones aimed to protect apprentices by ensuring they get wage increases as they build new skills, as well as enhance participation of underrepresented populations, is a self-defeating approach."

In coming weeks or months, Parton said in a written statement, the Labor Department is expected to publish a guidance document to more clearly spell out how the alternative system would work.

The National Skills Coalition, in a series of tweets posted Thursday, praised the report for its "pretty good definition of apprenticeship" as well as for its push for data, focus on industry partnerships, support for pre-apprenticeship and intended alignment with higher education. But the coalition, like Parton, said they were concerned that the new system would not require wage increases when apprentices learn new skills, as federally registered apprenticeships currently do.

In addition, the group criticized the task force's call to cut work-force development programs (see below).

The report, while touting the potential of apprenticeships, also included criticism of higher education's role in training workers.

"Apprenticeship programs, when implemented effectively, provide workers with a career path featuring paid on-the-job training, skills development, and mentorship, while at the same time providing employers with a steady source of highly trained and productive workers. These programs have the potential to grow into a critical and successful component of America’s workforce strategy, but are currently underutilized," the task force said. "Meanwhile, the American higher education system is churning out a pool of in-debt job seekers who are not equipped to meet the skills needs of many employers in the modern American economy."

Apprenticeship task force recommendations also included worrisome call to reduce investment in key #wkdev programs in favor of supporting apprenticeship. Policy makers should focus on investing in workforce to amplify #apprenticeship expansion. We can't compete if we cut! pic.twitter.com/5qalzdhWMl

— National Skills Coalition (@SkillsCoalition) May 10, 2018 Editorial Tags: Adult educationFederal policyJob trainingImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Ivanka Trump and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta during a visit to an Ohio apprenticeship centerIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

Report finds rapid growth in foreign-student work program

Inside Higher Education - Vie, 11 Mayo 2018 - 02:00

The number of international students taking advantage of a program that lets them stay in the U.S. and work after graduating increased dramatically between 2008 and 2016.

A new report from the Pew Research Center found that the number of international students with degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics fields who participated in the optional practical training program grew by 400 percent after 2008, when the George W. Bush administration used executive rule making to extend the period for which STEM graduates could work from 12 months to 29 months. The Obama administration subsequently issued a rule extending that period by an additional seven months, so foreign graduates in STEM fields from American colleges can now work in the U.S. for up to three years after completing their programs while staying on their F-1 student visas.

 Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data received August 2017 through a Freedom of Information Act request.The rising popularity of STEM OPT suggests that the ability to work for three years after graduation without applying for a new visa has become an increasingly attractive part of the package American universities present to prospective foreign students. The availability of postgraduation work opportunities -- which, even if temporary, give students a window of opportunity to apply for H-1B visas and the chance to potentially stay permanently -- helps the U.S. to compete for international students against other countries that also offer postgraduation work options and in some cases clearer pathways between education and immigration. The rapid growth of the OPT program, however, has also brought with it new scrutiny -- from both organized labor on the left and anti-immigration groups on the right.

A lawsuit challenging the OPT program brought by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers argued among other things that the program created unfair competition for U.S. workers because students on F-1 visas and their employers don't pay Medicare and Social Security taxes, so the students are therefore "inherently cheaper to employ." The case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge in April 2017 and is currently being appealed.

More recently, the Trump administration published a notice stating its intent to issue a new rule governing practical training programs to “reduce fraud and abuse” and “to improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by employment of nonimmigrant students on F and M visas.”

The summary of the planned action says the "proposed provisions include increased oversight of the schools and students participating in the program to ensure compliance with requirements of the program."

Growth in OPT

The Pew report, which is based on Immigration and Customs Enforcement data obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, found that the number of new approvals for OPT has grown in recent years to surpass initial approvals for the H-1B skilled-worker visa program. The number of H-1B visas that American companies can sponsor is capped by law at 85,000 per year, while there is no cap on OPT participation.

OPT only provides for temporary work authorization in a job related to a student’s field of study, whereas the H-1B, while also temporary, can serve as a stepping-stone to a green card. However, one key benefit to the extension of OPT for STEM graduates is that it gives them two additional chances to try their luck in the annual lottery for the limited number of H-1B visas available.

“The [OPT] program has grown to become the primary way the U.S. has retained foreign students, especially STEM students who have graduated from its colleges and universities,” said Neil G. Ruiz, the associate director for global migration and demography at Pew Research Center and an author of the report. “This 400 percent increase of STEM foreign students really happened after 2008 when policy changes were made by the George W. Bush administration after attempts in Congress to pass legislation on the issue of increasing H-1Bs or giving green cards to STEM graduates did not go anywhere.”

The growth in OPT participation has largely been among students who studied STEM fields, who account for just over half (53 percent) of all OPT participants. While the number of OPT participants with STEM degrees increased by 400 percent from 2008 to 2016, the percentage of OPT participants with non-STEM degrees -- who are only eligible for a one-year period of OPT, as opposed to the three years afforded STEM students -- increased by just 49 percent.

During this same time period, new international student enrollments in the U.S. increased by 104 percent.

Characteristics of OPT Participants

Pew found that the growth in OPT was highest among graduates of master’s programs in STEM fields. The number of master’s-level OPT graduates increased by 337 percent between 2004 and 2016, compared to a 187 percent increase at the doctoral level, a 115 percent increase at the bachelor’s level and just a 21 percent increase at the associate level.

Further, the growth in OPT participation after the master’s level has taken place almost entirely since the first extension for STEM graduates was put in place in 2008: Pew found that the number of master’s graduates participating in OPT actually dropped by 7 percent from 2004 to 2007 before increasing by 322 percent between 2008 and 2016.

Although Indian students are the second-largest group of international students in the U.S., after students from China, those from India make up the largest group of participants in OPT, accounting for 30 percent between 2008 and 2016. Chinese students were the next-largest group of OPT participants, accounting for 21 percent, followed by students from South Korea (6 percent), Taiwan (4 percent), Japan (3 percent), Canada (2 percent), Nepal (2 percent), Turkey (1 percent), Mexico (1 percent) and Brazil (1 percent).

Saudi Arabia, which has been one of the leading senders of international students to the U.S. over the past decade, doesn’t factor in the top 10 in terms of countries of origin for OPT participants. The Middle East as a whole only accounts for 4 percent of participants in the program.

More than three-quarters of OPT participants with doctorates (78 percent) specialized in STEM fields, while 60 percent of OPT participants at the master's level were STEM graduates. At the bachelor's level, about a third of participants (33 percent) had STEM degrees, and at the associate level it was just 12 percent.

At the associate and bachelor's level, the top field of study for OPT participants was business/marketing. At the master's level, the largest share of OPT participants studied engineering (accounting for 27 percent of all participants), followed by computer and information sciences (22 percent), and business-related fields (22 percent). Among OPT participants with doctoral degrees, engineering was also the most popular field of study (34 percent), followed by physical sciences (16 percent) and biological and biomedical sciences (13 percent).

Below is a chart of the institutions with the largest numbers of OPT participants. More than half (56 percent) of all OPT participants attended public institutions.

Notably, among those institutions that are not classified by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education (identified on the chart below as "non-CCIHE-classified institutions"), three of the top five universities in terms of the number of OPT participants -- Silicon Valley University, the University of Northern Virginia and Herguan University -- have shut down amid questions about their practices regarding student visas (the University of Northern Virginia was ordered to close by state regulators in 2013; the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education reported last month that state approval for Silicon Valley and Herguan Universities expired when both institutions lost their accreditation). The top producer of OPT participants within that category, Northwestern Polytechnic University, was the subject of a 2014 BuzzFeed investigation that characterized the institution as an "upmarket visa mill."

Over all, nearly 1.5 million international students gained authorization to work through the optional practical training program between 2004 and 2016.

Institutions With the Most OPT Participants, by Type

Public Universities Number of OPT Participants,
2004-2016
Private Universities Number of OPT Participants,
2004-2016
1. Baruch College, City University of New York 18,500 1. University of Southern California 27,100 2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 13,700 2. New York University 26,800 3. University of California, Los Angeles 13,600 3. Columbia University 22,600 4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 13,600 4. Carnegie Mellon University 14,100 5. University of Texas at Dallas 13,500 5. Illinois Institute of Technology 12,900 Non-CCIHE-Classified Institutions   Private, For-Profit Institutions   1. Northwestern Polytechnic University 11,700 1. Academy of Art University 6,800 2. Silicon Valley University 4,500 2. Stratford University 5,900 3. University of Northern Virginia 2,400 3. New York Film Academy 4,100 4. Virginia International University 2,300 4. School of Visual Arts 3,000 5. Herguan University 1,000

5. Strayer University

2,700

Source: Pew Research Center

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'Life of the Party' captures fun of college life, not tribulations

Inside Higher Education - Vie, 11 Mayo 2018 - 02:00

Melissa McCarthy has blessed us with such charming roles as a crass bridesmaid unleashing her bowels into a bathroom sink and a bumbling paranormal researcher/ghost hunter. Her doting mother turned later-in-life college student in Life of the Party delivers the same quality of comedy -- and a reflection on the life of the adult learner it is not.

Following her husband’s unceremonious announcement that he wants a divorce, Deanna (McCarthy), parent to a senior at the fictional Decatur University (no apparent reference to any one institution, though it was filmed around Atlanta), decides she wants to enroll at the university she once attended and scrape together the few credits she lacked to complete her archaeology degree.

A daughter and her mother sharing the same campus? How uproarious -- what shenanigans will ensue?

The story of the dropout whose life plans were derailed -- in this case by pregnancy -- simply isn’t the sexiest of storylines. Most adult learners focus not on the frivolities of the college experience, which the film stresses in a stereotypical fashion, but on completing their degrees. It makes sense. Many of them have competing priorities -- full-time work, perhaps, and/or a family.

Deanna’s existence has seemingly revolved around her daughter (Molly Gordon) and her adulterous husband (Matt Walsh), who has shacked up with a stony, platinum-locked Realtor (Julie Bowen). When they’re not in the picture, she, admirably, decides she wants to fulfill her dream.

But it’s unlikely a middle-aged divorcée would move into a college dormitory (the film explains this away by saying the Realtor is selling the home Deanna shared with her husband).

Right away, Deanna slips into the joys of college with a fervor generally only demonstrated by a first-year student. She buys half of the bookstore’s Decatur swag (hail Tigers) to decorate her side of the room and arrives fresh-faced at her first class, wearing a garish university sweatshirt.

Besides a brief period of humiliation by her daughter, Deanna effortlessly balances her new life, with no trouble signing up for classes, grasping course material or finding time to study diligently in the library. No mention here, of course, of the learning curve that would likely exist after returning, decades later, to a university climate suffused with technology and other advances.

Deanna’s daughter and her sorority sisters decide Deanna simply can’t just sit back and be a bookworm. No, no. They drag her to a fraternity party, where Deanna catches the eye of the mean girl for her classic “mom smock.”

A quick makeover in the bathroom will fix that! Deanna emerges with cascading curls and immediately vibes with one of the young men there.

She sleeps with him, to her daughter’s embarrassment. They both exit the fraternity house in a “walk of shame,” on which Deanna proclaims to her daughter that’s she been around the block, sexually. Any questions, ask her “va-Google.”

Most of the jokes are like that: the fraternity brother so smitten with Deanna’s sexual prowess he incessantly texts her and essentially stalks her around campus. An '80s-themed dance off where Deanna discos circles around her nemesis. An accidental binge on weed-infused chocolate.

One glimmer of reality comes with a sorority sister who breaks down after attending a job fair, fearful her kinesiology degree won’t be useful postgraduation.

But even the main conflict of the movie, which theoretically could be a legitimate concern involving Deanna paying for her education, comes off unrealistic and a little late in the plot to be effective or scary.

Life of the Party, directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, and written by them both, once again cements McCarthy’s brand with a degree of absurdity only she can accomplish. But that’s pretty much it.

Editorial Tags: Adult educationCollege costs/pricesImage Source: Hopper Stone / Warner Bros.Image Caption: Melissa McCarthy in "Life of the Party"Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: 

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