What to do about the Credit Hour?

As it so often does, the Chronicle had a very interesting story that got me thinking about changes in Higher Education. The Credit Hour is so ubiquitous for most of us that we can’t really imagine using any other kind of measurement for tracking college credit. Personally, I don’t think the Carnegie Unit and the Credit Hour are as flawed as some do, but I do think it may be time for a serious examination of how we truly measure and assess student learning and faculty interaction.

Western Governors University is used as an example. Competency-bases learning is an idea that many institutions reject; but do we need to be giving this more consideration? After all, are three credit hours given to every student at the end of a term really indicative of true learning? Perhaps the student population really makes a difference — I work mainly with working adults, a group who can vary greatly in the backgrounds and experience that they bring to the classroom.

At any rate, any change to the Credit Hour would be a massive undertaking and require changes in all area of higher education. But higher education is changing rapidly, so this is not an issue we should ignore.

Here it the Chronicle article:


When is course standardization acceptable?

For online colleges, standardization in course design makes a great deal of sense. If the process is done correctly, the course will be touched by many hands, from SMEs, to Program Chairs to Instructional Designers. This will ensure quality and make sure that students are not receiving flat, “canned” courses. In addition, a well-designed course will allow for a great deal of input from the instructor teaching that term. Discussion boards, announcements and thoughtful feedback are just some of the areas where the educator can leave his particular imprint.

But does this work for every General Education course? As you can see in the referenced article, while standardized courses can work well for beginning math courses, what about a more advanced Literature course, or an in-depth review of Modern Art? Again, I think this is where careful and thoughtful course design is paramount. Special care must be taken so that instructors can have as much academic freedom as possible, while still allowing for a thorough quality control process.

As you can see, teaching and designing courses at a fully online institution can be quite different from a more traditional on-ground college; but the courses can be engaging, rigorous and of great benefit to everyone if we always keep students needs in mind.


Some thoughts on the purpose of higher education…

Good evening, Obviously, a question like “What is the purpose of higher education?” is loaded and something that may never be answered. Despite this, there is a push happening right now to make this a national conversation. As you’ll see in the Chronicle article below, there was a joint conference recently that discussed this very idea. As a General Education chair, I’m very interested to see where this is going. I, like many referenced in the article, feel strongly that we need a combination of practical, experiential education with a liberal arts program. Teaching specific skills for a career can be very important, but I feel that we need to maintain an ideal of creating a broadly education population. Critical thinking skills are vital in today’s workplace, so we need to provide students with the right background. There’s a lot of pessimism about higher education, but I think we may be headed in the right direction. Here is the Chronicle article: http://chronicle.com/article/In-an-Evolving-Career/151345/

Nano-Degrees and their impact on General Education

Good evening,

I’ve been reading a few very interesting articles this past week on the growing trend on Nano-Degrees, and I’d love to get some feedback from other educators regarding your thoughts and experiences. Since I am fairly new to this idea, I still have a lot of mixed feelings regarding this issue. As a General Education chair at a business college, I protect these so-called “liberal arts-like courses” very closely. I strongly believe that a college should provide a well-rounded education, so courses like Art History, Literature, etc. are critical and I hope we won’t move too far away from this model.

As I said though, I do work a business college, and can be a realist, so I understand the value that some see here. Perhaps you simply want to gain certain skills — you could save both time and money doing so. But are these nano-degrees all that different from certificates? Is it an idea worth exploring?

Here is the article from Forbes which got me thinking, and I hope to hear from some readers as well. Thank you!


What makes an online course truly “student-centric?”

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the topic of online courses and making them student-centric. This is a loaded topic and I’d be very curious to hear the thoughts and ideas of others regarding this topic. Teaching at an online institution myself, I completely understand and appreciate the need for student-centric courses. Our students often have very different needs and skills that they bring to the college, and these needs and skills are appreciated and acknowledged. But I do wonder if we are moving towards a model of giving students what they want versus doing what is best for the student overall.

For example, many schools are giving more thought to flexibility for when assignments are due as well as multiple extensions for assignments. While it’s important to be flexible in specific, known situations, do we want to make this a standard model? Does it benefit the student to make faculty accept late work even to the detriment of others in the course? As a Gen Ed program chair, I feel strongly that education is about facing new ideas and embracing a larger world-view. But we need to look at the practical side of things; what message does it send if we continuously craft our courses on population demand, and not quality content?

For me, much of this stems from recent discussions about making higher education more like a customer service experience. I understand very well that students spend a great deal of money on college — probably far too much actually — and so it is critical that their voices are heard. But at the same time, we owe it to them to challenge them, to make them work, and make them question the way they’ve lived before. Otherwise, why are they here at all?

Peer-Review Fraud

This article from the Ottawa Citizen is certainly a bit discouraging. Though fraud with peer-reviewed works is not new, it’s distressing to see that it is becoming a much larger problem. We work very hard in our General Education courses to get students to understand how important it is to use peer-reviewed academic works in their research. As many schools do these days, we are constantly asked about why we do this when Google has “everything they need.” If the important peer-review process is not seen as authentic by students, what is the next step? I’m not quite sure what academic publishers can do to be proactive instead of reactive, but it’s worth a longer discussion.

The article can be found here:


Publishers and online courses

I came across this very interesting article yesterday in the New York Times. It looks like Simon and Schuster will be producing online courses run by popular authors. I’m interested to see where this goes, and how popular it may become. They are called “courses,” but do seem more like self-help guides or videos to promote an idea; but perhaps some of these may be of value. Would these be useful for a college to use in conjunction with its original course content? Will publishers continue down this road and create more of these author-guided courses?

You can find the original article here:


Great books and low-income students

I wanted to share this very nice story from Inside Higher Ed about low-income high school students at Columbia. It’s so nice to see that the Humanities not only still have value, but actually get students excited! Great Book programs vary by college, of course, but it shows that these texts still hold great meaning. A goal for my Gen Ed program is to have a nice mix of these classics with some contemporary works — we are a small program, but have great ambitions!

Please take a look at the article here:


More about STEM and Gender…

The other day I posted an article from Inside Higher Ed about a possible gender gap in online STEM courses. Today, there was another study published about how some men don’t believe this gap actually exists. No one study encompasses all views, but considering the source, there seems to be some validity to these studies. Even if one does not believe this gap exists, we should be doing all we can to encourage young women to enter STEM fields and participate in courses with as much enthusiasm as possible.


Free event at New England College of Business

Hello all,

For those of you in the Boston area, please consider attending the first in a series of free events at New England College of Business on January 22nd. The Innovation Room is going to be hosting free seminars throughout the year on a variety of timely, business-related topics. This first event, “Weaving your Digital Web,” will be of great value for anyone interested in more information on the digital world. See more information in the link below. Thank you!