Recognizing the benefits of for-profit institutions

One surefire way to get people talking (and potentially worked up) is to bring up the topic of for-profit education. Much-maligned, for-profit institutions are becoming more and more a part of the norm, and it’s time that we embrace these institutions for what they can offer, while still being vigilant about any unethical practices. For-profits can offer a lot to many people, and should not be summarily dismissed.

Carrie Sheffield has a great opinion piece in Forbes this week about all that for-profit institutions have to offer, and it’s worth a read. My institutions happens to be owned by a larger for-profit, so I understand very well the workings of this kind of organization; I also understand that for-profits are far from perfect. I have a background in traditional libraries at non-profit colleges and will always be a proponent of that system.

That being said, we shouldn’t just ignore for-profits and penalize this industry as a whole. To be certain, there are many for-profits who have gone beyond being unethical; in the last few weeks, we’ve seen what has happened to one particularly large organization that only cared about its own profits and ignored the fair treatment of its students. But that does not each for-profit operates in that manner. Using that logic, we could punish all traditional institutions based on the actions of the administration at Penn State.

My institutions serves many students who had difficulty finding a good education elsewhere; and so many of our graduates now have well-paying and satisfying careers. This does not mean that for-profits should replace non-profits. In fact, these two sectors could potentially help each other down the road, as long as there can be a mutual respect and understanding for one another.

Here is the Sheffield article:

Misconceptions about online students

Good afternoon,

Just like I did in my last post, I want to apologize for waiting so long to publish! It’s that time of year in higher education, of course — commencements and other busy activities. But I’ve found myself reading a few very interesting essays the last few days, and felt the need to make a few comments.

At least from my experience, there seem to be quite a few misconceptions about online students and how hard they work. My students have always been eager, hard working and excited to discover new ideas. While I don’t see them face to face, I see the connections they are making and understand the value of the work they are doing.

The article from references a study — this study challenges the notion that online students plagiarize more than tradiation, on ground students. While the study focused on doctoral students, I do very much agree with its findings. I don’t think anyone would deny that plagiarism is a big problem in higher education; but to pinpoint this problem on online students is just wrong; I have seen very little difference between the two populations. If anything, the use of tools like have made my students more aware and more careful about the work they are doing. Is this because I generally work with adult students? Perhaps — but I think main point of the study needs to be considered carefully. You can find the study here:…/online-learning-plagiarism-916/

The other story that caught my attention was a bit more general about the approach we take to higher education. The author argues (and makes a very good point) that we don’t need to have this be an all or nothing approach; while the traditional approach may need some improvements, the online method is not perfect either. The two worlds can certainly help each other, I agree. You can find this article here:

My issue is with the author’s point that online students don’t have “ah-ha” moments. I could not find this to be less true; just as an example, my institution has a very well-designed Art History survey course, fully online. Students are ask to find a work of art that speaks to them; but they must do so by going out to a museum or searching within the community. I could share numerous examples of students telling me “Ah! Now I understand why art is so important and why we are asked to study this!” or “This has changed my view of the world.” Isn’t that what education is all about? When well-designed, online courses can deliver these moments very well.

So continued dialog is needed, and it’s important that the right message is sent out; that being that thoughtful, challenging online programs produce thoughtful, productive students.

The end of the English major?

Hello all!

I’m sorry it’s been such a long time since my last post; I’ve been very busy over this last month or so, but I’ve been itching to get back on here and write, and after I saw this article today, I had to come and say something.

As an English major myself, this piece really hits close to home. I loved my college, and I enjoyed all of the courses from my English program. I never felt that I was just learning about great works of literature; I knew this degree was making me an overall stronger writer. In hindsight, I also see that my critical thinking skills grew stronger with each class I took.

I understand, especially after the difficult economic downturn, that students and parents look to college to provide a for a well-paying future. But as my friend and colleague Jennifer Cournoyer so rightly stated, college seems to no longer be a means to a better life — just a better job. Our lives become better when we learn about the world around us, and I will always strongly feel that our core general education courses provide help provide that kind of life.

Though I teach at a business school, we value the information that our students receive in their composition and literature courses. We must remember how important these courses are so we aren’t graduating students with no ability to think critically.

Here is the original article:

Getting motivated to teach online

I was inspired to write this blog post after reading an interesting article about MOOCs in Inside Higher Ed. The author makes a very interesting point about using MOOCs to motivate faculty at more traditional colleges to try teaching online. Since MOOCs are shorter than “traditional” online courses, this does seem to a very fair connection to make.

I am lucky in that, at my institution, our faculty are very excited and motivated to teach online. While it may have been a bit of a difficult transition for some in the beginning, teaching online is now being embraced across the programs. I wanted to share some of the tools I use when mentoring faculty, below.

1 – Faculty need to understand that as much dialogue can happen with students online as it does on ground (if not even more so). There is a notion, amongst some faculty, that teaching online causes a difficult barrier to true communication with students, but I have not found this to be the case. The phone is still an option, of course, for those who prefer verbal communication, but email, text messaging, Skype, discussion boards and other tools actually make for very robust, and often passionate exchanges. Though my students are not in the room, I very much feel their presence.

2 – If you put in the work, there can be as much rigor online as there is on ground. For faculty concerned that online teaching is not as challenging, we are continuing to see that this is simply not the case. I take the time to show them the numerous resources and tools available to online students, as well as the ability to put in, theoretically, endless readings and lectures. I explain to faculty and show them feedback from former on ground students explaining very clearly how the rigor was much more than they initially expected.

3- The flexibility is a true asset, for both the student and teacher. My institution teaches in an asynchronous environment; while this does not work for each student and each faculty member, generally, it is embraced as a very positive attribute of online learning. It’s important to note that while these classes may not require the students to be in a certain place at a certain time each week, that does not limit what the faculty can do. Face to face office hours, optional live chats and conference calls are all ways to interact with students outside of the traditional classroom.

There are other ways to motivate, of course, but alerting faculty to these points seems to really make a difference in the way that they approach the online experience. Does anyone else have any ideas they’d like to share? Thank you for reading!

Inside Higher Ed article:

99 Steps to Succeeding at an Online College

Tonight, General Education Review is very lucky and honored to have an incredible guest blogger join us. Roger Pao, Esq., Assistant Provost and Professor at New England College of Business, is sharing his 99 steps to Succeeding at an online college. These steps will prove invaluable to both incoming students as well as current students looking for helpful hints.

Provost Pao received his Bachelor’s degree from Duke University and his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. He is already proving to be a thought leader at a very young age. Thank you for sharing this Roger!

Thank you for having me Patrick!

Here are my 99 Steps for succeeding at an online college:

1. Ensure You Have the Right Support System in Your Life to Attend College Online
2. Have the Financial Resources to Support Yourself in School
3. Develop a Plan to Pay Off Your Student Loans
4. Prepare to Take Time to Do The Classwork
5. Ask the Right Questions for You During the Admissions Process
6. Learn the Type of Accreditation That Colleges and Universities Have
7. Choose the Right School
8. Choose the Right Degree Program – what you enjoy
9. Think About What You Plan to Do with Your Degree
10. Plan Your Degree Map Thoughtfully
11. Know the Different Features of the College’s Website
12. Understand Transfer of Credits / Prior Learning Assessment
13. Ask About Class Size
14. Develop a Good Relationship with Online Student Advising
15. Understand the Online Support System and Resources at Your Institution
16. Spend Time at the Online Library
17. Understand the Technology Expectations / Tech Support
18. Know You Will Need an Internet Connection
19. Spend Time on Learning Features of the Online Learning Management System
20. Learn the Different Ways to Access Your Course with Different Apps
21. Keep the Tech Support Contact Information Nearby
22. Understand the Concept of Instructional Design of Courses
23. Learn the Structure of an Online Course
24. Use More Than One Browser
25. Ensure You Have Your Course Materials Before Class
26. Login to Your Course At Least Once a Day
27. Focus on Your First Course
28. Read the Syllabus Before the First Day of Class
29. Prepare a Standard Professional Biography to Share
30. Read (or Skim Through) All Course Materials Before the First Day of Class
31. Find a Designated Time and Place to Study
32. Develop a General Study Plan
33. Craft the General Study Plan to Make it Specific to Each Course
34. Develop an Online Calendar System for Due Dates
35. Plan to Complete Assignments At Least 24 Hours in Advance of the Due Date
36. Understand Course Outcomes
37. Understand the Structure of the Online Course
38. Introduce Yourself to the Professor Online
39. Read the Professor’s Welcome Letter and Initial Announcements Carefully
40. Read the Directions of Assignments Carefully
41. Read Questions Carefully and Answer the Questions
42. Demonstrate Critical Thinking on Assignments
43. Demonstrate Creativity in an Appropriate Fashion
44. Review the Grading Expectations / Rubrics
45. Collaborate with Your Fellow Classmates Politely and Professionally at All Times – be kind to classmates
46. Work with your Professor Politely and Professionally at All Times – be kind to professors
47. Use Appropriate Netiquette
48. Check Your E-mail on a Regular Basis
49. Asking Your Professor General Course Questions
50. Asking Your Professor Questions About Specific Assignments
51. Asking Your Professor Questions About Topics Related to the Course
52. Review All General Course Announcements and E-mails From Your Professors
53. Develop a Network with Classmates
54. Read Your Textbook and Course Materials
55. Learn to Use an E-Book
56. Take Notes on Lectures and Readings
57. Learn the Citation Methods of the College
58. Format Your Paper Appropriately
59. References All Sources Appropriately
60. Read and Understand the Academic Honesty Policy
61. Never Engage in Plagiarism
62. Never Cheat
63. The Writing Center – Developing Skills to be a Good Writer
64. Proofread Your Writing Carefully
65. Understand Microsoft Spell and Grammar Check Are Not Foolproof
66. Study Carefully Before Taking a Graded Quiz or Exam
67. Meet All Deadlines in the Course
68. Turn in Your Assignments Before the Final Hour
69. If You Can’t Meet Deadlines, Try to Let Your Professor Know in Advance
70. Reach Out to Your Advisor and Professor If You Are Struggling to Complete a Course – withdrawal and incomplete policies
71. Engage with Your Professor Academically – on the discussion boards, for example
72. Read as Many of Your Classmates’ Discussion Board Posts as Possible
73. Share Your Experiences in Your Assignments, as appropriate
74. Engage with Your Online Librarian on a Regular Basis
75. Seek Online Tutoring if Needed
76. Attend College Information Sessions Whenever Possible
77. Do Supplemental Reading on the Subject Matter – read magazines or newspapers, for example
78. Read Grading Feedback Carefully
79. Understand Grading and Expectations on Return of Grades
80. Save All Work You Have Done
81. Organize All Coursework Effectively
82. Reflect Back on the Course at the End of the Class
83. Complete Course Evaluations
84. Complete Surveys
85. Develop an Understanding of the Interconnectedness of Different Courses in Your Program
86. Stay Updated on the Latest Innovations in Online Learning – e.g., MOOCs, competency based programs
87. Stay Updated on the Latest Developments in Your Field of Study – trade journals
88. Update Your Resume At Least Once Every Three Months
89. Edit Your Cover Letter
90. Review Online Job Advertisements in Your Field of Study
91. Stay Organized in General
92. Push Yourself to Succeed When Times Get Tough…
93. But Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break from School When You Have to Do So
94. Approach Schoolwork with a Positive Attitude
95. Approach Everyone at the School (Including Faculty, Staff and Fellow Students) with a Positive Attitude
96. Teaching Classmates
97. Manage Your Time Effectively
98. Social Media: Ensuring a Professional Presence
99. Take Time for Yourself and Your Family

How to structure your English Composition courses

I just read a really fun blog post on Inside Higher Ed about the structuring of English Composition I and II courses. While many colleges do seem to follow relatively similar paths, it’s very interesting to see different perspectives.

At NECB, we structure our two Comp courses similar what is mentioned in the blog. For the students who need it, we have a great developmental course. Comp I does include grammar and has a response essay at the core; Comp II includes the all-important research paper. I find that this works quite well for an online business college. We have a required literature course as part of the General Education curriculum, so that subject is not touched upon in the comp courses.

Does anyone have any different models they could share, particularly from business schools? We just finished a thorough redesign of Comp I, so both composition courses will make a nice scaffolding into the rest of the curriculum. That being said, it’s always helpful to hear other ideas!

MOOCs and Accreditation

MOOCs are not a particularly new way to run a course, but they have been in the news quite a lot lately. There are many differences between these and COOCs, as my college president calls them (Classic Open Online Courses) — some of these are advantages, some disadvantages. Whatever the case, MOOCs have been in the literature lately. A few weeks ago, the Chronicle ran an article about how the MOOC momentum seems to be slowing down. Then, as I was perusing the Chronicle again this morning, I found that many large companies like Google are teaming up with Coursera, etc. This may change the game quite a bit.

What will the mean for online learning and how employers view these “micro-degrees?” Will these collaborations move MOOCs forward again? Are we on a road towards these courses eventually replacing traditional college programs? That’s an alarmist stance, I think, but for those of us involved in higher education, it is certainly something to think about.

Academic Leaders and Online Education

Survey results are always quite interesting — they reveal a lot, but how important is that information? The Chronicle released the results from the Babson Survey Research Group recently; some of the news was encouraging for those of us in online education, while some information was just expected.

I ask how important these surveys are because of point number three in the article: “Most professors still don’t think online courses are legit.” As someone who has been teaching online for years now, I find this strange; a few years ago, I could understand this sentiment. But these days, many if not most “traditional” on-ground institutions have some form online learning. Where is this disconnect? What’s most interesting is that, in the same survey, you have thought leaders saying that “online education is mission-critical.”

Those colleges offering quality, rigorous online courses must continue to do what they are doing, and those faculty who have doubts will come around. Are all schools offering online programs perfect? No — but if everyone can fully participate in this endeavor, the quality of courses will just get better and better.

How STEAM can benefit STEM

I’ve been reading a lot of very fun and interesting stories this week about how STEM, in some respects, is changing to become to STEAM. For those who may not be familiar, STEM is an acronym for Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics. STEAM is a fairly new idea where Art is incorporated into the mix.

As a General Education program chair, this is just the kind of idea that appeals to me. STEM courses can take you to some of the most important and in demand fields; but adding art education adds can add critical thinking skills and open up the programs to new students. Students who study art and art history often think in different ways from those who study math, science, etc. These differences are neither better nor worse; they just show that incorporating new, unexpected ideas into a field can create more success down the road.

I’m curious to see where this may go, for both higher education as well as K-12. Here are a few great links with more information:

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: