Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pay upon graduation

Well, the Texas State Legislature is at it again. As with most states, the number of students not graduating from college has become a grave concern in these economic times. We gotta fix this. That is for certain. However the way in which they are addressing this situation is going to create more grave problems.

The new deal is that the Legislatures Legislatures now want to pay according to students that graduate and not students that attend classes. This is a boom to colleges that have rigorous entrance requirements and, hence, high graduation rates.

For those colleges that are open enrollment, this is a predicament. The same reason we have open enrollment colleges is the same reason these colleges have low graduation rates. We can't penalize students who have had poor preparation in high school, situations that their family and social life create, and just plain immaturity. They deserve a second chance. However we all know that many of thee students take these challenges with them and are not going to make it through college without a great deal of perspiration and support. You can't penalize colleges for doing the right thing by giving students a second or even third chance.

And yes, colleges with extremely low graduation rates should get help re-evaluating what they are doing.

We also know that, like Sara Palin and I (I can see Mexico from my office!), many folks that pay for their own college, have to stop in and out as they regenerate funds and transfer to colleges close to work or family.

So, If a student stops out for a semester or a year to build resources and is committed to go back because of his or her experiences, however transfered to a different school, should the original school be punished? In this scenario they first college would. The second college will win the jackpot.

Well, we just track students; that will cost one cazillioin dollars. We just lost the financial advantage.

We could go on forever with examples that this new way of funding colleges is teh right way to police colleges. Perhaps their is an elephant in the room and we are at a really at a complete stand still here with how/why/where/what for we educate students. The system is beyond tweaking, we are in for some major repairs. This economic condition will make this more immanent.

Tough questions are on the horizon about technical programs, certificates, length of time it requires to educate students, liberal education, and how we pay for education.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where the boys are....?

I remember my high school teachers patting me on the head and patiently explaining that women cannot/should not do science. Much better to find a nice husband to take care of me. When I did get to college, the sea of blonde and blue eyed men was astounding and inspiring to a young co-ed. The ratio of men to women made it even more interesting.

Things have changed. Stats show that the attendance is edging up to 60% women on campuses. Fewer and fewer men are showing up for college and, for those that do, fewer and fewer are graduating. The 64 thousand dollar question is where are the men?

In a recent article in This Week, that talked about an article in U.S. News, the author was discussing that we are graduating too many financial advisors, lawyers, marketing, etc. majors. We are not producing enough people to make the products that made the U.S. the country it is now. Perhaps, he suggested, that we produce more machinists.

Perhaps these disappearing men come from those ranks that are going out into the workforce to make products. Perhaps they can't see how the investment in college is going to help them in their career. Could it be that we need to do some systemic change for what colleges teach, the length of time in which subjects are taught, and what people really need to make it financially? This is not just rearranging courses, but taking a step back and looking again at two year and certificate applied programs. Perhaps this will bring men back to college if they can see a financial value.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How do we get hellicopter parents linked to the kids that need them?

Ok, I am going to start a whole big campaign to link up helicopter moms, dads, grandparents, and whomever to the kids that need them. A new book came out The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up (Free Press).

When at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, we conducted radio interviews with students about what they did to get to college. This is a prestigious, small college that excels in teaching and mentoring students. We use to kid around that there was one club per student and faculty adviser. The interviews were a surprise. Every student we interviewed had relayed that a family member, friend, or counselor completed the paper work, helped find scholarships, terrorized admissions staff, and drug the student along. The graduation rate at Westminster is a whopping 95%.

Now, we look at Hispanic students at UTB/TSC that are not only navigating the system alone, but often against the wishes of their family. Actually, it is not necessarily against family wishes, but the economic need to support the extended family.

So, my solution is that we take these helicopter parents that are terrorizing their kids, preventing them from maturing and living life as their own, and assign them to a student who really needs a helicopter busy body.

Easy solution, how do you implement it? Which is now getting me thinking that there is a way to do this with social media.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Playing nice

Today a friend forwarded me a webpage A day in the life as the director of IBM research that gave some insight as to how we need to view education in the 21st Century.

Some how over the years, the disciplines have become isolated from each other. Courses have become more standardized and narrow in focus; students don't interact with those from other disciplines.

So, how are we, as college professors, going to send students out into a workforce that requires interdisciplinary research?

One of the most valuable courses I took at Ohio State was a class for science, education, medical, and behavioral science students to discuss current issues in medicine, the science behind them, and the pubic perception. The discussion went long past the end time and sometimes meandered into the local pub.

When I attended the first group of Cold Springs Harbor workshops for the Human Genome project as they were setting up the infrastructure, Watson's greatest move was gathering educators, public relations specialists, behavioral scientists, and scientists together to discuss the social impacts of this. When the project disbursed money, they included all the science and technological fields. This project may not have gone as well had he not done so.

Solving problems is not an assembly line process, it is a group sport. We can't solve problems like we can put together a car on an assembly line.

So, the question is, how can we educate students to be problem solvers and how do we get students from different disciplines together?


Monday, June 7, 2010

Technology Supported Learning

For a couple years now I have been struggling with teaching about using technology. We are a bit stuck on teaching with technology means that one has to use it in the classroom. That is not so.

As I started to develop a certificate program in Teaching with Technology I stumbled upon a website that called it Technology Supported Learning. Duh. Am I behind on the curve. They coined it and even had the same challenges I had with trying to quantify it in easy terms. Technology is about learning, not just teaching.

This is what they wrote as they progressed towards a learning model rather than a teaching model.

The name change to Technology Supported Learning & Retention (TSLR) from Technology Enhanced Instruction (TEI) better reflects the focus on student learning rather than faculty teaching - an important distinction. The Technology Enhanced Instruction (TEI) was the name of the original project groundwork done in 2003. However, as the basis for curriculum for 2008 and beyond, a more student-centered title is appropriate. It isn't about us (faculty and course designers), it is about all of us (students and instructors as learners). Interestingly, little needed to be changed beyond the title, as the students' learning was the primary focus of the course materials.

So, from now on, lets look at technology not just in the classroom but a way to promote many forms of learning that students can use on their own to increase their learning. For example, if you have students that need to use audio or video to help them grasp concepts, you don't want to take time in the class to play a video. However, if you have identified resources that students can use as an alternative to lecture or textbook, students can access these on their own. Your part is to make them aware of resources that provide accurate information. Or, you can make Second Life or other social network available to them so that they may have more contact with you and with their fellow students.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

college gospel

The education gospel is that if you go to college you will get a good job. (Good translates to high paying.) But more studies are questioning the economic impact of a college education.

And, it is true. The economic impact is not always there. Some of our lowest paying jobs require the highest degrees (capital investment), like social work, teaching, marine biologist, or marketing.

As a result of the education gospel we have more students in college than ever before. We also have more students flocking to college under-prepared academically, under-advised for financial aid, and under-mentored to maneuver the system, firmly carrying the burning bush of the education gospel.

So what do we do? Stop open enrollment colleges? No. We cannot punish a student who, for whatever reason she is under-prepared, to not have a second chance by attending college. Many of these students described are very surprised that they are under-prepared. It is just as much a shock to them to be sitting in a college classroom staring incoherently at a professor who is equally in shock. Deer in the headlights all the way around.

There are many ways in which this economic impact can be adjusted; not all easy actions to accomplish. But there is one that can do it pretty quickly. Monitor and mentor students about the amount they should borrow.

These easy to get loans have allowed colleges to continually raise costs. Lending agencies are very generous with government backed loans. But this free and easy lending falsely convinces students they can take out money that will pay for college and lead them directly to a high paying job. Didn't the bank and college affirm that they believed it was a safe financial risk for a liberal arts major to borrow $60,000?

So, encourage students to be poor now to be rich later. Low or no loans on graduation makes even low paying professions an economic benefit. And, lets not too quickly blame college for a degree losing its positive economic impact for students.