Tag Archives: higher ed


Disruptive Education – Or Encouraging Education?

It is disruptive. But it shouldn’t be. Putting myself in faculty shoes, the hardest part is mastery of this new online stuff, which, really, if I’m being honest, I don’t want to do myself and I probably don’t have time to do myself anyway. I need to just get the gist of it and find individuals or even a team I can work with effectively so that they can find or build the reusuable learning objects, the content bundles and the sequencing I need to supplement and enhance the way I teach and the content I intend to cover.  I remain the subject matter expert, but they advise me and participate with me in finding the best ways to get across the material.

Michael Stanton’s Disruptive Education

I can focus on my research, bring the students into what I’m learning, modeling and mentoring the processes those in our field master to forward our discipline. I may find vital to reaching and engaging my students such online activities as virtual office hours, blogging, or contributing in other public spaces in which my students have their discussions and launch their questions.

But I daren’t be a fearful learner myself.


Education Unbundled

Education Unbundled

Reposting from Michael Stanton, Edumorphology.com.

Data, Research, Education and … Hunches

A national gas station chain opens a neighborhood store, adds a customer loyalty program, puts up a website to collect registration data, gets people to swipe the card at the pump whenever buying gas, while inside asks again for the card and/or zip code, pays out their incentives: coffee, frozen drinks, snack packs, cookies, crackers, 2-liter pops. A video camera records it all.

Another day, a researcher working on a project to determine the snacking habits of obese people versus non-obese people has just struck a gold mine if they can agree to responsibly treat this data in the aggregate only. (Didn’t the gas station promise not to share the data when they collected it? Maybe. Or maybe just not to sell it to companies looking for more consumers ). Canvassing begins, more data gathered, and correlation theories processed.

A couple months ago, in an entrepreneurial startup weekend, publically available data was called upon to inform or power a new phone app with predictive capabilities for determining the rise or fall of stock prices. That one’ll be hot. Publically available data …

Try this idea: Find existing data useful for research, and then create the questions which could be answered by its careful analysis.

Call it “Backward Research.” Start with a data set first. Ask questions later. Find data in existence, not just to be mined, but to be curated, aggregated, built-upon, re-defined, and continually expanded to provide answers to new questions, questions we weren’t capable of even dreaming until we’d gathered the data.

In the years ahead more and more data constructs will be created which are ‘living,’ persist over time, and therefore will be useful for ongoing research.

Education data is such data. Who owns that data? Who should own that data? We’re calling this burgeoning field learning analytics, but do we know what we’re really talking about?

K-12 students will be tested via computer in most of the United states starting 2014. Those results, mapped to the Common Core standards, will over time form a ginormous data repository. What rules will govern access to that repository? Should the state governments own it? Federal?

To what purposes could we put a repository of testing information for each child’s educational career ? I remember the Twitter backchannel asking those same questions during the Educause Midwest 2009 Keynote. Nancy Zimpher, then of University of Cincinnati, was telling us about a “virtual backpack” of student data which travels with the person from cradle through career. Nope, not science fiction.

While the future which the Tweeters in the room that day were cynically pronouncing was one of categorization and the creation of societal strata based on past performance such as late reading, or non-social kindergarten behaviors, which then solidified the students’ role in society forever, I would sound the alarm that now is the time to develop policy around such education data, policy which prescribes its appropriate and inappropriate use, policy which gives it an accountable owner, one beyond reproach, one with the best interests of the individual in mind. This is not the government, my friend. The government’s mission is to have the best interest of society in mind.

That data is here now. It will be aggregated. It will be researched. It should be researched. How and by whom are the questions…

There are dots to be connected. I would feel most comfortable if they were connected by researchers and educators at responsible higher ed institutions. Over at Music for Deckchairs, in the context of creating and curating educational content, Kate Bowles is making this connection, “The sudden partnership between venture-funded educational startups and traditional elite universities has thrown down a big challenge to less flexible models of higher education, especially outside the U.S. And the fact that we’ve typically bundled content, learning and accreditation under the broad heading “education” doesn’t mean that we’ll be able to keep them all contained in this way indefinitely.”

Michael Feldstein, commenting on Blackboard strategy via Ray Henderson, says, “…there are huge potential benefits to a true SaaS [Software as a Service]platform in terms of the value of the data that can be gathered. With analytics and adaptive learning being the huge buzzwords that they are, the future success of learning technology companies will largely depend on their ability to capture the data exhaust from students’ and teachers’ interactions on the platform and harness it to produce better learning outcomes.”

In all of this, who will speak for the student?

More Reading:

Researchers Digitize AIDS Quilt to Make it a Research Tool,” July 9, 2012.

Blackboard’s New Platform Strategy,” Annotated Link Here – Feldstein Quote. August 19, 2012.

The revolution might be televised,” July 22, 2012. Kate Bowles.

Adjuncts– What Those Disparities Are

If you expected my last post, “Adjuncts – Bless Their Hearts,” to be a whistle blowing article about my own institution, the University of Notre Dame, you were disappointed.

Sorry about that.

If there were a whistle to blow, I would’ve blown it. I asked Adjuncts how they’re treated. I turned up the corners of a rug or two. Notre Dame is working hard to eliminate what disparities may exist and to set appropriate expectations at hiring about how the position one is stepping into is positioned in the hiring college. But the disparities I spoke of as reported at other institutions, aren’t really in the hiring process, are they? This is what some of our institutions are doing to Adjuncts:

  • Creating and fostering an underclass of Instructors, including treatment in office space, in departmental meetings (invite and pay, or invite as truly optional, with minutes sent to those who couldn’t/didn’t make it), and in lack of respect for their academic accomplishments.
  • Underpaying for their time and effort (Do you pay for course preparation time?)
  • Not providing scaled benefits based on service hours, courses, or years’ affiliation. Being part-time for a long time should mean something.

Scaled benefits for part-time Faculty or Staff is something all of our institutions should consider, especially our tuition benefits. We should also look at employees who are in our “part-time” category, but for whatever reasons their workload is fulltime. Consider the Adjunct whose designation is part-time and yet teaches as many courses per semester as their “full-time” counterpart.

Adjuncts, face it, are  one of your institutions’ ambassadorships to the community. They are stakeholders too. Let’s recruit their loyalty and commitment just like we do alumni, community leaders, or any other stakeholder. Did you think of your benefits package as helping to accomplish these goals?      …Maybe you should.


Notre Dame’s Adjuncts:

“…fortunate to be able to draw on talented faculty from outside the University of Notre Dame.”

63 Notre Dame Adjuncts with LinkedIn Profiles

Adjuncts – Bless their hearts

Faith-based institutions.

We expect our part-time instructors to share our institution’s values, to represent us in work and ethic and lifestyle, to be careful in the leeway we give them to dissent, such that they represent their opinion as being their own and not reflecting that of our institution … yet, some faith-based institutions violate their own values in discriminatory compensation practices.

According to data collected at adjunctproject.com (which admittedly is light on input from those at faith-based institutions), work environment disparity exists on many levels: from access to printers, office space, departmental faculty events, and fitness centers, to compensation for course preparation time, and health and tuition benefits for self and family. In other words, the pay scale isn’t the only way part-time adjuncts’ standard of living is not commensurate with their academic knowledge and experience.

At John Brown University, a distinctively Christian liberal arts school, and #1 ranked in US News & World Reports’ 2012 Best Colleges in the southwest US, adjuncts are denied the same access to tuition benefits as their peers. One long standing adjunct, nominated by students this year for the teacher of the year award, has a daughter who has no chance of attending the very institution into which her mother daily pours her heart. Oh well, that’s the life of an adjunct. Tuition benefits for her full-time colleagues, but none for her. Bless her heart.

Whether you’re a faith-based institution, public or private one, think about “blessing” your adjuncts with esteem and status for starters. Branch out a little and make it a blessing in this world in terms that count both in this life and the next.

[My June “social justice’” column was about disparity in management, innovation and autonomy between Faculty and Staff, specifically IT Staff. ~LG]

Further Reading:

Higher Ed IT Management Metrics

This is a hard post to write. It has several components that may not be obvious to the casual reader. In the interest of providing a full context for my remarks, I’ll list them:

  • I am on staff with the University of Notre Dame, a truly amazing place to work.
  • I’m entering into my 14th year in IT, and my 8th year as Learning Management Administrator.
  • My blog has recently been syndicated by edu1world.org
  • My Notre Dame colleagues were not very aware of my blog until the aforementioned. Now they read it too.
  • My Manager for the past several months has been previewing my postings to verify that they transparently did not purport to speak on behalf of Notre Dame.

In the New York Times bestseller, Drive , by Daniel Pink, he provides compelling evidence for those things truly motivating people. He says we seek autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Not surprisingly, I discovered those things about myself a long time ago, and in fact ‘targeted’ Notre Dame as an employer after digesting the book, “What Color is Your Parachute?”

It has been a delightful –mostly- relationship thus far. I get to meet faculty needs in ways that make sense to faculty within the means Notre Dame has to allocate.

Faculty vs Staff Dichotomy

Although my higher ed employment history is mostly at Notre Dame (briefly in grad school at the University of Texas I TA’ed), I suspect that everywhere the dichotomy between what we offer in intrinsic motivators to faculty and what we offer to professional staff varies widely. We recruit faculty who are creative, innovative, imaginative, free-thinkers, if you will. We recruit and hire professional staff, specifically IT staff, to support our faculty, their processes, teaching, research and all the administrative workflow entailed in matriculating graduates. We expect our staff to creatively implement and maintain processes and methods which work for everyone.

Further, coming back to Daniel Pink’s book, we manage the two groups differently. Faculty are given more autonomy, more resources to promote mastery of their research, mastery of their discipline and their classroom. We expect them to be intrinsically motivated by a sense of purpose embodied in contributions to their chosen discipline.

Staff? Highly trained, highly skilled and motivated IT Staff? Not so much. I am hazarding a guess that in most of higher ed we still manage these people as though they are plugged into an assembly line in the industrial revolution.

Let’s discuss autonomy over time … Do you allow IT Staff to work from home? To maintain their own schedules? Do you acknowledge that the work they give you is done at all hours anyway?

Autonomy over process … Are your IT Staff (not the managers) creators of their own processes? Creators of their development processes? (Have you seen the Agile Manifesto? It has autonomy baked in.) Do they have input into change control procedures, code repositories, versioning? In tool choices? In tool strategies?

Does your IT Management see themselves as empowerment or enforcement? Is following process more important to them than the interactions which move the project along? A focus on managing the processes of IT Staff puts your management in the unenviable position of Kindergarten Cop.

If you were ‘rank and file’ staff, with an opportunity to critique your manager, what criteria would you choose?  As Directors and VPs, what are the metrics you choose in performance reviews? We all recognize we get what we measure… So what are we measuring?

Disruption in the Force of Higher Education

When online degrees by the commercial entity University of Phoenix began in 1989, it introduced a new market segment. When Your Town Community College began offering online courses, it was a new revenue stream.

When Your State University added an online component of its face-to-face courses in order to optimize its use of brick and mortar classrooms by reducing the number of classroom meeting times per course, it was cost effective.

Now It’s Online and Free

The real disruption, which David Brooks last Thursday likened to that which has already overtaken newspapers and magazines, is about to happen to the elite of the higher education institutions: completely online and  completely free courses.

Most of my local and world news has been freely mine for years. The last time I bought a newspaper was probably 9/11  and that out of shock. I needed something tangible to hold on to. These days I’m not sure how my local newspaper company stays in business. And magazines? The print edition isn’t keeping them in business, more of a convenience or a perk or a side effect of my online subscription.

With Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Michigan, Penn, Princeton, Yale and Carnegie-Mellon professors offering the best of their best online, what will happen to the ‘print edition’ – the college degree?

You scoff. You say I will still need and want, and be willing to pay for, that piece of paper and the invaluable relationships and community derived from a campus where ideas can flow and be freely exchanged in a multiplicity of well-crafted and ad hoc face-to-face encounters . Yes, I think that’s true for many.

But to which of those institutions will those who want (and can pay for) that experience go? How will they evaluate and compare? Will the campus visit be discarded or augmented by a sampling of the best online courses? Will those institutions with  the most credible and engaging online Instructors have the highest application rates?

I’d say some of our nation’s best institutions are banking on it.


By some this may be interpreted as a reaction to another disruption in the force, the devaluation of a college degree. Although debatable as to how the devaluation began, I think we can agree that the combined and systematic factors of recession, spiraling costs, and glut of degrees (sometimes less than meaningful indicators of skill to employers) on the market are yet another indicator.

Portfolio Alternative

Yes, my colleagues, the business of higher ed must change. We must be more fluid, provide more options, become more conversational, do more research and foster more collaboration, and become even more personal – for that is our strength in the midst of all of this, is it not?

Otherwise, the pick-and-choose disruption sends our potential students to create stand alone personal portfolios of their intentional, or cobbled together, meaningful, or haphazard, experiences including exemplary (and free) online courses, and presenting that, with greater and greater finesse and effect, to employers…. without our college degree.

Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Yes, in This Context Too 

Our Schools of Business are busting their chops on new curricula, new Centers, new whatevers, to build and create curricula training the next leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, our administrators dally around doing business as usual or responding with incremental movement. With disruptive forces all around us, revolutionary innovation then, must be something we not only teach, but something we also do.