Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The goddess of wisdom

And one of higher education's possible futures?  Minerva focuses on higher learning...but ultimately for a profit.  From The Atlantic.

Minerva is an accredited university with administrative offices and a dorm in San Francisco, and it plans to open locations in at least six other major world cities. But the key to Minerva, what sets it apart most jarringly from traditional universities, is a proprietary online platform developed to apply pedagogical practices that have been studied and vetted by one of the world’s foremost psychologists, a former Harvard dean named Stephen M. Kosslyn, who joined Minerva in 2012. 
Nelson and Kosslyn had invited me to sit in on a test run of the platform, and at first it reminded me of the opening credits of The Brady Bunch: a grid of images of the professor and eight “students” (the others were all Minerva employees) appeared on the screen before me, and we introduced ourselves. For a college seminar, it felt impersonal, and though we were all sitting on the same floor of Minerva’s offices, my fellow students seemed oddly distant, as if piped in from the International Space Station. I half expected a packet of astronaut ice cream to float by someone’s face. 
Within a few minutes, though, the experience got more intense. The subject of the class—one in a series during which the instructor, a French physicist named Eric Bonabeau, was trying out his course material—was inductive reasoning. Bonabeau began by polling us on our understanding of the reading, a Nature article about the sudden depletion of North Atlantic cod in the early 1990s. He asked us which of four possible interpretations of the article was the most accurate. In an ordinary undergraduate seminar, this might have been an occasion for timid silence, until the class’s biggest loudmouth or most caffeinated student ventured a guess. But the Minerva class extended no refuge for the timid, nor privilege for the garrulous. Within seconds, every student had to provide an answer, and Bonabeau displayed our choices so that we could be called upon to defend them. 
Bonabeau led the class like a benevolent dictator, subjecting us to pop quizzes, cold calls, and pedagogical tactics that during an in-the-flesh seminar would have taken precious minutes of class time to arrange. He split us into groups to defend opposite propositions—that the cod had disappeared because of overfishing, or that other factors were to blame. No one needed to shuffle seats; Bonabeau just pushed a button, and the students in the other group vanished from my screen, leaving my three fellow debaters and me to plan, using a shared bulletin board on which we could record our ideas. Bonabeau bounced between the two groups to offer advice as we worked. After a representative from each group gave a brief presentation, Bonabeau ended by showing a short video about the evils of overfishing. (“Propaganda,” he snorted, adding that we’d talk about logical fallacies in the next session.) The computer screen blinked off after 45 minutes of class. 
The system had bugs—it crashed once, and some of the video lagged—but overall it worked well, and felt decidedly unlike a normal classroom. For one thing, it was exhausting: a continuous period of forced engagement, with no relief in the form of time when my attention could flag or I could doodle in a notebook undetected. Instead, my focus was directed relentlessly by the platform, and because it looked like my professor and fellow edu-nauts were staring at me, I was reluctant to ever let my gaze stray from the screen. Even in moments when I wanted to think about aspects of the material that weren’t currently under discussion—to me these seemed like moments of creative space, but perhaps they were just daydreams—I felt my attention snapped back to the narrow issue at hand, because I had to answer a quiz question or articulate a position. I was forced, in effect, to learn. If this was the education of the future, it seemed vaguely fascistic. Good, but fascistic.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Who can resist a Harry Potter allusion

Rebecca Schuman takes on the ethics of certain textbook selection practices at colleges and universities.  From Slate.

Professors who make students buy the books they wrote are egomaniacal Gilderoy Lockharts.
For any professor who is in the position to assign his own books (plural) is almost certainly tenured. The standard salary breakdown for a tenured or tenure-track professor is: 40 percent for teaching (instructional time, course prep, course development, office hours, grading, etc.); 20 percent for “service to the university” (committee work); and, finally, a full 40 percent for research, i.e., writing the aforementioned arcane books. So this means that your professor has already been paid to write that book she’s making you buy. And this is indeed why, to this day, the “advance” for almost all academic books is zero dollars. (By that rationale, I suppose I’d like to see some adjuncts—many of whom have written books in the futile hopes of making it onto the tenure track—assign their own books, since it’s the only time they’ll ever be paid for writing them.) 
But financial opportunism aside, there is another reason assigning one’s own book for a humanities or social science course is more than just tacky. Most such books are simply so hyperspecialized, and written in oft-impenetrable jargon, that forcing a captive audience of undergrads to read them (and, presumably, pretend to like them) is both cruel and a waste of time. Those poor kids will already get an entire semester of this professor’s opinions. They don’t need to pay to read them, too.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

All about the Benjamins

A $100 goes farther in Tennessee.  A report from The Tax Foundation.

The Real Value of $100 in Each State
This week’s tax map shows the real value of $100 in each state. Because average prices for similar goods are much higher in California or New York than in Mississippi or South Dakota, the same amount of dollars will buy you comparatively less in the high-price states, or comparatively more in low-price states. Using data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis that we’ve written about previously, we adjust the value of $100 to reflect how prices are different in each state. 
For example, Tennessee is a low-price state, where $100 will buy what would cost $110.25 in another state that is closer to the national average. You can think of this as meaning that Tennesseans are about ten percent richer than their nominal incomes suggest.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Another benefit of higher education

In an engaging piece on aging, Gregg Easterbrook, writing in The Atlantic, mentions one reason people for longer life spans.  More education.

Jay Olshansky’s latest research suggests that American women with no high-school diploma have experienced relatively small life-span increases since the 1950s, while the life expectancy of highly educated women has soared since then. Today the best-educated Americans live 10 to 14 years longer than the least educated, on average. “Nothing pops out of the data like the link between education and life expectancy,” Olshansky says. “The good news is that the share of the American population that is less educated is in gradual decline. The bad news is that lack of education seems even more lethal than it was in the past.” 
Education does not sync with life expectancy because reading Dostoyevsky lowers blood pressure; college is a proxy for other aspects of a person’s life. Compared with the less educated, people with a bachelor’s degree have a higher income, smoke less, are less likely to be overweight, and are more likely to follow doctors’ instructions. College graduates are more likely to marry and stay married, and marriage is good for your health: the wedded suffer fewer heart attacks and strokes than the single or divorced.
He also envisions a new role for colleges when everyone is vital into their 80s: lifelong learning institutions.  Imagine that, continuing educators....
The university, a significant aspect of the contemporary economy, centuries ago was a place where the fresh-faced would be prepared for a short life; today the university is a place where adults watch children and grandchildren walk to Pomp and Circumstance. The university of the future may be one that serves all ages. Colleges will reposition themselves economically as offering just as much to the aging as to the adolescent: courses priced individually for later-life knowledge seekers; lots of campus events of interest to students, parents, and the community as a whole; a pleasant college-town atmosphere to retire near. In decades to come, college professors may address students ranging from age 18 to 80.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I have some colleagues

Who could chair this department.  From The National Journal.

This College Actually Lets Students Minor in Craft Beer
Some college graduates might joke they minored in beer studies. But that's actually the case for a new group of students at Paul Smith's College in upstate New York. 
This month, the college announced it would start offering a craft-brewing minor to all of its students. But unlike traditional brewing programs, most of these courses get into the business of craft beer—how to market, distribute, and promote the increasingly popular adult beverage. 
Joe Conto, the director of the Hospitality, Resort and Tourism Management Program at Paul Smith's, is the man behind the new academic option. A homebrewer himself (he's dabbled with pale ales and a Saison), Conto found himself drawn to the minor through the growing popularity of craft beer nationwide and through the food courses he was already teaching.
"Beer just began to take up more and more of the semester. It became more and more interesting to the students, certainly, but to me as well," Conto says. "And then I realized, holy cow I could teach a course just on beer. And then I said, 'Well, really, I could teach a whole major on beer.' And then I thought, 'Well, I'll just settle for a minor.' " 
Students in the program take a course on marketing (an introduction to entrepreneurship, advertising, and promotion), a course on food chemistry (understanding how food reacts in a chemical makeup, and the basics of brewing and fermentation), a practical brewing lab (brewing the major types of ale in small batches, taught by a local brewer), and a course on the business of craft beer (learning how to make money from the product), along with other elective courses on the food and beverage industry.

Monday, September 22, 2014

No pain, no gain

From a management viewpoint, anyway.  From The Pacific Standard. 

The Bonding Power of Shared Suffering
Managers: Are you having trouble melding your employees into a cohesive group? Is getting them to trust and cooperate with one another proving to be a challenge? 
Well, newly published research offers an effective, if not especially ethical, solution to your problem: Inflict some pain. 
A new study from Australia suggests rituals such as arduous initiation rites serve a real purpose. It reports experiencing physical discomfort is an effective way for a group of strangers to cohere into a close-knit group. 
”Shared pain may be an important trigger for group formation,” a research team led by psychologist Brock Bastian of the University of New South Wales writes in the journal Psychological Science. “Pain, it seems, has the capacity to act as social glue, building cooperation within novel social collectives.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwing deck chairs off the Titanic

Tennesseans just keep getting fatter.  Pass the fried  pickles. From Time.

These Are The U.S.’s Most Obese States
Obesity rates are increasing in six states and decreasing in exactly zero, according to the new annual report released from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 
The six states whose rates increased in the last year include Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming. 
Mississippi and West Virginia were tied for the most obese state, with obesity rates at 35.1%. Of the ten most obese states, nine of them are in the South–a new map released by the Centers for Disease Control using the same data shows the geographic distribution of obesity.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sometimes a banana is just a banana

Maybe all those psychology majors are on to something after all. From The American Express Open Forum.

Why Psychology Courses May Be More Valuable Than MBAs
Psychology plays a part in almost every aspect of business. From helping target and refine your marketing message to gaining a deeper understanding of human behavior—both internally among your staff and externally with your customers and competitors—psychology is an area of study business leaders need to be tuned into if they want to run successful companies. 
Just how useful can it be to dig deeper into this subject? Quite a bit, experts say. A number of areas of psychology directly relate to business leadership, including organizational psychology and leadership psychology, which study the ability of individuals to effectively lead groups of their peers. 
“Industrial and organizational psychology, or I-O psychology, applies psychological theories to an organization," says Sandra Powers, a human resources manager at LawyerReviews.com. By studying I-O psychology, you may be able to help improve employee behavior and attitudes through training programs, management systems and employee feedback.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The importance having internships

If you don't have job experience, internships can be crucial to future enrollment. We may not stress this enough for our adult students--sometimes their work experience is the wrong kind of experience. From The Atlantic.

When I was 17, if you asked me how I planned on getting a job in the future, I think I would have said: Get into the right college. When I was 18, if you asked me the same question, I would have said: Get into the right classes. When I was 19: Get good grades. 
But when employers recently named the most important elements in hiring a recent graduate, college reputation, GPA, and courses finished at the bottom of the list. At the top, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, were experiences outside of academics: Internships, jobs, volunteering, and extracurriculars.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Today is the early bird deadline

Register by September 15th
for our early bird discount!

REGISTER NOW  so you don't miss the early bird discount for ACHE Las Vegas!  The deadline to register at this special conference rate is September 15th.  You are not going to want to miss this conference if you are in the field of continuing higher education and distance learning.

Our schedule of concurrent and flash sessions is now online, so we invite you to browse through the exciting lineup of speakers and topics. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Still middle of the pack

But improving.  Tennessee moves up from 32 last year to 28 in WalletHub's rankings. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Kansas are the top five.  The bottom consists of the usual suspects: Nevada, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia.

In addition, states that invest more dollars in education benefit not only their residents but also their economies. The Economic Policy Institute, or EPI, reported that income is higher in states where the workforce is well educated and hence more productive. With higher incomes, workers in turn can contribute more in taxes to beef up state budgets over the long run. 
In light of back-to-school season, WalletHub studied the quality of education in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to identify those with the best and worst school systems. We did so by analyzing 12 key metrics — from student-teacher ratios and dropout rates to test scores and bullying incident rates. By shining the spotlight on top-performing states in terms of education, WalletHub can encourage parents to help their children realize their maximum potential.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Like there is any question

That music from the late Sixties and early Seventies is best.  But Mark Joseph Stern, writing in Slate, explains why I feel that way.

Musical nostalgia: Why do we love the music we heard as teenagers?
As I plod through my 20s, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon: The music I loved as a teenager means more to me than ever—but with each passing year, the new songs on the radio sound like noisy nonsense. On an objective level, I know this makes no sense. I cannot seriously assert that Ludacris’ “Rollout” is artistically superior to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” yet I treasure every second of the former and reject the latter as yelping pablum. If I listen to the Top 10 hits of 2013, I get a headache. If I listen to the Top 10 hits of 2003, I get happy. 
Why do the songs I heard when I was teenager sound sweeter than anything I listen to as an adult? I’m happy to report that my own failures of discernment as a music critic may not be entirely to blame. In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have confirmed that these songs hold disproportionate power over our emotions. And researchers have uncovered evidence that suggests our brains bind us to the music we heard as teenagers more tightly than anything we’ll hear as adults—a connection that doesn’t weaken as we age. Musical nostalgia, in other words, isn’t just a cultural phenomenon: It’s a neuronic command. And no matter how sophisticated our tastes might otherwise grow to be, our brains may stay jammed on those songs we obsessed over during the high drama of adolescence.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The events at The University of Maryland University College

Should be sobering news for continuing educators.  The adult student market is flat.  We've priced many out of that market, and there's lots of competition for those left.  From Inside Higher Ed.

War on Multiple Fronts
But UMUC can’t simply recoup its losses abroad by aggressive expansion at home. The distance education market is more crowded than ever; UMUC is no longer just fighting for-profit universities over adult learners, but also the many nonprofit institutions -- from Southern New Hampshire University to the University of Arkansas -- that are attaching their brands to online ventures. 
“The mature market is here,” Miyares said. “There is almost no growth online. If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is.” 
Kenneth E. Hartman, who once competed against UMUC as president of Drexel University Online, said Miyares is “spot on with his comments.” 
“The problem is the student market is flat at best,” Hartman, a senior fellow with the consulting firm Eduventures, said. “Smart colleges are beginning to focus on what they should have been focusing on a long time ago, which is the quality of the product.” 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Early bird deadline is next week

Register by September 15th
for our early bird discount!

REGISTER NOW  so you don't miss the early bird discount for ACHE Las Vegas!  The deadline to register at this special conference rate is September 15th.  You are not going to want to miss this conference if you are in the field of continuing higher education and distance learning.

Our schedule of concurrent and flash sessions is now online, so we invite you to browse through the exciting lineup of speakers and topics. 

My guess had been Moon Pie

But Slate gives us banana pudding.  Hmmmm.

United Sweets of America map: A dessert for every state in the country.
Banana pudding
Many states—perhaps all the states—wanted banana pudding as their state sweet. The layered concoction of sliced bananas, vanilla pudding, vanilla wafers, and whipped cream is an honest-to-God American treasure. And Tennessee is the state that has developed a festival worthy of banana pudding’s charms: The National Banana Pudding Festival and Cook-Off has been running for five years in Hickman County, Tennessee. In addition to naming “the best maker of banana pudding in the United States,” the festival crowns a Miss Banana Pudding, a ritual of retrograde sexism that is forgivable only because it’s done for the greater glory of banana pudding.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nashville is the metro area that most resembles the United States

According to WalletHub.  There was a time, thirty years ago, when I was living in Iowa and would stop to eat in Nashville while driving to Florida.  I struggled to understand the heavy accents.  Nowadays, it seems like no one in Nashville has an accent.  Or perhaps I'm just used to it.  Anyway, Nashville is first and McAllen, TX is last.

2014’s Metro Areas that Most and Least Resemble the U.S.
It’s hard to think of modern-day America’s identity in black-and-white terms. Although we can’t patent freedom, we can safely claim buffalo wings, country music and Jay Leno as uniquely ours. But what else? Contrary to popular belief, English isn’t the official language of the United States. And the rumor that pizza was invented by Italian immigrants in New York? That’s been laid to rest. Heck, even the Statue of Liberty used to be a French citizen. Cuisine, religion, sports and vernacular are only among the myriad cultural identifiers that depend on region and give the U.S. its personality. 
For centuries, diversification has perpetually blurred cultural lines. And though American “culture” can easily be described, it’s more difficult to quantify. Demographics, however, are not. Characteristics such as ethnic makeup, household size and median income can paint a picture of a country from a statistical vantage point. Why is this relevant to you, the consumer? There are many reasons. Parents, for one, may want to move their families to a city with a demographic anatomy resembling that of the U.S. to expose their children to more diversity. That way, their children might adapt more easily when they move to other parts of the country as adults. Others may wish to live in a city that is less representative of the U.S. in certain dimensions such as education standards or cultural variety. 
For entrepreneurs, the information can be useful in determining where to launch their business ideas. And to marketers, the data matter even more. They use statistics to predict the success of many goods and services you pay for. If you live in Richmond, Va., for instance, you may be subjected to a constant barrage of new products because marketers will want to test them in your market. According to the Southern Institute of Research, “Feedback garnered from a test market that is truly representative of the U.S. population can predict the success or failure of a national rollout.”
So which cities bleed the most red, white and blue? WalletHub sought to find the answer to that question by examining various demographical stats for 366 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. The data set includes simple metrics such as age, gender and income as well as more complex metrics such as household makeup and housing tenure. By studying these factors, we aim to identify the cities that address consumers’ varied priorities.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How do Tennessee universities rank

In the 2014 Washington Monthly College Guide rankings?  Here are the national university rankings.  The College Guide rated schools based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).  The first number their ranking in the category and the second is their overall score.  MTSU, ETSU, and UT's scores are clustered closely together.

2014 National Universities Rankings 
25 Vanderbilt University (TN) 70 40 University of Memphis (TN)* 67 56 Tennessee State University (TN)* 64 126 Middle Tennessee State University (TN)* 53 139 East Tennessee State University (TN)* 51 150 University of Tennessee (TN)* 50 245 Trevecca Nazarene University (TN) 36 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ETSU, five Southwest Virginia institutions sign social work articulation agreement

An articulation agreement has been established allowing students at five community colleges in Southwest Virginia to transfer to East Tennessee State University’s social work program.

Through this agreement, students at Mountain Empire, New River, Southwest Virginia, Virginia Highlands and Wytheville community colleges will be able to enter the ETSU program after two years of study.

“Virginia Highlands is proud to join ETSU in developing this pathway for our students to seamlessly transition to the bachelor of social work program,” said Dr. Hara Charlier, vice president of Instruction and Student Services at Virginia Highlands Community College.  “Working together, we have created a valuable tool that will guide students through every step of their education and ensure they are well-prepared for successful careers.”

ETSU is the closest public institution to these community colleges that offers a bachelor of social work (B.S.W.) degree, according to Dr. Michael Smith, chair of the Department of Social Work at ETSU.  He adds that this agreement will make it as easy and convenient as possible for students from Southwest Virginia to pursue the degree.

“One way of doing that is to make the curriculum much more deliberate for the students to follow at the community college level, and then to anticipate what they’ll be bringing when they transfer to ETSU and make that transfer as seamless as possible,” he said.  “Also, we’re making the upper-division social work curriculum available at the ETSU at Kingsport Downtown facility, getting it as close to where these students live as possible to reduce their driving time and make it more convenient.”

April Rainbolt-Smith, transfer articulation coordinator in ETSU’s School of Continuing Studies and Academic Outreach, says that the new agreement is “an important outreach effort in ETSU’s regional mission, allowing the Department of Social Work and the community colleges to work together on shared regional problems.”

Some of these problems, Michael Smith said, include drug and alcohol abuse, child and elder neglect and abuse, morbid obesity and other health issues, as well as the need for improved delivery of mental health services.

The new articulation agreement and cooperation between the schools will help by getting more trained social workers into the field to address these issues.
“This gives the chance for students to pursue educational and professional opportunities that otherwise would not be accessible to them,” Smith said.  “Then there’s that ripple effect that happens, getting people into helping professions going back into their communities to improve the lives of others.”