Monday, August 29, 2011

Push Enrollments Up

The demand to increase online student enrollments is unbelievable.  Somehow no one seems to make the connection between that and an accompanying demand to increase student success rates.


We have been inundated with a whole slew of acronyms in recent years, all of which, in some way or another, are designations for initiatives dealing with assessment of student learning.  Long gone are the days when simply a student receiving a grade of "A" or "F" in a course was indicator enough of a student's mastery of a course subject material.  Now we have to develop a whole new, subsidiary system to our grading scale to determine if a student's achievement (or lack of) in a course fits with some obscure general education goals of the college.
Did a student learn critical-thinking skills from doing the work in my course?  How are we supposed to measure that?  It might take five courses before a student masters certain skills.  How are we supposed to measure that progress.
The amount of paperwork generated by the entire assessment regime is unbelievable, and the amount of time and energy invested is also incredible.
It is also hard to figure out exactly how much of that is generated by SACS or the federal government, or how much is generated by our own college out of a perception that it is all required as a part of measuring student success.

Role of Technology in Undergrad Education

I was wondering today, just what exactly is the role of technology in undergraduate education today (and probably more specifically in the intro survey courses at a community college).  Just what exactly can it do?  Can it do anything?

I was prompted to think about this a bit because I was considering putting together a round-table discussion on technology for all of my colleagues, and the question that I wanted us to consider was: why is no one using technology?  With all of the social media out there, why is none of that being used in courses?  With all of the web 2.0 and now 3.0 tools, why has none of that been adopted.  And actually, we can get even simpler, why are so few people even using web 1.0 tools?

In reality, all faculty are supposed to use Blackboard--and there is no point in me getting into that here.
Many faculty use that to post a syllabus, create a discussion board and keep track of grades.  Some, more adventurous faculty, will also use it to run group projects or to set up blogs.  Some will also use email features, but is that the extent of our use of technology?  It seems so.  Technology in a box.

There is really no widespread use of web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 tools/technology at the college.  There might be 1/3 of the full-time faculty who maintain active professional home pages with links to information about their courses.  Then there is the 1/3 of the full-time faculty who can't even manage their email!  There is probably 1/3 of the full-time faculty who have never used the instructor work-stations in the classrooms to access anything on the web.  What about the entire adjunct instructor population?

Most syllabi, if you look closely at them, follow a pattern something like:  read this for class on Thursday, and in class on Thursday we will discuss this topic.  There is little or no technology use anywhere to be found.

  • despite assumptions to the contrary, students are not necessarily tech savvy
  • it takes time for faculty to figure out how to use tech, and there is often little incentive when the school's priorities are enrollment or something else
  • there are no instructional technology people available to help them
  • it is not clear just what critical-thinking skills can be worked on with some technology

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Academic year, but stil the same old?

As a new academic year approaches, it seems like the same old issues are rearing their bones again:
(1) that would be enrollment, enrollment, enrollment--in case you haven't been reading;
(2) adjuncts, adjuncts, adjuncts, which allows more enrollment;
(3) more online classes, which require more adjuncts, which then leads to more enrollment.
(4) inability of the college to identify strengths and weaknesses of our personnel and apply correctly.  To use a football analogy, if you have a skilled gap defensive tackle, then you don't use that tackle as a nose guard.  The key to great management is to figure out where people/staff will have the most impact.  That is something that we do very poorly at the college, both in our hiring processes and then once people are actually hired.  More on this later.