Higher Ed in the News: 4/13/2020

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash.

Our latest edition of Higher Ed in the News looks at how different disciplines are transitioning to remote learning and what it means for the next generation of students. This series will continue on Mondays going forward.

You can read previous versions of Higher Ed in the News here and here.

Digitizing Writing Instruction and the Fight For Educational Continuity

In a piece for The Atlantic, Kristina Rizga shares highlights from an interview with decorated English teacher Renee Moore where the two discussed the coronavirus-forced shift to online education through the eyes of students and teachers in the writing field.

Moore currently teaches writing courses at Mississippi Delta Community College and describes the obstacles she and fellow educators in rural Mississippi are overcoming, including unreliable access to internet connectivity, inexperience with online instruction, and the sudden impracticality of time-intensive research papers. To avoid these instructional speedbumps, Moore and her Mississippi colleagues have expanded wi-fi capabilities, asked veterans of online education to mentor inexperienced teachers, and implemented individualized instruction focused on letting students progress at their own pace. Moore provides a simplified version of their approach by encouraging educators to make sure their students know, “I’m here for you. You can talk to me. Reach out to me. And I’ll do what I can from here.”

 

Balancing Creativity and Efficiency In Online Learning

Through his work with Duke University’s joint venture university in China, James Miller gained familiarity with online teaching tools and acquired skills to optimize education for students at the new institution of higher learning. This experience was tested early into his tenure when the COVID-19 outbreak closed Duke Kunshan University and forced education online. In a recent article for Inside Higher Ed, Miller reflects on the ways learning has become “more coherently aligned” by transitioning online while also questioning how instructors can “hold on to the open-ended creativity of discussion more common in the physical classroom.” To make online education more “internally coherent,” Miller says the school “reduced the numbers of readings, focused the assignments,” and implemented other methods that gave the course curriculum a heightened degree of connectivity. However, it proved more challenging to foster open-ended conversations (with what he called “infinite” possible outcomes) in a “finite” online space. He implores educators to continue having thought-provoking conversations in the classroom and hopes “this vision of education as a finite game does not completely obscure a richer, more humanistic vision of learning and more scientific view of scholarship as an infinite game that is never over.” 

 

Optimizing Science Labs In The Digital Age

According to John D. Loike and Marian Stoltz-Loike of Touro College and University System, their institution’s recent online education integration was “extremely smooth,” with the school’s ongoing dedication to advancements in learning driving progress in defiance of the spreading pandemic. Educators at Touro have been especially successful at transitioning laboratory portions of courses online and Loike and Stoltz-Loike shared their best practices with Inside Higher Ed. The authors produced a list of five specific “objectives for online labs that are critical to any science laboratory experience” that educators can use during this unexpected pivot and beyond. Their five-step guideline is focused on students learning new scientific procedures including proposal creation, periodical review, experiment design, data analysis, and educational instruction. Loike and Stoltz-Loike add that Touro instructors are encouraged to push for progress in laboratory teaching with the belief that “successfully adopting innovative ways to facilitate interactive learning will be valuable for science education.”

 

Understanding Gen Z’s Impactful Shift To Online Education 

In a column for Education Dive, Natalie Schwartz describes why many students born in or after 1997 are choosing online education while sharing some inventive ways schools are incentivizing online enrollment. 

According to Schwartz, students can avoid the pitfalls of campus-based education that limit course availability and create scheduling conflicts, while also participating at their own pace. For many of these students, the flexibility of online courses allows them to work while pursuing their degree. They’re determined to learn from mistakes of previous generations, especially their Millennial predecessors whom they watched delay weddings and home purchases due to high student loan debt. By avoiding the higher price tag of traditional campus education, they’re seeking a degree from an institution they can afford while steering clear of potential money pits. 

Despite online programs already providing a less expensive and more flexible education than on-campus instruction, some have formed partnerships with companies offering students tuition benefits in exchange for their work. Arizona State University Online has found particular success in this area through its free tuition arrangements with Starbucks and Uber, while Southern New Hampshire University and Brandman University have utilized third-party facilitators like College Together and Guild Education to match students with employers. In the wake of the shift to remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, we may be seeing more such programs emerge.