Truth Through Combat

The Meaning of Openness in Open Educational Resources

An analysis of openness in the area of open educational resources shows us that there is just no such thing as a truly open educational resource.

The colloquial definition of “open” varies according to the available resources. I would argue that JSTOR is an “open” resource at Erie Community College just by virtue of the fact that we purchase it. This definition is contrary to the spirit of the OER movement, which instead looks for resources that are truly “free” in some sense. However, I believe this just goes to show that there is some conceptual ambiguity in the concept of openness to begin with (and the frequent conflation with “free of charge to the end user”): the cost of JSTOR is not transparently being passed down to me or my students, so as far as an uninformed observer is concerned JSTOR is in the commons just as much as Wikipedia is in the commons.

Some will point to the obvious: that the distinction between JSTOR and Wikipedia is that one has to pay for JSTOR access. My point, however, is that the distinction means nothing to someone that has never paid for JSTOR or any other library database. Furthermore, the point can be extended to any other educational resource that an instructor might attempt to use in the classroom: there is a cost to the copies I’ll make for an OER/public domain text, and there is a cost to the instructional design of the class that will house the OER/PD text. This means that “openness” is really about externalizing the cost of publication and distribution to someone other than the institution and student. An OER in Merlot, for example, might have cost one million dollars to create, but that cost is not mine to bear. It’s therefore “open,” but only by virtue of someone else’s generosity.

Filed under: Higher Education Policy, , , , ,

Resources: Study Skills Assessments in Colleges and Universities

Study Skills Assessments in Higher Ed
1. Columbia Basin College: http://www.columbiabasin.edu/counselingadvising/study_skills_assessment.asp
2. Learning Styles Assessment at NC State: http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html
3. The VARK Learning Styles Questionnaire: http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=questionnaire
4. LASSI (Learning and Study Strategies Inventory) – $3.50/4.00 per administration: http://www.hhpublishing.com/_assessments/lassi
5. Univ. Central Florida Study Skills Inventory: http://sarc.sdes.ucf.edu/form-studyskills
6. Redlands University – Multiple Intelligences Inventory: http://www.redlands.edu/docs/StudentLife/MULTIPLE_INTELLIGENCES_INVENTORY.pdf
7. Education Planner (.org) Self-Assessments:
a. What kind of student are you? http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/kind-of-student.shtml
b. What’s your learning style? http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml
c. Which study habits can you improve? http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/improving-study-habits.shtml
d. How strong is your character? http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/character.shtml
8. Indiana U – South Bend Study Skills Assessment: https://www.iusb.edu/tutoring/studyskills.php
9. University of Houston – Clear Lake: http://prtl.uhcl.edu/portal/page/portal/COS/Self_Help_and_Handouts/Files_and_Documents/Study%20Skills%20Assessment.pdf
10. Mercer U: http://departments.mercer.edu/arc/documents/Study_Skills_Assessment.pdf

Studying Resources for Students

1. http://www.howtostudy.org/
2. http://www.studygs.net/index.htm
3. Dartmouth Study Skills Videos: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/videos/index.html
4. Dartmouth “How to Study” Overview: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/study.html
5. Penn State: http://dus.psu.edu/academicsuccess/studyskills.html

Study Skills Seminars and Courses at Colleges and Universities

1. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo – FA14 Schedule: http://sas.calpoly.edu/asc/sss.html
2. BYU Idaho:
a. Courses: http://www.byui.edu/academic-support-centers/study-skills/study-skills-courses
b. Workshops: http://www.byui.edu/academic-support-centers/study-skills/study-skills-workshops
3. NC State (Designed for K-12 Students): http://psychology.chass.ncsu.edu/pss/facilities/clinic/studyskills/
4. Long Beach City College: http://www.lbcc.edu/LAR/learningskills.cfm
5. UT Knoxville’s Learning Skills textbook, presumably in support of a class. Very nice resource focused on Adult Education: http://resources.clee.utk.edu/print/learning-skills.pdf.
6. University of Florida Flex Learning Course (Online): http://flexible.dce.ufl.edu/study-skills-courses-online.aspx
7. Virginia Tech: http://www.ucc.vt.edu/academic_support_students/online_study_skills_workshops/
8. Liberty U: http://www.liberty.edu/academics/general/bruckner/?PID=112
9. Santa Fe CC: http://www.sfcc.edu/departments/developmental_studies/courses/study_skills

Resources for Faculty and Staff

1. Michigan State: http://fod.msu.edu/oir/teaching-students-study-skillshow-learn
2. Cengage Study Skills Text: http://college.cengage.com/collegesuccess/0495897434_downing/

Filed under: Higher Education Policy

Technology in Education

A Chronicle commenter writes:

disqus1994 • 5 days ago
I have been at several different universities in my career. At each one, tens of millions were invested in technology (thinks like ERPs, BI, etc.). But it’s wasn’t sold to the campuses as that. Rather, it was sold as “business process re-engineering” or “communications overhaul.” Hundreds of people were hired, 100K consultants brought in. But what have been the results?

– I’m still communicating the same way I have since the 90’s: phone, email, and in person.

– I still make decisions the same way I always have: getting data from spreadsheets, writing a report, and sitting down at a table and talking about it with my team. I pull data off our info. system, but the only difference is that instead of off a mainframe it’s off a browser – did that really cost tens of millions to change? It’s certainly not faster and it’s debatable whether it’s better.

– Technology has not improved business process. In fact, it’s almost always got in the way. Besides, nearly everyone I know designs and implements business process and strategy in their own area – why did we pay someone millions to re-engineer something we do anyway?

– Ultimately, technology has not improved our core missions: Research, teaching, and service. The people on the front lines have improved it, not the tech consultants brought on (I once had an IT person, or rather business process expert, tell me he was going to improve our grant writing process and program strategic plan – Really? An IT guy? I don’t tell my ISP how to do their job, so why would I look to a tech company or person to tell me how to do mine?)

Sure, some things have improved. The internet seems faster, and Microsoft office applications seem better. I can now get my phone messages on email. It seems like students can do more online, which I suppose makes it more convenient for them (no more standing in line to register). But convenience is not our core mission – learning is. Besides, I got faster internet at home, installed Microsoft, and got better phone service at home, and did this all on my own. And year after year, all I hear from the IT department is that they need more money, more people, and more time, and because administration buys into the promises, they give it to them. (I don’t know why they keep asking. Budget increases for higher ed IT have vastly outpaced every other area in higher ed). Unless I can be convinced otherwise, I’m beginning to think all of this is scam to enrich technology companies – I just can’t think of another reasonable explanation.

It is too easy to simply dismiss the role and impact of technology in higher education. As the commenter notes, our business is learning and all of the interventions mentioned here – and others – should aim at that core mission. So it is important to determine if learning has in fact improved as a result of these improvements. A few points are in order along these lines:

  1. The poster might be communicating the same way he did in the 90s, but he is not communicating the same way he did in the 80s. In addition, social networks are just now beginning to be felt at the staff level and provide the opportunity for some changes in the way that higher Ed staff communicate with each other.
  2. The reference to ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning software) is odd since such systems are the info-tech foundation of all educational institutions. Having said that, the main point here is that such purchases are sometimes ill-advised and do not add value to an enterprise. This is certainly true, and many institutions make such purchases without fixing inefficiencies in the business processes themselves.
  3. The point about decision-making seems convincing and helpful to me. Leaders and managers should make IT purchases with an eye to whether they will assist decision-making. This again is about management efficiency and business process optimization.
  4. Sometimes IT staff can show us fresh ways to eliminate busy work, thus allowing us more time to do reflective or conceptual work. So I find the point about the grant writing process to be weak: it is often people who know nothing about the substance of the work that we do who can show us a better process for doing it. We should not be surprised by this given that research itself often works the same way.
  5. I wouldn’t call the relationship a scam, but there is room for legitimate criticism when consultants are chosen without a robust evaluation process and without a sober analysis of the business processes themselves.
  6. Much of the above could be addressed if accreditors paid more attention to the external relations of the institutions they regulate. Self-studies should be required to include assessments of all consulting contracts with an eye toward their relationship to the academic mission of the institution.

Filed under: Higher Education Policy,

A “radical new teaching method”

I can’t really see a new method here, but these sorts of weepy stories often have their shred of truth behind them. In this case it is that curiosity certainly “works.” What this lacks in rigor, however, is rather obvious: how to properly direct curiosity so that learning objectives are met rather than skirted. We can all understand how self-motivation improves learning, but who among us has managed to turn that insight into a replicable, scalable, and adaptable pedagogy?


Filed under: Higher Education Policy,

Online CT Education: The effective discussion forum


Filed under: Critical Thinking, Higher Education Policy, ,

Florida’s latest entry into the online education marketplace

Perhaps this is about as sober an approach to online learning as a large state system could take: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/u-of-florida-online-bachelors-programs-win-state-approval/46883.

Filed under: Higher Education Policy, ,

Nagging students into studying


Filed under: Higher Education Policy, ,

A piece on a flipped classroom experiment


Filed under: Higher Education Policy,

Are tenured instructors better teachers?

Provocative study, but limited findings: http://chronicle.com/article/Ad-juncts-Are-Bet-ter/141523/

Filed under: Higher Education Policy, , ,

Higher education finance articles

This iteration of the debate begins with this Washington Post series: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/26/introducing-the-tuition-is-too-damn-high/

This Matt Reed piece unfavorably responds to Matthews: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/theory-too-damn-thin

Another response here: http://cedarsdigest.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/simple-general-solutions-to-college-problems-just-add-data/

Filed under: Higher Education Policy, ,