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The Higher Education Learning Crisis

Thursday, February 16, 2012

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Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersh

Richard P. Keeling leads Keeling & Associates, LLC, a comprehensive higher education consulting practice based in New York City. Dr. Keeling serves...

Book Cover - We're Losing our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education
According to Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersh, co-authors of We're Losing our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education, "America is being held back by the quality and quantity of learning in college. This is a true educational emergency."   View Full Blog
Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersh

Keeling & Associates, LLC

The purpose of this blog and our latest book, We're Losing Our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012), is to shift the national conversation about higher education from a primary focus on the comparisons that make up magazine rankings to a serious discussion about the failure of colleges and universities to fulfill their core mission: higher learning. In subsequent posts over the coming months, we will examine the nature of what we assert is a true crisis in learning in higher education; show how higher learning requires a more intentional and robust curriculum and pedagogy; discuss how learning assessment can serve as a powerful form of teaching and learning; and articulate the requirements necessary for campus "change for learning."

Readers of this blog have probably heard the chorus of critics assailing the academy for high costs, low retention and graduation rates, and administrative and faculty inefficiency. These are important issues, and they have appropriately mobilized public concern. But the fundamental problem - what has brought us to the point of crisis - is the critical deficit in higher learning. To say it as plainly as possible: students do not learn enough in college, period.

Too many college graduates are not prepared to think critically and creatively, speak and write cogently and clearly, solve problems, comprehend complex issues, accept responsibility and accountability, take the perspective of others, or meet the expectations of employers. In their 2010 book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Arum and Rocsa provide strong statistical evidence of the painful truth: most students do not make significant gains in critical thinking, problem solving, analytical reasoning, and written communication skills while in college. Their findings, amplified by recent data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education and earlier results from the American Institutes for Research and the National Center for Education Statistics, show that the gap between what colleges and universities promise and what they deliver has become a chasm.

Five years ago, the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education scathingly labeled higher education as "risk-aversive," "self-satisfied," "unduly expensive," and "ineffective" ( In their landmark study, Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College (, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) summed up the urgency of the situation as follows: "...even as college attendance is rising, the performance of too many students is faltering... [College] is a revolving door for millions of students while the college years are poorly spent by many others." Metaphorically speaking, then, we are losing our minds - and this is a costly failure that must be resolved if we are to sustain our nation's political, social, economic, scientific, and technical leadership. The claim that the American system of higher education is the "best in the world" has become an empty accolade masking the inadequate quality and quantity of learning in college.

How did we get here? Culture is at the heart of the matter. We as a society have bastardized the bachelor's degree by turning it into a ticket to a job (though, today, that ticket often doesn't get you very far). Meanwhile, the academy has adopted an increasingly customer-based ethic that has reaped costly effects: the expectations and standards of a rigorous liberal education have been displaced by "professional training"; teaching and learning have been de-valued, de-prioritized, and replaced by an emphasis on simple-minded metrics that feed magazine rankings; and increased enrollment, winning teams, bigger and better facilities, more revenue from sideline businesses, and more research grants have replaced learning as the primary touchstone for decision-making.

Many campuses are becoming increasingly myopic in their narrow focus on research and entrepreneurship. Teaching is increasingly left to contingent or adjunct faculty; tenure-track faculty members have few incentives to spend time with undergraduates, improve their teaching, or measure what their students are learning. Expectations for hard work in college have fallen victim to smorgasbord-style curricula, large lecture classes, and institutional needs to retain students in order to make the budget. Minimal student effort is rewarded with inflated grades. None of this makes for higher learning.

A college education that fails to ensure that students learn is not worth the cost at any price. Only the cost, not the learning, is "higher." High cost plus poor quality always equals low value; lowering cost without simultaneously improving quality simply makes low value more affordable. Even President Obama's well-intended proposals to make college more affordable miss the mark and fall into this trap. The answer is not throwing money at problems, or figuring out how to do more of what we have always done. We must take steps to improve the quality and quantity of learning, which means changing the very culture of higher education-in each college and university and in the field of higher education as a whole.
Posted by Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersh


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Reply vincie said...
Yes and the biggest joke of all is the online courses and programs put forth by some of our so called real institutions of higher education. This whole online avalanche has led to the cheapening and the selling of degrees. 100 percent of deans and VPs agreed that online was very inferior instruction but these same hypocrites continue to expand the online offerings. That way students can really get less for their education dollar and universities can reap more money at the cost of academic integrity and learning.

02/18/2012 10:12 PM

Reply Ann said...
Online courses are the same as onground. You get what YOU put into the courses. I have been successful in both because of my interest in my studies and have a PhD. I have been able to receive enough education to help others in the community. But I did not attend online so the instructor could not access me if my studies were falling behind. Acutally the online courses allowed more time to study the subject. When attending onground, the instructors basically reread the text chapters for lectures.

So, the student get what they put into both types of studies.

02/22/2012 12:02 PM

Reply Fab said...
Ann is correct. Online courses are the same as ongound and just as rigorous and you must participate and submit material in order to progress in the class. Online courses allow working parents, for example, to complete educational requirements they would have great difficulty completing due to job and/or family obligations. So, I think this is a great way to use the technology available to educate people. To berate online courses shows lack of education and understanding on the extremely myopic view of the accuser. The same goes for people completing online courses going for jobs. I find that almost always they know more about what they are talking about compared to those who completed onground degrees. It is all in the person, really, not the institution. What happened to the individual in all this? This is why society is going down the tubes.

02/22/2012 07:33 PM

Reply Jeanne said...
I discovered hybrid (combination on in-class and online) learning in my M Ed program. I loved it. The instrucotr used the online portion for reflection and discussion that gave us practice communicating in a professional style (grammer,etc). Additionally the courses were intensive and over in 6 - 8 weeks. By comparison the 12 or 14 week classes I took dragged by.
Education needs a look at quality and meaning: method of delivery can vary and still attain those.

02/22/2012 08:17 PM

Reply MJ Berger said...
I have experienced both. I worked more intensely for my online courses. I found them invigorating and applicable to my career. Online instruction is not putting your f2f lecture notes online. You spend a considerable amount of time reading and writing. The interaction is not only with the instructor but also with your classmates. You must read in order to do the work and writing is especially important to communicate ideas clearly. The student's writing must be not only substantive but also must demonstrate analytical abilities and problem solving skills. The assessments are based on performance task that require excellent language skills and implementation of the material to solve a problem. The collaborative work is an important part of team learning. Intelligence is no longer about how much information that you can retain but about how this information can be used for critical thinking and problem solving. So your version of virtual learning seems to be based upon poor information. I applaud higher learning administrations for trying to upgrade their approaches and realizing that we can educate many individuals not only in our country but globally. We can share so much when we know how to use technology properly. By the way virtual professors are not cheapening our educational system they are recognizing that there are other learning styles and needs of those who want to learn. Virtual provides another venue to learn.

02/22/2012 08:37 PM

Reply Tim Cummuta said...
While I agree that you get back out in relationship to what you put in, "garbage in, garbage out", I also think that a big issue for higher ed and students not learning is a factor of coming out of HS not knowing the basics and how to learn. I have watched college students struggle because they did not learn what they should have in primary and secondary school. It is hard to teach someone at the college level who still does not understand basic English or Math.

02/22/2012 09:15 PM

Reply Alvin V. Walker, M.S. said...
The students I see in their freshman and sophomore years hate to read. They have difficulty listening for 50 minutes and have personality problems. I compete for their attention. They pay more attention to their cell phones and MP3 players. They are not inclined to wrestle with the material. They do not follow direction and I wonder what it is that I need to do to inspire them to work hard. They cannot discuss an issue because they don't read anything. That is the majority of my students. However there are a few who pay attention and read. Am I supposed to be customer-service- oriented and placate them into learning. I believe in order to learn one must want to learn. The plight of higher education rests on the shaky foundation of grade school. I told one professor that "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink". He said, "I need to push them into the water." I don't feel my job is to be the police-professor. Is it me or is it them? If students hate to read on the college level, what is the professor to do. I am an adjunct professor of psychology at a historically black college in Florida.

02/22/2012 09:18 PM

Reply Richard Livingston said...
Are we sure that the label "failure" belongs on higher education? At what point do students take responsibility for how they prioritize their education? I am a former dorm director - been out of the field since 2006. Back then, my Resident Assistants prioritized who was on the other end of their cell phone, social and dating websites, and the like. Basically, they played. Motivation is internal; you either have it or you don't, and I personally do not feel it is the place of anyone in higher ed, academician or administrator, to "motivate" students to prioritize. Any student has to bring something to the table. Ideally, that "something" is the desire to learn and the sense to prioritize. That is a student's responsibility, not mine.

02/22/2012 10:26 PM

Reply Leland Searles, PhD said...
I agree for the most part. However, I've taught online, and with considerable success, but only because I put in far more effort than I was paid for, to engage students through discussions and provoke them to think. I rather think that I was the exception, and not the rule. Had I not had some flexibility in my schedule, that much would not have happened.

02/22/2012 10:49 PM

Reply Don Austin said...
You cannot change one subset of a system without managing to change what surrounds it, as well. The American culture as a whole is in the dump. Only children that come from homes, of any class, race, etc., that value making something of oneself via hard work, despite their circumstances and surroundings do well, usually very well, in all schools. When the parents and students demand quality and challenge, not grades, that is when education will change. Because, in America, today, only those institutions which serve the greater majority in order to bring in the bucks survive, and survival is the order of the day.

02/22/2012 10:56 PM

Reply Winona Wynn, Ph.D. said...
Vincie's metaphor of the "avalanche of online degrees" is a call to dialogue. How much critical processing and inquiry actually goes into the whole topic of "online course delivery?" I agree that we are rushing headlong into a technological rabbit hole. I also agree that the impetus for delivering online courses is not "student-centered" as many claim, but is convenience-centered (great for faculty with no personality)and driven by the almighty dollar. But to be fair, I will admit to being in the company of those who took an online course that I found interesting. However, during that experience I found myself "guessing" the meaning of the tones,"cyber body language" and silences of my colleagues in our online discussions. Some of the material we covered was culturally sensitive and required expert, in-person facilitation. Every thought does not come in complete sentences, but sometimes represents itself as a brief interruption taking many forms (sighs, gasps, one word added to another's comment, etc.) To say that "online course delivery" is the same as in-person delivery is well, sad, and reeks of a limited educational experience. Haven't you ever had a professor spontaneously digress inspired by a snarky and/or brilliant student remark? Language play, encouragement to speak or otherwise contribute, empathetic glances toward someone who is just about to break silence on a sensitive topic, observing a student reflecting, eyebrows raised in thought, awkward moments of pause, all are missed in an online "learning" environment. Speaking from my professor position, limitations include but are not limited to, switching modes of teaching when I recognize that the one I planned to teach with isn't working (half way through class, calling on a student who looks like they have something to say, apologizing because I misread the expression, being happy that the student noticed I noticed them, and relieved that they smiled at me as they left class. Moments like these are not conducive to "cyber-interpretation." Teaching is about transferring (and exchanging) knowledge, and a critical part of that process includes making mistakes and building community not filtering responses and hitting the backspace key. I think that we need more human connection as we teach and not less. Let's at least talk about online course delivery and consider it thoughtfully from multiple perspectives not enter into it as the proverbial frog entered into the pot of "warming" water....

02/22/2012 11:18 PM

Reply Cealia said...
There are many responses I have to what has been posted but too much to write about. I have been a student on-campus and online. I also teach college online and on-campus. I have experienced it from all sides. As a student I worked hard in both dynamics. That is who I am. It would not have mattered whether I was on-campus or online. As an instructor I work diligently spending hours each week preparing for class. What many do not understand is that what I receive in compensation as a part-time instructor does not equal the hours I put in. I wish I would have counted the number of students over the last four years who have not attempted or completed the reading for the week when I have spent 20+ hours preparing for a four hour class. Because many on-campus and online deliveries have moved to discussion formats it is easy for a student to blow off the reading because the instructor will cover it all in class. Why should I spend many hours toiling away while the majority of students do not spend any time? Is it because I am being paid? Is it because students now believe themselves to be customers as opposed to students? There was a time when professors were respected but now when a student complains it is the instructors fault and not the students for not studying. The rigor has been watered down and substituted with an easy "A" to keep paying students happy. As an instructor I would not dare send a paper back marked with red ink showing all the errors unless I also point out the positives about the paper. Even if there are not any positives I still have to find something good about the paper. What happened to a student accepting where they currently are academically and then taking the feedback and improving on the next paper? Gone! Those days are gone.

02/23/2012 12:24 AM

Reply Jan said...
Online coursework is no easy route to getting a degree. Online courses actually require a great amount of discipline, time management, and organizational skills. I know many top notch students that have been great scholars in Brick & Mortar classrooms, but could not succeed at online classes, because they just did not have the discipline to stay consistent. Among the skills that our writers stated are lacking in most college graduates, they emphasize that too many of them are not prepared to "accept responsibility and accountability" or to "meet the expectations of employers." I think online courses reinforce a level of discipline that enables one to excel in these areas - because you are accountable to manage your own schedule and progress without having that constant push from an external source. Thus, you gain skills that are going to make you more reliable and dependable to an employer. This is primarily because in online courses, you have to motivate yourself to do what is necessary to get the task done. Hence, you resultantly carry that mindset over into your professional prospects.

02/23/2012 01:02 AM

Reply Nurse Hupp said...
Not only have I experienced a rewarding, rigorous and challenging learning experience in my online doctoral study, I am also experiencing a richness in diversity of fellow adult learners that I would not have received in such abundance were I to have stuck with a bricks and mortar classroom environment. I really feel that those who are critical of such degree offerings should take one in order to learn more about what theya re being critical of. If a student does not learn from such an opportunity, it is likely that they are not putting forth the effort needed to complete the program.Do we really want such colleagues practicing in our chosen profession? I would argue we would more warmly welcome those disciplined and committed to it.

02/23/2012 08:06 AM

Reply BEC said...
Several posts have already indicated this, but online and hybrid courses tend to require more self-discipline for instructors and students alike. Promotional materials displaying pajama-clad students smiling at their laptops are mostly fiction. It is really easy for all participants to try to coast as much as possible. Hence, the increased scrutiny of online learning environments by regulatory bodies.

Also,the students who thrive in an online setting are typically those who already love learning and are committed to their own education. As others have stated so clearly in earlier posts, if we want to learn, we must push ourselves to do so -- regardless of the delivery system.

02/23/2012 08:20 AM

Reply Virginia said...
Online classes can be thought of as a "classroom of one." The instructor needs to respond to the student, and the student must accept responsibility for their learning.... It's what "programmed learning" was getting at back in the '70's.... The success of those courses, or failure, depend on both the instructor AND the student. Many faculty are doing part-time teaching at online institutions to supplement their regular income or because they don't have a full time teaching position. I have taught online for ten years with great success: but the success of what I do depends on the attitudes of the students I teach. Brick and mortar institutions are getting very expensive, and living in college towns is also very expensive, so much so that they might be extinct in the not-so-distant future, while online education allows access to learners who otherwise might not be able to afford an education. All learning, and all of life's success are about attitude.

02/23/2012 08:48 AM

Reply Fab said...

The concept of education in a classroom setting began way back in ancient Greece, when philosophers were free to talk about various topics in the agora and people would gather around to listen. They then moved to a more isolated setting where exchanges of ideas would take place. This is the core of true education. If one did not like the speaker or the discussion, one would merely leave it. The problem with education now is that this wonderful original model has been butchered by modern society in that students are forced to attend school and most do not want to be there. You are absolutely correct in this. Modern society lacks vision in this area, in that primary school is being used as a socialization process, when originally the family was used for this.

Post-industrialized society has tainted education to such a degree and that is the reason you see the mess you do now. The spirit of education is lacking, because that is not how modern education works, but when this is not present, the entire system falters. The ancients were so right about most things, why can't we follow them again in this aspect? People have become so dense and zombie-like, how can you even stand looking at them every day in class?

Also, there is way too much emphasis on exams and this must be looked into as well. It has been proven here in NYC, that exams are not the end all in life and the approach to exams has left even more students behind in that all that is taught is the exam, whereas the scope of learning has been cut out. Students are missing out on the education part and just doing the exam part.

The entire system must be re-evaluated and re-vamped, but the mentality is still that of the industrial age and this is the problem.

02/23/2012 08:54 AM

Reply RetiredMusings said...
I'm a retired professor with years of successful experience in higher education: student, faculty member, administrator, campus president. In my experience, the learning delivery system requires a willing and motivated student, a knowledgeable and hard-working faculty member, and administrators who supply the "stuff" needed to make students and faculty members successful. It matters little, if at all, if a course is offered online, in a classroom or as a combination of both. What I observed happening as my career came to a close was a weakening work ethic for everyone involved in higher education; less required for faculty qualifications,expertise and output; poorly trained academic leaders; a damaging emphasis on political correctness; and a significant increase in the number of new undergraduate students who couldn't read and write well, do simple mathematics, think conceptually, or exercise self-discipline and deferred gratification. Many of my late-career bright spots were students, faculty members and young administrators who were either recent military veterans from combat environments or from foreign countries. Perhaps, these folks will help return higher education in the United States to excellence.

02/23/2012 09:01 AM

Reply Raymond said...
I think that a major point here has not been discussed. That point is that universities can only do so much in the time they have the students as most if not all freshmen are not prepared for higher learning because of the dumbing down of the public school systems. When new students arrive in college they have such a steep curve to catch up in study habits and reading comprehension. High schools are focused on teaching a to a test so they do not drop in performance and lose funding. So should the focus be on scrapping the current public school model and putting more emphasis on preparing those students for entry into college. Once that happens universities can toughen their curriculum because university systems are performance rated on how many students they retain which has caused change to prevent freshmen from completely failing out. It should also be realized that not all students are meant for college and that trade schools are not a bad thing. As far as online classes are concerned, those are the only way some of us can attend school as some do not have the luxury of being able to leave our jobs during the day to attend classes not offered at night.

02/23/2012 09:08 AM

Reply Rick said...
The failures of our schools are well documented, but without better school-college articulation we won't improve the quality of education across the board. When the College Board was first created there were no standardized tests. Everything was in writing and the Board told the schools what was needed to prepare students for college. The issue of standardized tests is a symptom. We can lament the lack of a national curriculum (that could be adapted by each state and school district), lack of respect for teachers (now we're pushing accountability), no parental participation (both parents working trying to keep up), lack of "in loco parentis" in the colleges, too much sports and entertainment (detracting from academics). All of this is true but a person who wants to learn now has greater wherewithal to do so thanks to the vast resources on the Internet and in college elibraries and databases. Teachers and profs all need to tell each student that there are no excuses whatsoever, and not cater to their whinings. Parents need to back up the teachers and profs.

02/23/2012 09:39 AM

Reply Susan Bromley said...
How many years have I been hearing about crisis in the academy? It's just another call for more education research funding for more painfully flawed studies such as that by Arun and Rocsa.

With a broader population of students entering college, it would be expected that a broader range of preparedness would result. So who's problem is this once they're sitting in my classroom? Mine as a teacher. It means I have to work harder to create a worthwhile teaching-learning experience. I make the time to design a class at either the undergraduate or graduate level. I have the energy to put myself forward in class to engage and motivate students. I make the time to answer questions and converse with students after class. The responsibility for all of this is mine as the teacher. I never blame students for a boring class. The result: I have yet to meet a student who did not respond by putting their all into the class. I would bet the same model could easily hold true for an online class.

02/23/2012 10:13 AM

Reply Doug said...
Ann makes some great points. To just point at online as being the culprit for a lessened educational experience is classic scapegoating. There are certainly poor examples of "higher education" in all forms and levels of college, but the great advantage of online, as Ann points out, is time. Online students have more time to consider issues and expand on topics. In pursuit of my Masters I took both online and ground based courses. Too often in the ground-based setting the instructor had end conversations for sake of time and schedule, while the online discussions grew over a week or longer. Learner's opinion changed and expanded as more ideas were submitted for consideration. Certainly the concept of you get out what you put in applies, but also looser time lines better allow for the development of ideas.

02/23/2012 10:51 AM

Reply LisaEnter Your Name said...
Well said Ann! You get what you put into it!!!

02/23/2012 11:05 AM

Reply Brian W. Bridgeforth, PhD, MBA, MA said...
The problem is "students do not learn enough in college, period" (Keeling & Hirsch, 2012). And that is the Academy fault (AACU; Hacker & Dreifus, 2010; Keeling & Hirsch, 2012; PBS' Declining by Degrees; Spellings Commission). After all, institutions and their respective administrators made the choice to supply that which the market demanded. Just as primary and secondary schools chose to adopt to societal demands to take on the responsibility "in loco parentis" of rearing children. What is the solution then? Shall we join the chorus of Perry, Santorum, and Paul and abolish public education? Let us not stop at the Department of Education or primary through secondary levels. Let us abolish public colleges and university systems as well! The rationale for the first is that they are not preparing the nation’s children for college. The rationale for the latter is that it is not producing capable resources employers require. Ok, back to reality. Suggesting that the Academy has failed or is failing is to scapegoat it and rationalizes further devaluation of education. Such scapegoating lessens the collective force within while increasing the desire to ostracize academicians further from society. Classic divide and conquer.

The elephant in the room is education is valued no higher than any other base commodity product.

When did it happen? I am not sure. I am aware that attaining an education has morphed from privilege to vocational requirement with birth right on the horizon. I am aware that schools, in particular campus operations serve a function of right of passage from child of … to citizen of… I am aware that as accreditation homogenized education across campuses and the nation competition increased to a point of cannibalization. I am aware that more comfort, sports, and entertainment, on campus, have become the order of the day to increase attractiveness. I am also aware that industry, over the last twenty years in particular, has outsourced the training function to the schools and the financial burden/responsibility to the individual. I am aware the for-profits, taking their cue from industry have convinced the public of two inconvenient fallacies. First, students are customers. Second, that convenience is necessity. Amidst all this I observe an affluent nation seemingly obsessed with its progeny’s ego and ease. We coddle and placate our children unmatched. In summation, this nation is taking an undesired but passively consented trip to Abilene (Harvey, 1988). As we travel, America has collectively earned the moniker of being the most educated group of illiterates to influence history.

The problem is that academia does not know how to do what it knows it must do.

There are only two certainties in this word – change and choice. Both are requisite and inevitable. Education in America is undergoing change. Academia faces a choice. It can lead the change or it can play the victim. To lead the change, Academia must consider its’ theory of the business (Drucker, 1994) after adjusting its myopic vision (Levitt, 1973) of its role and relationship in society.

Should academia meet society head on and profess that not everyone needs a college degree or belongs in college?

Should academia abandon industrialization of its operations and stop calling students customers?

Should academia reprioritize from sports, entertainment, and comfort to rigor and inquiry?

Should academia partner across strata and geography to author national standards that assesses development as intellectually capable citizens rather than simply test scores of base knowledge?

There are choices involved with each one of these questions. Each choice will invoke change a.k.a. consequences. To not decide is to decide.

May I suggest the first choice to be made is to change the conversation from failing, which implies defeat, to a vision of achievement.

02/23/2012 11:21 AM

Reply Paul Jarley, Dean Lee Business School said...
Hmm....lots of rhetoric here, but little in the way of solutions. If you have a solution that will simultaneously reduce class sizes, improve written communication AND reduce the total cost of a high quality education, don't keep it a secret. Also, the notion that "professional training" is somehow inferior to liberal education is questionable at best and sounds more like resentment among some members of the academy who have seen their fields decline in importance with the rise of the professional schools. Don't get me wrong, there is a serious need for some cultural reform and an emphasis on getting more research active faculty in front of more students, but a return to "the good old days" whenever they were is not the solution.

02/23/2012 11:58 AM

Reply Paisley said...
I'm amazed at the misspellings in this comment given that the individual states he has a higher degrees. I think this post supports the author's assertion!

02/23/2012 04:12 PM

Reply Roxanne said...
As an adjunct instructor in a community college, I totally agree with Tim's assertions. Students coming into college level work cannot write a decent thesis sentence that contains a concept and main points. Knowing how to write an outline is a total mystery and researching only reveals what a basic Google search brings forth.

02/23/2012 06:58 PM

Reply Kelly said...
I agree with the arguments of this post, except for the assertion that tenured faculty members don't have an incentive to interact with undergraduates or change their teaching. I'm currently untenured (though tenure-track), and I can say that the vast majority of the tenured faculty I know work even harder than those of us who are just starting out. I haven't seen any of them rest on their laurels, nor have I encountered any - either at my institution or at the colleges and universities I attended for my B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. - who are inaccessible to undergraduates or who don't care about student learning. The major problem is the exploding administrative costs and increasing number of administrative positions without an increase in faculty, a corporate mindset by college administrators, lack of funding or support for faculty while expecting those faculty members to teach larger and larger classes, and admitting a lot of students who just are not ready to be in college, etc. etc. Faculty are not the problem here.

03/06/2012 01:34 PM

Reply James said...
Paisley nailed it. Judging the sentence structure and spelling errors in these entries, I believe the education system has failed the majority of posters. The rest are arrogant windbags.

03/07/2012 11:51 AM

Reply Gordon, doctoral student said...
Of all of the comments, only this one accurately frames the real internal dilemma within higher education. In a knowledge based economy education is a commodity. Technology has also changed the way everyone interacts. I don't want to wait online for a hotel to confirm my reservation and students don't want to wait online to see if they have successfully enrolled in a class. They are "customers" in every interaction with the university and in all things outside of the classroom they can expect things to work efficiently and at a higher quality (like food, heat in their rooms, efficient registration systems,etc.) and that is why all of those administrators exist (at least one reason).

When they enter the classroom, that dynamic needs to change. Just like hiring a personal trainer, they are paying for you to push and challenge them. And if they don't meet the challenge they chose, they are at fault. But if faculty don't meet the challenge of engaging them with the material (not with themselves) the faculty are at fault. There are examples of faculty using South Park or You Tube to engage students. Those expectations can be detailed and met, assuming there is administrative and faculty support.

I do agree that some student are ill prepared. Some current policies do not look to remedial education as being worthy of actual FTE numbers and this is a problem that could be addressed.

I have also seen faculty create clear expectations in the classroom around computer and phone use; just like at the movies. In a pluralistic society different values and cultural expectations exist and if clearly they have shifted. So those need to be taught as well. It's ok to have standards in the classroom. They exist in church and in the workplace. It's just that they are no longer implicit, so faculty must be explicit.

But the question of what does achievement look like -- the real point of Dr. Bridgeforth's post is a good one. I would add that the question will be debated differently at different campuses. The trick is to allow assessment to be varied as well to address the different levels of input and output at each campus.

03/09/2012 06:29 AM

Reply Victoria said...
I think this depends on what your goal is - to produce a small, highly educated elite class, or to get more of the general population up to a basic level of post-high-school education.

Decades ago, only a minority of graduating seniors went further with their education, so this was a pre-selected class of intellectually proficient, and usually economically stable individuals. Of course, this means that upon graduating college, there was a high percentage of grads that were intellectually highly developed. They entered college as relatively gifted, privileged people, and left college even more so.

Entering colleges in America today, there is a huge proportion of kids even from families that struggle economically, and even kids who weren't classic 'high-fliers' in high school, and even kids who made mistakes, had children too early, or struggle with mental/emotional disorders ... these kids now have access to a "higher education" that was once not even a realistic 'dream' to this lot several decades ago. More kids today overcome more challenges to attempt to go to college. I am humbled when I see what my students struggle through outside the classroom - yet show up every time on time and work hard to learn. I had none of those problems or distractions 30 years ago, and I was a 'high-flier'. But ... I was a privileged full-time student, living on campus, working on campus, no children, and a stable family to 'fall back on' when times got tough. College students today have much more LIFE on their plates, and they are working hard to balance it all.

Given the changes in demographics of students pursuing college today, compared with the relatively isolated elites that did so decades ago, will the same percentage of college graduates today be as academically productive and intellectually superior as those in days gone by? Of course not.

But if the goal is to educate our citizens, colleges are doing so at a greater rate, and reaching more of the population, today than they ever did 20 years ago.

Whether the same percentage of students reach the exact same academic achievement goals as they did decades ago is frankly irrelevant. You're comparing apples and oranges on a population level.

The high-flying elites won't get lost - they will always learn and be brilliant, and contribute wonderful ideas to our society. But they don't stand out as much in your silly statistics, because the population of college students is huge and diverse today compared to even just a few decades ago.

03/09/2012 07:03 AM

Reply Lois said...
Ann, your points are well-stated. Too many face-to-face classes are spent wasting time with meaningless chatter (both instructor & students); reading from the textbook, lack of creative coursework that requires a student to do further reading (research), reflective analysis and critical thinking.

03/09/2012 07:41 AM

Reply LoveTeachingHateBureaucracy said...
Do not fall into the false divide between online and traditional classes. Focus not on the delivery method but on the 19th-century factory-training mission of K-12 creeping its way into the undergraduate program. How? By way of the careerist "educationists" who see university administration and standardized testing (oh, excuse me, "standards-based education") companies as meal tickets. I am a doctoral student who teaches a half-time load and serves another half-time load for a total of $13,000 take-home pay per year. I have no time to study because the administration is too cheap to hire enough full-time faculty to meet increased enrollment and the faculty push the unwanted tasks off on us to preserve their own research time. We are caught in the middle. It's the same at every public university in the country. We (grad students) also are the ones who have to deprogram the incoming unprepared freshmen. Many read, write, comprehend, and interact on a junior-high level. I am not exaggerating. I have measured their reading and writing levels. Start by cleaning out the administrators and the incompetent "teachers" at the K-12 level. Give good teachers the power to teach as they see fit, without bean-counting rubrics and endless make-work paperwork. That's not accountability--that's an administrator justifying his or her existence.

03/10/2012 03:20 AM

Reply Emerging PhD Online Learner said...
I've been a pretty good student grade-wise for most of my academic career with an average GPA of 3.5. Since starting my online doctoral program, I have been challenged to maintain a required 3.00 GPA to remain in the program. I have found that online learning is definitely more intense. I am required to read to understand theories and concepts before communicating with my cohorts and my professor; and definitely before beginning any assignments. I get to research theories based on my interest, with facilitation from the instructors. I find that I am learning more because I have to work out the understanding of theories and concepts for myself. The ability to reason at a higher level is developed by my interaction with my colleagues, professors, and through research. Having attended onsite colleges for all my previous degrees, I can say that the colleges and universities I have attended have been more focused on regurgitation, rather than education and learning. As I approach my third year of studies, I can see my development from someone who is dependent on an instructor as the learning authority, to someone who is directing their her own learning process. I still need the guidance of a syllabus and the instructor, but only in the capacity of collaborator or facilitator. This online program has really increased my confidence as learner and prepared me for lifetime learning.
I do agree with earlier post - that students are not receiving higher learning and that institutions of higher learning are about the "business" of enrolling students; however, I firmly disagree that online learning is less effective than onsite learning.

03/10/2012 10:57 AM

Reply Carol in Chicago said...
I disagree with you vincie, I got a second masters in ed online. It was more challenging and robust than the face to face. In fact I had a better quality of teachers since they were from all over the country and from many fine institutions.

03/10/2012 01:19 PM

Reply newapproach said...
Here's one idea that I am pretty sure would help the situation, because I've seen the possibilities first-hand: hiring committees for full-time faculty positions, stop making the PhD the coin of the realm and start considering candidates with MAs and significant professional experience. Of course I'm in the latter group, and with 20 years professional experience in my field and an MA, I thought surely some 4-year institution would be interested in this combination of theoretical and practical knowledge. Nope. They all want PhDs, even though my students--yes I did find a job, but not at a traditional 4-year institution--tell me that the way I'm educating them is a much better combination of theory and practice than they have had from any other teacher. I hear this consistently, and I see it working. But all hiring committees can post in their job requirements is "PhD required." And these same places have the hypocrisy to hire MA/professionals to teach adjunct courses, but would never consider them for a full-time faculty position where they would be in a position to mold curricula into something other than the overly-theoretical wastes of time that most of them are today. If 10% of our 4-year institutions would consider this one change, I promise you would see a dramatic difference in the student success rates, etc. within 2 years.

03/11/2012 12:29 PM

Reply Joanell Serra, Marriage and Family Therapist, Adjunct said...
Hello, I have two roles in this world - teaching as an adjunct at a large public university and running a separate program to help low income youth prepare for and enter college. I am also a private therapist. I am disappointed that this conversation moved to focus on online vs not - that is a side issue. The initial blog makes some powerful and provocative statements. I am really curious about folks thoughts on solutions. How can we encourage higher education institutions to adopt standards of rigor, to return to learning over consuming, to hold fast to the concept of liberal arts in at least most colleges? I will absolutely concur that when I taught sophomores in college last semester I was shocked at how ill prepared they were, especially their writing skills. I did find, however, that they were very eager to participate, and once they saw my own commitment to the process of teaching, their commitment to learning doubled. I will disagree that having adjunct professors is a problem. At this point, the amount of pressure on the professors on the tenure track to publish and accomplish is so high, never mind the enormous class sizes - they cannot really focus on students. Until that is remedied, adjuncts can actually be the more available and accessible teachers. It is important, of course, to screen and hire those adjuncts carefully. I also believe the fact that I work in the world outside academia is helpful to the students.
Finally, when I attend conferences for college access, the amount of marketing and fanfare the colleges put on to "sell" their school is shameful and discouraging. They would be so much better off creating a top rate college academically and recruiting through attraction, not promotion. The ratings really are a huge problem in moving into a better time for higher education.

03/11/2012 12:48 PM

Reply A.M.D. said...
Just as we have No Child Left Untested, I mean "Behind" in our primary and secondary schools, we will have No University Student Left Untested. It is only a matter of time before a national standard is put into place, and students who do not pass the standardized exam in their second year and a comprehensive at the end of their fourth year will not graduate, no matter what they paid for the degree. Academic freedom? Research interests? Those have already gone by the wayside, as Keeling and Hersh discuss, in the name of the market. Perhaps to lose academic freedom in the name of standardized education is next.

03/11/2012 02:23 PM

Reply Roxie! in the Heartland! said...
Well, I hate to break it to y'all, but Johnny still can't read, and neither can Janie because Johnny got her pregnant at 15 and they both think education is one big joke. Why work when entitlements can support them and they can live at home! I have a Master's in Education and have been a college program director (teaching learning) and CEO of a small advocacy/ombudsman company, and like Johnny and Janie I can't find a job either. But, I can read real well! If you want students in college to do well: hold the bar high above their heads, and keep raising it. Urge the public schools in your region to do the same with all of their students K-12. Hungry, homeless, parentless children will have a tough time in school, and little preparation to cope with the sacrifices training for any profession or career presents. Try more vocational and experiential education in all schools and colleges. Stop focusing on "math" as the God or Goddess of "good education". I struggled through Algebra when Emil Berger in MN created the "New Math" in 1962 or 1963, I got A's in my 3 classes of Research Methods and Statistics in college. (I had to take those classes and keep my GPA up) The only Math I have ever needed is how to make a salad to serve 80 people (plus calculate portions for a projected unknown number of people who will eat more and more guests that expected), how to adjust a pattern down or up to sew clothing, spacing my crops in my garden for highest yield, and calculating doses of injectable medication based on kilogram of body weight for animals and my kids. I would much rather see my students able to communicate verbally and in writing or in pictures, be critical when solving problems, be creative when brainstorming, and have the resilience to persevere. I am old. I come from a 2nd generation Americans Scandinavian family of editors, writers, actresses, accountants, and a farmer. I could read and understand Greek Mythology by age 4, and was acommissioned artist by age 13. I taught other students (who were struggling) in early elementary school. I could repair almost anything that went wrong with my car or truck, and repair most everything aroundthe house by age 17. I'm not a savant or prodigy. I was raised to believe that only success in reading and the arts were acceptable behaviors. I was too scared to get in trouble at school because I was told the Principal would paddle me, and I'd get far worse when I got home. Take away video games and put kids to work. Take away their sagging pants, and girls: please wear a bra under your shirt (not over), and don't wear a thong where the public can view it. Teach respect: yes sir and no sir (or m'am)for a start. Teach a lot of Thank you sir (or m'am) Then colleges may have good students to teach!

03/12/2012 01:27 AM

Reply Marion - retired educator said...
To Victoria: Back in the late 60's I started college. I had more that full life on my plate as did my peers in college. I had been orphaned twice, survived many years of molestation and rape, survived 24 suicides and murders in my friends and family, got pregnant at 19 and was abandoned to raise a half black - half white child alone, work, experience homelessness, go to college plus cope with the symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia, Depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I also earned a Masters in Education for Special Needs. I had 3 disabled kids yet at home, worked full time in Health Education while in grad school, still mentally ill. My GPA was always 3.9 mon a 4 scale. I never did take any math (other than what was required to graduate) I still can't do math and don't know anything about Algebra or Calculus or Trigonometry. Geometry and Physics I learned as a result of my as a Safety and Compliance Supervisor and as a Professional Trucker. (LOL If one did not know geometry and physics, one would never be able to back a 54 foot trailer into a dock meant to accept a staight truck like a U-Haul!) College was there for me, and I took the challenge. I had teachers from Kindergarten through High School who had faith in me. I had college professors who also had faith in me. I was never left behind: I was urged to go forward.

03/12/2012 01:50 AM

Reply Kerry said...

I tend to agree with you. I have only taken one post graduate class on line, but both enjoyed and learned from it without having to fight traffic and find a parking space. I plan to take another this summer.

03/12/2012 06:01 AM

Reply KerryEnter Your Name said...
Yes, I have numerous eleventh graders who are proud of the fact that they do not read.

03/12/2012 06:04 AM

Reply Oleg Shalaev said...
When I was a University student (Russia SPb), I and my classmates were afraid not to pass exams and to be expelled, so the professors could be tough with us. Not sure about the USA, but e.g., a University in Switzerland is interested in having more students (even bad ones) because it is payed for every student it teaches. So the students have stressless life -- they are not afraid to be expelled. For many young people the following is valid: "learning every kind of culture is a violence; look deep into your soul and you'll understand that in reality you do not want to learn but want to have fun instead."

03/12/2012 08:22 AM

Reply HEWhitney said...
There certainly is a place for online learning in almost any course, but to design a course solely around online learning is to fall into a terrible trap. The greatest deficiency, in my opinion, is the failure to make creativity in the course/classroom an absolute, and affirming a standard that assuming a risk that leads to a failure does not lead to 'failing the class' are characteristics for higher education. I teach business. I must teach for '5 years out', but also for the next 30 years, and I know that we cannot/must not keep doing the same things we have been doing and expect 'better business'.

03/12/2012 10:03 AM

Reply Beverly Brannan said...
Why did this discussion leave the question posed and move to on-line learning? As I understand US education rating, according to the President of the community college where I teach, the US has fallen from first to twelth in the world in one generation. Our local students are supposed to enter college "prepared." It is my personal opinion that ALL US education has failed our students. It was supposed to be a problem when I was a student 44 years ago. I learned from my roommates. When working on my Master's, I learned from classmates. Now, I'm in the developmental department of the community college. If these students are even minimally prepared why is a developmental department necessary? Because a there is a population obviously not prepared. Thus, making a developmental department necessary. Furthermore, as educators, we are either unaware, or not incorporating, the lack the physical development of the frontal cortex. In the early days of class, I have students in groups reading and outlining a reading section I have copied on frontal cortex development. Very engaging discussions have come from these activities. Because I am part-time, I send my students to tutors, the department full-time PhD's and student embassadors for extra help in his/her learning. That cortex will be fully developed by age 25; extra help is necessary. I also respond to my students on-line, but I do not teach on-line.

03/12/2012 07:32 PM

Reply tired of teaching in Fire Exits said...
The local Teacher "University" is sending Bachelor degreed people out to the schools who can't spell.

It is sad no one can stop this.

03/12/2012 09:07 PM

Reply tired of the fluff, tired of the abuse of professionals said...
Listening to stories told by a rotating circle of local School Superintendents every Thursday night for 4 years and never read a book or write a paper is a great way to get an EdD, but does it mean something----and to have those people be put in charge of schools---is sad. And don't forget the course on "Highliters in the Classrooom" to get 3 credits for a higher salary.
But that's why teachers get (from their Principal)16 identified kids out of 26 in their classes and fall apart---well who wouldn't---you try writing 85 lesson plans every night, making 85 tests, etc,,,,,and pleasse make sure to allow charter schools to take more money out of public ed.

03/12/2012 09:17 PM

Reply drmom said...
As we are speaking of improvement in educational programs and after reading the comments, I have come pointed comments: 1) One of the most egregious problems that I find in our higher institutions is that practitioners who have are experienced and have the required education are kept from "teaching" classes because they have not continued a research agenda (in lieu of taking care of a family and focusing on their job). I have 31 years in public schools as a teacher and administrator and 10 years as a community college adjunct. The larger universities will not even accept my vita. 2) In some of our programs we do not teach practical information, e.g. in principal prep programs, we need to focus on descriptive stats rather than inferential stats (my record of study). 3) Since I started teaching in 1973, testing and accountability HAS greatly improved learning in TX; however, we have now gone overboard. It is time to reassess what we are doing and why. 4) How many of us were always a great student, every time, every class? A teacher's job is to motivate and change methods as needed. Our students are not horses. Then you look for patterns of behavior. 5) Use technology. If you don't know how, the students will. Ask them how to do something. We must teach for their future and not our past. 6) Online courses are fine. Personally, I prefer f2f, but sometimes that isn't feasible, so let's go with it. 7)Education is a priority item; not a line item on the budget. Education is a reflection of the society in which it exists, not the opposite. All of the attacks on education seem to insulate the public from its responsibility for its success. I am one who believes that school personnel are responsible for the success of its students, but they cannot set tax rates or determine funding which affects the number of personnel. We saw our students protesting school funding cuts this past summer in TX. They will be worse this coming year.

03/13/2012 12:16 PM

Reply Jim Lyttle said...
You have identified the correct problem, but Taylorizing (e.g., learning assessment) is precisely the wrong answer. One cannot successfully absorb any graduate level education part-time, or off-site; it requires socialization.

03/15/2012 09:48 AM

Reply Erik said...
People always talk about employers wanting someone that can think critically and creatively, that is a joke. Most employers want a drone that they can plug into a mindless position. Someone that will never question anything they do, and always side with the organization. For this, you do not need a college degree, especially if you rack up 10's of thousands of dollars worth of debt to obtain it. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but they are becoming increasingly rare. I work at a university, the situation is bad. The system is broken and not sustainable. A change needs to be made. Change is a good thing.

03/16/2012 12:01 PM

Reply andi bowe said...
see to see links to many differentiatied ideals about changing education to an open system, where the student chooses theri own course and the teacher acts as a crew member on the everyday voayage on a Ship of discovery, where learning is self-motivated. You can take a class of gang members and connect them with music of their own and dance and art, because music and movement and rhythm are not only the best way to develop the human brain in a neuro-scientific, quantum physics' based reality where nothing is static or industrial age, but everyone is of value and can contribute their unique talents. Motivation comes from within, and teachers can use my Bowe scale to set themselves free of teaching to the test. This kind of assessment is focused on helping the child learn to be a part of a team. Each team designs their own rubric, and grades themselves every day, and the teachers can thus decide easily who needs help and who does not. On a scale of one to ten or poor to rich (any child, even those who do not know math, can appreciate this rubric) was your teamwork, your team, etc. rich or poor today? If a team falls below a five as a group, then the teacher knows they need intervention, coaching or even moved to another team. Teams form around Design projects that the teacher can create to challenge and that teach what the child needs to learn and don't waste time on tests or grades that measure only two types of intelligence. The children have positive feedback instead of stress and learned helplessness. My books describe these developmental models and relate how new discoveries can change the old paradigm that thought of the universe as static. This goes all the way back to the Greeks, eleatics who thought there was a static reality that could be figured out, vs. vitalists, who believed that a vital entelechy or soul informs all Life from within. We now know that 95% of the universe is "dark matter", meaning we really know nothing and need to change what we think we should teach to teaching to the soul of each child and allowing them to be free to love and laugh and play their way to a successful and whole human.
I call this soul: Music, and claim it is the basis of all other types of learning and teaching. In other words, math and language are subsets of Music and techne, the Greek word that was the root of technology, included art. The original Olympics in ancient Greece promoted and honored not competitive sports as we do in our funds for education, but rather the improtance of team "sports" such as drama, poetry, dance, art, and music.
We have lost our connection to the universe we inhabit, the connection we have with nature is not one we can afford to ignore, as all creation sings in harmony. Darwin's theory of evolution has been promoted as a religion of atheism, and we tell our children we live in a free country, when atheism as a religion has replaced God (or Goddess?) in our world. The Right to Care has been ignored and trampled upon. There is no basis for morality, yet a theory that presupposes Life cannot be used to explain Life. We now know the fallacy of the old industrial-age paradigm. I was an engineering and psychology student in the 70s, and I have seen no progress, only a committment of a static universe of statistical heresies, because the observer does affect the observation, as our very thoughts affect water molecules and our brains are 75% water. If any child has only one person who believes in them and gives them positive and honest feedback, their whole life changes. I have seen this in over thirty years of homeschooling, and then I returned to online education to get a Master's in Education in Instructional Technology with an A average in one year and went directly into Walden as they are "dedicated to social change and student-centered." However, I found this to be not the case, and have spent too many years and student loans getting to a dissertation stage of a PhD in Education & Leadership, Self-Designed. I have written books on the subject and have answers for all levels of education to include open systems and what Peter Senge and peers called Schools That Learn. Why is Head start funded, yet not Montessori or Waldorf? Every Head Start class is based on one teacher's good ideas, yet no one has challenged these with better ones. Or perhaps we have and no one has listened because of the money invested in old paradigms and statistics that can be used to prove either side and often are not as valid as the qualitative study in actual life conditions. I am going to do a dissertation on Early Childhood Learning Centers of different types using musical intelligence from the perspective of the teachers. If we got rid of all the money and time spent on outmoded bell curves and standardized tests, and stopped paying administrators obscene amounts, there would be plenty of funds for bringing art and music back to the forefront of education as a cross-cultural intervention that would permit students to really experience and appreciate other cultures and times in a hands-on constructivist mode where, like Elkind and Gardner, we use processfolios and online portfolios using video game technology and music self-chosen by each student to document true learning and development in both teachers and students, who then become partners and crew members on this etermal Ship of discovery where Play is the best way to learn at any age and no one tells each other that their way is better or more truthful. Sorry about my Faulknerian ramblings.) We know that pi is not a real number, it repeats infinitely, yet we need it to find the circle's math. shows that PHI, the Golden Mean of 1.6, is a real number ignored by educators whose salaries are more important than children, and this is attained by the heart itself, beating with the music that is life and builds up to more complex systems, when appreciating life and allows intuition to become the springboard to learning. Why do happy children turn into drug addicts or suicide risks at 13? Because their own unique talents and goals are waylaid in an educational system promoting only two types of intelligence? If the teacher becomes the navigator and guide to safe harbors instead of having to be a taskmaster assigning homework so there is no time for reflection and hunches, the real way we advance as human beings who are healthy and happy and whole may be revealed.
See my books on these matters on my storefront on
These books are also available as downloadable ebooks, very cheap way to motivate yourself to change the system from within as teachers and caring individuals who value each child and know there are no disposable kids!

03/16/2012 04:05 PM

Reply Doc J said...
big problem: Grade inflation and the unwillingness of many professors to see that their students can actually read and write. I have been working with a student (a junior) who came to me in tears to say he could not read and somehow no one figured this out? He actually cannot read. He has a 3 .2 average. He is a humanities major.

Professors at my campus don't want to ruin students lives with poor grades. One science professor said he didn't want to be responsible for keeping someone out of medical school. So anyone should be able to do whatever they dream without concern for the bigger picture?

03/17/2012 09:21 AM

Reply Emily Minkle said...
Critical thinking? Higher level thought? After living in countries overseas (and originating from Boston), I find myself in Nevada, the absolute end of the spectrum ranking 48th in education. One local blog discusses the "fairness" of requiring a HS diploma in order to enroll at the local community college. After all, college is a "right" and everyone deserves one (at little to no cost).
Education in Las Vegas is as esoteric as the neon facades on the strip that promise wealth and status. Just a wisp of smoke that disappears when you try to grasp it.

03/18/2012 11:29 AM

Reply Delgusbus said...
I agree and don't agree with some of the above but too much comment in any detail, so here's 2 cents.

Just fail people sooner, e.g., grade school and high school; that will raise the bar, and more people will realize that college is not necessary(1), and they will start their life(2) sooner instead of the current delay of late 20s.

Self-directed learning is okay in the narrow, but the real-world is not the place were you can select the topic you want to learn, so a [forced] set curriculum has value... and learning is sometimes a matter of survival (e.g., in minor ways this is often seen as the lazy person who does not [struggle] to understand the fine print on a contract).

Of course, fewer people attending college(3) will cost some Professors their jobs, but now they get to show how useful their critical thinking skills are by adapting; i.e., retool themselves.

(1) this excludes programs that require expensive lab work or legal requirements needed for licensing.
(2) By beginning a productive life sooner, they will pay into the social security net sooner, increase the supply of labor, reduce labor cost .... oh, my gosh.... it just gets better without college, but w/higher standard in, say, HS.
(3) Reduce tax burden (At some public college's the taxpayer foots 85% of the bill). and it gets better...

03/18/2012 12:22 PM

Reply Fredric Dennis Williams said...
There are so many errors in the thinking of these authors that one might wonder if they had spent their whole lives in colleges. I think they should rethink the title of their book.

Let me take just one grievous error. The authors believe the problem is that “students do not learn enough in college.” They then define what is missing is the ability to think, speak, write, understand and solve problems, be responsible, consider the perspective of others, and meet the expectations of employers.

If the authors think an institution can be created to do all of these things, then I challenge them to create such a model. I have serious doubts that the authors — or anyone — can achieve this laundry list of ideals. No such institution, I believe, has existed in the history of the world.

The blog is, therefore, started on the wrong foot. It lacks a clear understanding of how we got here. What they define as a problem can’t be blamed on college rankings by USNews which began just 25 years ago. It can be traced back many centuries to the first universities in the West. And it can’t be solved, as the authors hint, by changing the culture. Culture, especially the culture of education, is set in brick and mortar and remains much as it has for hundreds of years. Esperanto might have been a good idea, but we still speak English.

Teaching isn’t the first concern of the university, despite its marketing brochures. I joined the faculty of Carnegie-Mellon in 1968 — just as the school was firing one of its best teachers after eight years on the faculty because he had not completed his Ph.D. I was told I was the English Department’s best writing teacher, just as my contract was not renewed after three years for the same reason. The current disinterest in teaching ability — and the glorification of credentials (including publications, grants received, and professional affiliations) is nothing new.

Students go to college to gain status. That is why parents give Ivy League schools $200,000. — any education is secondary. If you doubt this, try offering the education without the transcript and diploma.

Wise up.

03/18/2012 12:58 PM

Reply Fredric Dennis Williams said...
You are correct about the perceived need for drones. That is why our system of education is mandatory, and why students must show up for class at a specified time, move when the bell rings, and do whatever they are told to do, no matter how irrelevant or boring,

Even the debt accumulated for a college education is necessary -- without it, people would not be forced to take a job. I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go.

03/18/2012 01:05 PM

Reply Delgusbus said...
I agree.

03/18/2012 01:25 PM

Reply Mary C. Shade RN MSN Ed. said...
At the ripe old age of 54 I went back to school to earn my MSN in Nursing Education. It was time to give back to nursing and slow down a bit physically. So I entered Walden University's online program and loved it. Four years later I graduated with a 3.95gpa. I earned ever single point too. The thought of driving to school in nasty weather to sit and listen to a professor go on and on about somethat that I could read myself was not appealing to me at all. But cozying up to a computer on a cold snowy day and joining in the discussion (abeit an asynchronous one) was just my cup of tea. I did well and learned the fine art of writing and expressing myself in a professional manner. Many of the people in my classes were higher ups in healthcare facilities who were mandated to earn an MSN. At first I felt intimidated by those people but quickly discovered that I underestimated my abilities and ideas, and those people actually wanted to hear what I had to say. In other words, online learning levels the playing field and allows those who are too shy or awkward to find a voice, and those who cannot handle the demands (or requirements) of higher learning eventually leave. It is quite obvious who those people are.
Many of you can say what you want about online learning but it may be just the ticket to rooting out those who are serious about a college education and those who are not. One other thing,it is my humble opinion that online learning begin at the beginning of anyone's education and be a part of their "in school" learning. Children are savvy enough with computers these days that it should not be a problem. It will save money and again, "level the playing field".

03/19/2012 08:33 AM

Reply John MacLennan, Chicago said...
I concur that the search for efficiency and to be responsive to employers has led to an unfortunate academic ethos that favors narrowly focused instruction in practical skills, at the expense of preparing well-rounded persons who are able to meet the demands of being well-informed citizens. The force of these trends, regretfully, will be very difficult to overcome. But a campaign to do just that would be, neverthelees, worth the effort.

03/19/2012 12:25 PM

Reply Progresshiv said...
One of the best teachers I've ever worked alongside tells me that, after we received tenure last spring, he "splurged" to actually buy furniture for his rental house. For the last three years, he and I and several other probationary instructors have been reluctant to put down any roots in this town, because we are subject to being fired at any time, depending upon the whims of the administrators who watch over us. In late summer, we were given contracts to sign that would ensure we could work for another year, so my friend took the big plunge and bought real furniture. Near age 60, after a lifetime of toil in the classroom, he allowed himself the luxury of having a comfortable place to sit down in the evening.

I haven't taken that plunge yet, and I'm now glad, because we got our layoff notices in November, just after the term had started. The newest college president has decided to play with our lives ( and the lives of our students) the way a six-year-old plays with Fischer Price's plastic people. The president makes three times what I do, and rather than take a pay cut, himself, he axed six of us (out of a total faculty of 39). Nine other instructors have been "reduced" or forced into retirement because the geniuses who are being paid over $100k each have mismanaged the school's finances so that ten percent of the total budget has vanished.

The president has repeatedly warned all instructors not to put a bad face on this fiasco, because it may drive away students, and if that happens, he may lose his job, too. We instructors have been cheery little soldiers as we've conducted our classes as best we could, sat in meetings to prepare us to file for unemployment in March, and searched for job openings.

The same situations exist all over the United States as community colleges are being internally destroyed in favor of the creation of corporate job training centers that are "more responsive to local business needs." Now, you won't hear me argue against the need for schools to teach marketable job skills; people must learn useful and substantive information and skills to be valuable to potential employers. However, college administrators are acting as hired guns for political and economic masters who wish to create a class of working clones who cannot and will not question their motivations, decisions, or actions. Administrators target instructors who have not toed the line when it comes to blindly agreeing with administrative decisions, surrendering academic freedom, and abandoning unions. Instructors who persist in standing up for what they know is right are being axed faster than tax revenues are drying up, and administrators are positioning themselves to retain positions which already pay way more than they're worth.

I ask myself why there would be a need for even a single college administrator if there were no instructors. What is a college without a large variety of educated, opinionated, dedicated instructors who model the diversity and vibrancy of the larger society? A college without open-minded and academically free instructors is a warehouse where students shuffle through, accepting piecemeal information fed to them as if they were chickens in a poultry farm. Despite that, the new trend is to push our learning institutions into just that mode, offering a McDonald's menu-style "education" where the consuming world awaits just outside the graduation auditorium to digest the "product." How much should an administrator of such a place be paid? Wouldn't such an individual be better suited to work in a slaughterhouse, where it is much easier to track success by weighing the resulting meat?

So my friend and colleague "splurged," and now he doesn't know if he'll have a place in which to store his furniture. While he and I and thousands of excellent instructors across the nation face the open hostility of administrators who would have no jobs were it not for us, newspapers, radio, and online sources rail about how "selfish" we are and how terrible our schools have become. We are scapegoats being used to deflect the attention of the public away from the crooks and liars who have stolen our pensions, our jobs, and our futures.

As a teacher for many years, I have found that faculty rooms are chock full of gentle, unassertive souls who teach because they like people. Teachers are suckers when it comes to buying used cars, subscribing to magazines sold by kids who come to their doors, and working at bake sales for people who are sick, broke, or who just need a helping hand. The teachers I've worked with are naive when it comes to ramming through a business deal, finding income tax loopholes, and gaming the system. They look up to and trust administrators when it comes to protecting their workplace, supporting them in their right to teach and grade students, and help them continue when their wages are relatively low, given their training and expertise. The new class of school administrators, however, are like foxes in henhouses. They draw relatively enormous salaries and treat the instructors as if they are trash. The arrogance and lack of compassion in many college administrators is matched only by their selective ethical behavior that allows them to thrive while the true college, the students and teachers, slowly dissolves in a sea of red ink and political bile.

My friend and colleague, having been bullied by the college president, will have to be bullied into protecting his own rights, because he is a gentle and sincere man who cares about learning. He hates getting attention, and he is terrified that if he resists being laid off, he will be blacklisted online and never be able to get a teaching job again. He and thousands just like him are a permanent underclass of educated people who have been singled out for elimination by corporate liars who, having stolen the country's wealth, now wish to steal its future. It is a criminally absurd situation that makes one want to scream. But that would be unseemly behavior for a teacher.

03/20/2012 10:26 AM

Reply PSY.JPB said...
I couldn't agree more!!!! If there is any consultation to what some have indicated about the motivational factors, I observe the same thing in the military on active duty. I am approaching a major life event by retiring after 25 years of service with a Master's degree in psychology and am pay grade terminal (because there are no numbers above 9 on the pay scale)and hope to enter higher education as a teacher. I am hesitant about the motivational factor from the student perspective. Not at all concerned with my own motivation. However, I view this as a chance and challenge to change the course of just a few students. I say this because much like leading other service men and women, you can only capture one or two at a time and develop them into autonomous contributors. If educators took the time to adopt the same philosophy, the tide would turn for the better. I am not sure if the lack of motivation comes from the unmotivated individual themselves or a society (to include the parents) that allows them to be such! Who knows... What I do know is that part of employee selection in our institutions should include discussion and emphasis on all these points posted in the blog. The organization of institutional leadership needs to shift and then attract those that can expertly execute the vision of the institution through teaching. I am not saying the vision doesn’t exist, I am saying vision means nothing without the passion in the employees to push the vision to reality…. Vision means nothing without passion. Interestingly, passion creates vision, which is why I think this blog hits MANY valid intersections! It is obvious that many are very passionate about pedagogy!!!!

Those are my two cents, which aren’t really worth that much!!! Regardless, this is a motivating blog and am looking forward to the challenges that exist!!!

03/20/2012 04:09 PM

Reply Stephen G. Wright said...
Perception is the greatest detractor to human success. Higher education can only take hold of the problems it faces by rejecting two key perceptions. The first is that students are a “customer” No, they are not the customer of higher education and they need to be treated as such and valued as such. Any institution of higher education builds a solid reputation by the quality of the product it produces. The customers are the organizations that hire your students.
The second perception is that colleges and universities are a business. Change your strategic mission focus away from bottom line academia and more towards demonstrable learning outcomes…i.e. more capable graduates. The next phase would be to create a funding support system. Higher education should be more aggressively supported to a large degree by those who have the most to gain or lose – the stakeholders. The more you remove the burden of hunting down financial resources based on market evaluations, the more feasible it is for administrations to concentrate on that which they are truly in existence for; educating the population for advancement and innovation.
Am I being too impractical or unrealistic in the face of the cold hard reality of academic operations??? Perhaps, but as a totally disenchanted member of the academic community I am none the less trying to hold on to the last vestiges of ethics I have. To be blunt, I rather think that being a manager at the burger barn down the street would be better than trying to be ethical and proactive in an industry that has grown unreceptive to a positive, dynamic philosophy on education. The trend is toward “go along to get along” and as I was recently told “Be glad you have a pay check”!

03/21/2012 09:45 AM

Reply John Sarvey said...
Many debates about higher education seem to just bring up longstanding debates --liberal arts vs. professional/vocational skills – or try to blame the high cost on one thing or another – emphasis on expensive research-oriented faculty with low-teaching loads, increases in non-faculty administrators, increase in student amenities, or students and families not making college choice decisions based on full and accurate information about cost vs. value.

One way to analyze the challenge in higher education is to look at what high-performing non-profit organizations have increasingly adopted as a best practice – logic models, theories of change, and measuring outcomes. While many community-based social service agencies have been forced to adopt these models, hardly any college or university has had its funding tied to such measures of performance.

If we critically examined the prevailing assumed logic model or theory of change for undergraduate education, we would encounter a number of assumptions as well as missing elements.
1. We do not have clearly articulated and agreed upon outcomes for undergraduate education.
Different stakeholders care more about some than others. Here are the main potential outcomes to choose from:
• The degree itself, which is taken by many (but not all) in society as a proxy for a certain level of education and skills.
• Access to certain jobs that require a college degree, or jobs that require specific degrees (i.e. nursing, engineering).
• Prestige, status and connections (for those that attend elite institutions).
• A core “liberal arts” set of skills in critical thinking, reading, writing, problem-solving, etc.
• Subject matter mastery in the major.
• Access to further graduate or professional education.
• Civic skills, knowledge, disposition, identity, values.

2. Whatever we determine to be our intended outcomes (whether core, subject matter, vocational, or civic) there should be a set of activities or inputs that directly develop that set of knowledge and skills. For the most part, the primary set of activities in the predominant model of college education is for students to take a certain set of courses, with two of these, three of those, this set in preparation for the major, another set within the major, etc. The assumption is that successful completion of these set of course requirements are a legitimate proxy for having gained the intended set of skills and knowledge. However, this assumption is based on further underlying assumptions that are not necessarily reliable:
• The primary teaching activities (lectures, small group discussion, readings, papers, exams) are effective methods for students to learn the intended material and develop the skills.
• Graded course requirements (tests, papers, projects) are sufficient measures that the student has gained the intended skills and knowledge.
• Successful short-term learning of course content equals long-term retention of that course content.
• Successful completion of a course equals attainment of the course learning objectives.
• The sum of the learning objectives across all those courses adds up to the overall set of learning outcomes for the degree or for what it means to be a graduate of that institution. (Colleges often have vision statements about what all of their students will learn and develop, but the specific skills and attributes rarely actually make it into individual course learning objectives.)
• There is no possible way of assessing overall skills and knowledge of seniors prior to graduating (either across the institution or even within majors). Individuals and colleges cannot do it, and heaven forbid, that any outside third-party do it or that any assessment would be imposed by the federal government.

3. Even if we could rely on, with confidence, the logic model that this set of activities leads toward the desired outcomes, we have additional assumptions which dominate higher education – assumptions which may hold true some of the time, but certainly not most or all of the time.
a. Excellent researchers are ideal teachers of undergraduates.
b. Even if some researchers are not ideal teachers, the proximity to their research adds educational value to nearby students. (They cross through the airspace of undergrads.)
c. The highest status, privileges and rewards should be conferred on the best researchers, regardless of their teaching ability and performance.
d. Faculty who excel at teaching but not at research should be relegated to secondary status, paid less, and offered no job security. Excellence in teaching should not constitute any guarantee of continued employment.
e. Learning that takes place outside of formal registered courses does not really exist and therefore does not count. And certainly would not be measured.
f. Student development is more the responsibility of student affairs staff than faculty, but since it’s outside the curriculum and student affairs personnel are secondary to faculty, it doesn’t really count.
Even some of the smallest social serving nonprofits today are forced, by their funders, to demonstrate and measure outcomes and to validate that all of the assumptions and links throughout their logic model are valid and reliable. If a nonprofit cannot, demonstrate with its own data that a particular chain or assumption is valid, then it’s often required to point to other research that does.

The straightforward application of logical models and theories of change to undergraduate education would immediately help to better align institutions around a clear set of outcomes and a set of activities or inputs that clearly lead to those intended outcomes. It would also lead institutions to at least attempt to measure the overall mastery of skills and knowledge of their graduating seniors.

03/21/2012 12:44 PM

Reply Robert J. Thomas said...
As a society we have continued to lower our expectations towards the next generation, academics is no different. Today's model expects everyone to succeed, this is simply not possible not everyone is academically inclined. Universities need to cease and desist the appeasement process. Secondly, the institutions need a better business model. The one they have is far too expensive, and most likely the biggest driver of the present dilemma.

03/22/2012 01:42 PM

Reply Erik said...
Too true, sad.

03/23/2012 12:49 PM

Reply Vincent A. Conte, Ph.d. said...
You were lucky to have a real life educatin and not a fabricated mechanistic bureaucratic attempt at education. Let's face it, life and learning can't be institutinalized. We have substituted cultural development and human values with a business model that exploits the fears and ignorance of a wayward society. In many ways we would all learn more if we had less schooling and more guts. My problem with teaching is that students are playing a role and maybe they would be better waiting till they understood life more. The good old days weren't that great either.

03/24/2012 11:13 AM

Reply Joseph W. Strang said...
It became obvious that the primary purpose of a college where I taught for twelve years was not to educate students but to retain as many as possible. When a student was not in class, each instructor was required to call the student (up to five days)until the student was reached. As full-time instructors taught between 125 and 150 students, much time was spent making phone calls. The responsibility for attending class and for learning was removed from the students and placed on the instructors.

03/24/2012 01:46 PM

Reply Diann Martin, Phd, RN said...
A key challenge in higher education is to motivate learners to take an active role in their program of study. They can not sit passively in classrooms and regurgitate back what they heard. One aspect of effective distance education is engaging learners in aquiring and apply the knowledge as critical thinking or in the case of my discipline (nursing) clinical judgement. When done well, it is amazing for the learner. I agree that focus on admissions, profit etc can cloud the mission of the academic institution, but the institutions do need to be financially viable.

03/25/2012 11:10 AM

Reply Cynthia said...
I believe the reason there are so many students who fail when they to college is because public education has failed our children. I live in Texas, though I am a native of Nebraska. One only has to look at the statistics of high school failures or drop-outs throughout the United States to see what is truly happening. Overwhelming, southern states having the highest rate of failures and drop-outs. Northern, eastern, and western states, however, have higher rates of success. Many want to blame the skewed ratings on the huge population of illegal immigrants in the southern states or on poverty, but that cannot be proven without doubts. The real problems started with Bush’s No Child Left Behind program, which is still in force today, and although many legislators at both the state and national level admit this, and educators all over the United States know this, nothing is being done about it.
I am a mother of three. I don’t have a master’s degree, nor do I teach in public schools. I earned my bachelor’s degree while working full time and raising a family. I now teach ESL and EL Civics, which I absolutely enjoy. I really do not have any desire to become a teacher in the public education system because I have heard so many negative comments by teachers in the system. They all say their jobs are no longer about focusing on teaching children, but their primary concern is the avalanche of paperwork and their brainwashed dedication to the state standardized tests that the children must pass in order to advance through the system. Here, a child is not allowed to be flunked more than twice at any grade level. I am no certain on that policy, so please don’t quote me. It might be only once, for all I know. All I know is children do not receive a genuine education. In that I mean, they are too caught up in practicing for the “test,” that they really do not learn how to read or write correctly, nor do they encouraged to think critically and learn to analyze and investigate facts. Although most school systems here do have advanced level classes for what they consider honor students that is more project based, for the most part, all the average students, or what are called “regulars,” are given only substandard instruction and are brainwashed with the necessity to only know enough to pass the state test! Regulars are often bullies, looked down upon by the so called pre-AP and AP students. A regular student might get straight A’s and perform very well with his/her school work, but they are not considered excellent students because they do not have the “AP” label. The regulars students do not get to be challenged, they those interest, plus they have that stigma hanging over them that they are just a regular. This is what I have observed while putting three children through the Texas public education system. I have heard the comments my own children said in observance of how the various students are treated. I have seen my youngest child bring home copies of the sample test questions that she was required to practice in lieu of actually doing homework with a learning purpose.
My two older children graduated in 1998 and 2000, the pre-NCLB era. Back then, they had a somewhat different educational experience. They both excelled all through elementary and high school, and graduated with honors. However, they had to have been recommended by educators to be placed in honors level classes. They barely made the cut some years while in elementary because of some test they had to take to determine if they should be allowed in the honors classes even though they were performing with mostly A’s in all subjects. Many A/B children were confused and shunned if they did not get into the honors classes in elementary. It was a prized status symbol for them. I can say, though, that during my two older children’s elementary years, the public school that they attended was excellent. The teachers were constantly incorporating programs that got the students exited about learning, such as Writing Wizards, and I fail to recall the other programs they had, but such programs no longer existed when my youngest attended public elementary school in 2001. She had the opportunity to attend a private school at a church her first three years where she was taught a very good Christian curriculum. She had already learned advanced math, spelling, reading, and had even learned how to make a Power Point and work with other applications on the computer in second grade. She was also already writing with cursive. When she began to attend a highly acclaimed school district here in Texas when we moved, she was in third grade where they aren’t allowed to write cursive yet. The methods they used to teach were different to her and confusing. She nearly failed science and social studies, but she placed well in a spelling bee. They put her in regulars classes because even though she apparently had advanced skills, it could not be proven in the public education system. She was finally recognized for her higher order thinking skills when she hit middle school (5th-8th), and she blossomed as a student. Later, she proved herself worthy by graduating high school in the top 10% and had 30 hours of dual credit to boot! It was a struggle and a fight to get her the educational opportunities she desired. If just one educator says, no, a child should not take college classes at 15 years of age, then the parents have to go to bat for them! It was because of our persistence that our child was able to beat the system and achieve what she did. Many parents just give up at the first adversity.
I received an excellent education as a child my fist eight years in a one-room rural school with an average attendance of ten, and with one teacher for all grades. We had no computers or calculators, no DVD’s or other visuals other than our textbooks and our own creative endeavors. We explored subjects, researched, read, wrote, discussed, did projects, and learned together in groups. No one was singled out as better than the other. We learned basic reading, writing, and arithmetic; plus learned how to think for ourselves and make judgments. I went onto high school with a total student body of 300, which included the town 7th-12th graders. Overwhelming, the country kids as we were called, consistently graduated in the top 10; though for our town, the top 10 was the top 10 individuals, because 10% would only have honored 3 or 4 students! I graduated 2nd of a class of 36 students. I took classes that allowed me to think critically, analyze for myself, debate as necessary, and when I was tested, I competed for the correct information on the same level with everyone. There were no such things as honor classes. A high percentage of students graduated; many honored as A/B students. Our GPA was based on 4.0; not on 4.0 or 6.0 because of someone’s status as a regular or AP student. We took standardized tests as required, but those tests did not determine if we would go to the next grade or not. They were simply a measurement the state took on all public education students to see what the system may be lacking in the system for instructional purposes, not if the students were smart enough, or that the teachers may not be good enough and should be penalized! If the curriculum in place was not sufficient to help student pass the measures in the standardized test, then the state would examine what it could do to improve in whatever subject matter necessary.

The situation with the NCLB law is pitiful. Here as well as in other states, teachers and administrators are cheating. Some get caught and some don’t. Their motive is they lose money or their jobs if students fail the test. The law does not care if students might be doing very well in their classes, or that the teachers are instructing them well to generate passing to great grades. The law does not care if the curriculum is insufficient to teach students what they really need to know in order to have good life skills, or the skills to go onto higher education. The law only wants the students to pass that test at any cost in order that the states will continue to have their funding. It is all about money, not a meaningful education.
We need to get back to basics with education. That is the root of the problem. They need to kick out the national NCLB law and let states go back to doing what they might have been doing well before the law. For the life of me, I still do not understand why the United States government allowed an education law to be modeled after one of the worse educational systems in the nation. Yes, I am bantering Texas. And as we all are aware, the Texas SBOE is the laughing stock of our country! What they have done and having been doing to the textbooks is a crime. Only qualified educators should be allowed to determine the content of the nation’s textbooks! This has been going on the many years, folks! Hopefully with the next state board elections, these religious fundamentalist, dentists, and other assortment of non-educators will get voted out of office! In southern terms: “That’s all I gotta say ‘bout that, ya’ll.”
Thank you!

03/25/2012 12:33 PM

Reply Richard Pendarvis, Ph.D. Chemistry said...
The slide in higher education began a long time ago at least in 1967 and possibly earlier. I recall that my college started checking grade point minimums only at the end of the spring term. The unspoken reason was to ensure that the dormitories would be about as full in the spring as fall. It seems that administrators have learned that economics are more favorable if enrollment is maximized and the students are kept happy. Most schools have highly paid marketing and public relation staffs these days. Student perks often include expensive fitness and recreational facilities. There really is no way out of this because the administrators are only moved by money and the public actually wants this. We should hope we get a lot of highly educated immigrants because they will determine our country's future.

03/25/2012 12:34 PM

Reply Econ Prof said...
As an Adjunct Professor in a state university in PA and having just finished grading my students midterms begging anyone to show some minimal comprehensive of the topics I emphasized in class I say often feels like the students sit in lecture wishing they had a remote to change the boring channel...

03/25/2012 03:47 PM

Reply Higher and Deeper said...
Lots of finger pointing. But the problem could not be me.
Key words: retention, test, expectations, succeed, models, assessment, federal government, budgets, values, skills, strategic, outcomes, vision (love that one), pedagogy, tenure, virtual, analytical, technology, motivate, academician, administrators, measurable, accountability, articulation, curriculum, living and breathing document (another favorite), myopic, customers, stakeholders, goals, mission, objectives, insert yours.
I a wise old faculty member once said: “administrators come and go but the faculty stay…” “not all students will get a degree and those that don’t will probably be more successful”, “watch your students eyes and if you can’t see them, think about doing something else”, “the text book is a suggestion but nobody reads the instruction manual”, “be careful what you say, they might believe you”, “you can fill a glass in seconds but it takes forever to fill a brain”, “I can’t learn ya”, “Why do they call it higher education?”, “if talk is cheap, then why did this degree cost so damn much”, “the door is right over there”, “did you really think this course was going to help you get a job?”, “if I could I would give everyone an A…”, “is it really liberal arts”, “my students hate me but love to come to class”,” there are two ways to get out of this class…”, “some Deans think they are lion tamers, cracking the whip and moving the hoop for the faculty to jump through”, “ most people will not talk to their neighbors, so why do expect them to participate in the classroom?”. Insert yours…

03/26/2012 12:15 PM

Reply Scott said...
So is sitting in a lecture hall with 300 students any better? I can tell you as someone who completed both a Bachelors and Masters Degree online, there was nothing about it that was a joke. It was as difficult, or even more so than attending a "traditional" classroom. You say that 100% of Dean's and VP's said online was inferior. So I'm guessing that you went and talked to each and every Dean and VP in the country? I think not. Before you make inflammatory comments, you might want to check your facts. Online education is not for everyone, I think we can all agree on that. However, to complete a degree online takes a lot of discipline that not everyone has.

03/27/2012 10:51 AM

Reply Scott said...
Where I agree with Winona on some points, I've been in both the classroom and online, and from my point of view, my education did not suffer nor did I feel that I was not getting my monies worth attending online. Actually, just the opposite. One of the things I noticed right away was in the discussion groups. While in the classroom, the discussions were watered down with little emotion or "real" feelings about the topic. However, in the online modality, everyone felt they weren't being put on the spot by speaking in front of people so then tended to be much more open in their thoughts. This was the part where we learned much more than just sitting in a classroom listening to someone talk for an hour. I can read a book to give me the same information as a lecture.

03/27/2012 11:06 AM

Reply Ruth Kotler said...
I'm surprised this has turned into a discussion about online learning which I support, but I'd like to comment on the authors' focus. It seems to me that the problem starts much earlier than higher education. What "assets" are students coming to higher ed with? My understanding is that many students require remediation in order to successfully complete work at the post-secondary level. If so, although I am sure there are politics at work regarding your proposition, then instructors have little choice but to teach at a lower level. We need to overhaul our entire education system, starting at PK.

03/28/2012 08:38 AM

Reply Ruth Kotler said...
Ouch, that must hurt! Have you tried making your class more interactive, rather than lecture-based?

03/28/2012 08:40 AM

Reply Charity said...
For higher education to fulfill their core mission, I believe they need to focus on teaching students to apply whatever they are taught to real life situations instead of leaving things at the theoretical level. I believe students, society and employers would benefit from this approach than the traditional one in place in most universities. Thanks.

03/28/2012 10:29 AM

Reply Richard H. Hersh (Author) said...
Yes, some of the problem does start earlier than higher education and far too many students who are accepted into college are not ready. But they are admitted--a conscious institutional decision--and as such the institution has the obligation to demand and offer higher education which is far beyond "remedial." Part of that obligation is to provide appropriate and effective remedial education as a foundation for higher learning. This may require far more time and effort on the part of the student (the cost issue involved here is acknowledged and worthy of another policy discussion) but there is no requirement to lower standards for in doing so higher education simply rewards ineffective prior education. Clearly, preparing students properly before college is the most effective and most equitable response.

03/28/2012 11:36 AM

Reply Walter Pitlock M.Ed said...
Higher education is just showing the symptoms of a failing educational system in this country.

03/28/2012 03:10 PM

Reply Bob J said...
I have taught both online and campus-based colleges and I am concerned about their focus on the institution and not the students. The for profit institutions are only interested in classroom size and their profits and not the students. I was in a discussion with an Academic Dean and a Director trying to informed them about putting un-qualified students in a particular program. They cancelled a bachelor program the students already had an associate degree claiming they did not have enough students But put these students in an un-related bachelor program. The Director said it will be better for these students to have this degree in case they need it later in life! Is it ethical to put students in a $45,000 degree program that they are not qualified to be nor will they be able to get a job once they graduate? I am considering quitting this school!

03/29/2012 10:00 AM

Reply Spade said...
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Ann and Fab are dead wrong. Online courses are not the same as ground by a long shot. I teach at a large university that offers many courses online and also on campus. Students know that technical, hard science/tech courses should be in person and that the liberal arts courses are better online.

I have taken online courses, received A's and learned nothing but how to Google answers faster than the clock on a timed test. The online course is just an easy grade. To top it off, online courses that require students to participate in threaded discussions throughout the week are the worst. Most of the conversations focus on a simple, low level set of yes/no questions (at the knowledge level of Bloom's Taxonomy). I've seen this at the graduate level, and there's no way that the online graduate student has learned as much as the student who attended class on campus.

03/30/2012 02:29 PM

Reply Spade said...
Unfortunately, you're right, Walter. Education as a system is malfunctioning at best and the longer it stays this ways the lower the standards will become. I believe that students rise or fall to meet expectations. The longer the K-12 system stays broken, the worst the post-secondary system will become. I think that soon a Bachelor's will carry the same weight as a high school diploma and that only those with a Master's or higher are truly educated to think critically.

03/30/2012 02:33 PM

Reply Bob said...
This is symptomatic of the problem with online education. Education is not simply a good that is "delivered" to a customer. Teaching is an art; it is the act of creating a real relationship between teacher and student. This cannot really be done remotely, and certainly not with a set of canned Powerpoint slides or a stale old podcast. If businesses believe that "you can't fax a handshake" and everyone accepts this, why does everyone seem to believe that a lecture or discussion session can be "delivered" like a Fedex box? Another funny comment was the person who commented that online education helped her with "grammer, etc." Can't get over that one.

03/30/2012 04:47 PM

Reply Bob said...
Both criticisms and defenses of online education have to be placed into a certain context, that of America's unquestioning technophilia. This is nowhere more apparent than in K-12 education and community colleges, where educational technology is seen as a panacea. We now have full-time jobs and sometimes even departments with their own directors for educational technology. These departments exist not merely to maintain such technology but to push instructors to use more and more of it. The quasi-religious belief here is that more technology is better, less is worse. But technologies of any kind are merely tools, which can be either productive or counterproductive. But anyone who suggests that the latter applies to educational technology in *any* case risks being accused of "ignorance" and can expect to be promptly labeled a Luddite. Can we admit, at least, that while Powerpoint has a lot of potential, the currently popular "Powerpoint lecture" (whether live or on-line) is a horrid development that needs to be stamped out? A technology that was originally intended for visual aids to supplement a fundamentally oral presentation has led to lazy reading of the slides by the presenter, a failure to engage with the audience, and students passively sitting and flipping through their printed-out slides as the instructor speaks. No wonder many people feel that "onground" lectures are superfluous. They have become so, indeed, but primarily because lectures have been taken over and suffocated by a particular type of software from a particular company, Microsoft. How fitting that the technology was originally intended for capitalists making sales presentations. Slickly superficial software has won out over substance.

03/30/2012 04:59 PM

Reply Autumn said...
This may sound mean, but who cares where the blame falls? We could talk about that all day. Right here we have a fantastic group of students, faculty and staff. What can we do to work together to improve the situation? Let's have a dialogue about that!

Faculty, how can student affairs support your efforts with our students outside the classroom?

Student affairs, what do you need from faculty to help our students?

Students, where do you feel we are missing the boat in empowering you to become independent decision makers and members of the community?

04/03/2012 09:07 AM

Reply Erik said...
I think student affairs programs are an unnecessary luxury that universities will have to drastically reduce if budget constraints persist. I know it sounds harsh, but who goes first, the faculty or staff? Faculty comes first, everyone else at the university is a second class citizen.

04/03/2012 02:40 PM

Reply Teresa B. Widmark said...
I am in complete agreement with you. I have attended traditional universities and an online university. The online university required much more reading and researching, as well as extensive writing, with proper APA writing guidelines. Both universities were very expensive, but I feel that I received a much better education online.

04/03/2012 04:11 PM

Reply EIS said...
I am a college counselor. My 11 year old said to my spouse and I just a few days ago, "The reason we go to school is to prepare for the EOGs (End of Grade tests." He's in courses for AIG (Academically & Intellectually Gifted) students and says at least once per week that he is terribly bored with school. Grades have been a struggle, though he is of good intelligence and has received ample attention and encouragement from both his parents regarding the need for at least a solid high school education and most likely the minimum of a technical degree of some kind so he can get a good job. Ironically, he usually gets the highest scores on standardized tests. He was out of school "sick" today (probably my fault for allowing myself to be manipulated in a weak moment following conclusion of March Madness), but tonight he had a sour look on his face and when I inquired, "because I have to go back to school" was his reply. Out of the mouths of babes, I suppose...

04/03/2012 11:13 PM

Reply Alketa said...
I cannot agree with you more on that Ann.
I am currently enrolled in a Doctorate program which is completely online. Before I started the program I had my reservations as I had never taken an online course prior to this endeavor.
I am starting my third year and I can say that it has been a great learning experience. I feel that online learning encourages self-learning and tends to help students to become independet learners and more self-efficient.
But i do agree with Ann that "you get what you put into in any environment".

05/07/2012 12:49 PM

Reply Alketa said...
I read everyone’s comments and in almost every comment I would read something that made me scream in silence: “YES”.
I believe that Richard summed the current condition of higher education in the following sentence: “Culture is at the heart of the matter”.
The past six years I have been teaching math at a community college and am very involved with the remedial math courses. We are receiving tremendous pressure from administration to increase the success rates our developmental courses as the past few years they have been at around 30%. It frustrates me tremendously when I (the faculty) am the one who is considered to be responsible for this failure, when I have spend countless hours preparing, assessing and revising my material, methods, techniques, and delivery formats and try to encourage, motivate, and engage every one of my students for each second they are in my class.
The thing is how can somebody who is working 40 hours a week, has a family, tries to pay his/her bills and his/her tuition find the time to devote 8 hours a week studying outside of class just for my class, when they take a full load?
Where does the fault lie when this student fails his/her course?
- Does it lie with the student who needs to work in order to pay the bills or take a full load to qualify for financial aid?
- Does it lie with the institution that enrolls him/her full time because it needs a certain number of “full time” in order to get funding?
- Does it lie with the parents who are unable to financially support him/her in this endeavor?
- Does it lie with the government who demands a certain percent of completion in order to continue funding?

05/07/2012 03:06 PM

Reply Peter said...
Smartest thing anyone on this board has said thus far. Our system isn't dying... it's dead. Time to start from square one and explore a different way to grow our young learners.

05/09/2012 01:50 AM

Reply kelly states said...
I strongly believe that online education will soon become the norm for higher education attainment in the United States. Financial constraints has changed the operation of higher ed institutions. Grad students, full time professors and adjuncts now occupy the classrooms. Millenial generation students lack the determination that existed amongst college students of older generations. The jobless society diminishes the significance of a quality educational experience.

05/10/2012 02:05 PM

Reply Ethan 'Aestu' Farber said...
I'm late to the party, I suppose. Yet as a former and current student who was definitely an unmotivated underachiever during my undergrad years, I'd like to bring my perspective to this discussion.

Students are undermotivated not because they are dumb but because they are smart. They have realized something that their professors refuse to grasp: higher education is a joke, a scam. They know that if they don't study, they will muck along, and if they do...they may well be marked down anyway based on personal bias, "equalizing outcomes" or some other petty nonsense. And if they do work hard and get a good grade? They'll still lose out to the kids with better parents, or to the kid who loads his schedule with easy-As and shamelessly games the system. So why not lay back and enjoy oneself rather than play the rigged game?

Reading some posts here I see professors with that insufferably self-pitying attitude, "Why should I work harder than my students? Is it because I get paid? Professors used to be respected..." That kind of pompous, arrogant, entitled attitude is WHY students don't respect their professors. They are prissy, they have this attitude that they shouldn't have to do anything they don't want to do, they lack HONESTY, and they lack strength.

There are some good, well-intentioned professors. But I myself have to confess too often I succumb to the temptation to dismiss them because of the system they inhabit, and because they often lack the courage or the inclination to stand up for what they presume to believe.

There's talk about how the quantity of students has increased while the quality has declined. What is overlooked is the abundance of political professors (most especially feminists) who are a disgrace to the system and incentivize young men to refuse to take it seriously.

Some would blame the consumer culture of education, or American culture. There's some truth to that. But it's also the case that nothing really forces professors to be prigs who think that accessibility is optional or that following a standard rubric for their classes is a slight to their dignity. You can't blame the mass culture or the influence of money for what is completely a matter of personal choice by too many professors who think they are better than the community they are PAID to serve.

01/04/2013 03:21 PM

Reply Concerned said...
Hand me the HUGE check for the degree and it's all yours got a little bit of education here and a watered-down Bachelor's paper to show for it...go in peace, I've got another education banquet to attend tonight...

12/17/2013 05:31 PM

Reply Sammy said...
I agree with Ann you get what you put in. Many students come to class unprepared, don't listen, text, or sleep. What is the point. Online or ground both have their faults. The higher education system like so many other systems in the United States needs revised. Blaming online schools for providing a service that is needed for a large group of society is not the answer.

02/13/2014 08:25 PM

Reply DJ said...
Amen to that. I have two Associates degrees in two similar but different fields. Both of them have added experience and job security to my skill set. They were great learning experience. But this was because the instructors actually seemed to care about my learning and my success.
Since then I had been working out in the industry for about the last 5 years in order to have enough money to be able to return back to school without worries.
Thus far, I have not been overly impressed with it all. I only have two professors to choose from in my major and each required course is only offered like once every two years which makes it hard to get anything done in the timeframe that I had saved up money for. However, the worst part of it all is the choice of professors. Both are tenured PhD professors that expect you to already know all of the concepts coming into the program instead of actually trying to teach them. If you do ask for assistance in explaining things then they say "well it seems like you need a tudor to me." So now I'm expected to pay a tudor to teach me the concepts that I have already paid the school a service fee for? It just doesn't make any sense to me.
I have been at this school for 2 years now and I will still have another 2 years in order to complete my degree. If I wasn't so far in it and so much money invested in it, I would either go to another college or I would quit altogether and go back to skill trade work where I was making good money already.
All in all, my problems with the higher education is the lack of carisma of the professors towards the students success!

09/20/2014 07:47 PM

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