By Zaid Ali Alsagoff

Assalamu Alaikum wrt wbt,

Hi UPM Hero Educators!

Looking forward to facilitating my first ‘Designing Gamified Flipped Learning Experiences‘ workshop at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) from 9 to 10 August, 2016.

Are you ready?


In this 2-days hands-on workshop, we will explore how we can design gamified flipped learning experiences using various methods and online tools. During the process, we will discover how the brain learns, learning design, flipped classroom, gamification, how to design awesome graphics, and explore various interactive online tools to engage and gamify learning. Participants will be engaged throughout the workshop with learning activities. It will be fun, engaging, and participants will get a taste of how they can use technology to flip, gamify and transform the way they facilitate learning.


At the end of this workshop, the participants will be able to:
  • Discuss how the brain learns;
  • Apply ‘Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction’ to design more engaging learning environments;
  • Apply ‘Flipped Classroom’ and ‘Gamification’ methods to their teaching and learning environments;
  • Use interactive web tools to engage and assess students during face-to-face learning sessions;
  • Use Social Media to interact and empower students to collaborate online; and
  • Design awesome graphics in PowerPoint.


Please add yourself to this Padlet Wall with the following (500 BONUS POINTS, if done correctly):

  1. Name (or nickname)
  2. Picture (of your face) or Video Selfie (extra 100 points, meaning 600 potential points, WOW)
  3. Your specialization
  4. Your passion
  5. What you want to learn (1-2 sentences)
If done all correctly, you will receive 500 bonus points (100 points for each point above) as a starter for this gamified flipped learning workshop. Your points will be important for your team and individual scoring during the workshop. All the best and let the game begin!


Day 1
Day 2


To be revealed during the workshop…

Until then…Do no evil, be good and have fun :)

Source: Zaid Learn


By Matthew Reisz for Times Higher Education

How is the ongoing reform program in Myanmar impacting higher education?

During a recent briefing in London, Kevin MacKenzie, British Council country director in Myanmar from August 2012 until this month, provided some answers.

He arrived 15 months after the military junta was dissolved, during “the early days of the reform agenda.” The election of Aung San Suu Kyi as a member of Parliament and an amnesty of political prisoners in 2012 “helped convince skeptics the government was serious,” although it was still dominated by “the same faces without military uniforms.” It was a time of “power cuts, empty roads, taxis with holes in the floor and scarce mobile phones.”

Much has happened over the past four years. MacKenzie mentioned “a notable change in basic infrastructure” and the election of a government led by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in 2015, even if three of the main ministries and a quarter of the parliamentary seats are still controlled by the military.

The British Council played its part by working with civil society and opposition groups, for example, offering courses in democracy and human rights taken by many who are now in government.

Higher education also came under the spotlight. Suu Kyi, who studied at the University of Oxford, specifically encouraged an opening up to British institutions. This led to a study tour allowing parliamentarians to look at the English and Scottish models of higher education. Policy dialogues were convened to bring together government and opposition, ethnic groups, and teachers’ and students’ unions. And geoscientists from Oxford and Heriot-Watt University traveled to the country to offer their expertise.

MacKenzie also pointed to “a drive towards greater autonomy for the higher education sector,” citing the case of a rector who was free to appoint a gardener but nobody above that grade. This topic had been much discussed during the period from 2012 to 2015, with capacity-building initiatives such as training offered by Oxford to both academics and administrators, although it had inevitably become less prominent in the immediate run-up to last November’s election.

Now that the first nonmilitary president of Myanmar since 1962, Htin Kyaw, has been elected and Suu Kyi has taken on the new role of state counselor (roughly equivalent to prime minister), MacKenzie reported that “rectors are more accessible” and “the new government is open for business and has a better idea of what university autonomy is.”

Nonetheless, he stressed that “it is still early days” and that real reform would require “structural changes.” Since universities currently “fall under 13 different ministries” representing sectors such as health and agriculture, “it is a government priority to rationalize that.”

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Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Elizabeth Redden

A crackdown on Turkey’s higher education sector is hurting international academic collaborations and student and scholar exchanges.

A joint statement signed by 42 American and European scholarly groups describes what’s happening in Turkey as a “massive and virtually unprecedented assault” on principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression and says “the crackdown on the education sector creates the appearance of a purge of those deemed inadequately loyal to the current government.”

Since a July 15 coup attempt, Turkey’s government has reportedly suspended, detained or placed under investigation tens of thousands of soldiers, police officers, judges, teachers and civil servants in a push to rid government and educational institutions of suspected followers of Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric whom the Turkish government accuses of being behind the failed coup (Gülen has denied any involvement). It has ordered the closure of 15 universities and 1,043 private schools suspected of links to Gülen. The government has also reportedly detained academic staff, suspended four university rectors and demanded the resignation of all university deans, 1,577 of them. In a statement about the forced resignations, the Council of Higher Education described it as “a precautionary measure” and said it is “very likely” most universities will reinstate the deans after an investigation.

“The failed coup attempt in Turkey has provided strong signals that the responsible clandestine and illegal armed organization may have penetrated into our higher education system and this illegal organization may have established strong links with the schools and universities nationwide,” the council’s statement said. “The resignation of the deans should be regarded as a precautionary measure to facilitate and precipitate the implementation of the necessary steps to re-establish the autonomy of our universities by severing possible ties with these clandestine and illegal organizations.”

The effects of recent events on academic exchange are many. At least one major academic conference in Turkey has been canceled. Study abroad to Turkey, already scaled back due to terrorist attacks, is being further curtailed. Some foreign academics who research Turkey report feeling unsafe or uneasy about traveling there, particularly if they have been outspoken in their criticism of the government. A nationwide ban on professional academic travel — which has been eased somewhat, to allow academics to travel with permission of their university rectors — has prevented Turkish scholars from taking up visiting posts and pursuing opportunities abroad.

Even before the attempted coup, many observers expressed concerns about what they characterize as a worsening climate for academic freedom under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian administration. Erdoğan is a member of what The New York Times describes as the “conservative Islamist” Justice and Development (AKP) party.

In the most sweeping academic freedom case, more than 1,000 Turkish professors who signed a petition in January calling for the military to end its campaign against Kurdish separatists were accused by Erdoğan of “treason” and have since faced a variety of repercussions. Over a series of letters to Turkish government officials, the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom raised alarm over what it described as “a broad pattern of persecution” aimed at the signatories “encompassing suspensions and terminations of academics from positions at universities, detention, interrogation and prosecution of faculty members by overzealous prosecutors, and a spate of threats and attacks against academic signatories by vigilante actors.”

“Earlier this year, it was already clear that the Turkish government, in a matter of months, had amassed a staggering record of violations of academic freedom and freedom of expression,” says the aforementioned joint statement signed by MESA and 41 other academic groups, including the American Historical Association and the Modern Language Association. “The aftermath of the attempted coup may have accelerated those attacks on academic freedom in even more alarming ways.”

Short- and Long-Term Effects

Paul T. Levin, the director of Stockholm University’s Institute for Turkish Studies, described a range of ways academic collaboration has been affected by recent events in Turkey. He said one Turkish researcher set to come to the institute in Stockholm this summer to discuss a potential research collaboration had to cancel the trip due to the travel restrictions imposed. It’s unclear if a second professor who is scheduled to come as a visiting scholar will be able to.

At the same time, Levin said, he’s received increasing numbers of requests for employment at Stockholm from Turkish scholars and foreign scholars based at Turkish universities.

“There’s a short-term and a long-term consequence of this,” Levin said. “The immediate [travel] ban, and these restrictions, they of course hinder academic exchanges, but in the longer term I think what we’ll see is what we’ve already started to see, a brain drain. Some of the best and brightest in Turkish academia are increasingly trying to seek work outside the country.”

“One thing that I’ve noticed for some time but it seems to be getting even stronger in Turkey is the self-censorship among academics,” Levin added. “People are very worried about writing openly about sensitive topics in Turkey, unfortunately. And with the heightened atmosphere and very aggressive atmosphere post-July 15, that’s just going to make it worse.”

Two U.S.-based organizations that offer fellowships to scholars who feel they are at risk in their home country report receiving significant numbers of applications from Turkish scholars in recent days.

Sarah Wilcox, the director of the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, said in a statement that “applications from scholars in Turkey have inundated the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund at a rate higher and faster than what we witnessed at outset of the crisis in Syria.”

Rose Anderson, the acting director of protection services at the Scholars at Risk Network, said Thursday that the organization had received 36 applications for assistance from scholars in Turkey since the attempted coup, on top of 56 other applications received since January.

“Many of those that reach out to us report being suspended and/or dismissed from their university posts, and others report being restricted from traveling abroad without their home university’s authorization,” Anderson said via email. “Some also fear arrest and/or physical violence. They also report seeing little recourse for the actions taken against them in the current declared state of emergency and the widespread uncertainty of what will happen next. We have also received applications from those outside Turkey who fear returning to the country in the current climate — some of whom have been ordered back and threatened with dismissal if they do not comply.”

Foreign Researchers in Turkey

Foreign researchers continue to work in Turkey. But some foreign scholars of Turkish studies have expressed unease or worse about returning to the country where they do their research.

“I know from talking with fellow academics there is some trepidation about going, especially if you’ve been outspoken about what’s going on,” said Kent Schull, an associate professor of Ottoman and Modern Middle East History at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

“What’s being monitored?” Schull asked. “Are Facebook pages being monitored, is there going to be a problem getting in, getting access?”

Kemal Silay, the director of the Turkish studies program at Indiana University, described it as “unthinkable” to return to Turkey, his home country, any time soon.

“Due to my predominantly academic needs, I have been a frequent traveler to Turkey,” Silay said via email. “But now, I would not feel safe to travel there anymore. I am not only a university professor but also a public intellectual and activist. I am a Muslim but I have been an outspoken critic of Islamism. I am convinced that Islamism (not Islam) is a scary form of fascism, and I have been fighting this fascism for decades. For the Islamists, I am a very clear target.”

Silay described what’s happening right now as “the biggest witch hunt in Turkey’s modern history. Anti-Erdoğan intellectuals in general and secular academics in particular are being targeted.” Silay said he has many leftist and secular academic friends in Turkey who have been branded “traitors” or “terror supporters.”

“Using the so-called coup attempt as a pretext, I expect Turkey to be ruled as a civilian fascist dictatorship for years,” Silay said. “Under the ‘rules and regulations’ of such regimes, scholars and students, journalists, artists, anyone with a dissenting voice, they suffer the most. It is hard to predict the entire picture at this point, but obtaining visas, receiving permits for research at libraries, conducting interviews, organizing conferences or activities on Turkish literature, arts, cultural activities, inviting free-minded scholars and journalists even to our own campuses here in the United States, all will be extraordinarily difficult given the fact that Erdoğan supporters right now throughout the world are declaring and reporting whomever they don’t like or whoever may disagree with them as ‘terrorists.’”

Nancy Leinwand, the executive director of the American office for the American Research Institute in Turkey, which is supported by a consortium of about 50 U.S. universities, said it’s difficult to tell what the impact of this month’s events will be on American researchers. On the one hand, she said she doesn’t expect day-to-day operations at ARIT to change much. On the other, she said that things like permits for archaeological digs could be impacted by changes in personnel or in attitudes. In addition, she said continuing concerns about the risk of terrorism — which predate the coup attempt — could lead to a reduction in the number of scholars coming to the institute’s research centers in Ankara and Istanbul.

The questions for researchers, Leinwand said, are “do I feel safe” and “can I get my work done.”

Leinwand said one of the scholars at the institute doing sociological research this summer chose to leave Turkey early. Another scholar doing archival research who originally planned to leave opted to stay. ARIT’s summer language program at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University is continuing, though one of the students left early.

“That particular group took a boat trip on the Bosporus yesterday up to the Black Sea, had a picnic and swam,” Leinwand said Tuesday.

Study Abroad

In other cases study abroad programs have been canceled or relocated.

It’s not only the attempted coup and the government response that concerns U.S. universities. A series of terrorist attacks prompted some universities to suspend or cancel their study abroad programs there even before the events of this summer. A terror attack at Istanbul’s airport in June killed 45 people.

A U.S. Department of State travel warning, updated Tuesday, warns of increased threats of terrorist attacks in Turkey and advises American citizens to “reconsider” travel to the country and “avoid” travel to the southeast, particularly near the Syrian border. The warning also makes note of the State Department’s decision to authorize the voluntary departure of family members of American embassy and consulate employees following the attempted coup and subsequent declaration by the Turkish government of a 90-day state of emergency.

It was after the coup attempt that Duke University placed Turkey on its list of restricted regions, a move that means undergraduates who want to travel there would have to petition for the right and graduate students would have to sign a special waiver (faculty travel is unaffected). Duke sponsored a summer service program in Dalyan, Turkey, that concluded three days before the coup attempt.

“The factor that put it on the restricted regions list was the attempted military coup, the state of emergency and just a sense that we had that Turkey had become a volatile place,” said Eric Mlyn, the chair of Duke’s Global Travel Advisory Committee and assistant vice provost for civic engagement. “Once the coup took place it just became clear to us that we couldn’t even guarantee normal security in Turkey given the upheaval in police forces and the armed forces. Once that upheaval became clear to us, it just made sense to take a break.”

The American Councils for International Education, which administers multiple federally funded study abroad programs in Turkey, had already pulled its programs out of the country for the summer. The American Councils made alternative arrangements for students in the summer Critical Language Scholarship and Turkish Language Flagship programs to study in Turkish language programs at universities in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, respectively.

Dan E. Davidson, the executive director of the American Councils, said the intention though midsummer had been to return to Turkey for the academic year Turkish Language Flagship program, but that plans changed after the attempted coup. Instead, he said the advanced Turkish language students enrolled in the program will attend a university with a Turkish language program in Baku, Azerbaijan. They will live with Turkish host families and study Azeri as a second language.

Academic Conferences

At least one major academic group, the European International Studies Association, has canceled a planned conference in Turkey.

“Under present circumstances, it has become impossible to guarantee a safe and secure environment for EISA’s 10th Pan-European Conference, which was supposed to take place in Izmir from 7 to 10 September 2016,” the organization said in a statement.

“Over the past months, and following the persecution of academic colleagues who had signed the Academics for Peace petition in January, the EISA board has been clear in its criticism of the course of action taken by the Turkish government,” the statement continues. “At the same time, we have always said that it is because of the concern for Turkish colleagues that we need to engage with them rather than withdraw from Izmir as a venue. While we still think that this policy has been the right one, the course of events since [July 15] have made it impossible to proceed with PEC-16, and have forced us to take the decision to cancel PEC-16 against our declared intentions.”

University Partnerships and Centers

Columbia University has a center in Istanbul, one of eight global centers it has around the world.

Columbia’s executive vice president for global centers and global development, Safwan M. Masri, initially stated a willingness to be interviewed for this article but then indicated, through an assistant, he was unavailable. The university’s media relations office issued a statement instead: “The employees of the Columbia Global Center in Istanbul are accounted for and safe, and the center is open. We have also reached out to the more than 150 Columbia students, faculty and scholars who are Turkish citizens. Columbia’s commitment to academic freedom, uninhibited intellectual inquiry and open debate is a defining principle of our institution, and we continue to monitor developments in Turkey in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt.”

SUNY Binghamton typically enrolls a little more than 300 Turkish students a year through dual-degree and exchange programs with three Turkish universities — Bilkent, Istanbul Technical and Middle East Technical Universities — and also has (nondual degree) exchange agreements with Boğaziçi and Koç Universities. Those programs are continuing: Oktay Sekercisoy, the senior director for global strategy, education abroad and international partnerships, said Binghamton has seen increased interest in the dual-degree programs from Turkish students since the coup attempt. Turkish students begin selecting their universities today.

Sekercisoy said he has been closely watching the news from Turkey since the coup attempt, watching for every sign, positive and negative, of the direction Turkish academia is going. One crucial indicator he’s watching involves the reappointments of the deans — whether many of those who have been asked to resign will be reinstated, and whether the reappointments seem to be based on merit rather than political and ideological affiliation.

Brian Silverstein, an associate professor of anthropology and director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Turkish Studies, described the actions against deans as a “a move against the autonomy of the universities; the real test will be the process for appointing deans in the future.” Arizona has formal partnerships with two Turkish universities, Boğaziçi and Dokuz Eylül Universities.

“I’ve been concerned about the overall worsening of academic freedom and the work conditions of academics in Turkey for several years now, after a few years when it seemed things were getting better on this front, especially compared to the 1980s or 1990s,” Silverstein said via email. “It’s clear that the universities and schools shut down are Gülen-linked ones, and the vast majority of teachers and academics targeted have been as well, but it’s still not clear if these purges everywhere are happening to Gülen-related people only. So far (and this could change) it seems that’s the case, because the media oppositional to the AKP are not reporting, for instance, that secularists who have been outspoken in opposition to the AKP are being fired.”

“Will these purges be followed by moves that further deteriorate the conditions for independent, critical inquiry at Turkish universities?” Silverstein asked. “That is what I am watching for, and if that happens then my university might need to revisit its relationships with Turkish universities. I very much hope that does not come to pass.”

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Entrance to Istanbul University
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Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Colleen Flaherty

Along with dozens of her colleagues, Jeannine Diddle Uzzi was unceremoniously cast off the University of Southern Maine’s sinking ship two years ago as it faced a $16 million budget shortfall. The former professor of classics was retrenched and saw her program eliminated as part of academic cuts. So she found a new job and never imagined going back. Until she did.

In an unlikely twist in the modern retrenchment story, Uzzi gave up a promising new career and climbed back on board, at Southern Maine’s request, to become its interim provost. After nearly a year and a national search, she was promoted to the post permanently this summer.

Why go back? Uzzi asked herself the same question — many times.

“It was definitely trying and not without some anxiety,” she said. “I took a gamble on myself and the university, which was trying to turn itself around. It had been through some serious struggles.”

“Struggles” is putting it mildly. Staring down a major budget gap due to diminished enrollment and other factors, the university in 2014 announced that it was terminating the appointments of 50 of its approximately 300 full-time faculty members, along with 100 staff members, and eliminating several academic programs.

In the end, 26 faculty positions were eliminated and another 25 instructors, under the threat of retrenchment, opted for a voluntary retirement package or took jobs elsewhere.

The university earned itself a spot on the American Association of University Professors’ list of censured institutions for the way it handled the crisis, largely making academic decisions at the executive level and without declaring the true financial exigency that would have permitted the termination of tenured faculty members under widely accepted AAUP policies.

Southern Maine acted in “brazen disregard” of AAUP’s statement on, and its own procedures for, shared governance in eliminating multiple academic programs without consulting the faculty, the association wrote in a report on the matter. “The program closures at [Southern Maine] are not merely matters of bookkeeping; they impinge on matters of curriculum and instruction, for which the faculty should always have primary responsibility. The administration’s ignoring the Faculty Senate, repeatedly and apparently deliberately, is at odds with generally accepted norms of academic governance in American higher education.”

Some onlookers also criticized the university blueprint for the cuts, which realigned Southern Maine as the state’s “metropolitan university.”

But that was 2014. By last fall, when Uzzi returned, the university was on its fourth president in less than two years. Two were embattled with the remaining faculty and one was hired but never made it to campus after he was promoted at his home institution. The fourth time, the university looked inward and hired Glenn Cummings, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Southern Maine and former interim president of the University of Maine at Augusta. He also served as speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and in the Obama administration as deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

Cummings didn’t know Uzzi, but he knew of her reputation as a strong academic adviser, former chair of the Faculty Senate and her somewhat unlikely — as a classicist — interest in online learning.

In an interview, Cummings said hiring Uzzi had some other advantages. He liked the “optics” of hiring back a retrenched faculty member, sending a signal that no one had been terminated because he or she was a poor scholar or teacher. And Cummings said getting Southern Maine back on track was so urgent that he couldn’t waste two or three years as someone from the outside learned the lay of the land — political and otherwise.

He called Uzzi and offered her a job as the university’s fifth provost in six years.

Uzzi, always somewhat interested in administrative work, had by then ruled out of the possibility of a lateral move in classics, given the job market nationwide, and found a job as director of faculty programs for the Associated Colleges of the South. She was enjoying the idea of that kind of work, not least the stability of it, and planned to relocate to Atlanta after her children finished school.

But she decided to take the gamble and stay in Maine, mainly out of love for the institution — however tough a place it can be.

“I’d been so invested in that university for 12 years,” she said. “I loved it and was all about teaching these high-need students. This is a regional comprehensive in a resource-poor state. It’s not an easy place to teach.”

Institutional loyalty aside, Cummings was the hook.

“The thing that really convinced me was the new president — I was impressed that he’d gone out to community members, students and faculty and taken their advice on who might be able to help him lead the university in a new direction,” Uzzi said. “And when he called me and told me that I could really help him heal the university — up until then I’d just known of his political career — he struck me as an ethical person who was genuinely trying to do the right thing.”

Uzzi was eager to start but found herself hampered somewhat by her one-year interim contract. Faculty and staff members were scarred by constant administrative turnover and in many cases reluctant to get too involved in any initiative. The competition in the ongoing national job search was stiff, she said, as applicants seemed to realize that the “hard work” of cutting at Southern Maine was done and the rest of the job would be getting “the ship back on course.”

Still, Uzzi set to work on mending relationships between faculty members and the administration and on a number of specific tasks, such as creating a slate of articulation agreements between the university and local community colleges. Uzzi also worked on creating a set of limited criteria for evaluating the health of academic programs as frequently as every semester, as opposed to every seven years, as was previously the case.

Like so many other institutions, Southern Maine is also trying to boost its enrollment and retention numbers. Uzzi’s had a hand in that, as well.

“That’s an ethical imperative of schools where most students pay their own way,” Uzzi said of completion efforts. She’s got two new faculty members arriving this fall to help develop enhanced academic support service “safety net” programs in English and math, for example. And she wants to expand a peer tutoring program in chemistry into the other sciences.

Uzzi is also trying to find new ways to get students to fill out evaluations of teaching, but more by carrot than stick.

One challenge for Uzzi has been recognizing and negotiating among the different faculty interest groups on the heavily unionized campus, she said — distinctions she didn’t see as a professor. “The union has particular concerns that are not always the concerns of shared governance or faculty governance. … So supporting the faculty as an entity isn’t as simple as it seems.”

As part of Southern Maine’s restructuring, it eliminated foreign language majors. That’s something Uzzi said she might like to see change going forward, especially under the university’s new designation as a metropolitan center, she said.

This year, with Uzzi’s newfound agency as permanent provost, she’s also looking forward to helping the university heal.

“Morale is improving — there are pockets that are great, but it’s not complete. The healing is not complete,” she said. “Faculty will still need to talk about this. … But we are definitely moving in the right direction. The budget is back on track and we are projecting no layoffs.”

Despite the tumult, enrollments at Southern Maine are indeed up — some 25 percent in new undergraduate enrollments for the fall, and 13 percent for new graduate students, according to information from the university.

Both Uzzi and Cummings attribute that progress to a team of colleagues, but Cummings said his own bet on Uzzi has certainly paid off.

“This is the best hiring gamble I’ve ever made,” he said. “She’s very well respected internally, and she is very positive and collaborative — all the time. At the same time, she can be firm when she needs to be, and she’s incredibly credible when she is firm. Usually no one in the room except her can say, ‘I know what being retrenched means, so I know what it means to be fiscally careful.’”

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Jeannine Diddle Uzzi
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Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Jake New

At a news conference in April 2014, Vice President Joe Biden called on colleges to “step up” their efforts combating campus sexual assault.

The request included a specific suggestion: colleges should voluntarily conduct anonymous surveys that gauge the “climate” on their campuses surrounding sexual violence and harassment. “They have a moral responsibility to know what’s happening on their campus,” Biden said.

That July, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would require all colleges to conduct such surveys; a year earlier the U.S. Department of Education had begun making climate surveys a standard part of its resolution agreements with colleges under investigation for violating Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972.

When the White House suggested institutions begin conducting the surveys, colleges had few tools to turn to, and many balked at being forced to develop the expensive surveys on their own. Today, colleges have plenty of choices. But there’s debate over the merits and shortcomings of each option — and there’s disagreement on what the surveys’ purposes are.

Researchers say climate surveys should be about assessing what can be done to improve the environment on a particular campus. Politicians say the surveys should be about accountability and allowing parents to know how safe a college is before sending their children there.

Individual institutions — including the University of Kentucky, the University of Michigan and the Harvard School of Public Health — have developed surveys. The White House released a prototype survey of its own. The Justice Department has created several surveys, some in partnership with institutions, some with large research firms. Trade organizations and research consortiums have also produced surveys, with some groups offering the tools to institutions for free, while others charge thousands of dollars.

“You want colleges to have a few really good options,” said Noël Busch-Armendariz, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault. “The field of interpersonal violence research has been around for 40 years, and now student activists and the White House have helped propel this national discussion about learning more about who this affects. Researchers have readied the field scientifically, and we have gotten more sophisticated in understanding how to measure these issues. Now a window of opportunity has opened to use that research.”

What to Ask?

In November 2014, the Association of American Universities, feeling pressure from Congress and the White House and opposing the idea of legislation on the subject, began developing a survey with Westat for its members to use. The effort proved controversial.

Concerned over the AAU’s promise to only release aggregate data, victims’ advocates said the plan “smack[ed] of institutional protectionism.” In an open letter, a group of 16 scholars who study sexual violence urged AAU members not to sign on to the survey, objecting to the fact that the survey was “proprietary and therefore not available for scientific examination.” Critics also said the process lacked transparency and input from enough scientists who study sexual assaults on campuses.

In the end, 33 of the AAU’s 60 U.S. members decided not to participate in the survey.

David Cantor, vice president at Westat, said much of the criticism was premature. The survey was not proprietary, Cantor said, as it was posted online for any campus to use. Dartmouth University and Georgetown University, who are not members of the AAU, have both used the survey.

Though the survey had a lower response rate than the researchers had hoped for, Cantor noted that more than 150,000 students participated, making it one of the largest research efforts of its kind. While critics complained that AAU only released aggregate data, every institution that used the survey published its own results online.

“The criticism of the survey was based on partial information,” Cantor said. “We thought it was successful.”

Once under way at the participating campuses, the language used in the survey also proved to be controversial. The questions asked students if they had ever experienced a number of specific sexual activities without their consent, describing those actions with words and phrases such as “oral sex” and “penetration,” and defining the terms using definitions such as “when a person puts a penis, finger or object inside someone else’s vagina or anus.”

Though the consensus among researchers is that using more specific language in climate surveys results in more accurate data about instances of sexual assault, some students reported that the phrasing made them uncomfortable or even triggered harmful memories of their own assaults.

Despite the complaints, nearly all recent campus climate surveys have used specific language like in the AAU survey, including one developed by RTI International and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Sexual assault across the board is the most underrated reported crime in the world,” Christopher Krebs, chief research social scientist at RTI, said. “So the reality is that colleges and universities don’t know much of anything about the magnitude and nature of the problem of sexual assault among their students. We needed to make sure we could develop a methodology that we thought did collect valid data on these concepts, and we do that by using behaviorally specific terminology.”

The Justice Department survey has so far been better received than the AAU survey, as it was created by researchers with a long history of studying the issue (Krebs was one researcher behind the 2007 study favored by the White House that suggested one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college). The survey was also first piloted and fine-tuned at nine institutions, with more than 23,000 students responding, before the tool was released for use by the public.

The survey asked questions meant to gauge the prevalence of sexual assault and other kinds of gender violence, the frequency of students reporting the crime to campus officials and law enforcement, and the effects an assault can have on a victim’s life, including on schoolwork and personal relationships. The study does not contain questions about who may have committed assaults, however.

It’s an omission that has led some researchers to refrain from recommending that campuses make the survey their tool of choice. During a recent conference call between RTI and several campus researchers, many researchers expressed their disappointment that the Justice Department funded a study that lacked questions about who was committing the assaults.

“Few surveys ask about perpetration,” Sarah Cook, a professor and associate dean at Georgia State University, said. “The AAU survey does not. The Justice Department does not. If you want to measure campus climate, you have to ask about perpetration.”

Cook is one of the architects behind the ARC3 Campus Climate Survey, developed by a consortium called the Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative.

That survey does ask about perpetration — both asking those who say they have committed assault why they did so and about the environment where the assaults took place — as well as many of the other topics covered in the AAU and Justice Department surveys. “Data that are focused on both victimization and perpetration creates a scientific foundation for administrative work,” the consortium states on its website.

More than 300 colleges have requested to use the survey, according to ARC3, though, because it comes in modules, the consortium is not sure if those who have used the survey are using the full survey or only parts of it.

The survey also has the backing and involvement of Mary P. Koss, a professor of public health at the University of Arizona and a pioneering researcher on the prevalence of campus sexual assault.

“It is flexible, so instead of the school having to pick the whole survey, they just have to pick the modules they want,” Koss said. “I think it is unwise and a waste of time for individual schools to construct their own survey or to make significant modifications in those they find.”

‘Feeding Frenzy’

A particular concern that troubled ARC3 researchers was the quickly growing number of surveys that emerged so suddenly following the White House’s announcement in 2014.

One of those surveys is being created by ATIXA, an arm of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management. The survey is still being piloted, but it, too, will consist of different modules. ATIXA estimates that when the survey is ready, it will cost $3,500 for colleges to use the full survey, but some of the modules will be free for its members. For $7,500, the firm will administer the survey for an institution. A “polished report” about the data would cost an institution another $12,500.

In an email exchange last year that was provided to Inside Higher Ed, several faculty members and student affairs officials said they worried that organizations like ATIXA were trying to cash in on the need for such surveys without doing the necessary research. “Title IX coordinators are very tired of the feeding frenzy,” one dean of students wrote.

Brett Sokolow, the president of NCHERM, defended the ATIXA survey, noting that it’s now been in development for nearly two years.

“Refining it is a process, and we’re spending a lot of time on getting the language of the questions right,” Sokolow said. “We’re not trying to compete with ARC3 or any other surveys. We’re trying to figure out what other researchers aren’t. Prevalence surveys are fairly useless in the sense that they don’t tell us much about what happens. How much is not the most important question. You’re not going to change things just knowing that 10 percent of students are being assaulted versus 15 percent. We want to know what the barriers are, and what would increase reporting.”

Busch-Armendariz, of the University of Texas at Austin, said there is no single perfect survey for colleges to use. There are, however, surveys that are far better than others, she said.

Busch-Armendariz recently finished a study examining 10 climate surveys, including those produced by the AAU, ARC3, the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, the University of Chicago, John Hopkins University, the University of Kentucky, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Oregon, Rutgers University and the White House. She declined to say which surveys colleges should absolutely avoid, but she was quick to point out her two favorites: the ARC3 survey, which she helped produce, and the survey at Rutgers.

Called #iSPEAK, the Rutgers survey was conducted at the request of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Rutgers’ approach won praise for its mix of traditional questionnaires and focus group interviews.

The survey found that one in five female students at Rutgers had experienced “unwanted sexual contact” since arriving on campus. In May, the University of Michigan reached roughly the same conclusion with its climate survey. At both universities the surveys used a broad definition of sexual assault that included not only incidents involving rape but also unwanted kissing and touching. This has been another point of debate for those creating climate surveys.

When surveys at the University of Kentucky and the Harvard School of Public Health used a narrower definition limited to unwanted or forced penetration, the rate of assault was far lower.

“We know sexual violence means different things to different individuals, so we used a broad definition,” Sarah McMahon, associate director of the Rutgers Center on Violence Against Women and Children, said at the time. “We know all forms of sexual violence are problematic and have serious repercussions.”

In their recommendations to the White House regarding the pilot survey, McMahon and her team stopped short of suggesting that all colleges use the broader definition, instead noting that the phrase “unwanted sexual contact” made it “nearly impossible” for researchers to distinguish among types of sexual violence that differ in severity. “Our recommendation does suggest that we need to have more discussion about how to define and measure sexual violence so that we can compare institutions,” McMahon said.

Comparing institutions is one of the key reasons lawmakers want institutions to conduct climate surveys. The bipartisan legislation first introduced in 2014 would require colleges to not only conduct climate surveys but to publish the results online for prospective students to see. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is a cosponsor of the legislation, said at the time that such information is key for students choosing among colleges.

“Parents and students need to know that the difference in colleges isn’t just in programs or graduation rates, but it’s also in safety,” Rubio said.

Researchers, however, generally warn against using climate surveys to pit one college against another. Christine Lindquist, senior research sociologist at RTI, said having one survey many colleges can use is important “not to call out universities that happen to have high prevalence estimates” but for colleges to be able to learn from one another.

Comparing and ranking colleges “is not particularly helpful,” Busch-Armendariz, of the University of Texas, said.

“We like rankings,” she said. “But having comparative data like that doesn’t do much good, quite frankly. You want colleges to be able to use their surveys to develop programs specific to their campuses. It’s about being transparent and being able to be fully informed about the issues. That’s the real purpose of having these benchmarks.”

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A section from a climate survey produced by the U.S. Department of Justice
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Source: Inside Higher Ed


By Joshua Kim

A worthwhile contribution to our discussion about automation, AI, cloud computing, education, and the future of work.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Eric Stoller

Attitudes, learning, and engagement

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Rosemarie Emanuele

A life-changing choice.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Tracy Evans

Three young girls and a boy are reading on bean bag chairs in class, each chair a different color: green, red, teal, and blue. Behind them are two bookshelves, and on the wall are mini posters with different colors written on them.
Tracy Evans
Use design thinking (brainstorming, prototyping, testing, building, and reflecting) to co-create your classroom environment with the students who will be learning in it.

Source: Edutopia


By Paul Fain

Zenith Education Group, which 18 months ago bought more than half of Corinthian Colleges’ campuses, has a new leader and a new $250 million endowment.

ECMC Group, the large student loan guaranty agency, spent $24 million for 53 WyoTech and Everest campuses, as well as Corinthian’s online programs. Zenith, a nonprofit, enrolled 33,000 students after the purchase.

Since then the career college chain has hemorrhaged students and money, continuing Corinthian’s struggles, minus the raft of state or federal investigations the controversial for-profit faced.

Zenith lost $100 million last year. It now enrolls 10,000 students at 24 campuses, having consolidated, closed or begun teaching out the remaining campuses. The cuts have been painful, including layoffs of more than half of its workforce. Zenith now employs 2,600 faculty and staff members.

Yet ECMC isn’t giving up without a fight.

The guaranty agency today announced that its governing board will give $250 million to the ECMC Foundation to support Zenith. The foundation’s current president, Peter Taylor, will become Zenith’s president and CEO. He replaces Dave Hawn, ECMC Group’s president and CEO, who also has been Zenith’s interim leader since its creation in February 2015. Hawn will continue to run ECMC.

Taylor and Hawn were optimistic in a phone interview this week. Essentially starting over again with Corinthian’s “heavily distressed” programs hasn’t been easy. But the mostly blank slate comes with advantages, they said.

Rebuilding the academic programs at Zenith’s 24 campuses is a “rare legacy opportunity for all of us,” said Taylor. The chain plans to continue drawing lessons from community colleges and other nonprofits to look for a “third pathway,” he said, meaning a “new way to do student-centered career education.”

That includes a more hands-on approach than many public community colleges can provide, with more resources and student supports, Taylor said, but without the sometimes perverse incentives of many for-profits.

Zenith’s sale included a deal to forgive $480 million of debt held by former Corinthian students. The nonprofit also has cut its tuition, bulked up curricula and focused on helping students land well-paying jobs.

However, consumer and student advocates have been critical of Zenith, arguing the nonprofit has not done enough to change its former Corinthian holdings (more on that debate later). One criticism is that the chain had not brought in new leadership with higher education chops.

Taylor recently worked for the University of California System, where he was executive vice president and chief financial officer. During his five-year stint at UC, which ended in 2014, Taylor was credited with helping the 10-campus system weather California’s severe financial crisis, through cost cutting with joint purchasing and by boosting investment returns.

An expert on government bonds and financing, Taylor previously worked at Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital. He also is a member of the California State University System’s Board of Trustees. Asked about potential conflicts in that role, Taylor said Zenith focuses on nontraditional students (unlike Cal State) and does not operate campuses in California.

Taylor will join Mary Ostrye, Zenith’s provost and chief academic officer, who arrived last August. Ostrye also has a background in traditional higher education, having most recently been provost and senior vice president for Ivy Tech Community College, which is Indiana’s statewide two-year chain.

Zenith’s new $250 million endowment is both a fiscal boost and a statement that ECMC is serious about making Everest and WyoTech’s remaining programs viable, said Taylor and Hawn.

“We didn’t embark on this journey for the short haul,” Hawn said. “We want to make a difference in career education in America.”

If they fail, however, one outcome could be what some Corinthian critics called for when the for-profit first collapsed.

Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress and a former official at the U.S. Education Department, said Zenith’s leaders, for the most part, seem to mean well with their plans for the chain.

Yet “intentions are brushing up against a business model,” he said, adding that Zenith is trying to fix a deeply flawed infrastructure in midstream, while still recruiting students and issuing credentials.

Miller said he’s skeptical that approach can work. And if Zenith goes bust, the result would be a “semiorderly wind down of Corinthian,” he said, “which should have happened in the first place.”

Training Medical Assistants

Taylor oversaw UC’s $9 billion endowment. He described Zenith’s new money as a “fund functioning as an endowment,” a financial term for a quasi endowment that lacks many of the spending restrictions on a traditional endowment fund.

“They’re giving us a great deal of flexibility to spend as needed,” he said.

Zenith will draw down the standard amount of roughly 5 percent of the fund per year, Taylor said, using that $13 million or so to support “transformational opportunities” to improve student success.

In addition, he said the fund’s structure includes the advantage of being able to dip into the principal to back a “great idea,” meaning Zenith could spend more than 5 percent of the endowment in a year.

The career college chain already has made substantial changes. On the academic side, one of its focuses has been improving programs that train medical assistants.

“We decided to look at where we could impact the most students,” said Ostrye.

Zenith first used its approach to curriculum redesign with medical assistant training. Faculty members led the work, which included a survey of employers to understand their preferred skills and certifications.

Instructors decided to embed nationally recognized certifications in the programs, Ostrye said, making them required for students. “That’s a radical change,” she said.

Roughly 60 percent of Corinthian’s business was in medical assistant programs, said Trace Urdan, a senior analyst for Credit Suisse, who is an expert on for-profits. And he said enrollment is down nationwide at most institutions that train medical assistants.

“The kind of programs that they offer are out of favor everywhere,” Urdan said.

The jobs are there, he said, and employers are desperate for medical assistants. But the students just aren’t showing up, according to Urdan. The problem for Zenith is that the enrollment slide is a “cyclical dimension that’s outside of their control.”

Zenith’s leaders hope the improved quality of their medical assistant programs will be a draw for students and employers alike. The new pathways are “stackable,” meaning medical-assistant program graduates should be able to retain credits as they pursue more credentials in health care.

Information technology and other programs will follow suit, said Ostrye, with curriculum overhauls and stackable credentials.

Roughly 80 percent of Zenith’s campus-based academic tracks are short term, Hawn said, with nine to 10 months of programming. And he said demand for many of those credentials has remained “tepid” during the economy’s recovery.

“It’s still a tough market,” he said. “However, the allied health field is still growing.”

Pauline Abernathy has not been impressed by Zenith. Abernathy, who is vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success, said the chain’s March progress report showed too much of Corinthian’s roots, including a paid governing board, enrollment agreements students must sign and mostly unchanged curricula.

“ECMC’s stated goal was to change the Corinthian schools,” she said. “But its March report indicated that much was exactly the same.”

Just as important, Abernathy questioned the continued existence of Everest and WyoTech.

“What is the need that they’re meeting?” she said.

Taylor and Hawn said Zenith’s goal is to reinvent career education, which Hawn has said is a broken sector, but one that prepares many people to serve in vital roles, including medical assistants.

The key, they said, is to build enrollments while staying focused on strong student results, obviously avoiding the sort of fraudulent overpromising that led to Corinthian’s demise — and the defrauding of tens of thousands of students.

One way Zenith has begun that process is by ending its national advertising for Everest and shifting marketing money to local campuses, which can be more targeted with ads.

“It doesn’t help us to enroll students who are not going to benefit from our academic programming,” said Hawn.

Once students enroll, Zenith has tried to reduce the debt they take on, by last year awarding more than $100 million in tuition reductions and scholarships while also spending money on initiatives aimed at student completion and job placement. So far Zenith has reduced its overall student debt burden by 20 percent.

As for when the chain will hit the bottom of its enrollment and revenue slide, Hawn said Zenith may be in position to start growing its remaining campuses.

“We believe we’re really where we want to be,” he said. “We’re just getting warmed up.”

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By Rick Seltzer

A report being released today pushes back against the idea that state subsidies lowering tuition at public four-year universities disproportionately benefit students from wealthy families.

The research, being released under the Brookings Institution’s series of Evidence Speaks reports, finds appropriations from state and local governments used to offset educational costs at public institutions are smaller for students from higher-income families than for those with lower incomes. It also makes the case that low-income students are well represented across types of public four-year universities, including very selective universities, where they represent a quarter of enrollments — a far higher proportion than is the case at most elite private universities.

That might not be surprising to those who expect public higher education to focus on affordability and accessibility. But the findings run counter to an argument that has been growing in recent years among commentators and analysts, said Jason Delisle, a resident fellow in education policy studies from the American Enterprise Institute. Delisle wrote the new report along with Kim Dancy, a policy analyst in the Education Policy Program at New America.

“You have to be almost in this echo chamber of the D.C. policy world in order for this to be a big finding,” Delisle said. “An argument that I hear a lot, and that other people hear a lot in the policy community and D.C. and even in elite newspapers like The Washington Post, is that the taxpayer subsidies for public universities go disproportionately to high-income students.”

The basic argument Delisle and Dancy sought to test starts with the idea that states shell out larger appropriations to their top public universities than they do to their less competitive institutions that enroll higher levels of low-income students. Those universities in turn enroll more students from high-income families, and they spend more per student. At the same time, less selective schools draw a higher percentage of their students from lower-income backgrounds while receiving less in appropriations and spending less per student.

The New York Times Magazine ran an article in 2015 that summarized the theory this way:

“Flagship public universities — like the University of California, Berkeley, or the Universities of Michigan and Virginia — often behave like elite private schools, using aid to attract the best students, typically the ones who would probably go to a decent school without government support.

“That means that high-achieving students from educated families receive a disproportionate share of financial assistance, while those at the bottom, struggling students from families ill equipped to support their educations, receive a disproportionately small share.”

In 2014, The Washington Post‘s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, likened state support to a subsidy for the rich.

“States across the country subsidize higher education for their residents by paying the difference between in-state tuition rates and what a college education really costs,” he wrote. “This is so much a part of the American fabric that few stop to think about its regressive aspect.”

But Delisle and Dancy came to a different conclusion. They merged 2011-12 data sets from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to generate a look at public university spending on educational services and how much students pay toward those costs. They then used the data to measure indirect subsidies — appropriations from state and local governments and other revenue sources that offset educational costs — by comparing the difference between university spending and charged tuition.

The results show that the national average indirect subsidy is highest for students with lower incomes. The average student reporting a family income of $30,000 or less had subsidies of $7,305. The average student with a family income of more than $106,000 had a subsidy of $6,318.

In addition, the report says differences in out-of-state and in-state tuition contribute to the differences in subsidies for income groups. High-income students are much more likely to attend out-of-state institutions, the report said. In doing so, many forgo government subsidies. Students from the wealthiest backgrounds actually averaged a negative subsidy, meaning on average they paid more tuition than universities spent on education services, even after factoring in scholarships and aid.

“What you have is essentially rich students opting to pay three times as much as the in-state rate,” Delisle said. “That frees up a bunch of resources for universities to keep tuition low for in-state students.”

Delisle and Dancy also looked at how government subsidy levels compared to enrollment levels at different types of institutions. They found that low-income students received slightly more in subsidies than they would if subsidy dollars were divvied up based on enrollment portions. Students with family incomes of $30,000 or less were 37.4 percent of enrollments at public universities across the country but received 38.8 percent of indirect subsidies. In contrast, students with family incomes above $106,000 were 21.1 percent of enrollments but received 19.5 percent of subsidies.

The rule held nearly across the board when splitting universities up by selectivity levels — students in the lowest income bracket made up 25.1 percent of enrollments at very selective institutions but received 28.5 percent of subsidies. The only exception was at universities deemed least selective and those that had open admission, where the lowest-income students made up 50.7 percent of enrollments yet only received 49.8 percent of subsidies.

The report calls indirect subsidies “relatively flat, if not slightly progressive.” It indicates that, in general, most financial aid appears to be allocated based on need, said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University whose specialties include finance and student aid.

“It’s a set of results that are counterintuitive, in that the general perception is that higher-income students are getting much larger subsidies,” said Kelchen, who reviewed a draft of the research earlier this year. “And that may be true at the most absolute, most selective flagship institutions. But what the paper shows well is that higher-income students disproportionately attend private and out-of-state colleges, and the socioeconomic mix at most public colleges is more representative of America.”

However, the results still show that very selective institutions enroll lower portions of low-income students than other types of institutions. And some wondered whether it is ideal to have parity between the percentage of students in an income bracket and the percentage of state subsidies going to those students.

“Should that subsidy be even close?” said José Luis Santos, vice president for higher education policy and practice at Education Trust. “I would expect low-income students, because they have a higher need, to get a bigger subsidy.”

Percentages don’t express the differences in real dollars that students feel, he said. So although the 25.1 percent of students at very selective institutions from low-income families may be getting 28.5 percent of the universities’ subsidies, they may still be facing more financial pressure than wealthier students.

“They are attending very selective institutions and paying higher tuition and fees,” he said. “There’s still a gap there in what they have to be able to cover.”

The report says that the way subsidies should be allocated is open for debate.

“We’re sort of agnostic in this report about how the subsidies should be distributed and what the right percentage of enrollment is,” Delisle said. “We mainly point that out simply to help explain why high-income students are not getting a disproportionate share of benefits.”

Delisle and Dancy also ran their numbers after expanding their measure of indirect subsidies to include both spending on education services and other activities including research. They found low-income students receive smaller subsidies when research dollars are included. Those from families with incomes of $30,000 or less received subsidies of $13,780, while those from families with incomes over $106,000 received subsidies of $15,972.

“Research spending does correlate to income, actually,” Delisle said. “It is some strange thing going on there, where high-income students are in some way sorting themselves for the institutions that spend more on research.”

The data come with several important limitations. They represent national averages, not estimates on the state level. That would obscure variations from state to state. Some state systems may still fit the narrative that high-income students are receiving more in subsidies. The data also do not include community colleges.

Delisle also pointed out that the research is for a single year. He would like to do more work to see how the data change over time.

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Average per-student subsidies were generally higher for low-income students than high-income students, according to a new report.
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By Ashley A. Smith

Free. Vouchers. Scholarships. Promise. Opportunity — they’re the buzzwords behind a campaign to significantly lower the cost of attending college and help more students leave those institutions debt-free. Many of the campaigns focus on making community college free, or at least free of tuition.

In the hopes of spreading this campaign nationally and starting local programs, many free community college advocates are changing the rhetoric to keep the issue nonpartisan. That’s not always easy when Democratic presidential candidates — and the nominee, Hillary Clinton — spent the primary season highlighting the idea of making public higher education free, with the goal of creating a contrast with Donald Trump, who opposes the idea.

“Certain words in this educational conversation are lightning rods, and that’s unfortunate,” said Martha Kanter, a former under secretary of education under President Obama, who leads the College Promise Campaign, which advocates for free community college.

“Free means it’s paid for someone, some way. We in the campaign, in our language, have tried to be very clear that if we talk about free community college or university, it means local institutions, local community, state or federal government, or business or philanthropy has funded the cost of opportunity.”

The College Promise Campaign boasts a nonpartisan list of advisory board members including former Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer, a Republican, and Jill Biden. The Democratic Party’s platform includes debt-free college, but there’s no mention of a similar proposal — even under a different name — in the Republican Party’s platform. But the free community college initiative still has plenty of Republican supporters.

“Sometimes we’re parsing small words when we’re parsing major policy decisions, and I don’t think they’re partisan issues,” Geringer said. “But it became politicized with the advocacy of two Democratic candidates.”

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have spent the past year on the campaign trail pushing not only free community college but a version of tuition-free or debt-free college that would also extend to four-year colleges and universities. Republicans have criticized that message, and any support on the conservative right has been targeted at lowering or eliminating costs at the community college alone.

Randy Smith, the president of the Rural Community College Alliance, describes himself as a conservative Republican who believes in limited government. But he also believes in investing in community colleges. Smith sat on a panel hosted by the College Promise Campaign at the Republican National Convention last week. A similar panel is being held this week at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

“There’s not many of us out there, but I am an advocate for America’s College Promise,” said Smith, referring to President Obama’s proposal for a national promise program. “If you want economic development in your state, you can’t do it without investing in education.”

Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, a nonprofit that endorses tuition-free reforms for community colleges and universities, said his organization was cognizant of the language issue and on a federal level they advocate for the federal government providing scholarships to each student attending in-state public colleges or universities.

“We could’ve easily called that a ‘payment’ or ‘voucher,’ but if we called it a voucher it would’ve caused all the Democrats to be opposed to free college,” he said. “But the word ‘scholarship’ is a bipartisan or nonpartisan word. So we called it a scholarship, but not for that reason. In calling it a scholarship we were cognizant of the words that trigger particular reactions based upon a person’s philosophical or political beliefs.”

In Tennessee, for instance, talk of that much-heralded promise program sometimes doesn’t include the word “free.”

“That’s a very conservative state, and you’d think the notion of free would be troublesome for the governor and getting it through the Legislature,” Winograd said. “But they don’t talk about free college in Tennessee. They talk about the Tennessee Promise, because the word ‘promise’ is very popular and because it’s nonpartisan … and they call the people who earn the promise ‘scholars,’ so you see how those words work in a more conservative territory.”

But Krissy DeAlejandro, the executive director of tnAchieves — the mentoring and volunteering arm of the Tennessee Promise — points out that using the word “free” is directed more at families and students as an incentive to encourage them to enroll in college.

“‘Free’ is a complicated word,” she said during the panel. “It’s the carrot. It’s the spark that brings parents to the table.”

Kanter estimates that there are about 180 promise programs across the country. While there are similarities, many of the requirements or details behind these programs are shaped by the politics of the area they’re located.

So for instance, in Republican-led Tennessee, there are multiple requirements, like community service and mentor meetings, for students so “it’s not just handed to” them — students have to earn their scholarships, Winograd said.

“If you go to Oregon, blue state territory, they had this big argument in the Legislature as to what would be the requirement for free tuition, and they were unable to agree on things like mentoring or community service,” he said.

Instead, Oregon settled on a $50 per semester copay that students contribute to tuition.

“That took care of the opposition in the liberal Oregon, who were worried about doing something free and having to do something to get free,” Winograd said.

Kanter, of the College Promise Campaign, is putting together a definitive list that defines each program and will answer whether they’re sustainable, increasing affordability and access for students. She said their early research has found some programs that claim to be promise initiatives but don’t meet the campaign’s definition.

“Everyone has a different definition of promise, and there’s a lot of overlap between existing programs,” she said. “From our perspective, we’re in the early stages, and we need evidence to say this is the program that will produce the results we need for the country.”

Geringer, the former Wyoming governor, who also sits on the Western Governors University board, said this idea of free without a degree isn’t free at all, which is why any discussion of a promise program has to include reforms that increase persistence and lead to completion. He’s pushed back on some of the rhetoric used to describe these programs on the College Promise Advisory Board, including the idea that higher education is a “guaranteed right.”

“Don’t talk to me about free. Talk to me about completion,” he said. “Community colleges have an unacceptable low rate of completion, and if we don’t deal with the lack of persistence to degree, free doesn’t mean anything.”

Paul Fain contributed to this report.

Community Colleges
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By Andrew Kreighbaum

PHILADELPHIA — While tuition-free and debt-free public college plans were debated vociferously in the Democratic primary, an older proposal for affordable higher ed receded into the background. But advocates for free community college at the Democratic National Convention don’t believe the idea has suffered from the shifting spotlight.

Instead, they say the wider discussion about college affordability will aid the push for free tuition at two-year programs.

President Obama gave his endorsement to the idea in January 2015 and announced America’s College Promise, a federal matching grant program to spur the development of free community college across the country. So far, Tennessee — the inspiration for the president’s plan — and a number of other states or local communities (many more of the latter) have put in place some version of free community college. The Democratic platform approved Monday in Philadelphia includes a call for free community college, an exciting if symbolic victory for advocates eager to push for more progress on the issue.

As organizers shift from the primary campaign to the general election and planning beyond November, some conversations are focused on how they can take strategies back to the local and state levels. Mary Cathryn Ricker, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the key for the group is helping members maintain that momentum in their local communities.

“We actually want to take this platform and we want it to come off the page,” she said. “That’s the way we’re going to have an impact — by tapping into the enthusiasm, tapping into the optimism people are having around this week and around that language, and then directing people into what concrete work looks like when they get home.”

Outside of Tennessee, Minnesota and Oregon have adopted free community college programs. In other states, like Michigan, advocates stymied at the state level are pushing for wins on a smaller scale.

Kalamazoo Promise launched in 2005, an initiative backed by anonymous donations to send graduates of local public schools to dozens of two- and four-year institutions in Michigan for free. In Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan this year has announced the Detroit Promise Zone, a free two-year-college plan modeled on the Kalamazoo program.

At the state level, AFT Michigan President David Hecker said the union is doing everything it can to elect a governor and legislators who would increase support for higher education. But the current Legislature has cut rather than expanded funding for colleges and universities in recent years.

“On a local level, we’re tremendous supporters of Mayor Duggan and we support candidates for office at the local level who would be interested in doing the kinds of things that [he] has done and that the community in Kalamazoo has done,” he said.

Sam Clovis, national co-chair and policy director for the Donald Trump campaign, has panned the idea of free community college as unnecessary. The goal also has its critics on the left, who say the focus on community college doesn’t go far enough.

Melissa Byrne, a former Sanders campaign staffer who has organized on free college for several years, said the goal of free two-year college doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s short-sighted and problematic to anchor a whole program around free community college, because we all know children of elites aren’t going to community college,” Byrne said.

Achieving free four-year public college would include community colleges, she said, but making only community college free would restrict the choices of low-income students. And research shows first-generation college students do well at four-year programs when they receive adequate support, Byrne said.

For many leaders of two-year programs, community college completion is a springboard to a four-year degree. The Community College of Philadelphia has agreements in place for dual admissions transfer partnerships with 12 area four-year programs, including Temple and Saint Joseph’s Universities. CCP President Donald Generals said the attention given to community colleges by President Obama’s announcement has only helped his college develop further partnerships in the area.

“President Obama really put the spotlight on community colleges,” he said. “Business and industry is more willing to work with us. Four-year colleges are more willing to work with us.”

Generals’s campus hosted an event this week to celebrate the inclusion of free community college in the Democratic platform and discuss how higher ed leaders can build more momentum behind the idea.

Although the public discussion on college affordability has for months focused on four-year programs, community colleges are where movement continues to happen, said Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress Action.

“Free community college is where we’re chiseling away at this program of college affordability,” she said. “As more of these programs pop up, more communities are going to be recognizing the value of them.”

Karen Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, said free community college is being pursued at a grassroots level because there hasn’t been much of a federal policy framework to guide that work. Stout sits on the College Promise Advisory Board and said President Obama’s announcement last year accelerated conversations between local community colleges, donors and policy makers.

“I’m optimistic because there is such energy around the conversation about college affordability,” she said.

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By Maxine Joselow

WASHINGTON — For the last couple of weeks, speeches and scandals from the Republican and Democratic national conventions have dominated headlines. But what of the Libertarian Party?

This week, a convention here is offering a rare window into the views and strategies of young libertarians. The Young Americans for Liberty National Convention is drawing college students from across the country to the Catholic University of America for four days of presentations and speeches, including a keynote speech by Ron Paul. Young Americans for Liberty is the largest libertarian student organization, with more than 700 chapters and 204,000 youth activists nationwide. The group grew out of Students for Ron Paul, which formed during the former Texas congressman’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Picture 350 college students who fervently believe that liberty is the best principle out there and that libertarian Gary Johnson is the best candidate out there. Now picture them all packed in the same conference room wearing lanyards and large grins, and you’ll get a general sense of the event.

On Wednesday, the second day of the convention, Johnson was polling at 7.2 percent, according to Real Clear Politics’ running average of national polls. To participate in the debates, candidates must reach at least 15 percent.

But Johnson’s polling numbers may stand to increase before September, as The New York Times reported. Both Republicans who dislike Donald Trump and Democrats who backed Bernie Sanders could find Johnson’s libertarian views appealing.

Students at the convention were quick to shower praise on Johnson. At the same time, they did not shy away from bashing Trump or Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.

“I believe Johnson is a large step in the right direction,” said Preston Jones, a rising junior at Virginia Tech. “Trump is louder and more obnoxious. There’s more of an apparent following for Trump on my campus, which just goes with the territory of being loud and attention grabbing.”

Matthew Cover, a rising senior at Georgia Institute of Technology, said he thinks Johnson has the best ideas and seems the most capable of any candidate. “You actually know what his plans are,” he said. “With Trump, I have no idea.” Cover said he is also “not a fan” of Clinton.

Some attendees said they gravitated toward Johnson after becoming disillusioned with both major-party candidates.

“I think there are a lot of people like me who are fed up with both sides and rally around Johnson,” said Leland Nelson, a rising junior at DePauw University. “But then you have a lot of econ majors who are fascinated with Trump and think his business résumé is qualified.”

“It sucks that it took two terrible candidates to have third parties become viable,” said Michael Wood, a recent graduate of Catholic University. “A lot of people on a [Roman] Catholic campus don’t like Trump because of all the hatred and the fear-mongering. It doesn’t really fit with the message that Catholicism spreads.”

Still, a few Trump supporters could be picked out of the crowd. One conspicuous attendee wore a navy blue suit and a red baseball cap bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Gabrielle Chishinsky, who serves as vice president of College Republicans at American University, said she is undecided but may vote for Trump.

“I don’t think Gary Johnson will win,” she said. “I think Trump has a better chance of beating Hillary. I just don’t want Hillary to win.”

2016 Election
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Students listen to a presentation by Bill Frezza, host of the RealClear Radio Hour, on the second day of the convention.
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By Joshua Kim

Any higher ed lessons from this very funny book?

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By Jim Paterson

A teenage boy is sitting in a classroom by himself. His hands are on his head, his head is tilted back, his eyes are closed, and he's yelling. A handful of papers are up in the air around him, falling down.
Jim Paterson
While programs like Kickboard, PBIS World, and ClassDojo can help track and identify student behavior issues, so can lower-tech practices like focused observation, simplified reporting, and team input.

Source: Edutopia


By Rick Seltzer

The Vermont State Colleges’ move to fold two of the state’s northern colleges into one institution reflects increasing interest in mergers throughout higher education, particularly as many state systems continue to struggle with budget crunches and declines in enrollment.

It also shines a light on the difficult issues raised by combining institutions. Faculty members at the affected institutions worry about their campuses’ identities. Administrators must walk a difficult line between using mergers to drive cost savings and repositioning colleges to recruit students in the future. They also must find ways to persuade faculty members to buy in and win support from communities and politicians — or risk having the plans derailed.

The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees decided last week to consider a combined administration for Johnson State College and Lyndon State College, two small institutions separated by roughly 43 miles of state highway. Chancellor Jeb Spaulding now has slightly more than two months to meet with campus stakeholders, ready a report and present a transition plan. Trustees expect to vote on a resolution to combine the colleges at a Sept. 29 meeting. If the vote succeeds, the colleges would move toward operating as a combined institution starting in July 2017.

Spaulding has billed the proposed move as offering the best of both worlds — a change that would keep the colleges’ separate campuses and identities while giving them the cost savings of a single administration, the efficiencies coming with greater economies of scale and the resources students have available at a larger institution. But he also acknowledged any talk of combining colleges brings challenges.

“There certainly will be people that want to ensure that we’re doing this for the right reasons and that we’re not going to trample on the identity of the campuses,” Spaulding said. “There is a local feel, a strong sense of community, in that part of the state. It’s something we’re going to have to make sure we take into account.”

Recent history shows huge variations in results when public institutions pursue consolidations, whether those consolidations are closing campuses or combining presidencies. The University System of Georgia is widely seen as far ahead in aggressively and successfully consolidating. It has merged several of its campuses, most recently combining Georgia State University and Georgia Perimeter College in January. The move gave it a record of consolidating 12 of its institutions into six under a campus consolidation push dating to 2011. The system now has 29 institutions.

But the University of Maine System struggled with the idea of closing campuses, moving instead to centralize many operations last year. And some efforts to unite president positions at the State University of New York several years ago met stiff resistance — a state legislator took credit in 2011 when SUNY administrators killed plans to combine the presidencies at Canton and Potsdam campuses.

The New York system followed through with plans to install the president at SUNY Delhi, Candace Vancko, as head of SUNY Cobleskill. But it reverted back to separate presidents in 2013. It also had the head of SUNY Institute of Technology, Bjong Wolf Yeigh, lead Morrisville State College for a short time but ultimately moved back to separate presidencies at those institutions.

In Vermont, Spaulding has avoided calling the proposed consolidation between Johnson State and Lyndon State a merger. He’s instead labeling it a unification that would have the campuses keep the Johnson and Lyndon names. Current Johnson State President Elaine Collins would become president of the combined institution. The unified institution would have a new overall name, which has yet to be determined.

Also yet to be determined is where the president’s office would be located, according to Spaulding. The president only regularly appearing on one campus would not be acceptable, he said.

In some ways, the timing would seem to be right to pursue a merged administration. Lyndon State’s president, Joe Bertolino, is leaving to become president of Southern Connecticut State University in August.

Convenience is not the primary driver, however. The Vermont State Colleges need to make changes with the bottom line in mind, Spaulding said. The system has for more than a decade been trying to grow connections between campuses to cut redundancies and administrative expenses, he said.

“We are small and tuition dependent,” Spaulding said. “We’re trying to make sure we’re not asleep at the switch.”

Enrollment has slipped at both Johnson State and Lyndon State in recent years. Head count fell 18.6 percent at Johnson State between the fall of 2011 and the fall of 2015, from 1,859 to 1,514, although administrators expect enrollment to rise this fall. Head count at Lyndon State fell almost 11 percent over those five years, from 1,422 to 1,266. At the same time, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education has estimated Vermont high school graduation peaked in 2007-8 and will fall by nearly 2,500 per year, 27 percent, through 2022-23. And Vermont has traditionally struggled to keep students in state.

At the same time, the Vermont State Colleges have experienced financial struggles. The five-institution system posted a net operating loss of $60.7 million in 2014 and $56.7 million in 2015. The budget line comes before some major revenue sources like state appropriations and federal grants. But even factoring in all other revenues and expenses, the system’s net position dropped by $9.4 million in 2014 and $10.3 million in 2015.

Johnson State and Lyndon State both have put budget cuts and tuition increases in place, according to Spaulding. Yet they’re expected to run deficits in the upcoming year.

“Lyndon is going through an exercise right now that has nothing to do with the unification — to trim down its budget by $1 million next year to try to make sure it is operating in the black,” Spaulding said.

Among the other drivers pushing the Vermont system to change was demographics. The number of high school seniors graduating in the Northeast is expected to fall, cutting the available pool of students to be recruited. Analysts have also predicted state appropriations across the country will not keep pace with rising institutional expenses.

Vermont’s governor and lieutenant governor are supportive of the unification idea, Spaulding said. The state system has also been making its case to legislators.

Efforts behind the consolidation date to January, when a long-range planning committee asked Spaulding to look at alliances between two sets of two institutions in the Vermont system: Johnson State and Lyndon State, as well as Vermont Technical College and the Community College of Vermont. He talked with system leaders in other states who had tried different merger models within their own systems, including Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New York. Ultimately he decided to move forward with the administration plan for Johnson State and Lyndon State after determining the community college and technical college operate on models that are too different to justify any consolidation at this time.

Consolidating the colleges’ administrations aims to create a larger, stronger institution that’s better able to recruit while giving students access to a wider curriculum and more faculty, Spaulding said. The benefits go beyond the balance sheet.

“What we’re looking at here is, yes, we will save money,” Spaulding said. “But we’re also looking for ways to strengthen our recruiting ability by telling students that you can get the best of both.”

Plans call for each campus to keep their own sports teams and mascots. But concerns over campus identity run deeper than athletics. Johnson State is known as a liberal arts college and has heavily emphasized its recent membership in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. While Lyndon State is also a liberal arts college, it also emphasizes professional studies.

Faculty members have been concerned about that issue. Jay Shafer is an associate professor in atmospheric sciences at Lyndon State. The unification proposal was not a surprise, but it does bring some uncertainty, he said. The fact that the president from liberal arts-leaning Johnson State is slated to lead both campuses contributes to questions.

Still, Shafer believes the college’s future strategy needed to be examined.

“The thing is, we’re just cutting, cutting, cutting, and it seems that we’re in this place of austerity,” Schafer said. “It’s clear that something more dramatic needs to happen at many levels.”

Johnson State’s president, Collins, acknowledged that helping faculty members and employees through the ambiguity and change will be important.

“We’re going to need to be able to communicate a clear vision of the future,” she said. “It’s going to be important to be really inclusive in terms of the decision making.”

The biggest concern heard from Johnson State faculty members is how the change will affect their programs, Collins said. That’s also a concern at Lyndon State, according to Nolan Atkins, interim academic dean at the college. Atkins will become Lyndon State’s interim president when Bertolino leaves for Southern Connecticut State next month.

Sorting out the academic details will take a great deal of work, Atkins said.

“We’re different enough where we have programs that are unique to both campuses, and we have programs on both campuses,” he said. “Some of them are well enrolled, some of them are lower enrolled. So the conversations by program are going to be very different.”

Still, staff members likely have more apprehension about the future, Atkins said. They could be worried about staff jobs being cut during the merging process as a way to save money.

At least some staff members are expressing hope, however. Tight budgets have meant lean staffing in recent years, said Sandra Noyes, a staff assistant for the Humanities and Writing and Literature Departments at Johnson State, who is the Vermont State Colleges unit chair and Johnson State College campus chair for the Vermont State Employees’ Association. The union does not have a position on the consolidation plans because they are so new, Noyes said. But she hopes the changes could alleviate staffing crunches.

“With the low funding from the state, we have really had to double up on jobs or take extra duties,” she said. “They haven’t filled positions. It’s going to relieve a lot of burdens of this extra work.”

Funding and campus identity were also on the mind of Julie Theoret, a professor who chairs the Johnson State chapter of the Vermont State Colleges Faculty Federation and is the VSC Faculty Federation treasurer. Johnson State has been attempting to reduce costs and raise revenue, she said in an email. But that has led to layoffs in recent years, which she does not want to repeat.

“This latest idea, as I understand it, has the ultimate goal to decrease overall costs while actually increasing services and opportunities for our students,” Theoret wrote. “At this point in time, I am not 100 percent convinced that a unification can be done, but I am willing to listen and be a part of the conversation. Any plan that gets put forward must demonstrate the benefits to both Johnson and Lyndon students and make both colleges, as well as the entire VSC system, stronger.”

The Vermont State Colleges are in a situation that is ripe for some type of consolidation or merger between Johnson and Lyndon, said Rick Beyer, a former president of Wheeling Jesuit University who is the managing principal of AGB Institutional Strategies, a consulting firm that works with colleges and universities on new business models including affiliations and mergers. Beyer has worked for Vermont State Colleges. He sees programming at the two institutions as complementary.

More broadly, the climate is ripe for more mergers and consolidations in higher education, Beyer said.

“I think this trend will continue,” he said. “I think that there will be more — a lot more collaboration, a lot more mergers — that will be taking place both within public and private systems.”

Larry Ladd, the national director for Grant Thornton’s higher education practice, agreed. State institutions are more likely to follow through on plans to consolidate, he said. Even though legislators may instinctively protect campuses in their districts, state institutions still have to be publicly accountable for how they spend money.

A question is whether leaders can successfully make the case that a consolidation is in the best interest of the institutions, state and students.

“That’s the challenge for presidents and administrations, to paint the picture of what the future should be,” Ladd said. “You save money on administration. Hopefully you are reallocating that money to academic programs, or you’re preventing cutting academic programs. Nothing makes a better case to the state Legislature than showing you are handling their money responsibly.”

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Johnson State College
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Johnson State College would be unified under a common administration with Lyndon State College if a new plan in Vermont proceeds.
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By Carl Straumsheim

This is what a class looks like.

More specifically, the image above is what a Northwestern University class looks like based on data collected by Yellowdig, a social platform developed by the Philadelphia-based start-up of the same name.

Instructors and IT staffers at Northwestern earlier this year built a data visualization tool prototype on top of the platform to see how students use the platform to learn and communicate. The platform, which plugs into learning management systems, gives students in the same class a private board where they can share articles and other content relevant to the course they are taking, participate in discussions and award one another points.

The visualizations show which topics captured students’ interest and how items in the news made an impact on class discussions, but they also uncover student behavior that may be difficult for a instructor to notice in a large lecture hall.

In the image, students, the content they share and the comments they leave are represented by blue circles, green diamonds and green circles, respectively. Most of the points are clustered in a swarm of activity — a network of posts and comments — but four students in particular appear to be sharing content but not engaging with their classmates. Perhaps those students are bored, overworked or even considering dropping the class?

“If you don’t see a student engaging in class, you want to check in on what’s going on,” said Daniel A. Gruber, an assistant professor in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern, who has been using Yellowdig in his courses.

That is the kind of insight Yellowdig hopes its platform can help faculty members gain, said CEO Shaunak Roy. He founded the start-up in 2014 after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, betting that colleges and students would be interested in a platform that combines academically relevant content with features they are familiar with from Facebook and Twitter.

The result was Yellowdig, which since its launch has also attracted comparisons to Reddit — for its points system — and Slack, for its goal of organizing discussions within particular groups or around particular topics. Roy calls it a “social learning platform” — a social networking platform focused on learning.

“We are living in a world of networks where people naturally connect with one another based on their interests and passions,” Roy said in an interview. “That’s basically what Yellowdig is doing. You can see the evolution of those networks in courses.”

Many faculty members use mainstream social media platforms to “meet students where they are,” perhaps creating a Facebook group or a hashtag to capture discussions that take place outside the classroom. But those platforms were not primarily created with education in mind. Twitter’s 140-character limit, for example, can make it difficult to share anything other than a headline or a brief summary of a topic. Facebook’s data collection might give some users pause (Yellowdig, in comparison, is compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, giving universities control of sensitive student data). And many students simply don’t feel comfortable using their personal accounts for class purposes.

In most cases where faculty members have piloted Yellowdig, the platform replaces the standard discussion forum bundled with many learning management systems, Roy said. To students and faculty members, Yellowdig presents an activity feed common to many other social media platforms. On the back end, the data collected about student engagement can be fed directly into the grade book, if instructors choose.

Yellowdig has about 30 contracted universities — many of them private research universities — and plans to add another 25 or so this fall, Roy said. Since the start-up only began making the platform available last year, most of the universities are still piloting it, for which they pay about $15,000 for a six- or nine-month license. The start-up has recently started moving some institutions, including Arizona State University, to long-term contracts, charging them about $10 a student.

Northwestern is also one of them. During its pilot, the university went from using Yellowdig in three classes to about 100, Gruber said in an interview. He teaches courses in the overlapping fields of communication, marketing and management, and said he likes to incorporate topics from the news to help explain to students how organizational theories play out in real life. He said he uses Yellowdig as a “whiteboard for brainstorming topics.”

Before moving to Yellowdig, Gruber said, he used Twitter for about five years to share articles with students. Comparing the two platforms and the standard discussion forum, the discussion on Yellowdig is “just very different,” he said. It allows for the interactions that take place on mainstream social media platforms, but the discussions are “protected” within the learning management system, giving students the freedom to express themselves more openly than they might be willing to do publicly, he said.

Gruber said he requires students to post and comment weekly on the course’s Yellowdig board, which he said also gives students who wouldn’t normally speak up in class an opportunity to participate.

“It’s so important as faculty to think about where the students are today and the type of technology they are using,” Gruber said. Yellowdig, he added, is a “technology and tool that represents where we are in 2016.”

Yellowdig, which this month raised $1 million from the venture capital firm SRI Capital, has plans to grow beyond the classroom, Roy said, first as a collaboration tool for entire departments or schools, then for multiple institutions. The start-up plans to further invest in its data analytics capabilities, he said.

Teaching and Learning
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Student engagement data captured by the social learning platform Yellowdig
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By Maxine Joselow

Siva Vaidhyanathan is known as a scholarly expert on privacy. This summer, that knowledge is being showcased in a highly public setting.

Vaidhyanathan, the Robertson Professor of Modern Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, is being portrayed by an actor in an off-Broadway production of Privacy at the Public Theater in New York City. Since opening on July 18, the play has been hailed as “one of New York’s hottest tickets” by The New York Times.

The show seeks to examine the nature of privacy — or the lack thereof — in the digital era. Vaidhyanathan is played by Raffi Barsoumian, an actor known for his role in The Vampire Diaries. The protagonist, who goes by the mysterious moniker the Writer, is played by Daniel Radcliffe.

“There’s no way for a play or even a documentary to do justice to the complexity of our current privacy and surveillance issues,” Vaidhyanathan said in an interview. “The debates are so complicated and fluid right now that to really get a grasp of the issues, you should read 10 books about it or take my class.”

“That said, a play or a movie can serve as an introduction and an invitation to these issues,” Vaidhyanathan added. “And that’s what I think Privacy accomplishes.”

At the outset of the play, the protagonist embarks on a journey to stalk his ex in New York City. When he arrives, he encounters a host of fantasy versions of real people who have contributed to public discourse on privacy, including Vaidhyanathan and James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Edward Snowden looms large over the show. At one point, the infamous whistle-blower even makes a video appearance.

Privacy also adopts a playful approach to the audience’s use of technology. Audience members are encouraged to leave their smartphones on, and free Wi-Fi is available in the theater.

While this summer marks his first brush with the stage, Vaidhyanathan has extensive experience with print. He has published four books and contributed to publications including The New York Times Magazine, The Nation and Salon.

Vaidhyanathan said he talked with the show’s playwright, James Graham, via Skype in October. The pair discussed the nature of privacy in the context of Vaidhyanathan’s 2011 book, The Googlization of Everything — and Why We Should Worry (University of California Press).

“I figured the Skype interview would serve as background for the play,” Vaidhyanathan said. “I figured maybe he would credit me in the play, and maybe I’d get a ticket out of it.”

But several months later, Vaidhyanathan got a surprising Facebook message from a friend who is an actor. The message read, “Hey, I just auditioned to play you.”

The friend ultimately didn’t land the role. But Vaidhyanathan was pleased with the casting of Barsoumian.

Vaidhyanathan said the way he found out about the role raised interesting questions about intellectual property — a topic of personal scholarly interest. “One of the lesser-known areas of intellectual property is the right of publicity, which is the right of a person to control his or her likeness and name in certain contexts,” he said. “If I were in the business of selling my name and image to do commercials for beer or cars, then I would be highly protective of my name and image. But I’m in the business of communicating ideas to my students and a larger public, so I had no qualms about this.”

In addition to Vaidhyanathan, three other academics are portrayed in Privacy. The protagonist encounters — or possibly imagines that he encounters — Jill Lepore, the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University; Daniel Solove, the John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School; and Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Privacy will run until Aug. 14.

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Joan Marcus
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Actors in ‘Privacy’ at New York’s Public Theater
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By Andrew Kreighbaum

PHILADELPHIA — As state delegates read out the votes to give Hillary Clinton the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, the imprint of the Bernie Sanders campaign hovered over the first two days of the Democratic National Convention.

That was true not just of the significant protests led by Sanders backers but also in comments on college costs and student debt from politicos and speakers at the event.

On Monday night, Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts talked up the value of debt-free college, and Sanders himself said a compromise proposal for free college endorsed by both campaigns would “revolutionize higher education in America.”

“This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, and the many others who cannot afford to go to college,” Sanders said Monday.

Booker told Democratic attendees that debt-free college is not charity but an investment.

“It represents the best of our values, the best of our history, the best of our party: Bernie’s ideas, Hillary’s ideas, our shared ideas. Our shared values,” he said.

Although the current Clinton plan calls for free public higher education for all but the wealthiest Americans, many of the references to the plan by speakers here describe it as a “debt-free” college plan, using language applied to earlier versions of her proposal.

Across town earlier that day, at the Community College of Philadelphia, President Donald Generals said that the issues of cost and affordability are front and center in the conversation about higher education. The campus hosted a viewing of the film No Greater Odds, a documentary following five community college students at the College of Southern Nevada. Afterwards, a panel including Generals and other higher ed leaders discussed the role two-year institutions can play in meeting the country’s growing needs for postsecondary education and the prospect of achieving free community college.

“Free tuition is a bipartisan issue, and I think it is something this nation can get done,” Generals said.

Those concerns over access to higher ed surfaced even in discussions of labor and workforce issues. In a panel on investing in worker training Tuesday, National Urban League President Marc Morial said young people suffer from “crushing” debt and access to many new jobs is hindered by the gap between financial aid awards and the full cost of attendance.

“I’m on the board of an HBCU and we’re losing honors students between their freshman and sophomore years,” he said.

Representative Eric Swalwell of California told attendees of the Democrats’ Youth Council Tuesday afternoon that he still has six figures in student debt. He said Sanders’s campaign helped bring the issue of student debt to the front burner for the party.

Swalwell and other Democrats are banking on interest in student debt and college affordability to help drive turnout in November. But the beginning of the convention this week indicates finding solutions to those issues will be among the party’s priorities after the election as well.

“It affects our ability to buy a house, get a job, to be entrepreneurial,” he said.

Many speakers contrasted Clinton’s support for students with Trump University, the institution that was created by Donald Trump and is the subject of numerous lawsuits.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the convention, “Hillary’s worked her entire life to level the playing field for working families. That starts with public education, from pre-K through college. She has a plan for universal early childhood education. She’ll reset education policy to focus on skills like creativity and critical thinking, not more testing. And she’ll make public universities free for working families — a stark contrast with Trump’s for-profit scam.”

2016 Election
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By Barbara Fister

A new book looks at the issues libraries face and proposes six steps toward “Reimagining the Academic Library.”

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By Joshua Kim

A wonderful novel that offers a bleak picture of American life in 2029.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By John Warner

I see some parallels.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs


By David Cutler

An illustration of a shadow-like teenage boy. He's drawing a school, inspired from reading a book. The word "growth" is highlighted in green in the background.
David Cutler
Transformational teachers share best practices, build mentoring relationships, observe their peers, keep things fresh, model their subject’s usefulness, and demonstrate caring beyond what they teach.

Source: Edutopia


By Marium Rizvi

A student is drawing on a big piece of paper, filling in two columns, "Supporting Details" and "Evidence From."
Marium Rizvi
When leadership finds you, make it about improving your own teaching skills as well as helping others connect with new ideas, tools, and materials.

Source: Edutopia


By Elizabeth Redden

The subtitle of Mark Zachary Taylor’s new book, The Politics of Innovation (Oxford University Press), asks why some countries are better than others at science and technology. He argues that the answer lies in politics and proposes a theory of “creative insecurity,” arguing that innovation rates should be higher in countries in which external threats outweigh domestic tensions.

“S&T progress creates winners and losers, and the losers resort to politics to slow innovation,” Taylor, an associate professor of political science at Georgia Institute of Technology, writes in the book’s introduction. “However, external threats increase political support for S&T and thereby counteract domestic political resistance to innovation.”

Taylor answered questions about his book via email.

Q: There seem to be two main questions in your book — how countries become leaders in science and technology innovation and why. Let’s start with how. What are the critical ingredients for fostering innovation?

A: Innovation is plagued by what economists call market failures. Market failures are when free markets should lead people to innovate, but fail to. For example, private companies tend to underinvest in [research and development] because the results can be easily copied by their competitors. Similarly, companies will not invest much in [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education because firms can only capture a fraction of the return on that investment. It’s just not that profitable for them. There are myriad other examples that I explore in the book. When markets fail, the solution usually takes the form of government policies and institutions. These are things like intellectual property rights, research subsidies, public education, research universities and trade policy. In fact, I call these the Five Pillars of innovation in the book. They work because they create or heal the markets for S&T. But I found that government policies, such as the Five Pillars, only take us part of the way to understanding how countries innovate. They leave an enormous amount of unexplained success and failure.

I also look at big picture institutions like democracy, capitalism and political decentralization. They are supposed to aid innovation by affecting competition, mobility and freedom. Indeed, some very prominent economists argue that when these particular institutions are missing or broken, then it explains “Why Nations Fail.” Once again, I find that they take us only part of the way to explaining success and failure in S&T. They still leave a lot of unexplained behavior.

That is, there are simply too many countries with “good” policies and institutions that fail to innovate much (e.g., Norway, Austria, Italy). Also, there are many countries with “bad” or missing policies and institutions that innovate surprisingly well (e.g., Taiwan, Israel, South Korea). And no one has yet identified precisely which set of institutions and policies are the “right” ones. Sure, there are plenty of theories which emphasize the vital importance of this or that institution or policy (e.g., patent rights, science education, R&D subsidies, research universities, etc.). But, throughout the book, I show that although institution or policy X may explain success in country Y at a particular point in time, it fails to do so in other countries or even in the same country during a different time period.

So, I try a different approach. I investigate several recent cases of national success and failure in S&T, and ask what did successful governments do (or avoid doing) that the cases of failure did not? Two surprises come out of this investigation. First, I found that there is no single best institution or policy that all countries need to converge upon in order to achieve national S&T competitiveness. Different countries have achieved S&T success using very different sets of institutions and policies. Governments therefore have lots of freedom to choose and customize their policy strategies. Second, solving market failures alone is not enough. Most national success stories in S&T also involve the use of social networks to take shortcuts around markets for access to high-quality science labor, technical knowledge, investment capital and even marketing expertise. Social networks provide vital information which neither free markets nor government institutions easily capture, but networks are often ignored due to our preoccupation with domestic institutions and policies. Also, because foreign information is often the most difficult knowledge to capture, international networks play important roles in national S&T performance. So explaining innovation is not just a domestic story, it also has an international side.

Of course, understanding how nations innovate does not explain why some countries create and use their institutions, policies and networks to foster innovation, while others chose not to. That is, neither institutions nor policies cause nations to innovate. They are merely tools that nations can use to become more innovative. But even the right tools will fail to produce results when placed into the wrong hands, or into hands not motivated to use them properly. Therefore in order to explain why some countries are better at S&T, we need to explain why some countries adopt the “right” institutions, policies and networks and then use them properly over time, while others do not.

Q: As for the why, you propose a theory of “creative insecurity,” which holds that countries generally have higher innovation rates when the external threats they face exceed domestic political or economic tensions. Why does this imbalance matter? Are there parallels to the idea of a Sputnik Moment, the popular idea that a fear of falling behind foreign rivals can stimulate consensus around a need to invest in science and technology and education?

A: The balance between domestic tensions and external threats matters because it determines overall political support for all those institutions, policies and networks. Innovation is expensive. It is risky. It also creates a lot of economic “losers” in the economy: jobs get lost, obsolete industries die and every dollar spent on S&T is a dollar not spent on welfare, agriculture subsidies, tax cuts, infrastructure, military salaries or lining elite pockets. So innovation is not a no-brainer for governments. Usually there is a lot of pressure not to spend the money or take the risks, unless there’s a convincing sense in external threat.

Sputnik is a great example for the U.S. But was it just a one-time event? In the book, I ask whether we see the same dynamics in other countries. I found that, in Israel, very similar politics kicked in after the Six-Day War (1967) was followed by the Yom Kippur War (1973), and combined with a rapid decline in precious foreign exchange earnings. Suddenly, Israel was threatened militarily and economically in a way it never had been before. And this occurred at a time when fierce domestic political divisions were on the decline. As a result, the Israelis supported a rapid pivot from an agricultural economy to a high-tech economy. In Taiwan, it was China’s atom bomb and guided-missile technologies, the cutting of massive U.S. financial aid, and then the derecognition of Taiwan and global reconciliation with China. Meanwhile, intense domestic conflicts between native Taiwanese and the relocated [Chinese Nationalist Party members] had settled down. The islanders suddenly had less to lose from one another, and far more to lose from mainland China. So Taiwan rapidly restructured its economy from a natural resource and agricultural base, to high technology.

Fear of falling behind one’s military or economic competitors is a powerful motivator. Governments, and their citizens, need that sense of competition. For without it, they tend to fight domestically over “goodies” of science and technology. There are a lot of domestic forces working against progress in science and technology. Without a more urgent sense of external threat, the natural result is for governments to let flounder the policies and institutions which foster innovation.

Q: You argue that threats to a nation’s economic and military security accelerate science and technology progress at the same time that you warn about the risks of a “conflict-driven innovation policy.” What are the benefits and risks in linking innovation policy to national security-related concerns?

A: The benefits are that innovation does work. S&T progress can create an economy that is more competitive on international markets. Innovation can boost exports, thereby earning the foreign exchange necessary to purchase strategic imports, like energy, food, raw materials or military equipment. Also, a globally competitive high-technology sector can provide the foundation for a domestic defense industry. This can ease a nation’s reliance on imports of foreign weaponry. In civilian sectors, the development of indigenous high-tech capabilities can enable domestic industry to produce those strategic goods which are either expensive to purchase abroad, have unreliable foreign suppliers or are vulnerable to hostile interdiction. Competitive S&T-based industries can also generate capital by satisfying investors at home and luring investment from abroad. High-tech sectors also provide jobs for skilled workers and an attractive career path for youths, while pulling up the aggregate skill level.

The risk is that pro-S&T groups will simply invent foreign enemies to fear. With external threats serving as a constant menace, the risks and expense of innovation can be indefinitely justified. This has been the unintended course followed by the United States since World War II. At first, defense research in the U.S. focused mostly on weapons systems and battlefield medicine. But over time, it has slowly come to include research on information technology, telecommunications, infrastructure, as well education policy, and more recently investment in energy and general health care advances. Japan went down a similar path during the first half of the twentieth century. China now appears to be pursuing it.

However, in a world typified by increasing freedom of information and debate, this innovation strategy is unsustainable. In open societies, false alarms about manufactured enemies soon become transparent. Also, without a real competitive threat, S&T institutions and policies become corrupt and mismanaged. Worse yet, in those nations which suffer from restrictions on information and debate, such a strategy is highly destructive. Imaginary enemies can become real ones, risking unnecessary and destructive conflicts. In either case, it leads to a bloated defense sector and a militarized society in which all spending is questioned except that which goes towards defense. A far smarter strategy is to emphasize real long-run competitive and security threats, such as energy efficiency, climate change, aging and disease. The book argues that war and the garrison state are not necessary for S&T leadership.

Q: What are the limitations of your argument in explaining national innovation rates? Are there exceptions you identified, countries where the creative insecurity theory does not seem to fit in explaining progress in innovation? What else is needed in innovation research to help better understand why some countries do better in science and technology than others?

A: Creative insecurity theory does not attempt to be a universal theory of everything. It has some limitations which must be taken seriously if the theory’s full potential is to be realized. First, it’s meant to be probabilistic, not determinist. That is, creative insecurity explains and predicts much of the variation in national innovation rates over time, but it does not claim to explain each and every case throughout history. Rather, the book’s claim is that creative insecurity provides us with a better explanation for national innovation rates. It better fits the data, explains more of the data and explains many outliers and unexpected results that other theories fail to account for.

Second, creative insecurity theory does not rule out other important causal factors. Innovation has many powerful driving forces; I claim that, at the level of the nation-state, creative insecurity is one of them, but not necessarily the only one. Personally, I speculate that culture, ideology, individual leadership, climate and perhaps even social psychology may also play important causal roles in explaining differences in national innovation rates. Each of these factors is understudied and deserves more attention from innovation scholars.

Third, creative insecurity theory expects lags across time and within society. That is, it does not predict an instantaneous change in support for S&T in response to a change in a nation’s balance of external threats versus domestic rivalries. Nor does it predict complete societywide agreement on support or opposing S&T. Some individuals and interest groups will change their minds faster than others. Some may never change. A few may even support or oppose S&T out of habit, or ideology, or in allegiance with their social network. But creative insecurity does predict that, on average, changes in the balance of domestic rivalries versus external threats will trigger changes in the political support for S&T over time, and thereby affect national innovation rates.

It is also important to emphasize what creative insecurity is not arguing. It is not arguing that nations only innovate when threatened with invasion. If this were the case, then Belgium, the Balkan states, Iraq and Afghanistan would currently rank amongst the most innovative countries on earth, while the U.S. should be stuck in the preindustrial era. Nor does creative insecurity argue that defense spending and military procurement are the sine qua non of technological development. Clearly, important outliers such as Japan, Germany and Switzerland (each notoriously low military spenders) and Saudi Arabia (one of the world’s top military spenders) make hash of this assertion.

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By Carl Straumsheim

Open educational resources (OER) are showing signs of taking root in introductory courses, yet overall awareness of alternatives to traditional textbooks continues to lag, a new study found.

More than half (58.1 percent) of the faculty members surveyed for “Opening the Textbook: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2015-16,” a report released this morning by the Babson Survey Research Group, said they were not aware of OER or how instructors can use free or inexpensive alternatives to traditional textbooks in their courses.

Compared to when the Babson Group in 2014 surveyed faculty members about the same topic, the responses in this year’s report highlight some familiar challenges for instructors considering OER. Almost half of all respondents (48 percent) said open materials are too hard to find, and that they don’t have access to a catalog showing the open resources available to them (45 percent) or a helpful colleague who can mentor them (30 percent).

And while nearly nine out of 10 respondents (87 percent) said cost to students is an important or very important factor when considering which course materials to assign, many faculty members said there aren’t enough high-quality free or affordable course materials (28 percent) or simply enough open resources in their fields in general (49 percent) to make the switch from traditional textbooks.

“Faculty have a really strong level of displeasure with the cost of the materials, but many of them feel they don’t have any power to change it,” Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Group, said in an interview. Alternatively, he added, faculty members are “unwilling to explore the lower-cost or free options, or they’re unaware of them.”

This is the first of three planned annual reports that will explore how open educational resources are making their mark on higher education. The research is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Babson Group surveyed a diverse group of faculty members for the report — more than 3,000 in total, including those at two- and four-year institutions, working full and part time, on and off the tenure track, and with experience teaching online or blended courses.

The report also contains some good news for advocates of open resources and an indication that the strategy used by many OER initiatives and providers is paying off.

Colleges and publishers, seeking to save the most money on textbook costs for the greatest number of students, have frequently used large introductory courses as settings for OER pilots. To explore how OER titles are doing in the market compared to traditional textbooks, the Babson Group asked faculty members who were creating new courses, modifying existing or picking new readings in 14 common introductory courses which title in a selection of popular textbooks they planned to assign. The lineups included titles from OpenStax, a free textbook publisher based at Rice University.

With an average adoption rate — how likely the surveyed faculty members were to pick the title — of 10 percent, the OpenStax books were less popular than the average textbook (17 percent). Faculty members were also less likely to have heard of the titles (70 percent, versus 82 percent for the traditional textbooks).

Still, faculty members were nearly twice as likely to pick the OpenStax books in introductory courses than instructors generally picking OER titles across all courses (5.3 percent). And OpenStax has reached the 10 percent mark without the sophisticated marketing infrastructure that other textbook publishers have had decades to optimize, Seaman pointed out.

“That puts [OpenStax] in the same ballpark after only being on the market for a couple of years,” Seaman said. “They’re going where they think the biggest need is. In one sense this says they’re being reasonably successful at that.”

OpenStax published its first textbook in 2012. Four years later, the publisher estimates more than 690,000 students have used its books, totaling a savings of about $68 million.

“It’s very gratifying to have this independent research validate what we’ve observed over the last two years,” said Richard G. Baraniuk, the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering, who founded OpenStax. “Faculty teaching introductory courses are rapidly accepting high-quality open educational resources from OpenStax. They are willing to make changes when they discover high-quality resources that are easy to adopt and are free or very low cost for students.”

While awareness of open course materials has increased in the two years since the Babson Group last surveyed faculty members about course materials, a majority of instructors are still unaware of OER. In this year’s edition, nearly half of respondents (41.9 percent) said they are aware of OER and how they can use the resources in their courses, up from about one-third (35.1 percent) two years ago.

Even the faculty members who said they are aware of OER said they sometimes struggle to find the open resources they are looking to include in their courses. Of the faculty members who had an opinion about the ease of finding OER, about 60 percent of respondents described searching for OER as difficult or very difficult, compared to about 23 percent who said the same about searching for traditional textbooks.

Seaman said the results suggest an opportunity for OER providers to work together on how they can get the resources into the hands of faculty members. “The discovery issue is one area where OER have made very little — if any — progress,” he said.

The remaining two OER studies will include many of the same questions about awareness and barriers but go deeper into specific topics, Seaman said. Next year’s study will likely focus on faculty perception of textbook costs, he said.

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By Doug Lederman

This month’s edition of the “Pulse” podcast features an interview with Jason Gad, vice president of business development at ExamSoft.

In the conversation with Rodney B. Murray, the host of “The Pulse,” Gad discusses ExamSoft’s computerized assessment products, how they compare to other digital approaches and align with Scantron paper exams, and how proctoring works, among other topics.

The Pulse is Inside Higher Ed‘s monthly technology podcast, and Murray is executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences.

Find out more, and listen to past “Pulse” podcasts, here.

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By Doug Lederman

  • Judith L. Bonner, former president of the University of Alabama, has been appointed provost and executive vice president at Mississippi State University.
  • Austin A. Lane, executive vice chancellor of Lone Star College, in Texas, has been chosen as president of Texas Southern University.
  • Donna M. Loraine, chief academic officer and provost of DeVry University, in Illinois, has been named president of Carrington College, also in Illinois.
  • Daniel Lufkin, vice president for student affairs at Thomas Nelson Community College, in Virginia, has been selected as president of Paul D. Camp Community College, also in Virginia.
  • Forest Mahan, vice president for academic affairs and student services at Northeastern Technical College, in South Carolina, has been appointed president of Aiken Technical College, also in South Carolina.
  • William N. Ruud, president of the University of Northern Iowa, has been selected as president of Marietta College, in Georgia.
  • Michael A. Scaperlanda, the Gene and Elaine Edwards Family Chair in Law and professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, has been named president of St. Gregory’s University, also in Oklahoma.
  • Will Smith, vice president for external relations at LaGrange College, in Georgia, has been chosen as president of Bethany College, in Kansas.
  • Susan Traverso, provost and senior vice president at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania, has been selected as president of Thiel College, also in Pennsylvania.
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