Higher Education

Study: High college tuition may not correlate with high earnings

Saving a year’s worth of salary for one year of higher education at Harvard may yield great career results for some but that may not be true for all.

According to U.S. News and World Report, a recent Brookings Study shows that “other schools may either not cost as much and yield a similar salary and success of loan repayment, or they may cost about the same but generate higher earnings potential.”

Harvard is a small sample size and represents a limited portion of the zenith of college costs. But, in essence, the study shows that one may earn just as much for the duration of their career by attending a college with cheaper tuition.

That’s not a knock against Harvard as students, and their parents, are free to choose any school that matches with their educational goals.

This is an alternative that students have always taken. Take Ronald Nelson, a student who was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools.

Instead of choosing a prestigious Ivy League school, and the tuition that came along with it, Nelson went with the University of Alabama.

He said that Alabama “offered him a full scholarship and admittance into their selective honors program.” Nelson also wants to save for medical school and states that going to an Ivy League higher education institution would not allow him that luxury.

Still–students and parents have to make the decision that’s best for them. Rising costs of higher education will likely force more students to choose cheaper schools over ones with higher tuition rates.

Diverse Conversations: The Business of Higher Education

There are many people that believe higher education could be changed for the better if colleges and universities were to think of themselves as businesses and the students as the customers. In theory, higher education institutions would operate more efficiently, which could potentially make students more satisfied with the education they are receiving and lead to lower tuition costs. For this week’s edition of “Diverse Conversations,” I sat down with Amy Hillman, Dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, to discuss the “the business of higher education.”

Q: Many people believe that colleges and universities operate optimally when they adopt a business model; this is much to the chagrin of their faculty. Should institutions operate as businesses or are the objections of the faculty warranted?

A: If we consider “adopting a business model” to mean responding to market demands, then I think it’s absolutely critical for colleges to do so. Universities need to be adaptable, embrace technology and innovation, and employ unique strategies. They should examine the needs of their surrounding communities, including businesses, which can employ future graduates.

For example, here at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, our new master’s degree in business analytics was developed as a result of industry demand for employees with strong training in analyzing big data, and more importantly, being able to make informed decisions from that data. We have also added more leadership, critical-thinking and negotiation components to our curriculum, as employers demanded more skills in those areas.

It’s important to recognize that the job market changes. For professional schools (like business schools), failure to keep up with market conditions leads to obsolescence, and students will suffer from a lack of employability. Schools need to be nimble like an entrepreneur, able to quickly respond to changes in the business environment or actions by competing institutions. Complacency within schools results in the same problems as complacency within businesses. After all, if our profession is centered on enabling student success throughout their careers, then we need to practice what we teach.

Q: When colleges discuss operating efficiently and optimally, many employees see this as code for layoffs and budget cuts. Are they right to be apprehensive?

A: Efficiency is critical for any organization, nonprofits (e.g. universities) included. Being able to do the most possible with the resources given (efficiency) means better service — and more of it — for all involved. Apprehension like you describe, however, seems to be more a matter of trust. If employers use code words to hide what is really happening, employees will lose trust, and that’s never good. It’s not good for employees or employers.

Q: Nowadays, a lot of higher education institutions are recruiting their presidents from the business world. What do you think of this trend? Does it make sense? Especially since we know that many of these recruits end up garnering mixed reviews?

A: I was unaware of this trend with the exception of the for-profit universities, in which case, it makes sense because their ultimate goal is shareholder value creation. In the context of not-for-profit universities, this is like hiring a president from the business world to run any not-for-profit. It would take a special candidate to take what is best from the business world and apply it to universities, while still keeping the mission of education at the forefront.

Q: There are people within higher education who believe that it is overly commercial, and almost becoming a caricature of itself. Is there some truth to this? What are your thoughts?

A: I would guess that this line of thought is aimed at the new and highly visible for-profit companies selling education. They have very large marketing budgets and opportunities to sometimes portray themselves in ways that don’t necessarily reflect the ideals of nonprofit universities.

As the world of higher education evolves, we need to keep the lines of communication open with both our employees and our other constituents, to create a shared vision. Big changes always seem daunting to some, but if we have a shared vision and shared goals, then we can also share a sense of accomplishment as we achieve those goals.

For example, a decade ago, the W. P. Carey School of Business became one of the first business schools to enter the relatively uncharted waters of online education from quality, traditional universities. By utilizing the same stellar faculty members in our other highly ranked MBA programs, as well as a phenomenal technical team, we have risen to the top of the offerings out there. In fact, this year, our online MBA program was ranked No. 2 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s first-ever numerical online-MBA ranking. Faculty and staff across the board took pride in this achievement.

Q: What current trends do you see in higher education, as it pertains to how it does business? How about business innovation?

A: Beyond the increased demand for specialized master’s programs like the business-analytics degree I mentioned above, another growing trend is that of offering interdisciplinary degrees. The business world has long recognized that true innovation comes from working across functional silos. Employers are telling us they need employees with the skills to bridge the gaps between engineering and marketing, between sustainability and finance, and between legal and strategy, as examples.
This is one reason the W. P. Carey School introduced new interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees five years ago wherein a student can get a B.A. in business with a concentration in areas including communications, global leadership, legal studies, public policy or sustainability. These interdisciplinary degrees marry the knowledge from the business toolbox with broad-based thinking in other areas.

The need for interdisciplinary thinking is also the reason we have so many dual degrees. All of our master’s degrees (MBA, M.S. in Information Management, M.S. in Business Analytics, Master of Accountancy, Master of Taxation, M.S. in Management, Master of Real Estate Development) can be paired with graduate degrees in architecture, engineering or law. This is also the reason we have strong partners like the Mayo Clinic, which sends M.D. students to the W. P. Carey School to get advanced degrees, including our MBA, while they are still in medical school.

Q: As far as the “the business of higher education,” what will it look like in the future?

A: Like other businesses, the business of higher education will continue to evolve. For example, I think the talk about MOOCs (massively open online courses) is overblown.

A similar situation happened in the media industry in the early days of the Internet. Despite all the fuss about free content, The Wall Street Journal was one of the first media websites to step up and charge for access. As they say, “Content is king,” and that worked out for the newspaper.

While MOOCs may be good marketing for colleges and universities, they have no clear business model. That doesn’t mean business schools can ignore them, but rather, as with any technological improvement, we can embrace them in a way that furthers our value propositions.

Well, that concludes my interview with Amy Hillman. I would like to thank her for consenting to this interview.

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

Why diversity on college campuses matters to the real world

It’s easy to think of college campuses as islands – academic havens with little interaction with the greater world beyond. In reality, the work done on the grounds of colleges and universities has a big impact on society, from medical breakthroughs to mass adoption of social change. It’s important then that U.S. institutions of higher learning are representative of society as whole in their student bodies and staff. That’s easier said than done, of course, but multicultural representation on college campuses should be a top priority. Beyond the boost a multicultural campus brings to the immediate student and faculty body, there are some reasons why diversity on college campuses matter in the real world.

Eliminating the wage gap

There is a gender wage gap and there is a minority wage gap. Unless you are a white male, you are probably making less than white males who do the same job as you. Some argue that the wage gap doesn’t exist but statistics show otherwise. The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that women make 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the U.S. The racial pay gap varies but in industries like technology, minority workers make $3,000 to $8,000+ less than white counterparts.

Even if these numbers are not 100 percent accurate, they are telling of an overarching problem with the American workforce: people are not paid equally. By having more diversity in the amount of highly educated workers, Americans have a better shot at getting rid of the nasty wage gap for good. Not only will these educated workers be more apt to ask for what they are worth, but it stands to reason that more diversity will emerge in positions of leadership (i.e. – those that make salary decisions). Feeding diversity into the professional workforce goes a long way toward pay equality and ups the standard of living for minorities and women.

Getting rid of discrimination

Racial tensions have spiked in the past year or so around the country, accented by the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. Though a lot of people like to believe that discrimination is no longer an issue in the U.S., these incidents and reactions to them highlight just how much more work needs to be done to eliminate prejudices, injustice and discrimination between races. In my experience, it is easier to judge and alienate hypothetical people that you have never actually met. Once you’ve spent some time with the very people you once judged, it becomes more difficult to not view them as equals. Unfortunately when it comes to our nation’s public schools, diversity is difficult to achieve in districted areas. Kids go to school alongside their neighbors – people who often look like them, have a similar socioeconomic background, and who have the same basic life experience. Colleges and universities are able to break out of this mold and can be the first pass at diversity students experience. It’s important to maximize that opportunity by making sure not just campuses, but individual programs, are well represented with students from a variety of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is harder to discriminate against a friend and colleague than a nameless ideal of a person.

Stronger U.S. competition on the world stage

The more ideas brought to a discussion, the better the chance of a good one. When a variety of perspectives are pooled, innovation and creativity emerge. Nations like Japan have always had an academic edge but Americans often win out because of the one thing that just can’t be taught: visionary thinking. When everyone brings the same experience to a problem, there will be less ways to solve it. A diverse college body means a more diverse workforce after graduation. This helps EVERYONE. When the U.S. succeeds on the world stage, Americans all benefit.

Diversity matters on college campuses and not just for the benefit of those institutions. Could the next generation of college grads be the one to help the U.S. surge ahead of world competitors through collective creativity? To eliminate the wage gap? To put an end to discrimination? All of these accomplishments are on the horizon in the U.S. – and colleges and universities can give them all a boost by fostering multiculturalism and diversity on campuses.

Leading Successful HBCUs: Part II

Here is part II of my interview with President Bynum, during which he continues to dispense expert advice on how to lead successful HBCUs.

Q: What do you think is the most important strategy for HBCU’s who are experiencing difficulties, but are looking to right the ship?

A: If we’re true about who we’re serving, first and foremost, we’ve got to find a way to become more affordable for the students we are serving. HBCUs still serve a majority of the black population. The income levels of the families the students are coming from are not at the point of Caucasian-Americans. We’ve got to make sure, if we’re serious about serving that base as well as, of course, reaching out to other races, we’ve got to make sure we’re affordable. That’s first and foremost.

We’ve got to do some different things in order to make the institution more affordable. Let me give a quick “for instance.” In terms of coming in the door as a new president and speaking with the commissioner of the Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning, Dr. Hank Bounds, the decision was “What is your number one problem? Do I sink money into the budget or to build buildings or do I sink money into making the education more affordable?” The immediate and the easy decision was we’ve got to make the education more affordable. We’ve got to make sure they have access. I can have nice, pretty buildings, but if the price tag is a detriment and it’s keeping students away, then I’ve defeated the purpose.

What we’re trying to do is maintain affordability. We’re looking to keep the tuition rate at Valley flat for the next couple of years. That’s so that, knowing the region we’re in and knowing the student population that is most likely to attend, we’ve got to make sure that affordability is first and foremost.

The other thing, as I mentioned before, is we’ve got to learn to shift with the times. There are a myriad of different things going on in higher ed. We’ve got to provide access to higher education, maintain relevant programs students can immediately use to join the workforce, and of course, we’ve got to make some information technology enhancements in terms of what students are able to do while they’re on the campus and in terms of wireless access and other Internet access, as well as online education, which I mentioned earlier.

And we’ve got to figure out a way to grow our enrollments because, again, the competition is quite steep.

Q: What financial insights can you offer to HBCU administrators? Are there particular strategies that you have found to be effective in raising funds, for instance, growing grass roots support, boosting enrollments or growing endowments?

A: I’m just getting started, so I won’t say a whole lot about fund raising, but there are some key points. The first is we’ve got to be very good stewards of what we do currently have.

Unfortunately, HBCUs, because of our lack of infrastructure in some of the key areas, specifically development and advancement, we haven’t done as good a job in terms of tracking gifts and thanking people for the gifts that they do already give. You would be surprised, of course, what a letter will do in terms of encouraging a person to continue to give; whereas, if a person doesn’t receive acknowledgement, they’re likely to be a one-time donor only. That’s the first thing. We’ve got to be very good stewards of the resources that we currently have.

The second is we’ve got to produce happy students. We’ve got to make sure we’re getting back to our foundation – our roots – and really nurturing students. I know we’re no longer in loco parentis like we used to be. But HBCUs have a history and we’ve got to get back to that nurturing environment where we’re producing happy students. There are too many students who are leaving HBCUs who are mad. They’re mad because processes and procedures were not in place or people did not treat them with the respect they thought they deserved based on the investment they were giving.

That’s why that student-centered approach I’m talking about bringing to Valley is so important. We’ve got to produce happy graduates. When student are happy, they recruit for you in terms of bringing other students to the institution. They talk very positively about their own institution. That shows when they’re on the job in their specified work career. And then, of course, they’re in a position to give back. They’re more apt to give back if they’re happy. We’ve got to make sure of that.

In terms of endowment, that’s got to be a major focus of HBCUs because of state funding, we’re simply not going to get more. As you know, state institutions are pulling back on the amount of funding they’re giving to higher institutions. As a result, we’ve got to make sure that our endowments are growing, as well as our enrollments are growing. What the state systems are saying is, “As a state, we’re suffering for lack of income. We can’t continue to give more.” Therefore, we’ve got to come up with different revenue streams. For institutes of higher education, enrollment is the primary revenue stream, but again we’ve got to continue to try and build our endowments so that there is some longevity for the institution as well as some monies that are continuing to repeat themselves each and every year.

Finally, we’ve just got to think about producing, as I said, those happy graduates. We’ve got to get HBCU graduates to pound their chest more and be proud of the institution that they graduated from when they’re on the job, when they’re in the workforce doing some great things. We need them putting those Valley license plates on their cars, or whatever institution they graduated from. Really showing off their degrees in their offices and homes and workplaces, showing the kind of pride that we need in our own institutions.

We see plenty of that, but we need even more. I need Valley grads who are putting Valley flags on their cars and not Mississippi State or Ole Miss flags on their cars. I know that doesn’t happen very often, but we need to pound our chests and be very proud about the institutions that we’re graduating from.

Q: What do you think is the future potential of HBCU’s? What trends might they capitalize on in order to continue to bring value to the higher education community?

A: I truly believe HBCUs will be around for a long time. The trend HBCUs can build on are maintaining the public square, the quality educational programs and to become more self-sustainable. What we’ll probably see, realistically, because of what is happening in the government with Pell and PLUS Loans, the competition, what you’ll probably see is a series of mergers and closures. You’re going to see the survival of the strong, and HBCUs are going to be around for a long time. I just think we’re probably going to see, over the course of the next 25 to 50 years, either some consolidations or some closures of those who simply aren’t able to compete with some of the large institutions. HBCUs as a whole, there will be a group of HBCUs around for a very, very, very, very long time.

Q: What advice would you give someone who has recently been appointed to their first college/university presidency?

A: Actually, I’m going to do two things. I’m not sure if you’ve seen Dr. Charlie Nelms, who recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post. If you would, when you get an opportunity, pull up that article. It was November 18 when they published it. The title of the article is “An Open Letter to Recently Appointed HBCU Presidents.” He did a good job. A lot of what I would offer in terms of advice, Dr. Nelms very succinctly offered in that particular article.

But what I would say in addition to what Dr. Nelms has in that article is, first and foremost, respect the institution that you’re coming into. When you are coming into an institution, you need to be as clear as you possibly can get in terms of what you’re coming in to — the history, the tradition, the region, the area, the finances. Learn as much about that institution as you can.

What happens, unfortunately, is too many folks just want to be a president. One of the things I’ve always prided myself on is trying to only apply to those institutions for which I think there is a good fit. I’ve actually only applied to a very few. That’s the main thing. You have to respect the institution that you’re going to lead and because many of us simply want to be a college president simply to say they were a college president, it wasn’t the best fit. They didn’t have the respect for the institution that really should have been there from day one.

That’s what I would say. Make sure the institution you’re going into is the right, correct fit, and that you have a great deal of respect for that institution and the history and tradition of that institution. One of the first things you can do, of course, is turn people off when you come in with a bunch of ideas that shows disrespect for that history and tradition and culture. I’m always very mindful as I’m doing things early on.

As I mentioned earlier, the One Goal, One Team, One Valley, that came internally. I didn’t need to ask people to learn something new. What I chose to do was elevate something that already existed within the culture. That’s important to respect.
The second thing is to be approachable and to be accessible. Don’t get me wrong. Obviously the work in the day of a president is too busy to entertain anybody and everybody who wants to talk. But what happens, as I’ve mentioned to other folks before, the job of the president is to get out and about and to become the number one cheerleader for that institution.

What I’ve found and what you will find, if you are out and about and the number one cheerleader for the institution, is some of those conversations that people want to have with you in the office, they can have with you while you’re out and about, when you’re at a ball game, when you’re at an event in the community. If that person needs to talk to you, they’ve got you. When you’re accessible and visible, they’re able to do those things.

The other thing I think, of course, is really bearing good fruit early on here at Valley is to be transparent. There’s a lot of information, and HBCUs have been historically bad about this. We hoard in the top levels all kinds of information that people need to know. People need to know the financial situation of an institution. They need to know the enrollment situation. They need to know what you’re facing so that decisions that they make and the additional work they do is in line with what’s happening, the vision for the institution. Transparency is something that HBCUs are notoriously bad about.

I’m very proud to say that I learned from one of my mentors and it’s already bearing all kinds of fruit here at Valley. People are being presented with information that was before inaccessible to them or they didn’t know about. We’re saying, “This is the real story. This is the real deal. This is what we’re facing. This is what we’re up against. We need everybody to put a paddle in the river and we need everybody be paddling as fast as they can and as hard as they can in the same, unified direction, so that we can move the institution forward.” It’s hard to do that when you don’t have the information. Transparency is one of those things I would definitely encourage new presidents to be and to do.

Q: How about an individual who aspires to become a college/university president one day?

A: One of the main things is to find a mentor. Find someone who is already in the role, who has been in the role or who aspires and has a realistic opportunity.
I wasn’t in a hurry to be a college president. I wanted to make sure, first and foremost, that I had the skill set that I would need once the opportunity came, and then of course, as I mentioned earlier that it was the right fit. Again, don’t be in a hurry. The fit and being prepared for all that the role is going to throw at you is important.

I mentioned finding a mentor. I had very good mentors throughout my career, from Dr. Doris Walker Weathers at Clark Atlanta University, to the best mentor I had, Dr. Ivory Nelson, who was president of Lincoln University. Find someone that you are able to share that future desire with and then ask that person. Ask that person if they would be willing to share insights that you are not going to gain unless you’re actually sitting in the chair.

Before I took the job at Lincoln, I asked Dr. Nelson point blank, “Sir, I want to be a college president. I have other offers, but I’m going to the college or university whose president says they are willing to mentor me and prepare me to do exactly what they’re doing.” Dr. Nelson accepted that and did it for nine years, really sharing the business of higher education with me and explaining, “When you made that decision, what went into making that decisions? What did you consider? What did you take into account? What did you have to look at?” Those things you will never know until you’re sitting in the chair, he actually helped explain those to me during those nine years.

Now, when I make decisions, I know what to take into account, who to take into account, all of those things – who to call, who to give an advance notice to before I actually make that decision. That tutelage of being able to sit at his feet those nine years was huge.

The last thing I would say is any time you get an opportunity to take advantage of one of these programs for presidential hopefuls, whether that’s the Harvard program or the ACE program, or numerous others offered by different associations. Make sure that you take full advantage of those.

In my case, I looked at two slices of the pie: student affairs and enrollment management. Of course, being a president, you’ve got to look at the entire pie. The one I had the opportunity to go in was the NAFEO Kellogg Leadership Fellowship Program modeled after the year-long ACE program. They give you an exposure to people who sat in the chair and had been in the job and could provide you some insights that will help you to avoid some of the pitfalls early on during your office tenure. That’s extremely important, as well.

This concludes our interview. Thank you President Bynum, for your insight and for taking the time to do this interview.

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here.

Seven deadly sins of online course design

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

By Daniel Stanford

I took my first online course in 2004 while pursuing my MFA. It seemed like a novel idea at the time, and I had no clue I’d be spending the next ten years up to my eyeballs in online courses. Since then, I’ve helped faculty design dozens of online and hybrid courses, taught several of my own, and evaluated online courses and professional development programs from a variety institutions.

Over the years, I’ve seen certain design issues surface again and again. I had hoped to stockpile 95 of these “course design sins,” then nail them to a door in a Martin Luther-esque call for reform. That vision was later revised as I realized (A) 95 is a lot of sins to identify and (B) Martin Luther didn’t have to compete with the latest Buzzfeed list of 15 dogs wearing tiny hats.

In light of those realizations, I’d like to share with you my top seven course design sins, along with practical tips for atonement.

1. Overwhelming Discussions

“Compose your post, then respond to three classmates’ posts.” Sound familiar? These instructions have become de rigueur in online discussions even though it would be impossible to replicate this level of participation in a face-to-face class. The result is a massive number of posts that instructors and students dread sorting through.

How to Atone
1)    Relax discussion participation requirements. For instance, you might require students to contribute to two out of three discussions. This allows students to contribute to the discussions that interest them most, as they often do in face-to-face courses.
2)    Set reasonable guidelines for post length and number of replies. For prompts that tend to elicit long-winded replies, stress the importance of concise writing and set a maximum word limit.
3)    Provide a grading rubric in advance that focuses on quality, not quantity.

2. Lack of Scannable Text

Reading on a screen is tiring enough as it is. Don’t make it worse by writing long paragraphs devoid of visual interruptions and organizational cues.

How to Atone
1)    Use headings and lists to break up long blocks of text. This not only makes it easier to read the first time through, but also makes it easier for students to find what they need when they review material for a second or third time.
2)    Don’t rely on color to make important items stand out. This can quickly become overwhelming and isn’t helpful for colorblind users. Instead, use bolding (judiciously) to offset important details such as deadlines or warnings.

3. No Progress Indicators

Within seconds of entering a course or a specific unit of content, students should know what they’ve completed, what is incomplete, and when the incomplete items are due. The worst nightmare of any online student is to think she has met all the course requirements for a given day or week, only to stumble upon additional ones after a critical deadline has passed.

How to Atone 
1)    If your learning management system includes a checklist feature, provide one in every module to ensure students can keep track of what they’ve completed.
2)    If your LMS doesn’t include checklists, provide a concise to-do list at the beginning of each module so students can easily see what they have to complete and when graded items are due.
3)    List the deadlines for all graded items in your main course schedule or calendar.

4. Bad Narration

There are two reasons most instructors create narrated PowerPoints.
1)    They believe it will be faster to deliver a lecture verbally than write it out.
2)    They believe it will be more engaging for students than reading.

Both of these motivations have their pitfalls. First, faculty are often surprised how long it takes to produce an effective narrated presentation. Second, delivering information via audio with no text alternative makes it difficult for students to control the pace of their learning. It’s also worth noting that audio-only approaches to instruction can be challenging for ESL learners and a dealbreaker for students with disabilities.

How to Atone
Whatever your motivation for creating narrated presentations, your work will be better (and your students happier) if you keep these tips in mind:
1)    Break content into chunks of roughly five minutes or less.
2)    Ask the learner to respond to questions periodically. If you can’t provide interactive   quiz questions in the video itself, simply show a question on screen and give students a few seconds to pause and contemplate the answer before you provide it.
3)    Start with the topics you’re most passionate about and provide a written alternative for material you’re less excited to narrate.
4)    Allow students to download the PowerPoint file if they’d prefer to read it without narration. This is especially helpful if you’ve taken the time to add notes to each slide.

Also, before you get too attached to your presentations, share a sample with a friend and ask if your narration feels:
1)    natural and authentic (not over-rehearsed, over-annunciated, or overly scripted)
2)    appropriately paced (not too fast or too slow)
3)    pleasant (not too soft, too loud, or too nasal)
4)    dynamic and engaging (not monotone and dull)

5. Buried Leads

Don’t make students read through or listen to several minutes of non-essential fluff before you get to the good stuff. Burying the lead wastes students’ time and hurts your credibility as a curator. As a result, students will struggle to find the part where you finally say something important. Worse yet, they might begin to ignore your emails, readings, or videos altogether.

How to Atone
1)    Write in an inverted-pyramid format. Start with an eye-catching headline or summary and make sure the most important information is as close to the beginning as possible.
2)    Avoid fluffy intros. This is particularly important when creating audio/video content. Here’s an example.

Too Fluffy More Direct
Hi students. Welcome to module 3, video lecture 2. I hope you enjoyed our last module on X. In this video, I’m going to talk about writing an effective creative brief for an advertising campaign. Creating an ad campaign can be challenging. There are so many moving parts and different people who need to contribute to the design of a successful campaign. There can be many strong personalities involved… In a recent Ad Fed survey, 73% of creative directors say their work missed the mark due to a bad creative brief. Ineffective briefs often fall short due to X, Y, and Z. Let’s spend a few minutes analyzing each of these factors.

6. Digital Hoarding

Face-to-face courses come with limitations that encourage instructors to prioritize what they share with students. Examples include the number of hours in each class meeting and the number of photocopies the instructor has time to print. In online courses, these limitations are removed or relaxed, which makes it tempting to share every interesting reading, video, and website you’ve ever encountered. All too often, the result is a course site that feels like one of the homes on Hoarding: Buried Alive, but with more scholarly journals and fewer cats.

How to Atone
1)    Curate and annotate. Good curators know what to keep hidden in the vaults, what to place in the gallery, and how to lead visitors through it all in a way that informs and inspires.
2)    Contextualize links. Don’t assume their relevance is self-explanatory. Provide a sentence or two summarizing why the link is important.
3)    Customize links. Direct students to specific pages of a site and explain why those pages are useful instead of sending them to the homepage of a massive site and assuming they’ll find their way.
4)    Contextualize readings. This is particularly important when assigning long readings or videos. Provide guiding questions and/or warn students which sections or concepts they’re likely to find challenging. If all 50 pages of a reading (or hour of a video) are equally essential, briefly explain why.
5)    Separate and label what’s optional. Don’t let supplemental resources or anecdotes obscure what’s truly top priority. Be realistic in what students can reasonably read or view in a single day or week.
6)    Throw something away. Recognize that, even with optional resources, less is more.

7. Faceless Professor Syndrome

Online courses provide limited natural opportunities to reinforce that you’re a real human being and help students put a face with your name. Don’t squander these opportunities by obscuring your identity and increasing your anonymity on the discussion board and in your self-introduction.

How to Atone:
1)    Use a photo of your face for your online profile and discussion board avatar. Don’t use a photo of your dog, your favorite cartoon character, or a generic icon.
2)    Make sure your face is closely cropped so it’s recognizable at small sizes. This will help students see who is “speaking” at a glance if your face shows as a small icon next to your discussion board posts.
3)    Avoid tools like Voki or Tellagami that obscure your identity by synchronizing a talking cartoon with your voice. Novelties like this might be entertaining when used to create an Easter egg or a supplemental resource, but they increase online anonymity when used for introductions and essential announcements early in the term.

This post originally appeared on iddblog.org, and was republished with permission.

Read all of our posts about EdTech and Innovation by clicking here. 


Daniel Stanford holds an MFA in Computer Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a concentration in Interactive Design and Game Development. Since 1998, his interest in interactive media and education has led him to take on a variety of professional roles—from website designer and graphic artist to teacher and online-course developer. His work as an instructional designer has received multiple awards from the Instructional Technology Council and he has been both a course reviewer and finalist in Blackboard’s Exemplary Course competitions. Daniel is currently Assistant Director of Faculty Instructional Technology Services at DePaul University where he oversees multiple faculty-development initiatives, including the DePaul Online Teaching Series, which won the 2012 Sloan-C Award for Excellence in Faculty Development for Online Learning.

Diverse Conversations: Analyzing the Intersection of Higher Education and Immigration Reform

Immigration reform has been a hot button issue in the United States for decades. Earlier this year, the Obama administration, along with members of the Republican Party, outlined a plan for comprehensive immigration reform. When they sit down to work out the details, it is critical that higher education finds its way to the center of the discussion. A college education is a virtual prerequisite for securing the American dream and currently it is an option that is off the table for more than one million undocumented students. In order to learn more about the intersection of higher education and immigration reform, I sat down with Luis G. Pedraja, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Antioch University in Los Angeles.

Q: How does the lack of legal immigration options affect the college prospects of the children of illegal immigrants and their futures?

A: Children of illegal immigrants face limited prospects, greater financial burdens, a lack of support networks, and fear. While some states allow undocumented students to attend state institutions, pay in-state tuition, or provide some level of state financial aid, many states bar them from even enrolling. In addition, they cannot receive federal financial aid, loans, or work-study money. Because of their status, most of them will not find substantial employment that will allow them to pay tuition. Unless they receive scholarships, the majority of private universities will be out of reach. The few who do attend colleges most likely will have to work several low paying jobs to cover living expenses and tuition while they attend classes, often preventing them from full-time studies. In addition, they must cope with the constant fear of deportation for them and their families.

Q: By taking the option of attending college off the table for millions of immigrants, it seems that we are going against the values and principles upon which this country was founded. What are your thoughts?

A: Our country was founded on the principle that all are endowed with three basic rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The sole crime of the undocumented is the pursuit of these basic human rights. Most of these students came as children, some as infants, brought by parents hoping for a better future and the need to survive. Their economic woes often resulted from unfair trade, economic exploitation, and conflict—at times due to U.S. and European trade practices and politics. These children did not choose to break any immigration laws. Most were educated in our schools. Some were even born here, but unable to obtain birth certificates out of fear. They do not always have options to return to their home countries, where they no longer fit or have ties. Thus, they are trapped, victims of circumstances, with limited future prospects for education, gainful employment, and economic survival. To penalize them for actions over which they had no control would be akin to giving a ticket to everyone riding in a car.

Q: How should immigration reform address this?

A: I would like to challenge our political leaders to make education a path to citizenship. While broader reform is necessary, making higher education in particular a path to citizenship can benefit not only undocumented students, but also our nation. Let me elaborate. First, although the majority of undocumented students are already fluent in English and can function in American society, a higher education will ensure it and quiet some critics. Second, the attainment of a higher education degree will demonstrate their work ethic and abilities to be productive members of society. Third, education as a pathway will enable these students to seek gainful employment and contribute to society. Fourth, we train a large contingent of foreign students that eventually take their acquired skills abroad; an education pathway will keep highly skilled and talented individuals in the U.S., contributing to our economic development. Finally, research shows that individuals with some college education tend to earn more than those without. This will enable them to have greater purchasing power and contribute more to taxes. Current research indicates that undocumented laborers pay taxes, but because of the level of employment they can attain, their tax contribution is not as high as other groups.

Q: How does the reluctance to pass immigration reform affect the U.S. economy?

A: Studies indicate that close to 65% of job openings in the next five years will require at least some college education. While many countries invest in education as a way of strengthening the economy, it is one of the first items we tend to cut. Currently, only about 40% of the population attends college. This is creating a gap that will have a significant impact on our economy, leading to the erosion of the middle class, increased unemployment, and lower purchasing power. To strengthen our economy and leadership in the world economy, we need to be increasing access to education and encouraging more people to attend college to ensure a skilled workforce in our country.

Barring undocumented students from attending college only aggravates matters. First, it prevents the students from obtaining better employment that will increase their purchasing power and tax contributions. As a result, these young men and women will have a grim future, with limited prospects of finding better jobs. In addition, they will be more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Second, by not having sufficient skilled labor within our country, we risk that industries will be more drawn to relocate research and production to other countries, again lowering our GDP and our economic power. Instead of exporting talent to other countries, we should be importing individuals who will contribute to our economic growth. To some extent we already bring talented and skilled laborers to our country from abroad, so why not grow our own who already share our values? Third, by educating these men and women, they will be able to attain better employment and bear a greater portion of our tax burden, which will be necessary to sustain our aging population. Fourth, these students can be “ambassadors” to other countries, serving to bridge our interests and values to those of other nations and cultures.

Our failure to pass immigration reform ultimately cripples our economy by preventing us from keeping skilled individuals in our country and from bringing those with skills that we might be lacking. Immigrants are economic drivers. They do not take jobs from Americans; they often serve as the backs upon which America is built and often do the work that most of us are unwilling to do.

I would like to thank Dr. Pedraja for participating in this interview and for his insightful commentary on the intersection of higher education and immigration reform.


Diverse Conversations: Is Higher Education Worth It?

Recognizing the trends of higher education is important for those of us who are involved in it on a professional level. But what are the trends? Today, I’m speaking with Yvonne Tocquigny who is CEO of Tocquigny, a company that specializes in brand management and development for colleges and universities.

Q: To provide some context, what are the principle reasons for the rising cost of attendance for higher education and are costs going to continue to rise in the event that no one in higher education takes steps to curb them?

A: Costs are being driven by the fact that higher education is increasingly competitive. Schools are competing for the best teachers, so the cost of acquiring top talent continues to rise. Schools are also competing for the best students. Students no longer look primarily at the educational benefits of a school in their assessment. They consider the experience the school provides them as students. If you compare the experience of attending the University of Texas at Austin, for example, in the 1980s to the experience today, you would see a drastic difference. Today, the University has all the amenities a student could ask for. The ability to offer students the lifestyle experience they want is extremely expensive. At some point, it will become too expensive to offer increasingly luxurious amenities and excellent teachers at a cost that a middle class American can afford.

Q: Based on your experiences in higher education, do you think the value of education is still allowing a viable return on investment and if so (or if not) why?

A: In my experience the cost of an education usually provides a viable return on investment, particularly if that investment can be made up front and without going into major debt by acquiring student loans. Of course, some degrees provide a higher ROI than others, and students who care about this return may choose a career path that leads to a job that will provide a higher salary. It is becoming more of a luxury to follow one’s heart and pursue learning for the sake of learning. This gets to the critical point of disagreement among educators, some of whom believe that an education is valuable for its own sake in bettering the individual and culture as a whole, vs. those who believe education should prepare the individual for a specific career or trade.

Q: What, if anything, is being done or being considered to start curbing the cost of college attendance and what can students and parents do to help ensure the return on investment for college attendance?

A: The first thing that students and parents can do is to be prepared for college. A high percentage of freshmen who are admitted each year don’t have the skills to succeed in college. This creates a need for remediation, which is another expense for parents and for the schools. Low student persistence is aggravated by the fact that students are not prepared to succeed. Many schools are struggling to put student remediation programs in place to address the persistence problem. This is a growing issue for many schools, students and parents.

Q: What strategies do you think might develop in the future? How do you think the cost of attendance may, in fact, be curbed?

A: Online learning and MOOCS will provide innovative ways for schools to cut costs by curbing the cost of labor (the #1 cost for most schools) and amortizing their investment in the best teachers. This will have to be balanced with the need to continue to convince students that the value of an online course from their school is somehow superior to that of a less expensive institution. Many people believe that in a few years, one will be able to acquire online learning through Amazon. So schools will have to do more over time to define the value of a degree from their particular school. They will have to become more efficient at attracting the right students to their school. The students who will succeed and graduate with a degree are the best prospects. It will be better business for a school to focus on attracting the right students as opposed to as many students as possible.

We would like to thank Yvonne for sitting down with us.

Why the U.S. College Landscape Still Needs HBCUs

It’s no secret that Black, and other non-white, students in the U.S. have always faced an uphill struggle when it comes to education. Even today, the achievement gap between white students and their peers of color is wide – with the latest National Assessment for Educational Progress report What are now called HBCUs were at one time the only route many young scholars could take to obtain a college degree and elevate their lifestyles. This is not to say that these HBCUs were second-rate; the education received at these establishments has always rivaled that of institutions without the same label, producing such graduates as Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison and Spike Lee. Traditionally, HBCUs have also had a strong alumni presence, with the great minds of the graduates giving back to the institutions that taught them so much.

What was once a role built of necessity has slowly disappeared, however. The Civil Rights Movement, affirmative action initiatives and more recently, the popularity and legitimacy of online degree programs, have all chipped away at the core reason HBCUs were developed in the first place. Declining enrollment has unsurprisingly led to a domino effect, reducing the resources available to students on-campus, and making the HBCU experience less attractive to students choosing between a plethora of higher education options.

There are standouts, of course – HBCUs whose reputations have sustained them through the changing landscape of Black college education in the U.S. Atlanta liberal arts powerhouses Morehouse College, often referred to as the “Black Ivy League,” and Spelman College continues to attract the top talent in the country to their programs. Morehouse boasts an 83 percent freshman retention rate while Spelman is the largest producer of black graduates that go on to medical school (of ALL U.S. colleges).

For every Spelman or Morehouse, however, there is a Saint Paul’s College, forced to close its doors in 2013 after an unsuccessful merger attempt and unsustainably low enrollment figures. Atlanta’s Morris Brown College filed for federal bankruptcy protection after finding itself $35 million over its head.

Not surprisingly, these headline-grabbing instances and others like them have called HBCUs to the table. Are these colleges still a necessity in the growingly accepting and diverse American culture? Do these colleges help their students reach graduation effectively? Why, when considering all the other educational options available to students of color, should an HBCU be chosen? Are these schools still relevant?

Despite the struggles of some HBCUs, I think that these institutions are actually more relevant than ever – and for a larger pool of students than ever before. Instead of closing the door on these schools or questioning their relevance, the educational community should be encouraging them to remain open, and for more reasons than one.

Safe havens for students of color

Though traditionally “white” schools now accept students of color, they often do not do enough to ensure that those students, particularly first-generation college attendees, have the resources to make it to graduation. With some exceptions, retention, mentoring and cultural programs often do not exist on non-HBCU campuses. Though subtle, racism still exists on non-HBCU campuses too. HBCUs have always provided more than the curriculum in a textbook, or the expertise of the professor in the classroom. They have been safe havens for young adults, struggling with the demands of a college education and to rise above the insidious inferiority complex society places on them. HBCUs don’t just include students of color out of obligation; HBCUs encourage, strengthen and celebrate Black and other minority students. Even though “times have changed,” HBCUs still remain pillars of holistic creation of students who succeed not only academically, but in every aspect of their lives.

How HBCUs can stay relevant

For HBCUs to keep their doors open, and their educational offerings relevant in an increasingly competitive higher education market, they need to keep one foot grounded in tradition and the other pointing forward. By “tradition,” I do not mean that they need to hold on to the exact practices of the past, or foolishly cling to a culture of exclusion, but I believe the purpose of HBCUs should remain steadfast: providing student-centered experiences with strong academic backgrounds.

While it is certainly impressive to make “top” lists in academic areas, HBCUs have a secret weapon when it comes to student retention, graduation rates and lifelong success and it lies outside what is in the textbooks. Can HBCUs survive without strong academic performance, and a competitive staff of the leading scholars in the nation and world? Of course not. But I’d argue that even with those things, HBCUs cannot survive without remaining grounded in the student-focused, “under our wings” mentality that have always made them a different sort of college education – one that is fulfilling on many levels beyond what is printed on a transcript.

HBCUs should also continue to embrace a spirit of diversity, particularly outside its traditional student body demographic. Black students should not make up the entire student body – or even a majority of it. Students from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds should be welcomed in. The first-generation college students looking to elevate their family status. The student immigrants who are still assimilating into U.S. culture. The underdogs from every race, creed and color who need that extra bit of encouragement in a close-knit environment to accomplish their educational aspirations. It is this pool of students who have the highest potential to be innovators and to step outside their comfort zones to build a better future for themselves and our country. HBCUs can play that pivotal role in getting these students to that point.

So while the historical part of HBCUs should stay in the past, the future of these institutions of higher learning depends on leading through a diverse example that puts student needs above all else.

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here.

HBCU Closures: A Reversible Trend?

Though their original purpose has evolved, the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities is still a vital one in America’s education system. As more HBCUs start to look like the rest of the secondary education institutions in the country, they must find ways to blend tradition with progressive thought in terms of diversity and education for all. The rich history of HBCUs is not to be dismissed; in fact, it is those roots that make them a stable part of the U.S. higher education system. Except when that stability falters. Lately it seems there are just too many HBCUs in the news for the wrong reason: financial and accreditation woes that threaten, or deliver, closure. This begs the question, are HBCU closures a reversable trend?

On June 3, Saint Paul’s College officials announced that it planned to close its doors – at least temporarily. The news followed a proposed merger with Saint Augustine’s University that fell through. After 125 years, the rural school that employs roughly 75 people in the community of Lawrenceville, Virginia had no choice but to close its doors to new students, and help current ones find placement elsewhere.

After several years of highly-publicized financial problems, Morris Brown College turned down a bailout from the city of Atlanta in June that would have eliminated its bankruptcy troubles. In August, Morris Brown filed for federal bankruptcy protection to prevent foreclosure. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and other city officials were more than a little surprised when the school rejected the $10 million offer that was designed to benefit the city too.  A Morris Brown lawyer said the rejection is due to the school receiving an undisclosed, better offer from somewhere else. For now, though, Morris Brown is still $35 million in over its head, by some accounts.

Why is this happening?

In the case of Morris Brown, a few factors play into the closure issue. The first is geographic location. Morris Brown competes for students with four other HBCUS – including nationally ranked Morehouse and Spelman colleges. The other is money – plain and simple. The alumni of Morris Brown contribute at a rate of less than 5 percent and board members are led by the African Methodist Episcopalian church – not affluent community members or alumni. Saint Paul’s has tried for several years to stay afloat, even cutting out its athletic programs to focus on academics, but to no avail. In both cases, lack of funds is due in part to low student enrollment and in part due to meager alumni contributions.

Specifics aside, though, I think HBCU closures are part of a larger issue. The original purpose of these schools was to provide higher education opportunities to black students and in many cases, to former slaves.  Morris Brown holds a particularly fond place in black education history because the school was founded by former slaves – not white people with philanthropic agendas.

The landscape of today’s colleges is not as exclusionary as it was even 20 or 30 years ago though. The higher education opportunities are literally endless for all students so the necessity of HBCUs, at least for diversity purposes, is no longer in play.

When is an HBCU closure good?

The old adage that any affiliated group is only as strong as its weakest link is certainly true when it comes to HBCUs. Morris Brown is still $30 million in debt after 15 years of financial struggle and has a dwindling student population. The successful years of the college are now tainted. Saint Paul’s lost its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and instead of carrying on classes as usual until an answer could be found, decided to close its doors. Though Saint Paul’s closure is a loss in the HBCU community, it is better than an unaccredited, affiliated school that harms the reputation of the rest.

What can be done to stop HBCUs from closing? 

The only way for any college to survive in the current educational landscape is for it to focus on the student experience above all else. For an HBCU that means letting go of polarizing “traditions” that do not welcome students of all backgrounds. There is a reason the word “historically” is used – the role of HBCUs today are much more complex and inclusive. It is not enough to expect students to want to attend a college based on the past. It needs to provide a promising future that is representative of the real world too.

How do you feel about the fate of HBCUs like Saint Paul’s and Morris Brown?

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here.

Standardized Testing for Colleges: A Necessary Evil?

Standardized testing in K-12 education is a perennial hot button issue. Proponents feel that measuring knowledge in these rigid ways helps lift the entire educational system. Critics say the measurements do nothing but encourage “teach to the test” methods and narrow the scope of what instructors are able to teach if they want to have acceptable test results. These arguments are nothing new, but they are now seeing a new audience.

What if the same principles of K-12 standardized testing were applied to colleges and universities? Americans spend over $460 billion on higher educational pursuits every year, yet there is no official worldwide system in place to determine whether students are learning what they should, compared to other schools. In June, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development unveiled research on whether a global testing system for college students is possible. The group will continue to review its findings and decide later this year if it wants to push for implementation of the Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes test, abbreviated as AHELO.

Right now the comparison system for colleges and universities lies in the many rankings that are released each year by sources like U.S. News & World Report and hundreds of bloggers who weigh in on the topic. The AHELO would be a “direct evaluation of student performance at the global level…across diverse cultures, languages and different types of institutions.” It would provide institutions feedback meant to help them “foster improvement in student learning outcomes.” In a nutshell, the test would not actually measure student achievements as much as shine the light on instructors that need some improvement.

To K-12 students, this sounds familiar. To college faculty, the idea is fraught with landmines. How can one test take into account so many variables in higher education across the globe? Would instructors be punished by the institution, or even worse held to some misguided accountability scale by peers, if students did not rank highly enough on an AHELO, or some other test? If college is a time for fostering critical thinking skills, would a standardized test take away some of that freedom?

College instructors and administrators are right to have doubts, and particularly before any testing mandates go into effect. Take the classic college entrance exams – the SAT and the ACT. Though research has found little correlation between results on these tests and actual knowledge or intelligence, they are a standard part of college admissions. It is more difficult to reverse a testing mandate than to fight it off at the outset.

It is easy to see why colleges and universities are leery of standardized testing, but K-12 instructors should be too. Presently, K-12 instructors guide students through the formative education years, dealing with standardized tests and other demands of contemporary teaching. Success with those students is ultimately determined by two other numbers: graduation rate and college placement. At that point, a K-12 teacher’s job is done, at least in theory. Adding another layer of teacher testing (cleverly disguised as core knowledge testing) at the college level could have an impact on K-12 instructors too.

If the AHELO is designed to “foster improvement” in the higher education schools that are tested, who is to say that those ideals of improvement will not then be extended to the K-12 schools that came beforehand? A student who demonstrates below-college-level proficiency in language or math would in theory not be the product of college that failed him or her – that student’s incompetency would be a result of a previous school, or schools. Could a global test for college actually negatively impact the K-12 schools that preceded it?
As with any measurement of teaching and learning, the AHELO and other similar initiatives need close scrutiny before becoming global law. I am not sure of the necessity of such a system and it will take some hard arguing by the other side to convince me otherwise.

As with any measurement of teaching and learning, the AHELO and other similar initiatives need close scrutiny before becoming global law. I am not sure of the necessity of such a system and it will take some hard arguing by the other side to convince me otherwise.

Are you in favor of standardized testing in colleges and universities?