Wednesday, November 14, 2012

global continuing ed

What are we doing now that can scale up to a global market? Is the Workforce Readiness Certificate something we can market internationally? We partner with a university overseas and place the readiness certificate in front of these students to prepare them to work in the states or for a multi-national in country. It's an additional credential for graduates.

How do we put part-time studies in front of a global audience? What does a part-time/CE educational product look like in China? Are we only thinking about full-time students studying at a distance? In that case, we should be looking at putting degree completion programs online (similar to what Marist College is doing). In country, we need local partners.

Friday, November 9, 2012

driving innovation

Northeastern is doing it right. More precisely, they are kicking the heads in of every mid-tier private on the east coast that's still dragging their feet when it comes to online UG programming. They went from 98 to the top 50 in nine years. If that's not getting the attention of executive leadership, then we're really in sorry shape at the top.

For UC, we need to think about our work within the confines of the University as activity in various zones of invention (new credentials, non-degree opportunities, etc.). We have the ability to work at the margins, and yet we're still hampered by process, protocol, people and inertia. Separation is our strength, but we also need alignment with all of the players and moving parts. We have support, but executive influence is fleeting and diffused.

Our disruptive innovations must be cost-effective, price-appealing, and easy to access. We need to attract new and previously un-tapped audiences in our regional catchment area. How many people in New York have some college and no degree? How many people in CNY have some college and no degree?

We need to think about UC as a separate but distinct unit -- unencumbered by all of the baggage and bulls**t. We need to be market responsive -- to transform the assets, resources, and programs we have into sustainable and revenue-positive activities. Alignment with our core competencies. Alignment with University leadership and their vision. Do we know what that vision is beyond the oft-cited white paper?

Our biggest obstacles: an unwillingness on the part of the larger University to change, and a lack of a coherent and consistent executive vision.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

assessment-based degrees

Sixty-five to 85% of the jobs in the next 10 years are going to require knowledge/skills that are not currently attainable at the traditional 4-year college/university. Ninety-three million people in the workforce do not currently have a degree of any kind. We're no longer exporting jobs overseas, we're importing skilled, knowledgeable, and educated workers.

Employer acceptance of online education is rising exponentially as more executive- a C-level types are, themselves, past or current online students. Seventy-five percent of surveyed employers now have an acceptable opinion of online education. They don't care how someone has studied, they only care about where they have studied. BRAND!

We dont' want to be credit bundlers -- that's what Excelsior does really well. We do need to partner with them. Let's put the BLS or reconstituted BPS fully online as a degree-completion option. Six-week online courses. The attraction is time-to-completion and brand, not cost. Let students come to the degree with OER, CLEP, ETS, ECE/UEXCEL, etc. We're only interested in assessment of mastery. We direct students to OER and other low/no-cost learning options. We let Excelsior do the assessment of mastery. We accept the credit as transfer and role them into the degree completion program. Better yet, we offer the non-credit course, Excelsior provides the assessment, we take the credit

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


In regard to MOOCs at SU... we should not expect to scale the same way courses are scaling with Coursera, Udacity, EdEx. We've already presented this. IST or whoever is the first to launch needs to think modestly in the spirit of the MOOC as part of a broader experiment. Think about expanding a 50 seat course to 350 seats. That would be success. This eliminates the need to locate the super star faculty (which we don't really have) or the hot topic course (which we don't really have).

The most important thing moving forward is access to the instructional design models and resources necessary to do a MOOC well. It's not only about the tech. We have to be concerned about quality and rigor or we're going to look extremely foolish. Do we have the ability to make a MOOC experience as good as a residential experience on campus? That should be IST's benchmark. Anything less is a brand-compromising activity.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

credit and non-credit thinking

University College needs to be in the middle of the credit / non-credit issue. We can -- should be -- the validators of learning by serving as the bridge between non-credit and credit. Look at the Lumina proficiency model for one example. It's quite simple: map external competencies to course course credits at SU. The TEDCenter has already done some of this. We extend their work to create a learning validation system that we can place in front of people interested in completing a degree with SU.

We're looking at the emergence of a new credential -- an occupational credential that is post-AAS and pre-BS. MOOCs are the lever of change in this space. It's quickly becoming no longer an issue of rigor, demonstrable learning, knowledge assessment, credentialing and offering credit. It an issue of building a framework and business processes to support all of this.

Let's forget the pressure or false hope of the $10,000 degree. It really isn't possible when we have to account for tech, advising, services, operations, etc. It's only realistic when bundled with all of the opportunities noted above -- brokering and leveraging all of a students learning experiences. 

We have to stop worrying about the Khan Academies and Universities of the People. These opportunities exist outside the credentialing system. The students taking these courses are non-consumers of our product -- the college degree. 


Regarding higher education in general: we need to reframe the problem. This issue is no longer one of engaging "non-traditional" students. We are now looking at a growing population of "post-traditional" students.

Our challenge is one of pathways,channels, and opportunities required to meet the needs of this post-traditional student. In some ways these challenges are the same we've been dealing with for a long long time. In other ways these challenges present us with new and different opportunities. Prior learning assessment, for example, is a must! In the past, PLA was a secondary or tertiary option. For the post-traditional student, PLA should be a first consideration. That means that we have to develop more efficient and meaningful mechanisms for PLA.

The post-traditional student is not strictly an adult learner. The post-traditional student is not circumstance-based (single parent, retraining, etc.). This is the student that needs skills and knowledge attainment -- and experiential learning conversion.

Tuition is going up while funding options are shrinking. So what's the likelihood that UC can negotiate  a higher discount rate for part-time post-traditional students? Maybe that's the wrong question to ask. Maybe we should be thinking about options that replace the credit hour costs with options for receiving the credit through PLA and experiential learning. 

Post-secondary knowledge and skills are still in high demand; increasingly important for the post-traditional student. Challenge to opportunity = build the learning into the work. Lots of talk about the resurgence of the corporate university, particularly in regard to the legitimacy of badges and credentials (for example, Disney, Microsoft, WalMart). These companies are investing $500 billion in post-secondary opportunities NOT focused on higher education. Businesses require employees with expert thinking and complex communication skills. These are the core skills necessary to work and function across disciplines. The opportunity for us is programming that allows students to develop these skill sets through practice-based applied instruction. Or we should be looking to validate/assess corporate university credentials. 

We need new instructional, credentialing, and financing models. This is the area where we at UC can be innovators. Let's not start by thinking about what we already have in place. We have to start with the ideal -- with the solutions to the problems. Let's not be prohibited in our thinking by what we think we know about the obstacles and resistance with the University. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

facing toward the sun

Exams are over. Yes. Lo these many years I let lapse, only to come through the experience with a wildly renewed interest in doing some good, serious, and rewarding writing. As with the exams, I'm planning on using this space to throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks.

In the interim, I thought posting commentary from the UPCEA conferences in New Orleans would be useful. My notes from these things are always disjointed when I wait to compile them after the fact.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

fallacies and entrenched thinking

To the entrenched faculty I will be working with this fall...

When I come to your faculty meetings to discuss online teaching and learning, please understand that I am not a zealot. I am merely an advocate of online education for a number of reasons, many of which have to do with access, opportunity, and outreach. I am also truly committed to helping our University expand it's instructional portfolio with purposeful intent.

So here I ask, before you launch into me as a messenger of coming doom and belittle my vocation as nothing more than a fad, consider this:

The high school teacher you meet with at your child's next Parent Night will likely have completed a Masters degree online. The next morning, when your child awakes with a bad cold, the nurse at your doctor's office will likely have completed a BSN online. If it's good enough for them, could it be good enough for you?

Understanding and objectivity. That's all I ask for.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

moving toward me1

In preparing for minor exam 1, I'm recovering a Sullivan & Porter essay that considers how writers view and use usability information. I'm finding a constructive framing position in the following conclusion they draw from this and previous studies: "... the writer's use of information is guided by that writer's rhetorical orientation, particularly his/her view of the audience/user."

While this all may seem obvious, its a position that I can use to foreground my on the exam. I need be conscious of -- and describe -- my rhetorical orientation and how it will/does guide my interpretation of usability results. This is important, as the exam will not be the usability and IA analysis, it will only be a discussion of the results of the analyses.

My rhetorical orientation is going to filter the results. So how does one go about recognizing and describing one's rhetorical orientation? I can start by asking a set of questions that Sullivan & Porter presented to their study subject:
  • What are my general beliefs about the way discourse works -- what is my model of communication?
  • Where do I place priority in writing -- who do I measure effective writing?
  • What are my attitudes toward authority -- who do I look to for validation of my perceptions an conclusions?
  • To what degree am I an advocate for the texts/systems I will be evaluating?
The difficulty here is that we all observe from a particular rhetorical stance. There really isn't a neutral or objective stance, even if it is something occasionally babbled on about by an old-school technical writer.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

random connections: idde

I'm recovering a thread I started to follow a few years ago that considered TC's and Comp's treatment of heuristics. My coordinating theme was Speech Act Theory. I argued then that TC departs from Comp's treatment of heuristics at the point were traditional rhetorical techniques fail to help readers adequately learn complex tasks. Such tasks require representations at a level higher than what is possible with traditional rhetorical tropes and techniques; readers/users can see their conceptions described in the documentation.

As with most of my writing, thinking, and teaching, things look so much more narrow and limiting through the lens of experience. However, I do still space for Speech Act as a bridging theory for TC and IDDE. In a recent re-reading of a few Redish essays, I'm again intrigued by the way she invokes the reader/user as an active participant in the writing process. More importantly, her treatment of "reading to do" and "reading to learn" activities places the TCer in the same design/development space as the IDer when creating particular types of information products. Reddish illustrates this common location by having us consider the tutorial as a specific type of information product -- one that requires the user to read "to learn to do." "... treating reading-to-learn-to-do materials like traditional reading-to-learn materials doesn't work. Tutorial users will not read long prose passages, advanced organizers, or prose summaries... we have to build knowledge through their use of the product, not by giving them pages and pages to read."

This is the point at which I see TC looking toward IDDE. While there are a few TC programs that include exposure to instructional design theory, most practicing TCers "do" ID without much theoretical framing. Consider this comment from Tom Johnson, a highly respected practitioner and TC blogger: "From what I could gather reading Kulman’s blog, the basics of instructional design are fairly intuitive. Create active versus passive learning, give the user control, help the user apply the learning while he or she is learning, select content using the 80/20 rule... Not sure I would need a PhD in instructional design for this, but surely the same could be said of tech comm."

I'm digressing a bit here... I'm still trying to fit activity theory into this space between creating "reading-to-learn" and "learning-to-do" information projects. In a very tangible way, activity theory gives the TCer the means by which to shape text in such a way as move the reader to learn and to do.

More on this to come.