Community College Buzz

I was at the Two Year College Association conference in Washington DC this month. What were the topics that were trending there in the presentations and conversations?

  Enrollment continues to surge at the state's public colleges and universities, thanks to a population bulge and a poor economy that has served as a catalyst for some to return to school. At my own Passaic County Community College enrollment has topped 10,000 as a 20-year growth trend continues. The number is 9 percent higher than last September.

BUZZ #2  WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT and TRAINING   The community college growth is fueled, in part, by people looking to retrain for new careers in a tough economy. But it also reflects cost-conscious students who opt for bargain rates during their first two years of college.

BUZZ #3  DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATION   Record numbers of students are arriving on community college campuses this fall, but Education Week says that a majority of them—nearly 60 percent—aren’t academically prepared to handle the classwork.Call it developmental, basic skills or remedial, 3 out of every 5 community college students need at least one remedial course, and fewer than 25 percent of those students successfully earn a degree within eight years, according to the National Education Longitudinal Study. Colleges are having to look at ways to address the problems and lower the $2 billion-and-rising annual cost for remedial education.

   The Obama administration has put a lot of money and attention towards community colleges. But two things that the administration wants to see improved are the the amount of time it takes to get a "two year" college degree, and the number of students who actually make it to a degree.

Some colleges are looking at where those concerns cross. For example, developmental education and graduation rates are connected. You can improve graduation rates if you use admissions standards. Don't let in the weakest students, and you will certainly increase your graduation rates in a few years. (Of course, you could also lower your standards and let more students get by, but that has pretty limited appeal to everyone from the federal government to employers.)

One counter-intuitive trend in dealing with these students is to push them through remedial work faster. (It reminds me of how ADHD patients are given drugs that speed up their system, when you might expect they needed something to slow them down.) Computer software that personalizes remediation and monitors it, more frequent class sessions and longer classes are all part of these programs. Early-intervention systems that identifies students who are failing and falling behind and can then provide support before they drop out are a hot trend. Grouping students into learning communities is another approach. These cohort communities move through developmental education together and then co-enroll in their first college-credit courses the next semester.

Open Education Resources Training

Open Education Resources (OER) and wikiEducator training skills
A 10 days workshop -
November 17, 2010 - November 30, 2010

A collaboration between / OER Foundation and the Community College Consortium for Open Education Resources (CCCOER).

WikiEducator's community comprises 16,000 educators in 120 countries, and CCCOER has 200+ community colleges primarily in the US and Canada.

Learn valuable skills for developing OER content and building new connections in the OER world and with others in community colleges and beyond.

Here is a direct link to registration -

Merrily we roll along...

Long(ish) weekends are generally a good time to do a little Virtual preventative maintenance. If some of the articles appear to be in hiding, or if the rss feeds seem to be out-to-lunch for brief periods over the holiday weekend, you can still enjoy this classic song from Warner Brothers by way of Jimmie Lunceford.

Copying Versus Plagiarism

You don't find many academic publications in favor of copying, but I came upon In Praise of Copying. Marcus Boon makes the case that “copying is an essential part of being human... that the ability to copy is worthy of celebration, and that, without recognizing how integral copying is to being human, we cannot understand ourselves or the world we live in.”

In Praise of CopyingMarcus Boon is a writer, and Associate Professor in English Literature at York University, Toronto. He says that "the university is a place that is truly saturated with copies and copying." From students who dress in "well-defined subcultural fashions" to the way they move through the "maze of corporate branding which controls everything from drinking water to the bathroom walls."

And speaking of copying, you can download a free copy of his book at the Harvard University Press web site that has been released under a Creative Commons license. You can also purchase a printed copy online.

Boon says that the book grew out of the observation that although copying is pervasive in contemporary culture, at the same time it is subject to laws, restrictions,
and attitudes that suggest that it is wrong.

We have music that samples other music, mashups, BitTorrent, tools like Google Earth or Photoshop, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter that make copying easy and encourage it in many ways.
Still, when we use many sites or products we are confronted with copyright and
intellectual-property law in the form of notices, fine print and terms in small print that we usually don't read and click on AGREE and continue.

He notes that our ability to
make copies at the macro and even micro (via nanotechnology and replication from the atom up) levels is big business. Even the software and services online that push and pull your "personal data" (if there is such a thing anymore) from one place to another makes me wonder what “public domain” and "fair use" and other legal terms will mean in a few years. This blog post contains things copied from other web pages including the author's site.

Interesting reading and an interesting topic of discussion to have with your colleagues and students.