Anniversaries and Predictions

PhilThis blog has now crossed the calendar mark and into its ninth year. In blog years, that is getting close to the senior citizen discount age. Over the years, we have looked at others predictions about learning and technology and we have made a few our own. It is interesting but I never view these predictions very seriously. We in this edtech business don't score much better than Oscar predictors or long-range weather prognosticators.

Groundhog Day is my reminder that another blog year has passed at Serendipity35. Phil, "the groundhog of record," saw his shadow and so predicts six more weeks of winter. If spring comes in four weeks, Phil doesn't get much bad press. And that's my thought on technology predictions too - we need to check back on them a year ot two out to grade them.

The predictions de la semaine are in the new “NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition,” a 52-page document that is available free from the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative.

Before we get to the new report, I thought I would recap what I wrote four years ago about the 2010 Horizon Report predictions, The report always looks at the time-to-adoption for technologies or trends. Four years ago they said that the Time-to-Adoption was one year or less for "cloud computing and collaborative environments. Both of those had pretty much arrived in 2010 already, so those are your safest bets. The cloud is certainly here now. Although collaborative environments may exist, they haven't taken any greater hold now than they did a few years ago.

In 2010, game-based learning and mobile learning was seen as 3 to 4 years away. Mobile is used more than it was a few years ago, but it is hardly a major part of the learning world. Gamification is still a topic for conference presentations as "on the horizon."

The predictions that are the most difficult are the ones that wil be arrive in 4-5 years. That 2010 Horizon Report said they would be augmented reality and flexible displays - both of which are still far from being a part of the learning environment in any significant way.

So, why even look at predictions? It is a good thing to be aware of what appears to be on the horizon. I belong to several groups, such as the NJEDge Academic Technology Group, that meet and try to do the same kind of predicting on an ongoing basis. We llok at emerging technology, so things like the Horizon report are useful in setting the agenda.

The new Horizon Report looks at six technologies and the changes they’re expected to bring. Of course, you should read the full report, but here is my PowerPoint slide summary. 

Social media’s expansion into education will continue and have its maximum impact within two years. “Understanding how social media can be leveraged for social learning is a key skill for teachers, and teacher-training programs are increasingly being expected to include this skill.”

The other trend that is here and will continue to make inroads is the blending of traditional face-to-face instruction with online, hybrid, and collaborative learning. The report says it has “the potential to leverage the online skills learners have already developed independent of academia.” 

In the next 3-5 years, we should expect data-driven learning and assessment to have more of an impact on attempts to personalize learning and improve performance measurement.

Also listed as having more of an impact in three to five years is a shift toward “learning by making and creating rather than from the simple consumption of content.” That sounds like my idea that the Web 2.0 shift would cause a Learning 2.0 (AKA University or even School 2.0) to follow.

The most challenging predictions are the two trends that are long-range (5 or more years away). The Report predicts one of those to be the softer prediction that there will be a continuing evolution of online learning. That includes thinking about what effects MOOCs will finally have on academia. The second general trend is universities shifting to more agile “approaches to teaching and learning that mimic technology start-ups.

That last prediction makes me want to say that education always seems to move slower than the the corpoarte world or even the general consumer world when it comes to embracing new technology. Mobile has arrived in almost every sector except education where it is still viewed as a distraction. MOOCs will probably have a greater impact first in corporate training and for lifelong learners than it will in academia in the next few years.

But it is interesting to guess. And I think Twelve Years a Slave will win the Best PIcture Oscar. 

Higher Ed Analytics


I was reading Karine Joly's post on the CollegeWebEditor blog about what the "next big thing" might be for higher education analytics. Big and small data has been a hot topic outside education for longer than it has been hot in education, so we have some catching up to do.

Karine got 11 speakers from the 2nd edition of the online Higher Ed Analytics Conference (Feb 5, 2014) who are analytics experts in higher ed to make some predictions.

Here are 6 that I think are good ideas to consider for your own institution's analytics roadmap.

Universal Analytics – Shelby Thayer from Penn State University "I’m hoping it can be to find a way to tie together the entire web presence and experience. Look for Universal Analytics to play a major role over the next year or two. I’m excited to see what the impact will be. Although, for higher education, I think the 'next big thing' is in our hands – something we can overcome ourselves with more resources and better collaboration."

Google Tag Manager – Colleen Clark from Ithaca College "I think higher ed institutions are starting to become more comfortable with the idea of integrating analytics with online marketing. As new digital campaigns are launched, multiple tags may need to be placed on the website. Tag Management solutions such as Google Tag Manager will begin to become more widespread in 2014 by replacing multiple tag requests with a single unified code on the website for all tagging needs."

Predictive Analytics – Michelle Tarby from Le Moyne College " I’d like to move into using Google Analytics to do predictive modeling. Can we use the behavior of our visitors to predict someone is more likely to apply, visit or request more information about us? What does that look like? How does the source of the visit relate to meeting a goal? Are other metrics a better predictor (number of visits, particular pages they end up on, number of pages viewed)? Once those models are built, how do we build content targeting? What increases the likelihood of conversion based on our models?"

Multi-Channel Integration – Stephanie Hatch Leishman from MIT "While this isn’t the 'next big thing' in the for-profit world, it’s something I believe we’re still aiming for in higher ed. In 2014, I see more universities focusing on analytics throughout all their communications, including email, social, web, print, etc. For many institutions, content creation still may not be fully integrated, and still in silos, so our analytics follow suit."

Real-Time Social Media Analytics – Tim Nekritz from SUNY Oswego "I expect better, more robust reporting of real-time analytics will really allow us to pivot and change content and delivery even faster. The main hitch in Google and social media analytics is the delay in receiving the most valuable quantitative and qualitative information. Once somebody figures out how to streamline that so that I quickly know, say, whether something I posted on the homepage that we think is important is or isn't getting any play, we can think about whether modifying its placement, related visual or phrasing can help it perform better."

Finally, here is one thing that doesn't require a lot of technology, but might be even harder than implementing analytics software on a campus.

Data Sharing Among Institutions – C.Daniel Chase from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga  "The next big thing that I would like to see is, cross-institutional sharing of data. The idea being that universities could voluntarily agree to participate and compete a short form describing their institution (public/private, 2/4 year, undergraduate & graduate enrollment) and add a short piece of javascript to their pages that would submit their data to a central account—perhaps using Google Analytics—that could then be used as a resource for site comparison to your peers. With this kind of data, everyone would have a better perspective on how well they were doing individually, and they would be able to review those that were doing well for good ideas! The ‘friendly competition’ would all help us develop better websites!"

The Educational Core and Standards

measureAs we were headed into the new school year last fall, an ASCD poll on the "Most Attention Getting Topics for the Year in K-12 Education" had caught my attention. 

Included were some hot and buzz-worthy topics like:
STEM/STEAM with a rating of 7.40%
Data analysis and decision-making  5.67%
The changing role of educators  3.31%
Personalized learning/adaptive learning  2.99%
Early-childhood education  1.57%
Online and blended instruction/MOOCs  1.42%

But for the K-12 world of education, the topic of the Common Core Standards and their orientation, implementation and assessment got the overwhelming vote at a whopping 77.64%.

Unfortunately, in higher education there is very little recognition or interest in these Common Core State Standards. That's unfortunate because they will have a real impact on the kind of students we see in the years to come.

The Common Core Standards are an effort to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.

The standards were designed to be robust and relevant to the real world and hopefully reflect the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers. Since this is a national effort, there is much talk about American students being prepared for the future and being able to "compete successfully in the global economy."

It's hard to not to agree with those intentions. But the Standards were met with lots of resistance from teachers, schools and even from states. I think that is to be expected with any big program that tries to set English and math standards and is pushed by Washington, D.C. education trade organizations and the current administration.

Some states have put on hold or even de-funded implementation of the standards. Some have pulled out of the consortia developing tests tied to them.

Federal programs like Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers are often tied to the adoption of Common Core standards and assessments. But the Race to the Top money is spent and so states are taking a different view at Common Core.

It is an over-simplification to explain the standards in just a few sentences, but what got a lot of press was that Common Core reduces the amount of classic literature, poetry and drama taught in English classes by 60 percent in favor of reading non-fiction - the prose of work.

In the math area, it delays the progression to Algebra I (seen as the gateway course to all higher math) by two years.

Media coverage, like this NPR report, like to point out the extremes and inconsistencies. The public can easily see that if a fourth-grader in Arkansas gets a “proficient” on his state test but would have been given a "failing" score on it he lived in Massachusetts, something is wrong.

That is why many supporters of having clear and high standards for every child in the United States by grade level see it as a practical and effective solution for the idea that now some students learn less than peers in other states.

I am not enough of an expert to praise or condemn the Standards, but I do think that ALL educators, especially those who are post-secondary, need to become better informed.

Corporate Doctorates

I read a number of posts last fall about JPMorgan Chase's plan to give $17 million to start a doctoral program at the University of Delaware. The companyplans to renovate a building to house the program, put up money to pay program faculty and pay a full ride for students seeking a degree. There were suggestions that there may even be JPMorgan employees on dissertation committees and they may have input on which faculty members will teach in the program. (A university spokeswoman emphasized JPMorgan will have an advisory role, but not a decision-making role.)

Is this a trend?  Will we see donors having more of an interest and input in how money is being used? Will universities build programs and degrees suited to the employee needs of a company? At least 40 percent of the budget for the UDel program would come from
JPMorgan, which is set to become the largest single corporate
contributor to the University of Delaware in its history.

It's not hard to imagine Google and Stanford forming a partnership that develops the kind of doctoral students that Google wants to hire. Of course, that type of student would be attractive to other companies too, but "designed" in a Google way.

Companies frequently donate money and resources to short term educational projects. JPMorgan's Code for Good Challenges, for example, is a two-day event that brings together college students studying technology to develop solutions to challenges faced by nonprofits.

The "JPMorgan Ph.D." (as I saw it described in one article) would be be in "financial services analytics." That kind of "big data" focus would be appealing to many financial companies.

Bruce Weber, the dean of Delaware's business school, said in an article that working closely with industry will help academics prepare students for the real world, something some business school deans feel is not happening enough.

“I think it’s a great way for business schools to really enhance the education they provide to their students by reaching out to the industry,” he said. JPMorgan, which has a strong presence in Delaware, and the university have been working closely together since 2009. Weber, who joined the university three years ago, said officials had by then realized university programs weren't hitting the mark in terms of what employers wanted. So, JPMorgan helped the university create and pay for its Institute for Financial Analytics and Delaware created a minor in global enterprise technology. Now, JPMorgan has a fully staffed and functioning office -- using student interns -- on the first floor of the university's Purnell Hall.
Of course, not all faculty are pleased with the plan. Some seem to feel that this type of Ph.D. is "a non-academic Ph.D." Might a university's close ties with one financial institution hurt its relationship with others when it comes to internships, recruiting and donations?

The bigger issue here is that at a time when colleges rely on donors to make up for declines in state support, these types of partnerships make sense. Colleges have always had corporate donors. You might name a lab or even a building for a donor. But generally, the donor had very little control over how programs were run.

Is this a sign of a new kind of corporate/university partnership?