The News for Chris Christie Keeps Getting Worse and Worse!

Dear Commons Community,

The news for New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, keeps getting worse and worse.  For the past month, the media have been all over him and his staff for closing the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retaliation.    Now the news outlets are reporting that Hoboken, New Jersey Mayor Dawn Zimmer charged on MSNBC’s “Up With Steve Kornacki” show yesterday morning that Christie held Hurricane Sandy relief funds hostage to force her to approve a development plan that overly favored one specific property holder.  As reported in The Huffington Post:

“Zimmer alleged that Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno told the mayor relief would be contingent on supporting the development project. “The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you,” Zimmer says Guadagno told her.

Christie’s community affairs commissioner Richard Constable also allegedly told Zimmer that if she moved forward with the development project, money would “start flowing to her.” Christie denied the claims through a spokesman, and Constable has called the accusation “categorically false.”

The property owner favored in the deal allegedly being pushed by Christie’s office, the Rockefeller Group, told “Up With Steve” that they have no knowledge of any political pressure around the proposed development.

“If it turns out to be true, it would be deplorable,” the company said in a statement to the show.

Christie is already facing a federal probe into whether he misused federal relief funds after Hurricane Sandy.

Zimmer has said that she asked for $100 million in relief funds for Hoboken, and received only $300,000. In an interview with WNYC last week Zimmer questioned whether Christie may have denied the funds because she declined to endorse him.

Several stories of Christie allegedly using his political muscle to bully people have surfaced since the governor’s office was engulfed in scandal for ordering the unannounced closure of two lanes on the George Washington Bridge.”

If any of these allegations prove true, Christie’s national political aspirations would be toast.


American Association of State Colleges and Universities Report Recommends Federal Matching Block Grants!

Public Higher Education Funding 2014

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities issued a report entitled, A Proposed Federal Matching Program to Stop the Privatization of Public Higher Education by Daniel J. Hurley, Thomas L. Harnisch and Barmak Nassirian, that recommends a new federal block grant program to the states for higher education. The goal of the proposed program is to give states some incentive to preserve and even raise the amount they spend on colleges, which has been in decline, and also to strengthen the federal commitment to affordable higher education.  As per the graphic above, state funding per full-time equivalent students decreased 30 percent between 1987 and 2012.  The report recommends:

“using existing federal resources to create a new federal matching grant program that leverages federal funds to incentivize states to boost operating support for public higher education, in turn mitigating tuition price increases and improving college affordability. These federal dollars will encourage states to both maintain their existing financial commitments toward public higher education access and affordability, and to make further investments in public colleges and universities. The integration of strong federal financial incentives will encourage governors and legislative leaders to reconsider cutting higher education funding and raising tuition as a budget balancing mechanism. A federal matching program will re-balance the state-federal responsibility for ensuring student access to high- quality, affordable college opportunities.”

This would be a real boon for public higher education but unfortunately matching block grants have not been the style in Washington, D.C. in recent decades and surely not during the Obama administration.


Fire and Light: Book by James MacGregor Burns on the Enlightenment and Present-Day School Reform!

Dear Commons Community,

I just finished reading, Fire and Light:  How the Enlightenment Transformed our World, by James MacGregor Burns.  It was a good read for the winter intersession and reacquainted me with this part of the Western canon.  For those of you who do not know him, Burns is a prominent American historian who won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award for his work, Roosevelt – The Soldier Of Freedom – 1940-1945. He is 95 years old and still an active writer.

In Fire and Light, he traces the history of the ideas, and their principal proponents, of the Enlightenment, and how these ideas impacted political developments in three countries: France, Britain and the United States.  He starts with Martin Luther in 1512 and basically ends in the mid 1800s.   His descriptions and insights into of the major thinkers and movements of this period were to me impeccable and interesting history.  Burns treatment should appeal to history buffs and others.

However, a complete surprise to me was the closing chapter where he recaps his book and provides commentary on the present.  Three pages from the end of the book, he discusses the importance of American public education for a free and open society and its importance for a nation that claims to be based on Enlightenment principles such as democracy and freedom.  Here is an excerpt:

“[Education] has been one of America’s great successes despite endless obstacles, controversies, and setbacks.  It has been crucial for the world’s most powerful economy, and even more, it has kept lit the beacon that has drawn the world to the United States for its freedoms.  It has been the proof of widespread enlightenment.

But now more than ever, schools and their curricula are under attack on narrow religious and ideological grounds. Textbooks are being rewritten to undermine science or promote a partisan view of American history.  The charter school movement, under the banner of school choice, draws parents discouraged by inferior public schools, but it risks hollowing out public schools financially and educationally, abandoning them to those who have no choice.  Increasingly, the movement is driven by for-profit entrepreneurs who see primary and secondary education as great untapped markets or by anti-government zealots who detest public schools simple because they are public…We can’t afford the decimation of public schools… they are the fruit of many centuries of strife and striving…Only if we build on their remarkable successes, if we improve and expand public education, will we be able together, as one people, to think our way out of the dilemmas and crises we face now and in the future.”

I was surprised by his message but Burns’ warning is on target. We as a people need to support our public education system and develop ways to improve it and make it succeed if we are to continue to be an enlightened society.  In a word, our future depends upon it.


President Obama and College Leaders at Summit to Open Up Higher Education to Low-Income Students!

Dear Commons Community,

President Obama greeted college presidents and other leaders who were invited to a White House summit to open up access to low-income students.   As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Mr. Obama described the event as part of his administration’s broader effort to spur change in the absence of cooperation from Congress. Later this month, he will convene business leaders for a similar summit, to discuss the long-term unemployed.

“I’ve got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission,” he said. “Today is a great example of how, without a whole bunch of legislation, we can advance this agenda.”

Commitments were categorized based on the following characteristics:

Financial aid: Commitments to increase the amount or number of grants and scholarships available to students with financial need.

Outreach: Commitments to expand outreach efforts with high schools and community colleges to increase mentoring, recruiting, and advising.

Enrollment: Commitments to increase enrollment of low-income students, including efforts to ease the transferring process from community colleges.

Technology: Commitments to expand online education programs and deliver information about the college-application process.

Remedial education: Commitments to push students to excel beyond remedial-level coursework and establish new college-readiness assessment policies.

College preparation: Commitments to prepare low-income and first-generation students for the rigor of college-level coursework with programs including “summer bridge” and dual enrollment.

STEM Focus: Commitments to place special emphasis to prepare, recruit, and fund students to take science, technology, engineering, and math classes.

Community Engagement: Commitments to ensure that students, particularly low-income, first-generation students, assimilate gracefully to college life through learning communities, first-year experiences, and placements in research and internships.


New York City Issues Guide to Help Students Use Social Media Wisely!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York City Department of Education yesterday issued a social media guide for teenagers.  As reported in The Huffington Post:

“The New York City Department of Education (DOE) wants to make sure teens know how to use social media responsibly.

The DOE recently rolled out a nine-page social media guide for students 13 and older, in an effort to make sure students leave a “smart digital footprint.” The guidelines advise students on how to create a preferred digital image, respond to cyberbullying and adjust their social media privacy settings. They also warn students to be cautious of what they post online and to “pause before you post.”

Jane Pook, the DOE’s executive director for digital communication policy and strategy, told The Huffington Post over the phone that demand for the guidelines came from students.

“[Students were telling us] … we want to know what college admissions officers are looking at,” said Pook. “We realized it more than just addressing the children’s needs as a middle school student or high school student, this is setting them up for success for their post-high school career.”

According to Pook, the guidelines will be supplemented with professional development training for teachers, parents and parent coordinators, informing them how to bring these standards into the classroom and home. Through this training, Pook hopes conversations about the proper way to behave on social media will happen organically in schools.

According to DNAInfo, the guide is based on recommendations from parents, school administrators and students; its release comes after the DOE issued a similar set of instructions in 2012 for department of education employees to follow on social media. In the future, the department hopes to release guidelines for students under the age of 13, according to New York outlet WABC-TV.

To act like social media doesn’t have a place in our classroom is ridiculous,” teacher Jennifer Gunn told WABC. “Our kids are using it so why not help them use it in a positive way.”

Indeed, a Pew Internet study from May 2013 found eight in 10 online teens between the ages of 12 and 17 are on social media.”

This makes a lot of sense!


More on CUNY’s New Chancellor – James B. Milliken!


Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, The City University of New York appointed James B. Milliken, from the University of Nebraska as its new chancellor.   The New York Times provided background and reactions to his appointment:

“… onetime New York lawyer and longtime college administrator… Mr. Milliken, 56, the president of the University of Nebraska since 2004, will take over a system that has undergone a spate of recent expansion but is still challenged by large pockets of impoverished and academically lagging students, the overwhelming majority of whom come from the city’s public schools. Mr. Milliken, who will begin his new job by June, will also be taking over a system that is more than five times the size of the one he is leaving, which serves around 50,000 students.

His predecessor at CUNY, Matthew Goldstein, is credited with raising admissions standards, adding thousands of full-time faculty positions and reforming a system that a mayoral task force in 1999 called “an institution adrift.”

Yet Mr. Milliken will confront tensions caused by Dr. Goldstein’s push for common “learning outcomes,” a program set up to help students more easily transfer credits from one CUNY college to another and to decrease the number of core courses some colleges require. The program is opposed by most faculty members who see it as a way to centralize control of the curriculum and, they contend, cut down on instruction.

In a statement issued just before CUNY’s trustees elected Mr. Milliken in a 14-to-0 vote, Barbara Bowen, the president of the union that represents CUNY’s faculty and staff, implored the new chancellor to “listen to the faculty and respect our knowledge” on the issue. Ms. Bowen also took issue with the selection process, noting that the names of finalists were not made public.

Benno C. Schmidt Jr., the board of trustees chairman, said the selection committee considered more than 50 candidates and interviewed about a dozen.

In a statement, Mr. Milliken said he was “honored” to lead the country’s “premier urban public university.” He said he hoped to build on the system’s achievements, but provided no policy proposals.

“CUNY today has a world class faculty, talented students, an outstanding reputation, rising enrollments, increased academic standards and the most diverse student body in the nation,” he said.

Mr. Milliken’s annual compensation will total $670,000, not including the use of a car and residence, officials said. Dr. Goldstein earned $579,295, though many other presidents at large universities made seven-figure packages in recent years.

Mr. Schmidt said Mr. Milliken had declined several offers from prominent universities that were “far better compensated.” People who know Mr. Milliken said he had recently expressed enthusiasm for addressing the thorny issues CUNY has often wrestled with, and for returning to a city where he attended law school; met his wife, Nana Smith; and worked for several years.

Matt Joeckel, a professor at the University of Nebraska who is a member of the faculty senate, said he was sad to see Mr. Milliken go. “I never felt anything but confidence in his leadership,” he said. “He certainly spoke plainly and cordially and respectfully to the faculty senate.”

Molly Broad, who was the president of the University of North Carolina system when she hired Mr. Milliken to work there in 1998, called him “politically astute,” citing how he led an effort in 2000 to raise money for the university, including working to see a $3.1 billion bond referendum passed by voters.

Mr. Milliken grew up in Fremont, Neb., and graduated from the University of Nebraska.”

I contacted a colleague of mine, Mary Niemiec, at the University of Nebraska, who said he was “great”.

We wish him well!


New CUNY Chancellor – James B. Milliken from the University of Nebraska

Dear Commons Community,

The following was posted on the CUNY website earlier this afternoon.



The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York voted unanimously today to appoint James B. Milliken, President of the University of Nebraska system since 2004 and a nationally prominent leader in public higher education, as the seventh Chancellor of CUNY, the nation’s leading urban public university.

The appointment follows the unanimous recommendation of a 16 member search committee of trustees, CUNY college presidents, faculty, students and alumni led by Board Chairperson Benno Schmidt, a former president of Yale University and a former dean of Columbia University Law School.

Chancellor Designate James B. Milliken

The committee was assisted in its national search by Isaacson, Miller, a leading executive search firm in the not-for-profit sector. President Milliken is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Nebraska and was a Root-Tilden Scholar at New York University, where he earned his law degree in 1983. He spent the better part of a decade in New York City, having served with the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Division, Chelsea Neighborhood Branch, and subsequently as an attorney with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft from 1983 – 1988.  He served in numerous leadership capacities on state, national and international levels, including recently representing the United States in the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogues conference in New Delhi with Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Milliken currently leads the University of Nebraska system, a statewide public university comprised of four main campuses, including one of the nation’s top 50 public universities. The University of Nebraska enrolls more than 50,000 students, employs approximately 13,000 faculty and staff, and operates with an annual budget of $2.3 billion including research expenditures of well over $300 million. Previously he served as Senior Vice President for University Affairs at the 16 campus University of North Carolina system. He led a division responsible for the development and implementation of university-wide strategy, outreach, economic development, state and federal government relations, public affairs, communications, and advancement.

President Milliken has demonstrated a deep commitment to academic excellence, educational access, economic development and community outreach. He has raised enrollments and donations at the university to record levels, dramatically expanded financial aid and scholarships, increased ties to Nebraska’s public schools, and pioneered distance education through the groundbreaking University of Nebraska Online Worldwide program and the Virtual Scholars program for high school students. His presidency has included a focus on strategic initiatives resulting in expanded access; record increases in research; significant physical expansion of the campuses; a highly successful capital campaign; and an emphasis on public/private partnerships and global engagement.

Chairman Schmidt stated: “President Milliken is a highly regarded national leader in higher education. He brings to CUNY an impressive record of extensive academic and administrative experience and a demonstrated record of success in working with students, faculty, alumni and community leaders to offer quality, affordable higher education.”

President Milliken said: “I am honored and excited by this appointment to lead America’s premier urban public university. CUNY has played a historic and vital role for New York and the nation, producing illustrious alumni including a dozen Nobel Laureates and other leaders in the sciences, the arts, engineering, business, government and a host of other fields. CUNY today has a world class faculty, talented students, an outstanding reputation, rising enrollments, increased academic standards and the most diverse student body in the nation.   It enjoys significant momentum and unlimited potential.  I look forward to working with the faculty and students, the Board of Trustees and other university leadership, and City, State, and federal officials to build upon these achievements as CUNY creates new knowledge and prepares the workforce of the future.”

Under President Milliken’s leadership, enrollment at the University of Nebraska in 2013 reached a 20-year high, totaling 50,705 at NU’s four campuses: the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the system’s flagship campus and one of the nation’s top 50 public universities; the University of Nebraska at Omaha, home of the multi-campus Peter Kiewit Institute of Information Science, Technology and Engineering; the University of Nebraska at Kearney; the University of Nebraska Medical Center, site of the cutting-edge Durham Research Centers and NIC-designated cancer center; as well as a college that offers a two-year technical degree program. First-time freshmen enrollment rose by nearly seven percent in 2013, and international student enrollment also grew to record levels, totaling 3,638 including students from more than 130 countries.

During his tenure, the University of Nebraska has made record investments in financial aid, including Collegebound Nebraska, which guarantees that qualifying Nebraska students can attend NU and pay no tuition. Approximately 7,000 students attend tuition-free under the program. In addition, through several high school academies the university provides students in Omaha, Grand Island, Kearney, Lexington and North Platte with early advising and full scholarships, helping increase college-going among historically under-represented student groups in the state, including first-generation, low-income and minority students.

President Milliken has described human capital as America’s greatest asset in a global economy. He has emphasized the value of outstanding academic programs, ranging from the liberal arts to the STEM disciplines, in order to “teach students how to communicate well, how to solve problems, and how to work collaboratively.” For example, the University of Nebraska’s Peter Kiewit Institute is designed to advance research, scholarship, and creative innovation and help meet the needs of the nation’s technology and engineering firms by offering top-flight education in computer science and engineering.

Under President Milliken’s leadership donors to the University of Nebraska gave a record $236.7 million to the school in 2013, the best year ever for private gifts. This amounted to a 43 percent increase over the last fiscal year and a 37 percent increase over the previous gift record in 2011. An important component of the university’s successful fundraising has been its ability to leverage the support of the Nebraska Legislature in providing funds for several major initiatives that will benefit the state. With a year remaining in a major capital campaign, the university has raised over $1.5 billion—well in excess of its initial goal of $1.2 billion.

President Milliken has helped lead initiatives to develop new public/private campuses, including the 250 acre “Nebraska Innovation Campus” to leverage the research strengths of the Lincoln campus in food, fuel and water; a 70-acre expansion of the UNO campus to provide for growth and private sector engagement; and planning for a 100-acre campus in Kearney with private and university activities. He led the development of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, a university-wide, global center to address the challenges of food security and water shortage in the 21st century, and chairs the board of the Daugherty Institute, whose other board members include Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mogens Bay, CEO of Valmont Industries.

President Milliken has been a strong advocate of distance education through innovative online courses and programs to connect faculty and students across the state and around the world. He led the development of a new business model for the distance education program in order to offer high-quality, competitively priced high school, undergraduate and graduate education. The university’s Online Worldwide program offers adult learners more than 130 programs and the opportunity to be taught by the same faculty who teach at the University of Nebraska campuses, and to earn the same degree as that of on-campus students. The goal is to help individuals transform their lives by bringing them access to the finest teachers.

More than half of the University of Nebraska’s undergraduates receive some form of grant aid that does not have to be repaid, and the four NU campuses have the four-lowest student loan default rates among Nebraska public institutions. More than 2,500 NU students are receiving financial aid from the Susan T. Buffett Foundation, which provides scholarships to students at Nebraska public colleges and universities and sponsors the Thompson Scholars Program at NU, working with first-generation and low income students to increase success.

The university recently expanded opportunities in its Virtual Scholars program, which began in 2011, so students from across the state – many in rural districts – are now able to supplement their education with free online courses from the University of Nebraska High School, which is part of University of Nebraska Online Worldwide, and offers a fully accredited high school curriculum. The high school serves more than 2,400 students.

He also led efforts to establish the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, a university-wide, multidisciplinary center intended to transform the role of public universities in early childhood development and education.

In 2009, the Obama Administration nominated President Milliken as a delegate and invited expert to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s decennial World Conference on Higher Education in Paris, where he represented U.S. higher education’s innovation agenda and served as an adviser to the UNESCO communiqué drafting group. Last June he participated in the US-India Strategic Dialogues in New Delhi with Secretary of State Kerry, where at the invitation of the Obama Administration he represented U.S. research universities.   He has led the development of research and education programs in China, India, Brazil and other countries.

President Milliken also holds faculty appointments in the College of Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He serves on the board of directors of the American Council on Education and was a member of the ACE Blue Ribbon Panel on Global Engagement. He served on the board of directors of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and is the past chair of the APLU Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity. He also co-chaired the Council on Competitiveness’ Regional Innovation Initiative Leadership Steering Committee and serves on the Council’s Executive Committee. President Milliken serves on the boards of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce, BioNebraska, the Nebraska Advanced Manufacturing Coalition, and The Nebraska Medical Center, the University’s hospital partner. He is a co-chair of the Nebraska P-16 Initiative and serves on the national Business Higher Education Forum.

The City University of New York, which was founded in New York City in 1847, comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves more than 270,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students.

CUNY has experienced increased graduation rates, while ever increasing numbers of high-achieving students are attracted to the University, as demonstrated by the rise in average SAT scores of admitted students and the proliferation of students winning nationally competitive student awards, including Rhodes, Truman, and Marshall scholarships.

The City University has also seen a dramatic increase of more than 2,000 additional full-time faculty members, which has played a major role in strengthening its core academic areas.

The Macaulay Honors College, launched in 2001, offers a globally competitive program for some of the most academically talented students in New York. The Guttman Community College, which opened in the fall 2012, is based on CUNY’s successful ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) initiative, which graduated 55 percent of community college students in three years, compared to the national average three-year graduation rate of 16 percent for urban two-year colleges.

College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. CUNY offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree.

President Milliken will assume the position of chancellor no later than June 1, 2014.  He succeeds Matthew Goldstein, who served as CUNY’s sixth chancellor from 1999 until 2013.  Dr. William P. Kelly  is currently serving as CUNY’s interim chancellor.

Newest Allen & Seaman Study on the State of Online Education in American Higher Education!

Dear Commons Community,

The latest edition of the Allen & Seaman studies, Grade Change:  Tracking Online Education in the United States,  was published this morning. It contains a plethora of information on online learning in American higher education and is available as a free download.  Below is an excerpt from the executive summary. It is my sense and the sense of several colleagues from the Sloan Consortium who discussed this report over the weekend that online learning may be reaching its plateau.  However, I would venture that blending learning which the report does not address is probably increasing significantly.



Executive Summary

Grade Change – Tracking Online Education in the United States is the eleventh annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education. The survey is designed, administered and analyzed by the Babson Survey Research Group, with data collection conducted in partnership with the College Board.  Using responses from more than 2,800 colleges and universities, this study is aimed at answering fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education.

Is Online Learning Strategic?


Previous reports in this series noted the proportion of institutions that believe that online education is a critical component of their long-term strategy has shown small but steady increases for a decade. The evidence:

When this report series began in 2002, less than one-half of all higher education institutions reported online education was critical to their long-term strategy. Last year that number was at an all-time high of close to seventy percent.

The proportion of chief academic leaders that say online learning is critical to their long-term strategy dropped to 66 percent in 2013.  Institutions that do not have any online offerings account for all of the decrease from 2012 to 2013, while those with online offerings are as positive in 2013 as they were in 2012.

The proportion of institutions reporting online education is not critical to their long-term strategy has dropped to a new low of 9.7 percent.

Is the Unpaid Internship Defensible?

Dear Commons Community,

Peter D’Amato, a master’s candidate in global journalism and Latin American studies at New York University, has a blog posting in The Chronicle of Higher Education today calling for an end to unpaid internships.  He makes several good points:

“As a master’s candidate in New York University’s journalism program, I’ve been concerned about how the school advertises internships to students. Not only are the positions listed often unpaid; they don’t always seem to have been thoroughly vetted. Ads for a summer internship at The Savvy Explorer, a travel website, came down, but only after students repeatedly expressed concerns about its Web traffic and online presence. It was run by an NYU alumnus but the full-time editorial department turned out to be smaller than expected.

This is not to take a swipe at smaller online outlets. Not every student can expect to intern at Esquire or Vogue, which also offered unpaid positions. But when we question the utility and legality of an unpaid internship at Condé Nast, what value does working for free at these smaller outlets provide?

Though it will intervene in outstanding circumstances, NYU fully supports unpaid internships, to the point of calling for less government oversight. In 2010 presidents from 13 universities, including NYU’s John Sexton, sent a letter to then-Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, saying they were “troubled by the Department of Labor’s apparent recent shift toward the regulation of internships.” This view is supported by the belief that internships are important for “experiential learning,” without addressing lingering questions over their value in students’ careers.”

As the Executive Offcer for a Ph.D. program here at the CUNY Graduate Center, I often receive solicitations from organizations and colleagues asking to advertise unpaid internships and other types of unpaid positions. I have sometimes been conflicted as to whether these are worthwhile activities for the students especially since many of them need to work to make ends meet.  However, students also could use real-life experiences and maybe can make contacts in the professional world that might be helpful when they start applying for full-time positions.  In my opinion, this is a slippery slope but the sentiments in Mr. D’Amato’s posting should be respected and considered.



New Babson College Survey Research Group Study – Doubts About MOOCs Increasing – Disruption or Confusion!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education provided a preview (subscription required) of the latest Babson College Survey Research Group Report on online learning that will be released later today.  [NOTE:  At the time of this posting, the new survey had not officially been released yet.]   According to The Chronicle:

“Academic leaders increasingly think that massive open online courses are not sustainable for the institutions that offer them and will “cause confusion about higher-education degrees,” according to the results of an annual survey.

The Babson Survey Research Group has charted the growth of online education annually for more than a decade with support from the Sloan Consortium and other partners. The latest survey, conducted last year, asked chief academic officers at 2,831 colleges and universities about online education.

The findings, released in a report on Wednesday, reveal a growing skepticism among academic leaders about the promise of MOOCs. The report also suggests that conventional, tuition-based online education is still growing, although not as swiftly as in past years.

In 2012 the Babson survey asked about MOOCs for the first time. At the time, relatively few academic officers were concerned about whether their institutions would be able to field free online courses year after year—after all, less than 3 percent of them had even begun offering MOOCs at that point.

A year later, there were more doubts about the long-term prospects of teaching free online courses. In 2012, 26 percent of academic leaders disagreed that MOOCs were “a sustainable method for offering courses.” In 2013 that number leapt to 39 percent.

“The chief academic officers at institutions with the greatest experience and exposure to traditional online instruction are the least likely to believe in the long-term future of MOOCs,” wrote I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, the report’s authors.

‘Too Early to Tell’

Many institutions have said they are building MOOCs in order to learn more about how to teach well, especially in online formats. But confidence in the importance of MOOCs as a learning tool for institutions has slipped.

Half of the respondents in the 2012 survey agreed that “MOOCs are important for institutions to learn about online pedagogy”; in 2013 agreement dipped to 44 percent, while the proportion of respondents who disagreed with that statement jumped from 19 percent to 27 percent.

MOOCs made no significant inroads in the past year in the existing credentialing system in higher education, calling into question whether they will be as disruptive to the status quo as some observers first thought. Still, academic leaders remain worried that “credentials for MOOC completion will cause confusion about higher-education degrees.”

In 2012, 55 percent of survey respondents agreed with that statement. In 2013, 64 percent agreed.

MOOCs have generated a lot of buzz over the past two years, but relatively few colleges offer free, open-enrollment courses on the web. Only 5 percent of institutions in the latest survey were running MOOCs, and 9 percent more were planning to do so.”

I especially like the inference in the article that the calls for disruption in implementing technology will likely cause confusion.