3TW in #higheredmedia, 3/6/15

This Week’s podcast focused on the week’s undisputed big story: Sweet Briar College’s surprising announcement that it would shut its doors this summer. President James F. Jones joined Inside Higher Ed’s Doug Lederman and the moderator Casey Green to explain the college’s decision and the factors behind it. Then two experts, Agnes Scott College’s Elizabeth Kiss and Alice Brown, president emeritus of the Appalachian College Association, discussed the implications of Sweet Briar’s decision for other private colleges and higher education generally.

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Our site this week was dominated by the stunning news that Sweet Briar College is closing this summer, and the implications of the decision for other small private colleges. Other articles examined the possible end of state funding for several of Arizona’s community colleges, one university’s proposed changes in benefits, and a student group’s apparent discrimination against Jewish students. That and more. Enjoy.

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It will take a university community to shape a future library that meets the specific needs of learning and research at that institution. This transition is not just about libraries. It is about how colleges and universities come together to solve a collective challenge. Libraries cannot puzzle out their future alone.
In Response to Victor Greto's Social Media Presentation.

This morning I awoke to an article from the lovely Allie Grasgreen in InsideHigherEd. I had not attended Mr. Greto’s presentation, but I see his research as a call to action. The NASPA conference was filled with technology sessions that were all fantastic. Eric Stoller and Lisa Endersby did an amazing session on how to bring student affairs into the digital realm by being less punitive and more educational when dealing with electronic misconduct, and the Technology Knowledge Community hosted several social media centered events. So how does Mr. Greto’s session fit with the Bold Without Boundaries conference theme? In my opinion, it doesn’t.

For this session to be BOLD, it would need to move away from theory and research into practice. The research alone bolsters fear of the unknown, the digital age, the coming storm, change. Yes technology is changing the way we communicate; I have seen many groups out to dinner on their phones instead of interacting with one another. However, this technology allows me to post a blog entry from an Orlando hotel breakfast buffet, while readers all over the world can access my thoughts. Let’s not waste our time and energy on the side of fear, and let’s do something.

We could join the conversation. Instead of telling students to put away their phones, give them a hashtag so they can discuss the class on twitter. This may even be a great way to engage introverts. Students are already tweeting, now get them to tweet about your classes or services offered on campus. Respond to them on facebook and twitter when they @reply to your social media accounts. Reach out to them, and start conversations online.

Asking them to engage more with their universities online, but asking them to use it less in their personal lives doesn’t work, so we need to change the ways we use it. Let us teach people (in our words, and by example) to use social media responsibly. Time, place, and manner (TPM) are valuable lessons for everyone, but with social media we need to start raising expectations. Expecting our friends and families to put their phones away at dinner. Starting conversations with strangers, rather than playing a game on the iPhone, when we are bored in a public place. Furthermore, we need to teach students how to use TPM when they get in trouble for the things they post online. They already understand privacy settings for the most part. They know which posts to keep private, and how to hid the things they wish to conceal from their friends. Yet, they continue to post about that “wicked party last night” or “smoking up before a party.” The conversations we have should be centered in Moral Development Theory. Teach them a deeper way of thinking about the consequences of the things they post.

#HigherEd Newsletters…featuring @TimesHigherEd @GdnHigherEd @InsideHigherEd

My initial intent was to include all the weekly higher ed media newsletters ~ get mainstream HE news out of the way in one fell swoop instead of cluttering up pages one story at a time. This round there was not enough room for all without eliminating content information. Next issue will include Al Fanar, University World News, Global Higher Ed, University Affairs, CASA Weekly, Hybrid Pedagogy, EdConteXts, Vitae (the closest we have to a Chronicle entry) and whatever might turn up. 

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Weekly HE Update w/@InsideHigherEd Newsletter

Weekly News Update: Articles this week examined the ambitious (and unusually well-funded) higher education agenda Gov. Bill Haslam is pursuing in Tennessee, a faculty member’s unusual (and much discussed in our comments sectin) decision to bar students from emailing, and activity in several states to crack down on campus sexual assaults. That and more below. Enjoy.

Today’s Daily Update (why not since we’re here)

Writing for Robots (or Dummies)

Would you trust a computer to critique your composition? Would you allow a robot to determine if you’re truly worthy of that spot in a top-tier college?

Chances are that your standardized tests are already graded entirely by automated essay scoring software (AES), which means that your GRE score is analyzed by a computer. It doesn’t really matter what you write – as long as you use the right buzzwords.

Earlier this April, published “A Win for the Robo-Readers,” which references a recent study completed at the University of Akron:

The differences, across a number of different brands of automated essay scoring software (AES) and essay types, were minute. “The results demonstrated that over all, automated essay scoring was capable of producing scores similar to human scores for extended-response writing items,” the Akron researchers write, “with equal performance for both source-based and traditional writing genre.”

“In terms of being able to replicate the mean [ratings] and standard deviation of human readers, the automated scoring engines did remarkably well,” Mark D. Shermis, the dean of the college of education at Akron and the study’s lead author, said in an interview.

The New York Times puts the issue a little more succinctly, in an article entitled “Facing a Robo-Grader? Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously”:

Mr. Perelman found that e-Rater prefers long essays. A 716-word essay he wrote that was padded with more than a dozen nonsensical sentences received a top score of 6; a well-argued, well-written essay of 567 words was scored a 5.

Gargantuan words are indemnified because e-Rater interprets them as a sign of lexical complexity. “Whenever possible,” Mr. Perelman advises, “use a big word. ‘Egregious’ is better than ‘bad.’”

These stories are especially disheartening given the recent New York Times opinion piece “Teach the Books, Touch the Heart,” which argues against spending more time trying to quantify the results of English instruction. Acting under pressure, NYC public school teachers have cut their supplementary classes (like reading groups) to add more test preparation programs.

This shift from English instruction to test prep instruction is detrimental for everyone. Students aren’t taught how to read, write, and think critically. They are taught to write for the test. Teaching students to write for robotic readers is even worse.

It’s true that the current human graders only spend 2 to 3 minutes on each SAT writing essay, but at least those readers are able to distinguish between actual arguments and bullshit. Test preparation programs already take advantage of the short time frames that readers will spend on essays, suggesting simplistic writing styles and using certain basic frameworks that most students abandon in middle school (like the five-paragraph essay). If test-takers are graded by AES, the quality of the essays will be degraded even further, and our standards for high school “writing” will be dumbed down.

Of course, the ETS has an answer for this too:

E.T.S. officials say that Mr. Perelman’s test prep advice is too complex for most students to absorb; if they can, they’re using the higher level of thinking the test seeks to reward anyway. In other words, if they’re smart enough to master such sophisticated test prep, they deserve a 6.

Let’s see what this says about our education system:

  • Students who are able to afford complicated test prep and tutors will be rewarded.
  • “Cheating” is not really cheating, but rather shows that the student is intelligent enough to thwart the rules of an arbitrarily scored exam.
  • Quality doesn’t matter if you can make your work look like it might be quality.

Is it any wonder that high school students believe school is for standardized testing, and that we should adjust our curriculums accordingly?

When the standard of intelligence is gaming the system, there is a serious problem. We’re taking the education out of schools and teaching our students that results are important, not methods. The conversation that we need to have is not “Should Robo-Readers be used for standardized test scores?” but “Why do we place so much importance on standardized test results at all? How can we change the paradigm?”

HELLO HELLO is anybody out there?!!?! our universities are our nation’s treasures, our hope, our fucking chance in this fucked up nightmare hellplace of a double-century of terror fear and ignorance. LSU is ENDING. it’s OVER, okay? LSU is a beacon of light & learning in this state where–ughghg if you haven’t lived here it’s so hard to explain–listen, it’s like the only place in this state that has any books, okay??–just … AHGHGHGHGH!!! it’s not like Arizona. It’s not like Washington. It’s not like Wisconsin. I swear it’s worse here, bc ignorance is point of cultural pride in the rural South, and defunding education exploits that–ignorance upon ignorance, round and round and round. It’s like, in America we had this great thing called public education where you got a chance to change. Something that everybody has a fucking right to, I believe. And now, in LA, we don’t have that anymore. :( :( :( :( :( :( :(

Hello. Articles on our site this week discussed a judge’s ruling that NCAA rules restricting financial benefits for athletes violates federal antitrust law, a study suggesting a shift in the impact of college-going on religious beliefs, and more on the aftermath of the controversial withdrawal of a job offer to an outspoken scholar. That and more below. Enjoy.

New reports consider whether Australia's quest for international student tuition revenue is eroding standards | InsideHigherEd

A recent investigative news program combined with a report from a governmental anticorruption commission have stirred up a debate in Australia about the prevalence of fraud in international student recruitment and the alleged slippage of academic standards as the country’s universities have grown via Pocket
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  • In the last few months I have used podcasts downloaded onto my smartphone to stay up-to-date on current events, learn about business and finance, and even explore areas of science outside of my expertise.
  • There are many excellent podcasts that I strongly recommend for Ph.D.s, including the TED Radio Hour, Radiolab, Freakonomics, Planet Money and the HBR IdeaCast.
  • Finally, innovation challenges organized by groups such as InnoCentive and OpenIDEO allow students to collaborate virtually to solve global problems.