Looking at 2014
- By Sherrie Negrea
- January 1st, 2014
Although experts may predict, based on educated guesses, what the year 2014 will hold for education, we won’t really know until we are in it. Let’s get started.
PHOTO COURTESY OF 2GF ARCHITECTS LLP
Gerdin Business Building, Iowa State University
MOOCS have captivated faculty from one coast to another, classrooms are being flipped, recruitment is now conducted through smartphone apps and campus libraries are reinventing themselves. As we look ahead to 2014, it is clear the pace of change will continue as administrators and faculty embrace new models for teaching, building and operating their colleges and universities. To understand these trends, college planning & management asked a series of experts to discuss some major changes that will shape higher education in 2014.
ENTER A NEW PHASE
In 2013, colleges and universities realized that if they didn’t join the MOOC revolution, they would be viewed as out of touch with one of the most innovative experiments in higher education in the 21st century.
As massive open online courses emerged at colleges and universities large and small, faculty began to see the potential of MOOCs to restructure the way they have taught for decades. Could prerecorded lectures be introduced into live classes so that professors could spend time focusing on more active learning? Would MOOCs allow students to test out of required courses?
“What will begin to happen in 2014 will be the gradual incorporation of video and online learning into college classrooms around the country,” says John Covach, a professor of music at New York’s University of Rochester, who has taught two MOOCs on the History of Rock. “I think that every college understands that there are big advantages to having these video lectures. There are ways to use them to increase their productivity inside the university, and it will increasingly become part of what happens in a university.”
For example, Covach suggests one way to use the video lectures designed for MOOCs is to assign students to view a prerecorded lecture during one of their two weekly classes. The time that professors would have taught those students could be devoted to another section of the course, which would increase the professor’s course load while allowing them to meet with the students half the time.
MOOCs could also become a vehicle that would enable students to test out of college credits, even in high school. Doing so would allow students to graduate from college in less than four years and would reduce the cost of earning their degree, says Kyle Peck, an education professor and co-director of the Penn State Center for Online Innovation in Learning.
“I think we’re going to end up focusing on letting people learn the things that they can on their own and teach the tougher subjects that are on a higher order,” Peck says. “I think what we’re going to find is that people need less of our time.”
A master’s degree, for example, could be reduced from 10 courses to six, if students could take MOOCs to test out of those requirements, Peck says. In turn, the lower cost of the degree would mean that it would become more affordable to great numbers of students.
The MOOC movement has coincided with the emphasis on competency-based learning, and the two may complement each other, Peck notes. Just as competency-based learning programs are built on modules that teach students skills, MOOCs may soon be repackaged into topics that are more narrowly defined than a full-length course.
Another change in the MOOC landscape will be the growing diversity of providers that will begin to offer massive open online courses. Last September, Google announced it is partnering with edX, the nonprofit MOOC providers launched by Harvard and MIT, to develop an open-source learning platform — mooc.org — that will allow colleges, universities, businesses and individuals from around the world to produce online and blended courses.
“Before you had MOOC providers, you had to be a partner, and they were trying to be very exclusive,” Peck says. “Now you have the ability in 2014 for just about anybody to put up a MOOC. It will be a different landscape — a Wild West kind of education — where anybody who is really passionate about a subject will share that with the world.”
THE FLIPPED CLASSROOM GAINS MOMENTUM
Since two chemistry teachers in a Colorado high school pioneered the concept in 2008, the flipped classroom has moved from secondary education to college classrooms. Not only are more professors embracing the concept, but the evidence is also growing that this teaching method improves learning outcomes among college students.
The flipped classroom moves the traditional lecture to an online video that students view as homework, allowing instructors to devote class time to active learning, such as working on projects or problem sets related to the course.
“We’re all convinced by the evidence that this method works,” says Duane Pontius, T. Morris Hackney professor of Physics at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, AL, where all the physics professors are using the flipped method. “I’m very open to other techniques that would make it more effective, but on the whole this is so overwhelmingly better than the old methods.”
At the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, where at least 28 professors are using the flipped classroom, Associate Professor Robert Garrick has been conducting a research project on the use of the technique in his class, Pneumatic and Hydraulic Systems, offered to second-year engineering students. Garrick decided to try the flipped class approach after he documented that 23 percent of the students had earned a grade of D or For had withdrawn from the class since 2009.
Two teaching models were established for the course — one using the traditional lecture-based approach and one incorporating the flipped classroom structure and other technology features. In the flipped model, students viewed an eight- to 10-minute video as homework, while in class they worked on
problems in groups with tablet PCs and watched the professor
work out the problems on a three-projector screen.
After evaluating student performance in these classes for six years, Garrick found that less than 10 percent of the students enrolled in the technology-rich learning environment received grades of D or F, or withdrew. Because of the higher success rate, Garrick has now converted all of his classes to the flipped model.
“The flipping is the key,” Garrick says. “Just making videos is fine, but what else are you doing in the class? What we did inside the class was convert it into a tablet-learning environment.”
The flipped classroom seems better adaptable to courses offered in STEM disciplines. The approach has also been incorporated into online courses, converting them to a more interactive synchronous learning environment.
At the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, Michael Kelley, a professor of applied science, flipped his online course on Characterization of Materials, offered to students at six state universities in Virginia, last fall. Instead of offering a lecture during the class time, the students participated in discussion, facilitated by an electronic network that connects the students in a videoconference.
Kelley says the students are performing better on application problems on exams than before he restructured the class because they are spending more time in discussion and workshops. “The flip is basically the means by which we are able to do that,” Kelley says. “The flip will not bring any value unless we take advantage of it as an opportunity to do things that we could not do before.”
As college professors try new teaching models, classrooms are being designed more flexibly to accommodate different approaches. While technology such as video monitors and camera projectors was once built into the structure of the classroom, colleges and universities now want these tools, and the furniture itself, to be mobile, says Steve Erwin, education principal for Shepley Bulfinch, an architectural firm headquartered in Boston.
“I think people are finally getting to a frustration level of paying for embedded technology and embedded solutions,” Erwin says. “There’s a common sense approach to it. We can’t keep guessing what the next development is going to be, so let’s keep it as flexible as possible.”
ADAPTING TO DECLINING ENROLLMENT
After 27 years of steadily increasing, college enrollment in the United States declined in 2012, a trend that continued through the fall of 2013.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks education trends, reported a 1.5 percent drop in college enrollment last fall, compared to 2012. The total enrollment among all institutions in the fall was 19,885,203, down from 20,556,272 in 2011.
While these figures present a negative outlook, the picture is not unfavorable for all sectors in higher education. Enrollment at four-year public institutions grew by 0.3 percent last fall, after a decline the previous year. And enrollment at four-year private non-profit institutions jumped by 1.3 percent in 2013, following a smaller increase in 2012.
Sectors that showed declines last fall were four-year for-profit institutions, which had a 9.7 percent decrease in enrollment, and two-year public colleges, which had a 3.1 percent drop, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.
Nevertheless, enrollment experts believe that both public and private colleges and universities must develop strategies to adapt to these trends, which could have a considerable impact on tuition income and degree program offerings.
“These are very challenging times for higher education,” says Peter Bryant, senior vice president at Noel-Levitz, a higher education consulting firm that specializes in enrollment management. “With these challenges, every institution is looking to be far more strategic, systematic and database oriented in terms of enrollment management. The old adage, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ is certainly not the case anymore.”
One reason enrollment has contracted is the improvement of the economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which drove many adults to seek job training at colleges and universities. Secondly, in 2012, the U.S. saw its first decline in the supply of high school graduates in more than a decade. The decrease in graduates is expected to reverse itself this year and peak again in 2025, but the numbers will then begin another decline, according to a study by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
The outlook for high school graduates differs for each region of the country. Between 2007-08 and 2027-28, the steepest decrease in graduates will occur in the Midwest (12.4 percent), followed by the Northeast (10 percent), and the West (1.3 percent). Only the South will see an increase in high school graduates during this period, a growth of 8.5 percent.
For colleges and universities adjusting to these changes, it is critical to consider the geographic makeup of their students. Schools that are more dependent on drawing students from their own states will be more affected by these trends than those that attract applicants nationally.
Vanderbilt University, for example, has seen no impact from the shrinking numbers of high school graduates because the private university in Nashville, TN, accepts a freshman class from a highly competitive pool of applicants from every region of the country. This year, it accepted 1,600 students from more than 31,000 applicants.
“We do national and international recruitment, and of course, most schools do all of that,” says Doug Christiansen, Vanderbilt’s vice provost for enrollment. “We’re just probably in a different situation from an institution that is very, very good but is probably struggling because their recognition isn’t as international and national.”
For schools that are coping with declining numbers of high school graduates, one way to boost enrollment is to target nontraditional students, such as adults who may want to take evening classes, Bryant says. A U.S. Department of Education report showed that while enrollment among traditional-aged students is expected to increase by nine percent between 2009 and 2020, enrollment among students 25 to 34 could jump by 21 percent, and among students 35 and older by 16 percent.
“Institutions that are shaping and building their enrollments need to take a look at nontraditional students and new learning modalities to reach their enrollment goals,” Bryant says.
NEW NATIONAL CENTER FOR PUBLIC SAFETY TO OPEN
In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, college and university public safety directors lobbied Congress to create a national center that could provide training and conduct research on crime prevention on college campuses.
Seven years later, the National Center for Campus Public Safety will finally open its doors this spring in Burlington, VT. Funded with an initial $2.3 million grant by Congress, the center will operate as a division of Margolis, Healy & Associates, a firm specializing in campus safety and security, in a partnership with the University of Vermont.
The center will consist of 15 different components, including training, certificate programs, technical assistance and research. University public safety officers who want to undergo training will be able to complete certificate program by accessing webinars through the center’s website. There will also be a fellowship program in which fellows are assigned to conduct research on public safety issues at the center.
“After the Virginia Tech shootings, there was a recognition that the safety and security issues at universities had to be aggregated,” says Gary Margolis, managing partner of Margolis Healy and a former police chief at the University of Vermont. “There were various associations for colleges and universities that didn’t share their resources. We needed a one-stop shop.”
Creation of the center has been a top public policy priority for the past seven years for the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), which has 1,200 institutional members.
“The delivery of public safety is fragmented on college campuses in this country,” says Christopher Blake, chief staff officer for IACLEA, which is based in West Hartford, CT. “It runs the gamut from fully sworn police officers to contract security. What we needed was an entity that could bring it all together.”
Blake says the center was envisioned as a think tank that would identify top public safety issues in higher education and as a clearinghouse that would disseminate information to campus public safety professionals. He notes that while other fields have national clearinghouses, none existed to address issues related to campus public safety.
The development of the center was first proposed in 2004, when it was recommended at a national summit on campus public safety. The idea, however, did not gain momentum until Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech who had been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder, shot and killed 32 students and professors and then committed suicide on April 16, 2007. The massacre was the worst mass murder of college students in the country, and prompted a national debate on how to prevent shootings on college campuses.
In the aftermath of the shooting, schools have created behavioral threat assessment teams to identify troubled students and direct them to the services that they need. The teams are a critical tool to help monitor the increasing numbers of students who arrive on campuses each year with mental health issues.
“Many schools have created the systems they need, and I think there are many that haven’t,” Margolis says. “Now, hopefully the national center will be a resource to help those that haven’t.
This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.