Monthly Archives: February 2014

February 25, 2014

MOOCs: The Democratization of Education

On the tip of many tongues in the world of higher education: MOOCs.

You might be wondering: What the heck is a MOOC? Put simply, it is a “Massive Open Online Course,” a class offered via the internet for free and is available to anyone with an internet connection. A small number of courses have a payment option to qualify the student for actual college credit upon completion. However, the goal of MOOCs is not to earn a degree. It is more focused on providing individual course instruction to a large audience.

While the concept of open & universally available higher education has been around for decades, the implementation of online open education began in 2008 with a course on Connectivism instructed by Dave Cormier, which was presented to 25 paying students at the University of Manitoba and 2,300 students online. Ever since the first MOOC, the concept has been adopted by many universities and professors. It has also spawned the creation of fully online MOOC “universities” such as the University of The People and Coursera.

MOOC: Democratization of EducationWhile students in a MOOC have less of an opportunity to interact with their instructor, they are still highly interactive. The courses involve more than simply watching an instructor lecture via video stream; they also include interactive online assignments and the opportunity to connect with fellow students. At Coursera, they are dedicated to improving the interactivity of their educational platform. According to Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera, “We have devoted extensive attention to assessment and feedback. We believe that exercises where students receive meaningful feedback are a critical part of the learning experience. If you don’t get feedback, you may not complete the work or learn the material properly.”

With some speculate that MOOCs foretell the death of higher education, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Tom Katsouleas,  Dean of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering predicts that they will have the opposite effect and will spur schools to improve their reputations by offering high-quality free courses from talented teachers, thereby increasing recognition and attracting students to their degree programs. Additionally, MOOCs aren’t cannibalizing the demand for undergraduate education because they tend to attract working professionals. With that in mind, he speculates that Master’s programs will be the first to feel the pinch from MOOCs. Says Katsouleas, “In our visits to corporate partners like Apple and Cisco, it was clear that most top engineers and executives are using MOOCs for their lifelong learning in a way that some used to use corporate sponsored masters programs.” Of course, a MOOC education could never replace the prestige and pay raise that often comes with a Masters degree.

And although MOOCs are relatively new to the tech world, their popularity is massive. Since launching in January, Coursera has attracted 1.7 million users. Increasingly, top-tier schools are jumping on the bandwagon and offering select courses for free online (but not for credit). This includes Harvard, Yale, MIT, and more – and where the elite universities go, many will follow. With this educational medium still in its’ infancy, we will be watching the evolution of MOOCs closely in the coming years.

Has your school considered offering a MOOC to the public?

February 18, 2014

Admissions Trends to Watch in 2014

2014With 2013 behind us, it is time to start planning for 2014′s admissions season. By following the ever-changing world of higher education admissions trends, you can ensure that your admissions staff is working to their full potential and that your department is selecting the best fit candidates.

A Focus on Competency

Competency based education gives credit for mastery of skills and real-life work experience. “We actually measure what students know and can do, not how long they’ve spent in a seat,” says Robert Mendenhall, president of Western Governors University (Quinton). A focus on competency credit will help President Obama to achieve his goal of reducing college debt for current and future students.

Next-level Data and Analytic Tools

For years now, an increasing number of schools have been making the switch to admissions software solutions such as AMP online admissions. Analyzing reports on applicant data has become the norm for a well-rounded admissions process. Now, schools are taking that data to the next level and looking for long-term trends in the admissions world. “Performance metrics and dashboards are the beginning, but using data to understand deeper correlations and causality so we can shape change will be critical as we strive to advance our effectiveness,” says David Lassner, interim presided and former chief information officer at the University of Hawaii (The Chronicle).

Price-savvy Prospects

According to data from Sallie Mae, a majority of families eliminated colleges based on cost at some stage during their college shopping and admissions process. Colleges looking for continued steady growth will do well to plan for predicted demographic shifts that foretell a lower volume of high-income applicants. Schools can track their success in recruiting new groups of prospective students by using a prospect module in an end-to-end admissions tool like AMP Paperless Admissions.

 Alternative Admissions

Amidst a looming doctor shortage, medical school admissions have been under the microscope. With a lot of attention on the need for change in medical admissions in 2013, the situation may appear dire at first glance.  However, it is also evident that high pressure breeds creativity. A number of medical schools have implemented new approaches to medical admissions. At the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai University, their innovative FlexMed option allows students to apply without completing a PreMed program or taking the MCAT. Several schools have begun taking a holistic approach to applicant review, evaluating non-cognitive personality traits for compatibility with the medical profession. Additionally, Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) have begun to gain traction as an alternative to the traditional 1-on-1 office interview.

What is your admissions office doing differently in 2014?

February 6, 2014

Colleges Analyzing Kindergartners as Long Term Prospects

Using admissions tools like AMP allows colleges and universities to harness the power of data when evaluating prospects, applicants, and admitted students. In the past, the pipeline to admission began with evaluating favorable high school demographics and pursuing those students. Now, schools are shifting their pipeline focus further into the future, prospecting as far as 20 years into the future.

Why the sudden prospect anxiety? There are a number of factors contributing towards this change. During the past few years, admissions trends have taken a turn. After an all-time high of 3.3 million applicants in 2008, admissions numbers began dropping, marking the start of a “long decline in the number of new high school graduates.” This smaller applicant pool is both beneficial for potential applicants and concerning for colleges hoping to preserve their elite status. This recent decline in applicants mirrors a similar trend that occurred during the 1980′s and 90′s. “When the Baby Bust generation was graduating high school, it was a very good time to go to college,” says John Nelson, a Moody‘s analyst. “Admission standards were much more liberal.”

In addition to smaller applicant pools in the next few years, the next couple of decades do not look very promising either. Colleges are now looking to high schools and even kindergartens when planning for the future. As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, “For every 100 18-year-olds nationally, there are only 95 4-year-olds. The Northeast and Midwest show the sharpest drop-offs, according to a Chronicle analysis. In less than a third of states, mainly in the West, can you find as many younger children as older ones.” With fewer young children in this 20-year education forecast, colleges and universities will need to survive with fewer students.

And in addition to this population drop-off, diversity is increasing. In the coming years, there will be fewer black and white students, while the Hispanic and Asian-American student demographics continue to grow. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “The nation’s already seeing a sharp rise in first-generation and low-income graduates—the very students whom selective four-year institutions have long struggled to serve.” Very few schools cater to these lower income students. According to the College Board, and as reported by the New York Times, two-thirds of students at some of the most selective colleges come from the top quartile of income. Only six percent of students from the bottom quartile are admitted into the top schools.

With a nationwide demographic shift towards lower income minorities, colleges will have fewer tuition dollars coming from affluent students. Some schools are already preparing for this shift in demographics by looking for prospects outside their comfort zone. At Syracuse University, former Chancellor Nancy Cantor ran into controversy for aggressively diversifying the student body, but she was unapologetic. “If you were a strategic business you would be optimizing on what the world is going to look like,” she reported to the Chronicle of Higher Education. “You wouldn’t be holding on for dear life to your brand.” Under Cantor’s guidance, Syracuse University has become more diverse but has also seen a resulting drop in rankings.

As the applicant pool grows smaller and competition for top-achieving and high-paying students grows, schools certainly need to make adjustments and aggressively pursue new prospects and markets. AMP online admissions offers tools for tracking prospects, but as of now, none of their schools use these tools to track kindergartners. What is your school doing to strategically track prospects?

Do you think that looking 20 years into the future is taking it too far?