Meeting Researchers Where They Start: Streamlining Access to Scholarly Resources

March 26, 2015

 

Researchers today have access to incredible amounts of digital content as well as to a suite of tools to aid in their discovery of these academic resources. Yet, as Roger Schonfeld describes in our most recent issue brief, "the researcher's discovery-to-access workflow is much more difficult than it should be." 

 

"Instead of the rich and seamless digital library for scholarship that they need," Schonfeld argues, "researchers today encounter archipelagos of content bridged by infrastructure that is insufficient and often outdated." Outlining the specific ways in which libraries and publishers are falling short of user expectations, Schonfeld also offers a series of steps we could take to provide researchers with the experience they have grown to expect. 

 

Interested? Download "Meeting Researchers Where They Start: Streamlining Access to Scholarly Resources."

 

Roger Schonfeld Speaks at NFAIS Virtual Seminar on "Making Content Portable, Making It Usable"

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Roger Schonfeld will be discussing "Workflow Involving Multiple Devices: A Professional User's Perspective" at the NFAIS Virtual Seminar on "Making Content Portable, Making It Usable."

 

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Deanna Marcum Speaks at the 12th Columbia Library Symposium

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Deanna Marcum joins panelists Miguel Figueroa, Director of the American Library Association Center for the Future of Libraries, and Elliott Shore, Executive Director of the Association of Research Libraries, at the 12th Columbia Library Symposium. Their panel, "Do We Plan Too Much?" will cover a wide range of topics, including but not limited to: intrapreneurship, design thinking, experimentation, risk taking, and embracing change. The speakers will highlight the challenges and opportunities they have seen when trying to not over plan.

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Mapping the Adaptive Learning Landscape

March 18, 2015

From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s announcement of the finalists for its Next Generation Courseware Challenge to the launch of the new inSpark Science Network, adaptive learning has been in the news. Though diverse in their content and structure, the core feature that adaptive learning solutions share is the ability to respond to learner activity by adjusting assessments, content, pace, and sequence of instruction. Whether offered on its own or as a supplement to face-to-face instruction, adaptive learning presents the exciting prospect of evidence-based personalized instruction, at scale.  

 

Despite the recent prominence of a few adaptive learning providers, it is surprisingly difficult to identify the major players in this field. In our new report, “Personalizing Post-Secondary Education: An Overview of Adaptive Learning Solutions for Higher Education,” Jessie Brown aims to fill that gap, reviewing the business profiles of 13 adaptive learning solutions designed specifically for use in higher education.  

 

Focusing on the providers, the high-level technical and pedagogical characteristics of their solution, their business models, and their partnerships, the report identifies several important distinctions among providers. First, some solutions are “open-content,” offering a platform that can accommodate third-party content, while others are “closed-content,” accommodating only the provider’s own proprietary content. Second, some solutions integrate with major learning management systems, while others host their own learning management system as a feature of a comprehensive adaptive solution. Finally, beyond content, solutions offer different degrees of customizability of their content delivery and adaptive features. 

 

The motivation for this report was our own desire to learn about the adaptive learning market, and finding that an overview like this did not exist. It is our hope that, by compiling and organizing crucial product and organizational information in one place, this resource provides those interested in adopting or studying adaptive technologies with a place to start.

Personalizing Post-Secondary Education

An Overview of Adaptive Learning Solutions for Higher Education

Published March 18, 2015

Jessie Brown

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The number of adaptive learning providers has expanded in recent years, with both start-up companies and established publishers offering products for the growing higher education market. Yet, for an institution seeking an adaptive learning provider—or a researcher seeking to understand the market—there was no broad overview to serve as an entry point. This report, which began as part of an internal effort to understand the landscape of providers, the products they offer, and which institutions are using them, aims to fill that gap.

 

"Personalizing Post-Secondary Education: An Overview of Adaptive Learning Solutions for Higher Education" reviews 13 adaptive learning providers, focusing on the high-level technical and pedagogical characteristics of their solutions, their business models, their content models, and their partnerships. We hope that by compiling and organizing crucial product and organizational information in one place, we will give those interested in adopting or studying adaptive technologies a place to start. We invite you to share information about these providers and others through our blog.

 

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Higher Education’s Free Agent Future

March 18, 2015

What happens when Professor Everybody teaches at the University of Everywhere? I’ve been grappling with this question for the last week after I heard talks at SXSWedu in Austin and then in Washington, DC about the coming free-agent, unbundled era of higher education.

 

At SXSWedu—the education offshoot of the popular music and film festival—Jeff Young, a senior editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education, explained how the so-called “sharing economy” might disrupt the higher education teaching model in the future. Just like Uber allows people to become taxi drivers using their own cars and Airbnb offers the chance for us to run our homes like hotels, a set of technology platforms, such as Udemy and MOOC.org, now gives anyone with knowledge a chance to get paid to teach courses online. Say hello to Professor Everybody, as Young dubbed it in his talk. (The talk is not online, but you can read about Young’s ideas in a piece he wrote recently for The Chronicle). 

 

I was thinking about Professor Everybody a few days later when I moderated a panel in Washington, D.C. with Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation. He’s author of a new book called the “End of College,” but it’s the subtitle that is the real thesis of the book: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere. According to Carey, the University of Everywhere is a combination of options that includes some of the traditional residential campuses we have today, but also many more online-only options as well as new providers and organizations that don’t exist currently. At the University of Everywhere, the credential won’t necessarily need to be earned in a physical place at one distinct time like we have today with the bachelor’s degree.

 

Both ideas have risks and opportunities for traditional colleges and universities, of course. Among the opportunities for institutions is a chance to pick and choose from the best teachers who have specific expertise and have demonstrated their abilities to worldwide audiences online. Institutions could become platforms for talent, aggregating a stable of freelance professors or even licensed content. At the same time, the University of Everywhere allows colleges to form deeper academic alliances with other traditional institutions and the emerging group of new education providers. Such alliances could share courses, professors, and even departments, and provide an outlet for lifelong learning for alumni who want access to more just-in-time education to advance in their jobs or out of intellectual curiosity.  

 

Such opportunities, of course, don’t come without risks. One of the criticisms of the bundled university is that it has plenty of cross-subsidies and disentangling those will lead to some important functions no longer having enough financial support to survive. Professor Everybody also diminishes the role full-time faculty members play on a campus from being mentors to being guardians of the curriculum. The University of Everywhere lessens the power of the residential campus and outside-the-classroom learning that we know is so critical to the education of young minds. 

 

In other industries, from music to publishing, that have been disrupted in recent years, the distance between producer and consumer has been shortened, often eliminating the middleman, such as publishers and record stores. The question now is what is the role of the middleman in higher education, the university, in the future where Professor Everybody teaches at the University of Everywhere.

 

Jeffrey J. Selingo is a professor of practice at Arizona State University and a contributor to The Washington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is the author of several books on higher education. Jeff also contributes to Ithaka S+R's blog.

The Role of a Society Journal in a Changing Environment

March 16, 2015

The 75th Anniversary Issue of College & Research Libraries has just been released online. C&RL’s editor, Scott Walter, has lovingly featured a selection of classic and impactful articles from the journal’s history, revisited by some of today’s leading experts on academic librarianship. 

 

I was asked to take on a slightly different task, to reflect in a closing piece about the role of a professional society’s journal in a changing environment for our scholarly communications. C&RL is already open access and online-only, so it has the opportunity to think through a next set of questions about what audience it is seeking to reach, whether to find ways to serve a greater share of member-authors, and whether to publish formats beyond article-length textual pieces. Another community need, which I hope some entity if not C&RL will step forward to meet, is to keep our community more systematically apprised of the latest developments that could be relevant to its professional practices, which requires that we strengthen our journalistic coverage. I hope that “Scholarly Societies and Scholarly Communication: A Look Ahead” makes a useful contribution to members’ ongoing thinking about their scholarly communications needs and those of our broader community.

Nancy Fried Foster Offers Workshop through METRO

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On March 19, 2015, Nancy Fried Foster is offering a workshop on "Assessment in Focus." The Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) and ACRL's New York Metropolitan Area Chapter are co-sponsoring the event, which is open to registration from both members and non-members.

 

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Competency-Based Creducation

March 12, 2015

It was announced last week that Paul Le Blanc, the President of Southern New Hampshire University, will take a three-month leave to work with the U.S. Department of Education, where he will “assist the Department’s innovation agenda, focusing on the competency-based education experimental sites project and developing new pathways for innovative programs in higher education.” SNHU is responsible for College for America, a partnership between the university and corporations to provide a new kind of learning experience that is flexible and “built to develop competencies and promotable skills through project-based, real-world learning instead of traditional lectures and credit hours.”

 

As is perhaps obvious from this announcement, “competency-based education” is attracting a lot of attention these days. Like many terms that emerge in a time of innovation, it means many things to many different people. Sometimes the short-hand can do more harm than good, especially when people think that they are talking about the same thing when they are not.   

 

The main question I have is whether competency-based education is about education or if it is about credentialing. I am sure that the answer to that question from many will be: it’s about both. But aren’t they two different things? I find it confusing when I read about competency-based education and the perspective shifts from education to credentialing and back. For example, when the focus is on how competency-based education can accelerate students to a degree by recognizing learning that they have acquired elsewhere—in jobs, in MOOCs wherever—that does not strike me as “education.” I am not arguing that it isn’t valuable; I am just highlighting the fact that the organization that has conferred the validation has not provided education. This extreme case can be contrasted with others in which competency-based assessments are used as a substitute for other measures, such as time spent in class or a grade, to determine whether a student has mastered a topic in which she has received instruction. That second use case—in which the assessment is combined with instruction and embedded in a curriculum—is an education process. Note, however, that the latter approach could lead some students to master subjects and earn credentials faster, and it could lead other students to take longer to demonstrate mastery and earn credentials. 

 

I wish the discussion of these new innovations and learning could more carefully distinguish between competency-based credentialing and competency-based education. It is not obvious to me that these two functions will always be delivered together, or that a single institution can best serve students while trying to do both things.    

The Most Recent Studies of Online Learning Still Find No Significant Difference

March 11, 2015

Since 2012, Ithaka S+R has periodically reviewed the empirical literature on the impact of online and hybrid instruction on student outcomes. As reported in the 2013 review, very few studies employ rigorous methodologies; of those that do, the findings indicate that students do about as well in online or hybrid courses as they do in face-to-face versions of the same course.

 

For the latest update in this series, “Online Learning in Postsecondary Education: A Review of the Empirical Literature (2013-2014),” Derek Wu reviewed twelve studies published in 2013 and 2014, and reports consistent results. 

 

The most methodologically robust studies find no significant differences in performance between students who took an online or hybrid course and those who took a face-to-face version of the same course. However, only three of the twelve studies used experimental or quasi-experimental research designs that yield a causal inference. The vast majority of studies are vulnerable to various threats to validity, ranging from sample selection and omitted variable bias to inconsistencies in how delivery formats are defined. 

 

The report also identifies several avenues of research that deserve more attention than they have received. Practical subjects such as the cost implications and scalability of online and hybrid instruction, and the impact of particular features of those delivery formats, are rarely studied. Researchers should also focus more attention on differentiating outcomes by course subject and level and by student demographics. 

 

As the number of postsecondary students taking online and hybrid courses increases yearly, there will be both more opportunities and greater need for rigorous research on their effects.   

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