Critical thinking is one of the top-requested skills employers look for in job applicants, but are colleges and universities doing enough to help students develop this skill?
Fifty-nine percent of surveyed adults ages 18-31 who attend or attended a college or university say they are very confident in their soft skills, including critical thinking—but that same survey also shows a decrease in that group’s ability to distinguish between false and factual information.
The second annual State of Critical Thinking survey from MindEdge asks respondents to complete a brief quiz requiring them to use digital literacy and critical thinking skills. In 2018, respondents scored lower on every question compared to 2017, and 52 percent of this year’s respondents received a failing grade.
As institutions face criticism over disparities in different racial groups’ access to higher education, a record number of universities have pledged to focus on enrolling low-income students.
The American Talent Initiative (ATI), first launched in December 2016, reached a milestone in April when 100 universities total had signed on to target enrollment for low- and moderate-income students. The goal is to enroll 50,000 students with strong graduation rates by 2025.
ATI member institutions are required to graduate at least 70 percent of their students in six years. Membership in ATI now includes the entire Ivy League, 17 state flagship universities, and private colleges.
ATI universities are using a number of strategies designed to enroll high-achieving lower-income students, including better recruitment of qualified high school graduates from lower-income communities. The universities also will increase the number of applications from Pell-eligible students, the number of Pell-eligible students who are enrolled, and the number of first-generation students enrolled.
The pledge comes in the wake of research revealing U.S. colleges and universities tend to recruit affluent white high school students over lower-income students and students from minority communities.
Decreasing enrollments and an increasing pressure to offer courses at times convenient to the increasingly busy community college student presents challenges to course scheduling. Students often need specific courses to complete their program of study. To run these course, typically a class size cap must be met. To find a solution to overcome all of these challenges, Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Penn., piloted a multi-campus classroom format.
The multi-campus classroom format enables one instructor to teach students at all three campus locations. This format relies on videoconferencing technology, a learning management system, and instructional techniques to engage students despite physical distance. To test out both the technology and pedagogy, we ran a one-course pilot in spring 2016 and a four-course pilot in fall 2016. We gathered results from the pilots via surveys and informal conversations with students and faculty, which led to an improvement in the technology and pedagogical support. With improvements in place, academic areas regularly schedule courses in the multi-campus format. As a result, 51 courses successfully ran in the multi-campus classroom format that would have otherwise been canceled due to low enrollment.
Implementing a multicampus classroom format relies on the following best practices:
Faculty need technology and pedagogical support
We provide an intensive multicampus institute for faculty before they teach a multicampus course. In the institute, faculty receive training from both IT staff and learning resources faculty that includes hands-on experience with the audio/visual controls and interactive whiteboard technology. In addition to the technology training, faculty learn the basics of student-centered instructional design as well as strategies for facilitating engagement across three categories: student-to-student, student-to-content, and student-to-faculty.
Faculty also use instructional design support to build companion online course spaces. The online course spaces serve as a communication tool and classroom-management mechanism. Essentially, the online course space serves as a one-stop shop for students at all three campuses and the instructor to communicate, access lecture materials, maintain a course calendar, and manage assignments or other assessments.
University IT teams say they struggle to find a balance between accommodating more devices on campus while dealing with limited IT resources, according to a new survey on education operations.
The Education Operations Health Index, an annual report from Dude Solutions based on operations statistics and a 25-question survey, gauges sentiments from K-12, higher education, and industry to determine general dispositions toward education facilities.
The survey can help institutions self-assess and make better decisions.
“This unique data-based view [ensures] that every education leader, from superintendents to business officers to CIOs, has a benchmark to not only pinpoint their department’s strengths and weaknesses, but make informed and actionable decisions,” says Nick Mirisis, vice president of marketing for Dude Solutions.
Improving part-time community college students’ academic performance may play a key role in closing higher-ed equity gaps, according to new research.
In a number of surveys administered by EAB, equity has emerged as a top concern, and college presidents consistently rank closing the achievement gap in critical populations as among their top three greatest concerns.
Although community colleges have started to enroll more economically-disadvantaged students, those students are not graduating at rates comparable to their peers, according to Reframing the Question of Equity, an EAB whitepaper. What’s worse, they drop out and retain debt.
Community college students are increasingly diverse, and traditionally underrepresented student populations have increased. Gaps in college access and enrollment have started to shrink. But while underrepresented minorities are more likely to attend community colleges than their white peers, too few of them graduate, leaving gaping degree attainment gaps.
At Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, every incoming full-time student gets an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. University leaders credit the 1:1 iPad program with saving money and promoting student equality.
“Trying to educate all students the same way simply doesn’t work, and that’s been the great tragedy of education,” says Mark Lombardi, president of Maryville. “So many people fall through the cracks. Not because they’re unintelligent. Not because they’re lazy. Because the way they’re being taught doesn’t fit their learning style.”
Maryville is turning an outdated system of teaching into something that’s vibrant and alive, says Lombardi. Instructors are fighting tradition by allowing students to access content, information, and knowledge in the ways that best suit their learning styles.
Why a 1:1 program makes sense
Maryville’s four-year-old program was launched to focus on diversity, inclusion, and strategic growth. “We wanted to make sure all students have a device that allows them to develop the skills they’ll need for success,” says Sam Harris, director of learning technology & support.
Harris says providing devices works better than a bring-your-own approach for a variety of reasons. “I’ve been an adjunct here since 2011. In the past, students would come to class with a variety of devices. It was difficult to plan digital projects because you couldn’t prep for one thing. In a BYOD (bring your own device) environment, the easiest thing to do is nothing. With a 1:1, technology is no longer a barrier; it’s a tool for learning.”
Over the past decade, technology that supports e-learning environments in higher education settings has evolved rapidly. This has enabled a number of benefits for education, such as more efficient teaching and sharing of information, personalized lessons to let students progress at their own pace, and great cost savings. To bring cloud-based technologies into higher education, students are accessing these tools from their laptops or mobile devices.
Meanwhile, administrative offices have seen rapid growth of cloud-based support technologies such as enrollment, recruiting, and financial-management systems. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps are being used primarily for collaboration, content delivery, communication, and accessing learning materials. The economic advantages, speed, agility, flexibility and elasticity are the main reasons higher education is increasingly adopting SaaS.
Colleges and universities are turning to public clouds for flexibility and cost savings. Higher-ed IT managers need to store—and share—vast quantities of data. As analytics and big data technologies facilitate ever-more-complex analyses, the volume of student information and research data in higher ed continues to skyrocket. IT managers are increasingly choosing to augment on-premises data centers with highly scalable public cloud storage. These solutions offer faster deployment and are more efficient and cost-effective.
Security challenges of multi-cloud environments
We’ve discussed the advantages of using SaaS and IaaS technologies, but security remains a significant challenge. Adding cloud applications and environments to your network expands the attack surface and introduces gaps in security. With the median number of SaaS apps in education at 59 and IaaS apps at 40, there are quite a lot of attack vectors to keep track of.
A $1 million NSF grant has paved the way for what may be the first-ever community college to include gene editing curriculum technology.
In partnership with Christiana Care’s Gene Editing Institute, Delaware Technical Community College (Del Tech) has developed a unique curriculum that will include gene editing in two courses in the biological sciences program.
As part of the NSF grant, Del Tech also will hold a series of workshops to teach gene editing techniques to community college faculty across the U.S. The workshops will help faculty develop their own gene editing curriculum.
Gene editing is a way of making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism. An enzyme cuts the DNA at a specific sequence, and when this is repaired by the cell a change or “edit” is made to the sequence.
Cybercrimes are growing exponentially, posing tremendous threats to our financial markets, undermining public confidence, violating our privacy, and costing hundreds of billions of dollars annually (estimated to cost up to six trillion dollars by 2021). Malicious cyberattacks are also used by government-led groups and terror organizations, inflicting chaos and fear, threatening critical infrastructure and nations’ stability.
It’s no wonder cyber professionals are in great demand in every walk of life. Contrary to common belief, cybersecurity is much more than a technical challenge. It is also a business challenge and a human challenge.
As a result, cybersecurity education has become one of the fastest growing disciplines in higher ed and vocational training. Building the cybersecurity workforce of the future and integrating cybersecurity awareness across all industries are top priorities for our national security, financial stability, and economic prosperity.
This landscape presents a unique opportunity for higher-ed institutions to introduce a breadth of new programs that increases their relevance to students, enhances student career prospects upon graduation, and can ultimately boost their financial health.
- Cybersecurity specialist jobs are in high demand and are well compensated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of an information security analyst in 2017 was $95,510, and these jobs are expected to grow significantly between 2016 and 2026.
- The cybersecurity market grew by roughly 35X over 13 years.
- The need for basic cyber-literacy skills is taking hold in virtually every non-technical sector.
- There is virtually a 0 percent unemployment rate in cybersecurity, with, according to experts, two job openings for every qualified candidate.
The Berkeley College Center for Academic Success (CAS) opened in 2006, with peer tutors employed to provide positive role models for students. Since then, the program has expanded, and faculty report that students using the CAS show improvements of between 20 and 25 points in their assignments.
Central to the CAS mission is the idea that a peer tutor’s role is unique. Peer tutors reflect the student population they serve, and that helps to create a welcoming, empathetic space that encourages Berkeley’s students to seek the academic help they need.
When CAS evaluated its peer tutor program in 2016, in collaboration with faculty and staff, three initiatives emerged:
- Establish a certification program for peer tutors to achieve consistency.
- Hire additional writing peer tutors to meet demand.
- Enhance math instruction.
CAS directors typically identify peer tutors through faculty recommendations, particularly in subjects that are most in demand, including accounting, math, finance, and business writing. Peer tutors serve as mentors as well as tutors because of their familiarity with the methods used by particular faculty members in those courses.
Specifically, at Berkeley College:
- Peer tutors are current students who have earned an A or B+ in the subject they are tutoring.
- Any student applying to be a peer tutor must have a GPA of 3.25 or better.
If a student meets these qualifications, we schedule a formal interview for the director to assess if the prospective tutor has both the professional and people skills required for the program. We look for people who have a friendly, professional, and empathetic demeanor—people who know it is not just about achieving excellent grades. The peer tutors provide resources, encouragement, and direction to help the students they assist to be independent learners.
Our training program
Once a tutor is hired, there’s a three-step training process:
- CAS purchased a subscription to Tutor Lingo®, an online training program for peer tutors that includes eight short videos and exercises on such topics as The Role of the Tutor and Tutoring Students from Diverse Backgrounds. Peer tutors must complete the series during the first semester of work.
- All new peer tutors are required to follow an experienced tutor during their first week. By observing these tutoring sessions, new tutors get an idea of best practices and methods. A follow-up discussion of what the peer tutor observed, and what worked or did not work in the session, takes place after the observation.
- The peer tutor participates in a discussion of the difference between teaching, which is explaining a concept or problem to the student, and tutoring, or guiding the student to understand the material and answering the question on his/her own.