Why lazy rivers have their place on college campuses–and yet still might just be lazy

At a time when college tuition list prices are higher than ever before, CBS News recently spotlighted how some colleges are spending more on lavish perks like lazy rivers in an effort to lure students to their campuses often at the expense of core academic facilities like libraries.

While education onlookers have been quick to decry college administrators’ misappropriation of funds for education when spent on such apparent excesses, research that Bob Moesta and I led at the Christensen Institute suggests that for many of the students attending these schools, this type of opulent experience may be precisely part of what they are buying. Spending on these items also gives lie to the idea that brick-and-mortar colleges don’t spend much money on marketing. Spending on amenities like lazy rivers, alongside college athletics expenditures, may not be formally classified as marketing on a school’s 990, but they are certainly used to attract students.

Despite the finding that nearly 90 percent of students say they are going to college to get a job, according to UCLA’s annual survey of freshmen entering four-year colleges and universities, as Bob and I documented in our new book Choosing College, that’s an oversimplification at best.

Many students are choosing their college because as part of a drive to get into the best school possible, they want the “classic” college experience they’ve been led to expect. As Joe May, the chancellor of the Dallas Community College District, recently told Jeff Selingo and me on an episode of Future U, all too often colleges sell their experience as a lifestyle, not for its other benefits.

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That means many students expect the climbing walls, opulent dining halls, top-notch gyms and yes, even the lazy rivers.

The big challenge facing schools who are optimizing around these students is this, however: In a world of unlimited resources, many students and their families might continue to opt for these extravagant, high-end programs. But most students and families do not live in such a world. With limited resources and questions around the future of work, they may increasingly voice skepticism about the value of these expensive, undifferentiated institutions and look elsewhere.


What do millennials think of their college education?

While most millennials highly value their college education and degree, a notable 40 percent wish they had done more to prepare for their careers during college, according to a new survey.

The Millennial College Graduate Report details key insights into millennials’ level of satisfaction with their academic experience and preparation for careers.

The study finds that contrary to a frequent narrative that has been reported in recent years, a majority of college graduates value the education that they received. Most also report that their degrees prepared them for employment and they would not change the decision they made to attend college.

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“While the majority of recent college graduates believe that their education brought them value in obtaining employment, there remains a large minority that hold some reservations about the career preparation aspect,” says Dr. Larry Chiagouris, the report’s director. “If you consider that most companies would not be pleased to learn that more than a third of their customer base holds some form of negative perception, it’s clear that there is a path to improvement in this area.”


What role should faculty play in CBE models?

Imagine you’re a student.

You walk into a classroom on the first day of the semester. You approach your chosen desk and there sits a thick sealed envelope. Looking around, you see that each desk has its own thick sealed envelope.

Your professor approaches the podium and speaks.

“On your desks, in the envelope, you will find your syllabus along with all materials and assignments for the term. In it, you will even find your final exam. Since many of you are adult learners, we respect the fact that you are bringing a meaningful amount of life and workplace experience to this classroom. As such, you are free to begin these assignments whenever you’d like. We’ll be meeting for classroom learning and discussion each week so you can ask the big questions and collaborate with peers. You’ll also have access to videos and other media to help you learn more whenever you’d like. Some may finish all of your work within a few weeks; for others, it may take you the whole term. In this class, we prioritize your learning and how it’s measured more than time. Show what you know as soon as you know it.”

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This is competency-based education (CBE). At least one form of it.


States need better data to meet student expectations

Reliable data use is key to improving student outcomes, and a new framework from the Institute for Higher Education Policy highlights some of the barriers states face as they attempt to use data effectively.

Accurately evaluating what works–and what doesn’t–to improve student progression through higher education requires the robust use of reliable data.

States play a pivotal role in compiling and using data to empower student choice, spur continuous institutional and system improvement, and develop evidence-based solutions that promote college access and success for all students in their state. However, certain challenges have prevented states from fully leveraging education and workforce data.

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IHEP’s framework identifies approaches to eliminating those barriers to data use, with solutions at the federal, state, and regional levels.

Written by Karen Bussey, Kim Dancy, and Mamie Voight, Better Data, Better Outcomes: Promoting Evidence, Equity, and Student Success through the Framework for State Postsecondary Data Solutions identifies opportunities to build innovative partnerships and develop messaging and advocacy strategies to champion a culture of data use.


Google is expanding its IT support program to more community colleges

Google and JFF are partnering to expand the Google IT Support Professional Certificate from 30 schools to 100 schools by the end of 2020, according to an announcement on Google’s blog.

“With more than 5.7 million students enrolled in U.S. community colleges, these schools play a vital role in creating economic opportunities,” according to the announcement.

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Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate launched in January 2018 as part of the Grow with Google initiative, which intends to create economic opportunity for all.

So far, the program has helped prepare more than 85,000 for entry-level IT support jobs, with no experience or college degree necessary.

Google’s blog post spotlights Melinda Williams, a cosmetology teacher and salon owner in Ohio, as an example of the success people find in the program.


How one institution prioritizes faculty diversity

Classroom diversity has tremendous benefits for student achievement, and higher-ed institutions are turning to diversity initiatives to help recruit and hire diverse candidates.

According to NCES data, 41 percent of all full-time faculty in 2017 were white males; 35 percent were white females; 6 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander males; 5 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander females; and 3 percent each were black males, black females, Hispanic males, and Hispanic females.

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Research also points to the many benefits that come from diversifying a majority-white teacher workforce and incorporating more minority teachers–namely, minority students benefit from seeing themselves represented in classroom leadership, and minority teachers who understand minority students’ cultural backgrounds tend to form more meaningful interpersonal connections with students.


Are you teaching the way you were taught?

As academics, we tend to model our teaching style on the way we were taught. In some courses this works well, but in other courses it may not. Learning how to teach the students we have and not the students we want can be an eye opener.

So, were you taught in a large lecture hall with a very smart faculty member lecturing? And did you then go and take a test to summarize what you learned in a lecture? For some courses, this works. Facts are facts and the muscle names in the human body are not going change, nor will the sum of 2 + 2. But in other courses, such as Business Ethics, content changes from day to day. There are always ways to bring students into a very engaging discussion.

Structuring your style for the course you teach

Recently, I was working with a faculty member who was teaching an Ethics course. He wanted to just use the textbook and give students a weekly quiz online. After a lengthy discussion, I suggested that he conduct three different discussions in his face-to-face course: a local ethics issue on Mondays, a national ethics issue on Wednesdays, and an international ethics issue on Fridays. I also recommended switching up the summative assessments by analyzing a current case study (one from the last three years) every other week, based on one of the ethical issues discussed in class.


5G brings new capabilities to the University of Miami

The University of Miami is set to become the first campus to deploy AT&T’s 5G+ and Multi-access Edge Computer (MEC) technology, opening the door for a new level of internet.

A magnified, computer-generated strand of DNA that could be viewed and manipulated by several students wearing spatial computing headsets. Sensors that can detect the slightest change in weather and send that information to phones and tablets to be processed in near real-time.

Imagine art history students viewing some of the most iconic artworks from museums around the world at unprecedented fidelity with experts at their home institutions providing instruction. And instead of it taking several minutes for a feature film or video game to load on students’ phones and tablets, that time would be shaved to seconds.

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These are some of the capabilities of 5G and Edge technology, computing experts say.

“In collaboration with AT&T, the University of Miami will be able to support 5G using millimeter wave spectrum (“5G+”) and Edge technology on its Coral Gables campus, placing the university at the forefront of digital transformation impacting every field,” says Ernie Fernandez, vice president of Information Technology and chief information officer for the University. “It will allow students, faculty, and staff to develop, test, and use the next generation of digital apps, including Magic Leap’s spatial computing platform, in new and exciting ways.”


Are we doing enough to develop creativity in students?

Creativity is one of the key skills people will need to thrive as the digital workforce evolves–but alarmingly, most students don’t have it.

Aside from creativity, employers are seeking candidates with complex problem-solving skills, critical thinking, people management, and the ability to coordinate with others.

A new report from Adobe analyzes the skills employers say they need most, and it also takes a hard look at why job applicants don’t promote these skills more on their resumes. Could it be that the soft skills gap leaves many applicants lacking these all-important talents?

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Adobe analyzed 2 million job postings and 2 million resumes, conducting a gap analysis across 18 diverse and in-demand career fields.

That research found that soft skills such as creativity, collaboration, and communication are critical to hiring managers as they evaluate job applicants. But applicants with strong soft skills–also called employability skills–are hard to find, which begs the question: why?


5 university leaders discuss higher ed’s biggest challenges

The U.S. must produce talented workers in order to remain competitive in an increasingly technological economy. But how, exactly, can higher-ed institutions tackle this formidable challenge as the cost of higher education soars, as student loan debt becomes burdensome, and as many students question the value of their educational investment?

During an insightful hour-long chat, five higher-ed leaders touched on college cost and affordability, the value of a liberal arts education, and how to best prepare students for tomorrow.

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Led by Charlotte Talks host Mike Collins, the audience heard from Clarence D. Armbrister, J.D., president, Johnson C. Smith University; Kandi Deitemeyer, Ph.D., president, Central Piedmont Community College; Philip L. Dubois, Ph.D., chancellor, UNC Charlotte; Daniel G. Lugo, J.D., president, Queens University of Charlotte; and Carol Quillen, Ph.D., president, Davidson College.

The full conversation can be streamed here.

1. Does the function of a liberal arts education in 21st century tie in with technical education?

Quillen: “When we think about preparing students for tech-enabled jobs of the future in all sectors, not just in tech but in any sector, you’ll have to have some technological proficiency. How do we do that? … There are programs you can do to get students ready for day 1 of any tech job independent of their major. And then we need to think about how we expand the value of a liberal arts degree, which to me is largely life-long learning and navigating the unfamiliar in an economy where those two things are going to be crucial skills. Our job is to think about how we can deliver that to more and more people, cheaply and quickly, so we can be part of the solution to this broader education challenge our society faces.”