Dixie Darr

Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

In creativity, Learning on February 24, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Disrupting Higher Education

Disruptive innovation, as described by Harvard professor and author Clayton Christensen in his 2003 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, are new products and services that attract a previously unserved market because they are cheaper, simpler, smaller, and more convenient to use. Frequently, such innovations will not appeal to traditional customers because they are perceived as having inferior quality.

In last year’s Disrupting Class, Christensen, along with Michael B. Horn, applied the concept to education, suggesting that online education was the innovation that will provide the disruption to revitalize education.

While online education as it exists today, is certainly more convenient with the potential to reach hundreds of millions of people all over the world without regard to geographic location. However, colleges and universities typically charge a higher tuition rate for online courses, because of the required investment in technology. So, while online education is theoretically available to most people, the cost can be prohibitive.

Along comes the University of the People, (UoP) which promises to open the gates of higher education to anyone in the world interested in attending college because it is tuition free.

That’s right. Students pay no tuition. At its website, the university promises to revolutionize higher education by providing universal access to college studies-even in the poorest parts of the world. How is that possible? The university, which will start in April, uses the large and growing reserve of open courseware provided by an impressive variety of colleges all over the world. Students learn on their own and in online study communities led by qualified scholars. They will pay nominal application fee ($15-$50) and examination fees ($10-$100), which will be adjusted on a sliding scale based on the student’s country of origin. Initially, UoP will offer bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and Computer Science, with more to come. Ironically, this innovation depends on traditional higher education for its curriculum, but has the possibility to destroy traditional higher education. It could happen quicker than you think.

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In Learning on February 20, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Use CLEPS To Save Time And Expense Of A Degree

Almost anyone who has to pay for a college degree these days is interested in finding ways to save time and money. CLEP stands for Colleg-Level Examination Program. It’s a series of 34 nationally standardized tests accepted for credit at more than 90% of US colleges and universities. Administered by the College Board (the SAT people) and offered at 1400 test centers around the country. Simply pick a test, find a study guide to help you prepare, and schedule the test at your local test center.

Cost varies, but should be less that $100 for a test, some of which will earn you as many as six college credits. A few things to remember:

1. You cannot earn credit for a topic that you have already taken a class for.

2. The national standard for passing the tests is around 51 percentile. Although some colleges require higher scores, this means that you must get just over half of the questions correct.

3. Credit will show on your transcript as credit only, with no grade, so it will not affect your GPA.

4. Always check first with your school counselor to make sure that the test you want to take will count toward your degree.

Although most colleges accept at least a few CLEPs, almost all of them limit the number of hours you can earn this way, for no good reason that I can see. Also, most college counselors will not encourage you to take CLEPs in lieu of classes, so you will need to be assertive and persistent.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

In creativity, Learning, work on February 15, 2009 at 10:21 am

Question Everything

Curiosity may be the primary ingredient for imagination innovation. It made Leonardo da Vinci the quintessential renaissance man. In his book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael J. Gelb lists curiosità: “An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning” as the first of his seven Da Vincian principles. A later book, Innovate Like Edison, advises readers to “seek knowledge relentlessly.”

Albert Einstein famously said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” But he also warned, “It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

Maybe dropping out of high school allowed Les Paul to pursue his curiosity and develop the electric guitar and the recording innovations of overdubbing and multitrack recording. In the documentary, Les Paul Chasing Sound, Paul recalls that when his brother flicked a light switch the light came on. When he flicked the switch he wanted to know why the light came on. He continued his search for a sound that no one had ever made before that led to his many inventions, took him to the top of the record charts in the 40s and 50s. Remember Mockingbird Hill and Vaya Con Dios with Mary Ford? Paul’s curiosity eventually took him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The DVD shows him being admired by musicians from Bing Crosby to Paul McCartney. An insatiable curiosity doesn’t retire at 65. At the age of 90, he won two Grammys at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards for his album Les Paul & Friends: American Made World Played.

Gelb suggests several exercises to increase your curiosity, including make a list of 100 questions that are important to you. “Do the entire list in one sitting. Write quickly, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or repeating the same question in different words.” Then go about finding some answers.

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In creativity, Learning, Learning Tools on February 10, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Priced out of the Education Market?

Are colleges pricing themselves out of reach of their market? With shrinking government support and dwindling endowments, colleges and universities have had to increase already exorbitant tuition rates, making them out of the question for millions of potential students.

Since a degree remains a requirement for many desirable jobs, students are coping by flocking to lower cost community colleges. Listen to an interesting discussion of the economic effects on higher education on NPR.

Higher educational institutions are being told that they must become more entrepreneurial (see related post From Stepchild to Cinderella on 2/6/09) below. The problem is that they don’t know how. The only options proposed on most campuses are to (1) raise tuition or (2) cut expenses.

Are traditional colleges headed the way of the music industry? Time will tell. Right now, however, significant opportunities exist for any schools who can offer accredited degrees for a lower cost. Community colleges are one option. Another is for students to take advantage of alternatives such as CLEP or DANTES tests, ACE-evaluated credits for military and corporate training and credit for prior learning.

For those who are completely fed up with the education system, innumerable opportunities for learning exist on the internet. I’ll cover each of these options in future posts.

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In creativity, Learning on February 6, 2009 at 2:50 pm

From Stepchild to Cinderella

Continuing Education has long been viewed as the stepchild of higher education. College and University continuing education departments typically handle a huge variety of programs that includes anything outside the realm of traditional academic programs, such as:

  • Non-credit courses, workshops and seminars
  • Corporate training
  • Professional development
  • Evening and weekend classes
  • Off-campus classes
  • Certificate programs
  • Distance learning
  • Adult degree-completion programs

Even as these programs became wildly profitable, they remained an almost unacknowledged revenue stream to shore up the finances of the programs considered more “central” to the institution’s mission. Ironically, that allowed them to become the creative, entrepreneurial department within some pretty hidebound schools.

In these times of rising tuition costs, cutbacks in government support, and decreasing confidence in a degree as a job guarantee, many public colleges are turning for help to their continuing education departments. “We have to address the fact that universities have to get very serious about generating revenue,” said Bernadette Tiernan, director of continuing and professional education at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. “We’re more reactive to market forces.” Being open to shifting market trends is a whole new idea to colleges which have long refused to accept that they are in the business of education.

One advantage is that “Continuing education is a “12-month operation,” Tiernan said, “without the down cycles in traditional academia.”

Rutgers University now has 50,000 students enrolled in noncredit programming statewide, said Ray Caprio, vice president for continuous education and outreach. That equals the total number of students enrolled at the University’s three campuses. “The overall strategy is that we all must become more entrepreneurial,” he said.

It should be interesting to see how they accomplish that trick. Maybe the stepchild will turn into Cinderella. I’m looking for innovative programs to feature here, so let me know about any you know of.

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In Learning, work on February 4, 2009 at 10:55 am

The Return of the Liberal Arts Degree

I’m not a big fan of Fox News. Calling yourself fair and balanced doesn’t make it so. I know this because I’m a good critical thinker, and my critical thinking skills come largely from my liberal arts background. In the 30 years since I earned my degree in sociology from the University of Colorado at Denver, the liberal arts have fallen more and more out of fashion, surpassed by the ubiquitous business major.

So I was more than a little surprised, when channel surfing during the Super Bowl, to find erstwhile Republican presidential candidate turned Fox talk show host Mike Huckabee holding forth on the advantages of a liberal arts degree. A college with an undecided major asked his advice on choosing a major. Go with liberal arts, he said, not to be confused with liberal politics. The more general degree offers exposure to different fields and arms the student with the capacity for adaptability and ability to retrain.

Steven Rothberg, founder and president of CollegeRecruiter.com, agrees. When interviewed by Fortune magazine, he explained, “Most employers look for candidates who are bright, well-rounded, and have some practical experience under their belts.” A liberal-arts degree, plus good communications and computer skills, signal to recruiters that you’ll be adaptable to a wide range of jobs.

Strong communications skills are the single most important attribute a candidate can have – as well as the one most lacking among job applicants, according to a poll of hiring managers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

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