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Author: Martin Van Der Werf

Hey Buddy — You Got a Dime to Spend on Learning? ?>

Hey Buddy — You Got a Dime to Spend on Learning?

So, it turns out MOOCs, after all the hype, are not the invention that would turn higher education upside down. If anything, MOOCs were the gateway drug that got investors in a lather to throw money at higher education. Now that Coursera, Udacity and EdX — the big MOOC companies — are having a hard time establishing a  business model, some investors are heading back to the sidelines, waiting for the next big disruptor of higher education. The ed tech…

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A Summer Full of Optimistic Ideas for Higher Ed ?>

A Summer Full of Optimistic Ideas for Higher Ed

Sometimes I feel like we are the voice of gloom and doom in higher education. We don’t mean to be. Colleges and universities will survive — they are the gateway to a better, more productive life for almost everyone. But they will evolve — the present business model is broken. So where are the  new ideas to make colleges better? Attending a number of recent higher education conferences, I heard a lot of optimistic approaches to higher education — or…

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MOOCs Haven’t Killed Higher Ed — Will Online Learning Finish the Job? ?>

MOOCs Haven’t Killed Higher Ed — Will Online Learning Finish the Job?

Another academic year has finished on most college campuses. And tradition won, or at least it thinks it has. Most of the change-resistant masses in higher education are celebrating the defeat of the MOOC. Two years ago, the massive open online course was seen as the innovation that would destroy traditional higher education. Free classes from the top professors at the top universities seemed unstoppable, and sure to undermine the traditional business model. But the MOOC was not the killer…

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Universities are Department Stores — Is That a Good Thing? ?>

Universities are Department Stores — Is That a Good Thing?

There was a day when the department store was the center of American consumer commerce and its social life. The department store sat atop the retail evolutionary chain — every region had its own: Boston had Filene’s and Jordan Marsh, Philadelphia had Wanamaker’s, Washington had Hecht’s and Woodie’s, Phoenix had Goldwater’s, St. Louis had Famous Barr, and on and on. Even small towns revolved around the department store — think of Higbeee’s, the store at the center of A Christmas…

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The Slippery Slope of Private College Finances ?>

The Slippery Slope of Private College Finances

There are few yardsticks for measuring the financial health of colleges and universities in America, particularly private ones. Every college uses its own sets of figures, or interprets questions in different ways. The resulting data is often years out of date. Analysis by bond-ratings agencies cover only a small subset of colleges, and usually the largest ones. So when the Department of Education recently released its scores for financial responsibility of private colleges, I took notice. The data is not…

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Colleges are Cracked Mirror Images of One Another ?>

Colleges are Cracked Mirror Images of One Another

I can major in education at all 14 of the universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. I can do the same at the state’s public flagships, Penn State and Pitt. I could obtain a bachelor’s degree in English at 14 of the campuses in the State University of New York system. I could major in political science as an undergraduate at 16 of the SUNY campuses, in history at 17 campuses. I could get a Bachelor’s degree…

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Can’t We Replace Professors Faster? ?>

Can’t We Replace Professors Faster?

Chief academic officers see a clear need for more interdisciplinary instruction at colleges and teaching that seamlessly incorporates technology, onsite and online learning. But, as we asked in an earlier blog post, is the faculty ready and able to do this? No — most provosts who responded to a recent poll said flatly. “Graduate preparation lags woefully behind the needs of the industry,” wrote a chief academic officer of a private university of more than 4,000 students, responding to a…

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The Mismatch between Academic Training and Student Need: A College of 2020 Poll ?>

The Mismatch between Academic Training and Student Need: A College of 2020 Poll

Administrators are looking for different qualities and experiences in new faculty members. But the results of a recent survey show how painfully slow change can be in higher education. For example, at a time when outsiders might expect colleges to be looking for a more flexible workforce, colleges are doing the opposite. While 37 percent of chief academic officers now say that at least 60 percent of their faculty is tenured, 46 percent say at least 60 percent of their…

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When Colleges Close… ?>

When Colleges Close…

The declining financial health of higher education has gotten me thinking about some of the hardest stories I wrote in my six years as a reporter and editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education: articles about colleges that went over the financial brink and closed. Visiting college campuses that were set to close was like visiting a terminally-ill patient who has not yet died. Everyone is moving stone-faced ahead with what needs to get done — assuring that students can…

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The Rise of the Machine — The Future of Higher Ed? ?>

The Rise of the Machine — The Future of Higher Ed?

We spend a lot of time imagining what the college of the future will look like and how it will respond to the needs of students. Two recent pieces helped fill in some aspects of the higher education picture I had not yet contemplated. Both are well worth your time. And a third article is vital reading for those in the middle of this meltdown: the faculty. “The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for…

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