Posts tagged ‘higher education’
I wonder if this is the start of a trend that will change higher education. The job of being faculty is becoming harder, especially in CS as enrollments rise without a rise in faculty numbers. Adjunct faculty are particularly put upon in universities, and unionizing is one way for them to push back.
Part-time faculty members at downtown Pittsburgh’s Point Park University have voted to join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers AFA-USW.The group filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board NLRB in April to hold a mail ballot election. A total of 314 part-time Point Park instructors were eligible to vote, and the ballots were counted this morning at the NLRB’s downtown offices.
An interesting development in the MOOC degree space. Udacity and AT&T, the partners with Georgia Tech on our OMS degree, are now teaming up around a new “NanoDegree” program — without any higher education institution involved.
AT&T is the only company that has committed to hire graduates of its NanoDegree program, and only 100 at that. No higher education accrediting body has recognized the new coursework. But Udacity founder Sebastian Thrum, who appeared last week at the New York Times Next New World Conference, says the company has more planned.“The intent is that this becomes an industry-wide platform,” said Thrun in an email, pointing out that while AT&T is the only company that Udacity has asked to commit jobs, others that include Cloudera, Autodesk and Salesforce.com have endorsed the degree.
Research Outcome: Professors work long hours, spend much of day in meetings, and tuition increases aren’t because faculty are getting raises
To all academics this is totally obvious. But I’m guessing that the general public may not know this. The general public may think that tuition rises are paying for rising faculty salaries, when the dramatic rise in salaries is with coaches and administrators. (Here at Georgia Tech, the faculty have not had raises across the board since January 2008.) As mentioned earlier this month, research funding has decreased dramatically, and the time costs for seeking funding have grown. There’s a blog (meta?) post that is collecting links to all the “Goodbye, Academia” blog posts — faculty who are giving up on academia, and explaining why. All of this context may help explain declining number of American students going into graduate school.
Professors work long days, on weekends, on and off campus, and largely alone. Responsible for a growing number of administrative tasks, they also do research more on their own time than during the traditional work week. The biggest chunk of their time is spent teaching.
Those are the preliminary findings of an ongoing study at Boise State University — a public doctoral institution — of faculty workload allocation, which stamps out old notions of professors engaged primarily in their own research and esoteric discussions with fellow scholars.
Check out the headline “Can early computer science education boost number of women in tech?” Then read the part (quoted below) where they show what works at Harvey Mudd. I don’t read anything there about early CS education. I do believe that we need CS in high schools to improve diversity in computing, but I’m not sure that much earlier than high school helps much. I worry about higher education giving up on issues of diversity, by changing the discussion to K12.
I wish that Mercury News would have really said what they found: University Computing Programs, you have the power to improve your diversity! You can change your classes and your culture! Don’t just pass the buck to K12 schools!
“The difference is, females in general are much more interested in what you can do with the technology, than with just the technology itself,” says Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe, a computer scientist herself.
So administrators created an introductory course specifically for students without programming experience. They emphasized coding’s connection to other disciplines. They paid for freshman women to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a chance to meet programming role models in diverse fields. And they provided early research opportunities for women students to inspire them to stick with the field.
The result? The percentage of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd increased from about 10 percent before the initiatives to 43 percent today.
California community colleges’ experiment with accelerated remediation: Maybe there’s more learning going on
Remedial courses in higher-education are important to get right, for lots of reasons. Certainly, that’s one of the big stumbling blocks in MOOCs — many people who start a MOOC aren’t prepared for that level material (or maybe, the MOOCs presume too much knowledge to start). The CAITE alliance was able to improve diversity in Massachusetts’ universities, by improving the transfer from community college, but that path sometimes requires remedial courses. If we could get remediation right, we might improve diversity, make distance learning more successful, and (as suggested below) improve graduation rates.
The story below is unusual: Make remediation better, by making it shorter. A simple time-on-task model would suggest that there’s less being learned. I hypothesize that it might be working (i.e., resulting in more learning), by looking at it from a different model.
At the Future Computer Science Research Summit in Orlando in early January, Nobel laureate Carl Wieman gave a talk where he referenced the famous Richard Hake 6000 subject study. One of the results of that study is that traditional lecture only results in students learning about 30-40 percent of what was being taught, but with student engagement pedagogies, 60-80 percent is learned.
Note the word: engagement. We can engage by using techniques like peer instruction. I wonder if we can also engage by saying, “This required course will be made shorter. You still need it to move on to something you want, but now, it’s less painful.” Could that result in more learning? Maybe that 30-40% becomes 50-60%? So a reduction of a few weeks in time may actually result in equal or more learning?
Remedial courses are widely seen as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to improving college graduation rates, as few students who place into remediation ever earn a degree.
The problem is particularly severe for black and Hispanic students, who account for almost half of the California community college system’s total enrollment of 2.4 million.
More than 50 percent of black and Hispanic community college students place three or more levels below college mathematics, said Myra Snell, a math professor at Los Medanos College. And only 6 percent of those remedial students will complete a credit-bearing math course within three years of starting the first remedial course.
A key reason for abysmal pass rates is the length of remedial sequences, argue Snell and Katie Hern, an English instructor at Chabot College, which, like Los Medanos, is a two-year institution located in California.
“The lower down you start, the fewer students complete,” Hern said.
The two instructors decided to do something about the problem. In 2010 they founded the California Acceleration Project. Armed with research from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advanced of Teaching and the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, they encouraged their peers to offer shorter remedial sequences in math and English.
A slightly different pattern for me: Check out the quote first, and I’ll add comments after.
Let us consider the conundrum facing the computer field in higher education first. It is experiencing an exponentially increasing demand for its product with an inelastic labor supply. How has it reacted? NSF has made a survey of the responses of engineering departments, including computer science departments in schools of engineering, to the increasing demand for undergraduate education in engineering. There is a consistent pattern in their responses and the results can be applied without exception to the computer field whether the departments are located in engineering schools or elsewhere. 80% of the universities are responding by increasing teaching loads, 50% by decreasing course offerings and concentrating their available faculty on larger but fewer courses, and 66% are using more graduate-student teaching assistants or part-time faculty. 35% report reduced research opportunities for faculty as a result. In brief, they are using a combination of rational management measures to adjust as well as they can to the severe manpower constraints under which they must operate. However, these measures make the universities’ environments less attractive for employment and are exactly counterproductive to their need to maintain and expand their labor supply. They are also counterproductive to producing more new faculty since the image graduate students get of academic careers is one of harassment, frustration, and too few rewards. The universities are truly being choked by demand for their own product and have a formidable people-flow problem, analogous to but much more difficult to address than the cash-flow problem which often afflicts rapidly growing businesses. There are no manpower banks which can provide credit.
This quote was presented by Eric Roberts in his keynote earlier this month at the NSF-sponsored Future Computing Education Research Summit (well organized by Steve Cooper). The highlight is my addition, because I was struck by the specificity of the description. I find the description believable, and it captures the problems of CS higher-education today, especially in the face of rising enrollments in CS classes (discussed by Eric Roberts here and by Ed Lazowka and Dave Patterson here).
What makes this analysis scarier is that the paper quoted was published in 1982. Back in the 1980’s, the state Universities had the mandate and the budget to grow to meet the demand. They didn’t always have the CS PhD graduates that they needed, so some Math and EE PhDs became CS faculty. Today, though, the state Universities are under severe budget constraints. How will we meet the demand in enrollment? In the 1980’s, some CS programs met the demand by raising the bar for entering the CS major, which ended up make CS more white and male (because only the more privileged students were able to stay above the bar). Will our solutions lead to less diversity in CS? Will we lose more faculty to industry, and replace them with MOOCs?
The blog article linked below is pretty interesting. The lack of respect for academic freedom here is disappointing, but not uncommon. More shocking is the Kansas Board of Regents decision that faculty can be fired for saying things in social media “contrary to the best interest of the university.” (I could have been fired for my Swiki post under these rules.)
And on this note, I’m going to take a break from this blog for the holidays (Christmas and New Year’s for me and my family). If something urgent comes up, I’ll post, but I’m going to take some time to focus elsewhere. Thanks for reading, and best wishes to you and your loved ones for the holiday season.
But the university — where administrators have frequently clashed with faculty members — this week is demanding the shutdown of a faculty blog that has been highly critical of the university. The chief lawyer for the university sent a “cease and desist” letter to the professors who run the blog demanding that they shut it down.
The letter says that they can’t use the university’s name or symbols, and further the letter cites the blog’s content, saying that “the lack of civility and professionalism expressed on the blog violates the university’s values and policies.”