Alternative Credentials, Scaled Degrees, and the New Higher Ed Matthew Effect | Learning Innovation - Inside Higher Ed

Alternative Credentials, Scaled Degrees, and the New Higher Ed Matthew Effect | Learning Innovation - Inside Higher EdAlternative Credentials, Scaled Degrees, and the New Higher Ed Matthew Effect | Learning Innovation - Inside Higher EdPosted: 10 Aug 2020 01:44 PM PDT HBS Online saw a 650 percent increase in enrollment between April and June compared to the same period in 2019…Online degrees offered by the Gies College of Business, including an iMBA priced under $22,000 offered in partnership with online learning platform Coursera, have seen record applications this year, Elliott said. Applications have particularly increased among women. More than 2,500 applications have so far been submitted to the iMBA program starting this fall -- a 35 percent increase from August 2019.Since mid-March, more than 18 million registered users have joined Coursera, a more than 400 percent increase from the same time period last year. Enrollments in India increased by 1,044 percent, followed by Italy at…

Larry Stimpert column: The value of face-to-face instruction -

Nearly five months ago, the world turned upside down for more than 16 million undergraduates as colleges and universities across the country shifted from in-person to remote instruction for the remainder of the spring semester.

Now, as we approach the start of another academic year, many schools are announcing that they will be holding classes remotely again this fall. And while the factors behind these decisions vary by institution, they illustrate the contrast between large and small institutions, and their educational approaches.

One undeniable factor is that large lecture classes are incompatible with social distancing and limits on large gatherings. A major advantage of small colleges like Hampden-Sydney College, where I serve as president, is that we do not hold large lecture classes. Instead, we offer our students a highly personal approach to higher education, providing them with small classes in which full-time professors get to know and mentor them.

So while some say that this past spring’s experience will speed the shift to online learning, my colleagues and I believe the past few months only underscore the value of face-to-face instruction and the residential college educational experience.

Quite simply, technology cannot mimic the quality of face-to-face interaction. Something quite remarkable and rewarding happens in a classroom when professor and student are engaged in teaching and learning, ideas are presented and debated, the logic of arguments can be contested, professors have opportunities to model intellectual curiosity and creativity, and insights emerge.

E. M. Forster is credited with the phrase, “How do I know what I think until I hear what I say?” Classroom discussions are one of the best ways to learn, to broaden our minds and to illuminate the complexity of the world around us.

Discussions are the most powerful way for students to test their thinking, to have their perspectives affirmed or challenged, to appreciate that their views are too simple or that they have yet to learn how to effectively express their ideas. This kind of educational experience might not occur in every in-person class, but the possibilities of it occurring are far greater when small groups of students and professors meet face-to-face.

In-person interaction also facilitates mentoring. Not long ago, Gallup completed a study asking recent graduates whether they had an extraordinary college experience or just an OK college experience. Remarkably, fewer than 25% of all graduates described their college experience as extraordinary.

When asked what made their experience extraordinary, two factors were most frequently cited: “My professors cared about me as a person,” and “I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.” Those experiences are exactly what faculty members at small colleges and universities offer.

As an educator, some of my most rewarding moments have come during office hours or impromptu conversations with students, where I have had the opportunity to get to know them and discuss their interests, goals and aspirations.

In getting to know students well, professors can help them maximize their college years, and identify resources and opportunities that will enrich their learning and prepare them for life after graduation.

Such transformative experiences occur for students with such regularity at our college and at small colleges and universities across the country that any of my peers or I could cite dozens of examples of a professor recognizing and encouraging a student’s passion in life-changing ways.

Finally, the experience of living and learning in small academic communities cannot be replicated online. Our campuses often are the most diverse places students ever have lived, offering invaluable exposure to a wide range of perspectives and worldviews.

And small campuses model the best aspects of life in a representative democracy, enabling students to govern themselves, lead clubs and organizations, and develop practical skills around running meetings, budgeting and motivating peers. The full scope of the residential college experience produces graduates with a distinctive combination of knowledge, competence and leadership abilities that prepare them well for life after college.

Toward the end of the spring semester, a faculty colleague shared with me that his students were missing the college. We weren’t surprised. It’s not just that students miss the camaraderie that is a significant part of residential college life; they miss all of the rich interactions our colleges offer.

I am fortunate to get to know many of our students and to watch them grow in maturity, competence, character and leadership potential.

I’m convinced our small colleges facilitate this growth more often and consistently better than any other type of educational institution.

Though there are significant challenges to operating even small colleges or universities safely in person during a pandemic, these institutions provide optimal learning environments that are critical for the development of the future leaders that our society needs.


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