Friends of The Academical Village

#UVA Coursera Connection

….”

U-Va. announced this morning that its online courses will begin in 2013 with four offerings, three from the core undergraduate college and one from the Darden graduate business school.

Darden faculty made first contact with Coursera in April after learning that the consortium had attracted venture capital and was expanding.

Sources at U-Va. said yesterday that they weren’t sure whether either Sullivan or Dragas knew of the Coursera talks. But it appears increasingly likely that neither woman knew.

Had they known, then the monthlong debate about the need for U-Va. to join the MOOC movement might have been averted. Dragas repeatedly cited the urgency for U-Va. to answer the Stanford and Harvard initiatives. ….”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/college-inc/post/u-va-leaders-appear-not-to-have-known-of-looming-online-deal/2012/07/17/gJQAYXR9qW_blog.html

#UVA Alumni Mag Time Line and Report Noted

"RICHMOND — The alumni magazine this week issued a special edition on the attempted coup at the University of Virginia, with an interactive timeline on the crisis and a report on how social media helped change the outcome.

UVa Magazine’s e-newsletter also includes a synopsis of the 6,000 emails, letters and comments the alumni association received as the drama unfolded.

The “From Resignation to Reinstatement” report — online at http://uvamagazine.org/ — also explores the awkward spot of Michael Strine, UVa executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Strine, who has been accused of playing a role in the ouster attempt, has denied allegations that he offered criticisms of President Teresa A. Sullivan’s performance to board members. But he acknowledged that his position requires him to meet regularly with the board.

Strine was brought to UVa by Sullivan, as was Provost John Simon, the university’s other executive vice president. The magazine notes that while Simon spoke out publicly against the board’s actions, Strine did not.

The emails were requested by the UVa’s student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, and were the first in a series to be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The disclosures continued Friday with emails dating to October that were sought by C-Ville Weekly at a cost of $125 to the publication.

One email shows Rector Helen Dragas’ concern about course content at UVa. In a Dec. 9 message to Sullivan and Simon and copied to Vice Rector Mark Kington, Dragas sends a link to a blog posting from the Heritage Foundation.

There’s no accompanying comment, but the subject header reads, “tough headline.”

The item, titled “On the Lady Gaga-fication of Higher Ed,” says that four top-tier universities “offer semester-long explorations of Lady Gaga’s apparently profound influence — since 2007 — on music, fashion and the LGBT lifestyle.”

In addition to UVa, the other schools listed are the University of South Carolina, Wake Forest University and Arizona State University. “Yet none of these universities requires students to take a course in U.S. history before graduation,” the article says.

Simon tells Dragas that the “argumentative essay writing” course enrolled 19 students as part of a first-year requirement. The students analyzed how the musician pushes social boundaries with her work.

Dragas responds that while she appreciates that the course can be defended, its title and the headline on the article “probably aren’t helping us justify funding requests from parents, taxpayers and legislators.”

She says there must be “some internal arbiter of what is appropriate.” Dragas adds that she doesn’t “purport to know what that is, but it is clear to me that others do (at least purport to know) and that those people can influence our future. We should be mindful of that, in my opinion.”

http://www2.dailyprogress.com/news/2012/jul/20/uva-magazine-details-sullivan-crisis-ar-2072716/

#UVA UK Publication Cites UVA Sullivan Case

Who’s boss? US governing bodies flex their muscles

26 July 2012

Virginia president keeps her job, but once-inert boards are stirring nationwide. Jon Marcus writes

There was a dramatic moment when, on a quiet Sunday in early June, vice-presidents and deans at the University of Virginia were summoned to an almost unheard-of audience with the board of visitors, the public university’s governing board.

The board had decided that Virginia’s president of two years, Teresa Sullivan, was not moving quickly enough to address challenges such as lagging faculty salaries, rising tuition fees and the need to expand into online education. Helen Dragas, the university’s rector and chair of the board, told the stunned administrators that it had asked for, and received, Sullivan’s resignation.

The events set in motion by that action dominated higher education news in the US for 16 days, during which time the academic faculty and board of one of the nation’s most prestigious universities engaged in a bitter and highly public power struggle.

The academics won, and Sullivan was reinstated. But behind their ensuing self-congratulation lies the cold, clear message that long-dormant governing boards are beginning to assert their authority in the face of financial challenges and what many see as a too-slow pace of necessary change. And that raises a fundamental question: who is in charge of America’s universities?

"To me, this is a beautiful example of the ambiguity over governance," says Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, an independent, not-for-profit research centre in Washington DC. "Who runs universities? Who are the bosses?"

This issue is exercising the US academy not only because of the University of Virginia controversy. There have been disputes in Texas, Iowa, Oregon, Louisiana, North Carolina and elsewhere as governing boards have clashed with both university leaders and academics.

The Virginia fiasco, which was the most high-profile battle yet, exposed the cultural divide between scholars and university governing boards, which, as some academics saw it, suddenly had the audacity to wish to govern…..”

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=420647&c=1

#UVA Media Studies Dept to Offer Future of UVA Course

Great concept:

July 24, 2012

In light of the events at University of Virginia this summer, with President Sullivan’s sudden ouster and then reinstatement, faculty members at the university are using this as a teaching experience and offering a new course this fall.

“The teachable moment was really strong for the whole university community. We hope that this is also something that is going to motivate students to want to take the class,” said John Alexander, the professor for the course.

The class is called: Documenting UVa’s Future: Oral History of the Ouster and Reinstatement.

Students will invite people to share their experience and to explain their motivation and the meaning behind the events.

“Something was deeply touching thousands of people; they responded in some powerful way to something that was unfolding in front of them so the oral history is just an invitation to those people who want to explore that, who want that story told,” said Alexander.

The oral documentation is not meant as a full comprehensive history project, but rather as insight on the unprecedented actions and their implications on the UVa community.

The students in the course will conduct all of the interviews and at this point, we’re not sure who they’ll be talking to. The professor says it doesn’t matter who they interview as everyone involved has a unique story and perspective to share.

The course is a 300 level class in the Media Studies Department but it is available to any student without any prerequisites. Walter Heinecke is co-teaching the course with John Alexander.”

http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/UVa-to-Offer-New-Course-That-Studies-Sullivans-Ouster-163607426.html

#UVA Deans Already Involved With Coursera by 8 June

….”

On June 8, the leaders of the university’s Board of Visitors asked for the resignation of President Teresa Sullivan. Among their chief complaints: U-Va. was ignoring perhaps the most significant development in the brief history of online collegiate learning, the vast experiment in global online learning launched by Stanford, MIT and Harvard.

Earlier that day, a group of academic deans at U-Va. had discussed the prospect of entering one of those experiments, Coursera, at a retreat. During the retreat, the university’s arts-and-sciences dean, Meredith Jung-En Woo, asked Philip Zelikow, an associate dean, “to reach out to Coursera and another group to learn more,” according to an e-mail Woo sent to an alumni group last week.

The previous day, June 7, a group from the university’s Darden graduate business school had visited the Coursera offices in Silicon Valley. Dean Robert Bruner was skeptical of the mass online experiment but saw U-Va.’s involvement in Coursera as “a relatively little bet” that could help the university join the “leading edge” in a race into online course delivery, Bruner wrote last week in a blog post…..”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/college-inc/post/u-va-deans-hatched-online-plan-the-day-teresa-sullivan-was-asked-to-resign/2012/07/24/gJQAZeZo6W_blog.html

#UVA Further Comment by @democracy (Hook)

….”

There’s an important analogy here for the role of technology (on-line learning) in public education.

It turns out that Helen Dragas and other members of UVa’s Board were reading columns by the likes of David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, and latched on to education privatization schemes of people like John Chubb and Terry Moe (who were referenced in Board e-mails).

Chubb and Moe are at the Hoover Institution, a conservative “think” tank that promotes “free enterprise” and the privatization of public education. Both Chubb and Moe are members of Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 education, funded by the Koret Foundaton. The Koret Foundation pushes “market-based K-12 education reform” and subscribes to the mistaken and easily disproved notion that “America’s broken educational system lies at the heart of our nation’s troubles” and drastic “reform” is imperative for “economic competitiveness.”

Chubb and Moe recently (2009) wrote a book titled Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education. In it, Chubb and Moe push all the conservative “reform” buttons: competition, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay for teachers. Technology is what will “make our children better educated.” The problem –– and it’s a big one –– is that there’s little or no research to back any of it up.

Here’s their web site. Click on Virginia in the map to find out about “recent developments” in the Commonwealth regarding technology and privatization initiatives.

http://www.liberatinglearning.org/?page_id=20

Bob McDonnell had to have been involved in the effort to oust Teresa Sullivan. As Chubb and Moe noted, McDonnell pushed very hard in the last legislative session for more charter schools and “virtual school opportunities.” Conservatives, especially Republicans (but also business-oriented “fiscal conservatives like Helen Dragas), view education simply as a commodity to be bought and sold. They refuse to acknowledge the historical foundation of public education as a central civic responsibility of government in a democratic republic. More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle understood the importance of public schooling to democratic citizenship, noting that “each government has a peculiar character…the character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarch creates oligarchy, and always the better the character, the better the government.”

Indeed, one need only to look at Bob McDonnell’s efforts in Virginia to expand virtual schools for K12, Inc. Perhaps not surprisingly, McDonnell has taken $55,000 in contributions from K12, and he snuffed attempts to rein in the current quasi-voucher funding for students that attend virtual schools. There is no evidence that virtual schools are worth the investment, and research shows that private for-profit schools have very poor achievement records, But McDonnell insists, “Virtual schools provide excellent instruction” (big wink).

For more on virtual schools nationally and in Virginia, see:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virtual-schools-are-multip…

For more on the poor track record of virtual schools, see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/online-schools-score-better-…

In his 2003 book, The Flickering Mind, Todd Oppenheimer wrote that technology was a “false promise.” That is, all too often technology is no panacea to improving learning and often undermines funding that might have
gone to reducing class sizes, and improving teacher salaries and facilities. Based on his many classroom observations, Oppenheimer said that “more often than not” classroom use of computers encouraged “everybody in the room to go off task.” He noted that a UCLA research team investigating results from
the Third International Math and Sciences Study (TIMSS) reviewed video from 8th grade math and science classes in seven different countries. One difference stood out: while American teachers use overhead projectors (and increasingly now LCDs), teachers in other countries still use blackboards,
which maintain “a complete record of the entire lesson.”

A recent Texas study found that “there was no evidence linking technology immersion with student self-directed learning or their general satisfaction with schoolwork.”

The New York Times reported recently on classroom use of technology in Arizona, where “The digital push aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom.” As the Times reported, “schools are spending billions on technology,even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.”

But it is quite beneficial to the companies that peddle computers, software, and technological gadgetry. And the big push now is for “technology-enhanced instruction” and “innovation” and virtual schools (on-line instruction). This is true at UVa and other “elite” universities too. But there’s simply no research to support it.

Indeed, this so-called “experiment” is nothing more than dressed-up cost cutting in what Dragas called a “a resource-constrained environment.” And, in fact, as as deVise noted in an earlier article, Teresa Sullivan’s plan “would go further than most elite universities have dared in replacing human instructors with software.” And interested parties are already starting to cash in.

For example, when UVA president Teresa Sullivan was initially ousted, Curry School of Education dean Robert Pianta send an e-mail that was almost giddy , writing that “The discussion from the Board this morning made several references to unleashing the schools to be bold and aspirational, to accelerate change. My clear sense is that…we are moving in ways that align well with the larger direction and vision of the Board.”

Perhaps Pianta was motivated by the joint Curry-Darden education-business master’s degree program that proposes to integrate the “business model” into public education?

http://www.darden.virginia.edu/web/Darden-Curry-PLE/News/Home/

Perhaps Pianta was motivated by his own money-making side business to this”business model.”

http://store.teachstone.org/

Pianta recently told the Board Educational Policy Committee meeting, “We’re poised for promise. We can really go much further in the next five years.” Moreover, the Curry school is putting “more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics” (STEM) when there is no STEM crisis or shortage. In fact, The Post just reported last week that “There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs.”

See:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/us-pushes-for-more…

Conservative education nabob Rick Hess, at the very conservative free-market American Enterprise Institute, is enthusiastic about the “entrepreneurship” he sees getting promoted at the Darden-Curry partnership. He’s gushed about it.

UVa’s hasty and badly thought out plan for “innovation” and “reform” plays right into the plans that conservatives have to privatize as much of public education (k-12 through college) as they can. Just like with the anemia drugs, the bottom line for them is profit. Profit that comes from the taxpayers. We should all care and be concerned about that.”

http://www.readthehook.com/104366/managing-message

#UVA Additional Blog Comment by @democracy

In an earlier comment I referenced a recent article in the Washington Post be reporter Daniel DeVise. In that article DeVise described UVa’s very rapid engagement with on-line learning “a potentially transformative movement…on a global scale.” However, other than mentioning the cutting of jobs and wages, and turning more undergraduate education over to “technology (videotaped lectures, on-line testing), DeVise did nothing to clarify what makes this business-model shift so “transformative” (a term used quite often by education charlatan Wendy Kopp of corporate-funded Teach for America).

DeVise writes that “A compelling body of research has shown that some online initiatives yield improved outcomes at reduced cost.” But he doesn’t cite a single piece of that “compelling research” that supports that claim. Nor does any one of the people he references in the article. Instead, they keep referring to their foray into on-line learning as “an experiment.” But it is not really an “experiment” about learning. It’s about applying business-model principles to instruction - and cutting costs - and using “technology” as the vehicle.
I pointed out previously that one of the options Teresa Sullivan has as the restored president of UVa is compliance. She can do precisely what the Board (i.e., Dragas, Atkinson, and of course, McDonnell) wants her to do. And perhaps she’ll get reappointed when her current contract is up.

It appears that Sullivan has decided on that course of action, even if she tries to paint the picture differently and say that it’s really all about enhanced “instruction.” Her plan, as DeVise notes, “would go further than most elite universities have dared in replacing human instructors with software.”

Clifford Kiracofe cites a New York Times article on “a seismic shift in online learning that is reshaping higher education.” In that article Sebastian Thrun , who founded on-line course company Udacity and who taught a Stanford on-line artificial intelligence course, said this about on-line learning:

“I haven’t seen a single study showing that online learning is as good as other learning.”

Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped Udacity from marketing its courses to high school students. See:

http://www.udacity.com/hschallenge

The Times article also noted that “Udacity recently announced plans to have students pay $80 to take exams at testing centers operated around the world by Pearson, a global education company.” Pearson, as I commented before, bought SchoolNet, the badly-flawed software technology purchased by Albemarle County and forced on its teachers, and on which The Hook wrote a series of stories (the county superintendent and school board continue to withhold 268 SchoolNet-related emails from public scrutiny).

The Times article cites problems with on-line courses, including the awarding of credit. One prominent professor, “who will teach Principles of Economics for Scientists,” said this:

“I would not want to give credit until somebody figures out how to solve the cheating problem and make sure that the right person, using the right materials, is taking the tests.”

Commenter UVA Invisible says that “FINALLY, the chickens are coming home to roost and the foxes have nowhere to hide.” I don’t know about that.

I’m wondering if the foxes have already gained control of the henhouse.”

http://www.readthehook.com/104366/managing-message

#UVA @democracy Comment on Blog (Hook)

In The Washington Post today, reporter Daniel De Vise has offered up what is more an on-line “learning” fluff-piece-ad than an informative and insightful article on education change (and the politics of it) at UVa in particular, and public education in general.

See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/u-va-takes-major-step-in-o…

DeVise described UVa’s very rapid engagement with on-line learning “a potentially transformative movement…on a global scale.” Other than cutting jobs and wages, and turning more undergraduate education over to “technology (videotaped lectures, on-line testing), he fails to clarify what makes this business-model shift so transformative.

DeVise writes that “A compelling body of research has shown that some online initiatives yield improved outcomes at reduced cost.” But he doesn’t cite a single piece of that “compelling research” that supports that claim. Nor does any one of the people he references in the article.

Indeed, what we DO know is that Helen Dragas was reading “various articles” and latching on to half-baked musings and policy goals promulgated by conservative writers like David Brooks (David Brooks? Please.) and John Chubb and Terry Moe, both of whom are ensconced at the Hoover Institution.

The Hoover Institution, a conservative “think” (if it can be called that) tank that promotes “free enterprise” and the privatization of public education. Both Chubb and Moe are members of Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 education, funded by the Koret Foundaton. The Koret Foundation pushes “market-based K-12 education reform” and subscribes to the mistaken and easily disproved notion that “America’s broken educational system lies at the heart of our nation’s troubles” and drastic “reform” is imperative for “economic competitiveness.”

Chubb and Moe recently (2009) wrote a book titled Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education. In that book Chubb and Moe push all the conservative “reform” buttons: competition, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay for teachers. Technology, they say, is what will “make our children better educated.” The problem –– and it’s a big one –– is that there’s little or no research to back any of it up.

Here’s their web site. Click on Virginia in the map to find out about “recent developments” in the Commonwealth regarding technology and privatization initiatives.

http://www.liberatinglearning.org/?page_id=20

Bob McDonnell claimed to be uninvolved in the sordid affiar at UVa. But he most likely was. As Chubb and Moe noted, McDonnell pushed very hard in the last legislative session for more charter schools and “virtual school opportunities.” There really shouldn’t be much if any question about this. Conservatives –– especially Republicans (but also business-oriented “fiscal conservatives like Helen Dragas) –– view education simply as a commodity to be bought and sold, and not as a core civic responsibility of government in a democratic republic. What they will now argue, is that they are fulfilling Thomas Jefferson’s “vision” by bringing UVa to the “masses.”

DeVise does not cite any “compelling research.” and none of the higher education academics he quotes does either. Instead, they keep referring to their foray into on-line learning as “an experiment.” It’s not really an “experiment” about learning though. It’s about applying business-model principles to instruction - and cutting costs - and using “technology” as the vehicle. And there will be consequences.

In a 2003 book (The Flickering Mind), Todd Oppenheimer reviewed the research on technology and learning and and concluded that technology was a “false promise.” Technology is no panacea to improving learning, and spending on it and often undermines funding that might have gone to reducing class sizes and improving facilities. Classroom observations found that “more often than not” classroom use of computers encouraged “everybody in the room to go off task.”

More recently the New York Times reported recently on classroom use of technology in Arizona, where “The digital push aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom.” As the Times reported, “schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.”

To counteract the research, and gain some “credibility” by hopping on the the Khan Academy bandwagon (do these advocates think Khan is credible because he’s a former hedge-fund analyst?), the term the “transformers” now use is “flipping the classroom.” Uh-huh.

So, let’s see. The “transformation” means that “Students earn no college credit and the universities make no money,” but they get to “to expand their global brand .” We are told to ignore believe that this a “great opportunity” and “future potential,” when it’s mostly about cutting faculty costs and increasing faculty “efficiency” (note Dragas‘ comment about “a resource-constrained environment”). Nearby Albemarle County did the same thing a few years ago, pushing a costly software application (SchoolNet) as an “instructional tool” and forcing its use. The results were not good (See: http://www.readthehook.com/100248/no-school-administrator-left-behind ). The county superintendent and school board are still withholding 268 SchoolNet-related e-mails.

I posted elsewhere that upon Sullivan’s reinstatement as president, she had four options:

1. She can “fight the power.” But “the power” of conservative big-money forces on the Board just increased and McDonnell’s minions now have very firm control. If she “fights the power” at UVa, she’s toast.

2. She can continue focusing on incremental change. But incremental change is what got her in trouble with Dragas and the other corporate gun-slingers in the first place. Unless Dragas and Atkinson et al agree that an incremental approach –– turning up the heat slowly but surely –– is the best way to boil the frog, that’s unlikely.

3. She can comply, and do precisely what the Board (i.e., Dragas, Atkinson, and of course, McDonnell) wants her to do, and get reappointed when her current contract is up. Then, UVa and the Commonwealth are the losers. And Sullivan will have surrendered her integrity.

4. She can try for “reasonable” accommodation of Board demands, and if she feels the Board is unreasonable, she can quit. At this point, she can find another job elsewhere with no trouble.

It appears that Sullivan has opted for Door #3, even if she tries to paint the picture differently…that’s it’s really all about enhanced “instruction.” Indeed her plan, as deVise notes, “would go further than most elite universities have dared in replacing human instructors with software.” UVa is offering up “$10,000 grants to professors” to get them to buy in (pun intended) to the “transformation.”

Parents, “who pay tens of thousands of dollars a year in tuition and student and professors and citizens have a right to be skeptical. If an offer, a deal, sounds far too good to be true –– and given the research, on-line learning certainly qualifies –– then it probably is.”

http://www.readthehook.com/104366/managing-message

#UVA Online Udacity Grouping Includes UVA

….”Now, the partners will include the California Institute of Technology; Duke University; the Georgia Institute of Technology; Johns Hopkins University; Rice University; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; the University of Washington; and the University of Virginia, where the debate over online education was cited in last’s month’s ousting — quickly overturned — of its president, Teresa A. Sullivan. Foreign partners include the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, the University of Toronto and EPF Lausanne, a technical university in Switzerland.        ….”

….”But even Mr. Thrun, a master of MOOCs, cautioned that for all their promise, the courses are still experimental. “I think we are rushing this a little bit,” he said. “I haven’t seen a single study showing that online learning is as good as other learning.”….

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/17/education/consortium-of-colleges-takes-online-education-to-new-level.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

National Student Loan Crisis

….”The financial-aid odyssey of two generations of Brezlers tracks the history of U.S. student loans, which, like the home mortgage, helped define the American dream. In the early years, the loan program let ambitious teens take on a small debt that could pay off with a lifetime of higher earnings. Now, the $1 trillion in outstanding student debt has become a drag on the economic recovery, a flashpoint in the presidential election and a threat to the egalitarian ideals of U.S. higher education…..”

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/07/15/news/nation/indentured-students-increase-as-loans-corrode-education-ticket/?ref=latest