The Promise of Personalized Education

Is this the future of student support?

There has been a lot of talk of late about learner analytics and the potential benefits in terms of tracking student performance and identifying and intervening where they are at risk of dropping out. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on a number of companies who are offering different forms of help to institutions:
613Supplement-EDTECH

This year students at Colorado State University will have their progress toward degrees tracked by technology from a company called CollegeSource. The likelihood of their encountering academic difficulty will be flagged for academic advisers and resident advisers by an online product from a company called Campus Labs. And they will receive text alerts about unsatisfactory grades via a mobile app from yet another ed-tech company, Ellucian. Students in three majors will also be assessed on their chances of succeeding in a course, on the basis of an analysis of data from thousands of previous Colorado State students who had earned the same grades, thanks to technology from the Education Advisory Board. Meanwhile, intercollegiate athletes who skip too many classes will be notified through Facebook by a company called GradesFirst that they’ve been scheduled for tutoring. And all these arrangements don’t even reflect an experiment in evaluating student progress in courses, using an analytics tool sold by Blackboard. The university ditched the experiment in the spring after realizing that professors weren’t using the learning-management system uniformly for that purpose.

While there is something quite cold and clinical about all of this, it nevertheless does offer the prospect of enabling universities better to support their students and to ensure that those most at risk of dropping out are provided with the assistance they need before it is too late.

These developments do seem inevitable as everyone looks to make more use of the student data they have and companies look to provide new and better tools for analysing it. Ultimately though all of this really does seem to offer the prospect of a significant improvement in student support.

 

Applying to uni via video

Better than qualifications?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting story on the use of videos in university applications. Whilst some institutions have been encouraging students to submit videos as supporting information, it seems at least one has now gone further and is offering students the opportunity to provide them as the primary selection tool:

Ever since George Mason University started inviting prospective students to send in videos as part of their application materials, Matthew P. Boyce, the interim admissions director there, has seen applicants try to prove their mettle in some odd ways.One young man wrote and performed a rap about why he wanted to go to the university, featuring a cameo by his grandma. Mr. Boyce recently watched footage of another candidate biting into an Indian “ghost pepper,” one of the world’s spiciest varieties. The footage was presented as evidence of the applicant’s resiliency. “It was kind of goofy,” says the admissions director, though certainly memorable.

All you need to apply to university

All you need to apply to university

George Mason is one of a handful of universities that, several years ago, gave prospective students the option of submitting short “video essays” as part of their applications.The videos were meant only as supplements to the required materials, which include standardized-test scores, grade-point averages, and recommendation letters. “It’s never going to make or break their admission to Mason,” says Mr. Boyce of the videos. Last week Goucher College announced that it was taking video submissions to the next level. Prospective students will have the option of making two-minute videos the centerpiece of an application to Goucher. If they submit a video, plus two samples of academic work, then they will not be required to send in a transcript or letter of recommendation.

Whilst the variety and opportunities for applicants may be seen as welcome it is difficult to imagine how it might be possible to ensure consistency and equity across a range of applications. Also it is not clear here what is being judged: originality, creativity, personality, film-making skills? All a bit tricky therefore and probably not something that is really going to take off.

Outsourcing student recruitment

Australian colleges trust to agents

Very surprised by this piece in @insidehighered which notes that agents have expanded their reach into domestic higher education recruitment in Australia:

When the Australian Skills Quality Authority examined 400 college websites during last year’s marketing audit, as many as 70 turned out to belong to brokerage firms rather than training providers.“It’s certainly quite a phenomenon now,” said Chris Robinson, the agency’s chief commissioner.

prolearn

A consultant, Claire Field, said marketing agents were particularly active in Queensland, mostly selling vocational diplomas. “With the higher education reforms, there’s no doubt we’ll see more activity,” she said.This is already happening, with high-flying Acquire Learning marketing degrees in ­accounting, arts, business, community services and information technology from Federation University and more than a dozen private colleges. Melbourne-based ProLearn recruits students for Victoria University’s graduate certificate in management.

 
While this does appear to be focused mainly on colleges and vocational qualifications there is some evidence of universities using such services too. Many UK institutions use agents for international recruitment but how long can it be before universities and colleges start using this kind of service for domestic student recruitment too?

Times and Sunday Times 2015 University League Table Top Placings

The Times and Sunday Times League Table 2015

A quick look at the top 25 in the all new Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide ranking for 2015. Full details can be found on the Sunday Times website (£). (Last year’s position in brackets.)

1= (1) Cambridge
1= (2) Oxford
3 (4) St Andrews
4 (5) Imperial
5 (3) LSE
6 (6) Durham
7 (8) Exeterrankings
8 (10) Warwick
9 (9) UCL
10 (7) Bath
11 (12=) Surrey
12 (12=) Lancaster
13 (21) Loughborough
14 (17) UEA
15 (16) Birmingham
16 (11) York
17 (29) Leeds
18 (20) Southampton
19 (15) Bristol
20 (14) Leicester
21 (18) Sheffield
22= (23) Nottingham
22= (18) Newcastle
22= (22) Edinburgh
25 (32) Sussex

This may be the first time there has been a tie for first place and it would, of course, be Oxford and Cambridge inseparable at the top of the table.

Warwick is the ‘University of the Year’.

Full details of the table including subject rankings were published in the Sunday Times on 21 September.

Excess Baggage

Luxury Transport for Students

Just land it in the quad

Just land it in the quad

Lots of coverage in the media for this new service offering Luxury Transport for Students. New students are urged to become VIFs – or Very Important Freshers – and take advantage of these new ways of getting to university:

We are stepping up the game, we are changing the way students travel to University and from September we will be offering the UKs first luxury student transport service.Freshers now have the option to travel to their first day on campus by luxurious and bespoke transport options, through the new ‘Very Important Fresher’ service.Transport options for Freshers to choose from include: a private jet or helicopter, Rolls Royce Phantom, a Mclaren P1, a Ferrari F430 and many others. All with the aim of providing an action-packed James Bond style expedition across the country, to arrive in style and make an entrance enviable of movie stars and premiership football players. Uni Baggage will also transport the students belongings separately so they have everything they need to start University.

It does seem like excellent publicity for a company which is aiming to sell its more mundane transport services to students. Will anyone take advantage of these VIF opportunities? Not many I suspect as none of this seems like a good way to make new friends in freshers’ week.

I’m tempted to book the horse and carriage…

Dialogue through technology

Dorm Room Diplomacy

 

Intrigued to learn about the activities of an organisation called Dorm Room Diplomacy which gets groups of students together from around the world, via videoconferencing, to engage in dialogue aimed at promoting greater international understanding:

croppedimage960300-DRD-Red-Group-Communities-Map

Founded by students at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, Dorm Room Diplomacy fosters intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding among an international group of university students. Dorm Room Diplomacy employs videoconference technology to facilitate virtual exchanges that help students to see the individuals behind reductionist cultural stereotypes.The videoconference program occurs each academic semester, and the same set of 8 students join in a virtual dialogue with a trained facilitator each week. Dorm Room Diplomacy is entirely student-run, encouraging students to take ownership over the dialogue process, establish campus chapters, and empower themselves and their peers. As a non-partisan organization, Dorm Room Diplomacy does not engage in political activities or advocacy, other than the promotion of intercultural dialogue.

Whilst the number of institutions involved is modest nevertheless it does seem like a valuable initiative. There are many other ways to engage in such dialogue both on campus and through international exchanges but this looks like a useful additional option.

Will Dorm Room Diplomacy take off? Time will tell.

True Crime on Campus §37: long hot summer

Even More True Crime on Campus

It may be summer but our always vigilant Security staff are still on duty to ensure that every unlikely situation is dealt with:

08:05 Security reported an altercation between a driver and a cyclist at the end of the road leading up to the West Entrance Gatehouse on University Park Campus. Security witnessed the driver of the vehicle give the cyclist a hard push, knocking the cyclist off his feet. The Security Officer at the Gatehouse then witnessed both parties coming to an agreement as they shook hands. The cyclist rode off from Campus and the driver came onto the Campus. Details of the vehicle registration were noted.

1526 Report of a person sleeping in Pope Building. Security attended and woke the person up. On speaking to the person they confirmed that they were a student and were tired.

10:45 Security received a complaint from the driver of the Jubilee Hopper bus to advise that the line painters had refused to move from the bus layby on Spine Road. The painting contractors advised that the bus driver hadn’t asked them to move and they couldn’t just stop working due to the equipment that they were using. The bus driver went up the kerb on an alternative route.

1030 Report of youths at the rear of the ETB throwing stones. Security attended – the area was checked the youths could not be located.

1125 Report that a Bus had struck one of the bridges connecting the L buildings with Coates Building. Security attended. The bridge was checked and found to be undamaged.

Fortunately, this didn't happen on this occasion

Fortunately, this didn’t happen on this occasion

0815, 1240 Report that a new wooden bench was on fire in Diamond Wood Sutton Bonington. Security attended and put the fire out. There are signs that the area had been used as a camp site the previous evening.

00:10 Security received a report from a resident at Hugh Stewart Hall that stones were being thrown at the windows. Security attended Hugh Stewart Hall and found two youths crouching near the windows facing the Main Visitor’s car park. No damage to windows recorded. Both youths informed Security that they were from the Summer School and staying at Lincoln Hall. Security escorted the youths back to Lincoln Hall and informed the Summer School Tutors of what had happened. Security to follow up.

00:10 Security discovered two green directional signs one “West Entrance” and the other “Trent Building” in the bushes at Hugh Stewart Hall. These signs were located in the same place as the youths throwing stones at the windows. Security to follow up and Helpdesk informed.

14:20 Security attended the Aspire building on Triumph Road Jubilee Campus after a report that a group of children were breaking the lights which illuminated the Aspire. On arrival it was confirmed that the light which is set into the ground had been broken. A group of teenagers were near the broken light and all denied being involved with the incident. Security have spoken to a witness of the incident and were informed that the male responsible for the damage had left the scene. Helpdesk informed. Police updated. Security to follow up.

1010 Report of a fault with a Kitchen extractor fan in Derby Hall Kitchens. Lilley’s called out. They stated that they would not attend as this is specialist equipment. The Estates Help Desk to be informed.

1531 Report of a male sawing the lock off a Pedal Cycle adjacent to Hallward Library. Uniformed and Covert Security Officers attended the male was stopped and spoken to. The male, a Student, had in fact been using a pump to blow up his tyres and not, as had been reported, sawing the lock off.

sign-44157_640

0250 Report that a deer had been seen on Beeston Lane. Security attended, the area was checked but the animal could not be located. Police were informed in case of traffic issues.

1740 Report of Conference Delegates at Jubilee Campus causing a nuisance to a Resident on Horston Drive. Security attended and caught a group of delegates from the Italian children’s conference causing a nuisance. Officers contacted the conference organiser who dealt with the children concerned.

1715 Report that a hot water tap would not turn off in the Play Centre. Security attended and turned off the water to the tap. Estates Help Desk to be informed.

2348 Report of mini insects in a room in Hall. The resident asked for Security to attend. On arrival Officers suggested that the student close the window.

Very good at hiding

Very good at hiding

2215 Report of a pigeon hiding behind a sofa in the Amenities Building Jubilee Campus. Security attended and the pigeon was removed from the Building.

And finally, one in which I have to declare a personal interest. Following an exciting weekend of den-building, my youngest daughter decided to involve her friends at the University play scheme in similar activity. Unfortunately, the results were misinterpreted:

19:00 Security reported 4 shelters that have been built using branches from a fallen tree in the wooded area at the front of Lenton Fields. It does not appear that the shelters have been used for anybody to sleep in. Security checked the area overnight. Helpdesk informed to make Grounds staff aware.

2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities: Top 20 and UK placings

2014 ARWU University World Rankings: Top 20 and UK placings

It feels like a strange time to publish a world ranking but ideal holiday reading for many.

Anyway, as in previous years there is not a huge amount to get excited about as this is a league table where little changes. The full rankings have been published and are now available at the ARWU website

As in many previous years there are really very few surprises and almost no movement in the top 20 with Harvard retaining the number 1 spot for the eighth successive year and everyone else just about unchanged too although MIT and Berkeley swap places inside the top 5. Overall there is very little movement in top 20 apart from the new entry of UCL in 20th place.

World
Rank
Institution* Country
/Region
National
Rank
Total
Score
Score onAlumni
Award
HiCi
N&S
PUB
PCP
1 Harvard University
1
100
100
2 Stanford University
2
72.1
41.8
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
3
70.5
68.4
4 University of California-Berkeley
4
70.1
66.8
5 University of Cambridge
1
69.2
79.1
6 Princeton University
5
60.7
52.1
7 California Institute of Technology
6
60.5
48.5
8 Columbia University
7
59.6
65.1
9 University of Chicago
8
57.4
61.4
9 University of Oxford
2
57.4
51
11 Yale University
9
55.2
48.8
12 University of California, Los Angeles
10
51.9
30.2
13 Cornell University
11
50.6
37.6
14 University of California, San Diego
12
49.3
19.7
15 University of Washington
13
48.1
21.7
16 University of Pennsylvania
14
47.1
32.4
17 The Johns Hopkins University
15
47
38.7
18 University of California, San Francisco
16
45.2
0
19 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
1
43.9
30.2
20 University College London
3
43.3
28.8

 

In terms of the UK placings, the only substantive changes are that Bristol and King’s swap places and Nottingham drops out of Top 100. Given the general stability of the table it is not entirely clear why this has happened.

World Rank
1
University of Cambridge 5
2
University of Oxford 9
3
University College London 20
4
The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine 22
5
The University of Manchester 38
6
The University of Edinburgh 45
7
King’s College London 59
8
University of Bristol 63
9-17
Cardiff University 101-150
9-17
London School of Economics and Political Science 101-150
9-17
The University of Glasgow 101-150
9-17
The University of Sheffield 101-150
9-17
University of Birmingham 101-150
9-17
University of Leeds 101-150
9-17
University of Liverpool 101-150
9-17
University of Nottingham 101-150
9-17
University of Southampton 101-150
18-20
University of East Anglia 151-200
18-20
University of Sussex 151-200
18-20
University of Warwick 151-200

Anyway, much summer fun to be had analysing this data.

More on Beyoncé and Ghostbusting courses

The Telegraph seems to have a bit of a thing about courses featuring popular music and musicians. Especialy Beyoncé.
beyepic

Recently they published this story about Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus studies being offered at US colleges:

It will focus on the growth of the star’s media empire, with an emphasis on her roles as a “black icon” and sex symbol while managing a successful marriage, to rapper Jay-Z, and motherhood.As part of the programme, students will tackle literature by black, feminist writers such as bell hooks and the abolitionist Sojourner Truth.Also this week, Skidmore College, a liberal arts institution in Saratoga Springs, upstate New York, will offer a course on “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” focusing on the former child star turned pop temptress.

I posted here about this at the beginning of 2012 and made reference to a number of other seemingly bonkers courses too:

A post last year summarised the latest position in the provision of bonkers degrees and earlier items covered similar ground including a zombie course at the University of Baltimore and a course covering Lady Gaga. Also we previously looked here at the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies as well as offering a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees. Most recently there was, shockingly, an MA in horror and transgression at Derby.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has another piece on Beyoncé studies etc (described as ‘nonsense’ courses) which also includes this one featuring the paranormal:

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters_logoCoventry University apparently. Psychology lecturer Tony Lawrence set up a Psychology of Exceptional Human Experiences course to teach students how to chase poltergeists, talk to the dead and understand telepathy.

All useful skills indeed, and students have the added bonus of being able to re-watch Ghostbusters films as part of their curriculum.

And, to prove that none of this is actually nonsense, the Telegraph also refers to a Robin Hood themed offering at the University of Nottingham.

Spy kids

GCHQ accredits UK master’s degrees for ‘cyber spies’

Like real spies. Only better educated.

Like real spies. Only better educated.

 

 
Was very much taken by this thrilling news.

Of course we have had Professional Body accreditation for many years and more recently courses supported by Asda and other supermarkets. But this is a little bit different. Not least in the sense that GCHQ is not exactly analagous to an accrediting Professional Body. Or indeed a supermarket.

As BBC News observes this is actually part of a wider government strategy:
 

The degrees form part of the UK’s cyber security strategy published in 2011. The strategy recognised that education was key to improving defences against hackers and online fraud. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said internet cyber security was a “crucial part” of the government’s long-term plan for the British economy. He said the courses would help to make the “UK one of the safest places in the world to do business online”. He said: “Through the excellent work of GCHQ, in partnership with other government departments, the private sector and academia, we are able to counter threats and ensure together we are stronger and more aware. “UK universities were invited to submit their master’s degree courses for certification.The universities now running GCHQ-approved programmes in cyber security are Edinburgh Napier University, Lancaster University, the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway, University of London. GCHQ has also given provisional accreditation to Cranfield University’s cyber defence and information assurance course, and the University of Surrey’s information security course. A spokesman for GCHQ said the universities “were judged to provide well-defined and appropriate content, delivered to the highest standard”.

Of course you don’t actually apply for these courses. If they want you, they will find you.

It also reminded me of this very recent post on a new book by @DavidDuncan64 about a retired agent who becomes a Registrar.

It’s all getting a bit exciting in the world of higher education, isn’t it?

Mobile students

Student mobility in and out of the UK

The British Council has produced this nice graphic on student mobility in and out of the UK:

vis

This new interactive animation shows how the UK as a provider and host of internationally mobile students has evolved over recent years. From 2002 onwards differences in gender, age, level and disciplines studied are displayed for incoming students.The data has been sourced mainly from the Higher Education Statistics Authority and UNESCO Institute for Statistics

It’s fascinating to see the change of patterns of mobility over time and there are several different dimensions to play with. The huge growth in international student recruitment and the shift from European nations to Asia is impressive to watch.

 

Video game scholarships

League of Legends becomes a varsity sport

League_of_legends_logo_transparent

Inside Higher Ed has a story about an Illinois university which has decided to make ‘League of Legends’ a varsity sport and award a number of scholarships to boot:

In the latest blow to the nerd-jock distinction, an Illinois university has added video games to its varsity sports lineup.Robert Morris University-Illinois, a 7,000-student private institution with its main campus in Chicago, announced this month that it would incorporate eSports – organized video-game competitions – into its athletic program. Starting in September, League of Legends players will join hockey goalies, quarterbacks and point guards as varsity athletes at the Chicago campus. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.League of Legends is an online multiplayer battle-arena video game. More than 27 million people play it each day, according to Riot Games, which developed the game.The Chicago-based university, which has no affiliation with Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, is the first institution in the country to assign varsity status to a video game.The university plans to offer between 45 and 50 athletic scholarships to incoming gamers, said Kurt Melcher, the university’s associate athletic director. The scholarships will pay for 50 percent of tuition and 50 percent of room and board for members of the League of Legends team.

I must admit I’m not familiar with this particular game but it does seem rather exciting:

whatislol-intro

League of Legends is a fast-paced, competitive online game that blends the speed and intensity of an RTS with RPG elements. Two teams of powerful champions, each with a unique design and playstyle, battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields and game modes. With an ever-expanding roster of champions, frequent updates and a thriving tournament scene, League of Legends offers endless replayability for players of every skill level.

Still not sure that this quite fits with university sports environment or that video games count as sport. Or indeed that the university will find any other university to play against.

Graduation 2014: Latest

Updates from the Ceremonial Front Line

I recently provided a summary of a series of posts related to graduation (reproduced below):

  1. A recent post on graduation challenges including Decanal difficulties with names and a failed graduand backflip.
  2. The surprising news that swimming was not part of graduation requirements any more for one US university.
  3. The differences between a US-style Commencement and a graduation.
  4. The strange ceremonial use for a weapon at graduation – the place of the mace.
  5. And finally, Graduation as being all a bit lovely like London 2012 (if we can remember that far back).

Since then though there has been the annual Serious or Celeb Honorary Graduates post (mostly celeb as it happens) featuring some real stars such as this fine chap:

Puffed up? Moi?

He worked VERY hard for his honorary


but the key issue I felt I needed to address was this surprising news from China. The Independent reports that thousands of female graduates across China have ditched the traditional mortar board in favour of wedding dresses:

Will it catch on?

Will it catch on?

Unlike Britain, where ingrained traditions of tearful parents, gowned lecturers and celebrity speakers are all part of graduation day, in China there are fewer set in stone traditions and this has given birth to new ideas and rituals, including the wearing of wedding dresses.During this summer’s graduation ceremonies, more and more of China’s female graduates have been adorning white gowns and tiaras to pose for the all-important graduation photo.According to Liu Xiangping a student from Xi’an Polytechnic University in central China “The wedding dress makes things feel more meaningful.”

Whilst I have yet to see anyone in a wedding dress cross our platform, there have been a disturbing number of examples of this latest fashion:

Highly questionable garb

Highly questionable garb

I’m eagerly awaiting news of other graduation developments this year.

Singalonga Higher Ed

Lyrical challenges at the University of Utah

 

Inside Higher Ed has a diverting piece on the changes being made to the University of Utah’s ‘fight song’ to address some of the lyrical challenges of the original:

The line “our coeds are the fairest” will be replaced with “our students are the finest” and the line “no other gang of college men” will now be “no rival band of college fans.” A further complication is that the song has been called “A Utah Man.” From now on it will be called “A Utah Man/Fan.

 

The Official Athletic Site of the University of Utah has the original lyrics in full:

 

VERSE
I am a Utah man, sir, and I live across the green.
Our gang, it is the jolliest that you have ever seen.
Our coeds are the fairest and each one’s a shining star.
Our yell, you hear it ringing through the mountains near and far.

utah-logoCHORUS
Who am I, sir? A Utah man am I A Utah man, sir, and will be till I die; Ki!Yi!
We’re up to snuff; we never bluff,
We’re game for any fuss,
No other gang of college men
dare meet us in the muss.
So fill your lungs and sing it out and
shout it to the sky,
We’ll fight for dear old Crimson,
for a Utah man am I.

VERSE
And when we prom the avenue, all lined up in a row,
And arm in arm and step in time as down the street we go.
No matter if a freshman green, or in a senior’s gown,
The people all admit we are the warmest gang in town.

CHORUS

VERSE
We may not live forever on this jolly good old sphere,
But while we do we’ll live a life of merriment and cheer,
And when our college days are o’er and night is drawing nigh,
With parting breath we’ll sing that song:
“A Utah Man Am I”.

 
It’s rather quaint in a way but probably needs to be retired rather than edited in this way. I must admit though to being intrigued by the idea of a university having a ‘fight song’. I can understand football teams having songs (see for example this classic which is in a similar vein to the Utah song) but universities?

Anyway, it seems this kind of thing is not as unusual as I had thought as Mike Ratcliffe (@mike_rat) kindly pointed out with this wonderful extract from the Leeds University Song Book from 1922:

Leeds song

 

More recently we have the following, a song produced a few years ago about ‘The student learning experience at Nottingham University’. Not a fight song but certainly offensive in parts:

Any other university songs?

It’s graduation time again

It’s gown and mortar board season

grads

Students are required practice this for months before graduation

Having realised that I’ve written quite a few posts on graduation in the past, and being short of something new to say as our graduation season kicks off this week, I thought I would bring together a few recent pieces on this most special of university occasions. So, here they are, in an artificially generated order, my top 5 graduation posts of the past couple of years:

  1. A very recent post on graduation challenges including Decanal difficulties with names and a failed graduand backflip.
  2. The surprising news that swimming was not part of graduation requirements any more for one US university.
  3. The differences between a US-style Commencement and a graduation.
  4. The strange ceremonial use for a weapon at graduation – the place of the mace.
  5. And finally, Graduation as being all a bit lovely like London 2012 (if we can remember that far back).

So, do hope that keeps everyone going until I have something more original to offer.