Category Archives: Faculty (higher ed)

USA Today: Colleges and universities obsess more about school rankings than do students

USA Today reports:

When U.S. News & World Report debuted its list of “America’s Best Colleges” nearly 30 years ago, the magazine hoped its college rankings would be a game-changer for students and families. But arguably, they’ve had a much bigger effect on colleges themselves…

Yes, students and families still buy the guide and its less famous competitors by the hundreds of thousands, and still care about a college’s reputation. But it isn’t students who obsess over every incremental shift on the rankings scoreboard, and who regularly embarrass themselves in the process. It’s colleges…

…While U.S. News cross-checks some data with other sources, it relies largely on colleges themselves to provide it. Modest forms of fudging through data selection are undeniably common, especially in law school rankings. The most high-profile case of outright cheating involved Iona University in New York, which acknowledged last fall submitting years of false data that boosted its ranking from around 50th in its category to 30th.

But most rankings critics say by far the most pernicious failure of colleges isn’t blatant cheating, but what they do more openly — allowing the rankings formula to drive their goals and policies.

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Despite often poor job prospects, college students seek out ‘easy’ majors

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Time will tell if the poor job market persuaded more students to push into disciplines such as engineering and science. Although the number of college graduates increased about 29% between 2001 and 2009, the number graduating with engineering degrees only increased 19%, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Education. The number with computer and information-sciences degrees decreased 14%. Since students typically set their majors during their sophomore year, the first class that chose their major in the midst of the recession graduated this year.

Research has shown that graduating with these majors provides a good foundation not just for so-called STEM jobs, or those in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, but a whole range of industries where earnings expectations are high. Business, finance and consulting firms, as well as most health-care professions, are keen to hire those who bring quantitative skills and can help them stay competitive.

College presidents report high rates of plagiarism among students, new survey finds

TIME Magazine reports:

A new survey from the Pew Research Center [entitled] “The Digital Revolution and Higher Education,” asked 1,055 college presidents from two- to four-year schools, private and public for their thoughts on how digital technology has impacted college.

More than half of the college presidents surveyed said that plagiarism in students’ paper has increased over the past 10 years. Further, an overwhelming majority — 89 percent — say computers and the Internet have played a major role in the rise in stealing others work and claiming it as their own.

New research into college students’ in-class laptop computer use

Inside Higher Ed reports:

College students might sometimes feel they are getting mixed messages about laptops. Many receive them for free or at a discount from their colleges, only to have professors banish the machines from their classrooms, or at least complain about them.

For years, researchers have conducted studies in hopes of answering whether having laptops in class undermines student learning…

Tere is one notable consistency that spans the literature on laptops in class: most researchers obtained their data by surveying students and professors.

The authors of two recent studies of laptops and classroom learning decided that relying on student and professor testimony would not do. They decided instead to spy on students…

Both of the studies mentioned in the Inside Higher Ed article are available online. The Kraushaar & Novak paper is here (PDF) and the Sovern paper is here (PDF).

At the college level, does the teaching method matter more than the teacher?

The Associated Press (via the Washington Post) reports:

A study by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, now a science adviser to President Barack Obama, suggests that how you teach is more important than who does the teaching.

He found that in nearly identical classes, Canadian college students learned a lot more from teaching assistants using interactive tools than they did from a veteran professor giving a traditional lecture. The students who had to engage interactively using the TV remote-like devices scored about twice as high on a test compared to those who heard the normal lecture, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

The research study, by Carl Weiman of the U. of British Columbia, is available here (subscription required).

Ten state attorneys general join together to investigate for-profit colleges

I’ve posted many times in the past on the alleged malfeasance of some for-profit colleges (see this post from 2010, or this other post from earlier this year).

Now, the Huffington Post reports:

Top prosecutors in 10 states have convened a joint investigation into potential violations of consumer protection laws by for-profit colleges, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D), who is leading the multi-state effort, said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

The combined investigation only began within the past two months, but it comes after several state attorneys general launched individual probes of deceptive recruiting practices and possible misrepresentations to recruits regarding federal financial aid dollars.

How are new technologies impacting literacy?

The Denver Post reports:

Today’s teens have grown up zooming among hyperlinks in cyberspace and conversing in an online world of Twitter and text messaging where acronyms, assorted shortcuts and creative punctuation have redefined everyday discourse…

Experts figure that kids today read and write even more than previous generations. And they do so in a broader and more complex environment — though not always in academic ways.

The fire hose of online content, plus evolving media platforms, present new challenges for students — and teachers rushing to keep up with technology — as 21st-century literacies blend with traditional skills.

“I’m not going to say it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” says Elizabeth Kleinfeld, assistant professor of English at Metropolitan State College of Denver. “But it’s a thing for sure, and we have to deal with it in our classrooms, in our workplaces and in our relationships.”

Read the full article at the Denver Post website.