Thursday, February 28, 2013

OVAE 2013 Community College Webinar Series

2013 Community College Webinar Series
Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE)
U.S. Department of Education

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), is hosting a series of community college webinars in 2013 to highlight the important work of these institutions and the many contributions they make to the communities they serve. Each webinar will bring together experts from the field and local practitioners to discuss some of the key challenges these institutions face and highlight promising institutional practices and policy changes from around the country that aim to increase postsecondary student success.
The first webinar, which will be held on Thursday, March 7 from 1:00 to 2:30pm EST, will focus on transforming adult education to better prepare adult learners to successfully transition to postsecondary education and training. Barbara Endel from Jobs for the Future will be present to discuss the work of the Accelerating Opportunity initiative in scaling up its adult education reform model that integrates ABE and postsecondary occupational training.  Judy Alamprese from Abt Associates will also share key findings from her recent study on transforming reading instruction in adult education programs to better prepare adult learners for the demands of college-level coursework.  The webinar will also highlight the work of LaGuardia Community College to build bridge programs that ease the transition of students from ABE and GED programs to postsecondary education and training.

 You can register for this event at the following link:
The webinar series will continue this spring, focusing on topics such as promising community college correctional and reentry education work, the strengths and challenges of the U.S. postsecondary CTE system, and the role of community colleges in career pathways systems, among others.  More information is forthcoming.  We look forward to your engagement on these important issues affecting the adult education, career and technical education, and community college communities.

If you have any questions regarding the webinar series, please contact Matthew Valerius in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education:
Matthew Valerius
Education Program Specialist, Community College Initiatives
Presidential Management Fellow
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Vocational and Adult Education
Direct: (202) 245-7859

Contact Us

AAC&U Summer Institute in Portland


Institute on Integrative Learning and the Departments
Faculty Leadership for the 21st Century

July 10-14, 2013
Portland State University
Portland, Oregon

through March 15, 2013
AAC&U's Institute on Integrative Learning and the Departments is intended for colleges and universities interested in building faculty and departmental leadership for advancement of Essential Learning Outcomes—knowledge of multiple disciplines, inquiry and critical thinking, personal and social responsibility, civic learning, global knowledge and skills, and particularly, integrative and applied learning. Today, college graduates must be able to integrate and apply disciplinary and cross-disciplinary learning in new contexts as they seek better and more responsible solutions to problems encountered in work and in society. The Institute is designed to help colleges ensure that their graduates have these capacities.
Teams applying to the Institute each propose an educational change project specific to their individual institutions, and commit to develop and support faculty leadership for student learning. Teams will leave the Institute having developed action plans for achieving their specific goals. Expert faculty and other teams will provide initial feedback on the plans at the Institute.
Learn more about the Institute on Integrative Learning and the Departments at
For additional information, contact Kathryn Angeles at (202) 884-7413 or e-mail


The registration fee for the Institute covers room, most meals, tuition, materials, and access to the faculty consultants. Meals begin with breakfast on Thursday, July 11 and continue through breakfast on Sunday, July 14. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, July 10, 11 and 12, dinner is “on your own” so that participants can sample the excellent restaurants in the Portland area.

  • $6,900 per five-member team from AAC&U member institutions
  • $7,700 per five-member team from AAC&U non-member institutions

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Elizabeth Falconer, Renton Technical College

Taking part in an online course - whether as a student or teacher – is like suddenly being asked to take care of someone else’s three-year old. A very rambunctious three-year-old.  And even though it may have seemed easy enough when you agreed, it demands far more attention that you could ever have imagined.  All day long, as you attempt to carry on with the rest of your life it interrupts what you are doing and tosses toys at you and needs to be fed.  It may play quietly for a few minutes, but only temporarily. As soon as you try to put it down for a nap, it starts wailing uncontrollably. And at night, when you have checked in on it for what you swear will be the last time and are quietly tip-toeing away so that you can have a few moments to yourself before you too must get some sleep, it jumps up again and asks for a glass of water.  Or says it has to go to the bathroom. Or follows you to wherever you are and just stands there staring at you.

You took the “babysitting” test for online learning/teaching and easily passed: Yes I am self-motivated, Yes I like to communicate in written form, Yes I can organize my schedule, Yes I can meet deadlines.  But what you realize as the course progresses is that they meant all those things CONTINUOUSLY and NOW.  Of course you like to write, but not when everyone else has already said what you wanted to say in the discussion forum. Of course you can meet deadlines, but not when they are so relentlessly continuing to come into your inbox so that you hardly have time to check your other email.  If you are the teacher it’s worse; even if you spend countless hours setting up a course up so that you only have to check in once a day, the unforeseen questions and little fixes you must make come fast and furious. You were SO wrong about that.   

You knew you’d need to allow “space” in your schedule – but how can anyone allow this much space in their schedule? If you are already parenting, this three-year-old is added on top of everything else, and doesn’t play well with your own kids. If you are done parenting, you remember how much energy it took, and wonder if you have what it takes. And if you’re not a parent yet…take this as an example of what it feels like.

You must give in and give yourself over to this demanding three-year-old. You must abandon the rest of your life, sit down on the floor with the blocks and the grimy toys and engage with that kid who is driving you crazy. You must suspend all judgment on whether you want the kid in your life or not and just resign yourself to the diapers and feedings and unreasonable demands.  You must extinguish all thoughts of despair and give yourself to whatever it takes to please this time-consuming toddler that has inserted itself into your life.  There is no other way to succeed.

It is not until you have finally given up half of the rest of your life; goodbye relaxed meals, extended phone calls, Facebook and any and all superfluous semi-or-actual online addictions, that the course comes into focus. You start to respond to posts and in your response realize that you have offered something worthwhile.  A light goes one when you are plodding through a reading, and an important connection is made in someone else’s comment.  You watch a video made by someone like you and feel deeply inspired.  You struggle with the glitches in the system and doing the assignments and in doing so become increasingly more computer-literate; finding workarounds, discovering amazing sites, piecing together new ideas and information from the blossoms of knowledge that your fingertips and keyboard bring to you.  

Slowly, you realize it’s worth it.  It’s worth the late-night feedings, the messy email inbox, and the constant demands for attention. It’s worth giving up parts of your life you thought you couldn’t give up.  You start to make it work; being part of an online course.  You strap that kid into a car seat, put it in a baby pack on your back, and take it everywhere. You sit down and play with it every day. You actually start to brag about it; how interesting and fun it is, and your friends frown in bewilderment and stare at you hard because two weeks ago you were a shamble in tears.

Hold on to your binkie. You have now become an active member of the messy, edgy, furiously fast, extremely exacerbating, being-made-as-you-watch, overwhelmingly global world of online education.



Liz Falconer is Curriculum and Technology Specialist at Renton Technical College and is currently in a love-hate relationship with the internet. Her blog can be found at

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Access and Completion

Joe Stiglitz' recent article about equality of opportunity raises an important tension in the realm of higher ed. I'm very conflicted myself. On the one hand, there's something worthwhile about driving down costs in order to increase access so that any potential student, regardless of income, can afford to better their life prospects through education. After all, access to higher ed is the great leveler in our society. As Stiglitz suggests though, this isn't working as it once was. Indeed I fear that the lower cost version of higher education will be an inferior one, and yet financed entirely through student loans which don't have nearly the same return on investment when not coupled with the social capital one earns from a more traditional higher education. I fear that real access--the kind that allows equal opportunity for anyone from any background--is getting drowned under the weight of the completion agenda that virtually screams that the real issue is completion as if we've somehow solved the access problem. But access is a problem and has become an even greater problem since the financial collapse of 2008 that has lead to state governments shifting more of the costs of higher education onto students. Yet those students confront a job environment in which it is difficult to land the kind of higher paying job that has been promised to college graduates and which are necessary to pay back all those student loans. Completion is important, and I support it. Equal access is important though too, and I hope that all the focus on completion doesn't leave us with different tiers of access. After all, different qualitative access to higher education may lead to a society that doesn't genuinely promote equality of opportunity, at least not to the level that I'd think is socially optimal. Instead, we could almost unwittingly end up supporting government policies that merely perpetuate the trends that already reward those with privilege and influence. 

High-Impact Educational Practices


Excerpt from High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter, by George D. Kuh (AAC&U, 2008)

Chart of High-Impact Practices (pdf)

High-Impact Educational Practices: A Brief Overview

The following teaching and learning practices have been widely tested and have been shown to be beneficial for college students from many backgrounds. These practices take many different forms, depending on learner characteristics and on institutional priorities and contexts.

On many campuses, assessment of student involvement in active learning practices such as these has made it possible to assess the practices’ contribution to students’ cumulative learning. However, on almost all campuses, utilization of active learning practices is unsystematic, to the detriment of student learning. Presented below are brief descriptions of high-impact practices that educational research suggests increase rates of student retention and student engagement. The rest of this publication will explore in more detail why these types of practices are effective, which students have access to them, and, finally, what effect they might have on different cohorts of students.
Read the full article on the AAC&U website...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dept. of Education Online College Scorecard Launched

By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
Twitter: @keisterpbn
Posted 2/14/13
PROVIDENCE – The U.S. Department of Education has released an interactive online College Scorecard as part of President Barack Obama’s efforts to hold colleges accountable for cost, value and quality.
The College Affordability and Transparency Center College Scorecard was released following President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this week during which he highlighted the plight taxpayers’ face in subsidizing higher education costs and urging that colleges must work harder to keep costs manageable.
The scorecard is meant to provide a snapshot of an institution’s cost and value to help families make decisions during the college search and application process.

Read the full story...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We're adding a new approach to the blog starting this month; in addition to the periodic news and links to resources and events of interest that I hope will continue, we plan to have a small group of occasional guest bloggers share their personal perspectives--speaking for and representing themselves, not their institutions--on various topics of interest related to assessment, teaching and learning issues in higher education. I hope these postings will become opportunities for our ATL community to engage in collegial discourse and debate about the issues and questions raised, rather than random and unsupported rants (as is too often the case in web comments, unfortunately). Anyway, let's try it and see how it goes!


Whose Agenda Is This Anyway?
Kennie Lawson

I just returned from the annual Achieving the Dream conference that was held this past week in Anaheim. There were roughly 1600 registered participants. That's pretty impressive and, in general, the purpose of the conference is laudable. After all, AtD seeks to assist institutions deliver on the promise of a higher education, particularly for low-income students and students of color. In spite of the good intention, however, there's always something that has left me a little uneasy about Achieving the Dream, particularly to the extent that it is allied with and become a focal point for the “completion agenda.” (For a more careful critique of the completion agenda, this volume of the AACU's Liberal Education is a good start.) It's true that completion of degrees and certificates can lead to higher earnings. No serious person is against that. Yet there are several things that tend to give me pause. First, there is something underlying those degrees and certificates that seems lost in the vocabulary and focus of the proponents of the completion agenda. That something is the student learning that is antecedent to the awarding of those degrees or certificates and really, at heart, has to be the true purpose of higher education. If the goal is simply a degree, that can be achieved easily enough by just printing the things and handing them out to whomever wants one. Of course, advocates of increasing completion rates tend readily to agree that quality of learning should neither be diminished nor sacrificed in the effort to get more students to complete. Yet saying it and actually paying attention to it in a serious, purposeful way are different things. If the focus was the "learning agenda" and ensuring that students were supported and successful in that endeavor, I think the focus would be on the proper object. I'll leave it at that for now, but it's a theme I tend to want to come back to and no doubt will in the future.  Second, the value of learning (and a degree or certificate) isn't just in the increased earnings, or so my intuition--and my own experience--tells me. Part of the value of higher education is in the confidence and skills it provides to recipients to enjoy life and to participate in it in a meaningful way. Not to be too cliché, but education is empowerment, and not just related to the empowerment that comes along with higher earning power. In my opinion, Achieving the Dream and other organizations that seek to increase completion rates could benefit from adopting this latter frame a little more frequently and intentionally because, ultimately, that leads us back to this fundamental, underlying promise of obtaining a higher education in the first place.

Kenneth Lawson serves as the Vice President for Instruction at Skagit Valley College. Prior to that he was Dean for Humanities and Social Sciences at Seattle Central Community College. Earlier in his career, Dr.  Lawson (or “Kenny” as his friends call him) was a faculty member at Shoreline Community College, where he taught political science and international studies. He is interested in educational policy and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, particularly learning communities and service-learning. Word on the street is that he enjoys listening to loud, classic country twang and playing “age-appropriate” basketball.

What is Core to College?

Retrieved from on February 12, 2013:

What is Core to College?
Core to College is a multi-state grant initiative designed to promote strong collaboration between higher education and the K-12 sectors in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments. In ten grantee states – Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington – Core to College is helping states drive higher levels of alignment and collaboration to achieve greater college readiness with financial resources, technical assistance and evaluation support.

How will Core to College Make an Impact?

Core to College has a number of intended state-level outcomes. Each grantee state has identified its own specific activities that support the following:
  • Establishing a statewide definition of college readiness.
  • Creating the conditions that lead to the adoption by post-secondary institutions of the CCSS assessments as a determinant of a student’s readiness for credit-bearing course enrollment.
  • Promoting greater K-12/post-secondary sector alignment around the CCSS in areas including, but not limited to:
    • Academic courses and sequences
    • Data and accountability
    • Teacher development (including both pre-service and in-service)

What are Core to College States Doing?

Core to College grantees have developed a number of strategies and activities to meet their goals:
Convenings. All ten states are hosting trainings and convenings to foster connections between K-12 educators and leaders and post-secondary faculty and administrators. These are occurring at various levels – state, regional and local.
Dedicated Staff. All grantee states have hired an Alignment Director to add critical cross-sector capacity and drive the collaborative work forward.
Communications. States are developing communications plans to create and disseminate information about the Common Core State Standards and assessments, and how these new tools will improve college readiness and college completion in their state.
Data Activities. The grantee states plan to gather, analyze and distribute information about student transitions and preparedness to ensure that collaboration and initiatives are supported by outcomes data; in some cases, states will be collecting and sharing post-secondary student outcomes with high schools in their state.
Core to College is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors with funding from the Lumina Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. WestEd will conduct an independent evaluation of the project. Education First is the project manager and oversees the Core to College Learning Network. For more information contact Anand Vaishnav at
For information on Core-to-College in Washington State, contact Bill Moore

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Coursera/GT Course Offers Lessons in MOOC Logistics

From Wired Campus:

Georgia Tech and Coursera Try to Recover From MOOC Stumble

February 4, 2013, 3:49 pm
When Fatimah Wirth decided to teach a massive open online course about how to run a virtual classroom successfully, she did not expect it to turn into a case study for the opposite.
But after a series of design flaws and technical glitches turned Ms. Wirth’s MOOC, “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application,” into an Internet punch line, the instructional designer and her colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology decided on Saturday to suspend the course.
Read full story...