The Sky Isn’t Falling

Career College Central summary:

  • Education technology can help higher education up its game. But adaptive learning, digital badges and free online courses don’t spell doom for colleges. And plenty of yeomanlike work needs to be done before those innovations can reach their potential. Those were common messages at two recent higher ed conferences: the annual meeting of the American Council on Education here this week and, somewhat surprisingly, at last week’s SXSWedu in Austin.
  • According to an unscientific sampling of sessions at the two gatherings, some of the soaring “disruption” rhetoric was ditched for nuts-and-bolts talk about how registrars, financial aid administrators and regulators are dealing with colleges’ experimentation.
  • At the meeting here of the council (the main national association of college presidents), for example, one panel looked at how to improve the conventional transcript, such as through the inclusion of competencies.
  • If there is resistance to competency-based education, Aaron Brower, interim provost and vice chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Extension said during the session, it’s not coming primarily from faculty members. “It’s the registrars,” he said, who are “trying to figure how you manage these crazy transcripts.”
  • Some of the shift in tone about education technology at the two meetings was intentional. SXSWedu is a subsidiary of South By Southwest, a hipsterish film and music festival with associated conferences on tech startups and environmental issues. In its fourth year, the education gathering featured more discussions about higher education than in more K-12-focused past iterations.

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