Grand Challenges for tough-to-solve problems have been documented in higher education as far back as 1906. Earlier this year, EDUCAUSE issued a number of Grand Challenges for Higher Education that their leadership believed could be solved through a digital transformation.
Over the weekend, I watched college and NFL football. The scenes of fans in the stands for Saturday’s televised college football games were as interesting as the scenes from the field. While it was clear that social distancing and masks had been mandated, it was also clear that more than a few did not take it seriously.
Recently, I was interviewed by Dr. Bjorn Mercer, Program Director for Communication, Philosophy, Religion, World Languages and the Arts, in the School of Arts and Humanities. In a podcast that appeared on the university blog “Online Learning Tips,” we discussed COVID-19’s health risks to students, faculty, and staff; the economic impact of COVID-19 on institutions of higher learning; and why so many colleges and universities are at great risk of closing.
Paraphrasing from political strategist James Carville’s famous line, “It’s the economy, stupid!”, I thought it would be appropriate to explain the reason that a significant number of traditional colleges and universities announced plans to return to campus this fall, instead of continuing with online courses for at least another semester or two.
In the latest issue of the Educause Review, Educause researchers Susan Grajek and D. Christopher Brooks write that Grand Challenges should be issued to encourage institutions to solve some of the biggest issues in higher education and that a digital transformation could be the best way to solve those challenges. For the uninitiated, a Grand Challenge “describes desired outcomes to problems that are extremely difficult (but not impossible) to solve and that are widespread, if not global, in scope.”
With the likelihood of most colleges and universities teaching the fall — and perhaps spring — semesters online, it’s clear that many educational institutions will improve over their improvised performances in the spring of 2020. There are many people, including me, who are writing about the financial distress due to room and board refunds and lower enrollments due to freshmen taking a gap year and international students choosing to not visit the U.S. for a potential online college experience. Based on my 18 years of experience in online higher education, I think there are opportunities for colleges and universities that survive financially.
In an article published by Brookings, authors Steven Hemelt and Kevin Stange report that their analysis suggests that moving classes online is unlikely to reduce instructional costs. According to the authors (who are associate professors of public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan, respectively), evidence on the relationship between online coursework and costs is sparse, and the evidence on how online instruction differs by program and field is largely nonexistent.
This week, I moved one of my daughters from her off-campus apartment with an expiring lease to the apartment that she selected for this year. Next week, the same transition will occur with her sister, but at another university in another city. The plans were made and leases signed in January before anyone knew what havoc the pandemic would wreak on their campuses and college campuses nationwide.
In my previous post, I wrote that I needed some time to consider the construct of Professor Galloway’s risk/rating system. While there are multiple datapoints and calculations, there are two key calculations, the Value to Cost Ratio and the Vulnerability Score, that comprise the X axis and Y axis of his ranking system.