​HigherEd Year in Review: What We’ve Learned (and Loved) in Our First 365 Days

​HigherEd Year in Review: What We’ve Learned (and Loved) in Our First 365 Days

A new President. Lost music legends. Planet discoveries. Brexit. A lot happens in a year—especially these past 12 months. More personal celebrations matter, too—which is why we’re thrilled that EdSurge HigherEd is celebrating its first anniversary. As a result, we’re pausing to reflect on what we’ve learned from our work, yes, from our readers. (Hint: That’s why last week, we asked you for some direct feedback on how we’re doing.)

So, what have we gleaned? First the numbers: In the past year, we have published more than 300 articles about the shifting trends in higher ed, education technology and digital learning. More than 900 institutions (one out of five in the U.S.) now subscribe to our newsletter, Next. Nearly half of you told us that we’re your top source for higher education news (thank you!) and almost 90 percent of you say you’ll forward our newsletter along to a pal. Pass it on!

At the same time, we know we have some work to do. Almost one-third of you told us our content is too text-heavy. (“Add some graphics, EdSurge!”) We hear you loud and clear—look out for some stylistic changes to Next over the coming months.

As we continue to grow, we’re eager to continue hearing your feedback. What do you want more of? Whose voices are we missing? Don’t be a stranger in year two—here’s the team below (plus each of our favorite articles so far) to help break the ice. 

Allison Salisbury: Here at EdSurge we’ve watched and admired as groups from Student Voice to Young Invincibles grow in power and visibility, emboldening students to speak up and speak out. In 2016 we added one of our own to the mix: EdSurge Independent. Our aim is to amplify the voices of students from all backgrounds to shape how higher education is evolving. What’s my favorite EdSurge HigherEd article? It’s not just one, but rather it’s a collection of work by students on what they think of innovations in higher ed.

Renee Franzwa: When asked to pick my favorite article, my mind (ears?) went straight to our podcast, which has had a fresh resurgence with the last year of higher education reporting through our newsletter, Next. The interview, “Why U. of Michigan’s President Says Universities Should Work to Transform Teaching, really hit home. Discovering MOOCs in 2012 lit a fire under me. I left my position running university internships abroad and went head first into the edtech world. It’s a topic that consistently drives lively debate, and the conversation between Michigan’s president Mark Schlissel and EdSurge reporter Jeff Young does not disappoint! 

Betsy Corcoran: I’m really proud of the work that the HigherEd team has done this year, and of all the people who have contributed pieces as well. Picking favorites—oh, how can you? But at least as a story line, I continue to be intrigued by the assortment of post-high school options that are beginning to emerge: There are the iconoclasts, such as MissionU, which Jeff Young just profiled; immersive coding bootcamps, nicely captured by then-student Rex Salisbury and Marguerite McNeal’s smart take on why Northeastern University plunged into bootcamps; and our overall take on the “skilling up economy.” There will be plenty of twists ahead in how we learn after high school; I’m excited that we’ll keep following this thread. 

Seth Greenberg: My most formative learning experiences have usually involved 1) the application of knowledge in real projects 2) working with real people and 3) a result of consequence. University of Michigan (where I went to grad school) provided me such an experience, so it was great to read how my alma mater has grown a culture of academic innovation. But the article that resonated the most was Amy Ahearn’s: The Future of Online Learning Is Offline: What Strava Can Teach Digital Course Designers. We spend so much time thinking about effective incorporation of technology-enabled learning, and she honed in on the importance of something different: connecting offline interactions and tangible, tactile projects for more effective learning experiences.

Ray Batra: EdSurge promotes how technology can support teaching and learning, but it doesn’t do so uncritically. That’s why I loved our story about George Siemens on the future of digital learning, where HigherEd contributor Marguerite McNeal described why the educator and theorist is skeptical of the popular narrative surrounding adaptive learning (“To make a process more efficient that shouldn’t be done at all is a waste of time,” he says) and what he thinks about education and humanity in a digital age. How can edtech help students be more human? Try building a MOOC to meet that challenge—I’d love to read about it!

Jeff Young: As one of the reporters and editors on the HigherEd team, it’s tough to pick a favorite article. A recent piece by Ellen Wexler, one of our contributing writers, serves as a strong example of the kind of stories we’re drawn to at EdSurge, though. The piece starts with the story of a professor facing a problem he wanted to solve (that he found a surprising number of errors in his commercial textbooks) which drew me in right away. By including a range of voices (a recent graduate, publishing experts, and other professors), the story shows the complexity of the issues of textbook cost and quality. There’s no simple answer—but it’s illuminating to hear these professors work through their attempts to rethink their approach to course materials by asking students to write them.

Sunny Lee: Part of our job at EdSurge is to report on, speak at, strike conversations and make connections at edtech conferences throughout the year. I’ve had the pleasure to observe and work closely with colleagues in active reporting duty at these events and have been impressed with their commitment to capture conference climate, emergent themes, notable keynotes and give those unable to attend a (hopefully) decent substitute for the on-the-ground experience. A good example of this is the reporting our editorial team did last fall at Educause, where they chronicled everything from a “smorgasbord of hardware and software” to the emerging trends and conversations around digital literacy.

Sydney Johnson: It wasn't too long ago that I was in college, which might be why I connect with much of what the HigherEd team does—from deep storytelling to active community building. And as another member of our editorial team, it's hard to choose an article that beats the rest. But Jeff Young's piece about MOOCs and other online courseware providers' vying to trademark the degrees of the future is surely one of my favorites. It showcases the bubbling trend around alternative credentials, but also critically questions the potential implications of new certifications living alongside traditional degrees. 

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