EdSurge HigherEd Year in Review: Our Top Higher Education Stories of 2018

Digital Learning

EdSurge HigherEd Year in Review: Our Top Higher Education Stories of 2018

By Sydney Johnson     Dec 28, 2018

EdSurge HigherEd Year in Review: Our Top Higher Education Stories of 2018

As students and faculty alike take some well-deserved rest and reflect over the holidays, we’re taking a look back at what stories you read and shared the most over the last year.

While not quite the “Year of the MOOC,” 2018 saw a resurgence in interest around the ways these massive open online courses are delivering free (and more often these days, not free) online education around the world, and how these providers are increasingly turning to traditional institutions of learning.

These stories also show that innovative teaching was top of mind this past year, from shaking up the way instructors teach online, to talking about race in the classroom, to experimenting with augmented and virtual reality.

Of course, even our favorite stories don’t end up in front of the most readers. That’s why we’ve also highlighted a few here that we don’t want you to miss, from complicated community college turnarounds to where IKEA and edtech overlap.

2018’s Top 10 Countdown: HigherEd Edition

10. EdX Quietly Developing ‘MicroBachelors’ Program

Massive open online course providers gained momentum and attention by claiming to offer a free alternative to traditional degrees. Now, MOOC providers like edX and Coursera are looking towards new (and sometimes paid) offerings, as well as so-called “MicroBachelors” degrees designed to break up undergraduate credential into discrete components.

9. 4 Augmented and Virtual Reality Projects That Point to the Future of Education

It’s still unclear just how, and how much, augmented and virtual reality will shape learning in the future. But that uncertainty hasn’t stopped some tech-savvy and curious educators from bringing in AR/VR headsets to their classrooms and curriculums. Here’s a peek at four projects highlighted by Justin Hendrix, the executive director of the NYC Media Lab.

8. Cheating on Chegg? How the Company Aims to Catch Tutoring Requests That Go Too Far

It’s no surprise that students would ask for help on platforms like Chegg, which offer digital textbooks as well as tutoring and homework help. But what happens when those requests for “help” look more like requests for someone to do the work for them? Here’s a look at how the education company is responding.

7. How Blockbuster MOOCs Could Shape the Future of Teaching

The “Year of the MOOC” is long behind us. But these massive open online courses still continue to shape the way people around the world learn and access education. So what do the top courses on MOOC platforms like edX and Coursera tell us about where teaching is heading? Here’s one hint: some of these courses are bringing in serious money.

6. Beyond Design Thinking: Why Education Entrepreneurs Need to Think in Systems

Design thinking, that buzzword that often gins up images of Post-It notes and collaborative brainstorming, has been in vogue for years. But there’s a new kid on the block, says EdSurge columnist Amy Ahearn, and it’s called “systems thinking.” According to Ahearn, who builds online courses, “Systems thinking offers a necessary antidote to some of design thinking blind spots by taking a holistic view of complex social challenges—rather than just building new solutions that address symptoms of a problem, but not root causes.”

5. This New 2-Year College Is Unlike Any Other. And That Could Be Its Biggest Challenge.

Unlike most higher-ed institutions that put academics at the forefront, Wayfinding Academy, a new nonprofit two-year program in Portland, Ore., focuses on helping students figure out what they want to do with their lives. What does that look like? For starters, the school started by offering only one degree: an associates in Self & Society. The school’s 41-year-old founder has big dreams for the college, some magical even. Take a look inside the school and where it’s headed.

4. How Classrooms Can Start Talking About Race in Just 6 Words

School can be the most diverse setting that some students experience in their entire lives. And that’s why former NPR host Michelle Norris sees it as an important, if not crucial opportunity to get students talking about race. It’s not often an easy subject to tackle in class, where students come from a mix of backgrounds and experiences with race. But the former NPR host has found one way— and the results can be both powerful and revealing.

3. How Many Times Will People Change Jobs? The Myth of the Endlessly-Job-Hopping Millennial

Headlines and news feeds frequently flash statistics about how millennials—more than any group before it—are more likely to switch jobs and careers several times in their lifetime. A LinkedIn executive estimated they’ll do this at least 15 times. But these numbers appear to be misleading, or in some cases, simply wrong. According to Doug Weber, an associate professor of economics at Temple University: “The notion that the number of jobs that people are going to have throughout their life is increasing drastically is actually false.”

2. What’s Next for Pearson? (Not Buying Your Education Startup.)

The digital era has rocked the once-steady foundation for education kingmakers like Pearson. In 2016, the company reported its largest loss in its history, down $3.3 billion. But after cutting assets ranging from the company’s stake in The Economist to PowerSchool, a student information system, Pearson finally reported a profit again in 2017. Here’s what’s next for the world’s largest education company, according to its CEO John Fallon.

1. Andrew Ng Is Probably Teaching More Students Than Anyone Else on the Planet. (Without a University Involved.)

MOOCs offer the opportunity for university professors to reach learners across the world (and expand their school's brand). But it turns out that three of the top 10 courses on MOOC provider Coursera aren’t from a college or university at all. They’re offered by a company, called Deeplearning.ai, and are taught by the company’s (and Coursera’s) co-founder, Andrew Ng. “In other words,” writes EdSurge writer Jeffrey R. Young, Andrew Ng probably teaches more people than anyone else on the planet.”

Editor’s Picks

A Billionaire Benefactor, a Disputed Ballot Issue and a Community College Turnaround

Since 2012, Texarkana College has overhauled its curriculum, advising and student services—and the changes are becoming apparent. Graduation rates tripped between 2008 and 2016, and the school boasts one of the highest four-year graduation rates among community colleges in the state. But that progress has been uneven, as achievement gaps persist among students. Read about the progress and what lies ahead in EdSurge’s three-part series on the college turnaround. (Here’s part two and three also.)

How an Experimental Online Course Helped One Anthropology Department Keep a Professor and a Half

When budget cuts threatened to close the anthropology department at Kansas State University, one professor, Michael Wesch, fought back—by changing up his teaching. He decided to create a new kind of online course that involves a free online textbook, dispatching teaching assistants around the world to create videos, and a series of “challenges” instead of traditional assignments. As with most experiments, not everything went according to plan. Here’s what happened, and what he learned.

Are You Still There? How a ‘Netflix’ Model For Advising Lost Its Luster

The notion of a “Netflix for education” is as popular among companies as it is with college campuses. In 2011, a Tennessee university implemented a custom tool made by a professor that would recommended courses—and even majors—for students based on their previous courses and grades. Once praised for its novelty and innovation, the tool now receives little attention, and student retention at the university has dipped. We visited the school to find out what happened.

Does Online Education Help Low-income Students Succeed?

Online learning once promised to increase access to quality education for students around the world, regardless of their income or background. But increasingly that’s not the case, says Robert Ubell, vice dean emeritus of online learning at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. The EdSurge columnist writes: “If virtual education fails to succeed with poor students, then it will merely replicate the severe economic imbalance that is already the shame of the nation’s campuses.”

What Do Edtech and IKEA Have in Common? Persuasive Design.

Technology shapes our behavior everyday. Algorithms dictate what photos we see first on social media, what search results come up on Google, and what kinds of ads we are served on websites. This kind of persuasive technology, which intends to push and pull us in different directions, is intentional. And edtech is no stranger to it. Read (or listen) to what both curious and skeptical experts have to say about that.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

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