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Trending Now: Recent News in the Postsecondary World of Next Generation Learning

Summer – at least in theory – offers us opportunities to step back, think about the big picture, and consider some of those analyses that have been published in recent months. In that spirit of summertime reflection, here is my take on a few thought-provoking reports that have crossed my virtual desk of late.

 A core element of NGLC’s strategy is to support innovations that can improve success for students, especially those who face the challenges of low incomes or of their status as members of underrepresented groups. Accordingly, we were interested in two new reports released this July  that shed fresh light on just how minority groups are faring overall in terms of college entry and college completion.  The two reports, one from the Education Trust and the other from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, both draw primarily on IPEDS data (IPEDS is an annual survey of higher education institutions conducted by the federal government). They bring good news about trends in minority participation in postsecondary education – and temper it with bad news about just which institutions most of those students are entering.

First the good news: “Intentionally Successful,” a report from the Education Trust, uses IPEDS data collected using their web-based tool, College Results Online, to show that, over a recent three-year period, the number of African-American and Hispanic students enrolling in four-year colleges has been increasing at a dramatically faster rate than the enrollment of White students – and, at the same time, graduation rates for these under-represented groups also increased.

Next, the not-so-good news: Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce released “Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege.” Like the Education Trust publication, this report shows that more students from racial minority groups – specifically African-Americans and Hispanics – are indeed enrolling in higher education today and demonstrates that the enrollment trends for these groups have been going up for more than a decade. However, over that time, minorities are tending to enroll in less selective institutions, while White students increasingly enroll in more selective institutions. The authors argue that this trend perpetuates an increasing polarization along racial lines, irrespective of student ability, that begins in the K-12 education years and continues through college to the workforce.

Another item of good news: anyone with an interest or a research question to address can access the IPEDS database to help answer it. To do so, visit the College Navigator website of the National Center for Education Statistics, or try Education Trust’s College Results Online for yourself.  Enter your institution and check out your percentages of minority enrollment and graduation. You might be pleasantly (or unpleasantly) surprised!

This summer, the inaugural class of the Breakthrough Models Academy benefited from resources pulled together by our speakers, the program’s deans, the staff, and the participants. We are pleased to call your attention to two of those resources:

Thinking about disruptive technology: For those interested in the ways that Clayton Christensen’s research on disruption is influencing reform in higher education, a report by Southern New Hampshire University’s president, Paul LeBlanc, for a conference of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research will be of particular interest.  Making Sense of Disruptive Technologies and Higher Education: A Theory of Change, the Growth of Online Programs, and the Next Generation of Delivery Models  sets Southern New Hampshire University’s Wave IIIb breakthrough model, College for America, in the context of the disaggregation trends and “jobs to be done” that Christensen outlines in his work. LeBlanc observes in this piece, as he did when speaking to the Breakthrough Models Academy in July, that determining what exactly students are looking for from a college or university, rather than focusing first on what we propose to offer them, helps “impose a kind of discipline” on institutional leaders and strategic planners.

Digging into the forces of disruption: Another report from that resource list, An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead, was released in March 2013 by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank in the United Kingdom. Its authors argue that two simultaneous forces are acting dramatically to transform higher education:

  • competition not merely among institutions but from entirely new kinds of institutions and initiatives that provide both content resources and credentials, and
  • changes enabled by technology that are making possible much wider access to quality postsecondary educational experiences,  both nationally and globally.

Yes, the paper does incorporate discussion of MOOCs, but it goes far beyond this trend. The bottom line: given the magnitude of change and challenge, this is a time for bold and concerted action on the part of leaders, educators, and policymakers alike. Sounds like Next Generation Learning Challenges to me!


This was interesting to read, How do you see IPEDS report 10 years from now?


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