This audio is auto-generated. Please let us know if you have feedback.
The FBI has found college and university login credentials listed for sale on public forums and online criminal marketplaces, it informed higher ed institutions late last week.
The exposure of this information could lead to future cyberattacks against individuals and organizations, the FBI warned. For instance, cybercriminals can use the information to attempt to log in across various internet sites, taking advantage of users who recycle the same login credentials.
The FBI recommends higher education institutions review and update their plans to respond to a cyberattack. They should also continuously update operating systems and software, train students and faculty to recognize phishing attempts, and require strong and unique passwords for all accounts.
Cyberattacks have been a growing problem at colleges and universities, which house sensitive data and may not always prioritize implementing the latest cybersecurity improvements. In recent years, colleges that have fallen victim to cyberattacks have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to regain access to hijacked servers or have had to cancel classes for days as they attempted to bring operations back online. Some have even faced lawsuits over data breaches.
The FBI said in a May 26 notification that it has discovered several incidents where stolen higher education credentials were advertised. In January, Russian cybercriminal forums listed network credentials to U.S. colleges for sale and even uploaded screenshots for some as proof of access. The credentials were listed for up to several thousand dollars, according to the FBI.
Similarly, in May 2021, the FBI discovered that more than 36,000 email and password combinations for accounts ending in .edu were available on a public instant messaging platform. And in late 2020, a seller on the dark web listed about 2,000 unique usernames and passwords for higher education accounts.
If attackers purchase the login information and successfully breach user accounts, they may try to drain them of stored value, sell credit card numbers, sell personal information or engage in fraudulent transactions.
The FBI recommends that colleges take several measures to ward off such attacks. One of the most efficient is regularly checking for software updates and prioritizing installation of patches to address known vulnerabilities. Colleges can also implement training programs to help students and employees understand the risks of clicking on suspicious links or email attachments. And institutions should require multifactor authentication, especially for accounts that access critical systems or email.
In addition, the agency called out the importance of network segmentation, a security effort that divides a computer network into smaller parts. This helps prevent ransomware attacks that can easily bring an entire network down.
Meanwhile, cyberattacks against colleges have continued in recent months.
Attacks against at least two colleges disrupted the final days of their spring terms. At one, Kellogg Community College in Michigan, an attack forced the institution to close all five of its campuses and cancel classes. At another, Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, administrators canceled a day of final exams due to a cyber incident.
We have always completed the water slide challenge indoors, but this one, in particular, would be great outside. When spills happen outside, and they will, you don’t have to worry about wiping up water.
TIP: If you do decide to try this one inside your classroom have some real cloth towels to clean up the water spills. School paper towels don’t really wipe up the water. Those brown paper things just move the water around!
I actually tried this one during a summer STEM Club we had. We met once a week for four sessions. The great thing about our meetings was the mixture of ability levels. For this Ferris Wheel challenge, I paired third graders with fifth graders. This challenge uses a glue gun to hold the parts together and I normally only complete the challenge with 5th graders.
TIP: Do you use glue guns with students? I have low-temperature glue guns that do not get as hot and teach students how to use a craft stick to hold items in place when the glue is still warm.
This one is perfect for those hot summer days and the noise level of all those bottles flipping will be very different on a sidewalk or picnic table.
TIP: You might notice candy corn in one of the bottles in the photo. Don’t try candy like those pieces! When the pieces got wet (because the inside of the bottle still had water droplets in it) the pieces stuck together in one solid mass!
Is this just the perfect summer challenge? Of course, it is!
TIP: You need fabric scraps for this challenge or you can use craft foam sheets. (Dollar Tree has foam sheets.) I found fabric scraps in the sewing department of Wal Mart. The pieces I purchased were cut specifically for quilting so the pieces were already small.
TIP: You also need cardboard tubes for your trees. Get parents to save these for you!
Another perfect summer camp STEM challenge is building rafts. Students love this one and if you are outdoors and have a creek nearby, plunge right in and see if the rafts will float and stay upright!
TIP: One of the main materials for this challenge is straws. You may want to think about the ages of your students when trying this one. My younger students had no thought about straws taking on water and were quite surprised when the straws filled up and their rafts were wobbly!
I hope you have found some great projects for your summer camp STEM. Click on any of the images to see more details about the challenges. You may also enjoy these posts with some of our favorite activities!
Kevin is a forward-thinking media executive with more than 25 years of experience building brands and audiences online, in print, and face to face. He is an acclaimed writer, editor, and commentator covering the intersection of society and technology, especially education technology. Most recently, he has was Managing Director of Content for Tech& Learning. You can reach Kevin at KevinHogan@eschoolnews.com
This audio is auto-generated. Please let us know if you have feedback.
In 2011, just a few years after 2U was founded, the company brought in about $30 million in revenue, selling colleges on the idea it would help them launch and run online degree programs by offering a suite of services, including marketing, recruitment and course design.
As more colleges sought to expand their online footprint over the next decade, the company’s size exploded. Last year, 2U neared $1 billion in revenue — roughly 30 times more than it brought in 10 years prior. Meanwhile, it’s amassed over $1 billion in debt and other liabilities and never posted a profitable year as a public company.
2U’s growth illustrates the boom that online program management companies, or OPMs, have seen in recent years. Typically, these companies help colleges grow online programs in exchange for a cut of their tuition revenue, usually between 40% and 60%.
Hundreds of colleges have contracts with these companies, including top-ranked schools such as the University of Southern California. But the proliferation of OPMs has stoked concerns among key Democratic lawmakers, who worry these deals drive up the price of online education and don’t comply with federal law.
Five such legislators commissioned the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an auditing agency for Congress, to look into the OPM sector. This spring, the GAO delivered that report, which concluded regulators haven’t exercised enough oversight over OPM contracts to ensure they were complying with federal laws meant to protect students from aggressive recruitment practices.
But the report was hardly an indictment of the OPM sector. The GAO mentioned no specific instances in which contracts violated federal law or harmed students.
“Perhaps some people were hoping there would be a blockbuster GAO report, finding fault with the OPM industry, but the GAO answers the specific questions that Congress asks it to answer,” said Kevin Carey, vice president for education policy and knowledge management at New America, a left-leaning think tank, and one of the most prominent critics of the college-OPM complex. “It’s a neutral, analytic and investigatory body that acts within the mandate that it’s given, and I think that’s what it did in this case.”
Still, the report will likely kick off heightened monitoring of the sector and suggests regulatory changes are coming that could affect how OPMs work with colleges. And it remains to be seen how much any such changes would affect companies’ ability to use tuition-share agreements, the bedrock of some of their business models.
More oversight is coming to OPMs
The GAO report concluded that independent auditors conducting reviews of colleges aren’t adequately checking that their contracts with OPMs comply with federal law designed to prevent predatory student recruiting. The law bars colleges that receive federal funding from giving incentive-based compensation, such as commissions or bonuses, to companies or employees that recruit students into their programs.
The U.S. Department of Education considers tuition-sharing deals to be incentive compensation, but it carved out an exception for OPM companies in 2011 guidance. The exception says OPMs that offer recruiting services can strike tuition-sharing deals with colleges — so long as recruitment is part of a larger bundle of services, such as course design and career counseling. Colleges also must retain control of their admissions decisions and determine the number of students who enroll.
The GAO report recommends that the Ed Department provide information to independent auditors so they can better review such contracts for compliance with this guidance. It also suggests the department instruct colleges about the information they must furnish about their work with OPMs during audits and program reviews. The Ed Department agreed with both recommendations.
Lawmakers who commissioned the report ramped up their calls for more oversight of the OPM sector when it was released.
“The business arrangements between these companies and institutions raise many questions about costs and incentives,” Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, said in a statement. “This report confirms these concerns are warranted, as there’s been a serious lack of effective oversight while these arrangements have proliferated. The U.S. Department of Education needs to take a much closer look at this issue, OPM business practices, recruitment tactics, and ultimately the costs borne by students.”
The Ed Department agrees that it has too little information about how colleges are partnering with OPMs, how these contracts may enable risky behaviors and whether these companies are complying with all federal rules, a spokesperson said. Moreover, the agency is concerned about allegations that some companies are using tactics similar to those commonly employed by for-profit colleges.
However, the Ed Department did not answer questions about when it plans to implement GAO’s recommendations.
Stepped-up oversight could detect contracts that aren’t square with federal law.
“You’re gonna find stuff at the margins that needs to be changed.”
Managing director, Tyton Partners
That level of enforcement “almost by definition” will result in some findings of noncompliance, said Trace Urdan, managing director at Tyton Partners, an investment banking and consulting firm focused on higher ed.
“You’re gonna find stuff at the margins that needs to be changed,” Urdan said. “We’re talking about really marginal changes, not substantive changes, and I think that’s the main point.”
Higher Ed Dive asked eight OPM companies whether they supported the GAO’s recommendations. Five answered by publication time.
Academic Partnerships, Grand Canyon Education and Wiley Education Services said they support the GAO’s recommendations. And 2U and Pearson said they support greater transparency and oversight.
That aligns with comments some company leaders have made publicly.
“We reviewed the report and we’re very supportive of the GAO’s recommendations,” Chip Paucek, 2U’s CEO, said on the company’s latest call to discuss quarterly earnings. “Greater transparency and continued oversight will actually ensure that the industry as a whole is serving the best interests of students.”
Do tuition-share agreements have a future?
Lawmakers have questioned whether tuition-share agreements comply with federal law. And some policy advocates have called on the Ed Department to rescind the 2011 guidance that allows OPMs to set up these arrangements with colleges.
The GAO report, however, doesn’t evaluate the legality of tuition-share agreements.
“There’s nothing explosive in here to that end,” said Michelle Dimino, a senior education policy adviser at Third Way, a center-left think tank. “The report doesn’t really open new doors, but it also doesn’t close them in terms of future conversations around tuition-share agreements, marketing, spending and other areas of OPM contracting.”
Indeed, the Ed Department is considering revising the 2011 guidance to provide clarity on what constitutes an acceptable bundle of services and how to determine whether a college is sufficiently independent from an OPM, according to the GAO report.
“The report doesn’t really open new doors, but it also doesn’t close them in terms of future conversations around tuition-share agreements.”
Senior education policy adviser, Third Way
It’s unclear how the Ed Department will change the guidelines. But Urdan sees potential new guidance as a positive development for the sector.
“Even if the rules are tightened, they will also be made more clear, and the clarity is something that will be good for business,” Urdan said. “The clarity will make the schools more comfortable and will make the OPM investors more comfortable.”
A spokesperson for Wiley said the company looks forward to working with the department to clarify the guidance.
“The revised guidance should continue to support online program managers that assume the initial risk of launching and scaling online education programs, and provide technical capacity and know-how, while institutions retain control over key decisions relating to admissions, financial aid, academic programs and faculty,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“It’s time to rethink the way the incentive compensation ban is applied and the way it is enforced.”
Senior fellow, The Century Foundation
However, some higher education experts are continuing to call for the guidance to be rescinded altogether — a move that would crumble a pillar of the OPM industry.
“It has served its purpose,” said Stephanie Hall, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank. “Colleges have been able to rely on it for 11 years now, and I think now it’s time to rethink the way the incentive compensation ban is applied and the way it is enforced.”
The Century Foundation has found examples of contracts where colleges rely on OPMs for a massive share of their enrollment. Lamar University in Texas, for instance, uses an OPM to recruit over half of its students.
Hall said the bundled services exception could be wound down without harming colleges. The OPM industry has known for years this policy change is possible, she said.
“It would be a monumental change to the market.”
Rescinding the exception could enable colleges to renegotiate their contracts — even for those locked into long-term agreements, Hall said. In a recent report for The Century Foundation, she outlined two options for colleges with revenue-share agreements if the guidance were rescinded: they could either remove recruiting services from those deals or continue contracting with an OPM for recruitment but switch to a flat flee arrangment.
“This would give colleges an opportunity to renegotiate for better terms now, which would be amazing,” Hall said.
But others note that such moves would likely shake the foundation of OPMs, which pay for the up-front costs of launching online programs in the hopes they will recoup their expenses later through the revenue brought in by long-term tuition-share agreements. In filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, two public companies with OPM contracts — Coursera and 2U — have repeatedly listed a change to the guidance as a risk factor to their current business models.
“This would not be an issue of, ‘Okay, we can handle it. We’ll adjust some things,'” said Phil Hill, partner at ed tech consultancy MindWires. “It would be a monumental change to the market.”
Like tech stocks in general, edtech has taken a nosedive over the past six months or so. There have been stunning valuation declines, with brand name failures like Robolex, once acclaimed as the “future of education”—seeing half its stock value vanish in the past year and with investors predicting more tough times ahead for the company’s shareholders.
The news might lead you to think edtech’s future is marked by doom and gloom.
Responding to some of EdSurge’s coverage in the Biz newsletter, Atin Batra, founder and general partner at 27 Ventures, an early investor in companies like the livestream tutoring platform Fiveable, wanted to offer an alternative perspective. He reached out and agreed to answer some questions over a phone call and email. As he sees it, the valuation declines aren’t an ill-omen for the sector.
To Batra, the lesson of the pandemic was too optimistic to be darkened by the end of the “pandemic bump.” It showed the industry, Batra says, that consumers have become agreeable to purchasing edtech. And with universities and schools being given extra funds by the federal government, they’ll likely invest in more edtech resources, he says.
EdSurge: You responded to a Biz newsletter covering the stark valuation declines in edtech by saying that you don’t think edtech will take as big a hit as it seems. Why is the doom and gloom attached to the valuation declines overhyped?
Atin Batra: Let me start by saying that the current public market meltdown has affected all industries, including education. Companies are down an average 30-50 percent from their 52-week highs. However, the cliche of “public markets are not the economy” holds just as true today as it did in the heady days of the 2020 V-shaped recovery, only in reverse this time around. While it may seem like the world is crashing around us, I see huge opportunities ahead.
There are two main reasons for optimism in the education technology sector specifically: the sustainability and evolution of business models and an abundance of talent.
The pandemic forced a reckoning for governments all over the world, who have been underspending on education for decades. Just in the U.S., the government set aside [about] $190 billion under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) aid package. This is a huge opportunity for companies focused on selling to districts and schools, as it will provide resources for trials leading into full-scale deployments once value has been proven.
Further, business models in edtech have evolved over the last couple of years.
Companies are increasingly selling directly to consumers—parents and students—and there is a growing body of best practices for founders to learn from as they build.
The tight labor market seems to be easing up. Every single day in May has been accompanied by an announcement from a tech company that’s laying off [about] 10 percent of their workforce to extend their runway. For operators, the opportunity cost of joining a startup vs. Big Tech is no longer as large as it used to be, thanks to shrinking public-market valuations.
While this is indeed a scary situation for those losing their jobs, it is perhaps the best opportunity in a decade for startups (across sectors) to hire exceptional talent at reasonable compensation levels.
How much of the edtech spending by parents is motivated by their concern over learning loss from COVID-19, causing them to shell out money to get at home what they don’t feel like they’re getting at school? And how does this factor into your optimism for the edtech sector?
A lot of edtech spending today stems from parents’ fear of learning loss.
Virtual schooling allowed parents an intimate glimpse into the state of our current education system. The realization that the system is inadequate and hasn’t changed since their own time in school forced many parents to take matters into their own hands, and supplement traditional schooling with external resources.
Selling educational products directly to consumers had already been gradually increasing, but exploded as a viable business model in the last two years. So while VCs previously saw only one path to success in education technology—selling directly to schools and universities—we’re now seeing an entirely new opportunity. And there are sufficient success stories to learn from. Founders are looking at Outschool, Duolingo, Quizlet and Byju’s and picking apart the pieces that apply to their own businesses.
The federal government is putting some money towards upgrading infrastructure in schools across the U.S. How much of that do VCs expect to find its way to edtech? And what sort of edtech companies is that most likely to help?
Frankly, nobody knows how much of that money will flow towards edtech.
However, here is what’s happening: district supervisors and school principals who refused to take calls from service providers three years ago are now actively calling to say, “We’ve got capital to deploy. We want to upgrade our systems. What products and solutions are there in the market?”
As much as $2,800 has been set aside per student in the United States.
There are two main types of companies that should thrive in this environment: those providing services for the administrators and those interfacing directly with the students to improve end-user experience.
Teachers are demoralized, burnt out and scraping to get by. Increasingly, they’re also quitting, creating opportunities for edtech companies to snap them up. In a way, is teacher flight actually good for edtech companies?
First off, I really wish we didn’t have such a thing as teacher flight. It’s detrimental to the cause of educating our next generation. I don’t blame our teachers, though. They’re being repeatedly thrust into situations akin to being on the frontlines, whether that be dealing with COVID-19 or school shootings like last week’s horrific tragedy.
For edtech companies, on the other hand, this situation is a huge boon.
They’re getting privileged access to a uniquely qualified talent pool. Frankly, I love backing teachers; they’re the best at building edtech companies because they understand the gaps and issues firsthand, and have a true passion for supporting students.
Five of our portfolio companies are founded by ex-teachers, and I believe that their unique—yet relatable—experiences have led to their continued success. Just look at Fiveable, who’s helping students across the world create communities with virtual study rooms, or Aktiv Learning, who’s improving outcomes in STEM courses for university students.
What’s the ultimate outlook for edtech in the next year-plus? In other words, how should edtech be thinking about this period in the sector as they move forward?
When I think about this time period, I don’t think it’s doom and gloom at all. I actually think this will be an incredibly exciting time to build all kinds of businesses, especially education.
I’ve been telling all of my portfolio companies that they should be concerned if they are running low on cash since it’s going to be difficult to raise right now. But if they are smart enough and can cut down costs to be more frugal, they’ll come out of this in a much stronger position.
Essentially, they need to be able to get through the next 15 months. And once they do, they’ll have all of these tailwinds—whether that’s the business model or the availability of talent—that will sail them towards success.
For founders who are trying to weather the storm, my recommendation is they abide by the following three guidelines: (1) unit economics are crucial (2) cut early and cut deep, and (3) use the time to reset/build.
Lastly, you describe your edtech investing strategy as solution-focused. You find a question that needs answering, you’ve said, and then try to seek out solutions. What’s a problem that you’re looking to solve at the moment?
Exactly. The unique advantage of being a sector-focused investor, investing only in edtech and “future of work,” is that I’m constantly thinking about what those industries need. It enables me to create multiple micro-theses that I can then go looking through the market for solutions to.
Right now, actually, I’m thinking about how we can improve completion rates for MOOCs and online courses. As the economy goes through the impending downturn, our current workforce will look to upskill/reskill themselves so as to find better jobs. Most people will turn to online courses that are just not engaging enough by themselves.
The most common solution I’ve seen recently is either building cohort-based courses from scratch, or at the very least recreating a cohort for a MOOC. I personally don’t think that’s the best solution, which is why I’m looking for another. I may have found one, and we’re digging into it right now.
The Columbus City Schools recently released a new Strategic Plan that details how we are going to achieve our mission over the next five years. This plan is a new North Star for our district, guiding us as we work every day to ensure that all our students are highly educated, prepared for leadership and service, and empowered for success in a global community.
Our plan is called “The Power of One: Students Leading the Way.” It defines exactly how we are going to create our future – where every one of our CCS employees and every one of our partners and community stakeholders has a role to play in contributing to better student outcomes.
It is a plan to come together as one district to ensure every one of our students achieves their full potential. It is a plan that puts student achievement at the forefront, leading the way for our district’s future.
Dr. Talisa Dixon, Superintendent, Columbus City Schools
Dr. Talisa Dixon is in her third year as the Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer of Columbus City Schools. She began her tenure in March 2019 after five years leading the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District in Northeast Ohio. Dr. Dixon previously spent nine years as an administrator in Columbus City Schools from 2001-10. She served six years combined as the principal at Brookhaven High School and at Columbus Alternative High School. She began her career in public education first as a social studies teacher and then as an assistant principal in Akron Public Schools. She was the Deputy Superintendent for the Saginaw Public School District in Michigan before accepting the superintendent post in Cleveland Heights-University Heights in 2014. Since taking the reins of Ohio’s largest school district in 2019, Dr. Dixon has been a voice of leadership in Columbus, connecting with local civic, business, and non-profit partners on behalf of the 50,000 CCS students.
Latest posts by eSchool Media Contributors (see all)
The skills required for success in the new economy were already changing. Now, COVID has sped up these changes dramatically.
As researchers warn of a growing “digital skills gap” that threatens to hold back innovation, experts are calling on schools to rethink instruction so that it more closely aligns with emerging workforce needs.
The global pandemic has quickened the pace of technological development around the world as services that had not been digital before moved online and others that were performed by humans became automated. This rapid digital acceleration has created a huge demand for more highly skilled workers who can develop software, program machines, and support new innovations.
“There are just not enough people with the right digital skills to enable the transformation that companies are seeking,” said Salil Gunashekar, a research leader and associate director at RAND Europe who focuses on science and technology policy.
RAND Europe, the European arm of global research firm RAND Corp., issued a report in March that describes the worldwide digital skills gap in stark detail. The report should serve as a wake-up call for education leaders in the United States and elsewhere to think about how instruction should change to meet employers’ needs more effectively.
“Employers are actively seeking employees with digital skills in order to adapt to an increasingly digitalized environment,” the report says. “While the demand for digital skills is high, supply is low — and businesses often struggle to find talent for digital roles.”
Consider these statistics:
A global survey of companies with more than 1,000 employees across a wide range of industries found that more than half (54 percent) agreed that a shortage of digital talent has led to a loss of competitive advantage and that if the digital skills gap isn’t closed soon, there will be negative impacts on product development, innovation, and customer experiences.
In European countries, the report noted, 57 percent of organizations find it hard to fill ICT specialist roles. This trend exists in other parts of the world as well; for instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the demand for software developers will grow 22 percent through 2030.
The world’s major economies stand to lose up to $11.5 trillion in potential growth by 2028 if the digital skills gap isn’t addressed.
The former editor of eSchool News, Dennis Pierce is now a freelance writer. He has spent the last 20 years as an education journalist covering issues such as national policy, school reform, and educational technology. Dennis has taught high school English, math, and SAT prep. He graduated cum laude from Yale University. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This audio is auto-generated. Please let us know if you have feedback.
Burck Smith is chairman and founder of StraighterLine, a company offering low-cost online courses for college credit.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented enrollment decrease of over 5%, or almost 1 million students, from fall 2019 to fall 2021 across all institutions and 13% at public two-year colleges. Higher education has faced challenges keeping students who are already enrolled, with the most pronounced declines in retention occurring at community colleges.
Some of these declines are undoubtedly attributable to the abrupt transition from in-person to online learning and the overall uncertainty of the pandemic, but they are also an indicator that many Americans do not believe that enrolling in college will produce a significant return on investment. Strada Education Network research in 2020 found that only half of college students believe their education will be worth what it costs.
For too many students, starting a college degree brings with it a high risk that the return on investment will not pan out. Completing a degree produces a significant return, but starting one produces much less.
This reality makes enrolling in higher education especially risky for the roughly half of students who enter higher education unprepared for college-level work. Until recently, most of those students were assigned to developmental courses that often halted their education before it really got started. Millions of students enrolled in, but did not complete, courses that didn’t count for college credit but still took considerable time and money.
As a result, only about one in three students at four-year universities and one in ten students at two-year colleges who are assigned to developmental courses graduate within six and three years, respectively. Graduation rates are also generally lower for students who are underrepresented in postsecondary education. Students who do not succeed are left with zero or even negative return on their investment of money and time.
However, there are ways that colleges can rethink the return on investment of the first-year experience and de-risk college entry, making it more likely that students will see value in the college experience, enroll and be successful.
One counterintuitive strategy is implementing corequisite courses, which allow students who require developmental education to take credit-bearing math and English courses while receiving extra help. Last year, Complete College America used a decade of data to show that these courses are consistently a better bet than traditional developmental courses. For example, a 2019 study at the City University of New York in which statistics students were randomly assigned to remedial or corequisite courses found that the percentage of students who were assigned to corequisite courses and graduated in three years was 40%, nearly double the three-year graduation rate for students who weren’t in corequisites.
At first blush, it’s curious that students in corequisite courses are more successful than their peers in developmental courses because corequisite coursework actually increases the academic rigor for the least-prepared students. But students likely perceive the return on investment differently.
Although the return of a degree may be the same, the financial investment to get the degree is substantially lower for students who start in credit-bearing courses. After Florida passed legislation that made developmental education optional rather than mandatory for certain students, enrollment in credit-bearing English and math courses increased by 22% and 33%, respectively. Yet passing rates barely decreased, which further suggests that students want, and are motivated by, that greater return on investment from credit-bearing courses.
Many colleges are finding ways to decrease risk in the first year by creating low-cost, flexible on-ramps for first-time for stopped-out students. We’re familiar with some of them at StraighterLine because we worked with institutions and systems to build these programs.
At Utah State University, for instance, students who don’t meet admissions requirements are given the opportunity to enroll in a new program that provides an alternative pathway to admission. These students take low-cost, credit-bearing courses in math, writing and student success. If they aren’t successful, they have spent less money, have taken on no federal student aid debt, retain their Title IV aid eligibility and do not have a black mark on their transcript.
If Utah State students complete the “earned admissions” courses, they are guaranteed full admission to the university. Initial data shows that the program has helped students enroll at the university who otherwise would have been turned away.
Since its adoption, a total of 162 students have participated. All students who completed the program were admitted to Utah State, and 63% registered for an upcoming term. The program was especially helpful for students who had their education and career plans disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic and were looking to start the next chapter of their education faster than traditional admissions cycles would allow.
The University of Louisiana System is using a similar model to help learners who have stopped out of college reenroll and complete a degree. Its Compete LA Academy provides low-cost, competency-based courses that allow returning students to restart their education at any time and count those courses toward their degree. It also offers direct student coaching, tutoring and counseling to help students navigate re-enrollment and credit transfer to one of the program’s nine partner universities.
Clearly, corequisite remediation and on-ramps are effective strategies to de-risk college entry and encourage enrollment. But institutions of higher education have been slow to adopt them. In a 2020 survey, just 25% of administrators at public and private institutions said that they had finished implementing reforms to developmental education — and nearly a quarter of those administrators were still using traditional developmental education pathways for at least half of their math courses.
In the face of a pandemic that has hurt learners and decreased access, higher education must find ways to reduce the risk of entry. By lowering the cost and risk of first-year credits, we can drive the return on investment for students even higher. That’s a recipe for helping more students succeed and minimizing the harm to those who don’t.
Utah State University and the University of Louisiana System have contracted with StraighterLine to partner in the design and operation of their pathways programs.
During a recent meeting with a group of educators, I recalled the stress from the last two years accompanied by decades of pressure our systems have placed on an already weary profession. “Teachers need to give themselves some grace,” said Tamara Cervantes, a principal/director. “We are all under pressure to perform under all the administrative demands, and we underestimate our limitations. We forget we are human.”
Burnout is a buzzword that fails to carry the significance of the issue. We are great at raising the red flag, but solutions that help educators make significant changes are slow to come. Unfortunately, the pandemic compounded stress with the addition of compassion fatigue. While burnout occurs over time and is usually the result of work stressors like staff shortages or inadequate resources, compassion fatigue occurs when we exhaust our ability to empathize. The pandemic amplified these stressors and flipped the world upside down for educators.
“The real fear of Covid-19 (to our teachers, students, and parents) cannot be dismissed. We tend to forget that our teachers went through Covid just like our students did,” said Cervantes. “We tend to forget that they lost loved ones, their families went through struggles, their children were going through learning loss. We expect them to walk back in as though they are superheroes with capes–as if the last two years didn’t happen.”
When combined, burnout and compassion fatigue place teachers in a more exacerbated position. Solutions to these feelings imply that teachers need to just “figure it out” or “take a breather.” While self-care is a critical resilience strategy for teachers, it leaves the profession exposed to increased resignation, high turnover and teacher shortages. Too often, schools place all the emphasis on the individual and fail to recognize other elements of the teaching environment that influence teacher burnout and compassion fatigue.
Our consultants realized that the opposite of this combination of burnout and compassion fatigue is not rest, but rather re-discovering and reconnecting to purpose. If we want to address this compounding problem, school administrations should consider the following strategies at a systematic level.
1. Assess and determine the contributing factors.
We might think we have all the answers to combat burnout, but this unrelenting stressor is complex. We use the Maslach’s Burnout Inventory to measure burnout in three domains:
Emotional exhaustion: The feeling of being emotionally overwhelmed, extended and exhausted by your work.
Depersonalization: Measures an impersonal response.
Personal accomplishment: Recognize feelings of competence and successful achievement in our work.
The assessment also looks at various aspects of work and personal life that can aid district leadership teams or school principals and identifies specific strategies to address burnout. Based on the results, strategies in these two areas could look very different. If you are focused on taking the weight off your teaching staff’s workload, but your teachers lack the feeling of being rewarded for their work, you might need to rethink how you praise them for their achievements.
Dr. Laurie Cure, CEO, Innovative Connections & Alisa Bennett, Leadership Consultant and Content Specialist, Innovative Connections
Dr. Laurie Cure is the CEO of Innovative Connections, a consulting firm focused on enhancing organizational effectiveness by supporting leaders and teams to improve organizational performance. She holds a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology and a master’s degree in business administration. She is also the author of Leading Without Fear. She has also served as a Meta-coach for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence program and as faculty at several universities across the country.
Alisa Bennett is a Leadership Consultant and Content Specialist for Innovative Connections. As a skilled educational psychologist and professional educator, Alisa understands the hard work and careful thought it takes to succeed. She has gained insight through mentoring aspiring educators and helping develop professional learning opportunities in her local school district. She enjoys the daily challenge of helping classroom teachers improve their practice and efficacy in their work with students.
Latest posts by eSchool Media Contributors (see all)