Links for March 30, 2012

The new LMS product: You [Audrey Watters/Hack Education]. On Blackboard’s recent strategy change to embrace open source and acquire MoodleRooms and Netstop. The value is in the data, not in the LMS software.

Are undergraduates actually learning anything? [Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa/The Chronicle of Higher Education. For many students, college doesn’t improve their critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communications. 45+% of a sample of college students did not demonstrate any statistically significant improvement on the Collegiate Learning Assessment after two years of college. 36% of students did not show any significant improvement after four years. More disturbingly:

[We] find that learning in higher education is characterized by persistent and/or growing inequality. There are significant differences in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills when comparing groups of students from different family backgrounds and racial/ethnic groups. More important, not only do students enter college with unequal demonstrated abilities, but those inequalities tend to persist—or, in the case of African-American students relative to white students, increase—while they are enrolled in higher education.

An open letter to college admissions committees [Andrew F. Knight/Fairfax Times].

Consequently, the drive for high grades is blinding students and parents alike to the real purpose of education: learning. In parent-teacher conferences, “How can my child bring up her grade?” has replaced “How can my child better learn the material?” The system’s response to angry grade-obsessed parents and disgruntled students has been to fudge the indicator instead of improving the system in other words, to inflate grades in spite of worsening performance. I was routinely pressured by parents, students and even administrators to inflate grades in the form of curving scores, providing extra credit and retest opportunities, and more heavily weighting homework and projects that are easy to copy from friends. It is instructive to note that two-thirds of our students are on the honor roll. (That’s right.) When a majority of students routinely receive As and B’s in all their classes, the distinctions intended by a traditional A-F grading scale become hazy and meaningless.

What forty years of research says about the impact of technology on learning: A second-order meta-analysis and validation study [Tamim, Bernard, Borkhovski, Abrami, & Schmid/Review of Educational Research]. A meta-meta-analysis of research on technology usage in education. Found random effects mean effect size of .35, statistically significantly different from zero. I have to wonder if that is meaningful in any way given the incredible variety of ways technology can be applied to learning. Have not read the full paper, only the abstract.

Health correlator: Calling self-experimentation N=1 is incorrect and misleading [Ned Kock/Health Correlator]. Self-experimentation is longitudinal, so n > 1. But results may not generalize to other people. Good for learning what works for you.