International standard for measuring quality of education

Quality has been and will continue to be an important aspect of higher education. An important part ensuring high quality is to have proper criteria and tools to assess it. In the past 20 years, higher education quality-assurance schemes have been implemented in many countries throughout the world. Yet, in the past decade, a significant increase in the transfer of students and scholars between different countries, highly drove the requirement for mutual recognition and trust, and thus, the ways to compare and assess qualifications earned by students and scholars in international level. In this regard, for example, the Bologna process was established in Europe to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications in the region. However, when we go to the international level, the issue of quality assurance is still problematic in many aspects. One of these aspects is that quality assurance is a highly dynamic process which permanently evolves and is also highly influenced by political conditions. Also, the emergence of new systems like MOOCs (massive open online courses) requires update and redefinition of the standards for educational systems quality assurance. In this regard, some have even argued the possibility to define trends or directions of change for quality assurance processes due to their almost random behavior.

References:
Altbach, P.G., L. Reisberg, and L.E. Rumbley, Trends in global higher education: Tracking an academic revolution. 2009, Boston College Center for International Higher Education Chestnut Hill, MA.

Rosa, M.J. and A. Amaral, Quality assurance in higher education: Contemporary debates. 2014: Springer.

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Future of the university

Remarkable changes, driven by the new work order, globalization and rapid technological change, is Pushing universities to redefine their role and the value they provide to their students and wider society. Out of the several ways that the universities will likely change in the future, I discuss the “customized and on-demand” and “Quality career advice” aspect here.
“Universities of the future will offer you access to learning in real time, from anywhere. Your flexible learning experience will be available on-demand, 24/7 and will be tailored to what you want to achieve. And you’ll be able to study in multiple modes, switching seamlessly between on-campus, blended, or wholly online, to suit your lifestyle and fit study with your work and other activities.” This is a big change compared to the classical style in which, the learning process from the university side could only happen in limited and specified hours and in specific places. The impact will be much higher efficiency of learning for the society as this new style not only provides a much broader range of people the opportunity to learn but also gives much more flexibility to people to learn which could highly increase the quality of the learning process.
For the second aspect, it is truly told that future universities “will go beyond career advice in the traditional sense. It will extend to ensuring students have the full range of skills they need before and after graduation, so they’re able to successfully navigate the world of work”. The reason is that as the competition for absorbing new students intensifies, the most probable academic institutions to survive are those who can give the students life-long career-related skills. The ones who do not do that will eventually lose the interest of the community and will be forced to shrink.

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Benefits of Virtual Reality as an Educational Tool

Many studies have revealed that the best learning performance is achievable when a variety of teaching methods are utilized and that different one method might work better than another one when we go from one student to another. To this aim, computers are increasingly being employed as teaching tools to give the students a deeper level of understanding by providing a wider variety of learning experiences. Computer approaches have usually included multimedia presentations, computerized question-and-answer sessions, and some simulations of situations which are too complex, costly, or hazardous to be performed in the real world. A recently emerged computer tool is the “virtual reality” (VR) using which students can have a very deep experience of the subject they learn in a way that is not possible using other methods. “VR is characterized by high degrees of immersion, believability, and interaction, with the goal of making the user believe, as much as possible, that s/he is actually within the computer-generated environment, as opposed to being an external observer looking in. In an ideal virtual world, a user would be completely unable to determine whether they were experiencing a computer simulation or “the real thing.” Virtual reality implementations typically use high speed, high quality three-dimensional graphics, 3-D audio, and specialized hardware such as head-mounted displays and wired clothing to achieve high degrees of realism and believability.”
The main strength of VR is, “not surprisingly, the ability to visualize situations and concepts which could not be otherwise seen and to immerse the student within that visualization. For example, a photo or movie could show students the internal geometry of a reactor, but only VR will allow them to step inside and watch it operate from whatever angle or viewpoint they desire. An animation could illustrate the mechanism of a catalytic reaction but VR provides students with a much stronger sense of “being there”. Student interest and enthusiasm are also obvious benefits of virtual reality. While some of this can be attributed to the novelty of the experience and the general interest that some students have for anything computerized, virtual reality is designed to pull the user into the experience, and anything that we can do to get students more enthused and interested in our subject matter is a good thing, even if the effect is short-lived.” Also, “in terms of learning styles, virtual reality is excellent for reaching the active, visual, inductive and global learners, who are not always served well through traditional teaching methods. There have also been some weaknesses discovered regarding virtual reality as an educational tool, the most significant of which is the presentation of textual information, such as equations, formulas, or definitions. This is due to the fact that virtual reality is very much a graphical environment, rather than a textual one.”
I (writer of the post) had one amazing experience with VR when I was in a workshop. In this VR, they showed us the three-dimensional structure of a very complex molecule with VR. While it is very hard to imagine the shape, it was very interesting and gave me a much deeper grasp of the shape of that molecule.

Reference: Bell, John T., and H. Scott Fogler. “The investigation and application of virtual reality as an educational tool.” Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference. 1995.

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Open access

Here, I want to write about “Nature Scientific Reports” journal which is a highly respected and famous peer-reviewed open access journal in my field of study. I have adapted the following from the journal website.”Scientific Reports is an online, open access journal from the publishers of Nature. These Scientific Reports articles get hosted on nature.com, “which receives an average of over 8 million unique visitors each month”. In addition, “weekly round-ups of all published papers and subject-specific e-alerts will bring further attention” to the papers.”The 2017 journal metrics for Scientific Reports are as follows:
2-year impact factor: 4.122
5-year impact factor: 4.609
Immediacy index: 0.576
Eigenfactor ® score: 0.71896
Article influence score: 1.356
2-year median: 2″

Aims and Scope
“Scientific Reports publishes original research in all areas of the natural and clinical sciences”. They believe that “if your research is scientifically valid and technically sound then it deserves to be published and made accessible to the research community”. In this regard, they also say “By publishing with us, your research will get the coverage and attention it deserves. Open access and continuous online publication mean your work will be published swiftly, ready to be accessed by anyone, anywhere, at any time”.

About the journal being Open Access
“Scientific Reports is an open access journal. Articles in the journal are free to access, download, share, and re-use”; they are “published open access under a CC BY license (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License). The CC BY license allows for maximum dissemination and re-use of open access materials and is preferred by many research funding bodies. Under this license users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit) and remix (adapt) the contribution including for commercial purposes, providing they attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor (read full legal code)”. The website related to this journal has referred to the following items as the benefits of open access journals:


– Increased citation and usage
– Greater public engagement
– Faster impact
– Broader collaboration
– Increased interdisciplinary interaction.”

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Research Ethics: Data Fabrication

In what follows, I have copied the case summary I have found. After that, I have written my comments on this case.

Case Summary: Elqutub, Maria Cristina Miron
Maria Cristina Miron Elqutub, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: Based on Respondent’s admission, the report of an inquiry conducted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC), and analysis conducted by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in its oversight review, ORI found that Ms. Maria Cristina Miron Elqutub, Research Interviewer, MDACC, engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant U01 DE019765-01.

ORI found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct by intentionally and knowingly falsifying and/or fabricating data that were included in the following two (2) published papers and two (2) grant progress reports submitted to NIDCR, NIH:

PLoS One 10(6):e0128753, 2015 Jun 2 (hereafter referred to as “PLoS One 2015”)
Cancer 121(14):2367-74, 2015 Jul 15 (hereafter referred to as “Cancer 2015”) Retracted in: Cancer 124(4):869, 2018 Feb 15
5 U01 DE019765-04
5 U01 DE019765-05
Specifically, ORI found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct by recording dates and providing her own blood samples to cause these samples to be falsely labeled as samples from ninety-eight (98) study subjects in a cancer genetics study involving human blood samples. This resulted in the reporting of false data in Tables 1, 2, 3, and 4 in PLoS One 2015, in Figure 1 and Tables 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Cancer 2015, and in the Results sections of Project 2 progress reports for NIDCR, NIH, grants 5 U01 DE019765-04 and 5 U01 DE019765-05.

Ms. Elqutub entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement and voluntarily agreed, beginning on April 26, 2018:

(1) to have her research supervised for a period of three (3) years; Respondent agreed to ensure that prior to the submission of an application for U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) support for a research project on which Respondent’s participation is proposed and prior to Respondent’s participation in any capacity on PHS-supported research, the institution employing her must submit a plan for supervision of Respondent’s duties to ORI for approval; the supervision plan must be designed to ensure the scientific integrity of Respondent’s research contribution; Respondent agreed that she will not participate in any PHS-supported research until a supervision plan is submitted to and approved by ORI; Respondent agreed to maintain responsibility for compliance with the agreed upon supervision plan;

(2) that for a period of three (3) years, any institution employing her must submit, in conjunction with each application for PHS funds, or report, manuscript, or abstract involving PHS-supported research in which Respondent is involved, a certification to ORI that the data provided by Respondent are based on actual experiments or are otherwise legitimately derived and that the data, procedures, and methodology are accurately reported in the application, report, manuscript, or abstract;

(3) if no supervisory plan is provided to ORI, to provide certification to ORI on an annual basis for a period of three (3) years that she has not engaged in, applied for, or had her name included on any application, proposal, or other request for PHS funds without prior notification to ORI;

(4) to exclude herself voluntarily from serving in any advisory capacity to PHS including, but not limited to, service on any PHS advisory committee, board, and/or peer review committee, or as a consultant for a period of three (3) years; and

(5) to the correction or retraction of PLoS One 10(6):e0128753, 2015 Jun 2.

My comments on this case are as follows. I believe that while the punishment measurements are good since they will highly limit any future fraudulent action, they have some problems.
First, I think the limitations should not only focus on PHS-related researches. it seems that they only target the works related to PHS. This is problematic since even if the person does good in the projects related to PHS, she still might cheat for other projects which are funded by other departments. So, I think the limitations should be applied to any kind of government-funded research that is conducted by the person and it should not only be limited to PHS.
Second, I think that it is not a good idea that they are publicly declaring the person’s name. Maybe, after facing the consequences of her work, the person gets corrected and avoids such misconduct in the future. Yet, publicizing her name can destroy her career forever which I believe is not fair.

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Harvard Mission Statement

I have written the following from the Harvard website:
“The mission of Harvard College is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education.
Beginning in the classroom with exposure to new ideas, new ways of understanding, and new ways of knowing, students embark on a journey of intellectual transformation. Through a diverse living environment, where students live with people who are studying different topics, who come from different walks of life and have evolving identities, the intellectual transformation is deepened and conditions for social transformation are created. From this, we hope that students will begin to fashion their lives by gaining a sense of what they want to do with their gifts and talents, assessing their values and interests, and learning how they can best serve the world.”.

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MIT Mission Statement

I have written the following from the MIT website:
“The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.
The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges. MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community.
We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion for working wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.”

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