What would I like to change in higher education?

As I wrote in my previous post about MOOCs survey, I think one of the factor that can change Higher education are online courses. As I said before if MOOCs change such that more people can use them, then They can make a revolution in HE in future.
Another thing that I think may change in future is related to costs of education. Based on the data, low income level students have lower opportunity to enter into higher education and one of the main reason of that is about high costs of higher education. I think we need a revolution to find out a better system deriving costs of higher education.

Moreover, future higher education needs implementing more interdisciplinary programs. The border of sciences expanded these days and real problems of our world such as Air Pollution, Access to drinkable water, Poverty, Inequality and so on needs people from different fields and for instance Economics by itself cannot answer to questions related to poverty. So we need people to know about other fields and we need to design new programs which serve various disciplines.

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Faculty Statement

In my opinion “Being a Faculty member” means compilation of duties and contribution values to the place I have served. To me being a faculty member means to think about more about ethics and justice and tries to spread these values to my society. The duties which are important for me as a faculty members, are Teaching, Research, Engagement in the Academia and Learning. As a faculty member both teaching and learning are essential for me. I want to build my teaching philosophy such that a mutual learning atmosphere happen in my class. To gain this goal, emphasizing on learning is very vital. If I don’t pay attention to learning in my philosophical point of view towards being faculty member, then “Mutual Learning” cannot be happened.
Teaching: For me “Teaching” is one of the important task that a faculty member should do. Being a teacher is something routine in the academe but it is important to be a “good” teacher. To me, being a good teacher means providing a mutual respectful situation in class for learning, critical thinking. Providing a mutual respectful atmosphere is a very vital task that should be done mainly by a teacher rather than students. It is important for a good teacher to apply “morality” and “ethical issues” in the class, office hours, mentoring and advising and so on. Having a good and moral behavior both inside and outside of the class provides senses of “trust” and “respect” among students and If students trust to their teacher, they can firstly learn better and secondly they can respect to the whole educational structure. As a result “mutual respect” will be borne.
Mentoring, Advising, doing Research: The second important task that a faculty member should do in academe is mentoring and advising graduate students in their research. In addition, I think I should find out motivated undergraduate students and encourage them for starting research. To me, mentoring or advising does not summarize for graduate students. Mentoring mainly starts in class while I teach. Again “ethics” plays a crucial role in this task. As a faculty I should pay attention more than any other persons to research misconduct, plagiarism, falsification and so on. If I pay attention to these issues, then “academic ethical values” pass to my students and they will learn the essence of “ethics”.
Engagement in the Academia, Service: In addition to all aforesaid tasks, I imagine an ideal faculty member as a person who sever his/her university passionately. Each faculty member in my opinion should engage in several tasks other than teaching and research. These tasks can be from helping student clubs to administrative issues.

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Survey: MOOC Students Are Elite, Young and Male

Based on the previous blog post, I searched more about online courses and MOOCs. I found a survey which is done by UPenn and based on this survey, MOOCs users are mostly come from wealthier families. In fact, this survey shows that MOOCs cannot get to its goal which was about spreading knowledge for all people. this survey is based on the bout 35000 students who participated in Coursera. The researcher found that most of these students have college degrees and come from a wealthier families and participated in online courses to improve themselves in their future careers. This trend is much worse in developing countries. In countries such as India, Russia, Brazil and so on, almost 80% of MOOCs students come from the top 6% of society. this survey shows that this method is far from its goal. people from disadvantaged part of society still do not have access to free education via MOOCs. Some hardware facilities like the ADSL Internet and computer are main problem for poorer people. In addition people who want to attend in online classes in Coursera for instance, need to have some college educations which are not attainable for most of disadvantaged people of poor countries. Ezekiel J. Emanuel said “Far from realizing the high ideals of their advocates, MOOCs seem to be reinforcing the advantages of the ‘haves’ rather than educating the ‘have-nots.’ .”

mooc

But we should contemplate that this project is in its early stage and all of its major providers emphasize that we will find a way to “figure out how to use technology to improve educational outcomes, particularly for the most needy students.”

I hope this dream comes to truth as soon as possible!

if you are interested in reading of whole report of this survey, please click here

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Coursera and EdX: A Revolutionary trend in Education

One of the thing that is necessary in information and technology era is online studying. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are an attempt for spreading knowledge around the world. It is a new system that I think help people around the world to have access to education and as a result improve equality of education. Both Coursera and EdX provides free online courses in Humanities, social sciences, engineering, sciences and biology. Some the well-known universities such as Harvard, MIT and Standford participate in this project and recently American Council on Education approved five courses for college credits.
I think Moocs is a revolutionary trend in education and learning and it can help people specially from underdeveloped countries to have access to up to dated sciences but there are some problems in this trend. first of all, only few of courses approved for college credits so people can learn from various courses but they cannot earn a degree to show that at least they passed those courses. an other problem comes back to technological barriers specially for developing countries. Some developing countries such as Iran do not have access to very high speed internet and the infra structures of the internet are weak in these countries. People cannot download or watch the video of the courses and only text materials can be accessible. So I think if the first problem resolved then we can think about specific centers in developing countries where suffer from low speed internet so people can go to these centers and pass courses through those centers. But this idea makes sense for people if passing that course will be eligible and they can earn a certificate that proved those courses are passed.

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Education Systems around the World!

The last two sessions of our PFP class were related to considering education systems in different countries where at least there is one student has enrolled in this class from that country. There are students from Iran, Canada, Germany, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, India, Egypt, South Korea and China. Except the Latin America, there are at least one student from all other continents. Since my research is related to inequality of opportunity in education, these two classes were fascinating for me. All students from aforesaid countries described the education system in their countries except Lebanon. The similarities and differences among different educational systems are impressive.
In this blog post, I want to consider the information presented in class in another view. based on the per capita income of countries, we can divide these countries into two groups, developed countries and developing ones. from this perspective, South Korea, Canada and Germany are in developed countries and countries other these three countries are in developing countries.
Based on the data in hand from some international test scores like PISA ( Program of International Student Assessment) and TIMSS ( Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) the equality of opportunity among developed countries are much higher compared to developing countries. Especially most European countries and Japan have better conditions compared with the USA. On the other hand, equality of opportunity in education among developing countries are lower overall. The inequality of opportunity in education among students from Latin America are much larger compared with OECD countries. Ferreira and Gignoux (2008).
The pattern that I have already seen in data is repeated in the description of students too!
Students who came from developing or less developed countries have more inflexible education systems compared to developed countries. The closer education system and the importance of traditions in these countries as well as government intervention in different aspects of educational systems give less opportunity to students to choose their majors based on their interests. specially in primary education ( all education system before universities) there are asymmetric distributions of facilities among students in developing countries. For instance the Egyptian students said that although private tutoring is forbidden, most of graduate students do tutoring and as a result students who have access to tutoring have better opportunity to pass entrance exam and enter to public universities. This is one of the reason of inequality of opportunity in Egypt.
In Iran, China and other developing countries, students face with tougher systems. People cannot change their field of studies in graduate school or even in undergraduate. for instance in Iran, students choose their major in second year of high school and based on this choice they take national entrance exam for undergraduate studies. However I think students in Iran can change their majors or field of studies much easier than Chinese students.
On the other hand, students living in developed countries such as Germany, Canada and South Korea face with less restrictive education system and they can change their majors easily.
In most developing countries, higher education ( education after high school) support by government. These government intervention causes a bad effect on primary education. the financial burden of higher education causes government to have less money for primary education. As a result private schools play critical role in these countries and cause an unbalance in playing filed of primary education. In contrast with these countries, higher education in developing counties is private and people should pay for studying during college or graduate school and most of government fund go to primary education. As a result most of students in developed countries go to public school and the playing field during primary education is much more balanced. Therefore we have higher equality of opportunity in education during secondary and high school studying in these countries.

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Higher Education in Iran

This week we are going to talk about higher education system in different countries all around the World.
I cannot wait for class to hear about various systems and their functions.
In this post, I want to explain about my own country, Iran. So I make myself ready to contribute something in class too!
Iran is a developing country in the Middle-East. In Iran, there are 4 degrees in higher education level. Associate degree, Bachelor degree, Master degree and doctoral degree (PhD).
students who want to seek for higher education should have high school diploma and pre-university certificate as well.
Last year, a new system applied and the years of high school which was divided into three years of high school and one year of pre university, were changed and in the new system one year of pre-university was eliminated and it added to primary school. So the only degree that is mandatory for higher education is high-school diploma. Another issue which is very important in our education system is national entrance exam which is called “Konkur”. All students who already have high-school diploma should pass this exam and students are ranked based on their scores they get. Konkur is presented in 5 fields of studies. Mathematics, Science, Humanities and social sciences, Foreign Languages and Art. Moreover students who have vocational/technical and manual diploma can participate in another exam called Baccalaureate exam and completing two years of studying in the university and earn associate (Baccalaureate) degree.
Konkur is one of the toughest and most stressful exam in Iran. Most of high school students compete each year to enter in public universities which are better in quality and they are free. Nowadays more students can go to public university compared with the time I took Konkur. It has two reasons, number of students decrease due to decrease in population growth rate in early of 1990s and the capacity of universities increase drastically. Although entering to university is easier nowadays, Konkur has still full of anxiety and stress since the capacity of good universities such as Sharif University of Technology, University of Tehran, Shiraz University, Isfahan University and Polytechnic University is very limited and all of students want to enter in such universities.

I think higher education system in Iran needs a revolutionary reforms and I want to write about weaknesses of this system in next post.

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Ethical Principles at VT

As an investigation for ethic in academia, I tried to find ethical statement or codes of my academic place, VT. I search in the google and VT website and I could not find the exact statement related to ethics just for instance we found for mission statement . However I find a webpage from VT website that is related to ethical behavior. this is the most compatible with the subject I search for. In this statement, different principles for different members of VT has been defined. Someone can investigate the ethical behavior of faculty members, students, University and so on.
As a student of Virginia Tech it is interesting for me to find out the principle statement and ethical behavior I should do. For students, They emphasized on free pursuit of learning. The mission said: “We value and promote differences among students and respect students as individuals and serve as their intellectual guides and counselors. We make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to assure that our evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit.We respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professors and students.” On the other hand, the mission avoid student to have romantic or sexual relationship with “students whom we are in a position to evaluate by virtue of our teaching, research, or administrative responsibilities.” This rule is just for avoiding conflict of interests.

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Study of a Research Misconduct

We are going to talk about ethic in academia next session. One of our assignment for this week is about studying of a research misconduct. we are asked to go to http://ori.dhhs.gov to learn more about a research misconduct. in misconduct case summaries, I looked at several reports to learn more about this issue. one of the interesting thing that I noticed is most of the recent and past misconducts came back to field of studies such as biology, medicine and psychology. I wonder why in such fields we see more research misconduct? Why researchers in these filed do a plagiarism such as falsifying data or fabricating of them? I don’t have any specific explanation for this issue!

In addition as an assignment I reviewed one of the case studies related to Mr Savine, Adam C. The report can be found in the following link . Adam who was a former doctoral student in WUSL in psychology and he did a research misconduct in the project funded by NIH and NIHM.
In three publication and six conferences he used from falsifying data. According to ORI for instance he falsified data to show “prospective memory is influenced by three dissociable underlying monitoring patterns (attentional focus, secondary memory retrieval, information thresholding), which are stable within individuals over time and are influenced by personality and cognitive differences.” The data of respondent modified such that these hypothesis will support.

The whole of the report tried to show the way he modified or falsified data to support his ideas in papers and conferences articles.

I think we should think more about the reason of such behavior. Why does a person in such level commit in such behaviors? Maybe the pressure and stress of our educational system lead a person to do research misconduct! for me finding out the reason of this behavior and try to find a solution for it , is more important to find people who falsify data and use them!

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Do Tenured Professors teach badly?

Last week I read an article about the comparison of adjunct professor versus tenured one. The recent study released by NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) showed evidence that in Northwestern University professors outside of tenure-track system performed much better than their tenured counterparts. The author also said in this article that:
“They also found that stu­dents who were rel­a­tive­ly less qual­i­fied ac­a­demi­cal­ly fared par­tic­u­lar­ly well when they were taught by fac­ul­ty members out­side the tenure sys­tem, es­pe­cial­ly in courses where high grades were gen­er­al­ly tough­er to earn.”
I think the results of this research make sense because professors in tenure-track system, specially those who are not tenured yet, have more stress towards their research and most of their mind involve in research even when they are in class. On the other hand, the main responsibility for adjunct professors or visiting faculty members is teaching and as a result these faculty members mostly focus on teaching and try their best to teach more efficiently.
This is only an immature hypothesis and I think we need more studies in different universities for testing that hypothesis.
That article can be found in following link:
http://chronicle.com/article/Ad-juncts-Are-Bet-ter/141523/

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Mission Statement of UVA vs VT

Virginia Tech and UVA are two tradition rivals, both academically and issues related to Football !
In this blog post I am going to compare the mission statement of UVA and Virgina Tech.

In the mission of VT we can read:

“Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is a public land-grant university serving the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to expand personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.”

we can see the importance and emphasis of “learning”, “Teaching” and “research” in the mission statement which is prominent in the whole society of VT. In the strategic management, the mission statement means the main goals that a group have and when some one see the emphasis of “Research” in Virginia Tech statement, it means that here at Virgina Tech, we face with an atmosphere which is based on research. The pressure on young faculty members and graduate students show the importance of “research” as well as “teaching” from point of view of board of vision. This mission I think shows mainly the concentration of VT on Engineering.

Now take a look at UVA mission:

“The central purpose of the University of Virginia is to enrich the mind by stimulating and sustaining a spirit of free inquiry directed to understanding the nature of the universe and the role of mankind in it. Activities designed to quicken, discipline, and enlarge the intellectual and creative capacities, as well as the aesthetic and ethical awareness, of the members of the University and to record, preserve, and disseminate the results of intellectual discovery and creative endeavor serve this purpose. In fulfilling it, the University places the highest priority on achieving eminence as a center of higher learning.”

This is the Statement of purpose of UVA . Goals and purposes of this university highly show the importance of social science and humanities there. In this statement, concepts such as “role of mankind”, “ethic” and “higher learning” are prominent and the view of board of vision show the importance of these notions.
As a social science graduate student, I think if someone wants to work on the social sciences , UVA is much better place where as Virginia Tech is better for engineering and technology studies.

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