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CEG Digital & Uni of Portsmouth announce p’ship

The PIE News - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 02:29

OPM provider CEG Digital and the UK’s University of Portsmouth have announced has announced the establishment of Portsmouth Online with the aim of delivering “high quality online postgraduate degree programs to students around the world”.

“The partnership will help us deliver high-quality online education to new student cohorts”

From early 2021, the University of Portsmouth, through Portsmouth Online, intends to offer an initial portfolio of postgraduate taught programs purposely designed for working professionals and primarily delivered online with opportunities for face-to-face workshops.

The initial program suite is going to cover curricular areas of data analytics, construction project management, resilience management, international human resource management and cybercrime.

The programs will be led by Portsmouth academic staff, supported by specialist tutors offering 24/7 support.

“The university has ambitious strategic objectives to widen its reach and expand its presence in international educational markets. I am confident that the partnership with CEG Digital will help us deliver high-quality online education to new student cohorts,” explained Paul Hayes, deputy vice-chancellor.

“This partnership shows our determination to grow the reputation of the university internationally and be recognised for academic excellence that helps create the workforce of the future.”

Geoff Webster, managing director of CEG Digital, added: “We are really excited to be working with Portsmouth and helping them fully access the global online learning market for the benefit of prospective students.

He said that global demand for post-secondary education is expected to rise to 263 million students by 2025.

“Universities will not be able to meet this level of demand by traditional delivery. Through our collaborative partnership model, we provide a unique combination of financial resources, pedagogical expertise in a sophisticated digital environment, global market knowledge and an international salesforce.”

“This partnership will significantly extend the range of digital learning opportunities across all levels of our study programs,” added Hayes.

“Increased digital innovation and flexibility will become an important feature of our on and off-campus courses, which will make our outstanding and innovative education available to students around the world, even if they don’t study on our campus.”

Universities have shown increased interest in developing online courses over the last few years, particularly this year due to the coronavirus outbreak which has led institutions turning to edtech to continue classes.

Most that do so opt to work with outside providers who offer a range of services including recruiting, marketing and technological know-how to develop courses.

The post CEG Digital & Uni of Portsmouth announce p’ship appeared first on The PIE News.

Faculty face uphill battle adapting to needs of today's students

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Faculty are crucial for students. They serve as instructors and mentors. They connect students with a network that will help them succeed and get good jobs in the future.

But they can also get in the way.

As the student population shifts away from the traditional 18-year-old heading off to live in a dorm to students who are older and lower income, institutions and their faculty members are struggling to find mutually agreeable ways to support nontraditional students.

That means colleges and universities struggle with how to motivate faculty to serve different students. And some faculty members struggle with how to adapt.

“When I hear a faculty member complaining about students all the time, I know that’s a signal for discussing retirement on the horizon,” said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C.

While the big-name colleges still enroll plenty of stereotypical students, the institutions that serve the bulk of students have seen changes.

The numbers are clear: 37 percent of today’s students are older than 25, according to information collected by Higher Learning Advocates. Almost two-thirds, 64 percent, work while in college. Another quarter or so are parenting. About half, 49 percent, are financially independent.

Almost one in three, 31 percent, live at or below the federal poverty level.

And those were the numbers before the novel coronavirus shattered the country's economy. The full effects of the virus aren't yet clear, but it seems likely to add financial pressures on students in the coming months and years.

The issue of aligning faculty skills with students' needs goes beyond the stereotypical trope of an old, cranky professor who doesn’t like change, though. Challenges to overcome can be as simple as the hidden language of academia and faculty assuming all students have the same understanding of common terms on campus.

How does a student know the meaning of office hours if the student has never before heard the term?

The issue might be carelessness or thoughtlessness -- like assuming students don’t have responsibilities outside of their coursework. It might also be unintentionally carrying on one mode of teaching for years without analyzing why students are dropping out of courses.

The answer to this is not simple. Getting faculty to adapt to the times takes planning, buy-in and, most importantly, money.

But it’s necessary. For faculty who seem unwilling or unable to adapt, McGuire tends to have conversations about whether they still feel excitement about teaching. If professors don’t want to explore new pedagogies or approaches to teaching, that’s a sign they’re worn out, she said.

Some policy experts, institutional leaders and advocates believe higher education must change the way it trains, hires and promotes its faculty. Others say the blame is misplaced and instead point to structural issues like declining numbers of tenured positions, the importance of leadership and the need for more investment in teaching and learning.

Whatever the case, institutional change is now a necessity, as the demographics for students and the general population shift. The number of white students is decreasing as the number of Hispanic students increases, among other changes.

Higher education is facing an enrollment cliff by 2026, when the full impact of a declining birth rate will hit colleges. The last decade was a precursor to these changes. Enrollment across postsecondary institutions has been falling since 2010.

To combat this, institutions are turning to certain segments of the population that seem like potential enrollment gold mines. About 36 million American adults have some college credit but no degree, prompting marketing companies to sell services to colleges designed to target this demographic. Make no mistake -- most teens still plan to enroll in college. But many will bring with them different life experiences from the traditional college students of yore, who tended to rely on family for support instead of working full-time themselves.

However, the majority of faculty are privileged. Most are white men. Those who are on the track for tenure are older than the average American worker, placing them further away from the modern-day experiences of their students. While there have been some gains in diversity, most of them stem from contingent faculty.

This challenge is now more important to understand than ever, as the novel coronavirus upends higher education, leaves many students unemployed and takes away services like childcare.

‘Hidden Culture’

Some faculty don’t recognize how the demographics, and thus the needs, of students are changing, according to Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.

When Jenkins works with faculty and advisers to map out a student’s journey through a college, “it’s just shocking how many barriers the student faces,” he said.

At issue is a gap between many professors’ own experience and that of their students.

“You have professors, potentially, who make the assumption that your schooling is the same as my schooling,” said Sean Morris, director of the Digital Pedagogy Lab at the University of Colorado at Denver. “Even within a generation, that’s changed.”

It’s something all types of institutions will have to address, Jenkins said, as enrollments decline and too many students leave college without degrees.

Some colleges have already recognized the need to change. Since the 1980s, Trinity Washington has been catering to what McGuire calls post-traditional students.

“Over time, we’ve learned a couple of things,” she said.

Those include hiring faculty “who are capable of teaching the students we have, not the students they wish they had.” They are willing to teach outside of typical daytime hours and can work with students who may need leeway at times.

The last piece is “compassionate rigor,” McGuire said.

When students set foot on campus, they encounter a hidden culture.

“For adult students, you have the added dimension of stresses from work and family life,” she said. “At the same time, students need to be disciplined, so what’s the balance between helping and being taken advantage of?”

An example could be giving students one free pass for redoing an assignment or retaking a test.

Beyond understanding the external obligations students have, faculty need to understand what may pose challenges inside the academy. Colleges as a whole often take for granted that students will arrive on campus already knowing how things work, said Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Sometimes, it’s an unintentional systemic issue. For example, a college dean once told Jack about a student who thought office hours were a time for professors to work and not be bothered.

“When students set foot on campus, they encounter a hidden culture,” Jack said. He will often train faculty and staff to recognize this when giving talks on campuses.

Other times, the words are more personal. Students who are also parents will hear their professor tell the class that they can take on extra work because they don’t have “real” responsibilities. Or professors will get angry with students for not buying all of the -- often expensive -- books for a course.

“The gap in understanding is still prevalent,” Jack said. “You have to have a cultural shift in conjunction with a structural shift, especially in the context of the changing student body.”

Some blame the reluctance to change on what they call deficit thinking. If faculty expect students who don’t fit traditional molds to fail, then they are much more likely to fail.

“A lot of times, faculty don’t think about where students are coming from,” said Audrey Dow, senior vice president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. If faculty see a student falling asleep in class but don’t know that student just worked a 10-hour shift, they might assume the student isn’t college-ready. But that student might just need support, Dow said.

“When we look at students and say, ‘Gosh, they’re showing up, they want an education, how do we help them get it?’ that’s when success can happen,” she said.

Supporting Faculty to Support Students

Some say higher education must look at structural issues before it places the blame on faculty. They balk at the idea that faculty are the primary problem.

“I think that that is a very dangerous framing of what is a very real challenge that needs to be addressed,” said Alison Kadlec, a founding partner at higher education consulting firm Sova Solutions. “From what we know from our work, as well as from research in related areas, the people who are closest to students are [faculty]. In any institution, they are also the single greatest reservoir of commitment.”

One of their biggest obstacles is the conditions faculty work under, she said, because those conditions can easily preclude them from being truly effective. Systematic adjunctification, for example, makes faculty feel devalued and makes it difficult for them to go the extra mile because of low pay and instability.

For faculty who work contingently, it can be hard to do creative work, said Jesse Stommel, a senior lecturer of digital studies at the University of Mary Washington and executive director of Hybrid Pedagogy, a journal for digital pedagogy. The stresses from that precarious job position, which often provides little security and doesn’t pay well, make experimentation with pedagogy and teaching difficult.

“When we defund public education, when we make the work of teaching increasingly precarious, we make it extraordinarily difficult to do this work,” he said.

Institutions should help faculty understand who their students are, said Sherri Hughes, assistant vice president of professional learning at the American Council on Education. But faculty still hold responsibility for teaching them.

Saying “we shouldn’t put it all on the faculty member,” she said, “suggests that nontraditional students are a burden, and I don’t think that’s true.”

Understanding the different practices, tools and approaches to teaching is important for teaching all students, not just nontraditional students, she added.

At Trinity Washington, the university has won grants to support those kinds of efforts. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant to support women of color in science, for example, provided resources for science faculty to revise their curriculum and get training.

The reaction so far has been positive, according to Cynthia DeBoy, associate professor of biology at Trinity Washington and a director of the grant programs. A training about motivating students held on a Saturday attracted all science faculty members, and they stayed until after 5 p.m. It led to the creation of mentor moment courses at the university, which focus on different life skills, like self-advocacy and applying to internships, for each year of a student’s time in college.

Ultimately, colleges need to hire more full-time faculty, according to Adrianna Kezar, director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. Those who are full-time can do what many contingent faculty don’t have the supports to do: hold more office hours, stay after classes to have conversations with students and support outside activities like clubs.

“Research shows, for first-generation, low-income and underserved minority students, that faculty members who are supportive are by far more important than things like advising,” Kezar said. “Just at a time where the student body really needs the faculty, we’ve really taken away the ability for faculty to support them.”

‘We’re the Ones on the Ground’

Large-scale changes that could improve student success at scale often face opposition from faculty members, policy experts say.

One of the most obvious examples is the battle over developmental education reforms. In several states, faculty unions have fought against legislation to adopt models like corequisite courses.

“What happens in the classrooms could be most critical for students,” said Wil Del Pilar, vice president of higher education policy and practice at the Education Trust. “Faculty need to be willing to change their pedagogy based on students, or be more flexible.”

In California, legislation that allowed more community college students to skip remedial courses and instead take courses that would transfer with credit to four-year institutions was met with opposition by some faculty.

Faculty lamented what they call legislative intrusion. The reason why is simple, said Susan Holl, professor emeritus at California State University, Sacramento, and chair of a subcommittee of the Faculty Senate.

“We’re the ones on the ground,” she said. “All educational strategies don’t work for all students.”

It’s frustrating to see legislators think they know best, Holl said, especially when they push for change very quickly. The faculty she works with are very committed to student success, she added.

“The pushback comes from people telling faculty how best to do their business, when we know how to create programs and curricula,” she said.

Holl suggested that advocates go to faculty governance bodies first with proposals for significant changes, such as developmental education.

“Although we appreciate that people are well meaning,” she said, “we would like any legislators, any people who hold the purse strings, before they make any rules or legislation or listen to advocacy folks, to make sure they work with the faculty at whatever level to understand what the real issues are on the ground.”

The pushback can also be unintentional. It’s unfair to vilify faculty who teach using lectures, because it’s often an issue of awareness, said Josh Eyler, director of faculty development at the University of Missouri.

“We have a ton of research on how people learn and the teaching strategies that are most effective in maximizing that learning,” Eyler said. “To the degree that we can send that message and spread that word and shift the culture of the university toward teaching strategies rooted in that evidence, the better we’ll be.”

To that end, institutions should incentivize and support faculty in learning more about their craft, Eyler said.

Stommel thinks faculty should engage students more in their courses. The surest way to do so is to not design courses ahead of time, but rather ask students to help construct them.

“When we lock that stuff in stone before we’ve interacted with the students, then we’re not actually building a learning experience for the students we actually have,” he said. “We’re building a learning experience for an imaginary student.”

While some might assume this model takes the rigor out of college, Stommel said it can do the opposite. If students take ownership of their learning, they will put in more effort and be more engaged, he said, whereas it can be easier for them to “go on autopilot” while following someone else’s goals and trajectories.

A Small but Vocal Group

Many higher education experts said they believe the issue of faculty being a barrier to student success arises from a “small but vocal group” of professors. “And they have tenure,” said Morris, the professor from CU Denver.

Morris studies pedagogy and learning, and he contends that the typical way college faculty teach -- lecture style -- won’t work with the “new traditional” student.

“There’s a divide between teachers and students in the classroom, and that needs to start to break down,” he said. “Traditionally, the teacher is a taskmaster.”

If learning were more cooperative and collaborative, then nontraditional students could bring their life experiences into the class, Morris said. When this can’t happen, faculty have to take special measures to know what’s going on in their lives and what challenges they may have.

Most faculty also never learn how to teach, according to Del Pilar. Institutions, he said, tend to value faculty’s ability to be content experts rather than teachers.

“They are not trained to meet the different learning outcomes or style of everyone, or the unique needs of students,” he said. “They’re trained on, ‘How do I get the information across? Here’s how I learned it, here’s how you’ll learn it.’”

Achieving the Dream, a nonprofit network of community colleges focused on student success, is working to address this issue by encouraging its members to invest in centers focused on teaching and learning, said Karen Stout, the organization’s CEO and president. These centers can teach faculty how to empathize with the myriad of experiences today’s students bring to the table, as well as raise awareness about nonacademic supports on campus so faculty can correctly refer students.

There’s a divide between teachers and students in the classroom, and that needs to start to break down.

Both Morris and Stout said most faculty want to learn about effective teaching methods.

“If you engage them in conversations about relational teaching, they eat it up,” Morris said. “Because they go into a room and their students are staring at them, and they have to try to make learning occur.”

At Miami Dade College, a community college in Florida that won the 2019 Aspen Prize for College Excellence, faculty have access to the Center for Institutional and Organizational Learning.

Julie Alexander, vice provost of academic affairs at the college, cited hundreds of opportunities for training each year. Academic affairs also has personnel dedicated to the long-term strategy for faculty development. Adjunct faculty are paid to attend mandatory training, and some voluntary opportunities are also paid, Alexander said.

“One thing that I hear a lot from students is that they feel like this is a very receptive environment, and that the faculty are aware of not only their capacities, but also that there are challenges outside of academia,” she said.

Some also question the focus of tenure and the reward structure on which it’s built. For example, at institutions with a heavy research focus, faculty members can lack incentives to strive to perfect their teaching strategies.

It’s difficult to quantify effective teaching, said Sally Johnstone, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, while it’s “easy to count publications.”

Still, if institutions want more effective teaching, they have to promote it from the top down. When Morris was a graduate student teaching a class at the University of Colorado at Boulder, he said he was told by his department chair to not worry about the teaching, but instead focus on his own studies.

“I was teaching 50 undergrads who needed a teacher, but I was told not to care,” he said.

While it’s easy to assume research universities would emphasize research over teaching, and vice versa with community colleges, Johnstone said the focus varies across colleges.

“It has to do with the leadership of the institution and how committed they and the board are to really having the focus on student success,” she said. “If that’s there, then there are other things they can do for all students to be successful.”

Changes Done Right

Many colleges are starting to make changes to address these issues as the current environment forces them to innovate or risk failure.

There are different approaches to how to involve faculty in that change.

“When you talk to people who are trying to create institutional change, engaging faculty in that change makes it more sustainable, but it also makes it a longer game,” Del Pilar said. “Do you implement what you can today to help students now, or play the long game to help students in six years? I think the answer is both-and.”

At Georgia State University, administrators took this approach and first addressed issues that didn’t require faculty involvement.

“When we launched these efforts over a decade ago now, the focus was on the university trying to correct the problems that the university itself was creating,” said Tim Renick, senior vice president for student success at Georgia State. “We wanted to ask how we were the problem.”

Some of the first big projects included improving academic advising, changing the distribution of financial aid and launching a chat bot to help students more immediately with problems, he said.

While those initiatives were done without faculty, Renick said, it didn’t create resentment. Rather, he said, it showed “that this was not an attempt to attack them. It was an effort to show that we all have to address issues.”

Do you implement what you can today to help students now, or play the long game to help students in six years? I think the answer is both-and.

Because the changes started by looking at the problems at the university level, rather than shoving blame onto faculty, Renick said it encouraged faculty to spearhead their own projects.

There still was pushback, he said. But it tended to come from a small group.

“I think most faculty come into higher education, and certainly most faculty come to a place like Georgia State, because they care about making a difference,” Renick said. “In many cases, the university deadens that idealism because it’s such a big bureaucracy, and younger faculty want to change things, but they can’t.”

Once faculty saw how the changes -- like moving to low- or no-cost materials or using predictive analytics -- helped improve the graduation rate, they once again had hope that they could make things better, he said.

The approach has worked, according to Michelle Brattain, chair of the Senate Executive Committee and chair of the history department at Georgia State

“The university has not demanded anything. They’ve persuaded [faculty],” Brattain said. “I think if the university put all the responsibility for student success on faculty, it wouldn’t have gotten buy-in.”

Use of data analytics also convinced faculty members to take the administration’s work seriously, she said. The administration’s willingness to help with problems students face also sets the tone for the university overall.

For example, Brattain said, one student broke his glasses and couldn’t afford new ones, and he couldn’t do work because of it. She emailed a vice president at the college for help, and that staff member found a grant for the student to get new glasses.

“No problem is too small for them to be concerned about it,” she said. “It makes a huge difference.”

Many believe that including faculty in student success initiatives is key. Stout, of Achieving the Dream, said she sees faculty leading the change in many places.

“I don’t believe that faculty are the barrier for nontraditional student success,” Stout said. “I believe the systems and structures in our colleges are the barriers.”

One example is Pierce College in Washington, where faculty are now using data to improve student success at the course level.

The change started when the institution decided to focus heavily on student success, said Greg Brazell, director of employee engagement, learning and development at the college. It instigated a change in how the college provides professional development to its faculty.

“Before, it was the traditional, one-and-done, just-in-time model,” Brazell said. To make development more sustainable, the college created action research project opportunities for faculty. This year’s theme for projects is equity.

Faculty are becoming evidence-based practitioners on teaching practices, he said. They can look at data at the course level to determine which students are not succeeding and why that might be. Maybe students can’t get homework done during the week, or maybe the faculty member is teaching a particular lesson too quickly.

As a result, the college has raised its three-year graduation rate from 18.7 percent to 36.2 percent since 2010.

“The current culture is very open,” he said. “It’s all about student success.”

I believe the systems and structures in our colleges are the barriers.

McGuire, president of Trinity Washington, said it’s important for university leadership to find “champions for change” among the senior faculty, as well as provide incentives through paid training or grant opportunities.

“You do have to fund faculty time and recognize that there’s a value worth paying for,” she said.

The university has a committee that acts as a “faculty salon” where professors will present their work on student success, which can naturally bring about change.

One discussion centered on whether faculty should accommodate a student who had a childcare problem and needed to bring their child to class for a day, McGuire said. Half said yes and half said no, and then they discussed it.

“Everyone went away realizing they should be humane and let someone do that if they need it for an emergency,” she said.

While institutions have been focusing on student success over the past decade, Kezar, of the Pullias Center, said the next area of focus is student services.

“The big move for the next 10 years really needs to be, ‘OK, we’ve done some really good thinking about students and some of the things that shape and affect them, but we haven’t really considered the classroom,’” she said. “That has always been left out of the student success movement. That’s what we need to focus on now.”

Editorial Tags: FacultyImage Source: Madeline St. Amour, Inside Higher EdImage Caption: Thomas Mostowy, associate dean for the School of Professional Studies at Trinity Washington University, teaches a night class to adult students in February.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: Display Promo Box: Live Updates: liveupdates0

Zoombombing isn’t going away, and it could get worse

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

A brief exchange is all it took for one student to completely derail an online accounting test at the University of Arizona yesterday.

“Don’t make it too obvious at the start that you are trolling, just ease into it lmao.”

“I got you, me and two other friends are joining.”

Armed with a Zoom videoconference ID, the trolls got to work. Their efforts to disrupt the test resulted in its cancellation. Students have been asked to complete the test in their own time, the university confirmed.

This incident is just one of many disruptions to plague higher education in recent weeks as quarantined keyboard warriors seek to wreak havoc on classes that are suddenly being offered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Such trolling, which first drew widespread attention last week, has been dubbed Zoombombing. Some of the disruption to online classrooms is random. Trolls playing “Zoom roulette” simply type a random 10-digit number into Zoom -- the videoconferencing service that many colleges and universities have relied on to move classes to remote instruction on short notice. Then the trolls see where they land.

More often than not, it seems the attacks on higher education classes are targeted. Many students are willingly sharing details of upcoming conference calls in online chat rooms and message boards. Those details often include passwords to private meetings scheduled by users with access to paid Zoom educational accounts.

On social media platforms, users with hundreds of thousands of followers have openly called on students to share details of upcoming classes so that they may disrupt them. And there appears to be no shortage of volunteers.

In “best of” compilation videos on YouTube and in live Zoombombing incidents witnessed by Inside Higher Ed, intruders frequently pose as students before taking over classes.

Some of the disrupters launch into ridiculous lines of questioning, perform supposedly comedic skits or shout or breathe heavily into their microphones. Another popular tactic is to blast loud noises and music, a method known as “ear rape.”

Often the intrusions take a far more sinister turn, with trolls sharing explicit images, streaming pornography, drawing crude images over instructors’ slides, exposing themselves or repeatedly expressing racial slurs -- sometimes aimed at specific instructors or students.

This harassment of minority instructors and students is reminiscent of the Gamergate movement, which describes the sustained misogynistic campaigns waged against women in the gaming community.

Zoombombing attacks, or Zoom raids, are planned on services such as Discord, a communication platform popular among gamers. In a Discord group accessed by Inside Higher Ed, online trolls seemed to delight in the confusion and distress they caused instructors, some of whom, they gleefully reported, had burst into tears. Some members of the group described themselves as wishing to pursue “good old-fashioned trolling” and said they drew the line at “really fucked-up shit” such as sharing child pornography or repeating the N-word over and over. “That’s boring,” one user wrote.

A single intruder can be quickly kicked out by meeting hosts, if they know how to do it. But coordinated attacks by dozens of trolls make it nearly impossible for instructors to take back control. Many Zoombombed classes descend into chaos, forcing instructors to simply shut them down.

Dozens of resources advising instructors on how to secure their videoconference calls have been published in the past week as awareness of Zoombombing grows, including this one from the company itself. The University of California, Berkeley's information security office shared this detailed prevention guide. On Twitter, instructors also shared tips and tricks to prevent intrusions.

There are several simple steps that instructors can take to minimize intrusions, including locking meetings so that no new attendees can join once classes have started and muting all attendees. Adding a password for meetings is a simple deterrent, provided students don’t share the passwords. At the University of Arizona, a spokeswoman said the institution is now advising all instructors to screen call participants in virtual waiting rooms before they start their classes.

As quickly as instructors adapt to best practices however, trolls are finding workarounds. On a recent Reddit thread, one user shared that changing your username to “iPhone” or “Samsung” may fool instructors screening participants into thinking that you are a student calling into the meeting from your cellphone, rather than accessing the call through your computer.

The escalating problem of Zoombombing isn’t exclusive to education. AA meetings, prayer groups and book readings for children have been recently commandeered by Zoombombers. A small number of people have started referring to these trolls as “Zoombies” -- a fitting term for the apocalyptic atmosphere of a nation gripped by a global pandemic.

“It’s important for faculty to understand that they are not alone in dealing with this,” said Liz Gross, founder and CEO of Campus Sonar, a company that develops social media strategies for higher education institutions.

Campus Sonar has been tracking public online conversations about higher education and the impact of the coronavirus online since March. The term "Zoombombing" didn’t show up in the company’s data set until March 21, Gross said.

“It had minimal mentions until March 31 and April 1, when we detected a threefold increase in Zoombombing mentions.”

Gross predicts that the trend will "likely get worse before it gets better" as online groups start to copy each other's Zoombombing antics.

While some students have complained about the disruption caused by Zoombombing on Twitter and other online forums, others seem to find the practice amusing, Gross said. Some trolls may be engaging in Zoombombing just for the sake of causing disruption, but others may see it as an opportunity to promote certain political agendas, including spreading extreme right-wing views through a practice known as "dropping redpills."

“I found one concerning message on 4chan from March 31 in a thread about politics suggesting that since millions of students across America are in online classes on Zoom, 4chan users could get into those classrooms and ‘drop redpills,’” said Gross. “They went on further to quip that they could ‘redpill entire schools’ if only a few committed to it.”

The link between Zoombombing and criminal activity was highlighted this week by an advisory from the FBI encouraging people who are the victims of videoconference hijacking to report it as a cybercrime.

Increased use of videoconferencing tools by higher education institutions, the private sector and government agencies in the wake of the coronavirus could be exploited by cybercriminals to steal sensitive information and target individuals, the FBI also warned.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, reported that as of March 30, it has received and reviewed more than 1,200 complaints related to COVID-19 scams. These include phishing campaigns targeting first responders, distributed denial of service attacks against government agencies and ransomware attacks at medical facilities.

These same groups “will target businesses and individuals working from home via telework software vulnerabilities, education technology platforms and new business email compromise schemes,” the FBI predicted.

The rise of Zoombombing provides an opportunity for institutions to talk about the importance of data security and privacy online, said Brian Kelly, director of the cybersecurity program at higher education IT membership group Educause.

Despite many negative news articles criticizing weaknesses in the Zoom videoconferencing platform this week, Kelly says the product is not “inherently less secure” than other videoconferencing tools. It is simply under increased scrutiny since so many people are now using it.

“Zoom has been very responsive to the criticism,” said Kelly. "They aren’t circling the wagons."

He noted that earlier this week, Zoom changed the default settings for users with educational Zoom licenses so that only hosts can share content, and the company is continuously making updates. “There is some risk with all of these platforms. The trick is learning to mitigate that risk,” he said.​

Zoom's CEO, Eric Yuan, wrote in a blog post Wednesday that the company would be focusing exclusively on bolstering its security and privacy over the next 90 days.

"We appreciate the scrutiny and questions we have been getting -- about how the service works, about our infrastructure and capacity, and about our privacy and security policies. These are questions that will make Zoom better, both as a company and for all its users," wrote Yuan.

"We recognize that we have fallen short of the community's -- and our own -- privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry and I want to share what we are doing about it."

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Financial woes of states threaten free college proposals from Biden and Sanders

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Though they don't necessarily doom the plans, the financial struggles of states amid the coronavirus pandemic have become a major obstacle to free college proposals from presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

So much so that at least one proponent of free college, Morley Winograd, president of the Campaign for Free College Tuition, acknowledged that the proposals from Sanders and Biden on how to pay for eliminating tuition now are unlikely to happen. The plans “need to be put aside for now,” he said, given the focus on preventing state cuts from sending college tuition soaring.

"Colleges never fully recovered from the last recession, and now they need tens of billions of dollars to avoid massive tuition hikes," said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access & Success and former deputy domestic policy adviser in the Obama White House. "The first priority for both the federal government and states has to be addressing steep budget cuts and preventing large tuition hikes."

Kvaal said that "puts the free college plans in doubt for the foreseeable future." But he said free tuition could still happen sometime in the future.

What’s dampening hopes for many higher education experts is that both candidates’ plans call for states to chip in tens of billions of dollars.

Under Sanders’s proposal, for instance, the federal government would pay three-fourths of the cost, estimated by the campaign to be $48 billion annually. But it would rely on states to spend tens of billions a year to pick up the additional 25 percent.

Biden, meanwhile, initially proposed that states pick up one-fourth of the cost of a smaller plan that would have made community colleges free, with the rest paid by the federal government.

But in a move that was seen as an overture to Sanders supporters and young progressives, Biden announced last month that he would adopt an earlier Sanders proposal, the 2017 Colleges for All bill, making public colleges and universities free for all students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year. The federal government would spend what Sanders then estimated to $600 billion over 10 years, which would cover two-thirds of the total cost. States, in what’s now part of Biden’s plan, would have to pony up the remaining hundreds of billions of dollars.

But states are reeling financially as they deal with health care and other costs during the pandemic, at the same time as the closure of businesses and record unemployment are slashing their revenue. And higher education experts are worried about preventing another devastating round of state cuts in funding for colleges and universities, as happened in the last recession, which sent tuition soaring.

“It’s scary. Colleges will be swamped by a tidal wave of state budget cuts that could be more devastating than the Great Recession,” said Kvaal.

Winograd agreed. “As states focus their attention on responding to the immediate crisis, they are rapidly draining their financial reserves and then some. This combination of events makes it clear that even though the need for free college tuition has never been greater, the likelihood of funding it, even partially, from state revenues is unlikely,” he said.

Instead, Winograd said, Congress should provide money in a new stimulus package for governors who want to eliminate tuition as part of their economic recovery plans.

A spokesman for the National Governors Association said it's too early in the states’ budget process to forecast what will happen to spending for higher education. But he pointed to the dire comments Larry Hogan, Maryland's Republican governor, and Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, made in a Washington Post op-ed on Monday.

“As a result of the sharp slowdown in the economy and the postponing of tax filings, states are likely to face huge shortfalls in revenue,” they wrote.

Though Congress included $150 billion in aid to states, territories, municipalities and tribal governments in last week’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, the governors wrote, “States will need additional and substantial federal help to continue funding essential services such as police and Medicaid while balancing their budgets and meeting the spending demands of the pandemic.”

“It’s looking very challenging for state budgets,” said Phillip Oliff, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ senior manager of fiscal federalism and student loans policy. “The coronavirus crisis looks like it's going to have a major economic impact. When there are economic downtowns, they often mean major troubles for state budgets,” many of which are barred by law from running deficits, said Oliff, who spoke about the financial situation facing states during the pandemic but declined to comment on its impact on the free college plans.

And when states have to make budget cuts, he said, they tend to look at higher education, because colleges and universities can raise tuition.

Looking to the Feds

Neither the Sanders nor Biden campaigns returned inquiries this week asking if they have a plan for paying for the free college plans given budget crises in the states.

To do free college without state help, experts said, the federal government would have to initially pick up most if not all of the states' share of the cost, until the economy improves enough for states to start chipping in.

“Likely, in reality, it will have to mean a greater investment from the federal government. And that would mean the federal government will have to reprioritize higher education,” said Tiffany Jones, senior director of higher education policy at the Education Trust, which focuses on issues affecting students of color and those from low-income families. She noted that last week’s stimulus package spent 30 times more on helping corporations than higher education.

Some, like Antoinette Flores, director for postsecondary education at the progressive Center for American Progress, thought Congress could go along given the trillions it has been willing to spend in the stimulus packages. She noted that Congress increased spending on Pell Grants during the last recession.

“I could totally see policy makers consider free college. I don’t think the idea is off the table,” she said.

Suzanne Kahn, deputy director of the liberal Roosevelt Institute’s education program and its Great Democracy Initiative, also wasn’t ready to give up hope that the plans could be implemented. “In a moment of incredible crisis, we’re seeing an acceptance of ideas on the table that seemed faraway a short time ago," she said. Kahn cited, for example, how canceling student loan debt, once seen as a radical idea, was considered by Congress as part of the most recent stimulus package negotiations.

“I think it’s hard to make predictions, given how quickly things are moving,” she said.

However, Republican congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have put the brakes on another aid package until they see how the mammoth bill they just passed works out.

And even Democrats on the House education committee stopped short of funding free four-year institutions in the $331 billion College Affordability Act the committee passed last year, because of financial constraints, according to materials from Democrats.

Instead, the bill proposed a smaller plan, giving states $3 for every dollar they spend to make community colleges free.

That proposal doesn't make four-year institutions free. But Democrats on the committee believe the plan is an important step because it would establish a funding mechanism. Congress could add money later and someday make four-year public and private institutions free.

Preventing State Cuts

As attention shifts toward preventing state budget cuts, policy experts see a role for the concept of a federal-state partnership similar to ones proposed by Democratic candidates and House Democrats.

In simpler times before the epidemic, several education policy groups like TICAS and the Bipartisan Policy Center saw the partnerships as a way to encourage states to restore the funding for higher education they cut during the last recession.

A study by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities last year found that while states have increased spending on higher education in recent years, it still hasn’t gone back to pre-recession levels.

Under different variations of the idea, states that agree to maintain or increase their funding of higher education would be rewarded by getting at least that amount matched by the federal government.

The idea of the federal government increasing higher education spending by tying it to states' spending has “worked its way into the progressive zeitgeist in that everybody is talking about it. Think tanks are talking about it. Advocates are talking about it. The candidates are talking about it,” said Jason Delisle, resident fellow in higher education financing at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

“The ubiquitousness of the idea has really been a sea change in thinking about how we pay for college,” Kvaal said.

What’s become particularly relevant now is that proposals from TICAS and the Bipartisan Policy Center included a backup plan aimed at preventing state cuts during the bad times, such as when states saw an increase in unemployment or a drop in revenue.

Neither Sanders nor Biden’s education platforms, however, are detailed enough to describe what would happen during a recession -- something Kvaal warned about in what now looks like a prescient op-ed in The New York Times last October, titled “The Gaping, Recession-Sized Hole in 2020 College Plans.”

Under TICAS’s proposal, for example, the federal government would encourage states to maintain spending on higher education by doubling the amount of federal dollars for those that do. States that cut federal aid would have their federal funds reduced by half.

Now, TICAS and advocates like Jones said the next stimulus package should include a similar idea to a federal-state partnership to encourage states to not slash funding for colleges, as they did in the last recession.

“The top priority now has to be recovery from the immediate crisis. Colleges will need tens of billions of dollars to prevent rising tuitions and layoffs. In return, states should be required to limit their cuts and reinvest in colleges over time,” Kvaal said.

“It’s an incentive for states to think twice” about cutting higher education spending, because they would lose several times more in federal dollars, said Michele Streeter, a TICAS policy analyst.

Jinann Bitar, a senior higher education policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said policies to prevent state cuts in higher education during recessions are overdue. Her group had proposed Congress create a rainy day fund for states to offset higher education cuts during the hard times.

“Had a policy been in place, it would have mitigated the cuts higher education is facing now,” she said.

A version of the idea was included in the just-passed stimulus package, tying $14 billion in federal funding to states in return for not reducing funds next year below the average of the past three years. However, the provision has been criticized by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and advocacy groups like the Center for American Progress as being too weak because the secretary of education is allowed to grant waivers from the requirement to maintain spending if a state is in economic distress.

A report by the Center for American Progress this week noted that states cut higher education funding during the last recession, even though Congress included a $48.6 billion state stabilization fund in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. States only spent $8.3 billion of that money on higher education, the report said. And of 48 states that received the stabilization funding, 23 ended up cutting higher education funding anyway.

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Among the newly unemployed in the U.S. is a prestigious group: Fulbrighters

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

When the Department of State announced last month it was suspending Fulbright grants for Americans worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many grantees living abroad had to make difficult decisions quickly with incomplete and imperfect information.

With international borders closing to air traffic, commercial flight routes being canceled and the State Department urging Fulbrighters to return to the U.S. as soon as possible or risk being stuck in their host countries for an extended period, grantees had questions about their stipends and health insurance. Where would they live if they did return to the U.S.? What would they do for work, assuming they could even find jobs as millions of American companies and businesses shed workers during the economic downturn resulting from the public health crisis?

Participants in the State Department-funded Fulbright fellowships, a flagship program that provides grants for teaching and researching opportunities abroad, were not just losing prestigious grants and leaving behind unfinished research projects -- they were also losing incomes, housing and, in some cases, health insurance.

The program is paying grantees their stipends through June. This means grantees whose project terms correspond with the American academic year will receive all or most of the funds they were promised. But some of those whose grants started midyear and were scheduled to continue through the fall said they will not be getting thousands of dollars they were counting on.

Clémence Kopeikin, who was in Brazil on a Fulbright research grant to conduct a community-based program for youth focused on gender-violence prevention, said the premature end to her grant means she will lose more than $5,500 in funding she was counting on.

"My colleagues and I hope the Fulbright program will reverse their decision to cut funding and provide the rest of the grants as was stated in the contracts we signed," she said. "I do not consider it to be ethical to cancel programs and cut Fulbrighters' project funds/sources of income during a pandemic. Most of my research colleagues in other institutions around the world have switched to remote working and are shocked when I tell them that the our program was canceled, we were ordered to travel through mandatory evacuations and that most of us are now looking for work."

Jenny Lundt, a recent Colgate University graduate who arrived in Malaysia in January for what was supposed to be a 10-month Fulbright English teaching assistant grant, said she and other grantees in her position made financial decisions based on commitments made by the program.

"They guaranteed us housing. We got a car," she said of her Fulbright cohort. Now back in the U.S., she says, "I have no savings. I moved back in with my mom, putting my family at risk. I don’t have enough money to rent someplace or self-isolate, and no one is hiring right now."

Still, Lundt said she's better off than other grantees.

“I’m definitely in a more privileged position. I’m still on my parents’ health care, and my parents have made it work for me. Other people in my cohort don’t have that luxury whatsoever.”

The Fulbright program recommends grantees maintain private insurance coverage over and above the accident and sickness policy it provides, but not everyone does. A number of grantees, including Sean Hayward, said they came back to the U.S. during a pandemic without health insurance.

Hayward would have much preferred to stay in Indonesia, where he was studying traditional music from the Banyumas region.

"I have a house [in Indonesia] which is very well-suited to quarantine. I had it completely stocked. I had health insurance, a vehicle, a house full of musical instruments and possessions. It was highly preferable for me to stay," said Hayward, who is a doctoral candidate in music at the California Institute of the Arts. He said he left mainly because he received information from Fulbright officials indicating he would likely lose his research visa if he stayed, though he said he has since learned that would not have been the case.

“My rent in Indonesia for my house is $80 a month, and it’s already paid through the year,” said Hayward, who is currently staying in an Airbnb for a quarantine period after his travels from Indonesia to California took him through four major airports. “Basically, my grant amount is roughly $1,700 a month, which is quite plentiful in Indonesia, but [for] living in Los Angeles it is nowhere close [to] enough to live."

He said apartment hunting in the midst of a pandemic is obviously not ideal. He also has no hope of finding work in his field as a university lecturer any time soon.

The Fulbright program has said the “health, safety, and well-being of program participants” is its “highest priority.” With the pandemic rapidly worsening and borders closing, the department acted quickly and in unprecedented fashion in suspending all programs worldwide. The Department of State on March 19 issued a worldwide travel alert urging all Americans living abroad in places where commercial flights were still available to return to the U.S. immediately or be prepared to stay abroad indefinitely.

A State Department official said in a written statement that the department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs “has repeatedly urged and offered assistance to American Fulbright participants to depart from their overseas locations for several weeks. On February 28, March 11, and March 19 the State Department reiterated calls for Fulbright participants to return home and offered to assist and fully fund the cost of travel.”

“The bureau offered to help arrange their travel, including paying any increased transportation costs, provided stipends through June 30 for all Fulbrighters to aid in their transition, and assured all participants that they would retain alumni status of their programs," the official said.

Ushered Into Alumni Status

The alumni status, which confers grantees a prestigious title for their résumés and access to the Fulbright alumni network, is little comfort to some now-former Fulbrighters.

“We are not being given the opportunity to resume our work after the pandemic is over. We are Fulbright alumni and that’s it,” said Hayward. “For most of us the title of alumni is not as meaningful as the work itself. For me the money is not as meaningful as the work itself. I didn’t choose to become an experimental Indonesian music composer for the cash.”

Maia Evrona, a writer and translator whose grant provided funding her to study the Jewish poetic tradition in Greece and Spain, has called for Fulbright to offer new "makeup" grants to people whose grants were cut short this year.

“This would be unprecedented, but this crisis and the program’s response to it were also unprecedented,” Evrona wrote in an article in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

“The predominant emotion I am hearing from other Fulbrighters is that they just want to finish their projects,” Evrona said via email. “Many people are angry with the Fulbright program for going ahead with next year's grants before they have fulfilled their commitment to current Fulbrighters.”

She also said people also are angry because they felt that traveling put them in more danger than sheltering in place would have.

Natalia Roman, who has asthma, initially wanted to stay in Colombia, where she was a Fulbright English teaching assistant, but instead returned to Puerto Rico via a 27-hour flight that took her through four airports. On her journey back, she wore a sign on her back saying “Chronic Asthma Patient -- Please Keep Your Distance.”

Roman does not have health insurance in Puerto Rico, and she was fearful for her health traveling during a pandemic. Still, she said, “looking back, I think it was the right decision to get us out while we could because a lot of people are stuck in different countries. Things in Colombia aren’t looking great, and there is a certain level of security that each of us feels being with our parents and being with our significant other and knowing that even if borders close, it's not as if we’re stuck anywhere other than where we’re supposed to be,” she said.

Some Fulbrighters have chosen to stay on in their host countries as private citizens. Matthew Ehrlich, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of California, San Diego, and his wife, Kelsey Wood, opted to stay in Spain on tourist rather than research visas after Ehrlich's Fulbright grant prematurely ended.

Ehrlich was using his Fulbright to do dissertation research on the 19th-century Spanish empire and said he’s relieved to be getting funding through June and to have Fulbright alumni status. But he said lack of clarity about those details complicated his decision making when he and his wife were trying to decide what to do.

“We felt this sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” he said. “We couldn’t think with a clear head about what was genuinely best for our health, our safety, our families, the right thing to do globally, because of this fear that we would lose our funding and lose our status.”

Requirement to Return Stipend

The Fulbright program is not the only U.S. government-sponsored grant for international research and study. Frankee Lyons, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, went to Poland with funding from the State Department’s Title VIII program, which funds research and language instruction in Eastern Europe, Eurasia and Russia, in addition to funding from the Fulbright program.

Lyons, who studies Polish-Jewish life in the 1950s under Communism, is pleased with how Fulbright officials in Poland handled the pandemic. But Lyons is very unhappy that the American Councils for International Education -- a nonprofit organization that administers her Title VIII grant -- is requiring her to repay about $6,000 for her housing and living stipend for the remaining three months of her now-canceled grant.

Graham Hettlinger, an American Councils official, wrote to Lyons and informed her she could keep the housing portion of the stipend to pay for outstanding lease payments if she returned to the U.S., but not if she stayed in Poland -- "as doing so would effectively be to continue a program that, by our own assessment, we were obligated to cancel in order to protect the health of our participants."

Hettlinger, the managing director of higher education programs for American Councils, defended the requirement to return the money in a March 25 letter to Lyons, saying the terms of the grant “include the requirement that a pro-rated portion of housing and living stipends be returned to the funder if a scholar’s time abroad is reduced for any reason from the original time allotted.”

“After that I went back to the terms and conditions,” said Lyons. “It doesn’t say ‘for any reason.’ There are clear sections in the contract that say under what conditions it must be returned, and those are if the grantee withdraws, is dismissed or is medically evacuated, and none of those things happened. The program was canceled by them. I wasn’t dismissed; I didn’t withdraw.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do going forward with this,” said Lyons, who remains in Poland. “I’m also really concerned one this is my livelihood for the next three months. I didn’t violate my contract, and I feel I’ve been mistreated.”

Hettlinger, of American Councils, said via email that the terms and conditions of the grant say that fellowships can be canceled or shortened and fellows asked to return early due to circumstances beyond their control.

"Throughout these events, American Council’s first priority has been to protect the health and safety of our program participants by keeping them well informed of ongoing developments in the COVID-19 crisis, and, as required by conditions, arranging their safe and timely return home," he said. "We certainly feel for those of our Title VIII scholars who have had to abbreviate their research time abroad due to these events, and we recognize that the shortening of their awards has had unfortunate financial implications for many."

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Roundup: More funding, closures and a sloth

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Happy Friday, folks.

We've officially surpassed one million cases of COVID-19 worldwide. On a (somewhat) uplifting note, more than 200,000 people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

There's not much good news about the economy, though. To ease your mind a bit, here is a happy animal video.

If you need us, we'll be watching this sloth eat kale... forever?

: @NationalZoo

— Washingtonian (@washingtonian) April 1, 2020

Still getting the hang of Zoom meetings? Here's a helpful video from theater faculty at Columbia College Chicago.

Now let’s get to the news.

Think tanks are calling for more funding for higher education in the next round of stimulus packages (if there is one).

Meanwhile, colleges are asking Betsy DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, to disburse the relief funds for higher education to institutions quickly. They're also asking the department to clarify how the money can be used.

A Strada Education Network survey found that many people would want to further their education if they lost their jobs.

To help keep students enrolled, Ohio Wesleyan University is canceling its planned tuition increase of 3 percent.

Athletics directors are thinking about reducing employee compensation as institutions look toward major budget cuts.

Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

COVID-19 is affecting more than colleges' finances and operations. It's affecting their faculty, staff and leaders -- several of whom have already died from the virus, Marjorie Valbrun reports.

Elizabeth Redden has a story on scholars combating racism against Asians and Asian Americans due to the coronavirus.

Two colleges recently announced they're closing. Emma Whitford wrote about how the coronavirus was a factor in those decisions.

News From Elsewhere

Reuters has a damning report on how college students are spreading the novel coronavirus.

Do private colleges have enough cash to weather this storm? The Chronicle of Higher Education has this story.

What to do when campus is closed and you're bored? Build your college on Minecraft, The Verge reports.

Here's a helpful story from The Atlantic on epidemiological models.

Percolating Thoughts

Hybrid Pedagogy, a journal for digital pedagogy, has an interesting article arguing for less test proctoring as colleges pivot to online.

A scholar and a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania have some ideas for how colleges can further help the battle against COVID-19.

Ever taken a look at the subreddit for professors on Reddit? It's looking pretty rough for universities right now, according to one chief strategist.

Have any percolating thoughts or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.

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Universities form global network on climate change

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 00:00

Several dozen of the world’s top universities have teamed up to press for action on climate change, saying the coronavirus pandemic should not erase attention on the dangers of a warming world.

The International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA), unveiled on April 2, showcases climate change research from 40 universities in 18 countries across six continents.

The group includes institutions with global strengths in key disciplines for both analyzing and resolving climate change, such as engineering, economics, law, social science and planning, as well as climate science.

The University of New South Wales Sydney, which spearheaded the initiative and will coordinate it for the first year or two, is also the lead institution for solar photovoltaic technology. While Australia’s catastrophic summer bushfires focused the world’s attention on the consequences of climate change, the initiative has been in the planning for the past two years.

“This new platform is needed now more than ever as the world grapples with providing a coordinated approach to tackling climate change,” said UNSW vice chancellor Ian Jacobs.

Matthew England, an oceanography and climate dynamics specialist with UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, said the group had made the “tricky” decision to launch the alliance amid the COVID-19 “information saturation.”

While climate action is “on hold while we address this pandemic,” England said there were many parallels with the coronavirus. “One is that acting early makes the process easier, right through to the economy,” he said.

“Another is that this is a problem we can solve by coming together globally and within communities, sharing scientific knowledge but also understanding what we’re all going through across nations. We will solve COVID, and we can also solve climate change with enough of a coordinated effort.”

Member universities include the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, the Sorbonne University, ETH Zurich, the University of Hong Kong, the National University of Singapore, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, the University of São Paulo, the University of Ghana, the University of Nairobi, TERI School of Advanced Studies in New Delhi, the China University of Geosciences and the Fiji-based University of the South Pacific.

England said he expected another 10 or so institutions to join the group. He said that as an international problem, climate change warranted a “truly international” alliance with global traction.

The aim was to create a “new voice” capable of engaging not just in national-level policy but also international negotiations, such as the treaties formulated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

England said that as mounting scientific and government reports demonstrated the effects of climate change, people were understandably frustrated about political inaction on the issue. “This new alliance is united in helping to break through this barrier so decision makers can have better access to research-based facts on climate change impacts, adaptation and -- most importantly -- mitigation,” he added.

The alliance had deliberately embraced institutions in emerging nations with surging populations and energy needs, which were teetering between “going for low-carbon sources of energy or making the mistakes we’ve made in Australia and the U.S.,” England said.

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Colleges start new academic programs

Inside Higher Ed - Vie, 04/03/2020 - 00:00
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Chronicle of Higher Education: During Covid-19, One College’s Virtual Chat Offers Hope for the Fall

An admissions officer braced for tough questions about college in the pandemic. But the Class of 2024 wanted to talk about other things.

Chronicle of Higher Education: How Are Colleges Contributing to the ‘War Effort’ Against the Coronavirus?

Medical masks, ventilator designs, food pantries. Even as the pandemic has closed campuses, it has renewed many faculty and staff members’ sense of purpose about their role in the community.

read more

Chronicle of Higher Education: ‘I Was Horrified’: For Millions of Borrowers, the Coronavirus Stimulus Law Offers No Relief

Borrowers with commercially held federal student loans have options. But forcing them to make difficult decisions during a public-health crisis could put them at risk financially.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Coronavirus Complicates an Already Tricky Balancing Act for Adult Learners

The pandemic poses additional challenges to students juggling coursework with full-time jobs, child care, and elder care.

Flexible starts, new test rules: UK HEIs address financial risks of Covid-19

The PIE News - Jue, 04/02/2020 - 10:35

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening international enrolment numbers at UK higher education institutions for 2020, which could lead to huge financial losses for institutions, industry leaders have been warned.

While some indicate that universities are seeking to mitigate the impact by focusing on pre-sessional English provisions, concerns surrounding visa applications and widespread student anxiety remains.

Chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, has called for government support at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic threatens a “major financial hit” which would put a lot more universities in a “tough position”.

“We are closer to a university going bust than we have been at any point in living memory”

“You have got a top-end risk of £7 billion of income, which would be well over 20% of university income next year,” he said, adding that most international students are currently making decisions about where they will be studying.

“We are closer to a university going bust than we have been at any point in living memory,” added Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute.

Speaking with The PIE News, founder of university specialists The University Guys and podcast presenter, David Hawkins, said that among the fear and uncertainty, it is “really difficult to talk about the sector as a whole”.

“Everybody’s concerns are going to be different,” he said. “If an institution recruits mostly from its local area, then they’re probably going to be okay.

“If it has 25% of its student body from overseas and mostly from China, then they’re probably not going to be okay, and every variation in between.”

Other sources suggested the Russell Group universities relying on high numbers of students from China could be at risk.

“[Some Russell Group institutions], their postgrad provision – we are talking 15,000-20,000 international students per year – what are they going to do if restrictions stay in play?” one source told The PIE.

“I worry about their future because I think there are going to be mass redundancies.”

Some institutions have already noted a reduction in applications from China this year, with some down between 30-40% for the 2020 intake.

“I’d estimate that we’ll be around 40% down in China, but will stay relatively consistent across all other markets,” one non-Russell Group university told The PIE.

“Overall, that would put us around 25% down this year. It is likely though that we’ll push a lot of students towards a January intake.”

And student anxiety is adding pressure to worries about how international destinations are perceived by prospective students, with one recent survey revealing 86% of 9,000 Chinese students studying overseas wish to return home.

But it’s not just students from China who are being impacted by the uncertainty.

“We just don’t know what the situation is going to be [for] so many different factors: whether will kids be able to come, when will they be able to come – it’s going to be so individual to each country,” said Hawkins at The University Guys.

Brian McNamara, International Recruitment Manager (Asia) at the University of Brighton, said the university is “putting in place a wide range of mitigations” for assessment.

“So far this has included flexibility around start dates, online delivery of pre-sessionals and accepting a broader range of English language assessments but we have a range of additional measures coming in the pipeline,” McNamara indicated.

Others suggested that institutions may bring in multiple intakes throughout the year, including potentially introducing undergraduate courses starting in January.

The University of Bristol has worked to recognise new methods of assessment said the head of International Student Recruitment, Charlie Pybus, such as adding the Duolingo test to its list for 2020’s entry.

“Clearly there are significant barriers for applicants this year…from lack of English testing availability to inability to apply for visas coupled with the anxiety that the situation is causing for students,” he explained.

Bristol has developed an online pre-sessional course to be offered alongside on-campus options, as well as a suite of opportunities for students to engage with the university virtually over the coming months, Pybus added.

“This work will be ongoing as the situation develops across key recruitment markets working closely with a range of stakeholders to understand student concerns and issues, and act to address them.”

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the UK remains a popular prospective study abroad destination, with a new QS report revealing that over 85% of 11,000 prospective international students originally intending to study at a UK university were still open to applying.

“There are significant barriers…from lack of English testing availability to inability to apply for visas”

In response to the survey, Eva Crossan Jory, NUS vice president (Welfare) said institutions need to provide clear communication to all international student applicants and flexibility around start dates, teaching provision and accommodation.

“We would urge the government to demonstrate flexibility in adapting to the difficulties some international students will now face in gaining Tier 4 visas for study and to do all they can to help them come to the UK for the start of the next academic year,” she said.

The reliance on international students “paying over the odds”, demonstrated that the sector’s marketisation is unsustainable and inequitable, she added.

“If more than half the expected intake of international students chose to defer entry or study elsewhere the financial impact on the higher education sector would be grave.”

Additional reporting by Kerrie Kennedy

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Cuba’s doctors are in high demand

Economist, North America - Jue, 04/02/2020 - 07:50

Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For more coverage, see our coronavirus hub

WHEN THE number of patients mounts but the number of healers does not, whom do you call? That was the question for Giulio Gallera, the health minister in Lombardy, the Italian region worst hit by covid-19. The army was erecting a field hospital with 32 beds in a car park in Crema, 50km (30 miles) south-east of Milan. But what about doctors to attend them? “Someone said to me: ‘Write to the Cuban ministry of health,’” recalls Mr Gallera. Barely a week later, on March 22nd, 52 medics arrived from Havana, waving Cuban and Italian flags. Locals sent them warm clothing and bicycles for their commute.

Cuba’s Central Medical Collaboration Unit, which for six decades has sent doctors across the world, is having a busy month. Some 14 countries, from Angola to Andorra, have received a total of 800 doctors and nurses. Politicians in Buenos Aires and Valencia in Spain, and indigenous groups in Canada, are pressing national governments to request Cuban brigades....

The wisdom and witlessness of Latin America’s leaders

Economist, North America - Jue, 04/02/2020 - 07:50

Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For more coverage, see our coronavirus hub

SINCE HE TOOK over as Peru’s president two years ago Martín Vizcarra, an otherwise nondescript politician, has not flinched from taking bold decisions. He pushed political reforms through by referendum. Faced with a serially obstructive Congress, last year he shut it down, calling a fresh legislative election. Characteristically, he was the first Latin American leader to react to covid-19 by imposing a lockdown and curfew, on March 15th when his country had only 71 reported cases. Peruvians appreciate this restriction on their liberties for the public good. In an Ipsos poll his approval rating soared from 52% to 87%.

That is the pattern in Latin America. In Argentina Alberto Fernández, who took over a politically divided country in December, has seen his popularity rise to over 80% after he imposed a quarantine and sealed borders. In Colombia the new mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, stole a march over a hesitant national government when she imposed a...

The unintended consequences of indicting Nicolás Maduro

Economist, North America - Jue, 04/02/2020 - 07:50

IT WAS, INSISTED William Barr, the United States attorney-general, “good timing”. Amid the covid-19 pandemic and a collapse in global oil prices, on March 26th America’s Department of Justice unsealed indictments on drugs charges of Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator, and members of his inner circle. No longer should his regime be seen as merely corrupt and incompetent, argued Mr Barr. Now he has formally labelled it criminal—a drug gang masquerading as a government. The State Department offered rewards for information leading to the arrest of the accused ringleaders: $15m for Mr Maduro, $10m for Diosdado Cabello, the thuggish head of the pro-government “constituent assembly”.

The administration of Donald Trump seems to hope that the indictments will finally remove a regime that has been subject to punishing sanctions since early last year. But branding Mr Maduro a criminal blunts any incentive he might have to relinquish power. On March 31st the Trump administration changed its tone a bit. It suggested a “democratic transition framework” that envisages a role for the regime.

Venezuela’s situation is terrifying. Under Hugo Chávez, who became president in 1999, high oil prices hid the costs of the regime’s economically illiterate policies. But since 2013, when Mr Maduro took over, the economy has shrunk by two-thirds...

Asia ESL industry native English teacher pipeline “empty”

The PIE News - Jue, 04/02/2020 - 05:10

Until China announced it would be closing its borders to non-citizens, schools in the country were doing their best to try to recruit new foreign English language teachers for public schools and training centres, with one chain offering recruiters bonuses of over £800 for every teacher that started before May.

As schools in China’s western provinces reopen and the travel ban takes effect, recruiting English teachers from outside the country is going to be significantly more difficult for an industry that already suffers from a severe shortage of qualified staff. It’s an issue that is likely to impact the ESL industry across Asia.

According to the International TEFL Academy, around 100,000 ESL jobs open up every year – a large proportion of which are in Asia – with only half of all teachers renewing their annual contracts. In China and South Korea, around 1,000 new teachers are hired every month.

“There’s hundreds and thousands of small schools that rely on native language foreign teachers,” explains Jean-Pierre Guittard, owner of edtech company

“You can reopen your school, but where are the teachers going to be?”

“Often these are young people with a technical certificate [TEFL, CELTA, etc.]. Those people are suddenly without employment so they’ve all gone home. And so the concern is, what happens afterwards? You can reopen your school, but where are the teachers going to be?”

Guittard tells The PIE News that his company’s virtual classroom platform has seen a “substantial” increase in interest from ESL schools in Asia.

While some have switched online and been able to keep their teachers employed, institutes are now looking ahead to when those contracts end. Travel bans, lockdowns and unwillingness to travel are going to diminish the number of teaching job candidates.

“They’re gonna have to work harder to recruit new teachers,” he says. “It’s a huge process involving work permits, filtering applicants and training. It’s not simply putting an ad out like here in San Francisco, where I can find a qualified teacher, interview them and if they’re good, they can start in a few days or the next day.”

“It will take months to revamp and to rebuild their staff. Those schools always had an ongoing pipeline of people coming in. That pipeline is empty now.”

How schools react to coronavirus is also going to impact their reputation. Teachers working for some schools – including top brands – have reported being fired and unpaid as a result of the outbreak.

Several reviews from one major chain’s employees claim that the company “took half of every staff member’s February payment with only one week’s notice”.

“You can’t have a four-year-old kid sitting in front of a screen for two hours”

An article from the Japan Times noted that some employers there had also refused to pay foreign teachers (in violation of local law) and that the coronavirus has exposed gaps in Japan Exchange and Teaching contracts that don’t offer staff any protection in the case of serious illness or natural disasters closing their workplace.

In Vietnam, the business model of schools is largely determining their outlook. Those catering to test preparation and older students are finding adopting edtech easier and are able to keep their staff on.

At the English language chain YOLA, where Nam Nguyen is general director, the transition to online learning has been relatively painless. Although some teachers have left, the majority have stayed on.

“We’ve got about 350 teachers in our centres and about 30 teachers have left the country. The majority have returned to their home countries rather than looking for work somewhere else,” Nguyen tells The PIE.

“Others have also resigned from YOLA and taken work with Chinese companies online like VIP Kid but they are still based here. So some of them are waiting out the crisis and then people will be offline again.”

But Nguyen adds that schools who are more reliant on foreign teachers – YOLA has a roughly 50:50 split between foreign and local ones – and those that cater to younger students are seeing their business suffer most severely.

“You can’t have a four-year-old kid sitting in front of a screen for two hours. Classroom management is a whole new sort of dynamic for that type of teacher,” he said.

Although schools are due to open in Vietnam in April – it is likely to be pushed back, however – some parents have also decided they will be keeping younger children at home for the rest of the semester. In this case, it may give some schools a breather.

“So there may be a demand for teacher recruitment in more specialist subjects,” Nguyen says.

“But I can’t imagine kindergarten teachers or general English teachers for younger students being in high demand because of consumer behaviour.”

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US: FEA awards 124 flexible scholarships

The PIE News - Jue, 04/02/2020 - 02:48

The Fund for Education Abroad has increased access to international education by granting 124 new scholarships to US students consistently underrepresented in study abroad.

These flexible scholarships are deferrable through summer 2021, a new offering introduced by FEA to help their new scholars survive the current disruption to higher education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In an economic downturn, scholarships are necessary to get students on programs”

Including this new cohort, a total of 590 scholars, including minority, first-generation college and community college students, have benefited from over US$2.1 million in scholarships granted since FEA’s inception in 2010.

This year, 88% of awarded scholars are first-generation college students, 94% are minority, and 35% either transferred from or are attending a community college.

“In finalist interviews over the past two weeks, students overwhelmingly expressed resolve to pursue their study abroad dreams,” said FEA executive director, Jennifer Calvert.

“In an economic downturn, scholarships are necessary to get students on programs. FEA is the only non-governmentally funded national study abroad scholarship provider.”

New this year are four named and dedicated scholarships, including the first-ever funded by an FEA Scholar, the Breakout Scholarship for Community College Students.

Also new are the Eleni Zachariou Memorial Scholarship for Study in Greece, the Holland America Line Scholarship for Students Studying Travel and Tourism, and the Kacenga-Cladera Family Rainbow Scholarship.

The American University in Cairo and the University of Auckland have also funded two new Access Partner Scholarships.

“We expect FEA will be a vital resource to the study abroad sector as it emerges from the current global health and economic crisis,” said FEA chair, Anne Krieg.

“We are particularly grateful to the donors funding six new scholarships, and to all our supporters and partners who have helped us award more than $2 million in scholarships in a decade.”

Have you taken a look at the recently awarded #FEAscholars yet? Learn more about the 124 deserving American undergraduates who accepted “planning scholarships”–to be used anytime before summer 2021–on our website:

— Fund for Education Abroad (@FEAScholarships) March 29, 2020

FEA funds scholarships of up to $10,000 for study abroad, enabling students to study across the globe for a minimum of four weeks to a full academic year.

Selected from a pool of over 2,350 applicants, the 2020 FEA Scholars represent 94 higher education institutions across the US.

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MyGU wins €150,000 grant to further expand

The PIE News - Jue, 04/02/2020 - 01:03

Germany-based edtech startup, MyGermanUniversity, has been awarded €150,000 in public funding grants as it relocates to Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg.

Winning the “InnoRampUp” early-stage grant, MyGU is seeking to further expand the online platform for international students.

The portal has a database of more than 1,650 English-language master’s programs available in Germany. In total, the site shows 20,000 courses at more than 400 universities in Germany.

“We have developed an algorithm that guides students through the individual steps of their journey to a master’s in Germany”

The grant was made possible by IFB Innovationsstarter, a subsidiary of Hamburgische Investitions- und Förderbank, which supports technologically innovative early-stage start-ups.

MyGU has previously been funded by EXIST-Gründerstipendium – Business start-up grant – provided by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy in 2018/19.

The founders – Tobias Bargmann and Stephan Paulini – previously worked for the German Academic Exchange Service, heading up the Italian and Peruvian offices, respectively.

With the funding, MyGU will be expanded into the “first personalised platform on the topic of ‘Studying in Germany'”, according to Bargmann.

“So far, all portals that list study programs or provide information about studying abroad leave the students more or less alone with the key challenge: What is relevant for me (and when) in order to start my studies abroad,” he told The PIE News.

“With ‘MyRoadmap’ we have developed an algorithm that guides students through the individual steps of their journey to a master’s in Germany, depending on their profile and the desired project. The first section of this is to go online in the course of the year,” he explained.

MyGU will also add all English-taught bachelor programs that the German universities offer prior to that, Bargmann added.

Moving from Berlin to Hamburg, the company will benefit from an “even more dynamic” university landscape.

“Per capita, Hamburg even has more German universities than the capital, including the University of Hamburg – which has been awarded one of the universities of excellence in 2019, for the first time – but also a number of rapidly growing private and well-renowned universities, including Bucerius Law School, Kühne Logistics University,” Bargmann added.

However, MyGU remains a national platform that provides international students with the “best possible information about all German universities”.

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Chronicle of Higher Education: ‘Zoomed Out’: Why ‘Live’ Teaching Isn’t Always the Best

Now that it’s clear the move to emergency online teaching will last more than a couple of weeks, professors may have to readjust their plans.