Environmental Scan 2021
What will impact us in 2022? At the end of a year, it is a good practice to reflect and scan your environment to see what is happening, or what might be on the horizon, that might impact your work. SUNY Online is doing some strategic planning, and here is what I can see as possibly having some import, or impact on online teaching and learning in the new year and beyond.
Social, cultural, demographic:
Refugees and higher education
5% of refugees have access to higher education in the US compared to only 1% in 2019. This is far below the global average higher education enrollment among non-refugees, which stands at 39 per cent. According to another source, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only about 3 percent of the world’s university-age refugees are able to access higher education. We do not know the full scope of the issue in U.S. higher education, but access for refugees likely is far more restricted than for domestic students and even other immigrants.
This has implications and opportunities for SUNY Online to assist SUNY to respond to the needs of refugee communities in NYS with targeted online programs, certificates, credit and non credit.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
By 2045, the majority of the U.S. population will be Hispanic, Black, Asian or multiracial. This demographic shift will occur even sooner among students at colleges and universities, according to a Brookings Institute analysis.
- https://www.everylearnereverywhere.org/news/ – first 3 articles are DEI
- The incorporation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the curriculum and pedagogical approaches have received considerable attention in higher education as a way to help break down systemic barriers. Inclusive initiatives need to emphasize inclusive pedagogy at the course level, and build curriculum that assists learners to develop an understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism, and social justice. To that end the SUNY Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Action Plan, published February 2021, presents 25-point action plan recommendations designed to “create a more inclusive, representative SUNY, and to achieve equity in student success outcomes” (p. 15).
This presents opportunities for SUNY Online to develop tools, support and services targeting DEI and best practices in online teaching and learning environments to assist institutions, instructional designers and faculty inform, influence, and ensure equitable, diverse, and inclusive online teaching and learning environments. SUNY Online can: 1. Make representation in online education a priority. 2. Engage with the diverse communities 3. Promote and help campuses/IDs/Faculty build flexible learning environments to serve diverse student populations 4. Work with diverse service providers, contractors and other vendors 5. Structure partnerships with DEI in mind. Related: FACT2 group on inclusive teaching practices, and the OSCQR DEI project including the collaboration with Cal State.
Changes in Demographics
Demographic changes have implications for SUNY Online in terms of enrollment, marketing, and program selection decisions. Adult students, in particular, prefer the flexibility and mobility of online. Enrollment in online programs has continued to increase while overall higher ed enrollments have declined each of the past dozen years. Sharing faculty and courses with other institutions in similar circumstances can save money while continuing to serve students and potentially preserve an institution. Certification and credentialing are two areas that offer opportunities for expansion. These shorter-track online opportunities provide career rewards in less time at a lower cost than a degree.
Millions of former students have completed some work toward a degree, but without the diploma, they have nothing of substance to mark their learning accomplishments. Shifting the focus to these adult learners also could address some of the racial and ethnic inequities we see in educational attainment rates. The group of adults age 25 and older currently without postsecondary credentials is disproportionately Black, Hispanic and Native American.
- Futureproofing Institutions Against the Demographic Cliff
Poverty and transgenerational transmission of poverty
We can disrupt the cycle of poverty and the intergenerational transmission of poverty with education. Age, gender, and education are strong predictors of poverty status. New York State is one of the 13 states in the US with the highest percentage of children living in poverty. 20% of children in NYS live in poverty. Poverty is especially prevalent among black, Latino, and American Indian children (http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_684.html). Higher poverty rates among women, who are roughly half of the population, mean that the poor are also disproportionately female. The poor are also disproportionately comprised of single parents with children (usually single mothers). Single-parent families comprise 39.1% of the poor, although persons in such families make up only 14.4 % of the total population (http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/089533006776526102). Finally, the poverty of the family has consequences for the education of the children in terms of achievement and graduation rates, and then employment and salary. This is a cycle that creates a poverty trap from which it is nearly impossible to escape (http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/dps/pdfs/dp130505.pdf).
We know, however, that education can disrupt the cycle of poverty and the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Persons with greater education levels and those who increase educational attainment have higher poverty exit rates (www.heartlandalliance.org/whatwedo/advocacy/reports/causes-of-poverty.pdf). According to the National Report Card on Higher Education, Measuring Up 2008, (http://tinyurl.com/ncs9st): “College opportunities for New York State residents are poor. The likelihood of enrolling in college by age 19 is only fair, and a very low percentage of working-age adults (4 in 100) are enrolled in higher education. Among young adults, 29% of Hispanics and 34% of blacks are enrolled in college, compared with 50% of whites.” In addition, “The enrollment of working-age adults, relative to the number of residents without a bachelor’s degree, has declined in New York… The percentage attending college in New York is well below the U.S. average and the top states.”
For that percentage of students that actually attend college, we know that 40% of those incoming college students need remedial education and that number can be up to 70% at community colleges. We know that more than half of the students who start college, fail and drop out, and that billions are spent on activity that NEVER leads to a credential for the student. New York State is failing to adequately meet the education needs of poor and working class NYS families, earning a dismal D+ in participation and a resounding F in affordability according to the Measuring Up 2008 report card. Blacks and Hispanics in our state are particularly affected.
While the issue of affordability clearly appears to be the significant factor in these statistics, SUNY Online can attempt to address the issue of participation by making improvements in online student supports and online/blended/hyflex certificate and program options offered, specifically by targeting developmental student content mastery, mastery of deeper learning and completion, and student outcomes, success, access, convenience, and persistence with online degree programs, certificates and options that lead to credentials in programs with demonstrated workforce gaps that will position students well to enter the local workforce in those high needs areas.
Cybersecurity / Data Protection
According to a 2021 report from IBM and the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach among companies surveyed reached $4.24 million per incident in 2021, the highest in 17 years. Today nearly half of ransomware attacks steal data before encrypting systems, which means that ransomware is no longer just a business continuity or disaster recovery response; it is a full cybersecurity incident response because the attack may very well constitute a data breach if stolen records include protected data.”
As technologies change, and permeate more deeply into every aspect of higher education enterprises and activities, cybersecurity and data protection are elevated to mission critical to prevent and address cyber attacks, ransomware, and malware SUNY Online needs to be at the forefront of ensuring and continuously improving awareness, best practices, policies, and technologies that are in place in all online education related activities to ensure data is safe and protected.
- https://er.educause.edu/articles/2021/6/educause-quickpoll-results-artificial-intelligence-use-in-higher-education https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/06/16/4-could-a-quantum-leap-someday-aid-ethical-ai/
Crypto Currency in Education
Top IT issues 2022
Research suggests that online students are increasingly using mobile devices to engage in and complete online course activities and assignments, (Magda & Aslanian, 2018). Designing online course content and activities with that in mind is, therefore, critical to the overall accessibility of the course. Magda, A. J., Capranos, D., & Aslanian, C. B., (2020). Online college students 2020: Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: Wiley Education Services.
This has impact for SUNY Online Teaching and faculty and course design activities. Supports and services should target best practices in online course design and faculty preparation for mobile ready online teaching and learning. Also has implications for OSCQR and the need for a set of mobile standards.
Access to Broadband – this is for both the technology and economic scan.
Biden’s infrastructure plan for broadband in underserved areas includes an improvement of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program created for the pandemic. Under the new version, subsidies for eligible households will be $30 a month instead of the original $50. Another broadband provision gives $2.75 billion for digital equity grants to states to “facilitate the adoption of broadband by covered populations in order to provide educational and employment opportunities to those populations.” Grants can cover a variety of needs including training, broadband equipment, and “public access computing centers for covered populations through community anchor institutions.” Covered populations include low-income households, racial and ethnic minorities, rural residents, veterans, people with disabilities, people with language barriers, and people who are 60 or older.
This may offer SUNY Online opportunities to target non-credit programs.
- $2 billion for broadband grants and loans distributed by the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service
This may impact areas in NYS previously inaccessible to SUNY Online.
- $2 billion for Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program grants.
This may provide opportunities for SUNY Online to target educational opportunities to underserved Tribal Communities in NYS.
Cryptocurrency in Higher Education:
- https://builtin.com/blockchain/blockchain-education https://cointelegraph.com/tags/education
Biden’s Infrastructure Plan:
- This is economic, but also see the Public Policy.
- Free community college: Free community college was going to be part of Biden’s plan, but it didn’t make it into the plan.
- Student Loan Relief:
- Student loans forgiveness:
Alternative and Microcredentials:
- Alternative/non-degree and micro-credentials: https://upcea.edu/alternative-and-non-degree-credentials/
This has import to SUNY Online for curriculum design and models. Stackable credentials, credit and non-credit certificates, Workforce development gaps, etc.
Preparing for emergencies:
Climate change and Higher Education:
For SUNY Online this might be something to consider part of the Social Justice aspects of DEI. It is relevant perhaps to the extent that SUNY Online can prioritize or target how education around climate change can be supported or incorporated into online degrees and programs. STEM programs with a focus on climate change perhaps. In addition, SUNY Online can perhaps make a case that it contributes to reducing costs and carbon footprint by reducing paper, classroom/building infrastructure and maintenance, and commuting costs for students and faculty with online and blended instructional options.
WCET and UPCEA have identified several topics related to higher education policy.
- DoE regular and substantive interaction,
- State Authorization (interstate compliance)
- Professional Licensure Notifications Benefits for Military Students Student
- Identity verification
- Academic Integrity – https://wcet.wiche.edu/practice/assessment-academic-integrity/
Supporting academic integrity is an import issue in online education in general. It is a technical, ethical, and policy issue that SUNY Online should contribute to. As technology becomes more invasive, there are issues regarding privacy that emerge. This also comes into play in Learning Analytics, AI and VR in the technology scan.
- Accessibility – https://wcet.wiche.edu/practice/accessibility/
- OER – https://wcet.wiche.edu/practice/open-educational-resources/
SUNY Online should be aware of these issues and the implications on policy and decisions. Initiatives around these topics should be considered to support implementation in online environments, and SUNY Online can be a voice to inform, build awareness, influence and contribute to discussions around these issues. OSCQR has been updated with RSI and now must be promoted and incorporated into faculty development and course design processes.