Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How to Keep America Competitive: Our Universities are Essential

I've written before about the essential role that institutions of higher education play in maintaining America's competitiveness, and the damage that will occur if IHEs continue to become less accessible to worthy studetns from the working classes.

However, Bill Gates' recent article in the Washington Post (which follows below) really spells it out...

How to Keep America Competitive

By Bill Gates
Sunday, February 25, 2007; B07

For centuries people assumed that economic growth resulted from the interplay between capital and labor. Today we know that these elements are outweighed by a single critical factor: innovation.

Innovation is the source of U.S. economic leadership and the foundation for our competitiveness in the global economy. Government investment in research, strong intellectual property laws and efficient capital markets are among the reasons that America has for decades been best at transforming new ideas into successful businesses.

The most important factor is our workforce. Scientists and engineers trained in U.S. universities -- the world's best -- have pioneered key technologies such as the microprocessor, creating industries and generating millions of high-paying jobs.

But our status as the world's center for new ideas cannot be taken for granted. Other governments are waking up to the vital role innovation plays in competitiveness.

This is not to say that the growing economic importance of countries such as China and India is bad. On the contrary, the world benefits as more people acquire the skills needed to foster innovation. But if we are to remain competitive, we need a workforce that consists of the world's brightest minds.

Two steps are critical. First, we must demand strong schools so that young Americans enter the workforce with the math, science and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the knowledge economy. We must also make it easier for foreign-born scientists and engineers to work for U.S. companies.

Education has always been the gateway to a better life in this country, and our primary and secondary schools were long considered the world's best. But on an international math test in 2003, U.S. high school students ranked 24th out of 29 industrialized nations surveyed.

Our schools can do better. Last year, I visited High Tech High in San Diego; it's an amazing school where educators have augmented traditional teaching methods with a rigorous, project-centered curriculum. Students there know they're expected to go on to college. This combination is working: 100 percent of High Tech High graduates are accepted into college, and 29 percent major in math or science. Contrast that with the national average of 17 percent.

To remain competitive in the global economy, we must build on the success of such schools and commit to an ambitious national agenda for education. Government and businesses can both play a role. Companies must advocate for strong education policies and work with schools to foster interest in science and mathematics and to provide an education that is relevant to the needs of business. Government must work with educators to reform schools and improve educational excellence.

American competitiveness also requires immigration reforms that reflect the importance of highly skilled foreign-born employees. Demand for specialized technical skills has long exceeded the supply of native-born workers with advanced degrees, and scientists and engineers from other countries fill this gap.

This issue has reached a crisis point. Computer science employment is growing by nearly 100,000 jobs annually. But at the same time studies show that there is a dramatic decline in the number of students graduating with computer science degrees.

The United States provides 65,000 temporary H-1B visas each year to make up this shortfall -- not nearly enough to fill open technical positions.

Permanent residency regulations compound this problem. Temporary employees wait five years or longer for a green card. During that time they can't change jobs, which limits their opportunities to contribute to their employer's success and overall economic growth.

Last year, reform on this issue stalled as Congress struggled to address border security and undocumented immigration. As lawmakers grapple with those important issues once again, I urge them to support changes to the H-1B visa program that allow American businesses to hire foreign-born scientists and engineers when they can't find the homegrown talent they need. This program has strong wage protections for U.S. workers: Like other companies, Microsoft pays H-1B and U.S. employees the same high levels -- levels that exceed the government's prevailing wage.

Reforming the green card program to make it easier to retain highly skilled professionals is also necessary. These employees are vital to U.S. competitiveness, and we should welcome their contribution to U.S. economic growth.

We should also encourage foreign students to stay here after they graduate. Half of this country's doctoral candidates in computer science come from abroad. It's not in our national interest to educate them here but send them home when they've completed their studies.

During the past 30 years, U.S. innovation has been the catalyst for the digital information revolution. If the United States is to remain a global economic leader, we must foster an environment that enables a new generation to dream up innovations, regardless of where they were born. Talent in this country is not the problem -- the issue is political will.

The writer is chairman of Microsoft Corp. and co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His wife is a director of The Washington Post Co.

(Many thanks to The Creativity Exchange.)

Back in Town

I'm back.

I've been out of town for the past week. It was a much needed trip.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

The EduPatent Alert System

As I was sorting through the remaining "Worst College Website" nominees this evening, I noticed a very valuable service had just been launched by Michael Felstein, over at e-Literate.

There is now a centralized RSS-based informational service for those interested in EduPatents (such as the furor over Blackboard's abuse of this process).

Definitely check out Michael's post regarding his work on this service. Here's a sample:

"Via Stephen Downes, I see that Mark Oehlert posted a list of Blackboard’s pending patents, 8 of which were filed for in the last year (6 of which were filed in October and November of last year), and many of which are not covered in Blackboard’s patent pledge. This has prompted me to invest a little time in creating a more—dare I say it?–Web 2.0ish edupatent alert system.

You’ll notice that there is a new tab on the top of this blog labeled “EduPatents.” On that page you will find an RSS feed aggregator that displays any blog posts on the web that have been tagged by their authors with the word “edupatents”, any posts that use the word “edupatents” in the body of their texts, and any web pages that have been tagged “edupatents” on del.icio.us..."

But it's more in depth than a simple aggregator. Check it out.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Codex of Terrible Higher Ed Marketing Part 1 - Worst Promotional Videos

Many thanks for the links I've received. Going through the video nominations was a learning experience in how NOT to go about promoting one's college.

Here are the ... um ... "Winners":

Grand Prize Winner
Worst College Recruitment / Promotional Video

Appalachian State University
"Appalachian is Hot Hot Hot!"

You know you've produced a cult classic of horrible marketing when fans "honor" it on YouTube.

Second Place
Worst College Recruitment / Promotional Video

North Metro Technical College
"Learn a Few New Tricks..."

Okay... Just what are you trying to say about your admission standards?
How about your students and faculty?
It's like 3 minutes and 36 seconds of an "Even a caveman can do it" commercial
... but without the humor.

Third Place
Worst College Recruitment / Promotional Video

Bridgewater College
"What's it like to be an Eagle?"

Honorable Mention
Worst College Recruitment / Promotional Video

University of Minnesota
"Hats off to thee!"

I don't know about you, but I think Gertrude Stein is the only one who can say (or, heaven forbid, sing) "Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah!" and keep me from gagging.

Honorable Mention
Worst College Recruitment / Promotional Video

Arthur's Beauty College

Honorable Mention
Worst College Recruitment / Promotional Video

East Central University
This is the song that never ends! Oh please, make it stop! This could have been an acceptable promo, if the editors would have cut 5 minutes from this.

Special Selection
How Recruiting Videos have Changed (or not)

Monmouth College Video - 1969

Monmouth College Video - 2006

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Corporate Investments in Higher Ed: Good, Bad, or Somewhere Between?

While the web hunt for examples of the worst higher ed marketing is continuing (and thanks for the email nominations that I've received so far!), I'd like to post a very interesting article from Terra Incognita, a blog from Ken Udas at Penn State:

Should Corporate Investments have a Place in Higher Education?

"There are ongoing questions about the impact of commercial enterprises on higher education and I would like your thoughts. This topic raised its head again for me just recently. As a follow-up to the recent posting titled “Higher Education Reform in Nigeria”, I was reading an article titled “Nigeria: Akingbola Advocates Radical Varsity Reforms” that touched on the investment that Intercontinental Bank is making in the Nigerian higher education system and specifically at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

I am thinking that this topic is not so cut and dry. There are issues around need, compromise, corporate intent as well as the nature of capacity of local governments and the impulse for “Globalization” as Akingbola frames it in the articles cited above."

Read the full post here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Help Create the Codex of Terrible Higher Ed Marketing!

John Moravec, from Education Futures, had a great idea in his comment on When College Marketing Goes Wrong.... As of today, I'm starting a list of terrible college marketing sites and films.

There will be a few categories:

1. "They Paid Someone to Design This?!"
A list of the most poorly designed college websites.

2. "This Video is Supposed to Inspire... Whom?"
A list of the cheesiest and most tasteless college promotional videos. (Currently, Appalachian State holds the title for this one.)

3. "College PR Blunders"
Dumbest moments in college PR. (Such as UNC's 2,700 congratulatory emails on students' un-admission.)

Please, nominate your favorites!
You can use the Comments link below, or simply email me.

Names of participants in this web hunt will be kept private--so you needn't worry about nominating your alma mater, or current employer. :-)

I'll be amassing the list over the next week--from my own web hunting, and via reader nominations.

The results will be posted on February 15th.

Until then--good hunting!

Malleus Advertisarum!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

When College Marketing Goes Wrong...

Non-profit colleges are playing a serious game of catch-up when it comes to marketing themselves. Even the Chronicle of Higher Education has run features on the impact online marketing is having--as colleges come to realize that today's prospective students prefer to conduct their college searches online.

Traditional marketing methods such as print advertising, TV, radio and the ubiquitous college catalogs/pamphlets suffer from an almost total lack of accountability. After enormous up-front costs, there is no performance tracking/analytics of the sort available in well-orchestrated online marketing campaigns.

The old ways of "getting the word out" are too expensive, too difficult to track, and simply don't connect with today's prospective students.

However, if a college enters into new media advertising without the necessary research and expertise, you end up doing an enormous amount of damage to your image by posting ill-conceived promotional videos on YouTube, or creating an ugly and difficult to navigate website.

I came across this video from Appalachian State University on YouTube. Beware! A promotional video can take on a life of its own. This one has been viewed over 245,000 times, and has received almost 300 comments. Most of the comments are like these: "This video makes me what to stab myself in the face!" "This is why I go to Penn State." "Why would you go there after seeing this?!"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Video: Angry Professor Destroys Cell Phone

Well, if you've been teaching over the past several years--you've probably *wanted* to do this...

However, this professor actually followed through with it.

I've posted before about controlling classroom rudeness, and this "technique" isn't recommended.

--The fact that this class was being filmed leads me to suspect that this was staged. But I really could see this happening, nonetheless.--

Monday, February 05, 2007

Creatives at the Top: Management Skills from the Arts

Jonathan Green is the Dean of the college at Sweet Briar College. In this piece from InsideHigherEd, he shares his thoughts on the management skills he received from training as a conductor of music:

"My discipline is music with a specialization in conducting. The longer I have served in administration, the more I believe my conducting training has provided me with the most valuable preparation for my current career. The following examples are not a claim of mastery on my part, but rather observations of the transferability of leadership skills from one field to another.

Time management: Of all college students, the musicians are generally the best time managers. From the very beginning, they are inculcated with the need to practice no matter what other competing responsibilities arise. The great music pedagogue, Suzuki, said, “Practice only on the days you eat.” This is the creed of most successful musicians. Conductors have the added need to run efficient rehearsals. Ensembles have a fixed amount of rehearsal time to prepare any performance, and in the case of professional groups, time really is money. Decisions must be made instantly. The conductor’s practice time is learning scores and preparing for rehearsals: the better the preparation, the greater the likelihood that these split-second decisions will be good ones. The conductor’s performances, in a very real way, are the rehearsals. In a very real way, rehearsals are the conductor’s performances. This is where a cohesive concert is constructed and where the conductor trains the ensemble. Concerts are a public presentation of the results of the rehearsal.

Strategic planning: The conductor must plan the season, each program, and the individual rehearsals with a complex set of goals in mind. Concert seasons must satisfy board members, cultivate ticket sales, and accommodate the repertoire of visiting soloists. Concurrently, works chosen should educate and enrich the players and the audience. The conductor must navigate a balance between challenging and comfortable works, and must do this with a goal of using these works to make the ensemble not only sound their best in performance, but also improve through the experience. With limited resources and rehearsal time, it is imperative to know where the difficulties will be and how they can best be overcome prior to each rehearsal.

Triage: One of the most important skills for any conductor is the ability to triage any rehearsal situation..."

Read the rest of the skill set here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Today's Desperation Move From Blackboard

Stephen Downes, over at Stephen's Web (one of the oldest and largest sites devoted to all things education) has just posted a response to Blackboard's desperation move today--"The Blackboard Patent Pledge":

"This is the big news today, of course. "The Blackboard Patent Pledge is a promise by the company to never assert its issued or pending course management system software patents against open source software or home-grown course management systems."

That's good, though it's pretty clearly a response to the Free Software Foundation's success in getting the Blackboard patent reviewed. Better to cut a deal before you don't have anything to protect, hm?

And even then, it's not much of a promise. As the Sakai Foundation notes, in its response, "the Sakai Foundation and EDUCAUSE find it difficult to give the wholehearted endorsement we had hoped might be possible. Some of Sakai's commercial partners and valued members of the open source community will not be protected under this pledge."

In particular, Blackboard wanted to reserve the right to take action against colleges and universities, something it needs to do, apparently, because of its current case against the Canadian company Desire2Learn.

Bottom line? It's a cynical ploy intended to divide its opponents. The appeal should be carried through. The patent should be invalidated. Blackboard's nonsensical case against Desire2Learn should be crushed."

Venture Capital Backed University--Part of an Upbeat Statistic

I thought this was apropos to my earlier post about a new type of university. It would seem that a VC backed entrepreneurial program would simply make sense--from a business standpoint. After all, what better way to get a grip on what the 18-35 yr. olds are after, than to have them pitch their own ideas. You also get access to the best and brightest of the new generation of business owners/managers/creatives.

And from a university's standpoint, it would bring much-needed funding, valuable practical experience for students, and likewise much-coveted national press. Of course, there are other issues to deal with--such as Intellectual Property Rights, technology licensing, accreditation concerns, etc.:

Analysts say the increase reflects lessons learned from the dot-com bust.

Fueled by faith in Web 2.0 start-ups and new technologies in the medical-device and alternative-energy fields, venture capitalists invested $25.5 billion in 2006, marking the highest level investment since the dot-com bust in 2001.

VC investment last year increased 12 percent over the $22.8 billion invested in 2005, according to figures released Jan. 23 by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Financial, and the National Venture Capital Association.

"Investment has increased, but not at an alarming rate," said Emily Mendell, vice president of strategic affairs for National Venture Capital Association, noting that most analysts do not see the increase in investment as a sign that VCs have returned to the unrealistic expectations of the late 1990s. "The current venture-capitalist community is composed of people who survived the bubble, which is a good thing because they learned an awful lot."

Read the full article here.