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The future of teaching and learning trend tracking may 2019

No positive impact of virtual reality on learning outcomes. A research conducted by Cornell University shows that learning through virtual reality compared to learning via more classical methods is vastly favored by students (78% of participants) but yields no significant benefit in learning outcomes. The results of the study, “Virtual Reality as a Teaching Tool for Moon Phases and Beyond”, were published in Physics Education Research Conference. What remains to be determined, therefore, is whether the added enjoyment students experience while learning through virtual reality makes it worthwhile, by and of itself, to invest in this approach. Virtual reality technology ‘does not improve learning outcomes’. Times Higher Education, 4 March 2019.

ICTs facilitate cheating on assignments at all levels of higher education. Universities around the world are stepping up to combat essay mills, which international students are more likely to turn to (more than four times as likely for non-EU students in the UK according to a THE investigation, and five times more likely than American counterparts in the US according to the Wall Street Journal). A recent study finds that, all told, as many as one in seven recent graduates may have used essay mill services. Among reasons cited for the discrepancy are the pressure to succeed felt by international students, the difficulty of having English as a second language, and unfamiliarity with Western academic norms. As revenues from international student enrollment gradually replace public funding, more universities may contribute to this phenomenon by lowering entry requirements from non-national students, in particular with regard to their command of English and ability to follow an entire program in that language. Regarding the practice itself among all segments of student populations, academics increasingly advocate stronger punishment for those found guilty of using paper mills, all the way to, possibly, criminalizing the practice through legislation. The phenomenon extends to graduate school, with, on the supply side, a growing number of adjunct professors in the US and elsewhere who are finding in the ghostwriting of master’s theses and doctorates substantial additional revenues (with one adjunct cited as earning nearly $120,000 a year from that activity, and a UK website advertising “complete Ph.D. service for £36,000” and boasting that most of its “supervisors” are Oxford and Cambridge graduates). In general, services offered include writing scientific articles for academics who cannot cope with the pressure from their institution to keep publishing– a practice more widespread in the developing world. Website advertises “complete PhD service” for £36K, Time Higher Education, 27 January 2019; Many university staff back prosecuting students over essay mills and Academia’s grey markets offer rich pickings for the untenured, Time Higher Education, 7 March 2019; International students and cheating: how worried should we be?, Time Higher Education, 20 March 2019.

Should disgruntled consumer-students be free to harass teaching staff? One unforeseen consequence the marketization of higher education is having is the rise among students of a sense of “entitlement”. The logic of paying – very often dearly – for higher education leads a growing number of them to view graduation and the grades that enable it as a right. Hence harassment of professors and lecturers by students who do not obtain the results they feel they deserve, ranging from physical threats to – mainly – malevolent comments on social media, though still a rare occurrence, is on the increase. This creates a dilemma for university administrations: putting in place and/or implement legal frameworks that thwart this type of behavior, thereby protecting teaching staff, while on the other hand universities depend on tuition fees revenue. In other words, should universities prioritize student satisfaction, or the protection and wellbeing of teaching staff? Zero tolerance on bullying, Times Higher Education, 11 April 2019.

Authors: Corinne Mellul
Date of the document: June 2019
Theme: More