Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Improving Student Outcomes: Using Causal Analysis To Determine Which Interventions Actually Work

Date: November 4 ~ 3:00-4:30pm (Eastern)
Type: online webinar

With the proliferation of interventions in all levels of education, it is imperative to know which interventions actually work to improve student outcomes. As such, it is also important for administrators and instructors alike to know the fundamental concepts of causal analysis, or studies that help determine whether an intervention is actually causing outcomes to improve over time.

This webinar will introduce participants to the basic concepts of experimental design, with a focus on randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-experimental methods, such as difference-in-differences and regression discontinuity designs. We will also discuss the concept of matched comparison designs using propensity scores. This webinar is an introduction to the fundamentals of causal analysis and is appropriate for anyone interested in knowing more about cause and effect. Participants will leave the webinar with an understanding of how causal analysis can be used to improve student outcomes on their campus. 

* Understand how to use causal analysis to assess interventions and improve student outcomes
* Learn the basic concepts of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and why they are considered to be the “gold standard” of causal analysis
* Understand the difference between levels of assignment to treatment and comparison conditions, as well as levels of inference
* Discuss other options for running a causal analysis study if RCTs are not possible
* Discover the importance of measuring baseline equivalence in non-RCT studies

Web address:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Failure to Innovate in Higher Education- A Problem of Low Hanging Fruit

Education is a classical American institution that helps develop intellectual capital to encourage successful national growth. Sometimes institutions can work against their core purpose by failing to grow or develop beyond current limitations. Innovation in higher education is an important predictor of the success of both the higher education institution and the preparedness of a nation. Failure to reach beyond low hanging fruit in higher education causes stagnation and decline in the form of cost overruns and poor outcomes. 

Despite having strong support through state spending, family savings, and student loans the system has increasingly become unsustainable and hasn’t kept up with the life-long learning needs of working families. Throwing more resources into a clunky system that hasn’t changed only prolongs the eventual financial and educational reckoning that will occur if costs start to outstrip revenue. 

Online education has disrupted the assumptions of traditional education and provides a credible modality many government and higher education officials scoffed at just a decade ago. We can call this the process of innovation and implementation (Parker, 2012) whereby new technology creates chaos in the system and then becomes part of the mainstream until the next development occurs and the process starts all over. All developing industries rely on this innovation-implementation model for growth. 

Online education is a trend that reaches across for-profit and not-for-profit higher educational institutions. Students demand for flexibility in their studies should not be ignored. In 2010 enrollment in online courses increased 29% with 6.7 million (1/3 of all students) enrolled in online courses (Jaggars, et. al. 2013). A total of 97% of two-year colleges offer online courses while 66% of post-secondary universities also offer online courses. 

The far majority of schools in engage in online education and it is no longer a disruptive technology. It has grown because the market has demanded it grow. Online education may not offer the front page grabbing sports teams or large buildings that dotted the landscape in the 20th Century but does offer solutions for the 21st Century. This assumes that higher education is more about learning than maintaining tradition without consideration of long-term national costs. 

Experimentation in higher education is absolutely necessary to develop the institution to a higher level of existence. The quality of education is in a continuous process of change where new models influence traditional models by making them more efficient. In turn, innovative development is slowed and improved for mainstream consumption by traditional education stakeholders. There should be a balance of innovation and integration to ensure maximum relevancy of higher education institutions. Innovation and change avoids the need to reach for low hanging fruit that raises the cost and burden on society as a result of not considering long-term interests or risks.

Jaggars, S., Edgecombe, N. & Stacy, G. (2013). What we know about online course outcomes. Research Overview. Community College Research Center, Columbia University.  ED542143

Parker, S. (2012). Theories of entrepreneurship, innovation and the business cycle. Journal of Economic Surveys, 26 (3).

Monday, October 20, 2014

When Opportunities Dry Up-Income Inequality in America

Income inequality is a hot topic that is becoming more troublesome every year as the gap in incomes continues to grow. Fed Chair Janet Yellen discussed on October 17th the growing problem of income inequality and its potential impact on the American Dream. She elaborated on how child resources, higher education, entrepreneurship, and inheritance influence a family’s ability to raise their position in life. Without ensuring that there is sufficient mobility within society there are risks to the founding fabric of opportunity within the country.

Those who are not wealthy are finding it difficult to save money or pass that money onto future generations. At the same time, those at the top of society are discovering that it is not only easier to earn more money but also save that money for their children. Additional time without change seems to aggravate the problem.

Janet Yellen discusses four possible solutions that include early education intervention, affordable higher education, business ownership, and inheritance income.  Each of these points has some influence on whether someone will be successful beyond the natural variations in human skill and abilities. They provide some formation of doable change but are not a complete solution in and of themselves. 

When society invests in children they can give them better opportunities to learn, obtain quality education, and then apply those skills to the market to earn higher wages. Owning a business is seen as another way of generating wealth outside the restricted compensation structures of larger corporations. Helping families invest and pass on their savings to the next generation is helpful for improving positions over time. 

Pure wealth distribution whereby money is taxed or donated by major corporations or wealthy individuals will not help society grow in the long run.  Contrary to popular opinion, it may actually do the opposite by lowering the need to achieve and succeed based upon one’s individual efforts and merits. It can damage empowerment and societal development of skill and ability which is needed to compete as a nation. 

Fundamental change runs deeper than simply improving skills and ability in isolation and delves into the nature of how opportunity is created and rewarded in society. By focusing on rewarding core competencies and skills the effects of income inequality can be lessened (Cobb & Stevens, 2014). Where individuals have made effort to learn new skills there should be corresponding increases in income. 

Income inequality causes the lowering of incentives for citizens who desire to engage the economic system fully. Where cynicism grows also grows perceptions that effort doesn’t equal reward. When lower income classes of the nation experience lost opportunity their empowerment declines as success is something outside of their control. A sense of fatalism takes over.

As income inequality grows social instability rises as a larger demographic of the nation feels that their needs are not considered, government doesn’t adequately represent them, and success is something they will never obtain. A study of 33 democracies worldwide found that income inequality and regime stability were inversely related (Muller, 1988). Income inequality raises the natural conflicts over resources while the system itself becomes less stable as these classes rub against each other.

The rising influence of the U.S. as a powerhouse of manufacturing, innovation, and technology offers opportunities to re-balance the ship for smoother sailing ahead.  Encouraging Americans to become more skilled and educated is helpful in developing home grown talent that keeps jobs within the country. Wages should keep pace with improvements in abilities to ensure that the nation retains its position as a nation of opportunity for the vast majority of people. Income inequality is one sign that changes in how we govern and the very nature of politics and commerce must adjust to ensure the continuance of egalitarian principles the country was founded upon.

Cobb, A. & Flannery, S. (2014). Those unequal states: corporate organization and income inequality within the U.S. Academy of Management and Annual Meeting Proceedings, p381-389. DOI: 10.5465

Muler, E. (2014). Democracy, economic development, and inequality. Democracy, economic development, and income inequality. American Sociological Review, 53. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Little Italy Festa Draws Over a Hundred Thousand Visitors

The Italians have a saying, “A chi vuole, non mancano mod” that translates as “there is a will there is a way”.  This year the Little Italy Festa drew around 120,000 people and acted as a homecoming for many Italian Americans who wanted to get in touch with their culture. They found a way to successfully match culture and commerce together into an activity that enhances their neighborhood. 

Hosted on October 11th, 2014 in the Little Italy District of San Diego small business vendors, artists, and authentic Italian food filled the streets.  They did a great job ensuring people had a safe and enjoyable experience. Plenty of trash receptacles to keep the area clean while displays were organized well both vertically and horizontally among the streets to allow for maximum foot traffic. 

Those who are not skilled in cooking Italian Food watched one of the different food demonstrations, try a few samples, and buy one of the products on display. Artistic types were drawn to the 3D and chalk art that lined the streets in a judged competition.  Skill ranged from master artist down to novice but each offered their own perspective on Italian culture. 

A few were absolute masterpieces while others did not get finished. Businesses sponsored the artists who then went to work on completing their art pieces. The name of the business was included on the side of the masterpiece making it a captive audience of approximately 120,000 visitors. It is hard to get better advertising than matching art, foot traffic, and proximal location. 

The Gondola Company put together an excellent display and caught my interest. They offer Milan style gondola boating for couples and groups. I have never been on a Gondola or to Italy so I might try it someday and wanted to get more information. The activity would be great for a small party or a romantic getaway.  Http://

 The event was fun and after walking you began to better understand the ancient Italian culture that was established during the Renaissance Period. People like Julias Ceasar, Lorenzo de Medici and Columbus helped shape a cultural perspective. Likewise, people with robust romantic lives such as Leonardo di Vinci and Micheangelo provided a historical foundation for artistic endeavors. From red wine to tortellini you will taste some of the best offerings of Italy in this little San Diego neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Developing Online Education to Meet the Needs of International Business

As business information and financial transactions increases there will be a need for more international oriented higher education curriculum. Online education affords an opportunity for greater global reach and revenue development without overburdening cost existing structures. Technology has adapted over the years to allow similar platforms of classes to be used across borders to encourage international higher education.

The global business community that makes up a large portion of international firms have different needs then domestic productions. Senior leadership positions will require a higher level of cultural awareness and additional understanding of how systems work within different cultures. Such leaders will need to develop a wider perspective commerce through proper preparation. 

International Education Models: 

Crossing international borders offer some advantages but rests on 1.) host institution, 2.) technology, 3.) learning models of students and 4.) learning models of teachers (Sadyknova & Dauterman, 2009). These four domains provide a way to understand how sharing resources and technology matched with sound learning and teaching theory can be beneficial.

Universities sometimes partner with other universities to offer programs that they do not or cannot offer themselves due to lack of enrollment. Under mutual agreement these universities may exchange programs to enhance both entities by sharing course resources. As technology increases and distance learning becomes mainstream the transference of shared courses will be easier.

Models for teaching online is also improving and as more universities conduct research in online education and adapt current models to teaching and learning in a virtual environment the stronger the system becomes. Some argue that online education is making its way from disruptive technology to mainstream with distinct advantages for both students and colleges who adapt it and financial disadvantages to those who don’t. 

Student Engagement as a Priority Factor: 

Having the right models and technology only brings you so far because it is the students that need to engage the classroom for higher levels of learning. It doesn’t’ matter much how efficient universities become or their models if students are not willing to engage the classroom. The same problem occurs in traditional and online education.

Engagement is influenced by the nature of the course, its technical approach, its practicality, and the students background (Pimpa, 2011). Students will need to find some interest in the actual course and believe that it is practical information that is beneficial for their futures. When they engage, pay attention and complete work they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcomes. 

Making It Work Together: 

Higher education can take any form from sitting under a tree to zooming cyber world as long as students learn practical information that enhances their lives and opportunities. Research is starting to support the financial and educational benefits of online education. Universities that are suffering under heavy legacy costs, supersized facilities, and expensive structures are seeking ways to revamp.

Online education has strong international possibilities as Internet access gains momentum in most developing nations with intense hunger for higher education. Sometimes these universities will partner, swap, or collaborate with domestic universities. At other times universities may decide to go it alone and develop their own curriculum to meet the needs of the local student population and the requirements of the international community.

Sadykova, G. & Dautermann, J. (2009). Crossing cultures and borders in international online distance higher education. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 13 (2).

Pimpa, N. (2011). Engaging international business students in the online environment. International Journal of Management Education, 9 (3).