Friday Odds and Ends

TPS and fed policy updates, courseware articles vs headlines, and LMS usage of AI

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Well, I have to admit that with the persistent heat wave in Arizona and ridiculous air travel problems, it looks like I made a good decision to drive early to Colorado for InstructureCon next week (and to visit my daughters). Temporarily at least, I am leading an #OccupyKeystone movement to see if we can get InstructureCon back here next year. The ~70 degree weather is quite pleasant to boot.

Federal Policy Updates

Phil - I so miss the third-party servicer (TPS) guidance.

Well, I have good news for you. I’ve heard from two independent sources (including this mention) recently that the revised TPS guidance to likely to come out in August or early September. As a reminder, the TPS Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) came out in February and would have effective added regulations and reporting requirements on nearly all of the EdTech industry. After massive pushback, the Department of Education (ED) promised to change the guidance to remove the foreign-ownership clause and changed the effective date to be at least six months after the release of revised guidance.

That revised guidance is likely to occur this summer, meaning that it (in whatever form it comes) will be effective as soon as March 2024. I would expect the new guidance to have a similar approach but focus on recruitment and marketing services.

Also remember that 2U filed a lawsuit against ED over the TPS guidance, with that lawsuit put on hold until the new guidance comes out. I would expect the 2U lawsuit to kick into gear again by September.

Inside Higher Ed, by the way, had a good article describing how the Supreme Court loss by the Biden Administration over student debt forgiveness has quickly shifted into regulatory activity to attempt to get the same result through Negotiated Rule Making processes (known as Neg Reg), based on the Higher Education Act. That article has a nice summary of the Neg Reg process:

How to Make a Policy, Neg-Reg Edition

As part of negotiated rule making, the Education Department must:

1. Put out a public notice about intent to form a committee and hold a public hearing

2. Hold a public hearing

3. Publish notice inviting nominations for negotiators

4. Pick the negotiators

5. Hold negotiated rule-making sessions

6. Write the proposed regulations

7. Publish those regulations for public comment, which lasts at least 30 days

8. Read and respond to the comments; revise the regulations as needed

9. Publish the final rule. Rules need to be published by Nov. 1 in order to take effect July 1 of the following year, but the department can implement rules early.

The key thrust of the article, however, is that pushing student loan forgiveness into Neg Reg will alter ED’s plans - as a minimum due to personnel constraints - on TPS, Bundled Services Exception, Gainful Employment, Financial Transparency, and many of the other regulatory actions that are in process. And activists appear to be concerned about the scope.

Dimino said the administration will need to prioritize the remaining issues. Following through on the agenda would be “a herculean task,” she said.

“When we think about putting resources towards that process, which the Biden administration obviously looks to as part of their legacy and policy priorities, versus the alternative of being able to spend real time working through issues with accreditation and state authorization—things that are more likely to be finalized, go into effect and have an impact on how students are navigating their higher ed system,” [deputy director of education at Third Way] Dimino said. “It’s a big trade-off.”

Expect to see more analysis here at On EdTech as these issues increase in intensity.

Courseware: Articles vs. Headlines

Taylor Swaak at the Chronicle of Higher Education has a three-part series on digital courseware that is worth reading. The first article focuses on how some teachers use courseware as a replacement for instruction (course in a box) even if that is not the intent by the publishers creating courseware.

Some faculty members believe these tools, which can provide students with immediate feedback and additional practice, help them learn. But skeptics fear misuse or poor execution. Instructors often buy the tools directly from publishers, with limited oversight from administrators, because their choices are considered covered by academic freedom. Many instructors’ introduction to courseware also came during the pandemic, when the products may have been hastily adopted as a survival mechanism, without training or guidance on how to use them to supplement — not supplant — their own teaching.

While most faculty members are not using courseware to replace instruction, numerous sources acknowledged that some are essentially running classes on autopilot, with courseware doing the work that students, and federal law, expect instructors to do.

The second article raises the question about whether institutions should shift all of the cost of courseware onto students.

[Courseware critics’] argument is multifold: For one, they say, products like these — which often deliver key elements of a course that an instructor would typically be responsible for, like homework, assessments, and grading — should not be the student’s burden. At least one student advocate said colleges, rather, should cover or subsidize the cost, as they do with software like learning-management systems, if they’re allowing faculty free rein to adopt the products.

“Courseware has become more central to the operation of the class” and is less a supplement in the way the textbook has historically been, said Richard Hershman, the vice president for government relations at the National Association of College Stores. “That’s where some of the debate occurs around, ‘Why am I paying more for this?’”

The third article looks at data privacy issues, including some specific assignment questions and Google Analytics data sharing that at least raises the question of appropriate usage of data.

I am all for exploring tricky subjects in education, and Swaak’s articles are exemplary in setting context and presenting different sides of arguments. The whole series is worth reading. With one exception.

The article headlines and imagery, which I assume were chosen by the Chronicle and not the author based on industry practice, are designed to inflame emotions and take a side. Consider the first one:

Come on - are the extra clicks you get from that setup worth the loss of credibility? How many people skip most of the article and will just remember the scary headlines and imagery? We need better, and these headlines should match the tone of the articles.

Generative AI in LMS Land

The D2L Fusion and Anthology (which owns Blackboard) Together users conferences are complete, and InstructureCon is scheduled for next week. At the first two conferences, there was a lot of emphasis on generative AI tools. D2L’s announcements:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Attendees explored the powerful potential of effective and responsible applications of AI in both instructional and learning experiences across sectors, helping to make them more exciting and engaging. Fusion's Solution Spotlight showcased generative AI that can help educators with authoring questions for formative assessment, as well as how AI can help bring more contextualized help and documentation from within D2L Brightspace to meet more learners where they are.

Demonstrating the company’s commitment to ethical and responsible use of AI guided by Anthology’s Trustworthy AI Framework – developed in collaboration with Anthology institutions – the new course- building capabilities in Blackboard Learn are designed to provide inspiration to instructors and instructional designers as they develop their courses and allow them to create more engaging learning experiences more quickly. Seamlessly embedded into Blackboard Learn’s workflows, the tools can suggest a possible course structure aligned with its learning outcomes, generate images, suggest test questions and grading rubrics, and drive toward more authentic assessment. The capabilities are opt-in and the instructor is always in control of the content generated.

Like Blackboard, D2L also based their work on an initial responsibility framework, or set of principles. We’ll see how next week goes, but I think both D2L and Blackboard did a good job with their commitments / framework as well as not over-promising in the way that Chegg did with CheggMate.

We’ll provide summary analysis of all three of these LMS conferences in early August.

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