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That voluntary, peer-based approach made sense in an era when higher education was a smaller and more private affair. When for-profit higher-education corporations hoover up hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid while granting degrees of questionable value, their accreditors get blamed. In 2005 Bridgepoint bought Franciscan, which at the time was declining but still accredited. Seven years, more than 200,000 students, vast sums of taxpayer-supported financial aid, and several Congressional hearings later, Bridgepoint had apparently worn out its welcome with Franciscan's former accreditor, and decided to look for approval closer to its corporate home. WASC did something else that day which received much less publicity but was, in the long run, probably more important: It posted its rejection letter to Bridgepoint on the Internet for the world to see.
Accreditors have historically been a secretive lot, keeping all the bad news within the insular higher-education family. Additionally, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which is operated by WASC, recently warned the City College of San Francisco that it may lose its accreditation because of chronic mismanagement—a step that accreditors are usually loath to take with public institutions.
WASC has also swum into the politically treacherous waters of judging colleges based on whether students graduate and how much they learn.
More controversially, WASC is asking four-year colleges and universities to provide some evidence of how much their students are learning, and to compare that success to similar institutions. Yet WASC's proposal has met with fierce opposition from the region's elite research universities, including Stanford and the University of California. Accreditors still face an uphill struggle to effectively regulate huge, transnational higher-education corporations. But WASC has taken bold steps to make accreditation relevant and effective in a rapidly changing higher-education world. The Chronicle welcomes constructive discussion, and our moderators highlight contributions that are thoughtful and relevant. Chronicle Great Colleges > Transgender Access to Public Bathrooms: How Will It Impact Higher Education?
The question of transgender access to bathrooms has recently shaken the foundation of the way kindergarten through twelfth grade educators view their charges’ bathroom habits.
For many institutions of higher education, this presents a dilemma that shouldn’t be ignored. Many public universities, no matter how conservative or liberal, receive a great deal of their funding from the federal government.
Unfortunately, burying their heads in the sand isn’t going to get most colleges through this transitional period throughout the country.
Colleges should consider a proactive approach to navigating this issue in the form of policies and facilities designed to address the transgender bathroom debate. I've always found that principle to be correct and have passed it on to graduate students and tenure-track colleagues.
Procrastination is not always bad: Sometimes the work you put off doing is better left undone.
Luckily, no matter your particular habits of work or mind, procrastination is not preordained. One anti-procrastination measure I've seen employed by "on time" academics is to create mini-deadlines that break down the completion of a larger project into smaller segments. I recall a discussion with a doctoral student who had taken over teaching a course for the day and was lamenting some of the mistakes he had made. Second, a planning chart should be realistic about time and resources needed to complete a project.
When you find yourself continuously stymied, when problem after problem delays you, when you seem to have lost your enthusiasm for some venture, maybe you should just give up. A signature case was my own dissertation: a copious census analysis of 40 years of American photojournalism and other kinds of printed imagery of China. I have also gotten good feedback from people sometimes because they had the extra time to review my work.
Easy A's may be even easier to score these days, with the growing popularity of online courses. His secret was to cheat, and he's proud of the method he came up with—though he asked that his real name and college not be used, because he doesn't want to get caught. This prediction has not escaped many of those leading new online efforts, or researchers who specialize in testing.
In the case of that student, the professor in the course had tried to prevent cheating by using a testing system that pulled questions at random from a bank of possibilities. He is a first-generation college student who says he works hard, and honestly, in the rest of his courses, which are held in-person rather than online. A professor familiar with the course, who also asked not to be named, said that it is not unique in this regard, and that other students probably cheat in online introductory courses as well. Of course, plenty of students cheat in introductory courses taught the old-fashioned way as well. Part of the answer may be fighting technology with more technology, designing new ways to catch cheaters. When John Fontaine first heard about the Shadow Scholar, who was helping students cheat on assignments, he grew angry.
Blackboard's learning-management software features a service that checks papers for signs of plagiarism, and thousands of professors around the country use it to scan papers when they are turned in.
In fact, he's not sure whether the idea will ever work well enough to add it as a Blackboard feature.
Anant Agarwal is head of MIT's Open Learning Enterprise, which coordinates the university's MITx project to offer free courses online and give students a chance to earn certificates.
A method under consideration at MIT would analyze each user's typing style to help verify identity, Mr. One message from the event's organizers was that groups that offer standardized tests, companies developing anticheating software, and researchers need to join forces and share their work.
There seems to be growing interest in such sharing, says James Wollack, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. But when America embarked on its great mid-20th-century expansion to mass (and increasingly, federally financed) higher education, small nonprofit accreditors with no formal governmental authority were given the keys to the federal financial-aid kingdom and asked to protect the interests of students and taxpayers alike. When studies like Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's Academically Adrift call the extent of college-student learning into question, accreditors are denounced for not enforcing academic standards. So it's been gratifying to watch one regional accreditor, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, or WASC, take a different approach in recent weeks, setting an example for others to follow.
In early July it rejected an application from the high-flying publicly traded company Bridgepoint Education.

But WASC turned it down, for reasons that included a paucity of faculty at Ashford and the fact that 128,000 out of 240,000 students had dropped out over the last five years. Even as it turned down Bridgepoint, the accreditor approved for-profit UniversityNow's purchase of struggling nonprofit Patten University, in Oakland, Calif.
Most colleges gather little or no information about success rates among the profitable and growing adult-student population.
Elite universities have an enormous capacity to set tone and precedent in higher education, as Stanford and others have done recently, to their credit, in legitimizing low-cost online courses.
The power of peer review rests largely in the strong human desire for approval from people who share similar beliefs.
Many public and nonprofit institutions have attrition rates worse than those at Bridgepoint. With transgender restroom equality making news across the nation, it’s likely that colleges and universities will be the next to experience scrutiny of how they accommodate their transgender students, faculty and staff.
Land grant schools receive federal support to stay open; most colleges and universities receive a great deal in the form of student tuition that is funded through federal loans, grants and scholarships. With the federal government coming down squarely on the side of transgender rights, public colleges and universities should consider following suit with their policies in order to maintain that funding. I am shocked at how many academics I've met who had a terrific grant proposal but missed the deadline, or who could have published a great paper in a journal but put off writing the "revise and resubmit" version until too much time had passed. I know many people who manage to get their work done on time, and at a high standard, yet privately admit they are procrastinators who learned to overcome the tendency, at least some of the time.
A few years ago, I was part of a large, multicampus grant proposal that was rejected because of several mix-ups that led to its being submitted a few minutes late to a federal grant-processing Web site. I like to create auto-alerts through my calendar or e-mail program that remind me about a deadline.
Many procrastinators claim that their last-minute habit is just a symptom of a more noble character trait: perfectionism. We have lots of work to get done, every day, and the world cannot wait for us to get it just right. As I have advocated before in these columns, I think graduate students and tenure-track faculty members should have a master plan or chart that lays out all of their projects, along with timetables for completion. If you are teaching a course you've taught many times before, a week of advance preparation may be all you need. The first time I sat down with the intention to write a book, I contacted authors in my field whom I greatly respected and asked for their advice. A whole new set of wonderful, exciting data and scholarship became available, and I was hooked. I was born in a certain central European country famous for its mountains, cheese, and punctuality.
Good things can indeed come late, and sometimes putting off is better than going with something that is truly not ready for the classroom or the journal. Perlmutter is director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a professor and Starch Faculty Fellow at the University of Iowa. Tech-savvy students are finding ways to cheat that let them ace online courses with minimal effort, in ways that are difficult to detect. This past semester, he spent just 25 to 30 minutes each week on an online science course, the time it took him to take the weekly test. It involved four friends and a shared Google Doc, an online word-processing file that all five of them could read and add to at the same time during the test. You've probably already heard of plenty of clever ways students cheat, and this might simply add one more to the list. As students find new ways to cheat, course designers are anticipating them and devising new ways to catch folks like Mr. The online tests could be taken anywhere and were open-book, but students had only a short window each week in which to take them, which was not long enough for most people to look up the answers on the fly.
Smith figured out that the actual number of possible questions in the test bank was pretty small. But he is juggling a job and classes, and he wanted to find a way to add an easy A to his transcript each semester. Smith argues that the university has put so little into the security of the course that it can't be very serious about whether the online students are learning anything. To them, the courses are just hoops to jump through to get a credential, and the students are happy to pay the tuition, learn little, and add an A. John Sener, a consultant who has long worked in online learning, says the incident involving Mr. But even when professors assign papers, students can use the Internet to order custom-written assignments. Fontaine began to wonder whether authors write in unique ways that amount to a kind of fingerprint. Fontaine's work is simply research at this point, he emphasizes, and he has not used any actual student papers submitted to the company's system. They're using products such as the Securexam Remote Proctor, which scans fingerprints and captures a 360-degree view around students, and Kryterion's Webassessor, which lets human proctors watch students remotely on Web cameras and listen to their keystrokes. Last month more than 100 such researchers met at the University of Kansas at the Conference on Statistical Detection of Potential Test Fraud. The first associations, set up on the East Coast in the late 1800s, were basically clubs with membership criteria that limited entrance to institutions fitting the classic collegiate mold.
When some public institutions post graduation rates in the midteens, year after year, accreditors are charged with abetting failure. Although Bridgepoint's corporate headquarters are in a downtown San Diego office tower, the anchor of its fast-growing online operation, Ashford University, is in Clinton, Iowa, at the former home of Franciscan University of the Prairies. But when organizations serve as de facto agents of public accountability, their methods and decisions must be publicly transparent.
Unlike Bridgepoint, UniversityNow has a low-cost tuition model and doesn't accept federal financial aid.
The higher-education status hierarchy rests on the assumption that all important elements of university quality vary in the same direction, to the same degree. If high-profile institutions embraced the idea of being accountable and transparent for student learning, others would follow. Bridgepoint is not a "peer" of traditional liberal-arts colleges and research universities in any meaningful way.
Accreditation may have begun on the East Coast, but it is the westernmost accreditor that has set a new standard that all others should follow.

Now, the federal government has stepped in to make its stance known: according to the Obama administration, elementary, middle, and high schools must permit students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, regardless of any characteristics of physical appearance or other identifying traits which might otherwise place them on one side of the line or the other. But perennially postponing everything until the last minute, especially for the doctoral student and the probationary faculty member, can be a career killer. When I co-write a paper under a conference deadline, for example, I ask my partners to finish the introduction by a certain date, the methodology section by a subsequent date, and so on. In the era of apps and social media, even more sophisticated software and processes are available to goose you through the management of almost any task.
He was astonished, but I explained, "When good teachers stumble they figure out what went wrong, get up, dust themselves off, and teach again with solutions in mind.
Likewise, I have met scholars who describe to me a seemingly detailed five-year research plan, only to almost willfully neglect to factor in some additional projects to which they have committed. On the other hand, I have heard faculty members, especially young colleagues, forecast unlikely feats of multitasking, as in: "I'll design that new class while I'm at a conference and get that paper done, too. A young scientist once described to me a situation in which the completion of an experiment was constantly delayed by anomalous findings.
Tolkien, I have titled "unfinished tales." It's filled with research projects I started and then dropped.
Every few years, I have dipped back into my lost-tales folder and realized that something I had dropped in disgust suddenly makes sense. In 2007, 13 years after the original analysis, my book Picturing China in the American Press was published. I endure tremendous stress if I am running late to any event and am known for always arriving early—sometimes far too early. Deans, grant-program officers, and journal editors have smiled with favor upon my petitions or submissions because I was first in line.
Get a task done early, and you can let it sit for a while and return to it with fresh eyes before the deadline.
His book "Promotion and Tenure Confidential" was published by Harvard University Press in 2010.
But the issue of online cheating may rise in prominence, as more and more institutions embrace online courses, and as reformers try new systems of educational badges, certifying skills and abilities learned online. If he and his friends got together to take the test jointly, they could paste the questions they saw into the shared Google Doc, along with the right or wrong answers.
Hundreds of students took the course with him, and he never communicated with the professor directly. Take the example of the Shadow Scholar, who described in a Chronicle article how he made more than $60,000 a year writing term papers for students around the country. Fontaine works for Blackboard, and his job is to think up new services and products for the education-software company.
If so, he might be able to spot which papers were written by the Shadow Scholar or other writers-for-hire, even if they didn't plagiarize other work directly.
He would have to get permission from professors and students before doing that kind of live test.
Scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they are looking for new ways to verify the identity of students online as well.
Such electronic fingerprinting could be combined with face-recognition software to ensure accuracy, he says. The richest, most famous, most exclusive institutions with the most Nobel Prize winners on the faculty are presumed to offer the highest-quality undergraduate education. By rejecting such accountability, Stanford and universities like it are helping to perpetuate a system in which far too many college students receive a substandard education. But over the years, after many discussions with colleagues, we have never agreed on a particular definition of perfection. Sometimes there's nothing you can do when confronted with the unexpected but revise your plans. Much puzzling finally resulted in an answer: A particular measurement device had been adjusted incorrectly and was giving the wrong readings. Whatever project you are undertaking, seek the counsel of some hardy pathfinders who have gone up that trail before. Or, as often happens in the realm of scholarship, new discoveries or developments assist the resurrection. So sometimes procrastination is a sensible reminder to put something aside until you can complete it to the standard to which you aspire.
Finally, finishing something promptly creates more time for other important tasks, including finding some balance of work and family. Put off everything until the last minute, and you will perennially fall behind, disappoint others, and hurt your reputation. The promise of such systems is that education can be delivered cheaply and conveniently online.
The schemers would go through the test quickly, one at a time, logging their work as they went. Since most laptops now have Webcams built in, future online students might have to smile for the camera to sign on. Any self-respecting university should be able to put that information in context and articulate where it is succeeding and where it needs improving. Yet as access improves, so will the number of people gaming the system, unless courses are designed carefully. The first student often did poorly, since he had never seen the material before, though he would search an online version of the textbook on Google Books for relevant keywords to make informed guesses.
Knowing when to quit one project, walk away, and start a new one is a key survival skill in our trade. The next student did significantly better, thanks to the cheat sheet, and subsequent test-takers upped their scores even further. Department of Education, whose aid programs can provide up to 90 percent of those companies' revenues. Students in the course were allowed to take each test twice, with the two results averaged into a final score.

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