Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Higher Ed Beat: Ten Story Ideas on Technology and Innovation

It’s been a busy year for higher education reporters, and the New Year promises plenty of challenging — and important – stories to cover. I thought it would be a good time to revisit one of our most popular sessions from EWA’s National Seminar, held at Stanford University. Today’s guest blogger is Delece Smith-Barrow of U.S. News & World Report. Stream any session from National Seminar in your browser, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes. For more on higher education, visit EWA’s Story Starters online resource.

Sometimes, it’s hard to find a good higher education story. When it comes to covering technology and innovation at colleges and universities, the challenge can be sifting through the wealth of new initiatives and big ideas to figure out what’s really taking hold and changing how education is delivered – and how students are learning. 

Scott Jaschik, the co-founder of Inside Higher Ed, led the session “Ten Stories on Innovation in Higher Education,” outlining topics he predicts will be hot-button issues in higher education.

He encouraged reporters to cover:

  1. Which universities offer Massive Online Open Courses; 

  2. What kinds of students take MOOCs; 

  3. How classrooms are being “flipped,” which means students watch videos of lectures at home then do homework-like assignments in the classroom with the instructor’s guidance; 

  4. How schools are experimenting with adaptive learning; 

  5. How students use textbooks; 

  6. The use of badges or “stackable” credentials to prove competence (instead of credit hours and degrees); 

  7. The value of a degree when a student’s coursework comes from multiple institutions;

  8. Which schools or districts are using grading software, and how that software is being used; 

  9. How community college students are using new learning opportunities to their advantage, and 

  10. Who decides to transform policies, learning styles, etc. in education. 

Online education and how technology is changing the way students learn seemed to be the themes for much of Jaschik’s discussion. To add a level of authenticity while reporting the Internet’s role in education, Jaschik encouraged reporters to get a first-person perspective of the landscape when they can.

“Take a MOOC,” he said. And like him, “You can be a MOOC drop out!”

In addition to his top-10 list, Jaschik noted his top three story ideas for next school year. Two of his ideas were topics the media has covered frequently in the last few months: the value of higher education in preparing students for jobs and the transparency of what colleges do.

“You have the Obama administration and others arguing that it’s important for colleges to say what their graduation rates are, what their job placement rates are, how much they really cost, how much students have to borrow,” he says.

The third idea — affirmative action — had slipped on and off the media’s priority list, but will become a staple quite soon. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June on an affirmative case over college admissions.

“My guess is they will limit affirmative action in some way,” he says. “That’s going to be a huge challenge to all colleges and universities that care about having a diverse student body.”