Long-term plan of higher education

There is no doubt about the role of funding agencies on the direction that Higher Ed institutions take. But does that direction lead to a bright future for humanity?

Source: https://blog.shi.com/news/educause-2018-the-future-of-it-in-higher-education/

There is no easy answer to this question; but In today’s world, we are more and more seeing the power of money in higher education institutions; we have seen cases that the faculty members who are accused of misbehaving of any sort are supported by the university administration, and the reason, many believe, lies in their ability to bring money. Although we have so many moral, yet diligent scholars who conduct valuable research in its pure form, the inclination toward cherishing the value of money more than the value of dignity and morality can endanger the bright future that we picture. The education system looks like an efficient machine that works hard to satisfy the world’s needs; however, some of the needs may not be demanded by today’s world but are crucial for long-term redemption. Here is the role of government to value those pure scientific efforts which work for the future of humanity. Are the most powerful men in the world capable of making proper decisions for that?

How important is the teaching role to the tenure-track professors?

I have been in higher education since 2013 and my shallow experience may not be enough to comprehensively judge the education system, but what has been engaging my mind is that the boundary of teaching with research is not optimally handled in higher education, especially in the U.S. schools. I have had many experiences with professors in the U.S. who were not devoting enough to their teaching responsibility. In the engineering fields (which I have been involved with), the importance of seizing funding opportunities has adversely affected the faculty member’s passion for teaching and preparing the next generation of young scholars.

I think the current education system – especially in engineering school – directs the tenure-track faculty members to assign more weight to the publications and bringing funds to the school to secure their tenured position. This does not mean that the teaching part has no significance. However, my initial feeling was that young professors try to be as nice as possible to their students and try not to make the homework and assessments too challenging to keep the class participants satisfied. This can sometimes hinder the students to gain the most out of a class.

Today, Class, I’m Proud To Announce My Tenure is a drawing by Farley Katz

While I do not visualize a short-term change in the priorities of the tenure-track faculty members, technology can introduce workarounds to enhance the quality of teaching and lower its burden for the instructors. This can be done through a one-time design of the course material (especially presentation lectures) which can save much time for the instructor. By ensuring top quality of the course material, the trade-off between time consumption and course quality is handled such that the students benefit from a well-prepared lecture and the faculty member can efficiently manage the course load and other tasks.

Online Course Providers; the Missing Piece of the Education System or a Disruption to it?

Digital technology and widespread internet access have revolutionized the education system in the 21st century. As a product of these changes, the massive open online course (MOOC) providers such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity have emerged, each having over a million registered users.

The open access to a vast spectrum of courses has provided an opportunity for people across the globe to affordably seek what they are passionate about. The major concern, however, is that, are these platform able to offer a quality of education equivalent to the traditional institutions?

Dr. Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business Professor, cast the doubt on the suitability of these newcomers and predicted that such disruption to the conventional education system would cause the failure of thousands of universities across the U.S. So far, the prediction of Dr. Christensen does not seem close at all; however, while we are seeing rapid growth in the number of platforms for MOOCs, numerous universities have undergone a flat/declining student enrollment.

In my opinion, the impacts of MOOC providers on the in-person institutions are positive in the long run. The fulfillment of the needs of the education seekers is surely dependent upon the quality of service they receive. If my expectations from an online course are not met, I would likely consider the traditional in-person courses as my priority. The opposite case also holds; the traditional institutions have no choice but to accept the competition which I would believe results in a better education system. Ultimately, these paths of gaining knowledge are not in a boxing ring! They have the chance to modify each other, find their genuine standing, and lead to an equilibrium where the people have the highest chance to flourish their capabilities.

 

Student-advisor: Friendship or master-slave relationship? – Part 1

Since entering graduate school, I have found myself lucky to have a respectful and positive relationship with my advisor (and I hope it goes on like this…). Unlike many other students, the university ranking was not the basis of my decision-making process. I was very picky about the faculty member I was going to work with because I had to face a huge transition. Within a couple of weeks from my graduation as a bachelor student, I started my PhD degree. It is crystal clear that the type and degree of expectations are much more different in the PhD level than bachelor level. Therefore, I could have had a hard time if I were left alone with some research tasks on the first day in the graduate school. In what follows, I will discuss the reason that I felt I should be very careful about my future advisor.

I have been told by many of my friends who were studying at graduate level that their advisers have narrowed down their responsibility to funding and the rest is expectations. I know this is not the case for all faculty members, but in my case, for a student who have had no research experience, leaving the student alone with a burden of tasks could have been catastrophic. This has been a spark in my mind to picture myself as a future advisor. More specifically, how do I want my relationship to be with my students?

news.harvard.edu

Firstly, we all know that we cannot treat everybody the same. In the case of advisors, they have to deal with students with many different backgrounds and personalities. But as a main theme, I prefer to be a type of advisor who keeps the students close and my expectations are not restricted to technical ones. Although it may sound a bit ideal (or impractical) at the first glance, I have reasons to justify my claim. My first reason is that I want my students not to feel scared about a problem they face. The problem can be either in their daily lives or in the path toward their degrees. In this article, I am going to address the role of a perfect advisor in addressing the problems in students’ daily lives.

First and foremost, if my student is suffering from an issue in his/her personal life, this indirectly affect my plans as a faculty member, too; this will turn into my problem if my students are not making progress in their researches. It is my problem, too, if my students are missing the deadlines and do not satisfy our sponsors. Thus, not only as a human being’s duty, but also because of my own interest, I should help them as a friend to overcome their concerns. If I am not a friend of my students, I will only see reflections of their challenges in our research’s unsuccessfulness. But, if my advisees see me as a person who cares about them and tries to help them, I will be more like a true advisor and not a commander…

(To be continued…)

 

IEEE Access Journal: A Brief Overview

 

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the largest association of electrical engineers headquartered in New York City, NY, USA.  On the website of IEEE, it is claimed that IEEE “the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity”.  IEEE constitutes of over 40 societies to address various areas of electrical engineering. Moreover, some societies of IEEE address the interdisciplinary fields of electrical engineering overlapping with other disciplines such as aerospace, geoscience, material science, etc. Each society has its own journal(s), holds several events and conferences and provide a forum to share the most recent technological developments.

While most of the journals published by these societies can be accessed through paid memberships, IEEE Access journal was established in 2013 as an open access journal.  IEEE Access is that it is a multidisciplinary journal covering all areas of electrical engineering and is not limited to a field or two. Therefore, the scope of this journal includes all the electrical engineering fields of interest, and emphasizes on the interdisciplinary applications. The  journal not only accepts technical articles, but also admits review papers and surveys.

IEEE Access has shown a significant growth since its establishment in 2013. As of 2019, the impact factor of this journal has risen from 0 to almost 5 which is higher than numerous journals with decades of publication history.  The figure below demonstrates the evolution of the journal’s impact factor over time.

IEEE Access 2-year Impact Factor Trend

In my opinion, part of the journal’s success is because of the open accessibility and the more visibility of the journal compared to traditional IEEE journals. However, as we all know, not all open access journals have made successful experiences. What characterizes IEEE Access from other open access journals is its rigorous review process. This ensures the technical novelty of the published articles which further adds to the journal’s credibility and reputation. All these reasons along with the fast review process (4-6 weeks) and the reasonable processing charge (US $1750) have made this journal a favorite choice for the authors.

The role of supervisors on research ethics

The case study I have chosen for the examination of research ethics is the research misconduct in a project supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this project, following wrongdoings were committed:

(1) fabricating the results of the T-maze behavioral experiment for control mice to make it appear as though he had conducted the experiments

(2) falsifying the laboratory data and the animal transfer logs in an effort to cover up his actions, and

(3) reporting the fabricated and falsified data to his laboratory supervisors and principal investigator

I chose this case as I felt empathy to some degree with the respondent. The reason is that when somebody’s work is tied with experimentation (including myself), it is quite common to undergo some critical moments when a bunch of small and big issues are keeping you away from the desired output.

When your threshold for fighting against these challenges is a bit low, you may break down at any of these key moments. The actions taken in this case is a reflection of the breakdown. In my opinion, there are many of us who get quickly overwhelmed when bottlenecks happen across our paths. It is a natural reaction of our mind, and a good supervisor is one who prepares you against these moments. A good supervisor knows that the student wants to prove himself/herself to the advisor as quickly as possible and strives to keep the supervisor satisfied all the time. Knowing this, the supervisor should ensure the student that he/she can also discuss the problems without any consequences. The student should be made sure that missing a deadline is not worst thing in the world, and achieving genuine results is worthy enough to be patient, face challenges, and overcome them.

All in all, in my opinion, most of the cases that a student commits such falsifications occur when the student is worried about the consequences of reporting a problem instead of the results; and every student should be convinced that this is a common step toward the goal…

 

A Mission Statement Comparison: University of Cambridge vs. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

In this article, we compare and analyze the mission statements of two quite different higher ed institutions in terms of their foundation date; one is the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (founded in 1991), one of the most successful institutions in the list of youngest universities. The other one is University of Cambridge in United Kingdom which is founded in 1209 and is among the oldest educational institutions across the globe, also being continuously enumerated as one of the most . Let us begin the comparison with an overview of the mission statements of these two institutions:

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST):

source: ust.hk

Mission Statement

To advance learning and knowledge through teaching and research, particularly:
– in science, technology, engineering, management and business studies; and
– at the postgraduate level;
To assist in the economic and social development of Hong Kong.

Core Values:

  • Excellence, Integrity, and Academic Freedom
  • Global Vision and Local Commitment
  • Can-do Spirit
  • Inclusiveness, Diversity, and Respect

University of Cambridge (UCamb):

Source: Guardian

 

 

Mission Statement

The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.

Core values

  • freedom of thought and expression
  • freedom from discrimination

In the first glance, one can see that in HKUST mission statement, an emphasis is put on the nation’s economic and social development. On the other hand, UCamb targets the cutting-edge research and education at its highest standards. Moreover, HKUST emphasizes directly on some disciplines including engineering, management and business while UCamb apparently cherishes the science at its most general term (at least in the mission statement).

By looking into the core values, it can be comprehended that HKUST adds more weight to the importance of inclusion and diversity. Despite mentioning “freedom from discrimination” as one of the core values, UCamb does not refer to the inclusion as a goal/value.

All in all, the mission statement and core values of UCamb were well-organized in the sense that the mission statement’s attention revolved mostly around the ambition for excellence at global levels while the core values emphasize on the freedom of thoughts and from discrimination. But in HKUST’s, the mission statement and core values had overlapping interests (nation’s progress, excellence in academic research and education) with a broader attention toward inclusion, diversity and freedom of speech.