5 stories you should read this month

March 9, 2015

As college professors, you are among the most well-read people on the planet. But you’re also among the busiest, which means that you can’t possibly have time to find all the most interesting and relevant higher-education news that’s worth reading. That’s where we come in. From dealing with inappropriate student emails to embracing active learning techniques, here are the articles that should be on your radar this month.

Do more of your students seem depressed this year? If so, you’re probably not the only professor to have noticed the change. An annual survey of freshmen found that 10% of college freshmen frequently “felt depressed,” the highest rate of depression reported since the survey was launched in 1974. There was plenty of other insightful information that can help you understand where this generation of students is coming from. The survey found that only 18% of the 153,000 respondents said they spent more than 16 hours a week hanging out with friends, whereas more than a quarter spent more than six hours a week on social media. The survey also suggests that incoming freshmen see college primarily as a gateway to careers, and, perhaps due to the Great Recession, today’s freshmen prize financial security more than ever before.
The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2015

Some entrepreneurs have predicted that, thanks to the rise of online courses, higher education will soon go the way of Netflix or iTunes. They foresee a world where students will assemble their own degrees from a virtual buffet of online courses offered by different institutions—an accounting class from Duke, a finance class from Harvard, and so on. But this “unbundling” is unlikely to happen, says Atlantic writer Derek Newton, because students don’t consume higher education the way they do music or movies. They “buy” classes not because of the professors who teach them but because of the “brand” that’s associated with them: an institution’s reputation.
The Atlantic, Jan. 27, 2015

While funding is primarily the province of administrators, it’s always helpful for professors to keep an eye on the source of those funds so they know what to expect in the years ahead. The outlines of that picture are just starting to be drawn at the federal level, with President Barack Obama proposing a budget that would increase federal spending on higher education and streamline tax breaks for higher education. The Republican-led Congress is likely to oppose many of his proposals, including plans for tuition-free community college. But Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, may be on board with the president’s plans to revamp student aid programs. Obama’s plan also includes proposals to simplify FAFSA, more tightly regulate for-profit schools, and put more money toward campus sexual assault prevention. 
Inside Higher Ed, Feb. 3, 2015

Most faculty members have gotten their share of puzzling or downright rude emails from students. (“My alarm clock didn’t go off so I couldn’t make it to class. Did I miss anything important?”) In this helpful article, Natascha Chtena suggests various ways of dealing with inappropriate emails, from putting an email policy in your syllabus to making email etiquette part of your lesson plans.
Inside Higher Ed, Feb. 1, 2015

Every class has them. And you recognize them as soon as the semester starts. They’re the students who just sit there like desk potatoes, preferring to be passive learners who merely soak up notes during a lecture. It’s a frustrating situation, but there are ways to win them over to active learning—without sabotaging your evaluations. This article explores some of those ideas, including explaining the rationale for active learning, varying your teaching methods, and summarizing takeaways for students at the end of each class.
Vitae, Feb. 4, 2015