Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

EdX Cure for the Summertime Slide

There’s more to summer than good times, relaxation, and vacations. The time away from school makes students susceptible to “summer slide.”

While “summer slide” research tends to focus on how parents should work with their K-12 students on their reading skills, edX and the National Summer Learning Association teamed up to launch a collection of more than 60 courses on core subjects for high school and college students. Select courses will also help high school students with advanced placement (AP) and college-admission exams.

“The summer slide is a very real challenge faced by many American students and it can be detrimental to their overall educational development,” edX CEO Anant Agarwal said. “Online learning, because it offers free and openly available tools and resources, enables motivated students to combat this head-on.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Test and Promote for Appy Ever After

Some schools are developing mobile apps for a variety audiences: students, faculty, and staff, even the general public. The purposes also vary, from news alerts, security warnings, and event information to campus maps, bookstore purchases, and mobile access to school systems.

The one thing all of these apps have in common is their likelihood of failure. According to CIO magazine, most people download an app, use it once, and that’s it. Some 78% of apps never get used again. “This is part of the reason why the majority of mobile strategies stall, according to a recent Accenture survey of nearly 1,500 C-level executives,” noted writer Tom Kaneshige.

Ongoing promotion and helpdesk support are among the key factors for getting people in the habit of using an app regularly. Usability testing with the target audience, especially early in the development process, can help resolve confusing interfaces and clumsy or unwanted features before they get in the hands of users.

Once an app has been released, tracking and parsing analytics can reveal how people are actually using the app. “Follow the launch with social media and internal forums for users to provide feedback and increase app awareness,” the article suggested. “In fact, feedback is so valuable that a CIO might want to offer a monetary or recognition reward for it.”

Monday, June 29, 2015

Georgia Works on Digital Content Solution

Affordable Learning Georgia was launched last year by the University System of Georgia to create a platform for the free online texts educators were developing. The state Board of Regents kicked in $2.5 million to the effort with a goal of creating content for 26 basic college courses all students at any state public institution could take online.

Small grants were made available to professors creating online content. They ended up with resources for 22 of the 26 classes, called e-Core courses that were targeted. That will add up to $2.7 million in savings on textbooks, according to the chief academic officer of the University System of Georgia.

Faculty at the University of North Georgia, Dahlonega, generated digital content for 10 courses from grants they received. Its estimated students will save about $1 million next year using that content.

Affordable Learning Georgia is already upping the ante. A second goal of the initiative was to create online textbooks for the 50 courses with the highest enrollment, but administrators now want content for the top 100 classes.

“I believe it’s going to be the future of delivering content to students, especially for these kinds of courses,” Mark Goodroe, professor of mathematics at the University of North Georgia, told the digital news platform Styrk.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Smartwatches Banned from Exams

A lot of people are buying smartwatches, particularly since the Apple Watch launched. The devices are a little too popular to suit some educators.

A pair of universities in Australia issued warnings against wearing wearable technology to class during final exams, and similar policies could soon be in place at some American universities. La Trobe University in Melbourne barred smartwatches from the exam room, while the University of New South Wales required students to put all wristwatches in clear bags under their desks, according to a report in The Chronicle for Higher Education.

The Educational Testing Service, which gives the Graduate Record exam and the Test of English as a Foreign Language, has for years used wands to make sure test-takers weren’t carrying cellphones. The proctors now use the wands, which are like the ones used in airport security lines, to check for cellphones and watches.

“As we get better at our educational systems, it will seem less like we need to ban these things, because the kinds of things we’ll be putting on an exam students won’t be able to store on a watch,” said Eric Klopfer, director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Games Aren't Trending in K-12

Maybe gaming in the classroom isn’t that big of a deal. At least that’s the word from the 2015 New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report, which retired the concept from its list of emerging technology for K-12.

“We don’t see it making the mainstream,” said NMC CEO Larry Johnson in an article for EdTech. “For most people, it’s just too hard to integrate and there are no tools to make it easier.”

Fundamental concepts of gamification are still on the list, such as awarding digital badges for learning games, which NMC lists as a trend that will be adopted within four or five years. Use of drones and visual data analysis, along with wearable technology, should also be mainstream education tools for K-12 within four to five years.

Classrooms allowing students to bring their own electronic devices for educational purposes, cloud computing, makerspaces with tools such as 3-D printers, and mobile learning are trends making an impact right now. Adaptive learning, 3-D printing, information visualization, and learning analytics should be mainstream trends in two or three years, according to the report.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

TV Show Helps MOOC Hook New Students

The FX television series The Strain is about a city under attack from a mysterious epidemic and a devastating cyber-virus attack. It’s also a great way to teach virus and parasite biology, cybersecurity, and epidemiological modeling.

The software firm Instructure is betting on it by partnering with the video learning company Zaption to create a massive open online course (MOOC) based on the real-world science presented in the show.

“We expect many participants in The Strain MOOC will have never taken an online course before,” Melissa Loble, vice president of partners and programs at Instructure, told eCampus News. “But because of this partnership with Zaption, they will be able to interact with highly engaging video-based content that will enrich the learning experience.”

The MOOC designers are working with the University of California, Irvine (UCI), on content for each unit. That content will be updated weekly with new lecture videos, quizzes, a discussion forum, additional readings, and extra videos based on UCI research.

Students will earn digital badges for each strain completed and have the option of doing a final multimedia project to showcase their learning. Instructors will also be able to monitor discussions to answer questions.

“The entertainment piece is the hook, but we hope people will walk away with a much deeper understanding,” said Chris Walsh, CEO of Zaption. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Digital Natives Not Tech Experts at All

College students in the traditional age cohort (late teens to early 20s) have spent their entire lives using computerized devices and accessing the Internet. As digital natives, they should be the most tech-savvy group on the planet—but they’re not.

In fact, their digital skills are dismal when it comes to the kind of capabilities they need for effective study and later on for work performance. According to THE Journal, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) analyzed data for 5,000 people aged 16-64 on their ability to carry out “practical tasks” using software and digital media.

The millennials in the group (age 16-34) fared poorly. Some 58% “couldn’t solve a multistep problem that required more than one computer application,” THE Journal said. A sample task was to sort, search for, and email data from a spreadsheet.

Even worse, 91% of this age group didn’t think possessing low technology skills would be a deterrent to getting a job after graduation. Of the 19 countries participating in the survey, the U.S. ranked 19th in technology skills for the millennial cohort, even though this group spends an average of 35 hours per week engaging in digital media.

A four-page report released in June 2015 summarizes AIR’s analysis.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Better Quality Needed in Online Courses

Online course offerings have become commonplace, particularly on community college campuses. However, that quantity does not necessarily mean quality, according to a new report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The group found that one in nine online courses offered by community colleges in the state has a pass rate considered “successful,” meaning students doing at least as well as in equivalent traditional courses and in more challenging classes. The study, Successful Online Courses in California Community Colleges, noted that 16% of online courses had acceptable pass rates, compared to 44% of traditional classes.

The report found that the median pass rate was about 10% higher for traditional courses, with online students receiving more failing or incomplete grades. It also noted that the success of an online course depended on the instructor.

“The questions that started this project were, ‘Are there certain subjects better taught online? Are there certain community colleges that do a good job online?’” Hans Johnson, one of the authors of the study, said in a report in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “We thought we may find some patterns by using those kinds of criteria, and the answer is we didn’t.”

Friday, June 19, 2015

10-Minute Videos Preferred in the Classroom

A study on video usage in the classroom found that 71% of responding educators believe the optimal length for viewing is 10 minutes or less. Another 28% preferred videos between 10-30 minutes in length, according to a report in THE Journal.

Authors of the report, The State of Video in Education, felt shorter videos could reflect the fact that students are used to watching videos on YouTube, while the longer lengths might relate to the popularity of the 18-minute TED Talks video format.

The research also found that 91% of the respondents said video had a positive impact on student satisfaction and 82% said it led to higher student achievements. At the same time, 83% of the educators said that ease of use continues to be the biggest need to bring video to the classroom, while 60% reported needing more training and support on tools already available.

“The data in this survey firmly suggest that video technology is a major force in education,” the report concluded. “In the future, students will expect video to be a part of their learning experience and will generate more video content. In 10 years’ time, video will become a standard part of education, will evolve beyond delivery of content, and enable innovative types of teaching and learning. It will gradually take the place of textbooks and will become an increasingly important skill in itself, participating in a shift in the role of the educators.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why Do People Take MOOCs?

There have been plenty of studies about massive open online courses (MOOCs), but not as much is known about those taking the courses. A group of researchers from around the world are interviewing people who have completed a MOOC, asking them to describe their experiences and activities while working through the course.

The researchers interviewed around 70 individuals and discovered that successful online learners possess sophisticated study skills. They also found that the flexibility MOOCs provide is essential and that online learning is an emotional experience for the learners.

“Anxiety, appreciation, embarrassment, and pleasure are some of the emotions that learners used to describe their experience in these courses to us,” George Veletsianos, associate professor at Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada, wrote in a blog post for Inside Higher Education.

Some learners talked about note-taking strategies and how their use of external resources helped them gain a greater understanding of the topics being taught. A large number said their flexible lifestyle gave them the time to explore more topics of interest.

“By getting to know these invisible learners, we think we can build a better foundation for online learning, the design of digital learning experiences, and the use of technology in education,” Veletsianos wrote. “It is already clear from our initial interviews that in order to create more egalitarian structures for education, we need to start peeling away the multitude of barriers that prevent the most vulnerable populations from participating.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Udemy Hits It Big with Investors

Online learning continues to attract attention from the media and investors. Just days after Google announced it was creating an online certification program in Android development with Udacity, the online course marketplace Udemy said it raised $65 million to fund international expansion.

Udemy already offers courses in 80 languages and half of the company’s existing revenue comes from students outside the United States, according to CEO Dennis Yang. The new funding will help expand its course libraries and enterprise products that companies use for employee training and education.

The Udemy platform provides tools that allow experts to create and sell courses on any topic, or provide them to students for free. Since none of the company’s courses currently offer college credit, most students take them to improve job-related skills.

“We find that the value of formal degrees is going down,” Yang said in an article for Fortune.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Texting May Not Always Be a Distraction

While studies find that mobile devices in the classroom can be a distraction, they are not going away any time soon. Jeffrey Kuznekoff, professor of integrative studies at the Miami University branch in Middletown, OH, decided to take a closer look. He found that students who used their smartphones to text about course content earned scores on par with those who put their phones away in class.

In his study, Mobile Phones in the Classroom: Examiningthe Effects of Texting, Twitter, and Message Content on Student Learning, 145 randomly selected undergrads in communications classes were asked to take notes while watching a 12-minute video lecture on interpersonal communication theories. Students were divided into groups and exposed to different smartphone distractions during the video.

After the distractions, students were allowed a short review period before taking two tests. The first asked students to recall as much information from the video as possible and the second was a 16-question multiple-choice exam on the content.

Students in a control group did score a letter grade higher than those texting on topics unrelated to the lecture, but students who texted about the content had scores similar to the control group. In addition, students asked to tweet every 60 seconds on the content of the video scored higher than those who tweeted every 30 seconds.

“They’re still engaging with the content in some fashion, still mentally processing it,” Kuznekoff said in an article for Inside Higher Education. “That appears, in this short-term experiment, to not have a significantly detrimental effect on learning.”

Monday, June 15, 2015

SEC Filing Sheds Light on B&N Education

Details about Barnes & Noble spinning off its education division recently came to light in a report from Shelf Awareness. Shares of B&N Education, applying to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, will go to current stockholders and no dividends are expected to be paid in the near future.

According to the filing with the Security and Exchange Commission, B&N Education saw its revenue increase to $1.5 billion while its net earnings fell to $19.4 million in the first three months of the current fiscal year, which closed at the end of January.

The filing also noted that B&N Education operated 717 college stores and that its largest area of growth is through its school-branded e-commerce sites at each. The company is planning to increase that number by bidding aggressively on the 53% of college stores still operated by their institutions.

“The prospectus is highly optimistic as to the new company’s prospects,” Nate Hoffelder noted in his post on Ink, Bits, & Pixels. “I, on the other hand, can see that B&N Education faces strong competition in a declining market. It’s not just that students are buying less from their college bookstore, or that B&N Education’s digital textbook offering is a train wreck, but also that it has a couple of established competitors (Follett Higher Education and Nebraska Book Co.) as well as an aggressive newcomer (Amazon) with extensive retail experience and a kill-all-prisoners attitude.”

Friday, June 12, 2015

EdCasting Is a New Form of MOOC

From massive open online courses (MOOCs) have sprung mini-MOOCs.

EdCast, a free open-source audio encoder used to create Internet streaming, has launched EdCast, a social media platform that allows people to post video snippets of educational content, or what is being called “EdCasting.” The content is similar to tweeting, although each post has a video or link that can be described without the 140-character limit, according to a report in eCampus News.

There were 10 EdCasting channels available at the launch, with topics ranging from entrepreneurship to robotics from more than 100 experts in each field. The platform is meant to be an informal learning network that allows users to follow channels, groups, or individuals while allowing educators to organize the content for followers.

“Imagine following teachers or mentors and continuing to see content they endorse on an ongoing basis,” Charlie Chung, chief editor for the MOOC aggregation platform Class Central wrote. “Unlike Twitter, this is not mixed with personal comments or the latest news—it is a pure-play channel for educational content. Also, there is no ‘re-tweeting,’ so that the information flow is not diluted with recycled information. Everything in your feed is a hand-selected link or video.”