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, June 29, 2016

Students Don't Know Aid is Available

Many prospective college students and their parents are unaware they could qualify for federal financial aid, which may lead some to either take out bigger private loans to fund their schooling or not enroll in higher education at all.

A recent survey of 5,000 high school students and parents by Royall & Co., a consulting firm for enrollment and fundraising management, found that many respondents believed their household income was too high to obtain a Pell Grant or low-interest federal loan. Even in the bottom income bracket ($60,000 or less), 27% of students and 34% of parents didn’t think they could secure aid.

“In contrast, according to an EAB (Royall’s parent company) analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data, 84% of students with household incomes of less than $60,000 received Pell Grants—and many more students in this income bracket qualified for subsidized student loans,” a spokesperson for Royall said in a release.

In addition, the survey discovered that families in the lowest income bracket are more reluctant to fill out the required Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many of these families also don’t realize how much time is needed to process applications and end up submitting their forms too late to receive monies before tuition and other costs, such as buying course materials and school supplies, are due.

The full report is available from Royall.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New Concept for Digital Textbooks

Concept maps, which represent topics that are connected in a circle or square, are normally used as a study or review tool. An assistant professor of engineering at Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto, decided to put the map to use as a primary course resource.

Jacob Moore created the Adaptive Map Digital Textbook, which shows the topics covered as points on map. Each topic is connected with related themes and when students click on the point, they are taken to a content page that includes video lectures, example problems, and diagrams.

“A lot of people focus on students making concept maps at the end of semesters to review what they know,” Moore said in an article on Penn State News. “But another way you can use them is as a guide to help students fit smaller topics into the big picture of the course.”

The digital textbook is available on all devices and it’s free. Moore uses a Creative Commons noncommercial license to keep all code and content open-source.

“It’s not uncommon to see students skip buying textbooks just because they don’t have the money, or they split the cost with a roommate and they have to pass it back and forth all the time,” he said. “If you remove those cost barriers, everyone will have better access to these tools. With the Adaptive Map Digital Textbook, as long as students have access to a computer, they have their textbook.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

3-D Printing Sales Continue to Expand

The growth of 3-D printing is beginning to get serious. International Data Corp. (IDC) reported that 3-D printer hardware and materials were a $2.5 billion market in 2014 that increased 20% in 2015.

IDC also predicted that spending on 3-D in the education market will rise to more than $500 million over the next three years. However, most of the spending will focus on materials needed to operate the printers rather than the machines themselves.

Sales of printers that retail for less than $1,000 are projected to jump by 12% through 2020, while professional-grade printers are expected to surge by 20% or more, according to a report for Campus Technology. The higher-grade units made up 75% of total shipments in 2015.

“People and companies that are adopting 3-D printers are routinely realizing tremendous time and cost savings in their product-creation and -development cycles,” said IDC Research Director Tim Greene. “As printer speeds increase and the range of materials expands, a growing number of products and parts, and therefore markets, will be impacted by 3-D printing/additive manufacturing. Already, the 3-D printer mix in the U.S. has changed over the last 12-24 months. While there are still a lot of shipments into the do-it-yourself and consumer market, tremendous growth remains in the segments with a more professional and manufacturing orientation.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mixed Results from Adaptive-Learning Study

The largest study to date of adaptive-learning software found that results have been modest at best. Nearly 20,000 college students and 300 instructors using the most popular learning software on the market participated in the research, conducted by SRI International for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 2013-15.

Students were no more likely to pass a course using adaptive-learning tools than in a traditional classroom. Researchers also found that the software by itself isn’t enough and that universities didn’t do a good job of making sure the technology being used actually worked.

The study indicated that the tools functioned better when the instructor used the same language utilized in the software during face-to-face instruction and when student usage was monitored closely. Learning results also improved when the course was redesigned around the software.

“I wouldn’t characterize our report as cynical, just cautious,” Barbara Means, director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, said in an article in The Hechinger Report.  Means was also quick to point out that more and better technology has come to market since the study started in 2013. “It shouldn’t be regarded as though this is the last word. It’s just a very early snapshot.”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Education Benefits Back on the Table

Employer tuition-reimbursement programs, a casualty of the Great Recession of 2008, are making a comeback. Companies are rediscovering that education incentives help keep workers on the job and make finding new employees easier.

“Companies really did slash and burn their professional development budgets,” Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits of the Society of Human Resource Management, said in an article for The Hechinger Report. “Now we’re starting to see things come back, but we’re seeing them come back in completely different ways.”

For instance, many new tuition-reimbursement programs limit workers to courses from specific for-profit providers that are, in turn, providing employers deep discounts for access to those employees. Some companies also require employees to apply for federal financial aid before its education benefit is applied.

“It’s not just a charitable thing,” said Jaime Fall, director of the UpSkill America initiative. “Companies that hire frontline workers know that if they don’t offer benefits that are competitive, they’re going to lose out on workers who want to go to college.”

Another reason for companies to offer education benefits is dissatisfaction with the work skills of recent college graduates. Just 11% of business leaders told a Gallup survey they strongly agreed that graduates were ready for work, even though 96% of higher-ed officials believe their institutions are very to somewhat effective in preparing students for jobs.

“This is a way for the for-profits to maintain relevance,” said Howard Lurie, analyst for the education consulting firm Eduventures. “They’re under the gun. It’s an enrollment-management solution for them.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

U.K. App Pilot to Monitor Students' Work

Fifty colleges and universities in the U.K. will be piloting a new app intended to track students’ study habits and allow their instructors to intervene if students appear to be falling behind or struggling with material. The pilot starts in September.

The app—created by Jisc, an academic technology firm—automatically keeps tabs on each student’s interaction with their school’s digital systems.

“In the way a Fitbit device tracks personal training metrics, Jisc’s app will record students’ learning activity,” said a report in U.K.’s The Independent. “Each time a student logs onto their virtual learning environment to access course materials, clocks into the library, or submits a piece of work online, the app will create a ‘digital footprint’ of their performance.”

In particular, the app’s developer is hoping to stem the tide of university dropouts. The Independent noted a recent U.K. study found that 27% of first-year students either dropped out in their second term or planned to do so as soon as the term ended.

The app will also allow students to track their own progress through each course and determine whether they are meeting requirements. They can also opt to share certain information with classmates in order to benchmark their efforts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New Generation Same as the Old, But Not

Generation Z, the latest age group to enter adulthood and college, is fundamentally not all that different from previous generations at the same point in life, though there are a few distinctions.

McCann Truth Central interviewed 33,000 people around the world to find out what sets each generation apart. The study discovered young adults in every generation “are focused on finding themselves, finding their people, and finding their place in the world,” said a report in Ad Age.

Gen Z, however, does exhibit a few characteristics of its own. Like previous generations, this age cohort regards their friends as their real family, but the new twist is that this group is able to literally stay in constant touch with friends through cellphones and social media.

“Teens today are also used to connecting with friends all the time with raw, in-the-moment content using platforms like Snapchat, Twitch, and Periscope, which means brands have to start understanding Gen Z’s hunger for on-the-ground immersive perspectives,” said Laura Simpson, executive vice president and global director of McCann Truth Central.

When it comes to issues, this age group is highly supportive of social equality—such as racial equality, women’s issues, and LGBT rights—whereas adults over 50 voice more concern for individual freedoms (such as political freedom) and curing diseases. The Z’ers feel major companies and brands should use their power to effect change.

“The study also showed that the word ‘adult’ used to be a noun, but is now used as a verb by Gen Z and young Millennials, such as ‘adulting,’ which is about ‘putting your life into little moments or little snaps,’” according to Ad Age.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Metrics to Help Students Succeed

A new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) proposed a new metrics framework to help institutions measure student performance. The report lists performance, efficiency, and equity as the measures by which colleges and universities can better serve students of all backgrounds.

The metrics are designed to assess students’ access, progress, completion, cost, and postcollege outcomes. They also look at college affordability, how resources impact completion, and the experience of all students.

“This report draws on the knowledge and experience of higher-education leaders and experts to lay out in detail the metrics we should be collecting—and explains why those data will make a difference for all students, but particularly for those who traditionally have been underserved by higher education,” said IHEP President Michelle Cooper in a report for eCampus News. “Until now, only some institutions have been willingly and voluntarily collecting data to answer critical questions about who attends college, who succeeds in and after college, and how college is financed. But, the field needs a core set of comprehensive and comparable higher ed metrics and should incorporate those metrics into federal and state data systems. Doing so will make the data available for all students in all institutions, not only those who voluntarily collect and report it.”

Friday, June 17, 2016

Keep an Eye on VR Products

Developers of virtual-reality products are currently focused on the gaming industry, but that could change rapidly. Companies are already beginning work on applications of VR technology in the medical field, with retail and education not far behind.

“What we learn from textbooks or labs can be really dull, but VR and AR [augmented reality] will greatly enhance learning abilities,” Chinese investor Zhu Bo said in a report for phys.org. “It can also be used in e-commerce. In the future, you will step into a real scene; you can see the products on the shelves, touch and feel them. So our shopping experience will totally change.”

International Data Corp. predicted shipments of VR devices will increase by more than 2,400% this year, but the market still needs development before retailers jump on the bandwagon. Current VR products only allow individual users to play a game or watch a movie, but companies are expected to continue creating more VR-related hardware and software.

“To experience VR, you need a powerful engine,” said L.Z. Wang, managing director of chipmaker AMD. “Without content, you can’t experience anything.”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Students Don't Feel Prepared for Careers

A new report found that just 40% of all college students feel they are “very prepared” to enter the workforce. At the same time, the survey, conducted in March and April by McGraw-Hill Education, added that overall satisfaction with the college experience rose from 65% in 2014 to 79% in 2016.

However, more students would like to see their schools provide: 
  • More internships and professional experiences (67% in 2016, up from 59% in 2014).
  • More time to focus on career preparation (59% in 2016, up from 47% in 2014).
  • Better access to career-preparation tools (47% in 2016, up from 38% in 2014)
  • More alumni networking opportunities (34% in 2016, up from 22% in 2014).

More than 70% of the students reported that planning for a rewarding career while in college was “extremely important,” while nearly 80% cited interpersonal skills as the most important attribute in landing a job. Students also value technology, with 85% saying that using tools in classes made them better job candidates.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Slow K-12 Tech Taking Pressure Off Hi-Ed?

Many assume that students enrolling in college a decade or so from now will have high expectations for classroom technology based on their hands-on experiences in elementary and secondary schools.

However, a new annual survey of teachers and instructional specialists conducted by Education Week indicates K-12 academic technology may not be ramping up all that quickly at this time. The survey report, Technology Counts 2016: Transforming the Classroom, found that close to three-quarters of the respondents enjoyed working with new educational technology, yet for the most part their classes were using tech solutions for only mundane activities such as practice drills and reviewing lesson content.

“These findings echo previous research showing that, despite an influx of technology in schools, many teachers still mainly rely on digital programs to supplement traditional instructional strategies rather than to support more creative, inquiry-based learning,” the report stated. “But the results also suggest that digital learning in some form is ingrained in many classrooms, and that there is momentum toward new practices.”

For the first time, the 2016 survey included a Tech Confidence Index to determine teachers’ levels of confidence in performance, funding, policymaking, and public support for K-12 educational technology. On a scale of zero (most negative) to 100 (most positive), the respondents scored an average of 43 for the present—a relatively lukewarm level of confidence—but the average score rose to 55 when respondents were asked about the near future.

Why has K-12 technology adoption been so slow?

“The teacher respondents indicated that having too few digital-learning devices in their schools and a lack of tech-oriented professional development remain barriers to more regular use of classroom technology,” said the report. “In addition, wireless-connectivity problems and computer breakdowns are still far from infrequent, according to the responses.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Reviving the Original Intent of MOOCs

Almost overnight, massive open online courses (MOOCs) went from idea stage to being the next big thing in higher education. While Sebastian Thrun’s first MOOC attracted an impressive 160,000 students in 2011, interest grew to 35 million individuals who signed up for at least one of the free online courses in 2015.

The blemish on the success story has always been completion rates, but MOOC providers also have had to show they are worth the investment. That pressure has led MOOC platforms to shift emphasis to job training and charging students for credentials.

That’s troubling to author Jonathon Keats, who suggested in a column for Wired that the real goal of MOOCs should be to interest people in everything.

“The technology underlying MOOCs—as well as their reach—provides a solid platform for broadening people’s interests,” Keats wrote. “MOOCs need to be linked across disciplines, with recommendation engines like those employed by Netflix and YouTube to entice students to compulsively take up new interests. Completion rates need to be de-emphasized in favor of curiosity quotients.

“Vocation training is just one thin layer of education,” he added. “For edutech to be worthy of its name—and for everything to truly change—MOOC platforms need to make every mind as expansive as the World Wide Web.”

Monday, June 13, 2016

School Laptop Programs Are Working

A Michigan State University study has shown that students who receive laptops from their schools do better in class. Researchers saw higher test scores in English, math, science, and writing when students were given laptops, but the programs need to include one-to-one program support for both students and teachers.

“In the past couple of decades, one-to-one laptop programs have spread widely, but so has debate about whether they are cost-effective and beneficial to educational outcomes,” Binbin Zheng, assistant professor of educational technology at MSU and lead author of the paper, said in an article for eSchool News. “I believe this technology, if implemented correctly, is worth the cost and effort because it lifts student achievement, enhances engagement and enthusiasm among students, improves teacher-student relationships, and promotes 21st-century skills such as technological proficiency and problem-solving.”

The catch is proper implementation, according to Zheng. She found that educational outcomes improve when there is teacher buy-in, enough technical support and professional development for instructors, and suitable curriculum.

“Just putting a laptop before a student doesn’t really help them with anything,” she said. “Technology should not be implemented for technology’s sake.”

Friday, June 10, 2016

Study Identifies Website Flaws

Colleges and universities want their websites to attract prospective students, but too often fail to make a good impression, according to a new report from the higher-education web development firm KDG.

“Our research revealed five mistakes that colleges often make on their website,” Kyle David, CEO of KDG, said in an article for eCampus News. “These mistakes may seem trivial, but they are the primary reasons many students often choose an inferior college that just happens to have a better website.”

The first problem for many college websites is that most incoming freshmen use social media regularly and have become accustomed to reading short chunks of information. Long forms that must be filled out are another issue that prompt prospective students to leave a website.

Institutional sites should guard against cluttered home pages that force students to click several times just to find out about a single aspect of the college. Fake imagery of college life and clich├ęs can also send students looking elsewhere.

“A poorly organized site loses visitors and applicants, and you can ill afford to lose either,” said Rick Martin, a writer for the KDG blog. “Your biology department may be on the verge of curing cancer, but if your website wastes students’ time, you will fail to attract the bright minds that you need to keep your college strong.”