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, October 1, 2014

Wikipedia Becomes an Educational Tool

Professors used to warn their students not to rely on Wikipedia. It wasn’t viewed as a source that always provided correct information. That perception is beginning to change.

Now, some instructors offer credit to students who contribute to the online encyclopedia, either by writing an article or editing one already on the site. For example, nearly 10,000 students from community colleges to Ivy League schools have contributed 44,000 printed pages to Wikipedia for the Wiki Education Foundation project that launched in 2010, according a report for eCampus News.

Wikipedia is still not thought of as a primary source, but the project has found students feel a sense of accountability because tens of thousands of people serving as editors and fact-checkers on the foundation site are making sure the information they provide is accurate.

“Students are recognizing the value of peer review,” said Michele Van Hoeck, a professor at the California Maritime Academy, Vallejo. “One student was thrilled that someone else on Wikipedia had edited his work. You’d think a person might feel that was a negative, but to him, it was really exciting his idea was continuing, that someone read it and made it better.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Students Push for No-Cost Course Materials

Not surprisingly, college and university students love the idea of free, open-source course materials. Some students, notably at the University of Minnesota, are trying to persuade more faculty to assign open materials.

According to the Minnesota Daily campus publication, the Minnesota Student Association plans to set up a task force to preach the open-source gospel. The task force will contact professors individually to make them aware of open educational materials, in particular to explain what’s available in the university’s open-textbook library, which launched in 2012.

Last year, the student association was active in legislative efforts at the federal and state level to support open materials with grant programs, but those bills petered out. Now the association hopes the personal approach will encourage more faculty to use free materials instead of asking their classes to buy or rent books.

Campus grass-roots efforts like this are likely to sprout up at more institutions in response to student dissatisfaction over the cost of course materials.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Millennials Say Get Mobile or Get Out

Millennials want to use their smartphones for pretty much everything, and they’re starting to look askance at any organization that doesn’t accommodate their mobile needs.

According to a new survey from research company Zogby Analytics and image software provider Mitek, more than a third of millennials have already made a purchase or selected a brand on the basis of the company’s mobile capabilities and almost half interact daily with at least one retail mobile site.

Most respondents indicated retailers ought to offer robust mobile-commerce apps to their customers. About 42% are still willing to shop with retailers that don’t provide an app or mobile-optimized site “but they are likely to complain and feel negatively about it,” said a Mobile Marketer report on the survey. “Fourteen percent claim to avoid businesses that do not offer mobile capability.”

Millennials, the age group dominating college and university enrollment at present, also feel they should be able to use their smartphones’ image-capturing technology to auto-populate electronic forms, such as registering for classes or signing up for an online store’s membership program.

“Institutions must adopt a new way of communicating and interacting or they will be left behind,” said Jim Debello, CEO of Mitek.

Friday, September 26, 2014

LMS Useful, But Not Very Usable

The average learning management system (LMS) has been in place for eight years and about 15% of institutions are looking to replace theirs in the foreseeable future, according to a new study by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR). Most schools want systems providing improved functionality.

However, the study determined that faculty and students don’t use all the available features in their current LMS, creating something of a conundrum in deciding what a higher-level system should constitute. Being able to post content (for faculty) and access content (for students) in the system generated the highest satisfaction for more than 75% of both groups. When it came to advanced system tools, though, satisfaction ratings took a plunge.

Both instructors and students told ECAR researchers they don’t know how to utilize LMS features beyond the basics. Most received sketchy training on their system and were left to explore the LMS on their own. Despite that, both groups still believe the LMS helps teaching and learning and they’d like to take greater advantage of its capabilities.

“To meet users’ needs and expectations, the next-generation LMS should be mobile friendly, personalized, customizable, adaptive, intuitive, integrated, and designed to enhance student learning. These systems will function as digital learning environments for students, administrative systems for faculty to manage their courses, and interoperable systems that institutions can integrate into their administrative IT portfolio to leverage analytic applications,” the report concluded.

Students showed enthusiasm for LMS features that would enable them to interact and communicate with each other more easily, such as instant messaging, video chat, online tutoring, and social group discussions and forums. Faculty were more interested in tools to help manage classroom tasks more efficiently and to recommend new or different academic resources.

The study, The Current Ecosystem of Learning Management Systems in Higher Education: Student, Faculty, and IT Perspectives, is part of a larger Educause initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to explore the next iteration of digital learning and identify where efforts should be focused.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Look to Lurkers for Fruitful 'Engagement'

“Engagement” is probably the buzziest buzzword these days. From schools to retailers to employers, all are admonished to engage their students, their customers, and their workers, or suffer abandonment.

Online engagement is often measured by the amount of two-way interaction—likes, posts, retweets, comments, and such. However, Sephora, the beauty-products retail chain, discovered that wasn’t such an effective indicator of true engagement.

According to a Fast Company article, Sephora analyzed user data for its online community site, which was launched in 2010. Visitors to the site, called Beauty Talk, could set up profiles, share tips, and ask questions. Before the analysis, the company assumed the users who actively participated the most often were also their best customers.

The data showed otherwise. Many posts were questions from new visitors seeking advice on specific beauty problems. Once they got an answer, they didn’t necessarily return to the site.

“Instead, it turns out that superfans can be predicted based on their lurking,” noted the article. “The more a user logs into a site day after day, week after week, month after month, the more likely they are to become an active superfan. Posting activity had relatively little to do with it.”

It seems superfans enjoy viewing posts and other content on Sephora’s community, but they don’t feel like chiming in. The upshot is that superfans shell out 10 times the amount spent by the typical Sephora customer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

To Stem Attrition, College Cuts Tuition

The rising cost of higher education always seems to be in the news. Grace College is trying to change that narrative on its campus.

The evangelical Christian school in Winona Lake, IN, has launched “A Measure of Grace,” an initiative that lowers the cost of tuition for incoming freshmen by 9%. The program also provides upperclassmen with a decrease in tuition of about $500 a year, plus many textbooks are now free and students can earn most degrees offered by the school in three years.

“We’ve looked hard at how we’ve spent our money and we have looked hard at keeping costs down,” Grace President Bill Katip told WBST 22, a CBS affiliate station in Mishawaka, IN. “And we believe you can have excellence and also keep it affordable.”

College officials launched the initiative after watching the number of incoming freshmen decline after the economic recession of 2008. They made cost-cutting a priority and are now passing the savings on to students.

“My tuition is the highest it is ever going to be this year and it will go down a little each year—actually go down instead of go up like any other college in the world,” said Grace student Lydia Bronner.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Students Taking MOOCs Do Indeed Learn

A new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported students who complete massive open online courses (MOOCs) are learning something, regardless of how prepared they are coming into the course. Researchers found that all students who took an MIT physics course offered on the edX platform in the summer of 2013 showed signs of learning the subject, as long as they spent time doing the work.

“There was no evidence that cohorts with low initial ability learned less than the other cohorts,” the researchers wrote in the paper, which was published by The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.

Researchers also found that students taking the MOOC learned at a similar rate to MIT students taking the on-campus version of the class. Less-prepared students did earn significantly lower scores than their better-prepared counterparts, but their learning progress was the same, according to David E. Pritchard, a researcher on the study.

“If they stuck it out, they learned,” Pritchard told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Students See Tablets in Their Future

A new Harris poll found that college students see tablet computers as the wave of the future. The survey of 1,228 U.S. college students reported that 81% agreed that tablets will transform the way they learn and 74% said the device made learning more fun.

The 2014 Student Mobile Device Survey also found that 82% of the respondents thought using the device would encourage them to purchase digital textbooks instead of print. However, 89% reported using their laptops on a regular basis and 83% said they used their smartphone regularly, while just 45% said they regularly used a tablet.

A majority (54%) of the students said they used a single mobile device during a schoolday, with most using a laptop (89%) or their smartphone (56%) each week when doing schoolwork compared to 33% who said a tablet. Nearly all also reported having access to the Internet.

“The market for tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices has grown dramatically over the past few years,” the authors of the report wrote. “These mobile devices have the potential to transform learning and to impact the delivery of course materials.”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Google Starts Chromebook Lending Library

Google already considers its Chromebook a low-cost laptop alternative for the classroom. Now, the company is taking that a step further, creating a notebook Lending Library that will provide students free access to a device whenever they happen to need it.

The online giant is placing a café-style kiosk at 12 U.S. colleges and universities for three days in the initial phase of the Lending Library project, which will run through October. Devices are available at the kiosk on a first-come, first-served basis and can be kept for the duration of its stay on the campus. Students will be charged for the devices if they are not returned on time.

“The Lending Library is a bit like your traditional library, but instead of books, we’re letting students borrow Chromebooks [no library cards needed],” Lindsay Rumer of the Chrome marketing team told Digital Trends. “Students can use a Chromebook during the week for life on campus—whether it’s in class, during an all-nighter, or browsing the Internet in their dorm.”

The operating system is cloud-based, allowing students to switch back and forth between devices with a Google account, username, and password. It also is a way for students to become more familiar using the Google operating system and devices and possibly become more dedicated Google customers, according to the Digital Trends report.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Educational Challenge of Wearable Tech

With Apple joining the wearable technology fray, educators have to understand that the devices will inevitably become a part of the classroom. There will be challenges, but also opportunities, according to Teresa Fishman, director of the International Institute for Academic Integrity at Clemson University.

“I hope that what is going to happen in response to something like this is not more emphasis on surveillance, but instead something related to changing what’s going on in the classroom,” she told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

To counter some of the challenges, Fishman suggested educators provide assignments that take advantage of the fact that students are going to use the Internet and work with their friends. She also said she believes it will take a greater emphasis on ethics and probably some old-fashioned methods to combat the potential of using a smartwatch to cheat.

“Rather than getting higher tech, the solution is often the lowest-tech one of all: an oral exam with a student in which you can talk through a problem,” she said. “It’s time-consuming, and time-consuming means expensive, but there’s almost nothing that beats a conversation.”

Using wearable technology to cheat may be a minor issue compared to the distractions it causes. At the same time, there is the potential for new applications to be created that will make learning even better.

“It’s first going to be a distraction and detriment, and it’s going to be a learning curve for how to make this a clear benefit for learning and social skills,” said B.J. Fogg, consulting professor at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, who wrote about an app called Study Buddy that could prompt students to study in his 2002 book Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CMU Studies MOOC Completion Rates

The high drop-out rates of massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been widely reported and roundly criticized. Carnegie Mellon University has received a $600,000 grant from Google to look for solutions to reverse that trend.

One big problem for MOOCs is the lack of social interaction, CMU researchers said in a National Public Radio report from the affiliate station in Pittsburgh, PA. Taking a MOOC means students learn in isolation, but dealing with other students is important for effective learning.

“Learning in the MOOC context is not correlated with watching the filmstrips of the professor,” said Justine Cassell, associate vice provost of technology strategy and impact at CMU. “It’s correlated with the time you spend in an online discussion group and I love that. Of course, it’s not surprising: It’s the same thing for a real classroom.”

An even bigger issue for MOOCs is that when they are free with no credit attached, students are often just browsing with no intention of becoming active participants.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the vision that was kind of hyped up in the media, but there will be something new that’s coming,” CMU Associate Professor Carolyn Rosé said about her work in the study on MOOCs. “And so, I think it’s worth working towards that. I think it offers something and we have to find out what that new thing is that we’re ready as a community to offer.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Digital Reading Often Superficial

College students keep telling anyone who’ll listen that it’s easier to study from a print textbook than a digital one. There’s a growing body of scientific evidence to back that up, according to an article in The New Yorker magazine.

Many researchers are considering the impact of digital reading, including Maryanne Wolf, who has spent years studying the development of brain comprehension as reading media have changed over the centuries.

Since the recent rise of digital materials, Wolf has seen a rapid decline in “deep reading”—the kind students need to fully understand and retain subject matter. She’s gotten letters from college and university professors concerned that their students couldn’t master the course topic because they were simply skimming the reading on-screen.

Several studies determined people read more quickly on an electronic screen, and therefore tend to think less about the topic as they go. That, in turn, means they don’t retain as much. Links embedded in digital materials, which are intended to provide a richer reading experience by connecting directly to additional information, actually ended up interrupting the flow of reading and sidetracked the reader’s mental processes.

However, a new study with fifth-graders showed that annotation tools, which are included with most reading apps and mobile devices, can help improve digital reading considerably, provided that students are taught how to use the tools. Students who highlighted, added notes, and bookmarked pages were able to engage more deeply with the content and remember what they’d read.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Students See Tablets in Their Futre

A new Harris poll found that college students see tablet computers as the wave of the future. The survey of 1,228 U.S. college students reported that 81% agreed that tablets will transform the way they learn and 74% said the device made learning more fun.

The 2014 Student Mobile Device Survey also found that 82% of the respondents thought using the device would encourage them to purchase digital textbooks instead of print. However, 89% reported using their laptops on a regular basis and 83% said they used their smartphone regularly, while just 45% said they regularly used a tablet.

A majority (54%) of the students said they used a single mobile device during a schoolday, with most using a laptop (89%) or their smartphone (56%) each week when doing schoolwork compared to 33% who said a tablet. Nearly all also reported having access to the Internet.

“The market for tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices has grown dramatically over the past few years,” the authors of the report wrote. “These mobile devices have the potential to transform learning and to impact the delivery of course materials.”

MOST Initiative Off to a Good Start

The University System of Maryland Open-Source Textbook (MOST) initiative was successful enough during the spring that it’s being expanded this fall. Eleven instructors from seven Maryland universities participated in the voluntary program, assigning open-source online course materials for at least one course during the spring 2014 semester.

Data collected after the spring pilot was complete indicated that most students and faculty were pleased with the experience that saved $130,000 in textbook costs, according to a report for the local CBS affiliate in Baltimore. The total amount of savings was based on the prices of new textbooks that would have been assigned for the courses.

Lumen Learning LLC, a provider of open-source course materials, helped finance the MOST pilot through a grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges. Lumen helped faculty find and collect online course material ranging from complete course packages to individual articles, graphics, and video.

While the pilot showed initial promise, there were complaints. Professors had to spend additional hours in preparation and students had issues with the limitations of the open course materials. However, university officials said they believe the issues can be addressed and that more participation and feedback will allow them to identify the course materials that work the best.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Coursera Is Quick to Fix Possible Breach

While preparing to teach Stanford Law’s first Coursera class, the instructor stumbled across a potential breach that could have knocked Apple’s issues with a hack of iCloud security and compromising photos of entertainers out of the headlines. Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist and lawyer, while setting up his massive open online course, was able to gain access to nine million Coursera names and email addresses.

In a blog post, Mayer wrote that: 
  • Any teacher can dump the entire user database, including over nine million names and email addresses.
  • Once logged into your Coursera account, any website that you visit can list your course enrollments.
  • Coursera’s privacy-protecting user IDs don’t protect much. 

Mayer alerted Coursera, which addressed the issues immediately and sent an apology to its users. Once the patches were completed, Mayer found plenty of improvements, but problems still exist.

“The bad news is that anyone with teacher access can still look up any individual student’s contact information, so long as he or she either knows the student’s internal ID (it’s embedded in many pages) or can guess a distinctive part of the student’s email address (maybe try first initial last name?),” he said. “That’s a questionable security model, and it’s potentially inconsistent with Coursera’s privacy policy.”