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, May 4, 2016

Students OK with Digital When It's the Right Kind

Yes, a majority of college students still say they prefer to study from print textbooks rather than digital, often due to the ease of flipping back and forth or marking up pages. But sometimes their opinion depends on the type of digital materials.

Digital course materials can include pages scanned (complete with streaks and cut-off paragraphs) and converted into PDFs that are posted in the learning management system. At the other end of the spectrum, digital materials may feature an array of interactive, multimedia tools designed to help students master the content. And then there’s everything in between.

Which type of digital materials do students like best? The answer is obvious: the interactive, multimedia kind. When that’s the type of course content faculty assign, students’ opinion of digital materials becomes more favorable.

OnCampus Research, in its monthly survey of college students conducted last February, found that “55% of students are finding particular value in the electronic study tools being incorporated into some digital platforms,” according to a summary of findings. When step-by-step homework assistance was available as part of digital course materials, 85% of the students actively used it and 66% rated the tools as extremely valuable. Sixty-one percent gave the same rating to searchability (being able to search the materials by keyword or topic).

However, those capabilities don’t seem to boost purchases of digital. “Not surprisingly, though, the primary reason students choose digital isn’t the features, but because they feel it’s less expensive than print (59%),” according to OnCampus Research.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

More Malware Attacks, Harder to Detect

Malware attacks are happening more often and are harder to detect, according to the State of the Endpoint Report from the Ponemon Institute. Of the 694 IT security administrators surveyed, the number of respondents with a strategy in place to deal with malware fell from 43% in 2015 to 38% this year.

The report found that 68% had experienced distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, where multiple systems are used to target a single system. In addition, 80% said that they believed their mobile endpoints—defined as laptops, desktops, smartphones, printers, POS machines, or ATMs—had been targets, up from 58% in 2015.

As troubling as that may sound, a bigger concern involves employees. More than 80% of respondents said the biggest threat to endpoint security was negligent or careless employees who don’t follow security policies.

“You’ve got how many different types of laptops? How many versions of Windows? How many applications for those devices? How many phone types, etc.?” asked Michael Davis, chief technology officer of the security start-up firm CounterTack in an article for InformationWeek. “IT has to struggle with all of that variation, while also trying to enforce a standard set of security protocols. And then, on top of that, they have to deal with the end user, so it’s very difficult to enforce anything, even from a purely technology perspective.”

Monday, May 2, 2016

Students Go to Court over Online Program

The number of academic leaders who view online learning as on par with face-to-face instruction fell from 71% in 2014 to 63% in 2015, according to the Online Report Card—Tracking Online Education in the United States. Just 29% of the administrators surveyed said faculty members accepted the value of online education, the lowest percentage since 2004.

A group of students is challenging the idea of online education in court, suing George Washington University for the quality of its online master’s degree program in security and safety leadership. The students allege the program failed to provide the same level of instruction and interaction as the traditional classroom version of the program. The suit claims instructors were unresponsive and barely involved in facilitating the student-center coursework.

The suit also refers to a May 2013 letter to the university president signed by 11 students complaining about the quality of the program. The university issued an apology at the time, but has done nothing more about the online course, according to a report from Inside Higher Education.

“The misrepresentations are designed to present the program as something that is not: a credible, longstanding program, with courses and content specifically designed for the online learning environment,” the complaint reads. “In reality, at the time the plaintiffs applied for the online program, there were not graduates to the program and the ‘content’ mostly consisted of scanned-in PDFs of textbooks (with blurry pages and sentences cut off) and PowerPoint slides taken from in-class courses, without any narration or explication.”

Friday, April 29, 2016

LinkedIn Targets Students with New App

The business-oriented social media site LinkedIn has launched a new job-search app that targets college students. LinkedIn Students is designed to help college students determine the best career fit for them, according to a report by CNBC.

Users simply input their school, major, and graduation year and the app will list jobs and internship recommendations. Another feature lets users find alumni from their school at companies in what they’re interested.

LinkedIn isn’t planning a subscription model to the app yet and is not trying to sell ads on it other than sponsored content on building student resumes. The goal is to provide a social media site that helps students find a job while attracting them to the main LinkedIn site.

“That means more revenue for LinkedIn, not just in subscriptions, but also from greater exposure for content within a stream of articles, and customers for its Lynda.com professional education,” wrote Julia Boostin, CNBC senior media and entertainment correspondent. “LinkedIn hasn’t yet integrated Lynda courses directly into the Students app, but there seems to be clear potential to market to students looking to beef up their resumes.”

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Making Online Learning Better

Companies are working on ways to make online classes better than the traditional classroom setting, according to a report in eCampus News.

One issue with online learning is it requires a level of self-discipline that many students lack. Blended learning has been found to be an important part of the online experience because it combines online with face-to-face learning.

“We’re definitely seeing a trend over the last three to five years of people moving to these blended, online, hybrid, flipped-classroom models,” said Jennifer Ferralli, math product manager of the online instructional platform WebAssign. “We’re seeing this across the different disciplines, not just in math, but also in physics and chemistry. People are trying to find different ways to connect with students to make classroom time more effective and more efficient.”

Video helped support the flipped classroom concept, but it’s been found that video works best with an interactive element. That is being addressed through mobile apps that allow faculty to drag and drop material and learners to go on their personal devices to access the content.

Other online learning issues being address include identity verification and cheating, auto-grading, and open learning management systems.

“We’re starting to hear a real desire for online learning to turn the corner and be focused on a mode of instruction that is inherently better than what we have today in traditional education,” said Chris Walsh, CEO of the video-learning firm Zaption. “People are starting to look at new tools and new opportunities to create an instructional experience that is different, but hopefully better as well.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Site Density May Scare Off College Applicants

Some college and university websites are too complex, use campus jargon, and bury the information students need. As a result, these sites may be damaging the brand of their institutions and prompting prospective applicants to go elsewhere, according to web design consultant Nielsen Norman Group (NNG).

NNG recently tested 57 university websites and found that “users are often frustrated or thwarted by the frequent usability problems on university sites. The best university websites speak clearly, even to yet-to-be students, and make it easy for everybody to find what they want. The rest fail.”

NNG put together a list of its top 10 guidelines for college and university website design. Topping the list is the recommendation to identify the institution clearly on every page. That will ensure that visitors who enter the site on an inner page via search engine will realize where they’ve landed.

Institutions should also test their own sites, without going into a lot of expense. NNG suggested asking just five prospective or current students to perform a variety of small tasks on the site, such as finding information about a major field of study or calculating the cost to attend. The test group should reflect the school’s key audiences.

Other recommendations include using images that accurately reflect the school, creating a powerful summary for the About Us page, highlighting what makes the school different from others, organizing information about academic programs, connecting information about job placements to the alumni section, spelling out the application process and deadlines, avoiding “hip” wording and graphics, and making sure the site has a good internal search engine.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Universities Launch Microcredentials Platform

Six universities have teamed to launch the University Learning Store, a platform that will help job seekers and working professionals earn microcredentials in business and technical fields.

Learners will have to prove their knowledge through verified, hands-on assessments as measures of competencies to earn a microcredential, according to a report in eCampus News. In addition, learners can choose to combine microcredentials to earn larger certification from an institution.

“Although an array of nondegree credentials exist, they can leave employers guessing at their true value,” said David Schejbal, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, one of the founding institutions of the project. “With the University Learning Store, leading institutions have joined forces to introduce credentials that clearly indicate the capabilities of the credential holder.”

Microcredentials, available as a printable certificate or digital badge, can be added to a student’s resume after successfully completing an assessment. Courses on the University Learning Store site cost $50-$150, but are currently being offered at half-price for a limited time. Each credential can be earned in days or weeks.

“This is an innovation in skill credentialing that the workforce, and higher ed, has not seen before,” said Nelson Baker, dean of Georgia Tech Professional Education. “At Georgia Tech, we bring the same rigor and real-world applicability to our nondegree educational opportunities as we do other programs. Industry validation is the final frontier of proving the value of lifelong learning.”

Monday, April 25, 2016

Most Schools Now Use Digital Content

Some college store professionals believe digital content will only become a dominant format when students begin using it in grade school. That day has gotten much closer.

Digital Content Goes to School: Trends in K-12 Classroom e-Learning found that 80% of school and district leaders who responded to the survey said they are using digital content in some way. Of more than 2,000 respondents, 73% had a digital-device strategy and 64% are using digital content with that strategy.

The survey, released by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and content distributor OverDrive Inc., also reported that most educators use digital content for English and language arts (74%), science (62%), math (61%), and social studies (56%), according to a report in eSchool News. Respondents added that use of digital content will continue to grow as long as teachers receive professional development.

Equity concerns and lack of Internet access top the list of issues educators have with going digital. Teachers also listed not being comfortable with digital learning, not enough devices in the classroom, lack of funding, and content that doesn’t work on every device as other concerns.

“We believe the paradigm of instruction needs to change,” Kahle Charles, executive director of curriculum, St. Vrain Valley School, Longmont, CO, said in response to the survey. “Devices bring more knowledge to students’ fingertips than the teacher can give, so the traditional lecture model is no longer applicable. We want content that will engage students and the ability to introduce flipped classrooms with content that students can access at any time, at any place.”

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tablet Sales Are Falling Flat

On the sixth anniversary of the Apple iPad’s debut, it appears that the tablet revolution predicted has fallen well short of expectations. In 2011, there were estimates that annual tablet shipments would be more than 300 million units by 2015.

Apple has sold more than 300 million iPads, but it’s taken six years to reach that mark. In fact, market research from International Data Corp. (IDC) shows that Apple only sold 50 million of the estimated 207 million units it shipped in 2015.

Bigger smartphones have proven to be a competitor with tablets. More than one billion of the devices were sold last year, many with large enough screens to make the purchase of a tablet unnecessary. In addition, consumers have shown they aren’t as willing to upgrade their tablet devices as often as their smartphones.

“I fit that demographic exactly: I bought an iPad Air in late 2013 that I still use daily and don’t anticipate an upgrade this year,” Arik Hesseldahl wrote in an article for re/code. “I will, however, probably upgrade my iPhone. I bought my last Mac in 2011.”

The other challenge for tablet computers is the popularity of detachables—tablets that are essentially a laptop with a removable touchscreen. One out of every five tables sold in Europe in the fourth quarter of 2015 was a detachable device.

“Detachables are proving so popular that IDC reckons by 2020 they’ll account for about one-fifth of the entire market for what it calls ‘client computing devices,’ which includes both tablets and PCs,” Hesseldahl said. “It may not amount to the radical revolution that the overly eager analysts of 2011 had called for, but it will do.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Textbook Data Tells a Varied Story

When it comes to college students and course materials, there are a number of conundrums at work. Consider some of the interesting data that came out of the fall 2015 Student Watch, a survey of 25,000 students from 56 colleges and universities:
  • Approximately 34% of students said they didn’t obtain at least one textbook listed by their school as required reading for a course because the instructor told them it wasn’t actually needed.

  • Only 55% of students thought the reading materials for their classes were very or extremely useful. However, when professors actively utilized the materials within the course—for discussions, homework, quizzes, and so on—then 72% of students gave high marks to their usefulness. That indicates students need the instructor’s help to see how course materials tie in with their class lectures.

  • The average price paid by students per course material was $75.32. However, students are actually amenable to paying quite a bit more than that. Students who felt their course materials had been extremely useful were willing to pay as much as $194.28 per book. Even students who said their materials were not at all useful were willing to fork over up to $143.25 for each.
Student Watch surveys are conducted twice a year by OnCampus Research, the research arm of indiCo, a subsidiary of NACS.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Job Are Top Priority for College Students

Most college students agree that a job after graduation is the most important outcome of a college education. The problem is, too many believe their college and university isn’t doing a very good job of preparing them for that job.

A survey of 770 adults, conducted by Stockton University, Galloway Township, NJ, found that just 35% of recent grads said colleges did “extremely well” in getting them ready for the job market. Nearly 80% viewed internships as the most important factor to success in their career and 84% said an internship was very important in developing a career and finding a job, according to a report in eCampus News.

While 73% said college was worth the cost, 31% added that more hands-on, practical experience would have made the value of their higher education even greater. The group identified problem-solving (84%) as most important skill learned in college, followed by communicating orally (83%), understanding and gathering information (79%), writing clearly (79%), and using technology (77%).

Employers listed problem-solving (32%), teamwork (21%), and writing and speaking skills (19%) as the top skills job-seekers learn in college.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Connecting with Online Learners

There’s no debating the fact that online education is different from the traditional college experience. The online experience will never be able to match the personal interaction and development that is such a big part of campus life.

“It’s true that online learners will not have the same types of interaction as their on-campus peers,” Eric Stoller wrote in a post for Inside Higher Education. “However, we need to stop thinking about what’s ‘missing’ or ‘lacking’ and focus on what we can do to increase connection and build community via digital channels.”

For Stoller, the solution to better student engagement may be social media. Social sites are already being utilized to connect students and expand learner networks, but institutions should be working on programs that use the functionality of social media while the class is in session and as a tool students can rely on for further professional development.

“While online learners might not necessarily be able to meet up at the campus coffee shop with their friends, they can meet up with their peers via WhatsApp groups, Google Hangouts, Twitter hashtag conversations, Periscope live-streams, and LinkedIn group discussion,” Stoller wrote.

Monday, April 18, 2016

'Ban WiFi' Movement Gains Steam

There’s been plenty of discussion about the potential of distractions caused by Wi-Fi usage in the classroom. Now, some are worried, and even going to court, over the possibility of health issues caused by its use.

A lawsuit in England alleged that electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome (EHS), a condition in which electromagnetic radiation emitted from wireless technology is alleged to cause a variety of symptoms, caused the suicide of a 15-year-old who suffered from severe allergies supposedly made worse by the radiation. In France, cellphones are banned from nursery schools and day-care facilities because it’s feared the devices will cause cancer, while a French court awarded a 39-year-old woman disability payments for her struggles with electromagnetic hypersensitivity.

The movement is gaining momentum in the United States. The Facebook group Parents Against Wi-Fi in Schools has around 2,300 likes and the city of Berkeley, CA, passed an ordinance in 2015 that mandates cellphone shops post notices about exposure to radio frequency radiation. The parents of a 12-year-old boy sued a private school in Southborough, MA, claiming the strength of the school’s Wi-Fi signal caused his illness.

The problem is, EHS isn’t recognized as a medical condition and it’s never been demonstrated that cellphone radiation causes any health risk. Addressing the concerns with transparent policies about Internet usage is one solution. Making it possible for students to opt out of in-school Wi-Fi is another, according to a report in Education Dive.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Amazon Introduces a New E-Reader

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, let all his Twitter followers know on April 4 that a new Kindle was in the works. Just over a week later, Amazon started showing off its completely redesigned Kindle Oasis e-reader.

The new device is close to square with a side grip and a 6-in. screen that contains the e-reader’s central processing unit, storage, and battery. By changing the glass covering, Amazon was able to strengthen the glass and cut down the device’s size, according to a report from Mashable.

Amazon claims the battery life of the Oasis will be two weeks, but the leather case that will be shipped with it includes a backup battery that will extend the life by seven additional weeks. However, the device does not include the Alexa app that provides voice services to a number of Amazon products such as the Echo wireless speaker and voice-command device.

The Oasis is available for preorder and will begin shipping on April 27. It will cost $289.99 for the Wi-Fi-only edition that shows advertisements when the reader is turned on. The unit without advertisements costs $309.99, while a 3G device will cost $359.99 with offers and $379 without.

“The device’s funky new aesthetic is a surprise move for the relatively no-frills Kindle category, and yet it packs the longest battery of any e-reader ever made,” Nick Statt wrote in a review of the Oasis for The Verge. “These changes raise interesting questions for book lovers: What do we really need in an e-reader, and how much should those elements cost us?”