The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Good Start for Tennessee Promise

While free-tuition programs have their critics, the Tennessee Promise appears to be working. Of more than 13,000 of the state’s eligible students who enrolled in the first Promise program in 2015, nearly 60% are still in college. Only 40% of their non-Promise peers remain in school.

After two years, 56% of the original class of Promise Students are still enrolled in community college and 14.5% have earned a degree or certificate. Over the same period, 30.5% of non-Promise students were still enrolled and just 5% had earned a degree or certificate.

“These numbers are the first evidence that Tennessee Promise is doing exactly what Gov. [Bill] Haslam and the General Assembly designed: getting more students into college, including students who might not otherwise be able to attend, and helping them succeed once they get there,” said Flora Tydings, chancellor, Tennessee Board of Regents.

To qualify, Tennessee high school seniors must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, enroll in college the fall semester after their graduation, perform eight hours of community service, register for at least 12 credit hours per semester, and maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average. The Tennessee Promise also helps mentor students through the college application and enrollment processes.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Students Need Slower Pace for Digital Reads

A number of recent surveys indicated that college students would rather read print course materials, not digital. A new study which delved more deeply into reading comprehension both confirmed and contradicted those earlier surveys.

In a report for Business Insider, researchers Patricia A. Alexander and Lauren M. Singer said they first asked students which medium they preferred, then had the students read two items—one in print, the other online. Afterward, students had to identify the main ideas in the texts and describe key points. At the end, students were asked to rate their comprehension of the materials.

Alexander and Singer said students “overwhelmingly” claimed to prefer reading digital materials. Students did finish reading their digital assignment sooner than the printed one. They also said their comprehension of the online material was “better” than print. That didn’t hold up under closer scrutiny, though.

In analyzing students’ answers about the reading content, the researchers found their understanding of the main points was about the same for either medium. When it came to recalling more detailed information, however, students’ comprehension improved considerably with the printed materials in comparison to the digital.

But there was an interesting side note: Some students performed equally well regardless of the medium. It turns out this group took their time in reading online, allowing them to absorb the information.

That led Alexander and Singer to recommend that instructors keep educational goals in mind when choosing formats for course materials. If students are expected to retain more detailed concepts, then instructors should stick with printed works or encourage students to slow down their screen reading.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Faculty Envision EdTech’s Future Reality

 More than 80% of respondents in Campus Technology’s second annual Teaching with Technology Survey of higher-ed faculty said that virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality technologies will have the most impact on education over the next decade, ahead of video, adaptive learning, and even mobile devices.

That impact is already being felt. A report on the online higher-ed market by technology research and advisory firm Technavio noted that the growing popularity of augmented and virtual reality is spilling over into online education, with instructors incorporating these emerging visual technologies to boost the interactivity of the online learning experience.

Of course, awareness and enthusiasm may play out differently. In the Campus Technology survey, faculty ranked mobile devices and apps No. 2 on their list of the top 10 technologies for the next 10 years, but also listed mobile devices in second place in their tally of tech they wish they didn’t have to deal with in the classroom.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Higher Ed Focused on Social Media

Conventional wisdom suggests that Fortune 500 firms are on the cutting edge of social-media usage while higher education lags behind. In fact, higher-ed executives are 10% more likely to be using social media compared to their corporate counterparts, according to a report from the social-media monitoring firm Hootsuite.

The Social Campus Report: 8 Opportunities for Higher Edin 2018 noted that student use of technology has institutions increasing their focus on social media to keep pace. It also found that 63% of campus administrators say they believe that social media is important to strategic planning and fulfilling their institution’s mission.

Students are more likely to use social media regularly, making it an easier and more cost-efficient way to communicate with them. The report also found that many administrators view a robust social-media presence as a way to gain an advantage over other colleges and universities.

“There’s this kind of vacuum of knowledge on social and how it has impacted education,” said Phil Chatterton, industry principal for higher education at Hootsuite. “This has changed the way people communicate and education is a big part of that.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Students Need Job Skills Both Hard and Soft

In the view of one university president, higher-education institutions need to incorporate more soft skills into formal instruction in order to better prepare well-rounded students for the work world after graduation.

“Critical thinking, complex problem solving, empathy, creativity, and communication skills are all necessary in today’s work environment,” Gloria Cordes Larson, president of Bentley University, said in an email exchange with Inside Higher Education. “This is why more and more schools are finding creative ways to integrate the arts and sciences with professional and technical skills. Employers are point-blank telling us they need college graduates who have mastered soft skills in addition to the hard, industry-specific technical skills.”

Larson said college classes should give students more practical experience—through internships, immersion classes with corporations, community service, or other means—and introduce them to technologies relevant in their chosen fields, but “it all begins with an approach that combines left-brain and right-brain thinking.”

She noted that Bentley and other universities offer programs designed to enable students to major in both business/technical fields and liberal-arts studies, which helps them develop analytical and communication skills.

Getting first-year students involved in campus career services right away, rather than waiting until their senior year when they’re starting to apply for jobs, is also important, she stressed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

K-12 Teachers Still Divided on Edtech Use

While more k-12 instructors are employing education technology on a daily basis in their classrooms—63% this year, a bump up from 55% last year—a quarter of them still report being intimidated by their students’ use and knowledge of edtech, according to an annual survey from the College of Education at the University of Phoenix.

Just over a third of the more than 1,000 respondents blamed inadequate funding for not making greater use of edtech, with 23% citing concerns that technology is too distracting. Even though two-thirds acknowledged that using classroom tech helps their students remain more engaged, more than 70% said that use of personal devices is a distraction in group settings, a rise from 65% in the 2016 survey.

When it comes to their own edtech skills, 40% of K-12 teachers said they'd give themselves a grade of "C" or failing, while only 16% gave themselves an "A."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Tech Firms Should Play Part in Higher Ed

Americans want tech companies to take a bigger role in improving education in the United States, according to a survey from the digital news company OZY. The study found nearly 70% of 3,350 randomly selected adults who took the survey would support the federal government providing free postsecondary education and 57% said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to cover the costs.

Three-quarters agreed with the statement that there are benefits beyond a degree to traditional on-campus learning, while 23% said the education from online programs is just as good as heading off to college. The poll was equally split on the purpose of higher education as 49% said it teaches people how to think and the same amount saying it prepares students for a job.

More than half of respondents said people will need degrees in science and technology to successfully compete in the job market and 48% said that computer science and engineering majors were best prepared for the workforce. A tangible skill or trade was rated as the most valuable feature of a post-high school education by 23% of the participants, while 17% pointed to professional networking and connections.

The study also noted that tech companies could improve high schools by creating more apprenticeship programs (57%) and providing more technology resources (50%). In addition, more than 90% said that teachers can’t be replaced by robots in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Small Changes Aid Students of All Abilities

Simple modifications in classroom teaching practices could greatly assist college students with disabilities and help out the rest of the class to boot, in the view of an Assumption College professor.

In a guest column for The Chronicle of Higher Education, James M. Lang recounted how his institution invited faculty to hear a panel of students discuss their various disabilities and what they needed in the way of accommodation to succeed in their coursework.

For the most part, the students asked for easy changes that would add little to no time or cost to an instructor’s lecture preparation and wouldn’t disrupt class proceedings. Among the requested alterations were: writing larger and more legibly on whiteboards with black markers (not colors); creating PowerPoint slides with fewer words in bigger type; and providing PowerPoints or other materials before or after class so students can review them on their own.

“In example after example, [the students] described teaching practices that would have universal benefit in the classroom and that could be adopted without putting a spotlight on students with disabilities,” Lang noted. “So if I take a little more time and effort to make my writing large, legible, and organized on the whiteboard, I am going to help the student with visual impairments—but I’m also going to help everyone in the room take better notes on our discussion.”

Lang suggested that faculty “should take the diversity of learners into consideration up front as we design our courses. And if we do, we will need to make fewer accommodations at the request of specific students, because inclusive design practices help all learners succeed.”

Monday, October 2, 2017

Closing In on 100% Classroom Connectivity

Huge gains have been made in classroom connectivity, but work still remains to be done, according to the 2017 State of the States report from EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco that serves as an advocate and consultant for states and school districts to obtain high-speed Internet access for all classrooms.

In 2013, 40 million students were unable to meet the Federal Communications Commission’s 100 kilobits-per-second minimum connectivity goal for digital learning. As of this year, that number has been reduced to 6.5 million students, with 748 districts still requiring upgrades to effectively use the Internet in their classrooms. EducationSuperHighway’s goal is to have every student in the country connected by 2020.

Responding to a Funds For Learning survey, almost 80% of school districts and libraries credited the federal E-rate program for their faster Internet connections. E-rate is shorthand for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, administered by the Universal Service Administrative Co. under direction of the FCC. The largest federally funded education program, it gives discounts to help schools and libraries secure affordable and safe telecommunications and Internet access.

In addition to E-rate, EducationSuperHighway noted that 46 state governors are supporting legislation to improve affordability, increase fiber-optic connections, and get Wi-Fi into every classroom.

“Access to high-speed Internet is no longer considered a luxury but a basic necessity for 21st-century learning,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf stated in the report.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Dark Web Making Itself at Home on Campus

The dark web, a place inhabited by people looking for ways to profit from selling malware, poses a real threat to higher education. The Digital Citizens Alliance recently found nearly 14 million email addresses and passwords for faculty, staff, students, and alumni from U.S. colleges and university, 79% of them added to the dark web last year.

“Because [higher-education institutions] have large-capacity Internet connection links that served all the students and large-capacity servers that are designed for many users, they are almost always on and attackers never have to worry if a part of their infrastructure will be available for use,” Will Glass, a senior analyst for the cybersecurity firm FireEye, wrote in the Alliance study.

The first line of defense is better passwords. The report noted that too many young people use the same password for multiple services, making it easier for hackers. Colleges and universities are also installing security systems that automatically block users from downloading unapproved applications.

“We are constantly working to make sure that we incorporate layers of security, all working together to help protect the university’s data and assets,” said Timothy Cureton, IT security coordinator at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro. “At the same time, this approach still allows us to have that openness that we’ve always had and want to continue to have.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Video Use on the Rise in College Classes

More college professors are turning to the video screen to complement lectures and classroom activities, according to a recent survey which tracked the use of video in education.

Conducted last May and June by Kaltura, a provider of video products and services, the survey showed that video is most commonly deployed by schools to assist distance learning programs, with 73% of institutions using video for remote classes. About 70% are showing videos during class and 66% are assigning videos to supplement other course materials, according to a report in Campus Technology.

Although 65% of respondents said they’re video-recording professors’ lectures for students to view later, they admitted not every class presentation is recorded. Most schools record less than 25% of lectures. Lack of equipment is the main reason; cameras are usually installed in only the large lecture halls, not regular classrooms. However, almost half of respondents indicated their institutions would expand recording if students demanded it.

Schools also are interested in adding more bells and whistles to their video capabilities, such as in-video quizzes, synchronized slides, search functions, and closed-captioning.

Many institutions appear to see video as a skill students need to acquire more than instructors. Just a little more than half of respondents said their schools provide video tools and training to professors, yet more than 80% said they gave students access to technologies for creating and sharing videos.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Online Courses Require More Teacher Prep

Despite high administrative hopes to the contrary, online courses are actually more time-consuming than on-campus education, at least for the academics who have to plan them. Preparing to teach an online course takes more time than readying a traditional lecture course, according to a survey of more than 2,000 educators conducted by the National Tertiary Education Union, a trade union for Australian higher-ed employees.

Analysis of the survey responses by John Kenny and Andrew Fluck, senior lecturers at the University of Tasmania in science education and IT education, respectively, found that academics said they needed 10 hours to plan a one-hour lecture for online students vs. eight hours for an hourlong in-person lecture. Similarly, preparing an online tutorial required six hours compared to five hours for an on-campus version.

Kenny and Fluck found that reviewing and updating materials for online courses also took significantly longer, as did consultation and assessment moderation for online students. The researchers saw no generational disparity in the prep time needed by older academics as compared to their younger, presumably more tech-savvy counterparts.

As Education Dive noted, many administrators have viewed online classes as freeing up more faculty time for research, but this study suggests the added prep time required for online teaching may actually have the opposite effect.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Watson Ready to Help K-5 Math Teachers

IBM’s Watson has shown it can win at the TV game show Jeopardy and provide assistance in everything from engineering and health care to basketball and wine. Now, the question-answering computer system has found a niche in education as well.

Teacher Advisor with Watson 1.0 is a tool designed to help K-5 teachers find open educational math resources. Starting with more than 1,000 open educational resources (OER) available in its database, the search engine uses natural language to make recommendations based on content the teacher requires.

“The consensus was: Start with math at the elementary level because those teachers are usually licensed as elementary teachers—they may not have strong subject-level expertise,” said Stan Litow, president emeritus of the IBM Foundation. “If you could focus in on math, that would be a moonshot.”

Teachers will be able to search particular concepts and Watson will provide targeted lessons and recommended activities. It can also adjust to grade levels, which should help teachers with students having differing math skills.

Watson’s continuously evolving artificial intelligence will also allow the tool to refine its databank through usage to provide even more applicable searches. The system can even search its content bank to pinpoint particular parts of videos that are relevant to a teacher’s search and go directly to those segments.

“When you go and research a specific area—for example, equivalent fractions—you can look at the different designs for each lesson,” said Christine Manna, a math coach for the Waterford Township School District in New Jersey. “You can look at the wording and see very quickly if it’s higher [difficulty] or more for students who struggle. That cuts down all the work for you. I think that is most appreciated.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Those with ‘Some’ College Need More Push

Some 31 million adults in the U.S. have earned enough college credits to be classified as “near-completers,” but it will take a village to help them cross the finish line to graduation, according to a new report from the Education Commission for the States.

The commission “looked at the progress of legislation and initiatives in the area,” said an article in Education Dive, and found they were overall insufficient to boost graduation rates among dropouts. Some legislative measures were well-intentioned and may have helped new enrollees—such as state policies and funded programs designed to improve the affordability of higher education—but they didn’t move the near-completers any closer to completion.

One reason is that near-completers may have been unaware of such policies and programs, or weren’t motivated to take advantage of them. The senior policy analyst who wrote the report told Education Dive that “a consistent hurdle for states is they often need a champion for near-completers, in the form of a governor or other prominent figure, to help garner interest from institutions, policymakers, and the community at large” in contacting and encouraging near-completers to return to the classroom.

The report lauded those states that had introduced initiatives aimed directly at near-completers. For example, the University of Rhode Island works with the commercial fisheries industry while in Tennessee a new “last-dollar” scholarship program assists adults who need just a little more aid to cover the rest of their school costs.

Community colleges generally do a better job of reconnecting with dropouts than four-year institutions, according to the report.