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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.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Teaching Teachers about Digital Citizenship

As electronic devices have become ubiquitous for children of almost any age, and many districts either provide devices or implement bring-your-own-device programs, schools are now being tasked with teaching digital citizenship, a catch-all phrase for safe, responsible, and appropriate use of online resources.

One major initiative in which they can participate is Google’s Be Internet Awesome campaign.

This month, Google expanded that program to educators with its free Digital Citizenship and Safety Course. The aim is to provide instructors with the basic skills needed to ensure their students remain safe and have a positive online experience.

The course comprises 12 lessons divided among six units, with topics that include savvy searching, maintaining your online reputation, setting strong passwords, evaluating the credibility of digital sources, and avoiding scams and phishing attacks. Teachers can then incorporate what they learn into their own curricula.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Questions to Ponder for Online Courses

A recent article from the digital news outlet Quartz detailed efforts by a pair of Texas A&M economics professors to update their mandatory introductory microeconomics class. The class has been moved online, a first for the university.

Students taking the class no longer have to sit through lectures because the professors have already created prerecorded lessons, an interactive video platform, and prepared all the homework and reading material. The lecturer uses a transparent whiteboard to explain concepts and discussion boards to engage students.

“Do I think [this new course] is better than 30 students and the Socratic Method, Dead Poets Society-style? Probably not,” Jon Meers, one of the professors of the course, told Quartz. “It’s still vastly superior to delivering a lecture to 300 students at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning.”

The article claimed the course will increase the quality of learning by allowing professors to interact directly with students, while also saving money for the university. However, Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for Advancement of Learning and technology blogger for Inside Higher Education, questions that conclusion.

He pointed out that creating high-quality digital materials and video lectures is hard work, requiring time and plenty of collaboration between the professor and instructional designers and media educators. He added that while the Texas A&M approach may be more effective than traditional lectures, it’s also a lot more expensive.

“Everything that I know about flipped courses tells me that they are more expensive, not less, to develop and run than traditional lecture courses,” Kim wrote.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Textbook Costs on Schools' Radars This Fall

A number of colleges and universities have kicked off the new academic year with announcements of initiatives intended to save students on their course materials expenses. Here are a few:

The board of governors for Florida’s state university system approved a $656,000 program to develop a catalog of lower-cost digital course materials. The catalog will list open educational resources (OER) available free online, along with digital versions of traditional textbooks available at a reduced price negotiated with the publishers. The catalog will be ready in time for the fall 2018 term.

Fort Hays State University, Hays, KS, launched several projects through its Open Textbook Grant Program this fall. The program, administered by the campus library with funding from the FHSU Foundation, provided grants to several faculty to create or adapt open books or supplemental materials for their courses.

The Colorado Legislature appointed a 14-member Open Educational Resources Council to recommend how public institutions could boost the use of OER. The council has also been charged with developing a repository of digital OER.

Madison Area Technical College, Eau Claire, WI, approved a new policy to standardize the adoption of textbooks for classes, with a view toward cutting costs for students. Academic programs and departments are expected to adopt books for at least three academic years, where feasible, and to submit book selections on time in order to increase the availability of rentals and used books at the campus bookstore.

The University of Missouri and Northwest Missouri State University have agreed to explore ways they could share open educational resources that their respective faculties have developed or discovered online.

The impact of programs like these, as well as other ideas for helping to lower the cost of course materials, will be discussed at the Textbook Affordability Conference Nov. 10-12 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Paper Still Has a Place in Digital Times

Despite the proliferation of electronic devices in classrooms today, the vast majority of college students (93%) and seventh- through 12th-graders (87%) still see paper as an essential component for reaching their educational goals. While these numbers come from an understandably print-biased source—the Paper and Packaging Board’s Paper and Productive Learning: The Third Annual Back-to-School Report—they jibe with many other recent studies.

In the report, almost 95% of parents said they see their children do well on homework completed on paper, while more than 72% noted having seen their child have difficulty staying focused when working on homework on a tablet or computer. More than 88% said their child remembered assignments better when he or she wrote them down on paper.

The youngest students surveyed, seventh- and eighth-graders, agreed that they learn information best when they write it down by hand. Slightly more than half of college-age students still gave the same answer, and 81% said they always or often use paper tools to prepare for tests.

A Princeton University researcher told NPR that people who type onto a device during a lecture attempt to take their notes verbatim, while those who write their notes longhand are “forced to be more selective—because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material they were doing benefited them” in their learning.

Surprisingly, there isn’t as much research as one would expect exploring the benefits of and differences between reading on a screen and on a page. A recent paper published in SAGE Journals’ Review of Educational Research found that of 878 relevant studies published from 1992-2017, just 36 directly compared digital vs. print reading and reliably measured learning by the two methods.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Goldrick-Rab Headlines TAC 2017 Speakers

Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher-education policy and sociology at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, will deliver the keynote address at the 2017 Textbook Affordability Conference (TAC), Nov. 10-12, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.

Goldrick-Rab is author of the Amazon bestseller Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream and founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s only translational research laboratory focused on ways to make college more affordable. Her keynote speech will discuss reasons why campuses must collaborate with internal partners to address affordability.

TAC 2017 will also feature presentations from Robin Baliszewski, managing director, Pearson North America; TJ Bliss, director of development and strategy, Wiki Education; and Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communication, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. All TAC 2017 learning events are focused on developing models that campuses can use to create more affordable, accessible, and effective course-material options for students.

Baliszewski was president of Pearson’s North American career and professional education business from 2000-09 and served as the company’s director for people, with responsibility for recruitment, retention, development, and succession of Pearson employees. Her current responsibilities include sales and field marketing for higher-education, academic, corporate, and government markets.

Bliss is responsible for developing strategies and relationships in the philanthropy community and working with the Wiki Education board to create an organizational strategy. He guided the open education resources portfolio for the Hewlett Foundation for the last three years and served as director of assessment and accountability for the department of education in Idaho.

Anderson previously worked as a bibliographer for YBP Inc., now known as GOBI Library Solutions. In addition, he was head acquisitions librarian for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro; director of resource acquisitions for the University of Nevada, Reno; and is a regular contributor to The Scholarly Kitchen blog.

The conference schedule and registration information is available at the TAC 2017 website. The Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center has rooms available at special conference rates until Oct. 2.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Spend More on Students, Get More Grads

Colleges and universities that spend more on students—even if they raise tuition prices—are more likely to see a bounce in enrollment and graduation rates than schools that trim their budgets and tuition rates.

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research appears to upend the conventional wisdom that reducing tuition would attract higher enrollment and also help students finish their studies faster. At least for public schools, according to a MarketWatch article about the study, the numbers are different.

“If your goal is to graduate more students, spending increases work better per-dollar than tuition cuts at accomplishing that goal,” noted David Deming, who was among the researchers in the study. Deming is a professor of public policy, education, and economics at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The study found that, from 1990-2013, enrollment and graduation rates rose with each 10% jump in a public institution’s spending. Schools that raised tuition did not see any effect on those rates.

The explanation, according to the MarketWatch article, is that institutions that cut back on their budgets—and were unwilling to increase tuition—often covered the financial gap by eliminating class sections. The end result was that more students were closed out of courses they needed to complete for graduation.

Monday, September 4, 2017

New 3-D Printer Does Full-Color

XYZprinting Inc. is rolling out an advance in 3-D printing: the da Vinci Color, which turns out full-color 3-D objects using a proprietary inkjet process during the build. Available now for preorder, schools can get a 10% education discount off the pricetag.

The company also offers K-12 Steam, a collection of 3-D project curricula that can be incorporated into the classroom.

Happy Labor Day

The entire NACS Inc. staff hopes you have a safe and happy Labor Day.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Amazon Sends Alexa to College

Amazon is working to make its Echo smart speakers part of the educational experience for students, urging colleges and universities to experiment with the device and add it to their curricula.

The company has already given 1,600 Echo Dots to engineering students at Arizona State University, Tempe, to gain experience in voice technology. It created the Amazon Alexa Fund Fellowship to provide students funding to develop courses that utilize the device, plus set up a multimillion-dollar research competition called the Alexa Prize for developing new ways to use conversational artificial intelligence.

“Amazon’s strategy is much more about establishing Alexa and the mechanisms and the way that people interact with the virtual world, almost becoming the front end of the next generation of Internet access,” said Phil Hill, ed-tech consultant and blogger for e-Literate. “They’re looking to say, ‘People won’t be doing this much on the browsers anymore, they’re going to be interacting with natural language and voice, and we want that to go through us.’”

Utah State University, Logan, started using the device without any prompting from Amazon, installing an Echo Dot in a classroom for a visually impaired instructor, who uses it to turn on projectors and lower screens with voice commands. At Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, an instructor is using Alexa to expand the vocabulary of students in his computing and information systems courses.

Of course, not everyone is impressed. A professor of computer science at Rice University, Houston, views Alexa as more of a gimmick. There are also privacy concerns since the device listens constantly for a trigger word when activated.

“It raises the question, OK, you have to say, ‘Alexa, tell me this,’” Hill said. “That doesn’t mean the device is not listening at all times. It just means it uses the Alexa keyword to trigger a command. Where does that information go? Does Amazon store it? Does it get thrown away?”

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Year, New Talk on Personalized Education

The start of another academic year is prompting new discussion on personalized education and the role of technology in it.

An Associated Press article noted that “some form of personalized learning” has been incorporated into the curriculum at up to 10% of K-12 public schools in the U.S., a growing trend. However, the same article pointed out that a Rand Corp. study discovered personalized programs only improved students’ math scores by three percentage points, while reading skills showed no change.

At the same time, the article offered examples where personalized programs have made a difference. In one, students took computerized tests to assess their reading skills; poor readers were then assigned to use digital materials providing extra help with vocabulary. In another, teachers developed customized, self-paced learning plans to aid students with low math abilities.

An article in eSchool News explained how personalization is not the same as differentiation (teaching a group of similar students) or individualization (teaching geared to one student’s needs), although they’re related.

“Personalization is an incredibly powerful model because it creates a continual feedback loop between the teacher and student and empowers students to take charge of their education,” wrote Amanda Stedke. She emphasized that technology tools aren’t necessary for personalized learning but “recent advances in ed-tech have made these approaches significantly more scalable.”

Kenneth Klau, director of digital learning at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, shared similar views in an opinion piece onEdSurge, but stressed personalized learning should “address well-defined needs and achieve unambiguous goals.”

“When we hear about schools that are making the shift to personalized learning, we should not hesitate to ask why and what it will look like,” he wrote. “Otherwise, personalized learning becomes the answer in search of a question.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Most Faculty Upbeat about EdTech

The majority of college and university faculty members feel positive about the impact of technology on education, with nearly three quarters saying it’s made their job “easier” or “much easier,” according to the results of Campus Technology’s second-annual Teaching with Technology Survey.

Even though that total remains high, it’s down four percentage points from the inaugural survey last year. The number of educators claiming tech has made their job more difficult remained consistent, but those who say it hasn’t affected them either way grew from 6% in 2016 to 10% this year.

Whatever its effect on their own work, more than 80% of faculty say they see technology having a positive impact on student learning, and about the same percentage view it having a “mostly positive” or “extremely positive” influence on higher education overall.

Individual respondents did point out that any classroom tech is only as good as the instructor using it and that faculty need to be provided the time to properly understand and adapt technology to their courses.

The complete results of the survey, which polled more than 230 faculty from across the country, are available in the July digital edition of Campus Technology.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Oregon Has to Cut Back on Tuition Promise

Adequate funding has always been an issue for the free community college tuition programs that some states are trying to implement. State lawmakers in Oregon knew their two-year appropriation of $40 million was $8 million short of projected costs, so that program was recently forced to tighten its income-related criteria and won’t be able to provide for every eligible student.

Despite the cutback, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission has notified more than 8,000 students that they did qualify for the scholarship. The 6,800 students who received the award in the program’s first year will also receive all the money promised to them, regardless of their income.

“Most kids will still be able to get the scholarship,” said state Sen. Mark Hass, chief architect of the program. “It’s just upper-end families who won’t and, frankly, there aren’t too many of those at our community colleges anyway.”

Families that are able to contribute $18,000 or more for college based on information from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form are being cut out of the program this year, which has generated some criticism. Hass expects that full eligibility will be restored next year.

The Oregon Promise was never meant to provide free tuition to everyone in the state. It doesn’t cover living expenses and only pays for tuition costs that remain after other need-based grants are used. However, the program does award a minimum of $1,000 to the poorest students to help defray costs such as fees, textbooks, and transportation.

“I don’t like that they’re getting slammed for it,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, Temple University professor and advocate for college accessibility who is the keynote speaker for the 2017 Textbook Affordability Conference Nov. 10-12, at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. “I think they’re being really careful with taxpayer dollars and I find that really respectable.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Low-Income Kids Face College-Entry Wall

High-schoolers from lower-income families are confronted with more barriers when it comes to getting into college than their better-off peers.

The Hechinger Report described several hurdles, including a recent College Board study that found grade-point averages (GPAs) at affluent suburban and private high schools had risen at the same time their students averaged lower scores on college admissions tests, strongly indicating grade inflation. GPAs at urban high schools, with a higher percentage of students in poverty, showed little change, though.

With more colleges and universities basing admissions decisions on GPAs instead of tests, grade inflation at wealthier schools puts low-income students at an immediate disadvantage in applying. “This is especially an issue for the big universities and colleges that can’t really dig into the context of a kid’s high school experience,” commented an official at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Urban high schools are also less likely to offer college-preparatory courses or have enough guidance counselors to help advise students on how to apply for college, according to The Hechinger Report.

Another recent study conducted by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and summarized by Education Dive, revealed low-income students make up only a small percentage of enrollees at selective colleges. The study showed qualified students often didn’t even apply to these colleges because they had no information about financial-aid packages or funds to visit campuses first, among other problems.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Parent Groups Want Age Cap on Smartphones

A mom from Austin, TX, has created a “Wait Until 8th”pledge to encourage parents not to give their children smartphones until they’re in eighth grade or at least 14 years old. Brooke Shannon’s pledge asks that parents vow “not to give your child a smartphone until at least eighth grade as long as at least 10 other families from your child’s grade and school pledge as well.”

So far, more than 2,000 parents from 500-plus schools in 49 states have committed to the pledge.

Shannon acknowledges that the pledge may not be appropriate for families with children who need more advanced technology to help manage a medical condition, such as Type 1 diabetes.

For parents who need to be able to connect with their children, either for emergencies or for those involved in shared-custody arrangements, Shannon suggests a lower-tech option such as a basic flip phone.

There is a groundswell of similar movements around the U.S., such as Parents Against Underage Smartphones (PAUS), a Colorado-based organization that wants to ban sales of cellphones to anyone under age 13. PAUS is working to gather signatures for a proposed ballot initiative that would require retailers to ask customers the age of the intended primary user for a cellphone. Merchants that repeatedly sell phones for use by preteens and younger children would be subject to government fines.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Keeping the Google Book Project Alive

Google’s grand project to digitize every single book ran into a snag when authors and publishers objected and sued. Google prevailed in court, but the project stalled and left a digital database of 25 million books that “nobody is allowed to read,” according to author and programmer James Somer.

But he’s not entirely correct.

Libraries that partnered with Google for the project kept digital copies of their scanned work, which now make up about 95% of the content in the HathiTrust Digital Library, based at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The database is used to conduct research without the fear of copyright infringement, while students with disabilities can access the scanned work through the use of assistive technology.

“We couldn’t have done it without Google,” Mary Sue Coleman, current president of the Association of American Universities, said of HathiTrust. “The fact that Google did it made things happen much more rapidly, I believe, than it would have happened if universities had been doing it without a central driving force.”

The HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC) makes computational analysis of public-domain and copyrighted works from the collection possible. Work on copyrighted materials is done on Data Capsules, a service created by HTRC that allows for “nonconsumptive” research without violating copyright restrictions.

“I’m not a fan of everything Google, by any means,” said Paul Courant, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and the University of Michigan. “But I think this was an amazing effort that has had lasting consequences, most of them positive.”