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, January 20, 2017

Some Schools Finding Ways to Manage Fees

While college students have always been quick to complain about textbook prices, the fees added to tuition are rapidly becoming as great a concern. A study from Project Muse found that student fees at a four-year public university averaged more than $1,700 each year, adding an additional 27% to the cost of tuition.

The fees pay for everything from student activities to maintenance. In one case, a school of business even charged a “professional development fee” for a subscription to The Wall Street Journal. That has some students seeing red and a few institutions thinking about other ways to approach the issue.

The University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, has rolled fees into its tuition since 2013, making it possible for students to use their financial aid to cover the bill. The results have been promising. The first class of students eligible for the program is set to graduate this year and the university said they borrowed 15% less to pay for their education. Dropout rates also fell, along with the number of applicants who didn’t show up for their freshman year after receiving their first bill.

Dayton is also saving money. The university no longer sends out up to 40,000 separate bills each year to students for the fees.

“This is very much about building trust,” Jason Reinoehl, vice president for strategic enrollment management at Dayton, said in an article that appeared in The Hechinger Report. “It’s our beacon. I think the whole industry is going to have to do this.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Focus on Course Materials Issues, Trends

Since the format and delivery of course materials are evolving faster than almost any other aspects of higher education, course materials specialists at campus bookstores must stay on their toes if they expect to help faculty and students. The first Course Materials eXperience (CM-X) on March 3-5 will give specialists an opportunity to network and learn more about trends and innovative practices involving textbooks and other course content.

To be held in Salt Lake City, UT, in conjunction with NACS’ annual Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) and Conference, the CM-X program will kick off with a discussion of issues surrounding textbook affordability and student access.

The second day of specialized educational sessions will explore inclusive access programs, textbook rentals, how to analyze course materials sales to determine student purchase patterns and cost savings, and advanced strategies in sourcing and dynamic pricing. In addition, a panel of publishing executives will discuss trends emerging now and on the horizon. Over lunch, participants will delve into performance data and talk about what practices work best.

On day three, CM-X moves to the Course Materials Theater on the CAMEX trade-show floor for a series of presentations on new programs and formats now available for textbooks.

Networking events for course materials specialists are also built into the three-day schedule.

For more details on the schedule and registration, go to Course Materials eXperience.

Monday, January 16, 2017

edX Survey Charts MOOC Growth

At the end of last year, Isaac Chuang, senior associate dean of digital learning, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and professor of physics at MIT, and Andrew Ho, professor of education and chair of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning Research Committee at Harvard University, released one of the largest surveys of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to date. Their report, HarvardX and MITx: Four Years of Open Online Courses—Fall 2012-Summer 2016, draws on 290 courses, 245,000 certificates (both free and paid), 4.5 million participants, and 2.3 billion events logged online on edX, the MOOC platform established by Harvard and MIT.

The survey revealed that the typical participant in an edX MOOC is a 20something male from outside the U.S., who already has a bachelor’s degree and is taking the course for certification. The number of participants has grown steadily since edX launched in 2012, with more than 1,500 people registering for a course every day.

While the median number of participants in an edX course is about 7,900, only 500 end up becoming certified. The report noted that not all courses offer free certificates and not all participants sign up in pursuit of certification.

The complete report is available on publisher Elsevier's Social Science Research Network site.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Time to Rethink the Lecture

The lecture remains a basic element of many college courses, but research continues to show it’s time for a change. Researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, recently found that students taking traditional lecture classes displayed little or no improvement in their problem-solving skills after the first semester of their freshman year.

The results were similar to a 2011 UBC study which showed that student engagement and learning doubled when interactive teaching methods were utilized. Researchers from the University of Washington also released a report in 2014 that found students in lecture classes were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students who took classes with more stimulating instruction.

“There is strong evidence that different methods of teaching can heavily influence the development of problem-solving skills,” Andis Klegeris, associate professor of biology at UBC, told eCampus News. “It does not appear that the traditional, lecture-style of information delivery is well suited to helping students build those skills.”

The latest UBC research involved a test that measured problem-solving skills throughout an undergrad’s educational career. One test was given at the start of the first semester and another at the end.

“As problem-solving is becoming an increasingly sought-after skill, it is likely postsecondary institutions will need to adapt their teaching styles to ensure students are able to better participate in a skill-based economy,” said Heather Hurren, a UBC researcher and manager of academic development at the UBC Centre for Teaching and Learning. “If they haven’t already, professors will need to move from traditional lectures and expectations of memorization to approaches that see small groups of students actively discover knowledge on their own.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Liberal-Arts Grads More Successful Later

As part of the ongoing debate about affordability, many politicians and policymakers—not to mention parents—are concerned that colleges and universities produce too many students with “soft” learning rather than job-specific “hard” skills. A new study of liberal-arts colleges reveals those grads do just fine in the job market after all, according to a report in Inside Higher Ed.

The study, which was previewed at a recent meeting of presidents of the Council of Independent Colleges, was based on interviews with 500 graduates of liberal-arts programs and 500 graduates from other types of institutions. The grads had been out of school for 10-40 years.

Although a lot of the liberal-arts grads earned less than other majors in their first few working years, it turned out they quickly made up the difference once their careers got going.

“Those who take more than half of their coursework in subjects unrelated to their majors (a characteristic of liberal-arts colleges but not professionally oriented colleges) are 31% to 72% more likely than others to have higher-level positions and to be earning more than $100,000,” the report said.

Perhaps more importantly, the study also found that liberal-arts graduates who engaged in discussions of academic and nonacademic issues during class time and who continued discussions with faculty and fellow students after class were more likely to feel “personally fulfilled” in their lives now and to become leaders, lifelong learners, and community volunteers.

Monday, January 9, 2017

U.K. Detox Camps Help Teens Unplug

After touring secondary schools and surveying students ages 13-18, the founder of a British “digital detox” company said she’ll expand its services this spring to include teenagers.

Tanya Goodin of Time To Log Off found that 29% of the young people she polled said they spend more than eight hours a day online, and more than a third regularly fall asleep at night with their phone or laptop in bed with them.

In the U.S., in response to a December 2016 survey of more than 4,500 college students by NACS’ OnCampus Research, a quarter said they spend two hours every day on social media, 19% said three hours, 14% said four hours, and 9% said five hours. Three percent admitted actually devoting 10 hours every day to social media.

Unlike Internet-addiction treatment centers in China, which are run more like army boot camps, Time To Log Off’s three-day teen retreats in Britain will emphasize team-building and creative activities such as painting, cooking, and photography.

Richard Graham, a London psychiatrist, told The Guardian newspaper that schools should be looking into running their own digital-detox programs, especially close to midterm and final exams. He said what’s needed is a “systemwide approach, with clean times and clean zones where everyone switches off.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

Getting in Front of Tech Needs

The technology research firm Gartner predicts there will be 20 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020. That bandwidth demand will make it difficult for colleges and universities to find ways to expand their use of technology.

To meet anticipated needs, institutions should be able to provide at least 1GB for each residential student, according to a 2016 study from the Association of College and University Technology Advancement. The study also found that nearly 70% of the universities surveyed were already providing that much bandwidth for their students.

Schools must also accept that students have to be connected in the classroom, which means campuses must be expanding their technology capabilities while setting up guidelines to maintain control of the network. To accomplish this, universities may have to collaborate with local partners to make faster networks available for students and the surrounding community.

“The digital transformation is here to stay,” Ivo Pascucci, an expert on the American telecommunications market, wrote in an article for eCampus News. “It is now up to universities to invest in network infrastructure that scales for the future. IT administrators will need to develop a plan that expects to handle cloud storage, millions of devices, virtual reality, 4K and 8K video, and research initiatives.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bulk of Tech Budget to Support Online Classes

Most colleges and universities anticipate a big bump in enrollment for online courses in 2017, according to a University Business survey of campus technology administrators.

About 75% of survey respondents said their institutions expected to enroll more students in online classes in the coming year and 60% forecast their schools will add more options to their online programs. As a result, almost half of the technology administrators are looking to build up the online learning infrastructure this year.

Where will institutions be spending their tech dollars? The largest group of respondents (49%) said they’ll be investing in improving academic technologies, such as lecture capture and audiovisual equipment. Of those, 30% plan to enhance technologies that instructors can access from anywhere on campus, while 29% will be boosting tech equipment within classroom and lab spaces.

In response to some campuses experiencing hacking attempts on their networks, 47% of survey respondents will be increasing network and data security in 2017, a big jump from 28% in last year’s survey. Forty-seven percent also intend to put more budget money into cloud computing and storage, up from 30% the prior year.

As students and staff consume ever-increasing amounts of bandwidth, 45% of campus tech administrators also expect to expand their Internet and Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Taking Back Textbook Sales

There are plenty of reasons for college stores to consider offering a virtual online solution for course materials. The model can reduce costs while providing guaranteed commissions to make up for some of the lost revenue. The newfound space created by the absence of textbooks can also be dedicated to merchandise that produce higher margins.

The Florence O. Wilson Bookstore, The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH, gave the hybrid model a try, but soon discovered that a virtual solution was actually keeping students away. After two semesters, the store decided to offer textbooks again because a branded website with competitive prices simply became another place for Wooster students to search instead of the place to go for course materials.

“College stores have long provided value, serving faculty and students in equal measure with technology, processes, and expertise to support the academic needs of the institution,” Director Kevin Leitner, CCR, wrote in a LinkedIn post. “The hybrid model, while it offers some advantages, puts a college store in danger of disintermediation and irrelevance, the ultimate danger to a college store.”

Editor’s note: The CITE will be on hiatus as the NACS offices and warehouse in in Oberlin, Westlake, and Cincinnati, OH, as well as in California and Washington, D.C., are closed the week of Dec. 26-Jan. 2. Look for the next post to appear on Jan. 4, 2017. From all the staff of NACS Inc., have a safe and happy holiday season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Job Market May Lure Away Students

Heading into the next decade, colleges and universities may have a tougher time selling prospective students on the need for a bachelor’s degree.

An article in The Sacramento Bee rounded up a lot of evidence that young people are gravitating to jobs that only require an associate degree or less. As the economy slowly warms up, companies are adding more of these higher-paying blue-collar positions—roughly 2.5 million of them, according to USA Today.

More companies are also willing to provide extensive training and apprenticeships to new workers in order to gain the exact skills needed.

Of the 11 most rapidly growing jobs in the U.S. right now, just three mandate an advanced degree. Some fields are expected to explode with new jobs, such as carpentry, which is forecast for 24% growth within six years.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Chatbots in the Classroom

Chatbots are being used in retail and finance to provide answers to common customer-service issues on e-commerce sites. Instructors at the BI Norwegian Business School are working on ways to use the same technology in the classroom.

Not satisfied with the choices in learning management systems, advisor Erik B√łylestad Nilsen and his team worked with the educational technology startup Edtech Foundry to pilot Differ, a solution that uses chatbots to encourage students to interact with course materials. Differ is able to respond to frequently asked questions and urges students to participate in class discussions and forums.

“Students have a lot of the same questions over and over again,” Nilsen said in an article for EdSurge. “They’re looking for the answers to easy administrative questions and they have similar types of questions regarding their subjects each year. Chatbots help get rid of some of the noise. Students are able to get answers as quick as possible and move on.”

Chatbots use data from the courses to learn the answers and spot student behaviors. They can also be used to send direct messages to individual students rather than posting information to the entire class. Students using the tool appear to be more open to talking to chatbots than originally envisioned.

“They’re afraid of being judged,” Nilsen said. “There’s no space where they can ask the silly questions, where they can stay out of the faculty’s loop.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

K-12 Issues May Impact Higher Ed, Too

As the new year approaches, predictions for the state of education in 2017 and beyond are starting to pop up. District Administration magazine asked a number of experts to name those issues in K-12 education that could have the most impact on student outcomes. Their answers might apply to higher education as well.

Using new technologies appropriately topped the list, in particular, a need for education leaders to receive more professional development in understanding how to evaluate and deploy tech tools. School administrators should also act “more like coaches” in utilizing technology.

Another high-impact issue is taking advantage of social media to help teachers connect with each other, share best practices, and provide feedback. Most instructors work in relative isolation and need more interaction with their peers when it comes to teaching. In higher ed, for example, many adjunct instructors don’t even have a permanent office where they might get to know other faculty.

The third issue seen as having the most potential effect on student success is ensuring racial diversity in classrooms. Some are concerned other issues, especially financial matters, have diminished diversity efforts.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Primary Schools Face Phones in Classrooms

Phones, tablets, and other electronic devices have become ubiquitous in high school and higher education. Now, they’re turning up in the hands of elementary school students as well, with one recent study finding that children in the U.S. get their first cellphones at about age 10. That has districts scrambling to devise rules to govern their use.

At some schools, phones can only be used for emergencies. Other districts still ban cellphones in primary schools, with an option for families to seek a waiver if their child needs to have a phone with them at school.

Some educators and parents are concerned about the impact phones could have on the culture of elementary school, including the fact that they might exacerbate divisions between haves and have-nots. There are also issues about access, such as using a district’s network vs. a private provider that might not be set up to filter inappropriate content. The presence of phones in the classroom also adds to teachers’ responsibilities.

“I don’t want to spend my time monitoring inappropriate cellphone usage when I could be using that time for instruction,” an elementary school teacher in Silver Spring, MD, told The Washington Post.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Different Look at Online Learning

There are plenty of consultants and management providers willing to advise institutions on the best ways to start an online learning program. Those experts are probably wrong, according to Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning.

Kim offered some unconventional advice in his recent Insider Higher Ed blog, starting with the notion that online programs should not be considered a revenue source, but that the classes should be able to cover their costs.

He also suggested that online programs need to be created in areas that differentiate the institution from others rather than simply offering courses that are in demand. Small classes featuring personal attention and quality are the best way to begin.

“The reasons that small online programs have a good chance of achieving economic sustainability have to do with the cost structure of online learning,” Kim wrote. “Colleges and universities can add more (tuition-paying) students without large fixed-cost investments. No need to build new classrooms or dorms. Almost all the costs will be variable costs—and therefore can rise with enrollment.”

Finally, Kim said online courses should be about learning for everyone involved.

“Thinking of a new online learning program as a disciplined experiment will open everyone up to a growth and learning mindset,” he wrote. “Failures (and there will be many) will be opportunities to learn and improve.”