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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.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Study Finds Benefits in Microlearning

Tools such as flash cards have been helping students learn for generations. Now, the idea of providing short bursts of information lasting no longer than 15 minutes—known as microlearning—is taking on a new focus in the digital age.

After short lessons, students at Northeastern University, Burlington, MA, use Twitter and Snapchat to create posts of hyper-focused content for others to consume. Research there also found that using social media for microlearning increased student engagement, created learning communities, and provided opportunities for information retention.

“We focus on microlearning where students sometime consume, but often create, content,” said Lindsey Sudbury, academic instructional technologist at Northeastern. “It’s usually created quickly after a lot of thought and integrating what they already know.”

The Northeastern work on microlearning found that breaking education into small pieces allows students to access content more easily and learn at their own pace. The study also reported that it helped reduce student burnout syndrome, which is a concern for medical students.

“With microlearning, you’re constantly getting this information over and over again, so it’s allowing for you to really synthesize information and connect those dots more frequently,” said Clair Waterbury, who works with Sudbury as an academic instructional technologist at Northeastern.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Online Courses Solve Two Hi-Ed Problems

There is still a lot of debate and conflicting research on whether online higher education is as effective academically as in-classroom instruction. For some institutions, however, online courses are filling a two-part void.

A report on Education Dive noted a growing number of colleges are offering more online courses aimed specifically at nontraditional students. Those courses also are available to the colleges’ traditional-aged students, but the pool of new high school graduates has started to dwindle in line with the lower birthrate two decades ago.

The online courses not only help to bolster enrollment numbers (and revenue) for the schools, especially community colleges, they also open up educational opportunities for adults with full-time jobs and family responsibilities. These older students are often unable to fit classroom courses into their schedules.

The nature of online instruction also better enables colleges to adapt coursework to working adults’ needs, such as condensing courses so students can attain an associate degree sooner. For example, Riverland Community College in Minnesota created the FlexPace program to offer accelerated business courses, squeezing a semester’s worth of work into six weeks.

At Indiana Wesleyan University, the 12,000 online students outnumber the 2,700 who go to classes on campus. “What students like most is the flexibility,” said Lorne Oke, IWU’s executive director of the Center for Learning and Innovation. “There’s a significant change in the way students interact with learning and their expectations from a college.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Revenue Shouldn't Drive Online Strategy

The percentage of students taking online classes continue to rise, but is it the right investment? If institutions see it as a way to generate revenue, they may need to think again.

Online education needs to be economically sustainable. It should also make sense from a cost and investment standpoint, according to Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning.

“Putting money as the first and ultimate goal of online education will cause a school to make a series of bad choices, while simultaneously closing off other potential benefits of online learning,” Kim wrote in his regular blog post for Inside Higher Ed.

Online programs should align with and support the strategic mission of the institution. In developing online classes, the school needs to start with an understanding of where its strengths lie as opposed to developing courses to meet particular market demands.

“There will be winners and losers in any such conversation, and the role of leadership is to have the discipline and courage to invest in areas of comparative strength,” Kim wrote. “Only once a clear institutional strategy has been built around areas of differentiating excellence should any online education strategy be enacted.”

Friday, January 12, 2018

Copyright Law Expiring Should Help OER

Public-domain documents are often important sources for open educational resource (OER) providers. Educators could soon have more public-domain documents from which to choose.

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, passed in 1998 in honor of the late entertainer and congressman, extended copyright protection of future works to 70 years after the creator’s death (previously 50 years) and added 20 years to the copyright of works already in existence. The law expires at the end of the year and there appears to be little momentum to extend it any further.

“We are not aware of any such efforts, and it’s not something we are pursuing,” a spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America said.

Historians have criticized the copyright protections because they prevented preservation of some works that are nearly 100 years old. In addition, the Internet has led advocacy groups and companies such as Google to organize public opinion against open-access limits.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that Big Content companies plan to push for another term extension,” said Daniel Nazer, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This is an election year, so if they wanted to get a big ticket like that through Congress, you would expect to see them laying the groundwork with lobbying and op-eds.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Many, Not All, Able to Survive Hi-Ed Change

Most higher education institutions will adapt to change, but some won’t and may be forced to close, in the view of two economics professors at the College of William & Mary.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman discussed how four-year colleges and universities are under pressure to provide value to students at an affordable cost. Feldman and Archibald are the authors of The Road Ahead for America’s Colleges & Universities and Why Does College Cost So Much?

Both said they believe there will be enough students to fill classrooms, due to greater enrollment by students who are older, lower-income, and from more diverse populations than the traditional student. However, institutions with a high percentage of low-income students may have a tough time finding the resources to adapt.

Flagship public schools and other selective institutions will be able to shift to a tuition-driven model that depends less on state support, according to Archibald. Highly selective private institutions with deep endowments will also make the leap.

“The ones that will fare worse are essentially the rest of the state institutions, particularly those in states less willing to support higher education and in states that are losing population,” Archibald said.

Colleges and universities will need to find a competitive edge to attract applicants. “All institutions outside of the most elite need to invest in something that sets them apart from hundreds of other similar institutions and which offers a real distinction among the much smaller set of schools that makes up their most important regional competitors,” Feldman said.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Enrollment in Online Classes Keeps Climbing

The number of U.S. undergraduate students enrolled in at least one online class continues to grow, according to provisional federal data released in December.

The statistics, from the spring 2017 data collection by the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), indicate that 31% of all students reported enrolling in at least one distance course, charting a steady rise from 24.8% in 2012.

Those online enrollments keep growing while the IPEDS numbers show overall enrollment remaining fairly flat. Almost 31% of community college students enrolled in at least one online course, as did 29% of their counterparts at four-year schools.

Unsurprisingly, students at for-profit colleges were the most likely to be enrolled in a distance course (57.5%). However, the for-profit sector overall saw enrollments drop from about 1.54 million students in 2015 to about 1.46 million in fall 2016.

Some nonprofit institutions, on the other hand, experienced big gains in online enrollment. At Arizona State University, for instance, online enrollment surged from 22,220 in fall 2015 to 30,989 for fall 2016.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Digital Learning Tools Are Helping Students

A 2017 survey of chief academic officers (CAOs) found that more than 85% said they believe digital learning tools make learning more efficient and effective for students. In addition, 92% said adaptive learning has great potential to improve learning outcomes and nearly 90% would like their faculty to use the technology more often in entry-level and gateway courses.

Students clearly agree, as 94% responding to the fourth-annual McGraw-Hill Education digital student trends survey said using digital learning technologies helped them retain new concepts and 60% said the tools helped to improve their grades.

“Powerful digital learning technology can customize the learning experience for every student, helping him or her understand challenging concepts more fully and empowering them to improve their classroom performance,” said Scott Virkler, chief product officer, McGraw-Hill Education. “As these solutions continue to make inroads on college campuses, we look forward to seeing even more improvements in student learning outcomes.”

Students said digital learning tools were helpful in preparing for tests and exams and completing assignments, and made self-study easier. The survey also reported a majority of students use laptops more than printed materials to complete homework and in test preparation, while just 38% said they used their smartphone on assignments or for test prep.

On the other hand, the CAOs told pollsters that students without the necessary digital devices were holding back campus efforts to go more digital or all-digital.

“Owning a digital device—a laptop or tablet—really is essential for digital access,” said Kenneth C. Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project. “Although well-intended, extended hours in campus computer labs do not adequately serve the needs or the schedules of full- and part-time students who have families, jobs, and other community commitments beyond their college coursework.”

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Digital Media Permeates Hi-Ed Trends

With a new year come new predictions for higher education. eSchool Media asked a number of educators, edtech specialists, and others for their thoughts for the annual trends report. This year’s edition identified 25 trending education topics for 2018, including some anticipated to affect K-12.

Not surprisingly, digital media of various types factored into many of the trends.

“Artificial intelligence to advise how each student learns best and adapts materials for them will transition us for the future and lead to the careers that students depend on higher ed to open up,” said Laural Stiller, solution marketing manager for higher education, Hyland.

“Employer demand for career-ready candidates will drive the continued growth of immersive learning experiences like virtual and augmented reality to provide real-world practice at scale,” said Matt Seeley, product director, career education, Cengage.

“With industrial networking and connectivity between laboratory equipment, the instructor, and remote locations, students will be able to configure lab equipment and perform experiments and demonstrations at a distance. That removes the biggest obstacle to technical education at a distance and will be a game-changer for STEM courses,” said Brian Stefanchuck, professor and coordinator, computer engineering technology, Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology in Canada.

Instant-access initiatives underway at Hinds Community College, Clinton, MS, will spread to other campuses, in the view of Keri Cole, dean of e-learning at Hinds: “By preloading all learning materials into our course shells through our learning management system before a term begins, we ensure all students are provided equal opportunities to be successful in their coursework. They are ready to hit the ground running on the first day of class.”

“Considerations for cloud technology is nothing new; however, most wariness around it is diminishing while more institutions look at this approach more closely,” said Jennifer Wilson, director of marketing and communications, Softdocs.

“Connected campus is another area of priority … if [students] cannot connect to Wi-Fi, they are not going to that school,” said David Doucette, director of higher education, CDW-G.

“Data integration that drives learning analytics is a core theme for 2018. Providers will be unfavorably regarded by campuses if, either by design or by omission, they make it hard to bring data together or to share it seamlessly,” said Geoff Irvine, CEO, Chalk & Wire.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Higher-Ed Critics of Net Neutrality Repeal

While some in higher education argue that repeal of the 2015 “net neutrality” orders will have little effect on campus, nearly every major higher-ed organization came out against the move. It’s feared that education could become more expensive and have slower Internet access unless the institution has the means to pony up the additional fees Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are now able to charge.

The old rules prevented ISPs from charging content producers and customers more for faster service. Ajit Pai, the new chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), contended the rules also stifled innovation and the move was passed in a Dec. 14 vote.

Repealing the rules is intended to spur competition among ISPs, which could mean institutions will be able to pick and choose the best provider for the campus. It’s also possible that universities could face higher charges because of the broadband demands of virtual courses or cloud-based storage and services.

Rural campuses are concerned that they will not benefit from any competition since they rely on a single Internet provider. Colleges and universities are fearful that research projects could be moved to slower speeds if the institution is unwilling to pay more for faster service. And if costs go up for colleges, it will likely trickle down to student fees.

“The new FCC rules do not follow in the liberated direction imagined by the Internet’s inventors,” Robert Ubell, vice dean emeritus of online learning at the Tandon School of Engineering, New York University, wrote in a column for EdSurge. “With ISPs given the reckless authority to block and shut down sites, academic freedom is a potential target—along with other guarantees of equal access.”

Editor’s note: The CITE will be on hiatus as all NACS Inc. offices are closed Dec. 25-Jan. 1. Look for the next post to appear on Jan. 3, 2018. From all the staff of NACS Inc., have a safe and happy holiday season.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

More Freshmen Persisting to Graduation

A small but significant uptick in the number of U.S. college students attaining their degrees last spring is being hailed as a positive indicator for the national economy.

“For the more than 2.27 million students who started college six years ago, the signs of postrecession recovery are clear: adult students shrank as a share of the cohort, four-year public and private nonprofit institutions increased their share of the cohort, and the total completion rate surpassed the prerecession high,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center, in its annual report on enrollment and graduation patterns for each incoming class. A key benchmark is the graduation percentage after six years.

Approximately 56.9% of the fall 2011 freshmen had graduated as of 2017. That outpaces the six-year graduation mark for the 2010 freshman class (54.8%) and the 2007 freshman class (56.1%), which had previously been the highest to date.

Almost 12% of the 2011 starters are still taking courses and the report anticipates many of those students will achieve a degree within the next two years, based on the freshman class of 2009, which managed to raise its total completion rate this year by six percentage points over its six-year rate.

Four-year schools overall had higher completion rates than two-year schools (66.7% versus 37.7%), but a much higher percentage of students who enrolled first at two-year schools would go on to earn a degree or certificate within six years (37.7%, compared to 8% of students who began at a four-year institution).

Monday, December 18, 2017

Schools Might Sidestep Repeal's Impact

Before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Dec. 14 to repeal 2015’s “net neutrality” orders, some higher-education organizations, including the American Council on Education, expressed concern about the impact on online research and distance courses. They worried institutions might end up in the Internet slow lane if business interests priced faster service out of reach.

John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning, a financial consulting firm for schools and libraries, told SmartBrief he thinks the repeal “is unlikely to have any significant impact on schools.” He conceded the repeal could affect web content aimed at consumers, but he noted that educational institutions typically don’t subscribe to those types of services (although students may do so).

If the repeal does spur more competition among Internet service providers, as some (including the FCC chairman) have predicted, Harrington said schools could take advantage of that to select a provider that will ensure speedy service for the campus, including online courses. The institution could even opt for faster service for learning content, and not-so-fast for less-critical content.

“This might give schools an opportunity to prioritize live Internet video feeds above emails and other web traffic that does not require real-time interaction,” he said.

Friday, December 15, 2017

More Support for Credentialing Proposed

Not everyone needs to attend college to achieve their career goals, but increased federal support of occupational credentialing could be a viable alternative to the idea of the “free” four-year degrees that has been making headlines, according to a report from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).

The report proposes making more federal support, such as Pell grants, available to students in credentialing programs. PPI suggests the move could provide workers with a debt-free path to the skills needed for economic security because many of the jobs that require a credential instead of a college degree can pay as much as $90,000 a year.

“The singleminded focus on college diminishes other equally viable paths to middle-class security—such as in health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and other skill professions—that require specialized occupational ‘credentials’ but no four-year degree,” Anne Kim, a senior fellow at PPI, wrote in the report.

Quality credentialing can also be an alternative for nontraditional students who have family and job obligations that make the commitment to full-time student status unrealistic. Credentialing courses often take just weeks or months to complete, helping workers who have been displaced get back into jobs and new careers.

The plan would extend student financial aid, including Pell grants, to high-quality credentialing programs and provide students with standardized information on the quality and value of credentialing options. The PPI plan would pay for the program through a new excise tax on elite university endowments.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Scholarship Donors Push Student Loans Out

With all of the ongoing controversy over whether loans help or hurt students, Brown University has managed to raise enough donations to float its financial aid without asking students to borrow money for their education.

According to University Business, Brown just wrapped up a $30 million campaign to plump its scholarship funds. That money is intended to take the place of loans in aid extended to students enrolling next fall. Both returning undergraduates and first-years will benefit.

The campaign represented the latest phase of The Brown Promise, a program launched in 2003 to ensure a diverse body of applicants could actually afford to attend the university, regardless of their personal financial situation. Brown instituted a need-blind admission process, but did rely on loans to close the gap for some students.

As an article on Quartz notes, Brown isn’t the only institution to eliminate student loans from its financial-aid package but many of the others “have income cutoffs … meaning that poorer families get better deals than those with midrange incomes.” Brown’s program reaches middle-income students, who might be able to scrape the money together but at a considerable sacrifice.

Brown is gearing up to raise another $90 million to fully endow the program to keep it going. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

AI May Help Screen for Dyslexia

Despite all of technology’s advances and the many data dashboards available to track classroom performance, screening children for dyslexia is still typically conducted using paper tests, whose evaluation can fall prey to subjectivity on the part of teachers.

Lexplore, a Swedish company operating in the U.S. out of Naperville, IL, hopes to employ eye-tracking cameras on computers with artificial intelligence and special algorithms to identify more students with dyslexia who might be missed by the current outmoded, time-consuming method.

The company’s tools analyze patterns in how a subject’s eyes follow words in sequential or nonsequential order as they read. Those at high risk for dyslexia make more right-to-left movements—vs. the more normal left-to-right—and take fewer or no regular pauses during reading.

Although its tech and algorithms are new, Lexplore’s underlying ideas draw on research dating back for decades that indicates tracking eye movements is one of the best ways to gauge reading ability. A 2015 study built a statistical model using eye-tracking that could identify dyslexia with more than 80% accuracy.

Two of Lexplore’s co-founders published their own study in 2016 that claimed an even higher success rate of 95.3% using their own technology, which is now in use across the city of Stockholm’s municipal education board.

In the U.S., Lexplore is still fine-tuning its business model and has so far only been tested in a handful of private schools in the Atlanta area.