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, March 19, 2018

Teachers Remain Wary of Social Media

Many grade- and high-school teachers remain hesitant to use social media as a learning tool. Just 16% of the 1,000 K-12 teachers who responded to a survey from the University of Phoenix said they use social media in the classroom, while 56% said they don’t use it at all and have no plans to start.

Most teachers in the survey (83%) worry about conflicts from social media interaction and 35% said they had experienced issues with either students or their parents through social media. At the same time, some see the classroom as the right place to discuss social media.

“In the classroom is the perfect opportunity to talk about how we behave, what is ethical inside and outside our classroom, and what that entails,” said Pam Roggeman, academic dean at the institution’s College of Education. “Its fun and it’s interesting, but it brings with it a large responsibility.”

The survey also found that 63% of teachers said they use technology every day and another 25% use it at least once a week. At the same time, about a quarter of the teachers admitted being at least somewhat intimidated by their students’ technology knowledge.

“That surprised me,” Roggeman said. “If there was ever technology in my classroom I didn’t understand, I’d ask students for help and invariably five hands would go up. One of teachers’ greatest classroom resources is their students.”

Friday, March 16, 2018

Policy Choices Limiting Promise Programs

Legislative policies may impact states offering free tuition for two-year institutions. Research that looked at 20 existing College Promise programs in 18 states found that some of their requirements could make it harder for some students to participate.

“As debates around Promise programs continue, state legislators serious about spurring enrollment, lowering debt, and addressing inequities in our higher-education system should ensure that proposed Promise programs provide both a clear message and a clear benefit to those who need it most,” wrote Jen Mishory, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, in The Future of Statewide College Promise Programs: A State Guideto Free College.

The report noted that half the programs studied required students to attend school full time, eliminating part-time students who are more likely to be on their own financially and in need of the additional help to attend. Merit-based requirements and limitations on the degrees or certificates covered by the free-tuition programs can also reduce the number of eligible students.

Using federal Pell Grant dollars or other grants to cover the cost of tuition before the Promise program kicks in is another roadblock for students. The report noted that if Promise dollars went to tuition, lower-income students would then be able to use the grant money on some of the other costs of higher education, such as housing transportation, and books.

At least in their initial stages, few states have recharged their higher-education investments enough to make significant progress toward a more universal benefit—and each state faces their own unique hurdles to getting there, some more challenging than others,” Mishory wrote. “Without that investment, as states launch programs with rationing policies to contain program costs, the choices they make will have very different impacts on who benefits, how well it measures up against the goals of spurring enrollment and lowering debt, and how their program impacts the progress their state makes in closing gaps in enrollment and attainment rates by race and income.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Guide Tries to Transform Transfers

Four-fifths of the students who first enroll in community colleges intend to move on to a four-year school to obtain a bachelor’s degree, yet just 32% make that transfer within six years and even fewer graduate. A new guide aims to help improve that rate.

The Columbia University Community College Research Center, working with the Aspen Institute and other research organizations, studied institutions with much higher rates of transfer and completion. “These colleges clearly made transfers a priority. They made transferring a default plan for every student, rather than optional,” researcher John Fink said in an Education Dive report.

The center’s guide identifies a number of actions institutions can take to assist transfer students. First, two- and four-year schools must communicate with each other about degree requirements so that curriculum can be designed to enable students to step up to a university without taking extra classes. As it is, too many community college students discover the course credits they earned won’t transfer.

Community colleges must also ensure students understand which courses they need to take in order to move on to a four-year school. It doesn’t always occur to students to find out degree requirements at their destination school before enrolling in community college. That means community colleges need to establish strong advising programs to guide students from the get-go, starting with determining their educational goals in order to clear a path to graduation.

Schools should also rethink their remedial classes. Students required to take these classes, which usually don’t count toward a degree, are more likely to drop out in frustration. Low-income students who may be among the first in their families to attend college may also need additional help in understanding the institution’s processes and how to apply for transfer.

Monday, March 12, 2018

CA Proposes Online College for Workers

The California Community Colleges system includes 114 colleges in 72 districts and serves more than two million students. Even that may not be enough to both train incoming students for careers and help existing workers transition to new roles as the U.S. job landscape undergoes sweeping change. In his State of the State address earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown estimated there are 2.5 million Californians between the ages of 25-34 who are in the workforce but lack a postsecondary degree or certificate.

To help those workers, the CCC system’s chancellor, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, wants to develop a new online community college to deliver badly needed courses. Brown asked the legislature to approve $100 million in startup funds for the project, along with $20 million in ongoing annual costs. If the money is approved, the new college would begin enrolling students for fall 2019.

“These are individuals who cannot drop everything they’re doing to come to our colleges and spend two or three years getting a degree or credential,” Oakley told NPR. “They need short-term job skills in order to survive.”

The curriculum would be designed in partnership with employers and labor unions, with a focus on high-demand industries such as construction, health care, child care, and information technology. “We would give them a short burst of job skills that employers would honor,” Oakley explained. “This is not something that our community colleges currently focus on.”

Learning would be self-paced and students would be eligible for state financial aid. There might even be an option to pay a flat fee for unlimited course access. Federal financial aid would only become available when and if the college received accreditation.

While Brown stated the new online college would not compete with existing schools in the state or their programs, Jonathan Lightman, executive director of the 11,000-member Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, said his organization would rather some or all of the project’s funding go toward offering more courses through the system’s existing Online Education Initiative, launched in 2013.

Friday, March 9, 2018

New E-Textbooks Take Aim at Affordability

Another new entrant to textbook publishing hopes to make course materials more affordable by focusing on an online platform. Lead Winds, of Newnan, GA, provides device-agnostic online, chapter-by-chapter access to its textbook, an audiobook version of the title, and study notes for each chapter, as well as video tutorials and videos of students sharing tips on the content.

The cost is $35 per student, although if an institution opts for inclusive access as part of tuition, that price tag can be even lower. The company has two titles ready for the summer and fall 2018 terms, The Exceptional Writer (English composition) and The Exceptional Speaker (public speaking), with more in the pipeline for release in 2019.

“This product is designed to meet students’ needs academically and financially,” says co-founder Brent Mayes. “It fits visual, aural, verbal, logical, and solitary learning styles. And it is accessible on all devices, so the materials travel with the students and are present when needed.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Publishers Share Views in CAMEX Panel

Executives from six of the largest college textbook publishers offered their thoughts in a panel discussion at NACS’ Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) 2018 in Dallas, TX.

Ashley Gordon, a digital content strategist and founder of Mockingbird Publishing, moderated the discussion, sponsored by Cengage.

On the future of academics and course materials:

“There will be continued movement to digital,” said Scott Virkler, chief product officer, McGraw-Hill Education, “and pressure on schools to show outcomes.”

“I believe print will be around for some time to come. For a lot of students, that still makes a lot of sense,” said Mike Wright, vice president and director of sales, W.W. Norton & Co.

“The student consumer will have more choice” but will expect materials to directly contribute to their personal and professional success, said Tim Stookesberry, senior vice president, education, Wiley.

On ways publishers can work with campus bookstores to build stronger relationships with faculty:

“Stores have so much knowledge about students, you could help faculty make the best decision about what materials to adopt” and which format options are available, said Cheryl Costantini, vice president, content strategy, Cengage.

“Help faculty in understanding affordability. Faculty don’t care where students get materials and sometimes think students are getting a better deal,” said Bill Franck, senior vice president of sales, nursing and allied health, Elsevier-Health Sciences.

On ways to sustain inclusive access (programs that provide digital materials as part of a course fee):

“Be willing to change and adapt,” said Nik Osborne, senior vice president, strategy and business, Pearson. “We’re looking for opportunities to grow. By starting early together we can build out roles for each to play.”

Monday, March 5, 2018

Strategies to Bridge the K-3 ‘Device Gap’

Just over two-thirds of K-3 teachers reported that on at least one occasion they’d refrained from assigning homework because they didn’t think all their students had access to the technology or digital media needed to complete the work. That percentage was even higher for schools serving a greater number of low-income students.

In the same online survey of educators and parents, conducted last year by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Center for Early Learning, 40% of parents said that challenges with home technology access hampered their children’s ability to stay on pace with their peers.

Based on the survey and in-person conversations with parents, the foundation suggested five strategies for how instructors can help bridge the school/home “device gap”:

1. Inform parents about how their children are using technology and which digital media are being used in the classroom.

2. Recommend specific programs and apps students can use at home to complement what’s being used at school. Since poor Internet service and data limits are among the most common technology hurdles at home, consider programs that don’t require Wi-Fi or cell service to run after being downloaded.

3. Host a parent-teacher learning exchange in your school or across your district to explain how appropriate content is chosen. While teachers aren’t expected to have every answer on devices and apps, the survey and discussions indicated parents do view them as trusted partners for advice on technology use.

4. Rather than focusing solely on scary messages about the potential harmful effects of device use on young children, take a balanced approach that promotes how to “learn and live well” in a world where technology and connectedness are ever more ubiquitous.

5. Connect parents to their local library as a source for increasing their access to technology and further mentoring on appropriate use for young children.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Attracting New Students with E-Sports

Video gaming is no longer just a favorite pastime for college students, it’s become a varsity sport because it drives enrollment, creates campus enthusiasm, is co-ed, and doesn’t cost much to launch.

“It’s on the cutting edge, if not already a little bit beyond that, of new opportunities to compete,” said Dave Gantt, vice president for athletics at the University of Providence, Great Falls, MN. “All of our admissions counselors are armed with the knowledge that we have this sport, and it has been something of interest at every one of their stops.”

E-sports have grown from a single team to more than 60 schools competing, with hundreds more looking into offering it. Gant’s institution is retrofitting its mailroom and bookstore in the student union for e-sport gamers, who will begin play in the fall.

Colleges are creating e-sports arenas in old computer labs and other rooms that were going unused. The competitions are often streamed live and have students providing play-by-play commentary, just like an NCAA football or basketball game.

The e-sports program at University of California, Irvine, is funded by university research into the learning applications of gaming. UC Irvine also offers summer camps for female gamers and underrepresented young people, and recently helped to launch a regional high school league.

“The research out there shows that women and men can compete equally, given equal access,” said Mark Deppe, acting director of e-sports at UC Irvine. “But online cultures can be toxic—there can be in-game harassment and bullying—and we think we can be an influence against that.”

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Textbook Affordability Talk on Facebook Live

As the hub of course materials on campus, college bookstores are right on the front lines of textbook affordability. Amy Hofer, coordinator of statewide open education library services, Linn-Benton Community College, Albany, OR, and instrumental in the Open Oregon Educational Resources project, will explore the role campus stores might play in affordability during a Thought Leader presentation at NACS’ Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) 2018 in Dallas, TX.

Her session will be streamed live as part of an open Facebook Live event on Friday, March 2, beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern. Go to the NACS Facebook page to experience the hourlong live session and submit questions for Hofer.

As part of her session, Hofer will take a look at the growth of open educational resources (OER) in higher education and how copyright factors into the creation of OER.

Her talk, coming just before Open Education Week (March 5-9), will continue the discussion around the cost of course materials and OER that was explored last November at the 2017 Textbook Affordability Conference (TAC) organized by NACS. Related resources from TAC and NACS Cram Sessions are available in The Hub online community’s public Course Materials, Digital Content, and Supplying the Campus Community library, along with curated resources for Open Ed Week 2018.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Texted ‘Nudges’ Keep STEM Majors on Track

According to a 2013 study by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, more than two-thirds of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) associate’s degree candidates fail to complete their studies, with about half of those switching to a non-STEM major and the other half leaving without obtaining any degree or certification. Overall, fewer than 30% of community college students complete their program in three years.

Sometimes, all it may take is a nudge to keep such students on track and on time.

A trial involving almost 2,000 STEM students at four community colleges over the summer of 2017 found that those who received personalized text-message “nudges” returned for the fall term at a rate 10% higher than a control group that didn’t receive the messages.

The nudges, created and delivered by Persistence Plus LLC, were designed to help students manage their time better, access resources for registration and financial-aid renewal, and increase their sense of connection to the school.

The initiative was a joint effort by Persistence Plus and Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit that develops programs and policies to improve college readiness and career success for underserved populations in the U.S. The organizations chose STEM majors to address the high attrition rates in those fields, and community colleges because two-year programs produce more than half of all STEM degree-holders, according to The Brookings Institution.

“In an era where STEM knowledge matters more than ever,” Persistence Plus President Jill Frankfort said in a statement, “we are thrilled that our behavioral nudging model is helping community college students interested in STEM make greater progress to a degree.”

Friday, February 23, 2018

Fear of Missing Out Is Addicting

Surveys have shown that mobile devices can be addictive, particularly for youngsters. Concern has grown to the point where investors are starting to urge tech firms to take action to address it.

To Ana Homayoun, author of Social Media Wellness, it’s really about the way phone apps are being used.

“When we think about social media, so much of it is created on this feedback loop of notification. They want to promote engagement,” Homayoun said during a CNBC interview. “They create this system where you always want to be online. And it can create this fear of missing out if we’re not online.”

Homayoun recommended that parents give younger children a flip phone for emergency use only. She also suggested that parents establish times when kids aren’t allowed to use the device, such as in the bedroom at night, even as an alarm clock. Parents should consider applications that monitor usage, too.

“Social media isn’t good or bad, it’s a new tool for communications,” she said. “But what is a problem is that we as adults don’t fully speak the language that kids are speaking, and we need to.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How Profs Dodge Royalties Bullet

College instructors teach courses in the subjects on which they are experts. Faculty also share their expertise by writing books on the same subjects. What should professors do when they’re tapped to lead courses on the identical subject matter covered by their books?

Some faculty choose to assign their own books as required reading, but are taking great pains to avoid profiting much—if at all—from the sale of books to their students, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In these cases, the books in question aren’t particularly costly as textbooks go, so the issue centers on the royalties paid to the authors.

Some instructors negotiate special discounts with their publishers on behalf of students to offset the royalties. Others estimate how much in royalties they might receive from students’ purchases and donate that amount to a campus cause or scholarship, or treat the class to lunch. For some classes, professors may use just one or two chapters of their book and provide free printouts to students.

Another tactic is to allow students to borrow the instructor’s copies of the book, although one professor noted in the article that only one student had accepted his loan so far.

One adjunct professor interviewed for the article considers most textbooks on the same topic to be “interchangeable” and she “questioned the need for assigning one’s own work.” In the event a professor decides to adopt his own book anyway, she suggested asking the publisher to simply pocket the royalties on books sold to the class instead of paying it.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Taking Aim at Higher-Ed Ghostwriters

A survey of 1,000 higher-education instructors found that 32% said they suspected students of turning in work that was done by someone else. The study also noted that two of three instructors said they didn’t act on their suspicion because of “insufficient evidence.”

Plagiarism-detection services are available to combat ghostwriting services. One online firm, Turnitin, is launching a new product later this year, called Authorship Investigation, that uses machine-learning algorithms to alert instructors to assignments potentially written by someone other than students in their class.

Just having such detection technology could deter students from hiring others to do their homework, according to Derek Newton, in his eCampus News report on combating contract cheating. However, he also pointed out other ways to stop cheating that don’t require an investment.

Assigning students to do at least one writing assignment during class makes it easier to spot cheating on writing done outside the classroom. For online courses, instructors should consider assignments that can only be completed with the student logged in and with a set time limit to finish.

While there’s nothing illegal about ghostwriters advertising their services on websites such as craigslist, school inquiries could make content providers leery about adding new customers. College leaders might also consider penalties if it’s proven that students are employing a ghostwriting service that’s been used in the past by others.

“While it’s a fool’s errand to try to eradicate cheating entirely, contracted work production remains among the last, wholly untouched fields of fraud and, because it is, every turn of the vise to squeeze it is both necessary and helpful,” Newton wrote.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Study Tracks When Students Zone Out

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a way to detect when students using personalized learning software start to daydream. By using machine-learning algorithms on recordings of student eye movement, the researchers were able to figure out which eye patterns were associated with the mind wandering.

The study found that when students’ eyes matched “zoning out” patterns, they were less focused on the work than those students who showed “not zoning out” patterns. It also noted that when students were paying attention, their eyes bounced around the screen more.

“When you’re zoning out, you’re just fixating,” explained Sidney D’Mello, leader of the University of Colorado research team. “You’re not moving on.”

The study could lead to instructional software that monitors mind wandering in real time. That troubles Jill Barshay, a contributing editor for The Hechinger Report who writes about education research and data.

“Do we really want to curb mind wandering?” she asked. “It’s associated with creativity, and perhaps a bit of mind wandering is needed to come up with big thoughts.”

Barshay suggested the result might be used better to point out the places where the computerized learning bores students, instead of creating prompts to keep them on track.

“But what I find fascinating about this research is how data scientists have come to a conclusion that contradicts human intuition,” she wrote. “You often hear teachers say that they don’t need data to tell them what their students know. Well, this research points out that it’s hard for teachers to know when students are really absorbing something just by looking at their faces.”