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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, February 20, 2017

Hacking Worries Slow IoT Adoption

The Internet of Things (IoT)—a network of computing devices embedded in everyday objects and connected to the Internet—can encompass everything from vending machines to light posts to entire building automation systems.

And that interconnection is growing, with the number of such devices forecast to surge from 13.5 billion units now to 38.5 billion by 2020. It’s already spreading into schools and across college and university campuses via online portals, digital textbooks, classroom devices, wearables, and other connections. Although such adoption of IoT has been slower at educational institutions than in the consumer market, experts predict that will begin changing this year.

However, one major roadblock to that growth remains the security of IoT devices. A sneak peek Verizon released ahead of its 2017 Data Breach Digest report recounts how one unnamed university was hacked via more than 5,000 connected devices on its campus.

“With a massive campus to monitor and manage, everything from light bulbs to vending machines had been connected to the network for ease of management and improved efficiencies,” the school’s incident officer at the time says in the report preview.

To regain control, the school had to shut down all network access to its IoT segments. “Short-lived as it was,” the incident commander says, “the impact from severing all of our IoT devices from the Internet during that brief period of time was noticeable across the campus.”

The preview identifies the underlying problem as “many IoT manufacturers are primarily designing their devices for functionality; proper security testing often takes a backseat.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Higher Ed Finds Uses for Beacons

Beacon technology has been adopted by some campus stores because of its potential for proximity marketing. Institutions are starting to find ways to make the technology work in the classroom as well.

Beacons emit short-range Bluetooth signals to mobile apps that allow retailers to deliver location-based content, such as sales and directions to certain merchandise. Colleges and universities have found the technology useful in helping students navigate the campus, tracking attendance, granting access to buildings, and identifying where students are during an emergency.

They are also being used to restrict Wi-Fi access to students’ mobile devices when the professor enters the room.

“Coupled with the growth in use of mobile devices by students and academics, beacons have significant potential to dramatically transform learning by offering new ways to students to interact with their peers and tutors,” researchers from Sheffield Hallam University in England wrote in a Research in LearningTechnology abstract. “The potential benefits of beacons suggest that they are powerful, yet simple, unobtrusive and flexible technology that can be applied to a wide variety of situations within higher education.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Stories Could Tell How Diplomas Get Jobs

Higher-education professionals believe providing “a well-rounded education” is more important than preparing students for specific careers, while the public at large has the opposite opinion, according to research presented at the recent National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities meeting.

That difference may be causing some families to rethink whether it’s worthwhile to send their kids to college and could have an impact on future enrollment.

In an Inside Higher Ed blog post discussing the presentation, writer Michael Stoner noted that schools actually do incorporate more job-related skills and knowledge in coursework than students and parents might realize, but they often use statistical data to tout the value of study programs and research rather than describing the successes of their alumni and faculty.

“Telling better stories about what colleges and universities do and how they do it will help immensely,” Stoner wrote. He also agreed that institutions need to participate more often in public discussions and debates about the value of higher education.

An Education Dive brief also suggested schools should share more information on the percentage of recent graduates who obtain good jobs in their fields and identify which industries are most likely to hire grads from their programs.

Monday, February 13, 2017

OER by Students for Students

LibreText traces its roots to Delmar Larsen’s frustration that his students had each shelled out $200 for a chemistry textbook that he discovered was riddled with errors. Larsen, an associate professor at the University of California, Davis, didn’t have the funds to assemble a textbook of his own, but what he did have was a valuable creative resource in those students.

Ten years later, the project that began in that class has grown into an extensive library of open course resources, accessible through a Creative Commons license, with much of the content created via crowdsourcing by students, instructors, and topic experts. A dozen subjects are covered, including math, statistics, biology, physics, medicine, and the humanities. Students participate via class assignments to address a specific question or mirror a chapter’s worth of content from an existing resource. Afterward, some continue to contribute as volunteers or paid content developers.

Like a wiki, there is no formal peer-review process for LibreText resources, although certain account-holders can correct errors instantly and anyone else can highlight mistakes through feedback. Larsen noted to EdSurge that even with peer review, traditional textbooks can be full of errors. In print, those persist until the next edition, while most mistakes in the LibreText library can be corrected within a half-hour of being pointed out.

“No textbook or resource is going to be 100% accurate, ever,” an executive of OpenStax, the open course materials provider based at Rice University, told EdSurge. The closest to perfect is content that can be fixed immediately.

In 2014, Larsen conducted an experiment by teaching two chemistry classes, one with a conventional textbook and one with LibreText. At the end of term, the open resource was judged in no way inferior to the traditional content.

Friday, February 10, 2017

MOOCs Can Rely Too Much on Social Media

A recent Australian study found concerns about integrating too much social media into massive open online courses (MOOCs). Carpe Diem, a MOOC offered in 2014, used Facebook and Twitter for online communication and collaboration, but about half of the course participants didn’t use either.

According to the study,  41% refused to use social media because they felt it blurred the line between their social and professional identities. Nearly 50% were also unhappy with the learning management system (LMS) used by the course.

Respondents complained that the social media sites were intimidating to use and created confusion. Some said it took too much time to check into the LMS, Facebook, and Twitter, while others thought it would have worked better if social media worked within the LMS.

Facilitated discussions, work sharing with peers, and networking opportunities were the most-cited benefits of using social media platforms within MOOCs. However, the group that wasn’t as thrilled saw Facebook and Twitter as useless.

“It may be useful to outline in detail to students the contributions that social learning can bring to a MOOC and, indeed, to any online learning environment,” the researchers wrote. “Those who believe that conversations on social media are a waste of time may view things differently if they understand how conversations and knowledge sharing with their peers can support their learning experience.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cheating Common in Student Survey Group

An investigative company specializing in background checks detected that academic cheating and unethical acts were surprisingly frequent in a sample group of college students.

Kessler International surveyed 300 students attending public and private colleges and universities, which included online schools. A whopping 86% had cheated at least once in school and 54% even thought “cheating was OK,” a Kessler press release said.

Many admitted to passing someone else’s work off as their own for a class. More than three-quarters had copied “word for word” another person’s homework assignments, according to Kessler, and 79% had plagiarized material from the Internet or another source. Some bought papers and essays online (42%) and 28% had “a service take their online classes for them.”

Why would students do these things? Apparently because they can get away with it. Of those who said they had cheated, 97% bragged they hadn’t ever been caught.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Research on Adaptive Learning in MOOCs

According to a research paper, students taking a HarvardX massive open online course learned more using adaptive assessments than their classmates who didn't have that opportunity. The study focused on the course Super-Earths and Life, which ran in in the current academic year.

The adaptive-learning group was provided interactive content and assistance crafted to suit their individual learning level through TutorGen’s Student Centered Adaptive Learning Engine (SCALE). Assessments were added for both the experimental and control groups to gauge the effect of the adaptive experience on students’ mastery of the material.

The knowledge gain of the students in the experimental group was 19% higher than their peers in the control group. They also moved through the class material more quickly and demonstrated greater persistence in assessments. Despite this, the study found “no statistically significant differences” between the two groups’ course-completion or certification rates.

Friday, February 3, 2017

For-Profit Coding Camps Hurt by 'Bad Actors'

Coding and science boot camps teach in-demand technical skills that are being used by industries desperate for trained employees. A surveyof 2014-16 boot camp graduates found that 80% were satisfied with the training and 63% reported receiving a salary increase of more than $22,000 within six months of completing the course.

While boot camps continue to be popular, last September the founder of online coding camp Devschool disappeared with $100,000 in student tuition. Students who lost money don’t expect to ever see it again, even though they complained to state and federal authorities, forcing the site to shut down.

“For boot camp founders, there is almost no barrier to entry when starting up,” Salvador Rodriguez wrote in an article detailing the fraud for Inc. magazine. “To lure in customers, all that is needed is someone who can teach how to code and is bold enough to promise students a job.”

There are things students can look for to protect themselves when choosing to participate in an accelerated learning program, according to Jim Deters, CEO and co-founder of Galvanize, which has nine campuses around the country offering programming, coding, and data-science courses. The most important is to check with state agencies to see if the boot camp opens its process to review. It should raise a red flag if the provider isn’t working with the state officials.

“Boot camps have a lot of success stories already, but it’s still such early days,” Darrell Silver, co-founder and CEO of online coding camp Thinkful, said in the Inc. article. “For-profit education has left a lot of scars, and it’ll take years for boot camps to remedy that reputation. Bad actors slow us down, so it’s in all of our interests to call them out quickly and fix the situation for students.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Transfers, Dropouts Don't Feel Ties to School

About 48% of college students indicated mental-health issues such as stress and anxiety were among their biggest challenges during the fall 2016 term. That could be a red flag for higher-education institutions, as students who reported issues with mental health also had problems staying motivated, felt less satisfied with their school, often didn’t feel as if they belonged, and were more likely to consider transferring or even dropping out.

The finding was part of the Student Panel survey conducted in December 2016 by NACS OnCampus Research.

Half of survey respondents pointed to time management as among their biggest challenges last fall. However, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, time-pressed students were more apt to feel connected to their school and less likely to be thinking about leaving.

Students who took part in at least one school organization or activity also reported feeling a greater sense of belonging to their institution.

More than three-fourths of students said campus activities enabled them to meet new people and 60% made more friends through activities. Almost half rated these activities as very or extremely important.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Apple Joins Partnership on AI

Apple has joined the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society as a founding member, taking its place alongside Amazon, Facebook, Google/DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft. The nonprofit organization, established last fall, is working to advance public understanding of artificial intelligence (AI), develop best practices to deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by the technology, and conduct and openly publish research on it.

Education is one of the major sectors that will feel the impact of advances in artificial intelligence, according to a report released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy last October. “An AI-enabled world demands a data-literate citizenry that is able to read, use, interpret, and communicate about data, and participate in policy debates about matters affected by AI,” it said.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Harvard, MIT Share Findings of MOOC Study

study of massive open online courses (MOOCs) by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University researchers found registration continues to grow. The survey reported that new registrations for MOOCs average more than 1,500 people each day, while the median number of active participants for each course is nearly 8,000.

HarvardX and MITx: Four Years of Open Online Courses noted that 2.4 million unique users participated in one or more MOOCs offered by the two institutions and nearly 250,000 learner certificates were issued over the last four years. It also found that the average number of students enrolled into computer sciences courses is more than 21,000, compared to just over 7,900 for other courses, according to a report in Campus Technology.

At the same time, the study reported a significant drop in MOOC enrollment in 2016. MIT and Harvard University each had about 800,000 participants enrolled in MOOCs in 2015, but last year those numbers fell to 670,000 for MIT courses and 540,000 for HarvardX offerings.

The number of people earning certification also fell to its lowest point in the four years of the study, although the total number of certificates awarded in 2016 was higher than the number presented in the first year of the research. Researchers are concerned that the drop in participation was caused by the decision to not provide free certification for the courses.

“The typical course is smaller than it used to be, but this decrease is also steady and related to the proliferation of courses with more specialized content and smaller audiences,” Andrew Ho, a Harvard researcher who co-authored the study, told TechCrunch. “The MOOC audience continues to grow, but the number of MOOCs is growing faster. An analogy is television viewership numbers, and now we have more ‘channels’ than ever. The question now is how can audiences find the best course for them and on what merits.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Future LMS Encompasses Multiple Apps

The learning management system (LMS) of the future—possibly the near future—will enable colleges and universities to connect a variety of educational and administrative applications together as needed, much like a set of building blocks. At least that’s the scenario the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) is working toward.

In a report in Campus Technology, ELI Executive Director Malcolm Brown said his team originally assumed the LMS would still work as a single application, although with greater functionality. They came to realize that institutions needed to be able to tailor their LMS to accommodate the wide array of course activities and the needs of a diverse student body.

“Again, that takes you away from the idea of a single application being able to fit the bill for all comers,” Brown said. “We decided an ‘uber application’ is not going to work.”

One possibility is that the LMS could provide the main interface for students, who would access other applications through it. Or, students could log directly into applications, with the LMS serving as a connection.

The biggest challenge, Brown noted, will be working out open standards to allow systems to plug in multiple applications.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Digital Use Trails Awareness

The vast majority of students, faculty, and administrators say they believe digital course materials will play an important role in meeting systemic challenges faced by higher education, according to the report Digital appetite vs. what’s on the table: Student attitudes toward digital course materials in 2016, derived from a recent Pearson Education survey.

More than 80% of both students and faculty view digital materials and courseware as the future of education. In addition, 78% of faculty realize that digital courseware benefits students and 70% see the migration from print to digital content as important to themselves personally. However, implementation and use has some catching up to do, as only 56% of students and instructors said half or more of their courses had used digital materials in the past six months.

“Educators’ appetites for digital course materials and courseware are growing, the capabilities are available, but the stark reality is that they—and their students—just aren’t biting,” the report said.

Forty-four percent of students said they still prefer to have all their learning materials available in a print format. Almost 60% declared that it’s the learning institution’s responsibility to help them shift from a reliance on print to greater use of digital content.

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.”