This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Study Shows iPads Help Learning

The iPad has been touted as a better way to learn since the tablet computer was introduced by Apple founder Steve Jobs in 2010. Now, there is research that shows the claim to be correct.

The new study found that learning on tablets tap into neurocognitive skills that help students understand difficult concepts. The students used in the research saw gains in their learning from just 20 minutes of study on an iPad, with an even more pronounced improvement with guidance from an instructor.

“The bottom line is that these iPads and similar tools actually do make a difference,” said Matthew Schneps, founding member of science education department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in an article in National Geographic.

Researchers compared test results given to thousands of high school astronomy students across the nation. The study was able to define how students performed on the test and how use of the tablets changed test results.

The results of the study also suggest that using tablets to study makes it easier to grasp difficult scientific concepts. In addition, being able to use the technology may be critical in future career training, according to Schneps.

“They’re not going to be doing things in their jobs the same way that previous generations did, so if kids can learn in school today using the same tools that they will use in their careers later on, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Report: MOOCs Deserve a Break

A report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recommends massive open online education (MOOCs) should be given a break from the federal government and the accreditors. The PCAST report suggests the bar for course accreditation has been set too high and could discourage innovation.

“The Federal Government (and in particular, the U.S. Department of Education) should continue to encourage regional accrediting bodies to be flexible in recognizing that many standards normally required for an accredited degree should be modified in the online arena,” wrote the authors of the report. “If the bar for accreditation is set too high, the infant industry developing MOOC and related technology platforms may struggle to realize its full potential.”

The report also recommends the government should let market forces decide how online education should move forward. PCAST suggested that grant programs should be created to encourage research on MOOCs and online education, with that information available to all through a national exchange.

“It would also be premature to impose standards and regulations that might impair the power of competitive market forces to motivate innovation,” the report stated. “The Federal Government can best encourage innovation in this critical sector by letting the market work.”

Needless to say, accreditors were less-than-thrilled with the idea that they may be biased against anything except traditional classroom instruction.

“There seems to be some worry about MOOCs, but I have not heard of a single MOOC that has suffered at the hands of accreditation,” said Sylvia Manning, president of the higher learning commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, in an article for Inside Higher Education. “Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that ‘innovative’ and ‘good’ are not necessarily synonyms, and innovation cannot serve as a cloak of immunity to criticism” Accreditors must reserve the right to call out poor quality whether it be innovative of stodgy.”

Friday, December 27, 2013

Some Trends on Fire in '14, Others Sputter

T.H.E. Journal tapped five experts in instructional technology for their predictions, guesses, expectations, and wild conjectures on the status of 10 trending topics affecting all levels of education in the coming year.

According to this panel, topics that are likely to heat up in the next 12 months—or remain hot if already in the red zone—include the bring-your-own-device scenario, using social media as a tool for teaching and learning, and deploying iPads and other tablets in education. Also, the temperature is rising on learning analytics, as schools come under greater pressure to prove student success.

Topics deemed lukewarm (although possibly still hot for some) include game-based learning, digital badges, learning management systems, and, maybe surprisingly, open educational resources (OER). The panel thinks OER will cool off for higher education as more people realize how much time and cost go into finding and prepping materials for students. Learning management systems are too widespread to be hot anymore. Games and digital badges, panelists agree, are good ideas but difficult for schools to implement and integrate appropriately.

Two once-hot topics are losing steam. Desktop computers are being overtaken by mobile devices in the classroom. E-portfolios (online repositories providing a record of what individual students mastered and produced) were popular for a time until schools began to encounter technical hurdles in hosting them. Some schools are also inconsistent in how information and materials are preserved in students’ e-portfolios.

Do you agree with the panel’s assessment of these topics? Are there any other educational topics that may turn red-hot in 2014?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bigger is Better, Say Mobile Shoppers

Given the choice, many people would rather view a full-sized e-commerce site on their smartphone or tablet than a mobile-optimized version scaled to the smaller screen.

Bill Siwicki, a managing editor at Internet Retailer, comments that he discovered this bit of counterintuitive intelligence by chance. He was browsing an e-commerce site on his phone when a pop-up offered to switch to the mobile site. His response: “Of course I want your mobile commerce web site on my iPhone. I don’t want to have to pinch and zoom and swipe like mad to try to make sense of the huge desktop site on my small smartphone screen. Are you crazy?”

That’s not the response most users give, however. Siwicki found that a new study conducted last October by Retail Systems Research shows more than half of consumers bypass mobile e-commerce sites to view the full site on their mobile device. The study didn’t specifically ask consumers why they do this, but an analyst with the research company told Siwicki that it’s probably because too many mobile sites have been overly simplified, leaving out too many features and content that visitors want to access.

Another reason may be that some consumers are more familiar with the full site and know just where to go with minimal zooming and swiping on a mobile device.

Either way, it indicates that many online retailers “who believe they have great mobile sites actually have more work to do to make shopping mobile-optimized sites on smartphones more appealing,” Siwicki writes.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Campus Bookstore Is Where It's At

In this TV news report, the Fox Business channel takes a look at how textbook rentals are ramping up in campus bookstores, the latest move by stores to help bring down the cost of course materials for students. The report features an interview with Alan Martin, CEO of CampusBookRentals, one of several companies that provide rental stock and technical support to college stores.

Martin explains why his company chose to work through campus stores rather than go direct to students. The bookstore, he says, sits at the “epicenter” of campus life and “holds the competency to serve students better than anyone else.”

Monday, December 23, 2013

Report Compares Online and On-Campus Data

In the ongoing debate over whether online-only courses are just as good as on-campus ones, a new report shows that in-person campus courses still have the edge.

The report, compiled by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Cooperative for Educational Technologies (known as WCET), surveyed college institutions providing solely online programs as well as institutions offering a mix of online and on-campus courses.

According to Campus Technology, WCET’s report touts the finding that the online schools’ courses boasted an 89% completion rate, not bad when compared to the 94% rate for face-to-face classes. But then WCET immediately backed away from that statistic, noting just four of 10 online-only schools provided data—presumably the others had less impressive completion stats—and the rate might not represent a true average.

It’s easy to understand how busy adults might be more apt to drop an online course than one where they’ve already put in a live appearance, especially if they’re not motivated to take the course to earn a specific degree, to meet an employer’s requirement, or to keep parents off their back for not having a job.

Other results from the WCET survey, however, reveal a gap in student support services between online and on-campus programs, which might make some difference in whether students persist to completion. For example, only 59% of responding schools make tutoring available for online students. Just 30% furnish 24-hour technical support for online students, even though they’re more likely to be studying at odd hours.

Some schools don’t provide any help for disabled students taking online courses and a few institutions have no library resources available to online students.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Printed Books Not Dead Yet

E-books have gotten plenty of press over the last few years, but new research doesn’t back up the headlines. A study on IT strategies by Ricoh Americas Corp. and the University of Colorado found that 70% of consumers felt it was unlikely they would give up their printed books by 2016 and 60% of downloaded e-books are never read.

The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers reported that the top three reasons people chose printed books were the lack of eyestrain when reading paper, the look and feel of paper, and the ability to add the title to a library or bookshelf. It also reaffirmed other studies that have shown college students prefer printed textbooks.

“To borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, the reports of the printed book’s death are greatly exaggerated,” said George Promis, vice president of continuous forms of production solutions and technology alliances at Ricoh. “Print is alive, well, and sought after in today’s book market.”

The research also found that publishers produced more than 10% of all printed book pages in the United States since 2012 on production inkjet systems, allowing them to test titles before ordering larger runs. In addition, offering e-titles isn’t a guarantee of more income or cost savings because even the largest publishers reported revenues of no more than 20%-30% from e-book sales.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Coursera Launches Mobile App

Coursera, the massive open online course (MOOC) provider, introduced an iPhone app that will bring its free courses to mobile iOS 7 devices. The app puts Coursera ahead of its competition in the effort to reach students on their smartphones or those in emerging nations, according to a report in VentureBeat.

The app provides all the features of the Coursera website. Students can use their iPhone or iPad to browse and enroll in courses, watch video lectures, or take quizzes over cellular connections or by downloading them to the device from the app.

The app is free in Apple App Store, but the device must run iOS 7.0 or later and students have to sign up for a Coursera account to access the material.

“The app doesn’t differ all that much from the web experiences that you may be used to,” noted tech writer Christina Farr. “However, much of the content is still under development, which is frustrating. Many of the courses are listed on the app as ‘coming soon.’”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cellphone Usage Linked to Lower Grades

The old adage that statistics can prove almost anything appears to be true when it comes to college students and mobile devices. While a Wakefield Research project last summer found that students would be more likely to study if content could be accessed from their smartphone, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that 90% of the students in his study were distracted by their device, using it in class for something other than schoolwork.

Now, medical researchers at Kent State University, Kent, OH, have linked cellphone usage to lower grades and diminished levels of happiness. The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed more than 500 students, comparing how much time they spent on their phones to their cumulative grade-point averages.

The analysis found that the more students used their cellphones, the lower their GPA and the higher their anxiety. The researchers added that they could not show for certain that cellphone usage led to poorer grades and higher stress, but that it was worth noting because college students are also the most likely to adopt the technology.

“While it is plausible that spending a lot of time calling and texting affects academic performance, it could equally be argued that these results suggest students who are more anxious, perform less well in class, and are more unhappy are more likely to use cellphones,” wrote Catherine Paddock, for Medical News Today.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wearable Tech, Tablets Trending

It’s that time of year when Top 10 lists flourish. Juniper Research just released its top tech trends for 2014, predicting we’ll see more wearable tech on the streets and more tablet computers in the classroom.

Devices such as Google Glass and smartwatches from Samsung and Pebble have already established a foothold for wearable tech, but since there appear to be many more devices on the horizon, Juniper is predicting (No. 3 on its list) that 2014 will be a “watershed year” for the devices. The use of mobile fitness gadgets will grow (No. 5), which should also help to drive the wearable-tech trend.

Tablets have already found their way into education, but that trend is only going to get bigger as the devices become more affordable, according to Juniper (No. 4). 3-D printing will also become even bigger in 2014 (No. 10) as more tech companies begin to manufacture the devices.

“Most of Juniper’s predictions make a lot of sense and you can see the budding trends right now,” said John Koetsier, technology writer for Venture Beat.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Phablets Look Like the Next Big Thing

Manufacturers will ship more than 220 million tablet computers by the end of 2013, up 53% over 2012 figures. The research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) predicts that trend will slow over the next four years as more people start buying phablets.

A phablet is a mobile device with a screen larger than most smartphones, but not as large as the average tablet computer. Phablets normally have a screen that’s between 5 in. and 7 in., such as the Samsung Galaxy Note, an Android smartphone with a 5.7-in. screen.

IDC based its prediction on the fact that there’s not enough difference between a 6-in. smartphone screen and a 7-in. tablet to convince consumers to pay more for the tablet, according to a report in Information Week.

“In some markets, consumers are already making the choice to buy a large smartphone rather than buying a small tablet, and as a result, we’ve lowered our long-term forecast,” said Tom Mainelli, research director, tablets, at IDC. “Meanwhile, in mature markets like the U.S., where tablets have been shipping in large volumes since 2010 and are already well established, we’re less concerned about big phones cannibalizing shipments and more worried about market saturation.”

As it stands, Android and iOS will continue to be the top tablet operating systems for years to come, but IDC predicts both will lose ground over the next four years. The IDC forecast calls for the market share for the Android system from Google to dip from nearly 61% in 2013 to 59% in 2017, while Apple iOS will slip from 35% to around 30%.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Are Smart Tattoos Next for Wearable Tech?

It seems like there’s something new every day on the wearable tech front. Smartwatches and Google Glass has given way to news about smarty rings and lingeriewhich is supposed to help women curb bad eating habits.

The latest is a patent for a smart tattoo from Google.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Flipped Classrooms Help Raise Test Scores

Flipped classrooms, where students view video lectures online at home and use class time to discuss the content with the instructor, are growing in popularity on college campuses. New research indicates that the model is much more than a passing educational fad.

The study from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill reported that students performed 5% better on a final exam than their peers who didn’t learn in a flipped-classroom setting. The three-year study surveyed more than 300 students taking a pharmacy course taught by Russell Mumper, who helped write the report published in the journal Academic Medicine.

It took Mumper 60 hours to record 25 videos using lecture-capture technology from Echo360. The effort allowed him to spend the majority of classroom time discussing the material and dispensing career advice.

“When we asked students before the course, 75% said they preferred a traditional method,” Mumper eCampus News. “At the end of the course, 86% said they now preferred the flipped format. We flipped their preference.”

Nine out of 10 students in the survey said their learning was enhanced and 93% said their understanding of key concepts improved. In addition, nearly all respondents reported the model helped them develop skills that would be used in their careers.

“The main event in education is still, and will continue to be, in the classroom,” said Fred Singer, CEO of Echo360. “With the flipped model, we’re seeing excitement return to the classroom as students and their teachers are both engaging in more active learning that demands everyone’s full-time attention.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Students Help Create Online Study Guides

At exam time, students often pool their notes and study together. Now, an online study platform offers a way to collect such information and turn it into an online study guide.

StudyBlue already creates items such as electronic flashcards and practice quizzes for students. The content for the new study guides comes directly from students. It’s then uploaded and accessed through the StudyBlue platform.

The guides can be updated throughout the semester with students receiving notifications on their mobile devices when fresh content has been added. The guides also feature a pop-up window that lets students set their social media status to alert friends when they are busy studying.

The platform is available as a free Android or iOS app, but the study guides cost $5 each. StudyBlue founder Chris Klundt reports that the company is already creating 40,000 guides a day.

“With four million students and 175 million pieces of content, we were seeing a network effect happening,” Klundt told eCampus News. “Students input their classes into the system with their classmates, create this content, and we can put it all together in a study guide, ordering it by quality and popularity.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Academic Libraries Seek LMS Integration

Campus libraries are still popular places where students can go to study and work on papers while mixing in a little socializing. One thing most of those students won’t do during a trip to the library is open a library book. They’ll do that later—online.

As Campus Technology notes, academic libraries are experiencing a shift in how they provide materials to students for research and course readings. More students (and also faculty) are accessing the library’s collection through e-reserves.

Students may not be all that crazy about studying from a digital textbook, but they do find it much more convenient to go online from the comfort of their own laptops to tap into the library’s materials to gather information for a project or to read something their professor has placed on reserve for the class. For research, in particular, print books are too cumbersome.

From the perspective of librarians, though, there is one major hurdle: learning management systems. Far from being dismayed at the move from print to digital usage, campus libraries are eager to accommodate students online. They’d like to be able to integrate their e-reserves with the school’s LMS to create a one-stop-shopping location, so to speak, for student reading materials. At the very least, libraries want their catalog to be incorporated in the LMS search function to show students and faculty what’s available through the library.

However, library systems and learning management systems are not always fully compatible. Some schools required extensive customization to get both systems to work together, while others created an LMS from scratch in order to build in access to the library. Still others opted to develop library guides that could be placed within the LMS.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Students Turn to Smartphones to Study

A new survey of 500 students by McGraw-Hill found that nearly 40% used their smartphones to study, while just 22% turned to their tablet or computer. The results were similar to a Wakefield Research report from last summer that showed 53% of respondents would be more likely to complete a reading assignment if it were available on a mobile device and 83% used a mobile device for last-minute studying.

“Studying effectively—and with the right type of technology—is one of the best ways to ensure that students succeed in class,” said Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Education, in a report by eCampus News. “But focus is the key.”

It can also be a problem since there are just as many studies that show smartphones are a distraction, and that students know it. Nearly half of the students in the McGraw-Hill research admitted using their phones to text friends while studying. A similar number admitted to switching between schoolwork and nonstudy activities while on their tablet or laptop.

At the same time, nearly 70% of the students reported that the tools available through their mobile devices can save them up to five hours each week when studying.

Friday, December 6, 2013

App Lets Students Study Offline

Plans to assemble a mobile app with offline study capabilities hit a snag over the summer when three universities pulled out of the partnership that would have created the courses necessary for the mobile app program. That work is now back on track and the educational technology firm 2U will soon make the app available to the 10,000 students already using the service.

The app provides students with an “offline mode” that allows them to watch videos and lectures and complete online reading assignments while disconnected from the Internet.

“We have a student taking courses on an oil rig 150 miles from the closest coast,” James Keinigberg, chief technology officer for 2U, told eCampus News. “There are students who need to fit in coursework while commuting underground in New York City. There are students in all sorts of remote locations or situations where they can’t be online and they would like to take some of this content on the go.”

The app also allows students to interact with the content offline. That interaction automatically syncs with the app’s platform when it is reconnected to the Internet.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bill to Expand Use of Open Textbooks

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced legislation that would create a grant program for colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open-access  textbooks. The Affordable College Textbook Act would give the public the right to access, customize, and distribute the online content in an effort to curb the rising costs of supplies and course materials.

Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) have introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

If passed, the law would establish a grant program to support efforts to create and expand the use of open-access textbooks with priority placed on those pilots that achieve the highest savings. It would also guarantee that open educational material would be easily accessible and require institutions to report on the effectiveness of any funded program.

“Simply put, this is about making college more accessible and more affordable for students who are eager to earn their college degree,” Hinojosa wrote in a guest column for a South Texas newspaper.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

But Will Wearable Tech Sell?

Wearable technology appears to be the next wave of innovation. There are frequent announcements on the latest smartwatch, while some reports suggest tech-savvy Millennials are lining up to give Google Glass a try.

Now, a study has found that all that excitement may not translate into sales.

The study from the cloud-services company Citrix reported 60% of 1,000 adults polled felt wearable tech would continue to grow as a trend, but 61% had no intention of actually buying a device. In addition, 73% of the group that would consider a wearable tech purchase said they wanted a device that would blend in with their clothing.

The survey also found that, if given a choice, millennials would like to suit up in the full-body armor worn by Tony Stark in Iron Man, while their parents would pick up a Starfleet wrist communicator used by Capt. James Kirk in Star Trek.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Degree Programs Are Going Mobile

Using a mobile device to earn a college degree may sound a bit farfetched, yet a quarter of the 4,000 students in the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering will complete work on their degrees online.

The USC program allows students to stream live lectures and join live class discussions via chat or phone, according to a report in eCampus News.

This move to mobile follows a survey last summer that found 53% of students were more likely to complete required assigned reading on time if it was available digitally or could be read on a mobile device. The Wakefield Research study also revealed that 83% of the responding students used a mobile device to cram for an exam, a jump of 10% over the number of students who admitted last-minute mobile studying in 2012.

“The results of this survey underscore just how much students have embraced mobile devices and digital course materials to enhance their productivity, efficiency, and performance, all of which impact students’ educational success and financial prospects in this highly competitive, globally connected world,” said CourseSmart CEO Sean Devine when the Wakefield results were announced.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Young Adults Not So Web-Wary

Here is more evidence that young adults have difficulty distinguishing between valid web sites and bogus ones: A survey commissioned by the citizens watchdog group Digital Citizens Alliance showed that 18- to 24-year-olds are much more likely to get stiffed when buying merchandise online, usually because they’re less able to spot a shady web seller.

The survey was conducted Nov. 14 by Zogby Analytics and specifically asked respondents about online shopping for gifts. The results, though, showed that a whopping 35% of the youngest adult group had not received at least one online gift order (compared to just 18% for all age groups). Of those, almost 60% also didn’t get a refund for the no-show order.

Why young adults are more apt to be victimized becomes clearer when you look at their shopping habits. More than 80% of all shoppers make sure they’re ordering from secure web sites, but only 60% of young adults bother to do so. More young adults are drawn to shop at sites offering super-cheap prices—which too often are sites run by scammers. While older shoppers balk at great deals that seem too good to be true or when the seller is unknown, younger adults haven’t yet developed that sort of radar.

This survey correlates to other studies on how college students conduct online research for schoolwork and papers. Students, especially those in their first year, are less able to discern whether online information sources are knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Younger adults may spend a lot of time online, both studying and shopping, but they apparently need instruction in separating the bad sites from the good.

Friday, November 29, 2013

E-Reading Devices Top Holiday Lists

Just in time for Black Friday, an October study by PlayCollective and Digital Book World found that nearly 46% of parents plan to buy an e-reading device for their children this holiday season. In addition, nearly 75% plan to buy e-books for the kids.

The Kindle Fire tops the wish-list for most parents at 29%, with 19% considering a new iPad. Devices with the Android operating system saw the largest leap in interest, from 11% in 2012 to 20% in 2013. Researchers felt that was due to low prices and the plethora of companies producing Android gadgets.

While the number of parents planning to buy e-books for their children during the holidays is up seven percentage points over last year, they also intend to spend less. Parents said they plan to spend just over $25 this year, $3 less than the average spent in 2012 on e-titles.

This is the third report from PlayCollective, which surveyed 603 adults with kids ages 2-13 who read e-books.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holiday Greetings

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the National Association of College Stores.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

MOOCs Reaching Educated Learners

One mission of massive open online course (MOOC) providers was to provide access to higher education to people who may not be able to afford traditional college, particularly in developing countries. New research from the University of Pennsylvania showed that’s just not happening.

The Penn study found that more than 80% of respondents to its survey of 34,779 students worldwide who took 24 MOOCs offered by university professors on the Coursera platform already had two- or four-year college degrees, while 44% had taken at least some graduate-level courses. The study also showed that 80% of MOOC students from developing countries already held degrees.

The research noted that 40% of the MOOC students were under the age of 30 and 57% were male. More than 60% were employed full-time or self-employed, with nearly half stating the main reason for taking the course was “just for fun” and another 44% wanting to gain skills to enhance their job performance.

“The MOOC phenomenon is very recent,” the authors wrote in the conclusion of the report. “The main users, especially in BRICS (students from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and developing countries tend to be young, well-educated males who are trying to advance in their jobs. While there is tremendous hope for this educational platform, the individuals the MOOC revolution is supposed to help the most—those without access to higher education in developing countries—are conspicuously underrepresented among the early adopters.”

A lack of access to technology is the main reason poorer individuals are not studying online, according to Brandon Alcorn, project manager for global initiatives at Penn. Plus, many people don’t have the time or basic level of education necessary to take college-level courses.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Flipped Classrooms Gaining Momentum

A new report from the Center for Digital Education and Sonic Foundry found that half of the faculty members participating in an the online survey said they are using the flipped-classroom model or plan to in the next 12 months. Of the respondents already using the technique, 57% said the experience was successful.

A flipped classroom allows students to learn new content at home online, with what used to be homework assignments being done in class with the instructor offering more personalized guidance and interaction.

According to the study, 81% of respondents reported an “improved mastery of information” from students, while 80% said there was “improved retention of information.” Instructors also cited better learning experiences for students, greater availability of technology, and positive results from trials as the top reasons for using flipped classrooms.

“Based upon my experience, the benefits of the flipped-classroom model far outweigh the challenges, and I’ve seen the difficulties with implementing the model decrease over time as efficiencies are realized,” Clemson University lecturer Ralph Welsh wrote in the report. “It has also allowed me to tailor my classroom time more toward answering specific student questions and discussing the material at a more applied, higher level of thinking.”

Preparing for a flipped classroom takes more time, according to 75% of the responding faculty members, but 83% agreed or strongly agreed that the model had a positive impact on their classrooms. Another 86% said student attitudes improved as well.

A quarter of the respondents said they plan to use flipped classrooms across all disciplines and 51% record their own video content.  A webcast of the findings is available at sonicfoundry.com.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Don't Look to MOOCs for Revenue Yet

Massive open online courses will not create revenue, or even save money, according to a study from the American Council on Education (ACE) and InsideTrack. The study was based on interviews with campus administrators and instructors with firsthand experience using MOOCs.

Nearly every instructor participating in the survey said teaching a MOOC was a good experience and 92% are planning to teach more. The respondents just don’t see the courses as a way for their schools to make money, according to a report in eCampus News.

“Don’t view MOOCs as either revenue-generating or cost-saving vehicles,” one administrator wrote. “They are neither.”

That doesn’t mean some professors aren’t trying. Students at the University of Texas at Austin can pay a $550 registration fee to take a psychology MOOC for three credit hours. At the beginning of October, 1,500 students had signed up for what the professors decided to call a synchronous massive online course (SMOC), which could generate $825,000 if all the participants complete the course.

In addition, almost half of administrators and instructors in the ACE/InsideTrack study felt MOOCs were important to help an institution expand its reach and increase access to higher education. More than half of the respondents also said creating a MOOC is important to develop an instructor’s online pedagogy.

“We didn’t jump in to make money,” one respondent wrote. “The business model is intriguing, but we didn’t go in with those expectations and that remains the same. We reached people we wouldn’t have otherwise, and for every student who enrolled there were 10 times as many who looked at us. It’s become a great platform to promote the brand of our institution and aligns with our mission to share knowledge.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Push for Legalizing Book Piracy

A Pakistani bookseller was recently sentenced to seven years in prison and a hefty fine for printing and selling unauthorized copies of textbooks copyrighted by Oxford University Press (OUP). That sort of piracy is rampant in many parts of Asia, and publishers are trying to crack down on it.

In India, OUP has filed a lawsuit, together with Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis, against a copyshop affiliated with Delhi University for unlawfully reproducing and selling their books. This suit, however, has spurred a movement to legalize copying of materials for academic purposes.

The Indian government is considering petitioning the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to revise its copyright rules to allow academic and research institutions to make copies of course materials without getting permission from or paying the copyright-holders, usually the publishers.

The government’s position is that students and educators should have free and open access to materials used for teaching and learning. Other countries, such as Chile, have made the same argument.

If WIPO agrees, the change could cost publishers a ton of revenue and raises the question: Who then ought to pay for development of course materials?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Facebook Partners with Computer Students

Facebook has been participating in a computer engineering program for more than a year. Now, it’s expanding the program, partnering with 22 universities around the world to pair computer science students with open-source projects that need help.

The program will provide academic credit at no additional cost, with class sizes limited to four to 10 students per school, according to a report in VentureBeat.

In the Facebook Open Academy, Facebook engineers and computer science professors match students with good open-source projects. In the spring of 2013, the academy started with students and mentors spending a weekend together “learning and hacking.” The students then returned to campus to work in virtual teams.

Mentors continued to help students find tasks and review code, while course instructors met with the teams to review progress. Students worked on a variety of sites, reducing bugs and improving efficiencies of the open-source projects.

The expanded effort will start in February with a three-day kickoff event for participating faculty, students, and open-source mentors at Facebook’s headquarters.

“We believe that contributing to open-source projects is one of the best ways a student can prepare for a job in the industry,” Facebook said in a post on its Facebook Engineering page.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Schools Can Crowdfund a 3-D Printer

The maker of a 3-D printer wants to put its product in schools across the country and is asking everybody to pitch in. MakerBot Industries is offering a starter kit along with information on a crowdfunding site to help those interested pay the $2,550 cost of the kit.

The kit includes the MakerBot Republicator 2 printer, raw materials needed to get started, and a service plan from the company. Teachers must describe what they would do with the printer on the crowdfunding site, DonorsChoose.org, to raise all but $98, which must be raised offline.

Autodesk, the maker of 3-D design software, has already signed on to fund 500 projects, and Bre Pettis, one of the founders of MakerBot Industries, has made one of the largest individual donations DonorsChoose has ever received, according to a report in  Bloomberg Businessweek.

While skeptics might contend it’s a project clearly aimed at raising sales for MakerBot, Pettis said he’s doing it because subjects such as shop have been eliminated at many schools, which means students rarely make anything with their hands. Besides, he doesn’t really need the money since MakerBot Industries was purchased by Stratasys for $403 million in June.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Beware of CryptoLocker

CryptoLocker is a form of ransomware that targets computers by disguising itself as a legitimate attachment that, when opened, locks up all the files of an infected computer, including backup files. Only the hackers have the decryption key, demanding $300, or two Bitcoins, to release it.

Now, to add insult to injury, the gang behind the malware has created a customer service site for victims who need help in making the payment, according to a report from The Today Show. People can use CryptoLocker Decryption Service to check the status of their payment and complete the transaction, at an additional cost.

“They were leaving money on the table,” said Lawrence Abrams, who has tracked the spread of this malware on BleepingComputer.com. “They created this site to capture all of the money they were losing because people couldn’t figure out how to make the ransom payment or missed the deadline.”

There is a 72-hour deadline to pay for the decryption key, which jumps from two Bitcoins to 10, or nearly $4,000 on today’s market, if missed. A Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer digital currency which the U.S Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission consider a legitimate financial instrument.

According to Abrams, CryptoLocker uses Zip files to worm its way into computers and is password protected, which allows it to get past security software. He added that the password has been “PaSdlaoQ” for everyone so far.

The advice to protect users from the malware is not new: Don’t open attachments from unknown senders, have up-to-date security software, and back up files often.

“This is scary stuff,” said Brian Krebs on the KrebsOnSecurity blog. “People need to rethink how they protect their important files.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

MOOCs Need Better Assessment

Primary Research Group released a report that showed just 7.8% of the U.S. higher education institutions offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) for college credit, but that nearly half of the schools in the survey felt they would be offering at least one MOOC within three years.

The survey also found some colleges would consider accepting MOOC credit if there was a mechanism to assess knowledge gained. Accurate assessment, according to John Ebersole, president of the online college Excelsior College, is a concern that must be addressed.

“Even where credit has been recommended, questions remain as to the extent that participants actually learned anything,” Ebersole wrote in a blog post for WCET. “While few question the capabilities of the sponsoring institutions or their faculty, the degree to which these reputational factors translate into learning is not clear. To date, very little attention has been given to the measurement of learning outcomes by MOOC providers.”

At the same time, Ebersole is convinced the issue should be easy to overcome.

“While most MOOCs have so far featured topics for which there isn’t an appropriate exam, the process to create one is not substantially longer or more complex than what is required to create and offer a course in MOOC format,” he wrote. “In return for paying more attention to the learning outcomes, and how they are measured, MOOC providers can only help enhance the credibility of this pioneering effort, but also gain credibility in the eyes of the critics.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

Intel Makes Move into Education Market

The education marketplace is beginning to get pretty crowded with tech companies. Amazon, Apple, and Google have all staked claims, and now semiconductor chip-maker Intel is making its move with the acquisition of e-textbook provider Kno.

John Galvin, vice president of sales and marketing at Intel, confirmed the purchase on the Intel blog.  According to Galvin, the purchase “provides administrators and teachers with the tools they need to easily assign, manage, and monitor their digital learning content and assessments.”

Or it could suggest that Kno has failed. The company was unable to make its tablet work and Om Malik reported in GigaOm that Kno also has tried to work with CourseSmart to keep its content platform viable.

“Industry sources tell us that Kno cut deals with publishers that limited its take to about 15% of gross revenues,” Malik wrote. “At the same time, it wasn’t able to get the volumes necessary to grow its business—it was in competition for dollars from older ways of doing things: buying textbooks, both new and old and, of course, the newer trend of renting books from the likes of Chegg.”

The purchase makes sense for Intel because it provides content to go along with the package of tools developed by Intel Education. The bundle of hardware, software, and content that is already available for iOS, Android, and Windows operating systems, puts Intel in a position to compete in the education market, according to an article in Sci-Tech Today.

Besides, Kno has worked with Intel on textbook initiatives in China and listed Intel Capital as one of its investors.

“It became more attractive to me to have them be part of the portfolio rather than just a partner,” Galvin told TechCrunch.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Council to Look at Online Standards

The Simon Initiative was launched by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to study technology-aided learning. Working in unison with the initiative, CMU has established the Global Learning Council, a group of educators, researchers, and technology company executives, to develop standards for online learning and identify best practices.

“In the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion thanks to the development of technology about the delivery of education in a scalable way to large numbers of students across national borders,” CMU President Subra Suresh told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “The missing piece is how much are students learning amid all this technology? The other piece is what are the metrics, best practices, and eventually standards, if you will, that are collectively developed and acceptable for those who engage?”

Carnegie Mellon has studied student interaction with learning software for decades and will provide access to that data, along with seed funding to support the work.

“Online education is now taking on an extremely prominent role internationally,” said Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities and a member of the council. “Yet even as online education expands rapidly and on an enormous scale, there is very little good research on the best forms of online learning, and, I might add, there are no good studies on what constitutes bad online pedagogy, of which there is a fair amount.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

MOOC Focused on Entrepreneurship

The sage on the stage—a professor lecturing to an auditorium full of students—is what massive open online courses (MOOCs) were trying to get away from. Unfortunately, it’s also proven to be an effective way for MOOCs to deliver information on a large scale.

NovoEd, a new MOOC provider launched last April, is trying to change that with courses focused on student participation and collaboration, according to a report in Campus Technology.

“The problem right now with most MOOCs out there is that they are focusing on the most boring part of education: the talking head and multiple-choice questions,” said Amin Saberi, an associate professor of engineering at Stanford and founder of NovoEd. “Education is not the content; it’s what you take with you when you forget the content.”

The company has developed a platform that uses social media to encourage student interaction and foster collaboration. It also created algorithms to organize students into groups.

NovoEd offers almost 30 courses ranging from everyday mathematics to anatomy, but is mainly focused on entrepreneurship through a partnership with Babson Global. Saberi told Bloomberg BusinessWeek in August that nearly 350,000 students had studied entrepreneurship using the platform, with completion rates as high as 47%. Additionally, those student teams launched more than 7,000 new businesses.

“MOOCs will destroy geographical boundaries,” said Anne Trumbore, senior course designer for NovoEd. “People who are passionately interested in a topic but spread out across the world will finally be able to collaborate in a real way and form communities around their interests.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

E-Ink Technology Enhanced and Refocused

E-ink spurred the e-reader revolution as technology that provided devices featuring easy-to-read displays and long battery life. Then, the high-resolution color screens and multitasking capabilities of tablet computers came along and shoved e-readers to the side, according to analyst firm iSuppli, which reported e-reader sales fell from 23 million units in 2011 to 15 million in 2012.

“Tablets are good and getting better,” Alva Taylor, faculty director for the Center of Digital Strategies at Dartmouth University, told Technology Review. “I think there are multiple technologies that beat the experiences that e-ink provides. To me, e-ink is like duct tape as a product. They are never going to be as good as nuts and bolts and screws. But for certain kinds of small applications, they are perfect.”

Those small applications are exactly what the firm E Ink is focused on.

While E Ink continues to work on color for its displays, it’s also finding uses for the technology in flexible devices that require a tiny battery, making the firms in the emerging smartwatch market potential customers. The technology could also turn up in three-color store signs, while improvements are being made to provide enhanced readability, smoother page turns, and even lower power consumption on e-readers.

Monday, November 11, 2013

BOGO Works for University Press

BOGO (buy one, get one) offers are very popular with consumers, so the University Press of Kentucky decided to give the promotion a try. Book owners who submit a photo of themselves holding their hard copy of a book from the press will receive the e-book version for free.

“It’s a great way to increase brand loyalty and to increase awareness of us as a publisher,” Mack McCormick, director of publicity, told Inside Higher Education.

The University Press of Kentucky has 476 titles with e-book versions. The press went with the loyalty program because it felt readers would appreciate the free electronic version of a title they already owned. There is a cost to sending the e-books, but McCormick said it was minimal.

The University of Chicago Press has been offering one free e-title each month since November 2009. Those titles are often the first one in multivolume collections or a feature work of an author with a recently released title. Between 2,000-4,000 readers download the title each month, but since the University of Chicago Press owns the digital asset management unit, there is no cost to providing the electronic version.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Study Finds Students Satisfied with MOOCs

While there are issues with massive open online courses’ (MOOCs) with retention rates, students who complete them appear to be satisfied, according to a study from the University of London International Programmes.

Ninety-one percent of the students responding to the survey on university MOOCs hosted on the Coursera platform rated the experience as good, very good, or excellent. Around 42% of the 210,000 students participating in the four MOOCs offered were considered active students, those who downloaded a video lecture, took an online quiz, or posted to the class forum.

“Considering that the courses are free and allow students to do as much or as little work as they like, the number of students engaging in the course is considerable,” Mike Kerrison, director of academic development for the University of London International Programmes, said in an article for eCampus News, which also reported that just 4% of the students actually completed the MOOCs.

Research from Stanford University found that super-involved students, known as SuperPosters, sometimes account for up to a quarter of the total comments submitted to forums for online classes. The study also showed that SuperPosters not only participated in the forums, but also achieved high grades.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Botlike Book Can Fetch Answers

Artificial intelligence, the technology that enables robots to respond to their environment like humans, may also help improve how college students interact with textbooks. A small project conducted in 2012 showed students who studied with an AI-enhanced digital textbook earned higher marks. A larger pilot is now in development.

As described in the fall 2013 edition of the Association for the Advancement ofArtificial Intelligence’s AI Magazine, the Inquire Project created an intelligent app for selected chapters of the popular Campbell Biology text used by many introductory biology courses.

The app allowed students to key in free-form questions about the content while they were studying on an iPad. They could also tap the screen to access detailed concept summary pages, pop-up definitions, and follow-up questions as well as highlight text to create “note cards” with related questions. The app was developed at the Artificial Intelligence Center at SRI International, with funding from Vulcan Inc., a company owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

In an evaluation conducted with 72 community college students, one third of the group used the traditional print version of Campbell Biology while another third studied from the AI-enhanced digital version of the book. The remaining third was assigned to the regular digital version, which permitted basic highlighting and annotations but didn’t have the AI extras. All of the students were asked to read certain chapters for an hour, spend 90 minutes on homework, and then take a 20-minute quiz.

Quiz scores averaged 88 for the AI group but only 81 for the print textbook and just 75 for the unenhanced digital textbook. Homework scores were similar: 81 for AI, 71 for print, and 74 for “plain” digital.

The conclusion? Being able to “ask” questions and view summaries right on the page they were reading apparently aided students’ comprehension and retention of the material. The 72 participants posed a total of 520 questions during two and a half hours of reading and homework. Of those, 194 questions were unique but only 59 were asked by more than one student, indicating that different students needed clarification of different textbook content.