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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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Moving to digital Textbooks

Public K-12 school districts spend $7 billion on textbooks each year, even though most textbooks are 7-10 years old before they are replaced, according to data from the Digital Textbook Playbook that was created by the Federal Communications Commission. In addition, 81% of teachers believe tablets can enhance student learning.

Despite the interest and any possible savings, moving to digital isn’t as easy as it may look and OnlineCollege.org has created an infographic that brings some of the difficulties into focus. The graphic points to areas administrators must consider before making the swith to digital.

They include: 
  • Intensive planning and creating clear goals.
  • Teacher training and involvement.
  • Collaborative leadership.
  • A commitment to continuous support.
  • Determining current and future connectivity needs.

Brookings Report Cites Ed-Tech Successes

A new report from the Brookings Institute features massive open online courses (MOOCs) as one of five educational technology “success stories,” in large part because of their potential to cut costs of higher education.

“Tuition has risen steeply over the past five decades, and the resulting cuts have negatively impacted students and restricted access by poorer students,” the authors of Education Technology Success Stories wrote. “MOOCs could dramatically decrease the costs for universities and offer courses to students all over the world.”

The savings are derived from instructional productivity because of MOOCs have the potential to reach so many more students. The report suggests that MOOCs could decrease the number of introductory courses and free professors to teach other classes.

In addition to MOOCs, the report lists robot assisted language learning, the independent computer game Minecraft, computerized adaptive testing, and stealth assessments as educational success stories.

“Providing students more opportunities to learn and to demonstrate proficiency will allow for a more meritocratic education system,” the authors wrote. “Assessments don’t have expectations for students. Any student, regardless of background, can use technology to earn accreditation for their learning.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Professors Surveyed on Teaching MOOCs

A survey of professors who have taught massive open online courses (MOOCs) by The Chronicle of Higher Education found that 79% believed MOOCs are worth the publicity that has been generated, while 64% said they believed MOOCs could help reduce the cost of attaining a college degree to some degree at their particular institutions.

The results show professors are beginning to accept and embrace MOOCs, according to The Chronicle. It’s surprising because surveys of chief academic administrators have found that just 30% thought that their faculty members accept the value of online education.

Online questionnaires were sent in February to 184 professors who have taught MOOCs, with 103 responding. The Chronicle was quick to admit the results were unscientific, but two-thirds of the professors who did respond had taught for more than a decade and would not be considered a group of MOOC “true believers.”

The survey found that 97% of the instructors used original videos in their courses and 75% used open educational resources. However, professors also reported spending more than 100 hours on MOOCs before the first class and up to eight to 10 hours each week keeping the MOOC materials up to date and answering students.

“I had almost no time for anything else,” said Geoffrey Hinton, professor of computer science at the University of Toronto. “My graduate students suffered as a consequence. It’s equivalent to volunteering to supply a textbook for free and to provide one chapter of camera-ready copy every week without fail.”

While The Chronicle research shows professors may be starting to embrace the idea of MOOCs, there’s still some convincing left to do. Although the professors felt MOOCs could cut college costs, 72% felt that students didn’t deserve formal credit.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Multitasking During a Lecture Distracts

One concern instructors have about students using electronic devices in the classroom is that they can be a distraction. A new study from York University, Toronto, found that it’s not only a distraction to the student using the device, but also to their peers nearby.

The study asked undergraduate-level students to use a laptop to take notes during a class lecture. Half the class was assigned to do tasks that mimicked what a typical student might do while browsing the web as the class was going on. The entire class was given a comprehension test at the end of the lecture, with the multitasking students receiving lower grades than the other half of the class.

While those results are not particularly surprising, the study also found that students sitting close to multitasking students also did poorly on the test, even though they had been instructed to take notes with pencil and paper.

“The results of our experiment confirm that multitasking on a laptop reduces a student’s ability to comprehend lecture content,” Tina West, co-author of the study and doctoral student at York University, said in a release. “A more surprising finding was that students sitting nearby a multitasker also underperformed, despite actively trying to focus on the lecture. These students were placed at a disadvantage because of the choices of their peers.”

As part of the study, the researchers created a list of frequently asked questions which describes the problems and provides solutions teachers can consider to help keep their students’ attention during lectures.

Monday, March 25, 2013

EdX Releases Its Source Code

EdX was launched to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) to a worldwide audience at no cost. Now, anyone can develop independent course components on the edX platform.

The nonprofit, founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the source code that support the edX course content available to all with the release of its XBlock SDK.

XBlocks are the application programming interface for combining edX courseware components, such as video players and learning sequences. The source code, available for download at github.com/edX/XBlock, allows developers to create collaborative learning tools and online laboratories by combining independent XBlocks.

“When we released our XBlock code last week, it represented the first step toward our vision of creating an open online learning platform that mirrors the collaborative philosophy of MOOCs themselves and leverages global community developers to deliver the world’s best and most accessible online learning experience,” Anant Agarwal, president of edX, told Technapex.  “We believe that the open source path is the right one to help us achieve that goal because it allows us to tap the brainpower of the entire world’s developers to constantly enhance and improve the edX platform.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Research Finds Online Achievement Gap

A recent study from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University suggests that while low-cost online courses may provide more opportunity to try college, the achievement gap can also be widening among students.

Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas studied 500,000 online courses taken by 40,000 community- and technical-college students in Washington state. It found that students taking more online courses were less likely to earn a degree, particularly among the demographics of black students, male students, younger students, and students with low grade-point averages. Older students with families and female students fared much better, according to the research.

“We found that the gap is stronger in the underrepresented and underprepared students,” said Shanna Smith Jaggars, assistant director of the CCRC. “They are falling farther behind than if they were taking face-to-face courses.”

On the other hand, Kathy B. Enger, director of the Northern Lights Library Network, suggests online education gives minority students more freedom of expression and that problems students may have are  probably because the instructor isn’t reaching out to them in the right ways.

“If it’s not working, find out what’s not working. Then make it work,” Enger told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

'Textbook-Free' Degree Being Offered

Tidewater Community College (TCC), with branches in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach, VA, is planning to offer an associate of science degree program in business administration that won’t require the purchase of any textbooks. The school says it’s the first program of its kind and could reduce the cost of the degree by a third.

“I think we have a responsibility as a college to do what we can to help control the costs of textbooks, because we know there are students who can’t afford them,” Daniel T. DeMarte, TCC vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer told eCampus News. “We know there are students who are not successful because they can’t afford them.”

The fall pilot will use open educational resources (OER) instead of traditional textbooks, a move the college estimates will save students who complete the degree about $2,000. Additional academic advising will also be made available to students in the OER courses.

“When a student hears it’s a textbook-free course, that doesn’t mean they don’t have to read,” said Kimberly Bovee, associate vice president for strategic learning initiatives at TCC. “That doesn’t mean they don’t have to engage in the course material and maybe read even more than they’re used to.”

Virginia State University, Petersburg, already uses open digital textbooks in all of the core courses in its business program, while the state community college system is trying to expand the OER courses offered through grants to instructors who develop material for high-enrollment classes that can be shared across the system.

“I think it’s one of the biggest rip-offs in this business,” Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia community college system, said of the cost of textbooks. “I say that not as a chancellor: I say it as a father who just had to give his daughter 600 bucks to buy this semester’s textbooks at a public university.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Supreme Court Rules Against Publisher in Copyright Suit

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to publishers Tuesday, ruling that purchasing books and goods legally abroad and then reselling them in the United States doesn’t violate U.S. copyright laws. In a 6-3 decision, the court threw out a lower-court ruling against a graduate student who sold bought cheap textbooks created for foreign markets by a U.S. publisher at below-market prices.

The court ruled that once goods are lawfully sold, publishers and manufacturers lose the protection of U.S. copyright laws.

The case started when John Wiley & Sons successfully sued Thai grad student Supap Kirtsaeng for selling $900,000 worth of international textbooks to other students in the U.S. A New York court ruled Kirtsaeng sold the titles without permission and awarded Wiley $600,000.

Advocates against the lower-court ruling claimed that if allowed to stand, it would hamper the sale of many goods sold online and in discount stores. Retailers estimated that most of the more than $2.3 trillion worth of foreign goods imported in 2011 were bought after they were first purchased abroad.

Dissenting justices argued the court ignored Congress’s intent to protect companies against low-priced foreign copies of copyrighted works.

“We are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme court has decided in favor of supap Kirtsaeng and overturned the Second Circuit’s ruling,” said Stephen M Smith, president and CEO of Wiley, in a statement about the decision. “It is a loss for the U.S. economy, and students and authors in the U.S. and around the world.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Making Higher Ed More Productive

According to Bruce Guile, president and co-founder of Course Gateway, and David Teece, executive director of the Institute of Business Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, a professor of today is really not that much more productive than his or her counterpart from the Middle Ages.

The problem even has a name: “Baumol’s cost disease,” after economist William Baumol, who helped identify the issue in the 1960s as a root of the rising costs of higher education.

Guile and Teece suggest that is changing as new innovations, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs), become more popular. MOOCs make it possible for teachers from some of the most prestigious universities in the world to deliver high-quality instruction to thousands of students at one time, increasing productivity and potentially lowering costs.

MOOCs give students the opportunity to take a statistics class from the best instructors at Caltech and learn Shakespeare from professors at Cambridge. At some point, though, this may lead to a “modularization of higher education,” in which each school packages its best instruction for worldwide delivery.

“Both during and after this restructuring in U.S. higher education, universities, governments, and companies in emerging economies will be able to tap low-cost, high-quality online education to leapfrog the slow and painstaking process of developing education capacity to meet critical national needs,” Guiles and Teece wrote in their Leadership Forum post for Forbes. “They will rebundle modules for their purposes and populations to create certificates and degrees that meet local demand.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Education's Issue with Broadband Access

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become all the rage in education, but accessibility issues have the potential to bring the model to its knees.

The Fairfax County Public School grappled with problem as students struggled to finish their homework using an e-textbook because they either didn’t have broadband access at home or a fast enough connection, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. If a school district in a wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C., has students that have no or limited broadband access, how will less affluent districts or those in rural areas where broadband access is limited fare?

A Pew Internet & American Life Project survey last year found that only 66% of American adults have broadband access at home. Just one-fifth of elementary- and secondary-school teachers in the U.S. said that all or most of their students had access at home. In addition, many telecommunications providers have moved away from unlimited-access smartphone plans and Internet providers could just as easily move away from similar unlimited high-speed home options.

While some libraries are up to speed, many remain behind in the technology race, according to a 2012 study by the American Library Association. That research found that more than 40% of public libraries didn’t provide enough Internet access to meet the demands of patrons, while 65% reported not having enough public computers.

Of course, students can always head out to their neighborhood Starbucks, and maybe even their college store, since many retailers now offer high-speed access as a service to customers.

“The question is, ‘What is the new basic?’” said Martin Hilbert, research fellow at the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, University of Southern California. “There will always be inequality. But 100 years after the introduction of the car, not everybody has a Ferrari, but everyone has access to some form of motorized transportation through buses.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

UC Irvine Launches Open Chemistry

The University of California at Irvine is taking the massive open online course (MOOC) to another level with Open Chemistry. What’s different about the project is it provides students with video and other content for all the required courses a chemistry major would take, along with some electives and graduate courses, online and for free.

Students have access to 15 quarter-length undergraduate chemistry video lectures, which started with three classes of Organic Chemistry filmed by Professor James Norwick. The videos ended up on YouTube, where they have been viewed thousands of times. While UC Irvine is not offering credit through Open Chemistry, it does leave open the possibility that other institutions could use the videos to provide the laboratory experience and testing necessary for certification.

“The UCI Department of Chemistry has broken new ground by allowing students to follow a coherent and integrated pathway toward full mastery of undergraduate chemistry,” said Gary W. Matkin, dean of continuing education, distance learning, and summer session at UC Irvine, in a pressrelease. “This is the first time that students and professors can find a complete undergraduate major in a consistent and high-quality video format on a single web site.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wiley, OpenStax Make Strange bedfellows

John Wiley & Sons Inc. is in business to make a profit off the educational material it produces, while OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization that provides open educational materials (OER) to college students online for free. Those two very different approaches make their announced partnership seem odd at first glance.

The companies are going to collaborate on two new biology textbooks created by OpenStax College. The arrangement calls for Wiley to deliver the OpenStax content through its WileyPlus online environment, with Wiley trying to turn a profit by adding value to the content though its interactive learning tools.

“OpenStax College and Wiley are breaking new ground by working together to broaden access and add value to high-quality OER content,” said Joe Heider, senior vice president of Wiley Global Education, in a press release announcing the partnership. “By integrating OpenStax content with WileyPlus practice and assessment resources, this partnership gives students the option of paying a reduced price for a personalized experience that is proven to improve learning outcomes.”

The partnership also provides a way for Wiley to offer an introductory college biology text without developing one of its own. Some chapters of the OpenStax material are already online. The remainder are expected to be completed in the fall when Wiley will begin pilots for the WileyPlus college biology products.

“As I understand it, their mission is to improve the accessibility of affordable educational materials, and we actually share that goal,” Kaye Pace, vice president and executive publisher at Wiley, told Information Week. “We would like to offer students more attractive pricing.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Role for Hi-Ed Campuses? Just Ask

In the Internet age, the role of colleges and universities as bastions of knowledge and education may be in jeopardy, unless they adapt.

“We are awash in information,” said Michael Wesch in his Thought Leader educational session, The End of Wonder and the Age of Whatever, at CAMEX 2013 in Kansas City, MO. Wesch—associate professor of cultural anthropology, Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, Kansas State University, Manhattan, and U.S. Professor of the Year—thinks higher education can no longer be a place just for the collection and exchange of information.

“We have to redefine college campuses as more than just information flow,” he said. “If we define them as information, we’re going to get beat.” He pointed to the vast array of information available on the web, online learning systems that interact and respond to students’ individual learning needs, and social media that enable students to connect with almost anyone.

A more critical role for hi-ed campuses, Wesch said, might be to encourage people to come together to raise and explore questions. “What if we redefined the university around questions?” he asked.

Questions, he added, generate cycles of curiosity and discovery to “create a life of wonder.” Too often, though, students focus on the administrative side of education. Wesch said he once stopped midway through a lecture and invited questions from his students about the topic. Instead, they wanted to know the deadline for papers and how much a test counted toward their final grade.

To take on this new role, campuses need to create an environment that nurtures questions and gives students the courage to speak up. “We need this space to be a place of awe and wonder,” Wesch said. “When you give students a sense of wonder, they start to see connections.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Survey: Students Use More Native Apps

As more and more school districts, colleges, and universities turn to mobile devices to enhance learning, understanding how students use those devices becomes important. Purdue University conducted as survey in the fall of 2011 to find out which gadgets its students were using and if they had a preference between device-neutral web applications or “native” apps built for a specific platform.

Student Preferences of Mobile App Usage, by Kyle Bowen, director of informatics, and Matthew D. Pistilli, research scientist for information technology at Purdue, didn’t try to settle the debate on which mobile category was best, but rather tried to determine what was being used and on what type of device.

The report, recently released by Educause, found that 83% of the 1,566 responding students owned Android phones or iPhones and that the same percentage felt they had intermediate or advanced skills in using their preferred gadget. The study found a significant number of students spent more time using native apps to access course-related tasks and viewed the apps as faster and easier to use, but added that those numbers may have more to do with the marketing of apps.

“It is clear that students who own smartphones have owned them for some time—the vast majority for a year or more,” the researchers wrote. “Further, they spend hours each day consuming everything that smartphones have to offer. This level of usage presents a great opportunity for institutions to deliver new services and technologies—not by creating a new destination but by claiming a virtual footprint in a place where students are already spending considerable time.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Amplify Tablet Ready for Classrooms

It seems as if a new tablet computer hits the market every week, but a New York-based company is betting its tablet will be a hit. Amplify Education Inc., part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., introduced its Amplify tablet at the South x Southwest education conference. The device that will come preloaded with everything a student needs to get through the school day.

The Amplify tablet is priced at $299 for Wi-Fi-only models and $349 for a 4G unit. Each device also requires a two-year service and materials bundle that adds $99 a year for Wi-Fi and $179 a year for the 4G model.

While somewhat pricey, the bundles provide all textbooks, lessons, tests, and e-books a student is assigned. Teachers will be able to run a class and see what web sites and lesson areas students are visiting, while the teacher dashboard will allow for instant polls and keep tabs on students through the “Eyes on Teacher” button that sends a message to every screen in the classroom.

“We must use technology to empower teachers and improve the way students learn,” Joel Klein, CEO of Amplify Education, told eSchool News. “At its best, education technology will change the face of education by helping teachers manage the classroom and personalize instruction.”

Instant connectivity between student and teacher is what Amplify developers believe sets their tablet apart from other devices, such as the Apple iPad.

“If you go to Best Buy or a retailer and buy a tablet off the shelf, it can’t do this,” said Stephen Smyth, president of the Amplify division that created the digital platform that delivers course material to the device, in an interview on NPR.org. “Really, what we’re trying to solve here is actually how to have teachers use tablets in the classroom environment.”

While creating a buzz, the Amplify tablet also has its detractors. Some in education worry the device is more about profit than education and will make it easier for politicians to make the case for eliminating school district costs through cutting teaching positions.

“It’s all part of the same vision they have for transforming education by privatizing it,” Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters in New York, told NPR. “And we have seen, not just in New York City but nationwide, an avid pillaging going on of public resources for private ends.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Workshops Crank Out Ideas for Bookstore

Once upon a time, Foyles was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest bookstore because of its 30 miles of shelf space and the number of titles on display. In an effort to regain its former glory, the store, founded in London in 1903 by William and Gilbert Foyle, conducted a pair of workshops to discuss a move planned for 2014, what the new store should look like, and what the nature of the bookstore should be going forward.

The assembly of authors, poets, literary agents, booksellers, sales directors, technology developers, and librarians came up with plenty of ideas, such as the store providing bibliotherapy, which, when combined with writing therapy, has shown potential as treatment for depression. Other suggestions included providing personal shopping, membership clubs, writers in residences, listening ports for audiobooks, and services that would make the bookstore a social experience.

“Bookshops are often seen as old-fashioned, but these workshops give books a chance to be at the center of the conversation,” said Phil Jones, a blogger for The Bookseller, for an article in the The Telegraph.

“It was a fantastic project for us—after all, this is a chance to work on the most famous bookshop in the world,” said Alex Lifschutz, the architect designing the new Foyles location. “How many times in our life will we witness the rebirth of the bookshop?”

Such a workshop—with participants from faculty, staff, the community, and the student body—could be a catalyst for similar ideas and discussion in the college store. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ottawa's Online Program Adding Video

Ottawa University, a 7,000-student institution in Ottawa, KS, is partnering with Blackboard on a new strategic initiative giving students 24/7 access to learning opportunities through tools offered by Blackboard, regardless of the student’s location.

A goal of the initiative, dubbed Project Virtuoso, is to provide instruction to both in-class and remote students through videoconferencing. Students will also be able to work with faculty and staff through virtual office hours and instant messaging.

“This partnership promises to be a real game-changer for us and potentially all of higher education,” President Kevin C. Eichner said in a university press release.

The program will begin with the Ottawa business school program in the spring and will eventually link students and faculty on the university’s campuses in Ottawa, Kansas City, Arizona, Indiana, and Wisconsin, according to a report in Campus Technology.

Blackboard has agreed to establish the Blackboard Center for Academic Innovation and house it in the Gangwish Gibson Library and Student Center, which will begin construction in May. Blackboard will also help fund the university’s Curriculum Design Studio, which is working on a media unit to support the online collaboration.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Keeping Up with Broadband Demand

Most college students head to campus with an armload of electronic devices, from desktop and laptop computers to gaming systems, DVD players, and smartphones. Some of the gadgets are used for study, but many are for communication and entertainment purposes, which is causing problems for the institutions’ IT staffs as they struggle to keep up with bandwidth demand.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Ohio University, Athens, had to deal with Internet outages caused by students staying in their rooms and using their electronic devices during bad weather in March 2011. The outages happened despite efforts to increase bandwidth and limit use.

About 76% of chief information officers surveyed for a report from the Association of Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education said they worried about the increasing demand for bandwidth on their campus. In addition, 77% cited the increasing number of mobile devices as a major concern.

“A lot of these students are running YouTube, but what they’re doing is listening to music through YouTube, using up bandwidth, while they’re connected to the Internet studying,” said Jack Suess, chief information officer, University of Maryland-Baltimore County. “It’s just background noise.”

Netflix and music services make staying ahead of demand a headache, but it’s also expensive to provide the additional bandwidth. Ohio University reported its IT costs have risen nearly 107% from 2007 to this year. A 2012 survey of IT professionals found that while nearly 90% of respondents said their IT departments paid for the cost of network bandwidth, 60% reported not being able to recover the costs.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In Spring, Students' Fancy Turns to E-Texts

Come late spring, an interesting thing happens on college and university campuses, and it’s not related to romance or spring-break shenanigans: Students suddenly start buying more e-textbooks.

The number of purchasers isn’t huge, but it’s enough to create a noticeable spike, according to Kirk Bodick, vice president of sales for Akademos, Norwalk, CT, in his Flash session on the Akademos-TextbookX Online Bookstore Trends Report at CAMEX 2013 in Kansas City. The trends report tracked student book purchases for the last three years.

Late-spring e-book sales to students “reach the highest percentage of total book sales” for the academic year, Bodick said.

Bodick speculated the uptick came from students who had tried to avoid buying course materials for class and then found themselves needing the book to study for exams. Campus store attendees in the audience confirmed their print stock levels are low late in the semester, which might leave digital books as the only fast option for students. Bodick noted online book marketplaces such as Akademos do still have used copies available at that time “but it’s a question of the quality of condition.”

But if spring e-book sales go largely to procrastinators, why isn’t there a corresponding bump in sales late in the fall term?

Bodick said early purchases by summer-term students may be augmenting the spring numbers. Another audience member suggested students may be receiving iPads or other reading devices as holiday gifts, providing a ready backup for students hoping to get by without any book.

Another possibility is the start of the third term at quarter schools may be tipping spring e-book sales.

Monday, March 4, 2013

College Stores Can Help With Digital Output

Frank Lowney returned from CAMEX 2013 with a fresh appreciation for campus bookstore, but he has a key piece of advice for them.

Lowney,  project coordinator of the Digital Innovation Group, an initiative of the University System of Georgia and Georgia College & State University, went to Kansas City as a Thought Leader presenter at CAMEX, discussing course materials in a digital age.

He saw firsthand at the CAMEX trade show that collegiate retailers are diversifying their product mix, but wonders if that will be enough if students no longer go to the store to obtain required course materials. And, as he wrote in his TeleRead blog post, that day may be getting closer.

In the end, Lowney’s best advice for college stores is to explore every possible avenue to help institutions create and distribute their own digital course material.

“Campus bookstores, libraries, and university presses (where they exist) are natural allies in this kind of effort,” he wrote. “Faculty creating e-textbooks may have the content expertise, but they will need lots of help in all the other aspect of book production.”

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cool New Tech Products to Watch

Keeping up with the latest electronic devices can be daunting. Just last week, two new gadgets were unveiled—one that has real promise for campus stores and the other straight out of Flash Gordon.

The 3Doodler is a handheld device that creates 3-D objects from the same plastic strands used by 3-D printers. The device heats the plastic and dispenses the spaghetti-like strands in a variety of colors that are formed into objects. It can even use biodegradable plastic made from corn.

The device is handy and, at a suggested retail price of $75, could be very tempting to a college student looking to put a fresh spin on their art or science project. The manufacturer hopes to have the 3Doodler on store shelves by the fall.

On the heels of the 3Doodler launch, Google announced consumers would finally get a chance to see Glass, the augmented-reality eyewear the company has been working on for nearly two years. Google released a video depicting the voice-activated product creating video recordings and photos, and sharing images. 

Consumers who want to get that first look at Google Glass have to submit an entry to Twitter or Google+ explaining in 50 words or less (or create a video no longer than 15 seconds) why they should be allowed to pay $1,500 for the privilege of giving Glass a try.