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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Friday, June 28, 2013

Young Americans are Reading More

It’s not particularly surprising for a study to find that young Americans use computers and rely on text-messaging as a form of communication. What may be unforeseen is that the texting generation also reads more and uses the library more than older Americans.

The study Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project showed 75% of Americans age 16-29 read a printed book in 2012, compared to 64% of Americans 30 and older. It also found young people were more likely than their older counterparts to have visited a library in the past year, used its technology, or accessed its web site and services remotely.

As might be expected, e-book readership is on the rise for both young and older Americans.

The study found that 25% of Americans age 16-29 read an e-book in 2012, compared to 19% the year before. The percentage of respondents who read an e-book rose in every age group and peaked in the 30-49 age group with a 16% increase to 41%.

Technology adoption by young people is also on the rise with 98% of young adults age 18-29 reporting they use the Internet and 80% saying they have broadband access at home. In addition, 97% own a cellphone (65% of those are smartphones), 34% own a tablet computer, and 28% own an e-reader.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Getting the Most from New Technology

A student survey from the Center for American Progress found that while students may have access to the latest technology, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are getting the most from the tools.

The survey showed that 34% of eighth-grade students taking the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) math exam used computers only to drill on facts, while fewer than a quarter used the devices to work on spreadsheets or with geometric figures. The results were not much better in high school science classrooms, where 73% of seniors taking a national assessment exam said they regularly watched movies or videos in class.

“Schools frequently acquire digital devices without discrete learning goals and ultimately use these devices in ways that fail to adequately serve students, schools, or taxpayers,” wrote Ulrich Boser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of the report.

On the other hand, there is evidence that technology does allow students to work independently and at their own pace, freeing teachers to work with smaller groups.

A study conducted by the RAND Corp. found that high school students who used an algebra software program created for the research nearly doubled their scores on standardized math tests compared to those using a traditional high school math curriculum. The technology allowed students to gain an understanding of the math concepts, rather than just drilling on the problems.

“We’re not just seeing whether they got the answer right or wrong, but why they got it right or wrong,” said Steve Ritter, chief scientist at Carnegie Learning, the math curriculum developer that created the software.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

10 Reasons Why Students Don't Finish MOOCs

Statistics show that completion rates for massive open online courses (MOOCs) are around 7%. Open Culture, a web site that curates and provides free cultural and educational media, came up with some reasons why the totals are so low.

The site got responses from 50 of its readers and found the main reason for dropping a MOOC was that it took too much time.

Readers also felt MOOCs assumed students had more knowledge about the subject than they did, while at the same time tended to be too basic. Others listed a formal lecture format that was “obsolete and inefficient,” poor design, clunky communication tools, bad peer reviews, and hidden costs of course materials as reasons.

Finally, students dropped MOOCs because they were shopping around to find topics that interested them and because they didn’t take the course to earn a certificate anyway, just as a recent University of Edinburgh study suggests.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

T-Word Won't Be in Students' Vocabulary

“Kids won’t even know what that word means,” Jeff Livingston, a McGraw-Hill Education vice president, is quoted as saying in an interview in U.S. News and World Report.

What word is he talking about? Typewriter? Mimeo? Icebox?

It’s textbooks. The students of the near future, according to Livingston, won’t recognize the word because all course materials will be online and provide an interactive experience. Heavy, print, linear tomes will be a thing of the past.

The U.S. News article mainly discusses what kind of computing devices students will need and how much parents should expect to budget for technology expenses, but Livingston’s comments about textbooks offer a glimpse of the direction where educational publishers are heading.

Students currently buy textbooks, regardless of format, from a store or e-commerce site, but Livingston says soon students will purchase all their online course materials through a fee folded into tuition or as a subscription. He estimates those fees/subscriptions will run about $300 to $400 per semester.

If parents were hoping to see some savings with all-digital materials, they may be disappointed. According to OnCampus Research’s 2013 Student Watch report, Retail Insight: Student Shopping Trends, the average student already pays approximately $662 per school year for course materials, mostly print—about the same as the annual estimate for digital. That figure doesn’t factor in any monies students might get for reselling their paper books later.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Developers Can Win Cash for LTI Apps

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standards provide ways to integrate learning applications with platforms such as learning management systems (LMS). Now, some LMS providers are offering monetary rewards to anyone who can create a better LTI app.

The LTI Bounty program will pay $250 to developers for apps that make it easier to use those learning management systems, which are considered somewhat “antisocial” when it comes to working within a social networking framework. Submitted entries will be judged by a panel of educational technology experts and the top picks are eligible to win a $1,000 prize.

“Cooperation in education is fundamental to learning, and I believe it’s fundamental to creating a technology ecosystem,” Brian Whitmer, co-founder of Instructure told eCampus News. “Unfortunately, old-style vendor lock-in has been a drag on the level of innovation and growth of a true ed-tech ecosystem. But with indicatives like the app bounty, we’re working to fix that.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Draper U. Accepting Bitcoin Payments

Draper University, San Mateo, CA, bills itself as an “unconventional world-class boarding school,” so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that it would accept unconventional forms of payment.

The school, which already allows barter, equity, profit sharing, and advertising tradeout as forms of payment, is now accepting bitcoin for tuition fees. The school has already processed its first bitcoin payment for the summer session.

Bitcoin is cryptocurrency, peer-to-peer electronic cash created and transferred through a computer or smartphone without an intermediate financial institution. End users solve hash algorithms to generate the virtual coins, which in the case of bitcoins are valued at around $100 per coin, according to a report in Campus Technology.

“Some of the most forward-looking entrepreneurs are active bitcoin traders. At Draper University of Heroes, we accept bitcoin payment of tuition because it is a promising currency with appreciating value,” Tim Draper, founder of Draper University, said in a prepared statement. “For the time being, we still accept dollars, too.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

BYOD Spells SOS for Campus IT Issues

The combined student and employee population at Cedarville University, Cedarville, OH, is about 4,000. Yet, on any given day, more than 9,000 devices may be accessing the Internet through Cedarville’s system. That ratio illustrates why grappling with the rapid proliferation of web-enabled devices on campus is the new No. 1 concern on Educause’s recently released Top-Ten IT Issues report for2013.

“Now that faculty, staff, and students all have these portable devices, they expect to use them. Before, IT organizations had to address network coverage, but the pure density of devices on campus and their bandwidth requirements cause new challenges,” noted the report.

Issue No. 2 involves taking advantage of technology to help bolster students’ outcomes, an issue clearly influenced by recent pressure from legislators and others to focus on what students learn and ensure they’re getting value for their tuition dollars. A related issue calls for ascertaining a strategy to support online education.

Other issues new to Educause’s annual list include structuring IT staffing to meet new challenges and balancing the need to secure systems and information with the need for user access.

Five of the issues on the 2013 list are carryovers from 2012: creating strategies for institutional cloud computing, strategic funding for IT projects, supporting bring-your-own-device and other trends, using technology to take campus business initiatives to the next level, and tapping into data analytics to guide institutional outcomes.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Students Take MOOCs to 'Learn New Things'

Critics of massive open online courses (MOOCs) point to the number of individuals who fail to successfully complete the courses. Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of the University of the Southern California Rossier School of Education, took a MOOC presented by the University of Edinburgh, dropped out after losing interest, and wrote about her experience in an essay for Inside Higher Education.

On the heels of the essay, eCampus News ran a report on a new MOOC study from Edinburgh that showed the majority of students who take its six Coursera classes do so simply to learn, with little interest in earning the completion certificate at the end.

MOOCs@Edinburgh 2013 found that 95% of the responding students enrolled to “learn new things” and just 33% took the course for the certificate. The study also found that 83% said they completed the final assessment, while 77% said the course either met or exceeded their expectations. In addition, 70% of respondents said they had already completed a degree program, and 40% had earned a postgraduate degree.

“It is probably reasonable to view these MOOC learners as more akin to lifelong learning students in traditional universities than to students on degree programs, which is a common comparison being made,” the report said.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Soccer Moms Lead Tablet Buyers

As of May 2013, about 34% of all adults in the U.S. owned a tablet device, almost double the number from a year ago. The percentage comes from the spring phone survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which has been tracking tablet ownership since the release of the iPad.

It may be hard to believe that tablet ownership went from zero to more than a third of the total American adult population in just a few years. So who’s buying all those tablets? It turns out the typical purchaser is a female college graduate living in the surburbs, age 35-44, with a household income of at least $75,000.

But the telling characteristic of the average tablet owner is having a kid at home. In the last year, custodial parents of minor children became the fastest-growing tablet-owner demographic, jumping from 26% last spring to 50% in May.

The rise in tablet ownership is mirrored in the educational world as well. A Campus Technology article reported tablets represented 35% of all personal computing devices shipped to U.S. schools in 2012, almost twice as many as the preceding year. Obviously, both parents and school personnel see tablets as an important tool in youngsters’ learning.

However, the article noted, the boost in tablet purchases may be spurred mostly by manufacturers that have developed educational content for the devices and are willing to work directly with schools to fulfill their curriculum needs.

Monday, June 17, 2013

E-Text Revolution Is Coming, Slowly

The e-textbook revolution appears to be more of a skirmish, at least at the moment. A new study from Bowker Market Research found students and their professors are not adopting digital textbooks in great numbers and the percentage of students using them has remained flat for the last few semesters.

The study reported that just 3% of students used a digital textbook as their primary course material during the spring 2013 semester, down from 4% for the fall 2012 semester. In addition, about half of the 1,540 undergraduates participating in the Bowker survey said they “prefer the look and feel of print,” along with the ability to highlight and take notes, while a third said they choose print because they couldn’t resell a digital text.

“Students aren’t resisting digital. It’s extremely critical in their daily lives,” said Carl Kulo, U.S. market research director at Bowker, during a Digital Book World webcast. “But they are seeing more learning and monetary value in print textbooks.”

The research also found that just half of the professors surveyed make e-textbooks an option. When asked why they made the course material choices they did, faculty members cited experience with printed text, actual content inside the book, and cost to students as the top reasons.

It’s not all bad news for e-textbook adoption. The study noted that 31% of responding students said they had tried an e-textbooks and about a quarter of those students preferred the digital format.

“We believe that it’s the publishers and other educational technology companies that will drive the shift to digital,” Kulo said. “It will probably take about two to five years for the revolution to happen and it will probably happen when a critical mass of students have the device that makes the best use of the content.”

Friday, June 14, 2013

Higher Ed Is Not a Bubble Set to Burst

A recent MSN Money article lists the 10 colleges and universities with the highest out-of-pocket costs in the country. Pundits often point to this sort of list as proof that online education is the future of higher education.

College can certainly cost a fortune and tuition expenses continue to rise, but that doesn’t mean it’s creating an economic “bubble” that is ready to explode, according to a staff writer for Forbes magazine. In fact, John Tamny wrote that online education may be the entity that needs to be concerned.

After working through a list of high-profile individuals who succeeded without a college education, Tamny argued students don’t really attend college for the education. Students head to campus, and parents are willing to fork over small fortunes, because attending college opens doors in the real world.

That presents a problem for online learning. While it may be less expensive and even more efficient, Tamny said all employers really seem to care about is the imprimatur of a name school, rather than the actual knowledge a student gains.

“College tuition is the price paid by parents and ambitious teens to slot them for future employment,” he wrote. “Even without government subsidies, tuition for the name schools would still be high simply because parents and kids will pay enormous amounts for something scarce in the form of an elite degree that carries weight with employers. On the other hand, online education, precisely because it represents the opposite of scarce, means it brings with it very little job-attaining value.”

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Follett Higher Ed Testing M-Commerce

By their very nature, campus stores attract a younger crowd that uses smartphones. That fact has Follett Higher Education Group actively testing its mobile marketing ability and plans.

Follett test have indicated more than 60% of recipients of special offers delivered by text message during a slow sales period viewed details of the offer, and 9% redeemed the coupon. In addition, fewer than 1% opted out of receiving the text, according to Leeann Fecho, manager of emerging media and loyalty marketing at Follett.

The company also developed a program that created a unique personal identification number that links a customer to a transaction when redeemed with a coupon and a program that allows shoppers to simply wave their mobile phones at an in-store kiosk to retrieve coupon offers.

“Mobile presents unique opportunities to connect and consolidate the customer experience,” Fecho told a session at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2013. “The value of mobile isn’t just about building offers or mobile commerce—it’s all of that, but while doing that and blending the in-store and online experience.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Western Nevada Focuses on Flex Classrooms

When it came time for Western Nevada College to update the technology on its three campuses, administrators decided on a system to provide students with a better way to attend class, even if it meant not in the physical classroom.

The college built classrooms with smart podiums, microphones, and high-definition cameras to record lectures. It plans to combine the video-lecture classes with existing online courses, allowing students to be in the classroom, on the road using a mobile device, or in front of their home computer.

Western Nevada will begin offering 15 courses that are both face-to-face and online in the fall. The school wants to expand the program, but will limit it to first-year courses in the first year, according to Clarence Maise, distance education coordinator.

“Sometimes those earliest classes are the toughest,” Maise told eCampus News. “Maybe they haven’t figured out college yet or that balance. This wiggle room allows them to not drop class and work through it. Having that flex allows them to go to their job, take care of their kids, whatever they need to do.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

EdX Opens Source Code to Entice Developers

EdX released the source code of its XBlock software in March. Now, the massive open online course (MOOC) consortium has made its full source code available to developers in an effort to quicken the pace of advances to the platform.

“We want contributors,” said Rob Rubin, vice president of engineering, in an Information Week article. “We’d welcome any company’s contributions and any people’s use of the edX platform. We’re in the very early days in the development of the technology to support learning and research about learning. Let’s all contribute to the open-source effort to be able to rapidly evolve that for the benefits of the student.”

EdX had planned to release the code later this year or early next year, but moved it up because some of its members wanted to contribute code. For instance, Stanford University had code for real-time chat and bulk e-mail ready to go, while the University of California contributed forum and automated grading system software.

The move could also lead to MOOCs being scaled down into SPOCs (small private online courses), according to an eCampus News report.

“We want to encourage that,” Rubin said. “We are committed to improving accessibility and we think that’s a great application.”

The early release also helps edX keep pace with competitors such as Coursera, which just announced a partnership with 10 university systems to offer free courses on its platform.

Monday, June 10, 2013

GAO Releases Its Report on HEOA

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) has made it easier for students to find textbook pricing information, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, the report also found that costs continue to rise at an average of 6% per year.

The study was required by the HEOA to show what steps textbook publishers, campus bookstores, and faculty members were making to enhance students’ choice and knowledge about the books they were buying. It found that used, digital, and rental textbook provide lower-cost options, but also that the price of new printed textbooks often drives the cost of other items.

The GAO reported that all publishers in the study use their web sites to provide their pricing of textbooks for bookstores and direct to consumers, and faculty members are more conscious about pricing when assigning the material. The report also stated publishers are making their bundled materials available for individual sale, but components are not always the lowest-priced option and students may have limited choices when it comes to buying unbundled materials.

The agency found 81% of colleges and universities disclose lists of assigned textbooks for each course, including ISBNs and retail price, and nearly 93% of the schools made that information available in public areas that did not require a password.

“While we are pleased that publishers and schools are complying with federal transparency requirements, more needs to be done to provide more affordable textbook options,” wrote Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) in a joint statement. “As the GAO report suggests, transparency alone isn’t enough.”

Friday, June 7, 2013

Tablet Market Getting Crowded

The tablet market just got a bit more crowded with the introduction of a new series of tablets from Asus. The series should help the Taiwanese computer-manufacturer become a big-time player in the entry-level tablet space.

The MeMo Pad HD7 could make the biggest splash with its 7-in. LCD display with 1280 by 800 pixels, optional 5-megapixel main, and starting price of $129 for an 8GB version. The device comes in multiple colors and is available in a 16GB version for $20 more.

“The Nexus 7, sold by Google, was one of the best Android tablet deals for 2012,” wrote Eric Zeman in Information Week. “With such a low price point, the HD7 will surely be a hit with budget-minded shoppers.”

At the same time, rumors of a new iPad are beginning to ramp up. Reports suggest Apple will begin production of a larger iPad in July or August that will look like the less-expensive iPad mini. However, reports have the next generation of the mini coming out in November because its negative impact on the sales of larger iPads.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hidden Cost of Online Education

Advocates believe online education opens the door for students who may not have the time or financial wherewithal needed to succeed in a traditional university or college classroom. While the potential remains, a small pilot offered by San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, showed there are also hidden costs.

The program, started last January, offered three remedial and entry-level math courses through online startup Udacity, available for $150 per student. The classes were open to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection, but each class was capped at 100 students.

The prep school Oakland Military Institute (OMI) had nearly 45 students participating in the program, but school officials had to devote computer lab space, time, and equipment to students who didn’t have the necessary Internet access at home. Laptops were provided, along with two staff members to answer questions and keep students on task.

“Without having a class period to do it, I wouldn’t have done as well,” said OMI student Ciara Lowry.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

DOJ, Apple Begin Price-Fixing Showdown

The Department of Justice opened its e-book price-fixing case against Apple with a PowerPoint presentation tracking the e-mail messages between the computer giant and senior executives from Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

The DOJ brought suit against Apple and five publishing firms in 2012 claiming that the companies agreed to set a higher price for e-books to stop Amazon from charging $9.99 for best-selling titles. The five publishing firms named in the original suit have all settled with the government.

The government accuses Apple of being the hub of a conspiracy. Part of the presentation tracks phone conversations in an attempt to prove publishers were deliberately acting in concert with Apple on the agency deal.

Apple countered by arguing there is no proof of a conspiracy and that Apple “simply was not willing to start a new business that would lose money” by matching the $9.99 price point. Apple also claims its negotiations with publishers were done independent of one another and often quite contentious, while its attorney alleged that it was Amazon that started the conversation on changing the pricing model before any Apple agreement had been reached.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Traffic Jams Ahead for Information Highway

Over the next few years, it’s going to get a lot more crowded out there on the Internet.

Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Forecast report, released May 29, anticipates that by the year 2017 worldwide Internet protocol (IP) traffic will be three times what it was in 2012. By then, almost half the earth’s population will be connected to the Internet.

While countries such as India, Indonesia, and South Africa will experience the highest growth rates, the United States will generate more Internet traffic than any other nation.

This rapid growth, which is expected to slow down after 2017, is being fueled by a proliferation in the number of Internet users and connected devices, faster fixed broadband network speed, and a spike in the use of Internet video. On average, around the globe, people will be watching three trillion Internet video minutes per month, or about two years’ worth per second. About 63% of that will be 3-D and high-definition video.

However, video won’t be the only application sucking down bandwidth, according to the forecast. By 2017, 49% of Internet traffic will come from non-PC devices, with the greatest growth derived from machine-to-machine modules (applications such as package tracking, ID chips in animals, digital health monitors, and video surveillance, for instance).

Overall, the rise in Internet traffic is tracking right alongside adoption of smartphones.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Value of MOOCs, Minus Course Credit

With all of the back-and-forth debate over how massive open online courses (MOOCs) should be managed and monetized, one college president acknowledges there may be some benefits from MOOCs apart from educating students.

In a commentary for Inside Higher Education, Excelsior College President John F. Ebersole notes “it remains unclear as to how student learning by MOOC is to be measured” but that working professionals, especially in technical jobs, may simply want to take MOOCs without credit just to stay up-to-date in their fields.

Ebersole also sees MOOCs as useful tools for branding and marketing higher education institutions. Through free online courses, schools will be able to let prospective students sample their offerings, in hopes of later enrollment in for-fee courses, he says. Schools can also raise their national and international profile by hosting MOOCs, he adds.

Similarly, Ebersole thinks faculty members will be able to enhance their reputations—as instructors, as authors, and as researchers—by reaching thousands of people in open online courses.