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The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Campus Store Could Provide Tech Playground

Matt Reed recently wrote in his Confessions of a Community College Dean blog for Inside Higher Education that it would be a great idea if college campuses had a “dedicated lab/room with plenty of up-to-date technology where faculty could go to learn” how to use the latest gadget for their courses.

“The idea was that the best way to learn a technology is to play with it—I strongly believe that, just as I believe that the best way to learn a concept is to teach it—but that playing with it requires the presence of both the tech itself and a safe space,” he wrote.

Reed went on to list funding as a major obstacle to such a lab, adding that he doesn’t have a solution for the idea. He even solicited his readers for their thoughts. Hopefully, the college store on his campus read Reed’s post and replied.

That’s not to suggest that a campus store has unlimited space or funding, but many already stock the technology products or have the contacts to the experts who could come to campus for periodic “faculty night” events to demonstrate devices. For example, the KSU Bookstore, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA, recently took part in an e-book fair, bringing together major publishers and the school library for an event that featured hands-on demonstrations of e-books, electronic devices, and associated technologies.

So, Mr. Reed, that partner for your dedicated tech lab might be closer than you think.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Study Finds Social Media Use Can Hurt GPA

A report last year from the University of Toronto showed how using an electronic device in the classroom is a distraction not only for the student user but also for peers sitting nearby. Now, research from The Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine has found a link between social media use and poor academic performance.

Study participants said that social networking and watching television negatively affected their academic performance. At the same time, the researchers found that freshman women spent nearly 12 hours a day using one of the many forms of social media.

The study said students who spent the most time using social media had “fewer academic behaviors, such as completing homework and attending class, lower academic confidence, and more problems affecting their schoolwork, like lack of sleep and substance use.”

In addition, a 2011 study from e-textbook provider CourseSmart found that four in 10 college students said they couldn’t go 10 minutes without checking their mobile device. Ninety-eight percent of the students surveyed owned a digital device, with 85% claiming the device saved time while studying.

The Miriam Hospital report also found that listening to music and reading the newspaper were the two media-related activities linked to higher grade-point averages.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A final post from Mark

As many readers of The CITE may know, in March I decided to resign from my positions at NACS and NMS (now indiCo).  April 30 will be my last day.  This was a very difficult decision to make as I both learned and accomplished a great deal during my time here, and even more importantly made many friends. 

The progress and changes that moved through the college store industry and course materials market over the past eight years continue to excite me.  This blog reflects many of those developments, and The CITE passed its fifth anniversary earlier this month.  In that time more than 85,000 unique visitors from 178 different countries visited the blog.  By the time you read this entry, The CITE will have passed its 1,500th posting. 

The coming years will be full of change for those interested in course materials, innovation, technology, and education.  Whether MOOCs, adaptive learning systems, emporium models, gamification, or something else, it is clear that innovation and technology will comprise a progressively larger part of education and course materials.

Learning anywhere will continue to grow in effectiveness and scalability, and learning may increasingly be measured more by its outcomes than classroom contact hours.  Big data, learning analytics, neuroscience, and other advancements will yield new insights from data, helping each student reach his or her full potential, and creating possibly more efficient channels for designing and delivering new products and services.

And those are just the beginning.  If you still think that change is three to five years away, then you are already five to six years behind. 

College stores, particularly independent stores, are at a strategic inflection point.  Whether the future is more promise than peril depends on how the industry positions itself.  The industry must address a range of retail technology shortcomings, and get better at communicating its story and value to a wide range of stakeholders.  The incumbents who survive disruptive or breakthrough innovations are those who create networks of strategic partnerships, and experiment both creatively and with strategic intent.  They are willing to admit that they must change, and then do.  Put another way, “Smart goes up.  Stuck goes down.” 

I often joke that I am unable to say “hello” in under 50 words.  Saying goodbye is certainly no easier.  Thanks to my many colleagues and friends in NACS, among the college stores, and well beyond.  I have so enjoyed experimenting, teaching, learning, collaborating, and debating with many of you.  I was pushed more than once to reconsider a viewpoint or perspective, and I hope I encouraged the same in return on more than one occasion.  I hope that many of our paths cross again, with everyone able to report a happy and successful story.

Many warm regards,

Mark
Mark R. Nelson, Ph.D., MBA, CAE

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Service Turns Books into PDFs

1DollarScan turns a physical book into an electronic copy, supposedly for a dollar, as long as the customer agrees to allow the book to be destroyed and recycled. The company, based in San Jose, CA, markets itself as a service that archives documents and photographs, while also clearing space used to store old books.

The service has grown from scanning thousands of books in its first year to several hundred thousand books in its second year, according to CEO Hiroshi Nakano in a report in Publishers Weekly. The company claims its process produces a high-quality PDF file that can be read on a variety of devices.

The Authors Guild isn’t thrilled with the business model, claiming that turning copyrighted print content into an e-book without an author’s permission is copyright infringement.

1DollarScan counters that it only digitizes books purchased by a customer, who then uses the service to create more space in an eco-friendly way. The company requires a signed agreement prohibiting the online sharing of the PDF, while offering a way for publishers and authors to either approve or disapprove of scans.

But copyright infringement could be just part of the issue with 1DollarScan. One person commenting on the Publishers Weekly article who uses the service wrote, “The result is nothing I would want to share anyway since it’s usually got formatting and readability errors, but it’s good enough for me.”

He also goes on to report that the actual cost is $1 per 100 pages, so the service would cost $5 for a 500-page book.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MOOCs, OER, and Community Colleges

A new survey of distance-education officials at community colleges found that more two-year institutions are looking into using massive open online courses (MOOCs) and open educational resources (OER). It also showed a majority of the responding two-year institutions remain skeptical of such models.

The study, conducted by the Instructional Technology Council and released at the American Association of Community Colleges annual conference, found that just 1% of community colleges are offering any sort of credit for MOOC completion. It went on to report that 44% are starting to investigate the possibility of using MOOCs, while 42% said they have no plans to incorporate MOOCs into their programs.

Just 36% of the schools see OERS as having a “significant impact,” according to the report. Lack of time for faculty members to find and evaluate OERs and lack of faculty awareness were seen as the biggest reason for not using OERs.

“As would be expected with something so new, campuses are cautious in their approach,” the report noted. “Many community colleges are skeptical that a large-enrollment solution is appropriate for campuses that believe in smaller, more personalized instruction.”

However, the conference opened with a keynote address from Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, promoting open online courses and resources as a way for cash-strapped community colleges to reach more equally cash-strapped students.

Community college students are often adult learners who must contend with time constraints that limit study or are students with remedial needs. Khan said free online tutorials, such as the ones offered by his nonprofit organization, allow students to watch the material as many times as necessary to facilitate learning.

“If we let students work at their own pace, big jumps in achievements are possible,” Khan said.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Different Look at MOOCs

Just when it seemed like nothing new could be written on the subject of massive open online courses (MOOCs), along comes an article with a unique spin. The Boston Globe interviewed a Lexington, MA, author and entrepreneur who is trying to cram 32 MOOCs into a single calendar year to earn what he believes is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

Jonathan Haber, 51, earned a degree in chemistry from Wesleyan University in 1985. He founded and sold a company that did computer testing and training, and is now a stay-at-home dad. Since January, Haber has completed or is currently taking about a dozen classes from edX and Coursera.

Haber, who is blogging about his experience at degreeoffreedom.org, has already found that discussion boards work best when fewer people contribute and that they often become political rants when more students participate. He is also taking a literature course with 25,000 students enrolled that uses peer-to-peer grading where students are each required to grade three other papers based on specific instructions.

“Peer grading can be used to get people to stay focused on the message, but it also means somebody who wants to spread their wings a little bit, they can’t do it there,” Haber said. “[MOOCs are] definitely going to make a big contribution to changing education. The risk is, everyone is so excited about them now, it will be one of those angel/devil things when, in fact, they are an interesting work in progress.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

SJSU Launches Blended Learning Training Center


Last fall, San Jose State University became the first institution to try incorporating edX’s massive open online course (MOOC) content with the teaching concepts of a flipped classroom. Now, the university is opening its Center for Excellence in Adaptive and Blended Learning, a program to train faculty members in the California State University (CSU) system to use flipped learning in their classrooms.

The university also announced it will expand its edX pilot program to as many as 11 of the 23 schools in the CSU system. The effort is being driven, in part, by the completion rates from the pilot program started last fall. Nine of 10 students completed the blended engineering course offered, while just six of 10 finished the traditional course.

The center will show CSU faculty members how to run a flipped course, which allows students to watch online lectures and take quizzes outside of class. Classroom time is used to provide students with assistance on the material covered in the videos and homework.

“We’re placing the instructor front and foremost, rather than facing the blackboard [with their back to students],” edX President Anant Agarwal told eCampus News. “The real value is in helping students learn and helping students process information.”

The program is also seen as a possible way for universities in the state to speed up degree completion while keeping costs under control.

“These digital natives cannot be educated like we were educated,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newson during the SJSU press conference. “The old system has run its course, like the industrial age has run its course.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

HackEd Takes a Crack at Facebook Apps

Can 150 young developers, working in 24 teams, create educational apps for Facebook to help college students manage their campus experience better? Facebook and the Gates Foundation seem to think so.

The two organizations paired up for HackEd 2.0, the second annual competition for developing apps that students can access through their Facebook accounts. The U.S. contest recently concluded, but another is planned for London in late April.

The developers were charged with dreaming up apps to make going to college easier, from financial aid to academic support. Participants could work on apps for one of three areas: college, social learning, and out-of-school study.

Bloomberg TV reports on HackEd 2.0, including remarks from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, in this video.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Follett Adding New Technology Platform

Follett recently announced plans to acquire BetterKnow Inc., a web-based platform that assembles college course materials and delivers them to students for purchase online. Follett will have the BetterKnow course material technology integrated for use this fall.

The BetterKnow technology gathers course materials from a variety of sources, including traditional textbooks, digital materials, open-source content, and video, and allows instructors to select the items that work best for them. Students then go to eFollett.com to find the required materials, compare prices across content formats and channels, choose their preferred format option, and make their purchases.

The integrated technology will also support includED, a program Follett launched in January to provide college students with required course materials as part of tuition or fees. The program delivers both print and digital materials from any publisher and can be used for individual courses, across a department, or for the entire institution.

In addition, if Follett has an existing on-campus location, that store will be able to coordinate the purchase with a student’s financial aid account.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

PC Market Continues Its Decline

Market research firm Gartner recently reported that PC shipments in the first three months of 2013 declined 11.2% over the same period in 2012. International Data Corp. (IDC) found the tumble to be closer to 14%, but both firms suggest Windows 8 deserves some of the blame.

The problem is that PC makers are producing higher-priced devices to take advantage of the touch-centric start screen used by the Microsoft operating system, according to an article in PC World. For instance, the Samsung Series 9 ultrabook has state-of-the-art features and a price tag of $1,400, making it less attractive to many consumers.

“At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market,” Bob O’Donnell, IDC program vice president, clients and displays, said in an article in SlashGear.

Budget machines that offer touchscreens, along with low-cost hybrid PCs and notebooks with longer battery life, could offer relief, according to PC World. However, Stephen Baker of the consumer market research firm The NDP Group said higher-priced devices may be the right way to proceed.

“Right now, we are seeing a shift in sales volume away from under-$500 PCs towards tablets in that same price point,” Baker wrote to PC World. “We don’t see the same level of shift between the two in products above $500.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bleak future for Netbooks

Netbooks were created to fill the gap between laptops and smartphones, and they sold like hotcakes for a while. Now, a study has found that the category is in freefall.

IHS iSuppli predicted just 264,000 netbooks will be shipped in 2014 and none will go out in 2015.

“Netbooks shot to popularity immediately after launch because they were optimized for low cost, delivering what many consumers believed as acceptable computer performance,” wrote Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for computer platforms at IHS, in the report. “However, netbooks began their descent to oblivion with the introduction in 2010 of Apple’s iPad.”

The IHS study reported that netbook shipments were 32.14 million when the iPad hit the market, but just 14.13 million last year. This year, IHS predicts only 3.97 million will be shipped, a drop of 72% in just 12 months.

“The problem is netbooks aren’t better at anything,” the late Steve Jobs was quoted as saying once. “They are slow, they have low-quality displays, and they run clunky, old PC software. We don’t think they’re a third-category device.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Samsung to Open Mini-Stores in Best Buy

Samsung has announced plans to open mini-stores in 1,400 Best Buy stores by the end of June. The Samsung Experience Shops will showcase the manufacturer’s electronic products and accessories, and provide a customer support area similar to the Genius Bar in Apple stores.

The new mini-stores will allow Samsung to have its products on display in one location with more space available for customer demonstrations. Best Buy employees will also be trained to help shoppers with purchases and activation.

Apple already has store-within-a-store boutiques in Best Buy locations, along with partnerships with Walmart and Target. However, Samsung doesn’t see Experience Shops as a swipe at Apple.

“At the heart of who we are, this is about responding to consumer needs and requests and ensure they’re delighted and empowered and happy with their choice of Samsung as a brand,” said Ketrina Dunagan, vice president, for retail marketing, in an interview in The New York Times.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Coursera Begins to Make Money

The idea behind massive open online courses (MOOCs) is that the courses are free to anyone interested in signing up. That has led to concerns about how companies offering MOOCs could give away their services for free and remain afloat financially.

Now, Coursera reports that it brought in $220,000 during the first quarter of 2013. The company has 3.2 million registered users, up nearly 700,000 since mid-February.

Part of that revenue came from an Amazon.com affiliate program that pays when students purchase books suggested by the instructor.

The other part of the money came from Signature Track, a program that allows students to receive verified completion certification for a nominal fee. By using Signature Track, students pay a fee ranging from $30 to $100, are tracked by their “unique typing pattern” to ensure they are doing the work, and receive end-of-course recognition from the university offering the class through the platform.

Some of the money collected from the fees will be shared with the universities, according to reports. Coursera is also trying to create ways to raise money through proctored exams and matching students with employers, plus is set to launch an app platform which will allow universities to add instruction tools to enhance their MOOCs.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

EdX Introduces Automated Grading Software

The latest news from edX is that the massive open online course platform, founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, is introducing automated software that will grade essays and short answers from students on exams.

The assessment tool is free on the web to any institution that wants to use it. The process begins with human teachers grading 100 essays or essay questions, with the software using artificial intelligence to train itself to grade essays automatically.

The software assigns a grade depending on the scoring system started by the teacher. It can also provide feedback and allows the student to revise the work immediately for a better grade.

“There is a huge value in learning with instant feedback,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX, in an article in The New York Times. “Students are telling us they learn much better with instant feedback.”

Coursera and Udacity are also trying to develop automated assessment because of the value of instant feedback, while the Hewlett Foundation sponsored two $100,000 awards for improving software that grades essays. More than 150 teams competed for each prize, with one of the winners landing a job with edX to design its assessment software.

Of course, not everyone is so sure an automated grading system is a good thing. Les Perelman, a researcher at MIT, is among a group of educators who have drawn up a petition against the software. The group, called Professionals Against Machine Scoring of Student Essays in High-Stakes Assessment, has already collected nearly 2,000 signatures in opposition.

Part of the group’s statement says, “Let’s face the realities of automatic essay scoring. Computers cannot ‘read.’ They cannot measure the essentials of effective written communications: accuracy, reasoning, adequacy or evidence, good sense, ethical stances, convincing argument, meaningful organization, clarity, and veracity, among others.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Device Divide Tips Commerce to Phones

Laptops are from Mars, smartphones are from Venus. Or to put it another way, computers are for school and work tasks, while smartphones are for leisure and socializing.

At least that’s the way young people see it. Shopping falls in the smartphone bucket, by the way.

In a post for Internet Retailer, writer Amy Dusto describes how she came to realize that she and her husband, both in their 20s, were differentiating the use of their electronic devices. This one for work, that one for fun.

Then the point was driven home for Dusto by the 17-year-old son of a business colleague. The boy left his laptop, where he’d been doing homework, to walk across the room to pick up his cellphone and make a clothing purchase. He was dismissive when an adult suggested he could have made the transaction right from the laptop.

Another Internet Retailer commentator, Bill Siwicki, points to data from an IDC survey in March showing that smartphone owners aged 18-44 spend 84% of their phone usage time doing everything but making calls. NACS OnCampus Research, in its latest Student Watch survey of college students, discovered similar findings.

A lot of that phone time is devoted to shopping, whether that involves checking e-mail or texts for special offers, researching products or sellers online, scanning QR codes for information, reading or posting personal reviews on social media, or actually placing orders. Siwicki’s point is that retailers need to understand this behavior and make sure their e-commerce operations can handle mobile shopping.

It’s still unclear whether the younger crowd views tablets as small computers or large phones. Maybe that’s yet to shake out.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

High-Tech Approach to In-Store Services

With more and more consumers shopping with their smartphones in hand, bricks-and-mortar retailers are looking for ways to offer more in-store services, such as mapping inventory and mobile advertising networks.

Retailers are trying to better understand their customers through the use of indoor location technology, which can measure how shoppers move through the store. For instance, Walmart is working on a hyperlocal in-store search component for its mobile app that will make it possible for customers to find out the availability of specific items.

Apps are also in the works to deliver special promotions to users based on their location in the store, and in-store mobile advertising could be the next step for big stores, according to Patrick Connolly, senior analyst for ABI Research.

“That is the long-term goal, certainly for the big retailers,” Connolly said in an article in Mobile Commerce Daily. “They will look to launch their own smartphone apps and start building indoor location and mapping, and, ultimately hyperlocal advertising.”

But for the time being, this is technology for large retailers with deep pockets.

“The big retailers are going to make their own decisions and they are going to want to be on the cutting edge,” Connolly said.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Student Aren't Learning About Ed-Tech

A recent study has found that while college students may be proficient in the personal use of electronic devices and social media sites, those studying to become teachers aren’t getting much instruction on the classroom uses of the gadgets.

The study, Digital Experiences and Expectations of Tomorrow’s Teachers, is part of the Speak Up survey from the 2011-12 school year conducted by Project Tomorrow and Blackboard Inc.  It included responses from nearly 1,400 students in teacher education programs, as well as 36,000 in-service teachers and 4,000 administrators.

Despite familiarity with electronics and social media, two-thirds of students in the survey said they learn more about using technology through field experience rather than classroom assignments. In addition, 45% of principals surveyed said they want new teachers to use social media in their instruction, but just 25% of the students said they’ve learned how to do it.

The study found that two-thirds of the principals want new teachers to create and use video and other media and 45% want them to find ways to use student-owned mobile devices in their lessons. However, only 44% of the responding students said they were being taught about the use of video and just 19% said they were learning how to incorporate mobile devices.

Students said the technology they are learning about is word processing, spreadsheet, and database software (71%); creating multimedia presentations (64%); and the use of interactive whiteboards (55%).

“While these are arguably valuable skills for teacher productivity, principals have a different set of expectations about the technology experiences they want to see in potential teaching candidates,” authors of the report wrote. “Principals want new teachers to know how to use technology to create authentic learning experiences for students (75%) and how to leverage technology to differentiate instruction (68%) before they apply for a position at their school.”

Friday, April 5, 2013

Udemy Launches iOS Learning App

The online learning web site Udemy already offers both free and paid courses in its effort to differentiate itself from the other massive open online course platforms. Now, Udemy has released an iPhone app to make it easier to access courses from smartphones.

From surveys of more than 600 students, Udemy found that nearly 50% said on-demand access was the most important thing about online learning.

The app will allow users to browse, then sign up for either free or paid courses. It will also provide access to video lectures, articles, and presentations in a mobile format, save the courses for offline viewing, and let users watch videos at multiple speeds.

“We talk to our students constantly,” Dinesh Thiru, vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “We find that Udemy students are taking their courses from planes, trains, and buses, during lunch, from the comfort of their couch, or before bed. With the Udemy iPhone app, we want to empower even more students to learn where and when they want to learn.”

One thing the iOS app does not yet offer is the social element to allow students to interact with peers, although that should become available in a future update. The company is also looking to bring its online marketplace to Android in the coming months.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

New SIIA Report Focuses on OER

With more and more educators using open educational resources (OER), the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) created its Guide on the Use of Open Educational Resources in K-12 and Postsecondary Education. The 34-page manual provides information on various copyright and licensing issues involved in using open educational resources.

“SIIA expects that educational needs will be addressed moving forward by a mix of instructional materials, including OERs,” the authors of the guide wrote. “SIIA and this guide are focused on helping public officials, instructors, and content providers better understand the various OER models, as well as the total costs to consider in determining the appropriate strategy for developing and implementing a particular educational resource.”

The report details some of the pitfalls of OER, including the resources necessary to scale their use and concerns over cost shifting instead of cost savings. At the same time, it presents some of the highlights of OER, such as their long-term value and having teachers more involved in developing curriculum and resources.

“It appears that OER and the related educational, business, and intellectual property license models are here to stay,” the authors wrote. “In the end, the greatest value of OER may not be in cost savings, but in changing the relationship of educators and students to their learning resources by empowering them to help author, customize, and share them. Either way, all stakeholders will need to carefully consider and appropriately adjust to OER as an important educational element.” 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Consequences of the MOOC Movement

As with almost everything, there are two sides to the massive open online course (MOOC) debate. Proponents see MOOCs as a revolution providing high-quality education to more people at less cost, while opponents are concerned about the quality since classroom instruction is lost.

Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sees a future where elite schools weather the disruption of MOOCs because they are well off financially while a larger group of colleges and universities won’t survive.

“My fear is that we’re plunging forward with these massively free online education resources and we’re not thinking much about the economics,” Cusumano said in an interview with The New York Times.

Cusumano sees similarities between the strategic mistakes of giving away content made by media companies between 1998 and 2006 with the giveaway pricing of education by MOOCs. He wrote in an article that appeared in the monthly magazine of the Association for Computing Machinery that free online education could become the norm if enough colleges and universities join the movement.

“Stanford, MIT, Harvard, et al. have already opened a kind of Pandora’s box, and there may be no easy way to go back and charge students even a moderately high tuition rate for open online courses,” he wrote. “Free learning via the Internet seems here to stay. It is probably most valuable in moderation and as a complement to traditional university education and degrees, not as a substitute. It also will probably force educational institutions to bring down the rising cost of education, as well as the rising prices of tuitions. This seems positive, but may lead to potentially negative effects and unintended consequences: Elite universities need to ensure the true costs of their MOOCs do not become too high for society as a whole by destroying the economic foundations of less-prominent educational institutions—or of themselves.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Window Shopping Goes High-Tech

Digital services agency United Future has developed a system that turns a retailer’s storefront into an interactive, touchscreen shopping experience. The company believes the technology will attract more customers, particularly tech-savvy ones such as college students, and increase sales.

The system uses a touch-sensitive film attached to the storefront glass, along with a projector and laptop. The touchscreen display can be customized for each retailer, who can change information displayed on an hourly basis if they choose.

The shopper uses the window touchscreen to drag and drop apparel items onto mannequins sized to fit their personal measurements. Customers can then complete a purchase through QR codes linked to secure store web sites. United Future is trying to enhance the system to enable payments using a smartphone by tapping on the glass.

“Our product extends the shelf by helping educate the consumer and bringing the retail floor to life,” Scott Holmes, president of United Futures, said in an article for a National Retail Federation publication. “That, to me, is the future of where retail is headed: toward more experiential shopping. We must connect across all retail channels to succeed in the future.”

Monday, April 1, 2013

MHE Turns Government Into a Game

Studies have shown that gaming could be an effective tool in education. McGraw-Hill Education is betting on it, launching its McGraw-Hill Practice suite that includes Government in Action.

The 3-D multiplayer game is an American government course designed for college freshman which takes the player through the intricacies of being a U.S. representative and explains the difficulties in getting legislation passed.

“The ability to interact rather than just reading a text in this technology-driven age will probably drive more interest,” Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) told CNN about the game. “Video games with a core educational component may supplement traditional materials, such as textbooks, and may enable students to improve their understanding of certain subjects.”

The goal of the game is for each player, who begins with their election to the House of Representatives, to build enough political awareness and capital during their two-year term to be re-elected. The game assigns students a political affiliation and allows them to meet with the president and go to the Supreme Court.

The game was tested at colleges and universities across the United States where instructors found students enjoyed the game enough to play it often. The iPad version was introduced at the 2013 South by Southwest education conference, with an Android version in the works.

“Educators seem to have more tools available to them than ever before and there’s no doubt that, when appropriately utilized, technology has the capacity to enhance the classroom experience,” Tierney said. “The key, of course, is to familiarize and excite teachers to maximize its use in the most positive way.”