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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Monday, March 31, 2014

Kahn Academy to Offer SAT Test Prep

As part of the redesign of the standardized SAT exam used for college admission, the College Board also decided to provide free test-prep materials through the online learning Kahn Academy. The partnership was created because David Coleman, president of the College Board, considers the test-prep industry “predators that prey on the anxieties of parents and children and provide no real educational benefit.”

Test-prep has become a billion-dollar business, costing parents hundreds of dollars for each course. The services review content and test-taking techniques students should know, along with hundreds of practice questions that help overcome test anxiety, but some research indicates students taking the review classes may only improve their scores by small margins.

Free online test-prep tutorials will make the information more accessible, but will probably not stop parents from paying it. At the same time, firms that offer test-prep services are supporting the College Board partnership with Kahn.

“The free resources supplied by Sal Kahn may actually expand the market now that students know that test prep works and is necessary for them to perform best on the SAT,” Deborah Ellinger, CEO of the Princeton Review which offers test-prep services, told The Atlantic.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Apps Bring Mobile Into the Classroom

A mobile device in the classroom used to be a one-way ticket to detention, but now educational apps are making smartphones a classroom must. Paul Sowada, of Mutual Mobile, talks about the future of education and technology in this Mobile Minute video.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Students Join Profs to Diss Digital Plan

Students at Alamo Colleges in Texas said “No thanks” to an effort to save them money on course materials.

A petition signed by 1,000 students opposed the Alamo district’s plan to adopt the same digital and open-source materials for large courses offered across multiple campuses, a move designed to save money. Instead of buying print books individually, students would pay a fee in advance to gain online access to their reading materials.

But many students didn’t think much of the plan, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Some told the newspaper they didn’t have the funds to buy e-readers in order to be able to carry their digital course materials to class, or anywhere else. Some preferred print formats and didn’t want to be forced to study from a screen. Others said they’ve been able to find traditional textbooks at affordable prices by shopping around on their own.

The district, which encompasses five community colleges, decided in January to go ahead with the proposal despite complaints from faculty, who felt the administration was taking away their right to select materials for the courses they teach.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cellular-Equipped Smartwatches Coming?

Smartwatches are good for checking a user’s pulse and email, but soon may allow wearers to answer the phones. Samsung is working on a version of its Gear 2 device with built-in support for cellular networks that would make it possible for users to receive phone calls.

Besides the cool sci-fi aspect, a smartwatch with an independent data connection could provide users with the ability to sync and update data more frequently and accurately. It could also give location data and even transmit live video if it can be combined with an onboard camera.

Use of the device would be limited to Korea initially, but the first real obstacle to the device is that it could become too bulky to attract consumer interest. Size will be added to the Gear 2 as it is modified to support both SIM cards and cellular radio.

Battery life could be another deal-breaker. Samsung increased the battery life of its original Galaxy Gear device from 24 hours to two to three days for the Gear 2. However, the cellular radio necessary to make phone calls might cut the battery life to 24 hours or less, which could make it much less palatable for consumers.

The first version of the Gear 2 smartwatch will be limited to Bluetooth connectivity when it is released in April. Users will be able to make and receive phone calls on the device as long as it’s connected to a smartphone.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Making Credit for MOOCs Work

Granting credit for massive open online courses (MOOCs) caught the attention of legislators across the nation, with Florida passing a bill that orders education officials to allow students to transfer credits from MOOCs. The American Council on Education has even recommended that 12 specific MOOCs be granted college credit, leaving the final decision to individual institutions.

Unfortunately, the groundswell of interest has been met with silence from students. Both Colorado State University-Global Campus and University of Maryland University College are offering credit for passed MOOCs and have yet to have one student take advantage of the offer.

The University of Texas at Arlington has found success by offering the MOOC2Degree initiative from Academic Partnerships. The program allows students to apply credit earned from a MOOC to a degree program at a partner school.

UT Arlington joined the program to attract registered nurses into its bachelor of science of nursing program. Of 342 students who took the introductory MOOC, 8% completed the course for credit with 14 students either enrolled into or applying for the school’s online nursing program in January.

By taking the UT Arlington nursing MOOC, participants gained confidence to enroll in the online program while earning three credits, according to Beth Mancini, associate dean of the nursing college. In addition, there was a real savings for the students who paid $43 for the proctored exam instead of $771 for the traditional online course.

“There’s a hype cycle for anything new, and MOOCs were the big new thing that everyone was talking about, Marie Cini, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs of the University of Maryland program, told University Business. “I think we’re going to find out in the next year or two how MOOCs are going to be applied to the educational horizon. It’s just like online learning—many institutions will do some piece of it, but it’s not going to replace all of higher education.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Colleges May Be Inflating Online Numbers

The Department of Education allows colleges and universities to self-report the number of online courses they make available to students. New research from ApprovedColleges found that those numbers are not really adding up.

The report showed that the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) lists 3,311 schools offering online programs. After ApprovedColleges went through the websites of 90% of the colleges and universities listed by IPEDS and cataloged their online programs for more than 18 months, it found just 1,243 actually being offered.

The authors of the report concluded that the main reason for the discrepancy was that the database included every location a school might have listed as a separate entity and that the term “online” is ambiguous and broad. The study found five for-profit colleges that listed more than 280 campuses with each reporting online courses, while other colleges had placed noncredit online courses on the list.

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies also did a study based on IPEDS data on students taking distance education course in fall 2012 and came to a similar conclusion. It found that public institutions had 71% of students enrolled that semester, with just 13% of the students enrolled in only distance education classes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Study Finds Students Have Less Homework

While some parents think their kids are being bombarded with homework assignments, the annual Brown Center Report on American Education paints quite a different picture.

The percentage of 17-year-olds who reported having between one and two hours of homework on a typical school night fell from 27% in 1984 to 23% in 2012. In another study, the University of California-Los Angeles found that the percentage of college freshmen nationwide who remembered having six or more hours of homework a week as a high school senior dropped from 50% in 1986 to 38% in 2012.

“It still doesn’t look like kids are overworked,” Tom Loveless, an education researcher who conducted the Brown Center Report for the Brookings Institute, told USA Today. “The percentage who are overworked is really small.”

The study should help combat the perception some parents have that homework loads are out of control. Some school districts are even thinking about placing time limits on assignments or making homework optional.

However, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that the 17-year-olds who reported having no homework at all went from 27% in 1984 to 22% in 2012. The NAEP study also found that nine-year-olds were the only students who reported an increase in homework assignments, with 22% of the students reporting no homework in 2012 compared to 35% in 1984.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Knewton, Microsoft announce Partnership

Knewton is trying to create the world’s most valuable repository on how people learn, according to founder and CEO Jose Ferreira. A partnership with Microsoft that allows the technology giant to incorporate Knewton software into its products is another step toward that goal.

The Knewton application programming interface (API) gives schools, publishers, and content developers a way to build personalized educational content for any student with real-time analysis of the student’s performance.

Knewton is already working with a number of publishers, as well as hardware developers, course-delivery platforms, and learning management systems. The latest partnership allows Microsoft to enhance its products, such as Office and Windows tools, while Knewton gains a much wider distribution channel, including governmental education agencies worldwide.

“Knewton is trying to create some kind of standard around adaptive learning and be the brains behind adaptive content,” Rob Wrubel, executive vice president at Apollo Education Group, told VentureBeat. “And Microsoft will now be able to offer more personalized content to students.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

World Wide Web Turns 25

At 25, the World Wide Web has become an integral part of life. A recent Pew Research study found 87% of adults in the United States use the Internet, 90% admit the Internet has been good for them, and 76% believe it’s been good for society.

In another Pew study, technology experts said that by 2039 access to the Internet will be like flipping a switch for electricity and an Internet of Things will allow artificial intelligence-enhanced, cloud-based information storage and sharing via smartphones, wearable technology, and smart appliances.

Most of the innovation will come about as digital natives grow older. Those individuals are currently in school or on campus.

“The first generation that grew up on the web is hitting maturity,” Jeff Jaffe, CEO of the World Wide Web Consortium, told Computerworld. “Everything that’s happened until recently was with people who weren’t web natives by birth using technology and using it to improve life. I can only imagine when you have digital natives hitting maturity the level of innovation will be even greater.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Online Degrees Can Be Pricey

An online education may not necessarily be cheaper for students. According to a study from Hanover Research, the average cost of an online bachelor’s degree is $43,477, while the College Board reported that a student going to an in-state public university would spend around $35,000 for the same degree.

Hanover Research examined data from 699 colleges and universities in the Peterson’s Distance Learning Database. It found that nearly 9,000 online certificate and degree programs were being offered by the institutions. Business, health fields, and computer sciences were the most popular undergraduate programs.

An online graduate degree costs $21,959, according to the Hanover analysis. The College Board data showed that similar grad programs cost $15,000-$20,000 when taken on campus, depending on the length of the program.

The total cost represents tuition paid over the entire program and doesn’t include any financial aid. It also doesn’t represent all online universities. For instance, students only have to pay exam fees to earn degrees in business administration and computer science at the University of the People, while Thomas Edison State College allows students to earn credit for free online courses through a credit-by-exam program.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Amazon Offering 3-D Printing Products

3-D printers created a buzz at CAMEX 2014. In fact, Estella McCollum, CCR, director, KU Bookstore, University of Kansas, posted on Facebook how excited she was to purchase one for her store.

Now there’s news that Amazon also has its eye on 3-D printing. Just prior to CAMEX, the online giant announced a pilot program with 3DLT, a Cincinnati, OH-based startup firm, to sell 3-D printed products through its website.

3DLT was one of the first companies to market 3-D printed products and printing designs, which ultimately caught the attention of Amazon.

“When we began feeding the products into Amazon, we got a call from them,” John Hauer, CEO of 3DLT, told the Cincinnati Business Courier. “We said, ‘We’re putting some products in your marketplace.’ They said, ‘That’s all well and good, but we don’t have a category called 3-D printed products.’ We said, ‘We’d like to help you create one.’”

The pilot started with categories for 3-D printed toys, home accessories and decor items, jewelry, and fashion/tech accessories. 3DLT already has 50 items listed and plans to introduce more in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s going to be huge because, first of all, Amazon gets 90 million unique [visitors] a month, so there’s a likelihood they could drive some traffic,” Hauer said. “More importantly for us, it’s demonstrable proof that we’re able to feed into another platform and manage that process. We believe that will be very helpful in dealing with other retail concerns that are looking to bring 3-D printing into their ecosystem.”

Friday, March 14, 2014

Coursera Launches iPad App

Massive open online course provider Coursera has followed up its December release of an iPhone app with one for the iPad.

The new app is loaded with more than 600 courses, allowing users to download content for offline viewing. It also provides videos and reviews of written study material, along with educational quizzes.

Coursera, which has started work on an Android app it plans to launch later this spring, has been slow to develop mobile apps, but the new release appears to be worth the wait. VentureBeat reported the Coursera iPhone app earned a 4.5-star rating on the App Store.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Librarian Develops Open Text Project

In an effort to reduce the cost of textbooks, Cyril Oberlander, director of the library at State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo, devised a grant program called SUNY Open Textbooks that asked SUNY professors to write their own textbooks.

Professors apply for grants to write textbooks that are peer-reviewed by other faculty members. If the work is accepted, the university publishes the title and grants students free access to it.

The project started with a $25,000 grant to publish four textbooks, but then spread to other SUNY libraries, which added another $40,000 to the coffers and increased the number of textbooks to 15. Oberlander received 38 proposals from professors and has already published four titles, with the remaining 11 expected to be released in June.

Oberlander received a further $60,000 in funding for the project and 46 manuscripts have been proposed. This second batch of proposals will undergo a new review process that provides professors with blind abstracts that are evaluated on whether the content can be used by the entire SUNY system.

Oberlander is now considering ways to integrate texts with different learning styles, such as embedding audio into electronic versions or adding analytics to allow professors to track how well students are learning.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Colleges Need to Upgrade Mobile Presence

Recent studies from Pew Research and Google showed that 85% of cellphone users aged 18-29 use their devices to go online and half of that group turn to their phones to surf the web before thinking about using a desktop or laptop device. The studies also found that 61% of all cellphone users said they would probably never return to a website if they had trouble viewing it on their mobile device.

Despite those findings, a new survey reports that a lot of colleges and universities fail to communicate with their target audience through their mobile devices. A survey of 200 public and private schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania by the marketing agency Princeton Partners found that more than 70% lack a mobile presence and 50% of the schools with a mobile presence were deficient in terms of technology, mobile content, or both, according to a report in University Business.

The survey found that colleges and universities don’t often replicate the content, design, and navigation tools used in their PC-based websites for mobile applications. They also don’t create “mobile responsive” technology solutions that adjust to individuals browsers and devices.

That’s a problem because there’s so much more competition for potential applicants, who are constantly using mobile technology.

“An effective mobile capability can validate that a school is technologically savvy,” said Jeanne Oswald, former executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and an industry advisor to Princeton Partners. “As potential students comparatively shop and learn online, institutions of higher learning can enhance brand perception and market engagement by communicating effectively with teens and young adults through their mobile devices.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PCs Aren't Dead Yet

Sales of personal computers are declining, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the PC is near. While tablet computers are a hot commodity, there are good reasons why PCs remain useful, according to Chris Hoffman in a post at How-To-Geek.

“In reality, there are more different types of hardware and software than ever,” he wrote. “Not everyone is forced to use a beige tower running Windows. But PCs aren’t dying just because people have more choice. Some people will always need large screens, multiple windows, mice, keyboards, and all that other good stuff. Not everything will be done on a 10-in. or smaller touchscreen.”

To prove his point, Hoffman referred to a Gartner Inc. report which showed that 82.6 million PCs were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 6.9% drop from the fourth quarter of 2012 and the seventh straight quarter with a decline. However, web traffic analysis from StatsCounter showed that PC browser-usage data in January 2014 accounted for nearly 72% of visits, compared to just 22.42% for smartphones and 5.69% for tablets.

And while tablet shipments continue to rise, it was at a much slower rate. International Data Corp. found that 76.9 million tablets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2013, which represented growth of 28.2% in a market that had increased 87.1% over the same quarter in 2012.

“The statistics show that PCs are still selling in large numbers and are used much more than tablets,” Hoffman wrote. “But we don’t need statistics to see this—we all know that huge amounts of people still use and need PCs.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

M-Commerce a Hit with College Students

College students like the speed and convenience of mobile commerce, and are coming to expect it at retail establishments, if the experience of the Alvin Community College Store, Alvin, TX, is any indication.

After Manager Victoria Marvel added a mobile solution to her store’s point-of-sale system in order to facilitate remote sales at events such as ACC baseball games, she didn’t need to do much training with her student employees. When she showed them the handheld checkout device, “our student workers just grabbed it out of my hand and wanted to play around with it,” she said during her educational presentation on Go to Your Students: Mobile Commerce at CAMEX 2014 in Dallas, TX.

Her student customers were equally excited. These days, with students preferring not to carry around much cash, they were thrilled to be able to buy spirit merchandise at games with their debit or credit card.

“Students absolutely love it,” Marvel said. To complete the sale, all she has to do is scan the bar code on the product tag, swipe the customer’s card, and find out if they want a receipt.

She can print out a paper receipt from the mobile device, or email a digital version to students if they prefer. “They don’t really care about receipts,” Marvel commented, “but probably 20% to 30% have it come to email.”

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Gaming Growing for Hi-Ed Teaching

Whether you call it "play-based learning" or "serious games," the use of gaming elements in higher education classrooms "is taking off," according to Mark Milliron, co-founder and chief learning officer of Civitas Learning, Austin, TX, and formerly chancellor of the Western Governors University-Texas, in his Thought Leader presentation at CAMEX 2014 in Dallas, TX.

Acceptance of the value of educational gaming in higher education is rising, Milliron said, partly because neurological studies show that gaming does enhance higher-brain functions. The military is already using simulation gaming in its training.

For college and university teaching, games are able to engage students in ways that traditional lectures and other methods cannot. The gaming format is already familiar to students, some of whom don't really feel at ease in the regular classroom.

"Anyone who has said kids can't concentrate haven't observed this behavior at all," Milliron noted, referring the way young people are able to focus their attention for long periods of time while playing a video game.

Some games allow students to work together to build skills and solve problems in an online environment, rather than learning on their own in isolation. That also helps to keep students engaged and on track. "The social connection of games really matters," Milliron said.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Newer Faculty Like Digital Better

College students and tenured faculty agree: When all else is equal, they'd rather use print textbooks. But newly minted faculty may be predisposed toward digital course materials.

Guy Adams, who's in charge of academic publishing and outreach for the UCLA Store at the University of California Los Angeles, has noticed that the newer faculty on his campus are the ones most comfortable with online materials. Adams was part of a panel presentation addressing Best Practices in Course Materials on March 7 at CAMEX 2014 in Dallas, TX.

He said the new faculty became accustomed to using online resources while preparing their dissertations and doing other work for their doctorate studies. That comfort level is now carrying over into their teaching and they're more apt than older faculty to choose digital materials for their courses, often materials accessed through the school's learning management system (LMS).

"They're very facile with using this and teaching with this," Adams told the audience. "The bookstore is not involved with this process at all." For that reason, he advised campus bookstores to learn as much as possible about their institution's LMS and look for opportunities to get involved.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Covering the Cost of OER

While free to users, most quality open content still incurs costs for development and distribution. How can costs for academic content be recouped while still ensuring students have free access?

In his Thought Leader presentation March 7 at CAMEX 2014 in Dallas, TX, Charles Key noted that a number of business models for open educational resources are emerging. "There's a lot of money coming in from government and college systems," said the director of adoptions, grants, and the College Open Textbooks project for the Open Doors Group, a nonprofit dedicated to education affordability.

These funds are paying for development of course content intended to be shared among institutions. For-profit publishers are also providing some digital content at no charge while offering other formats and enhanced services for a fee.

The concept of assessing a special student fee "hasn't caught on but is increasingly being looked at," Key said. Typically, the fee runs around $100 per term.

In some cases, individual schools and academic departments are choosing to produce course materials out of their own budgets. The mathematics faculty at one community college, for example, decided to collaborate on writing textbooks for all classes; the books have been used by some 600,000 students so far.

Some professors are also willing to take time to create their own course materials, a trend Key said is on the rise since textbook affordability has become a hot issue.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Yale Experimenting with Google Glass

Yale University is set to rent out Google Glass devices through its Bass Library in the fall. The program is a partnership between the Instructional Technology Group, the Student Technology Collaboration, and the library.

Students and faculty are being asked to propose fall-semester research and teaching projects using the device. Library staff is working on ways to use the devices, such as assisting handicapped library patrons and as a scanner to fill student requests from the book stacks.

Google Glass caught the attention of the university last fall when Henry Furman, a senior quarterback on the football team, wore the device during a team practice. The feed Furman recorded was turned into a video that gives fans a quarterback’s perspective of the game.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Texas Launches Low-Cost Degree Program

In 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry challenged education leaders in his state to develop a four-year baccalaureate degree that cost no more than $10,000 to complete. Officials responded with a three-year degree program that costs $13,000 and uses online courses to deliver on the low-cost promise.

The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate Degree Program allows students to earn 90 credit hours online, with the last 30 offered in both traditional classrooms and online settings. Students are also allowed to earn credits for lower-division coursework by proving they have mastered the concept.

The cost is $750 for each seven-week period and includes e-textbooks. Students are able to complete as many courses as they can within that seven-week period without additional cost.

The program was launched in early February at South Texas College and Texas A&M-Commerce. It is supported by the College for All Texans Foundation and a two-year, $1 million grant from Educause and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal is to teach skills employers view as necessary for students to join the workforce.

“We also listened to what national and regional employers are saying they really want: graduates with critical thinking skills who are quantitatively literate, can evaluate knowledge sources, understand diversity, and benefit from a strong liberal arts and sciences backgrounds,” said Van Davis, director of innovation, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “This isn’t just another business degree.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

CAMEX Digs into Tech, Content, Commerce

College and university campuses are possibly the only places where consumer technologies, higher learning, new media, electronic and mobile commerce, libraries, retail technologies, and digital content intersect. Educational sessions coming up March 7-8 at the 2014 Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) in Dallas, TX, will address just about all of those areas.

Among the presenters for the Thought Leader series will be Charles Key, director of adoptions, grants, and the College Open Textbooks project for the Open DoorsGroup in San Jose, CA, a coalition of organizations working together to make education more accessible, and Mark Milliron, chancellor of the WesternGovernors University-Texas, a nonprofit institution providing online and blended degree programs.

Key will address Open Educational Resources and the Economies of Sale on Friday morning while Milliron’s Saturday session will discuss Technology, Education, and the Road Ahead.

Concurrent CAMEX educational sessions will explore new retail technologies for campus textbook sellers, how campus stores can work with other entities to support student retention and success, updates on the Higher Education Act and Department of Education regulations, how faculty and students are using technology for their studies, digital content pilots on college campuses, mobile commerce developments, connecting with students through social media, trends in higher education course materials, and integrating e-commerce and digital content platforms.

Flash Sessions (shorter takes on topics) will look at how campus stores can support student learning outcomes, helping students understand interactive digital homework solutions, selling textbooks online, using Google Analytics to track web traffic, what technology products students are buying, licensing course content, and where massive open online courses (MOOCs) could be headed.

Watch The CITE for reports from several of these sessions.

Following the session days, CAMEX will continue March 9-11 with its trade show for retailers serving students at higher education institutions and prep schools. CAMEX is owned and produced by the National Association of College Stores.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Colleges, K-12s Need More Collaboration

Administrators on both the college and K-12 level agree they need to collaborate more. The problem is few actually do.

A recent telephone survey of 104 public school superintendents and 101 leaders of public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities found that most superintendents (90%) and college system leaders (80%) say they believe their collaboration is extremely or very important. At the same time, just 33% of superintendents and 34% of postsecondary leaders say they do collaborate extremely or very effectively.

“K-12 is much more top-down than higher ed and decisions can be made more quickly,” Jacqueline King, director of higher education collaboration for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, told Education Week. “This can be frustrating to K-12 to have higher-ed people want to talk [issues] to death.” On the other hand, college administrators often believe K-12 leaders don’t understand they just “can’t snap fingers and make things happen,” she added.

The research, The Collaborative Imperative, also showed both groups tend to have different priorities and question whether their counterparts view collaboration as that important. Superintendents want to see an improvement in the development of teachers and in ways to align instruction with higher ed, while postsecondary leaders are focused on improving students’ transition into college and reducing the need for remedial courses. College administrators tend to blame budget constraints as a barrier to collaboration with their public school counterparts, who say they are just too busy to make time for collaboration.

“Although not insurmountable, these barriers especially require fresh and innovative thinking about how resources can be marshaled or pooled if we are serious about functioning as a coherent educational system, rather than separate sectors,” the report said. “We especially recognize the promise of regional collaboration, organized among schools and colleges who share students and teachers in common and who, therefore, have clear connections to shared outcomes and compelling overlapping interests.”