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, October 31, 2014

UO, History Channel Create Online Course

The University of Oklahoma, Stillwater, has partnered with the A+E Network’s History Channel on an online course students can take for credit. The class, The United States, 1865 to Present, is open for registration but will be offered in the spring 2015 semester.

The course combines video lectures with quizzes, group discussions, and social interaction with Professor Steve Gillon, the scholar-in-residence at the History Channel who is teaching the course. It costs $500 for students who will take quizzes and write papers for three hours of transcripted transferable credits available with the course. There is also a $250 category for lifelong learners who are interested in the course, but not for a grade or credit.

The course is taught on the Janux platform, an interactive learning community created by the university. Using the platform, students collaborate with one another and with instructors in real time. It also provides an online space for the videos, exams, quizzes, and a free e-textbook.

“Technology isn’t going to totally transform education, but we should use technology for the things technology is good at,” Kyle Harper, the university’s interim senior vice president and provost, told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “And bringing the sights and sounds of history to life is something that technology can be really good at.”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

MOOCs Help Drive Change on Campus

Higher education is increasingly digital and massive open online courses (MOOCs) are part of the reason why. A meeting of higher-ed representatives from around the world discovered that the challenges involved with the transition to digital learning were the same no matter the size of the institution.

“The takeaway? Higher education is going digital, responding to the architecture of knowledge in a digital age, and MOOCs, while heavily criticized, have proven a much-needed catalyst for the development of progressive programs that respond to the changing world,” wrote Allison Dulin Salisbury, who works on special projects for the president’s office at Davidson College, in a blog post for Insider Higher Education.

The group found that MOOCs have pushed the digital conversation to the forefront at each institution and online instruction has focused attention on teaching and the learning process. MOOCs also build more opportunities for collaboration across campus departments and have led to more experimentation.

“The early impacts of MOOCs on higher education are a sign that this transition is difficult, but entirely possible,” Salisbury added. “As the next waves of hype impact universities, likely in the form of adaptive learning and competency-based education, the systems that are successful will be those that address the full spectrum of learning: liberal arts, vocational, and lifelong.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More Youngsters Are Going Digital

Some think digital will only become fully accepted on campus when youngsters begin using the devices full-time. That point may be approaching quickly.

A new report from The NPD Group found that 71% of households with children ages 4-14 own a smartphone and their usage of the device has gone up from 21% in 2012 to 35% in 2014. The survey, Kids and CE: 2014, also noted that ownership of media tablets rose from 21% in 2012 to 43% in 2014.

Children using smartphones and tablets in the home has led schools to adopt more bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. IT leaders are also working on new network strategies to accommodate the increase in demand.

In one instance, EdTech reported on a Maryland school district that upgraded its network capabilities to support more than 65,000 mobile devices. In another, a district in Texas developed a network policy to allow kids to use their own devices or ones supplied by the schools.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Columbia Working on Flipped Lectures

The flipped-classroom model has become a popular trend in smaller higher education classes. It doesn’t work as well in a big lecture hall, but experiments at Columbia University may change that.

“Sitting in one of those 180-student classrooms is a very passive situation,” Maurice Matiz, executive director of the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, told Campus Technology. “We’ve found that students aren’t really learning very much.”

Matiz and his colleagues started with a biochemistry class of 180 students. Associate Professor Brent Stockwell created weekly slide presentations that included YouTube videos embedded into the online syllabus. On the syllabus page, a link was placed underneath the video player to a short quiz that counted toward the students’ final grade, forcing most to come better prepared for the class.

Stockwell added a polling service accessed from the students’ mobile devices, allowing them to respond to questions anonymously in real time. The class was also divided into groups to work on problems together.

The concept was then tried in a class of 250 taking a body, health, and disease course. Students viewed short lecture videos prior to class. The instructor used class time for discussions and polling students on their understanding of the concepts.

“On many levels, it was more satisfying than lecturing, where you don’t really know if the students are ‘getting it.’” said Rachel Gordon, who taught the course. “I hope that more teachers will take the plunge. It’s worth it.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

Coursera Offers Special MOOCs

Coursera may have found a way to monetize its massive open online courses (MOOCs).  Its Signature Track of courses, which links coursework to a student’s identity for a fee, has had 4.7 million users and earned $4 million in cumulative revenues since its launch in January 2013.

Now, the online educational platform is set to take it one step further. Coursera launched Specializations as part of a strategy to create certification that carries more weight than the credentials earned from passing a single MOOC.

Coursera added 18 new courses to the track, mostly for in-demand fields such as project management, cloud computing, and data mining. Students have to complete a sequence of classes and pay $100-$300 depending on the number of courses.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Creating OER Made Easier

Creating open educational resources (OER) may seem like a daunting task, but a new video outreach program from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is showing educators it’s not as difficult as they may think. They just need to keep it simple, according to Tyler DeWitt, student coordinator for the MIT+K12 project.

“Sometimes, when using technology, teachers feel they have to use technology for absolutely everything—it can be frustrating,” DeWitt said in a report for eSchool News. “I hate having to change the way I would present material just because I’m pulling it together in a technological manner.”

DeWitt advises educators interested in creating OER content to reach out to others who have created content they like and allow their students to help with the technology. Smartphones also make it easy to create video and audio content with free apps that have high-quality recording capabilities. There are also free desktop programs available to edit audio and video recordings.

Worksheets are a good place to start when it comes to creating OER. At the same time, instructors should remember that content needs to be their own work, public-domain material, or some other form of OER, according to Dewitt.

“One of the great things about starting OER creation with text and static images is, if you’re like most educators, you’ve already created hundreds of resources that could become OER: worksheets, handouts, quizzes, and tests,” he said.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Liquid Computing Adds More Go to Mobile

The next big thing for mobile devices, even not-so-mobile desktops, will be liquid computing, said a report in InfoWorld. The technology in liquid computing will enable people to access and work on files from any of their devices, automatically.

“When you no longer have to worry about where a file is or where you left off on a task, you’ll work very differently than you do today,” the article claimed. Such freedom to switch seamlessly from a dorm-room laptop to a classroom tablet to a smartphone at the coffeehouse, all while maintaining immediate access to documents and communications, should hold great appeal for on-the-go college students.

Liquid computing differs from cloud computing. The cloud provides central storage for files, which users can access from any device that has a web connection. On the other hand, liquid computing essentially moves documents from device to device, bypassing any network.

The article points to the Handoff feature in Apple’s new releases of iOS and OSX operating systems as a type of liquid computing. The feature allows users to “hand off” files to another device, ostensibly even those that aren’t Apple devices. Google and Microsoft are reported to be working on similar apps.

The open nature of liquid computing is likely to make IT departments a little nervous. “After all, most are still struggling to make peace with BYOD (bring your own device), which filled enterprise environments with consumer smartphones and tablets,” InfoWorld said. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New Approach to Higher Education

There has been plenty of discussion about the future of higher education. Flipped classrooms, competency-based education, team-based learning, collaborative education, and problem-based learning all have proponents who see their format of choice as the best way to proceed.

However, campuses continue to use the same term-based and credit hour-based formats that have been in place for generations. Most institutions also continue to offer lecture-based courses where progress is determined by midterm and final exams.

The University of Texas System is ready to try something new. It is launching a format that include career-aligned and personalized courses to attract new students who are looking for a different way to study and earn a degree, according to Steven Mintz, professor of history at UT-Austin and executive director of the system’s Institute for Transformational Learning.

“Too often, a single model is deemed the solution to higher education’s challenges: high costs, deficient student engagement, or unsatisfactory graduation rates,” Mintz wrote in a blog post for Inside Higher Education. “Instead of embracing a single solution, instructors might consider implementing differentiated paths to a degree. Students, then, might choose the path that best reflects their needs and aspirations.”

The UT programs will not replace current curriculum, but will emphasize career skills. Students will receive a traditional transcript with grades as well as a competency-based transcript that highlights the skills and knowledge the student has mastered.

“Given the diversity in student circumstances, goals, and motivation, a differentiated approach makes sense,” Mintz wrote. “Personalization is the watchword of the contemporary consumer economy, and this principle might be applied to postsecondary education as well.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

E-Book Pilot Exposes Library Challenges

User friendliness and breadth of selection mean everything when it comes to library e-books, according to the results of the Massachusetts eBook Project Survey.

The project included a pilot program to test three e-book platforms (Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360, BiblioLabs’ Biblioboard, and ProQuest’s EBL) with 49 libraries (28 public, 10 academic, eight school, and three special libraries) from November 2013 through summer 2014. At the crux of the pilot is the assertion that libraries want to lend more digital books and library patrons are interested in borrowing more e-books.

Surveys of participating librarians and patrons indicate that may be easier said than done. Both groups voiced irritation with the user interface to search e-book collections and access titles. Each platform worked a little differently and changed features during the pilot, but much of the frustration stemmed from the platforms’ interaction with the reading devices. Patrons were using a wide variety—iPads, desktops and laptops, Kindles, Nooks, smartphones, other tablets—and some functioned better with one platform than the others. Kindles had the most problems.

“In general, there were technical problems downloading the software and getting it to work, checking out materials to the device. The software platforms were not intuitive,” commented one librarian on the survey. “People gave up after a few unsuccessful attempts.”

The selection of titles was also disappointing to both librarians and borrowers. Overall, patrons were seeking popular fiction, but there were also comments about limited academic and research content.

Survey participation was low and the age of patrons taking advantage of the e-book pilot tended to skew toward older adults, so the results of the pilot probably don’t provide a complete picture of digital readers, particularly college students. However, the difficulties documented in the project surveys reveal some of the obstacles all libraries face in offering greater access to e-books.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Students' Mixed Reaction to Digital

Reports on the course material preferences of college students are all over the place. Some predict the age of digital content is either just around the bend or already here, while others say students still want print.

A survey of students at Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD, found similar mixed results. The institution participated in a six-school pilot program to test new e-textbook technologies during the 2013-14 school year, finding that its students were neutral about the e-texts used, according to a report in the Aberdeen News.

A charge to cover the digital material was added to the tuition of students taking courses that were part of the pilot. The cost of the digital material was 25%-50% less than the hardcover textbook for the class.

In the fall, 85% of the students said they used a computer to access digital course materials, with 6% using a tablet or e-reader and 8% still printing out the material. Fewer students responded to the spring survey, with 67.6% saying they accessed the material on a computer and 13% printing it out.

The biggest issue for students, particularly in the fall, was technical problems with the content. Forty percent reported having trouble with their e-texts, noting that troubleshooting those issues cut into their study time.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Progress on Longer Battery Life

An ABI Research report predicts there will be eight billion mobile devices in use worldwide by 2019, but adds that power storage and charging technology has not kept up. That could be about to change.

“Short battery life remains the biggest irritation to smartphone users and is a clear opportunity for handset vendors and carriers to improve the user experience by adopting new, longer-lasting battery technologies,” Nick Spencer of ABI Research told Campus Technology. “Additionally, the growth in size-constrained wearable devices makes the problem even more acute.”

Silicon stores 10 times more lithium than the graphite, used in rechargeable batteries, but also tends to crack and become unusable. Researchers in the United States are also finding success 
using coatings made of germanium and pure lithium to increase storage and charging capabilities.

“The battery-charging market beyond wired Micro-USB chargers is also ripe for change with multidevice inductive charging mats reducing in price and integrating into public environments like cafes and airports; a bit like Wi-Fi,” according to the ABI report. “More subtle forms of charging may also be made possible like ambient radio-frequency energy harvesting and even dedicated beamed radio-frequency energy routed to your device.”

Researchers in Singapore are working on a battery that can be recharged up to 70% in just two minutes and can last more than 20 years, according to a report in Teleread. The batteries replace the graphite used in traditional lithium-ion batters with a gel made from titanium dioxide.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Study: Students Learn Better with Print

A study by a doctoral student at the University of Maryland, College Park, surveyed undergraduates about their use of print and digital formats. They were asked to read both the print and digital forms of a newspaper and a book to evaluate their comprehension skills.

The results showed that while 76% of the respondents preferred reading digital formats, 60% retained more information from the printed material. The survey also found that every student incorrectly predicted which format helped them retain information better.

“Students not only picked that they performed better in digital, but they did so with such conviction,” Lauren Singer, the graduate student conducting the survey, told the university’s student newspaper. “That, to me, has bigger educational implications. If we think we do better [in one medium] and we are studying that way, but that’s not really the most productive or useful to us personally, imagine how that’s affecting our classroom success.”

At the same time, Singer found that there is a place for consuming digital information.

“If I’m just browsing the morning news to see what the big stories are, it’s OK, because all you need is the main idea,” Singer said. “But if I’m reading an article for class later and I want to thoroughly understand this article, I’m going to remember more and be able to connect those ideas better when I read it in print. As classrooms change so rapidly, we need to look more at these tasks deliberately, and then pick [our medium] based on that.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Don't Count Out MOOCs Just Yet

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have gone through a period of being “The Next Big Thing” and weathered various degrees of criticism. Now, the concept may be ripe for a new era, according to Anant Agarwal, computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CEO of the nonprofit MOOC platform edX.

The optimism is based, in part, on edX enrollment figures that have doubled over the past year, as well as studies that have shown students taking an MIT online physics class learned as effectively as students who took the traditional classroom course.

“We’ve been growing as others are throwing in the towel,” Agarwal told Wired.

As the model transforms, edX has found that traditional classroom work is beginning to take advantage of MOOCs. The content is now showing up in flipped-classroom settings to allow students to view it on their own while the teacher uses class time for hands-on work. EdX has even launched A/B testing so faculty can experiment with different teaching styles and compare student outcomes.

“It's how a professor can learn what’s working and what’s not working and have a process for improving the course,” Agarwal said.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Students Take to Problem-Base Learning

Nearly every parent has had a child come home moaning about a group project gone awry. Instead of project-based learning (PBL), educators are now employing a more a problem-based approach that provides students with ways to collaborate on solutions for real-world issues.

Gary Garber, physics instructor at Boston University Academy, guides students away from the traditional scientific method approach by using different equipment so each experiment has to be done in different ways.

“There isn’t one method for doing science,” he said in a report for eSchool News. “One of the big highlights of the Next-Generation Science Standards is that there are a variety of science practices—modeling, trial and error, and so on. The source of good science discoveries is good innovation and creativity. We don’t need kids who have mastered the textbook. We need kids who are innovative and creative.”

The biggest issue with this new approach is getting teachers comfortable with the concept, even though the hands-on experiences can be invaluable to students. Making sure teachers have the proper training is the first step in building their confidence to use PBL tools and experiments.

“As a teacher, a test doesn’t necessarily show what a student has learned,” said Dan Whisler, a high school science teacher who has created projects on wind turbines and electric cars with his Sterling, KS, students. “Hands-on activities and the opportunity to give presentations to community groups do. That’s when students really start to demonstrate what they’ve learned. Wen you start sharing it with other people, that’s when you really learn it.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

New MOOCs Target High School Students

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have always been available to anyone interested enough to take them, but edX is working on new courses aimed at preparing high school students for college. The firm created 27 courses to get students ready to for college-level studies and ensure they're less likely to need remedial courses, according to a report in eSchool News.

The High School Initiative is designed to help students prepare for college and advance-placement exams and provide teachers with new course materials. All courses are free, but some have an option to earn a verification certificate for a fee.

Student progress will be tracked on a page that features a student’s overall score, along with assignments and scores. However, the courses are not eligible for high school credit since they are not yet endorsed by any accrediting agency and most states require that students be taught by a state-certified teacher.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Foreign Students Shop for Schools Online

Many millennials check websites and social media for information and commentary about colleges and universities before deciding where to apply. However, international students planning to study in the U.S. are even more likely than their American counterparts to seek out—and be influenced by—online sources while researching schools.

World Education Services, a New York City-based not-for-profit organization that evaluates foreign academic credentials, surveyed 4,852 foreign nationals aged 17-36 who wanted to come to the U.S. to obtain a degree. Those students already tended to use electronic media more for reading and information-gathering than for posting content of their own, according to the survey report.

In researching U.S. schools, 91% of survey participants accessed online information via a computer, 56% used a smartphone, and 26% employed a tablet. They looked at websites, social media, blogs, and discussion forums. It turns out that information put out by an institution’s network (faculty, admissions counselors, alumni, and current students) often carried more weight with students than the preferences of their families.

Bachelor’s degree candidates typically were concerned with details about cost: tuition, fees, and living expenses. They also wanted to know about student services available to help them if needed. Those considering a master’s program often probed online discussion forums to learn what current enrollees had to say.

The survey report noted that usage of mobile devices is rising overseas and advised U.S. colleges and universities to ensure their online communications are mobile-friendly.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Students Celebrated on Fourth NSD

Nearly 2,000 college and high school stores across North America are recognizing students and the good work they do today as part of the fourth annual National Student Day (NSD). Festivities include special events ranging from flash sales and free food to contests, games, and live music on campuses across the United States and Canada, and even in Bermuda.

In addition to the fun, many campus stores are working with charitable organizations and businesses in their communities to raise awareness, collect donations, and provide students with the opportunity to volunteer.

Students can also enter the new NACS-sponsored NSD photo-sharing contest. All they need to do is post a selfie of themselves doing volunteer work or performing any act of kindness to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or to the National Student Day Facebook page with the hashtag #NSDvolunteer to be entered to win a $1,000 prize for themselves and a $1,000 donation to the 501 (c)(3) charity of their choice. Photos can be posted through Oct. 23 and winners will be chosen at random.

National Student Day is supported by Sidewalk, a provider of rental solutions to the college store market. For more information on National Student Day and the contest, visit www.nationalstudentday.com or find it on Facebook and Twitter.

Campus stores can also watch for more details in the Campus Marketplace newsletter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Unizin Enables Cross-Platform Content

Unizin is a consortium of colleges and universities that’s making news. The group, which endeavors to provide a standards-based infrastructure for digital education, will work with Blackboard and Instructure to connect digital learning platforms.

Students and faculty from Unizin institutions work with content from multiple platforms, according to a report in University Business. Content storing, sharing, and discovery services offered by both Blackboard and Instructure platforms will be connected through the Unizin Content Relay.

“Students and faculty need access to open tools that allow them to work collaboratively, across institutions, to create the best learning programs,” said Mark Strassman, senior vice president of product management for Blackboard.

Using the Content Relay will facilitate instructors in finding content from both platforms. It will also be easier for faculty to revise and mix the content which can be used across a variety of formats, including residential, flipped classroom, online courses, badged experiences, and massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Unizin has also added Oregon State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Minnesota to its list of member institutions. Colorado State University, Indiana University, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan are the founding partners of Unizin.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chegg Continues to Branch Out

The online textbook rental company Chegg Inc. continued its recent buying spree, paying $10 million in cash and $1 million in stocks to acquire Internships.com, according to a report in Internet Retailer. Internships.com is an online service that helps college students find and secure paid and unpaid internships.

Internships.com, which has two million registered users, will be part of the Career Center section on the Chegg website. The section helps students search for careers, build skills, and land entry-level jobs.

Chegg also acquired the online tutoring service InstaEDU for $30 million in June and bought Campus Deals, which offers mobile coupons to college students, in April. In addition, Chegg announced a deal in September to outsource products, warehousing, fulfillment, and rental returns of its inventory to Ingram Content Group so it could focus on digital initiatives.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Alliance Working for Student Success

The University Innovation Alliance is made up of 11 universities across the United States focused on making higher education more accessible to all students. The collaboration is designed to increase degree production and student diversity, and cut costs by more effective use of funds.

The group is working on adaptive learning, new ways to distribute financial aid, and precollege student outreach, according to a report in Inside Higher Education. It’s also tracking student progress at Georgia State University, Atlanta, which has seen a 5% increase in retention rates and students graduating a semester quicker through the use of predictive analytics and proactive advising.

The information gathered from Georgia State helped the coalition create a “college playbook” to help first-generation and underrepresented students make it to graduation. The playbook shares with students and faculty the secrets to success, according to Becky Warner, senior vice provost for academic affairs of Oregon State University, Corvallis, one of the universities in the Alliance.

“We’re going to put the competition aside, and as a group we’ve set group goals for graduating students from diverse backgrounds,” Warner said in a report on the CBS affiliate station in Eugene. “What Georgia State found was that they could actually reduce the time to graduation by half a semester, if they could just get the right data to the right people.”

Friday, October 3, 2014

OpenStax Personalizing College Content

In August, OpenStax received a $9 million grant to develop personalized interactive textbooks for advance-placement biology and high school physics. Now, the nonprofit publisher based at Rice University is turning its attention to personalized courseware for college students as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Next Generation Courseware Challenge.

OpenStax will use its portion of the $20 million Challenge fund to work on personalized learning technology that can deliver tailored lessons to help students learn at their own pace. It plans to use the new technology in some upcoming textbooks. The goal of the Challenge is to develop personalized digital courseware that will help low-income and disadvantaged student succeed in their college courses.

OpenStax was one of seven finalists named by the Gates Foundation at the Educause 2014 conference.  The other finalists are Acrobatiq, Cerego, CogBooks, Lumen Learning, Smart Sparrow, and the Open Learning Initiative at Stanford University.

“Students learn best when education is personalized to their needs and goals,” said Daniel Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the foundation. “There is a growing body of evidence that courseware, when integrated effectively by faculty in instruction, can personalize learning at unprecedented scale, potentially enabling all students—not just those who are able to attend the most elite, expensive colleges—to get the best and most effective education at a reasonable price.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Google Glass a Perfect Fit for Feedback

Google Glass made quite a splash when it was first introduced, but questions remain about the usefulness of the technology. While recent reports show it doesn’t make texting and driving any safer, a finance professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is using the gadget as a better way to reach his students.

Michael Gofman utilizes Google Glass to provide students in his corporate finance course much more detailed feedback after lessons and exams. His teaching assistant uses Glass to create video reviews of assignments or exams for each student in the class, and then downloads them to a course website that can be accessed at any time. After just one semester of use, student evaluation scores measuring the quality of feedback for the course increased 38% over the year before.

“Instead of marking the paper and posting the solution, we can record personalized videos for each student,” Gofman told eCampus News. “We’re not just showing their grade and what they did wrong, but how they can improve in the future. The technology was the perfect fit for the problem.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wikipedia Becomes an Educational Tool

Professors used to warn their students not to rely on Wikipedia. It wasn’t viewed as a source that always provided correct information. That perception is beginning to change.

Now, some instructors offer credit to students who contribute to the online encyclopedia, either by writing an article or editing one already on the site. For example, nearly 10,000 students from community colleges to Ivy League schools have contributed 44,000 printed pages to Wikipedia for the Wiki Education Foundation project that launched in 2010, according a report for eCampus News.

Wikipedia is still not thought of as a primary source, but the project has found students feel a sense of accountability because tens of thousands of people serving as editors and fact-checkers on the foundation site are making sure the information they provide is accurate.

“Students are recognizing the value of peer review,” said Michele Van Hoeck, a professor at the California Maritime Academy, Vallejo. “One student was thrilled that someone else on Wikipedia had edited his work. You’d think a person might feel that was a negative, but to him, it was really exciting his idea was continuing, that someone read it and made it better.”