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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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Newegg Joins Textbook Market

The newest player in the college textbook market is familiar to many college students. Electronics online retailer Newegg Inc. said it is “partnering with more than 1,000 colleges” and has already opened a student-only online store that offers special discounts and pricing options.

Newegg’s student-only section does require a login, but the company is offering students $20 off its annual Newegg Premier membership, which provides free shipping, members-only deals, and a dedicated customer-service line. The effort is part of Newegg’s effort to expand its business by tapping into the education market.

“Textbooks are pretty fundamental to the college student, and we wanted to offer a different solution that makes buying them more convenient and more economical,” James Wu, chief operating officer for Newegg North America, said in an article for Internet Retailer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

MOOCs Need More Than Videos

Most massive open online courses (MOOCs) use video lectures to teach students. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that’s just not enough.

In the report Learning Is Not a Spectator Sport: Doing Is Better than Watching for Learning From a MOOC, researchers looked at results of two groups of students taking an introductory psychology MOOC given by a pair of professors from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. One group took the course as a traditional MOOC, spending most of their time watching lecture videos. The other group combined videos with interactive materials from the CMU Open Learning Initiative.

After 11 weekly quizzes and the final exam, the MOOC-only students scored an average of 57% on the final exam, while those in the combined course scored an average of 66%. The researchers found students may think they understand a concept after hearing a lecture or reading a text, but often have no way to confirm if they comprehend it correctly.

“When one is watching a lecture or reading material, there’s an illusion of learning,” Ken Koedinger, author of the report, told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Lessons communicated in a lecture don’t stick.”

According to Koedinger, MOOC platform providers should be doing more than quick follow-up questions at the end of a lecture. He said MOOCs need to focus more on interactive exercises that address misconceptions students may have about the material rather than more videos.

“Some of these students are coming into these courses thinking they’re going to learn from this fabulous lecture, but it really isn’t sticking,” he said.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rider Provides Freshman Textbooks

Freshmen at Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ, are getting a break on their first year of textbooks through the school’s Textbook Reserve Program. The pilot provides students with access to most freshman-level courses via the school’s library.

The libraries on the school’s Lawrence and Princeton campus now have more than 100 books available for freshmen to use. Students present their ID to a librarian at the circulation desk to sign out the textbook for up to two hours, but they can’t take reserved books out of the library.

“If this can help offset hidden costs that students might not have anticipated, we’ll be able to retain more students,” said President Gregory Dell’Omo in an article for NJ.com. Dell’Omo brought the idea from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA, where he served as president until taking over Rider at the beginning of August.

Robert Morris had more than 1,800 textbook signouts in the first semester the program was offered with a total of 10,000 during the first two years.

An added benefit for Dell’Omo is that the program drives students into the library. The goal of the Textbook Reserve Program is to expand it to upper-level courses.

“It’s not replacing people buying new books, it’s not going to cover every single book over time,” Dell'Omo said, “but it helps ease some of the financial burdens that students incur.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Tech Tool for Teachers

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an online tool that let instructors show their students ways to solve problems, highlight important text and explain the concept, and provide personal feedback? The tool would have to be easy to use and allow students access anywhere and on any device.

That tool may soon be just a download away. Snip is a Microsoft Garage project still in the preview stage, but early results have shown it to be user-friendly for most teachers and their students.

“The simplicity of the tool is one of its major attractions,” Peter West, director of eLearning, Saint Stephen’s College, Queensland, Australia, wrote for eSchool News. “The functions provided make it easy for even a technology-wary teacher to understand and use effectively, and its capabilities are enough for a large percentage of teaching scenarios.”

Once downloaded, Snip allows teachers to explain selected items on a web page, document, worksheet, or any format displayed on a computer screen. The tool provides pens of various colors for teachers to use to explain concepts on the screen, which can then be saved as a video file or screenshot. There is an erase feature in case the teacher makes a mistake, and the entire procedure can be finished in less than 60 seconds, according to West.

“It also provides another valuable tool for teachers to transition to blended and flipped learning,” he wrote. “It is a wonderful example of a simple technology dramatically enhancing learning.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Frequent Web Users Also Like E-Textbooks

A study of college students required to use digital textbooks for an online course revealed something that should have been obvious: Students who typically spent a lot of time online—whether for studying or socializing—preferred the e-texts over hardcopy books, while students who went online less often would rather use print textbooks.

The study, which appeared in Education magazine and was conducted at the University of Texas at El Paso, also determined that the students who favored print were at no disadvantage in the class due to the digital requirement. Students preferring p-texts earned about the same average grades as the other students, suggesting they managed to get over any discomfort with the digital format.

Some students in the class had previously taken at least one other online course with e-textbooks, while for other students it was their first experience with a totally online class. As with the format preferences, though, there was no difference in student performance. The researchers also found that age, class year, courseload, and English-language skills had no impact on student success in the online course.

The heavy online users were able to understand instructions for accessing course content and e-texts more quickly than students who didn’t have as much experience online, although ultimately that didn’t affect their class performance either.

However, students did have a number of quibbles with digital textbooks, which led the research team to recommend some fixes for publishers and instructors.

“E-texts should be absolutely free of technical glitches,” stated the study report. “It also should provide tools that students can use for studying, such as highlighting, page marking, making notes in a text file, and a launch path (or a progress bar) to access another section quickly.” Both publishers and professors should provide supplementary print booklets and resources to aid students with e-texts.

For students, the study advised “it is wise to order an e-text with the optional free loose-leaf and hole-punched print version. This would enable students who find it difficult to read for long periods of time on the computer screen, or experience difficulties when their Internet is not working, to have access to material which is comfortable to use while learning.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

One App to Teach Them All

Mobile 3.0 is a free app created to provide students at the University of Maryland, College Park, with ways to produce and post multimedia content in journalism classes taught by Ronald Yaros. The app includes built-in tools for photos, audio, and video, along with a way for the instructor to send push text notifications to students without their phone number.

Yaros, associate professor in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, designed the app for his students as a way to prepare them for a future where technological skills are paramount.

“While we know that any device can distract from learning, we don’t know how to change the way a device can be used for sustained engagement and more effective learning,” Yaros said in an interview for Campus Technology. “That’s why we need a mindset shift to adapt a tool’s use to class meetings, assignments, and activities that require technology.”

Laptops were a distraction to Yaros, so he banned them in favor of tablets and smartphones that use his interactive app. The app provides students with instant polls, open-ended questions for discussion, live web sites and Twitter feeds, and quizzes that send scores back to Yaros. All course-related content is viewed on the students’ devices.

“From week one, they are repeatedly reading, researching, interpreting, writing, posting, and discussing the content produced by me and by their peers,” Yaros said. “I scaffold these skills so that students constantly build on and improve their previously learned techniques for effectively communicating digital content on the web and on mobile devices.”

Students have to apply all those skills to produce and post multimedia reports related to their major for their final project. Yaros has found his classes have improved attendance and participation, along with better evaluations by students.

“The bottom line is not the technology itself but how the technology is used—and there are countless ways to use it,” Yaros said. “My hope is that students leave my course with the professional skills they can apply in their field of work and not think Twitter or Blogger is useful only in social circles.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TSUS to Offer Free Freshman Year

While politicians debate ways to reduce the cost of a college education, the Texas State University System (TSUS) is joining a growing list of institutions trying to do something about it. TSUS will begin participating in the Freshman Year for Free program in 2016 through its partnership with the not-for-profit Modern States Education Alliance.

TSUS is the first public institution in Texas to offer the program, joining Rice University in Dallas and institutions and higher-education organizations in Arizona, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Tennessee.

“Our goal in partnering with Modern States’ Freshman Year for Free program is to provide students with another option to earn their degree on a timeline and budget that works for them,” said TSUS Chancellor Brian McCall.

Students participating in the program will be able to select freshman-level courses from the Modern States catalog that will apply toward degrees at TSUS institutions. Once the courses are completed, students can take Advanced Placement (AP) or College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests for college credit.

The program will offer more than 30 online college courses being developed by the massive open online course provider edX with no cost for the course or online texts and materials. Modern States is creating a web portal for its course catalog that will also link students to resources such as low-cost or no-cost tutors and information on partner colleges and universities.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Publishers Expands Marketing to Students

Since college students today have many more course materials options available, publishers are exploring direct-to-student online sales, along with using on-campus events and employing student ambassadors.

“It’s not in our best interest or the students’ to limit the access points or the purchase opportunities for our stuff,” Dawn Keller, senior vice president of consumer and digital marketing at Cengage, said in an article for Inside Higher Education. “Our hope is we can do some things on CengageBrain to … make it easier for students to find, buy, and register products.”

Joseph J. Esposito, a digital media and publishing consultant, said in the same article that college store professionals are right to be concerned. He said the direct-to-student marketing is part of a long-term strategy to control the textbook supply chain.

More direct sales to students will provide publishers with a way to increase adoption of digital course materials and cut out resellers. Publishers could also build bigger customer databases and turn those into more effective marketing to students.

People keep talking about how digital textbooks will kill publishers, open educational resources will kill publishers,” Esposito said. “If you look at the publishers’ numbers, they’re pretty good. They have learned to adapt to a challenging marketplace.”

Friday, September 18, 2015

Facebook Working on K-12 Software

Facebook is getting into the education business. The company has partnered with Summit Public Schools, a nonprofit organization that operates charter schools in California and Washington, to develop an online education tool that allows K-12 students to schedule and track their coursework and assignments.

Facebook dedicated eight employees to work with students and teachers to improve the software, known as the Personalized Learning Plan. More than 2,000 students and 100 teachers used the Facebook software in 2014, prompting Summit to launch a pilot program this fall. The ultimate goal is to make the software available for free to all schools.

“It’s really driven by this idea that we want to put learning in the hands of kids and the control back in the hands of kids,” Dianne Tavenner, chief executive of the Summit system, told The New York Times.

Using the software, students and their instructors work together on lessons and projects. Teachers can give individualized tests that the software will then grade and track.

“We’ve seen that there’s an opportunity to help apply our skills to the future of education, and we all wanted to find a way to help make an impact by doing what we do best—building software,” Chris Cox, chief product officer for Facebook, wrote in a blog announcing the initiative.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tennessee Promise Being Fulfilled

Tennessee Achieves was the brainchild of then-Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam and his staff in 2008 as a way to provide more educated local workers. Area students could earn an associate degree for free at an area community college, as long as they were full-time students, maintained a 2.0 grade-point average, regularly met with mentors in their field of study, and completed at least eight hours of community service.

When Haslam was elected governor, he took the program statewide, enabling students to attend any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 technical schools, or four-year institutions that offered associate degrees. More than 22,000 students in the first group who enrolled in the expanded program, called Tennessee Promise, this fall.

“We have a lot of students who do not think about going to college,” said Janice Gilliam, president of Northeast State Community College, Blountville, in an article for The Atlantic. “Some of their parents have not even finished high school. This is a huge step to break this cycle. A lot of them don’t even know they have talent.”

Tennessee has already started promoting the program to current high school seniors in an effort to get them to complete the community-service requirement early. About 1,000 students signed within the first 24 hours the 2016 program was made available.

“Walking around with some college and no degree doesn’t go far on a resume,” Paul Percy, provost at Carson-Newman University, Jefferson City, told Inside Higher Education. “To give associate degrees along the way is a benefit to students because life might happen.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

College Partners with Library for Credentialing

A new college/library partnership in Carson City, NV, could illustrate the type of postsecondary program likely to become more common, as higher education institutions attempt to overturn criticism about costs, length of time to finish studies, and preparation for employment.

Working with the Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI) in Richmond, VA, the Carson City Public Library and Western Nevada College (WNC) recently launched a joint program for earning credentials in manufacturing technology. The Manufacturing Technician I credential is endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Nevada Manufacturers Association, so those who achieve it are much more apt to get a good job.

The program isn’t aimed at traditional college students—the target audience is recent high school graduates, people returning from military service, and those already working in lower-level manufacturing positions—but participants can earn 10 credit hours in applied industrial technology from WNC as part of their studies. If they want, they can continue to pursue courses at WNC while working.

The program is conducted online, enabling students to fit studies around work hours. Students can take assessment tests at any time during the semester so it’s possible to speed up completion.

The library serves as an assessment center and certified trainer, the first authorized by MSI. Labs are held at the library to supplement the online classwork. The library also provides computer training and instruction in the software applications students must use in order to take the online courses.

Need-based scholarships are available for those who can’t afford the fees.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Possible Solution for Finding OER

There still appears to be confusion among faculty members when it comes to open educational resources (OER). According to a 2014 Babson Report, 75% of the more than 2,000 faculty members it surveyed said they were unaware of OER, with 67% unable to provide the right explanation of what OER are.

While instructors expressed interest in using OER, finding high-quality resources that fit the goals of the course was an issue. Nearly 60% of the instructors who said they were aware of OER claimed locating appropriate material was a barrier to its use.

“The lack of a catalog and the difficulty of finding what is needed are the most-often-cited barriers,” wrote the authors of the report Opening the Curriculum: Open Educational Resources in U.S. Education. “All three of the most-mentioned barriers are related to the ease of finding appropriate material.”

A solution for finding OER content could be just around the corner. Russ Walker, a former software designer and faculty member at DeVry University-Long Beach, Long Beach, CA, created OER Assistant to “semi-automate” the selection of OER for himself and his colleagues.

Using OER Assistant, instructors are able to copy and paste a learning objective of a course into a form and the software then uses key phrases to search OER repositories, such as Merlot II, OER Commons, and OpenStax CNX. The software then ranks the top possibilities.

It’s still possible the user will have to work through the hundreds of results, but OER Assistant does push to the top rankings used by OER repositories, when available, and key phrases it finds the most often.

“I’ve just pulled together some available resources and put them to a particular task,” Walker said in an article in Campus Technology. “I think this is something that many folks could easily re-create on their own, maybe with their own particular tweak to how it displays the results or what repositories are searched and so on.”

Monday, September 14, 2015

Students Still Want Print Textbooks

Another survey of college students reported a significant number prefer using print textbooks over electronic versions. In fact, 72% of more than 500 current college students said they would rather use traditional textbooks in a poll conducted by Direct Textbook, a textbook price-comparison search engine.

Printed textbooks were easier to read and the fact that students normally ended up printing e-book pages anyway were among the reasons given for preferring traditional content. Students also cited the ability to highlight passages, their own lack of focus and concentration when studying with digital content, and classroom bans on tablets and laptops as reasons for wanting traditional textbooks.

The weight of e-textbooks and the fact they didn’t have to be returned were among the reasons 27% of the respondents preferred electronic textbooks. Those students also liked that e-books are more environmentally friendly, searchable, and can convert text to audio, but some of the students indicated they preferred e-books for recreational  reading and rather than for learning.

The report noted that Student Monitor research has found that 87% of the textbooks purchased or rented in 2014 were print editions, while e-textbooks made up just 9% of the market. One surprising outcome of the Direct Textbook poll was that both students who preferred print books and those who wanted e-books cited lower costs as a reason for their format preference.

“Given the ubiquity of e-book-reading devices on college campuses, it’s interesting that students prefer print textbooks over e-books, and that purchasing behavior supports that sentiment,” said Morgan MacArthur, chief technology officer of Direct Textbook. “What’s even more interesting are the differences in perception: Both students who preferred textbooks and those who preferred e-books cited lower prices as a reason.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

Search Tool Makes Access Easier

A team of computer science and software development experts from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) are working on a tool to help students and faculty categorize and access multimedia resources. Ultimate Course Search (UCS) is in the beta stage, but the Google-style search engine is able to sort through course-generated multimedia using specific keywords.

NJIT ran tests of the software in the fall 2014 semester and the following spring at Montclair State University. Students were given a link to UCS and had to present identification to gain access before they could choose their institution and course. Students type a keyword into the course page and then select the “Slides/Video” or “Textbook” tab to narrow the search.

Both searches take students to a list of hyperlinked locations where the keyword is mentioned. They can view the scanned online page of any book where the reference was made, while the video tab lists slides and videos with the keyword in order of relevancy.

“The future of search, just like learning overall, is headed toward personalization,” Vincent Oria, associate professor of computer science and chair of the online program at NJIT, said in an article for eCampus News. “By this, I envision a student posing a question into the search system and the system giving a personalized answer. The answer will be personalized not just based on relevancy of material, but on the system recognizing the student’s unique learning preferences and tailoring the search results to that individual student; in other words, presenting the information to the specific student in the modality and format that works best for him or her.”

The result of the first test was very promising. Only two or three students using UCS dropped the test class, compared to a 50% dropout rate for a class that didn’t have access to the tool. The spring data results were skewed because students using the tool were sharing the login with the control group.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Blog Studies Book Costs by Major

Most of the rants about the expense of college textbooks that appear at the beginning of every term focus on total costs. Priceonomics, a conservative think tank, took a look at individual majors and found the average class costs for some are four times the amount of the least expensive ones.

The site used data from the fall 2015 textbook list from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. It also assumed students purchased new versions of every required and optional textbook listed for the more than 750 courses on the list.

Economics students would pay $317 for books per class, topping the list. Language majors were second to economics at $268 per class, but sciences/social sciences filled the next nine slots. African-American studies books cost just $80 per class.

The most expensive book was a biochemistry text at $406 each. While physics textbooks cost an average of $158 per book, engineering books were $124 per title. English and literature books were the least expensive, with an average of $19 per text. The best books at buyback were music titles, which retained 68% of their value.

“In order to avoid these costs, many students may choose to buy used books, rent books, or pray the library has a book when they need it,” wrote Dan Kopf, author of the Priceonomics blog post. “There are also advocates pushing professors to choose open textbooks (textbooks for which there is no copyright). Though it may limit your long-term earning potential, our analysis suggests another way to lower your textbook cost is to choose a major in the humanities.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tough Time with Adaptive Math

About 85% of the incoming students at Essex Community College, Newark, NJ, place in the lowest level of developmental math, and just 10% of the students ever complete a college-level math course. That led the institution to make a $1.2 million investment in new math labs.

Along with the labs, the college designed a “self-regulated” group approach for students featuring two 50-minute classroom sessions a week to discuss their progress with other students, as well as workbooks with learning goals that are worked out with instructors, according to a report in Inside Higher Education. The initial results have not been promising.

The pass rate for the traditional development math at Essex always hovered around 50%, but the adaptive class fell to 35% in 2014, the first year of the program. The rate inched closer to 50% in the spring semester, but is still behind the pass rate of the traditional class.

“Our problem is not content,” said Douglas Walcerz, vice president of planning, research, and assessment at Essex. “Our problem is both student beliefs and behaviors.”

One issue was keeping students using the self-regulated workbooks on pace with instructors, who often were graduate students from Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Essex switched back to having its own faculty members supervise the learning sessions. Faculty also balked after being asked to essentially roam the classroom and offer individual help on computer-based courseware.

However, Essex will continue using the adaptive math approach and is looking at other adaptive learning providers. Walcerz said he believes adaptive learning requires a higher standard of mastery than conventional courses and provides more data on student performance.

“You can’t learn for them,” Walcerz said. “It takes time and it’s hard.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

New Ways to Cheat on MOOCs

Cheating on free massive open online courses (MOOCs) happens, according to new research from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The study found that learners are signing up for multiple courses and using one account to get the correct answers for another account.

The strategy is known as CAMEO, from “copying answers using multiple existences online.” Using the strategy, learners create multiple accounts to gain access to the correct answers to questions. They then use the right answers to earn a perfect score and a certificate showing their mastery of the topic.

“When you see this interweaving of one account from an Internet location getting a bunch of answers wrong, checking the solutions, then immediately followed by another account from the same location submitting the correct answers, you start to get a little suspicious,” said Andrew Ho, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in a report for Inside Higher Education.

Researchers collected data from 115 Harvard and MIT MOOCs that were offered between fall 2012 and June 2015 and found that at least 1% of the 1,237 certificates awarded were earned by using CAMEO. Only 0.1% of the cheaters were taking computer science courses, while 1.3% took government, health, and social science courses. Also, most of the cheaters came from Albania, Indonesia, Serbia, Colombia, and China.

“One of the most interesting lessons from the paper is that there are ways to mitigate cheating that are straightforward and implementable by the teams creating online course content,” said Isaac L. Chuang, senior associate dean of digital learning at MIT. “We also expect platform improvements, such as virtual proctoring, to help reduce cheating.”

Monday, September 7, 2015

It's Labor Day

From all of NACS Inc. staff in Oberlin, Westlake, and Cincinnati, OH, as well as our staff in California and Washington, D.C., have a safe and happy Labor Day.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Virtual Reality Is Coming to Med School

Students of the Western University of Health Sciences will soon be able to perform virtual dissections and organ exploration. The institution, with campuses in California and Oregon, has created a virtual-reality learning center using funds from an anonymous donation of $100,000.

The center, located on the first floor of the Pumerantz Library on the Western campus in Pomona, CA, will feature a virtual dissection table as an alternative to the traditional cadaver lab. The table is able to display life-sized human forms re-created from patient scans and cadavers.

“This allows you to look inside the body. You see volume. You see tissues. You see in 360-degree access,” Robert Hasel, associate dean of simulation, said in an article for Campus Technology. “You can zoom in and out. You can slice it and isolate tissue types and organs, and view the radiographic images. It’s multifunctional in use. You can embed curriculum in it, everything from information to testing.”

Along with the virtual dissection table, the center will have 4-D displays and utilize Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses. A program created with the Stanford University School of Medicine Division of Clinical Anatomy will allow students to take a tour of the human body.

“This is a great, fun project,” Hasel said. “It is going to benefit students and faculty in many ways. We’re bringing three-dimensional teaching into a three-dimensional science, with the combined ability to interact with it.”

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ed Gaming Growing in Different Directions

To game or not to game may be a moot question for educators. All kinds of instructional gamification are in play these days, according to The Miami Herald.

“Educators increasingly see digital games as a language that many students seem to intuitively understand, so they’re trying to use that language to make playing facilitate learning,” noted the article, reprinted on Phys.org.

Some K-12 teachers are incorporating popular online games, such as World of Warcraft, into lesson plans to help students understand certain concepts and work together on problem-solving. Others are using consumer games as a launching point for teaching computer coding, fostering creative ideas, and aligning classwork with Common Core guidelines.

One Miami teacher discovered that Oregon Trail, a game first released 10 years ago—a long time for video games—helped illustrate history lessons for his special-education classes.

In tech classes at the University of Miami, college students are developing games for younger students, although not all are aimed at classroom instruction. A new game called Zoo Rush, for instance, is designed to help youngsters who have been newly diagnosed with sickle cell disease. As the players attempt to round up escaped zoo animals, they learn about their disease and how to manage its symptoms.

Game design is also being taught at the high-school level, usually in magnet schools or summer programs. Miami-Dade schools set up an online portal to enable students to access a variety of gaming applications from home.

Parents have gotten into the act as well, downloading games to help their kids practice math problems or foreign-language pronunciation on smartphones or tablets.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

UT Offering First All-Digital Degree Program

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, launched a new degree program that eliminates the need for traditional textbooks. Freshmen enrolled in biomedical sciences were given iPads at orientation and all course materials for the program will be delivered to them on the device.

The program, designed by the UT System’s Institute for Transformational Learning, is the first step in a competency-based education initiative by the institution. Courses will be delivered in a combination of online, classroom, laboratory, or clinical formats, according to a report on the My Harlingen News blog.

“Using elements of the competency-based approach and student services supporting creativity, determination, and drive, UTRGV students are going to be better prepared to take the MCAT, enter medical school, and be successful medical students,” said Francisco Fernandez, dean of the UTRGV College of Medicine. “What this will result in is more qualified doctors coming from the Rio Grande Valley who have the power to transform this community.”

Students will use their iPads to access classroom and online content through a mobile-first application designed by the UT System known as the total education experience or TEx. The TEx app is highly personalized and allows students to speak with classmates and faculty online anytime.

“The most exciting moment for all of us will come in the following years when we see students succeeding by graduating, entering medical school, and becoming knowledgeable and talented biomedical researchers and health-care professionals,” said Marni Baker Stein, chief innovation officer for the UT System.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Group Asks Government for More OER

The federal government invests billions to fund programs that create educational, training, and instructional materials, but that doesn’t necessarily mean taxpayers have free access. A group of more than 85 educational technology stakeholders would like to see that change.

The group has urged the Obama administration to make more federally funded education content available online as open educational resources (OER). It’s also asking the public to get involved by using the hashtag #OERUSA to call for open access to the taxpayer-funded content.

“Giving educators, students, and the public at large greater access to publicly funded resources will only mean greater opportunities for success,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking in an article in eSchool News.

The group noted that making the content available could help college students who must grapple with the rising cost of course material. In addition, it could aid school districts that require students to share textbooks and other course materials as they struggle to find up-to-date textbooks.