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


Monday, November 30, 2015

Latest Tech Expected on Campus

People have come to assume colleges and universities use the latest technology. In fact, a new survey found that 86% of more than 2,000 people surveyed last August and September anticipated an institution’s auxiliary services, including the campus store, to be outfitted with the newest technology, while 81% said use of the latest tech improved their opinion of the institution.

Nearly every respondent (95%) to the survey, conducted for the office-equipment company Ricoh, said they believe college costs have gotten too expensive, but 79% also said a college degree is necessary to landing a good-paying job. The study reported that 65% of respondents believe online classes can help reduce student costs.

At the same time, most students can’t imagine a completely paperless campus, according to a report in Campus Technology. Nearly two-thirds said it would be impossible for students to complete assignments without using paper every day. Just 48% said they could see a paperless campus within the next few years.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Chromebooks Become the Tool of Choice

The Apple iPad may still be a trendy option, but with 2.5 million shipped to schools in the first six months of 2015, the Google Chromebook has become the tool of choice for many. There are several reasons Chromebook has become such a steady performer, according to Stephen Noonoo of eSchool News.

Noonoo discussed the device during an episode of Education Talk Radio. Part of the Chromebook story is that Google is a brand to which even Apple users turn. Students are comfortable with the Google Apps for Education and use them in class regularly.

It doesn’t hurt that the Chromebook is less expensive than other devices, such as the iPad, and replacement parts are cheaper to obtain. Cost and dependability make it a safe choice for schools. In addition, there are plenty of easily accessible training and professional development tools available for the Chromebook.

“Whereas some devices get bogged down and begin to crawl after years of downloading and heavy use (and others feel less useful thanks to planned obsolescence), Chromebooks are capable of lasting for years without much noticeable change,” Noonoo wrote.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

From all the staff at NACS Inc. in Oberlin, Westlake, and Cincinnati, OH, as well as in California and Washington, D.C., have a save and happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

College Grads Head to Community College

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has found that one out of every 14 people attending a community college already has a bachelor’s degree. Most of the degree holders returned to school to find a new career, particularly in the field of health care, while others are looking to upgrade job-related skills.

“There’s a lot of disciplines universities aren’t offering,” Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, associate professor of education at the University of California Los Angeles, said in an article for The Hechinger Report. “The universities aren’t keeping up.”

Instead of being a good thing for community colleges, the trend is causing some problems. Nearly 60% of community college students need to take remedial math, including college graduates returning to school, according to the Community College Research Center. Providing remedial math to more students could lead community colleges to spend more of their limited funds on supporting students who already have degrees.

“If it detracts from their ability to serve students without credentials, I think colleges might be reluctant to do it,” said Kent Phillippe, associate vice president of the AACC.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Solutions for the Phone Distraction

Research at the University of Colorado Boulder found that 75% of undergraduates at the institution reported texting during class. The study also linked in-class texting to an average drop of a half letter grade in the course.

Doug Duncan, an astronomy professor who co-authored the paper, settled on a simple solution: He asked his students if they would set aside their cellphones for a participation point for the class. The end result was the entire class voted to put down their phones for the duration of the class.

“I asked two students on their way out why they voted to put their phones on the desk,” Duncan said in a report for National Public Radio. “They said, ‘We know we aren’t supposed to use them, and this gives us a reward for doing that.’”

Larry Rosen, a research psychologist and professor emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, isn’t sold on the idea that providing students an incentive is a good idea. In fact, his experiments have shown that students’ heart rates and other vital signs rise when they can’t answer their ringing phones.

Instead, Rosen recommends an interval approach to the phone distraction.

“I start by calling a tech break, where they can check their phone for one minute, every 15 minutes,” he said. “Over time, you can increase it to 20, 25. And within a couple of weeks, you can get them to go 30 minutes without needing it.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

Younger Workers Expect to Use Tech

A third of workers in their 20s and 30s are more likely to use social media at work, according to research from CompTIA, an IT industry association. At the same time, 64% of the workers surveyed said social media has a negative impact on work productivity.

The problem for employers is that those younger workers want to work for companies offering the option to use telecommunications and are willing to accept a lower salary to work in that environment. In fact, 75% of the millennials in the survey said a company’s technology usage was a factor in their decision to accept a job.

“The data also suggests that younger workers are more apt to feel their employer is pushing the technology envelope, suggesting that they’re taking greater advantage of what’s being offered,” Anna Matthai, manager, research and marketing intelligence, CompTIA, said in a report for eCampus News. “As the world becomes more digital, businesses with the best technology will be in the best position to compete for and hire young workers.”

Millennials hold a high opinion of their own comfort level with technology, with 70% saying they are “cutting edge” when it comes to its usage. Interestingly, just 55% of GenX workers held the same high opinion of themselves, and only 30% of Baby Boomers surveyed agreed.

The survey also found that email is the most-used form of communication in the workplace, but newer forms, such as texting and instant messaging, are becoming more popular. Younger workers are more likely to use instant messaging, video chats, or mobile apps, and use social media for IT support.

Friday, November 20, 2015

ED Report Critical of CBE Credentialing

More than 600 colleges and universities are either in the design phase or already offer competency-based (CBE) credentials, according to a September report in Inside Higher Education. That work may be in jeopardy following the critical audit of CBE issued by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

The inspector general’s office, which works independently of ED, has raised concerns in its last two audits of the credential review process. The audit was critical of the way the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the largest regional accreditor, considered college proposals for CBE credentialing. It also questioned the level of interaction between instructors and students.

In 2014, the inspector general’s audit criticized approval of direct-assessment degrees. It also questioned the faculty’s role in CBE credentialing and worried about low-quality providers. That prompted HLC to freeze approval of degrees last year and the Department of Education to issue more guidance on CBE.

“I, along with many others, have pointed out numerous times that this particular regulation makes little sense in today’s world of emerging online, competency-based programs—and we should instead be moving toward outcomes-based judgments around institutions,” Michael B. Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, wrote in a column that appeared in CompetencyWorks. “But the friction is also entirely predictable, as competency-based education simply does not fit into the traditional value network and associated regulatory structures of higher education.”

On the heels of the critical audit, ED announced a series of executive actions aimed at strengthening the overall accreditation system. The department will make public the standards every accreditor uses to evaluate student outcomes. Accreditors will have to submit letters that are sent to colleges and universities when the institutions are put on probation and also highlight data such as student graduation rates, debt levels, and postgraduation earnings, according to a report in U.S. News & World Report.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Webinar Looks at Future of Course Materials

To find out what lies ahead for the creation and distribution of learning content, NACS commissioned an extensive research and analysis project which involved interviews with dozens of people involved in higher education instruction and administration, academic publishing, content distribution and sales, and libraries and educational technology.

The findings from that project and their implications for higher ed will be examined in a free webinar, Exploring the Future Course Content Ecosystem on Campus, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 1 p.m. Eastern. The project and webinar were underwritten by the NACS Foundation.

The webinar will touch on changes in teaching and learning—as well as student access and affordability issues—that are driving the development of new kinds of course materials and in-class instructional materials. These include digital versions of textbooks, courseware that combines reading material and teaching modules, adaptive learning content, and open educational resources (OER).

As the needs of faculty and students have shifted over the years, so has the role of the campus bookstore. The webinar will discuss how stores will fit into the new course-content landscape and what strategies stores can adopt to support students’ and instructors’ success.

Presenting the webinar will be Tony Ellis, CAE, vice president, industry advancement, NACS.

Advance registration for the webinar is required. If you haven’t already set up a NACS login, you will be prompted to create one before registering.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Students Want Learning Analytics Tools

Students want the instant feedback available through learning analytics technology. In fact, 87% of the students surveyed for The Impact of Technology on College Student Study Habits said such technology can have a positive impact on their academic performance.

More than 2,600 college students participated in the survey, conducted by McGraw-Hill Education and Hanover Research. The students ranged from freshmen to Ph.D. students in a mix of majors.

“Students today have a desire for immediate and continual feedback,” said Peter Cohen, group president of U.S. Education at McGraw-Hill Education. “By using technology to deliver learning experiences that leverage those motivations, we can capitalize on an enormous opportunity to improve learning outcomes. Adaptive learning technology provides just that kind of actionable, real-time feedback, and does so in a way that’s incredibly personalized.”

Nearly 85% of the responding students said they experienced moderate or major improvements in their grades using adaptive learning technology, while 67% reported the technology made them feel better prepared for class and 57% said it helped improve study efficiency. The study also found that while 84% of students said technology helps instructors to be more effective in class, 86% felt there was still room for improvement in its use.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Working Students on Campus

A 2015 Georgetown University study found that more than 70% of college students worked while attending school over the last 25 years. The percentage of working students increased throughout the last quarter century, except for the years during and after the recession of 2008.

The study, Learning While Earning: The New Normal, reported that students work an average of 30 hours each week and 25% are working full time. It also found that educational costs have increased to the point where even a full-time work schedule is generally not enough to cover the bills.

“Today, almost every college student works, but you can’t work your way through college anymore,” Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said in a report for CNBC. “Even if you work, you have to take out loans and take on debt.”

Seven in 10 college graduates had student-loan debt in 2014 and the average amount owed was nearly $29,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. The Georgetown research found that while 14% of working learners had student debt of more than $50,000, 22% of nonworking students carried similar obligations.

The report also pointed out that working provides hands-on experience, even when the job isn’t related to a student’s major.

“Working while one is still in school enhances the ability to meet deadlines, work under pressure, and effectively structure time blocks,” said Wendy Patrick, business ethics lecturer at San Diego State University. “It instills a sense of discipline, responsibility, structure—all elements that contribute to a successful life.”

Monday, November 16, 2015

Students Depend on Campus Store

Despite reports to the contrary, the campus store remains an important resource for course materials, according to a student panel survey conducted by OnCampus Research. The study found that 73% of the students said it was extremely important or very important to have a physical store on campus that sells course materials.

The survey also reported that 62% of students bought course materials in their campus store in the past year, compared to 27% who said they acquired course materials through the store’s website. In addition, 78% of students living on campus acquired course materials at their college store.

The survey also found 80% of community college students said a physical store on campus that sold course materials was important. The survey found that 71% purchased school supplies from the campus store, 37% bought food and beverages, and 36% picked up apparel and school-logo wear.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Apple Watch Looks Like a Hit

Apple could have another big seller on its hands. The computer giant hasn’t revealed sales figures for its Apple Watch, but the marketing research firm Canalys reported that Apple shipped more of the devices in the last 15 months than all other vendors combined.

Canalys found that Apple shipped nearly seven million Apple Watches since its debut in late April. The firm also suggested that supply problems at the launch kept shipment numbers down.

“After experiencing significant supply-chain constraints early on, Apple managed to overcome its production struggles with the Apple Watch and is building momentum going into the fourth quarter,” an analyst at Canalys said. “Shipments are steadily increasing as it has greatly expanded the watch’s channel footprint internationally.”

Canalys reported that Pebble shipped 200,000 units during the third quarter. During the same time period, Apple shipped more than 300,000 units and was the only smartwatch maker to do so.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

More Students Want Fitness Tech than Tablets

While tablets are must-have technology for some people, the devices haven’t yet reached that status with college students. A new survey shows 93.9% of students own a laptop but only 48.4% possess a tablet and 9.3% have a tablet/laptop combo.

With the holiday season approaching, does that mean tablets are high on the wish lists for the 42% of students who don’t have one? Not necessarily. The October 2015 campus survey from OnCampus Research reveals only 16.3% of all respondents said they expect to purchase a tablet in the next 12 months, while 11.6% will be seeking out a new laptop and 12.2% will buy a tablet/laptop hybrid. Those numbers, though, include students who intend to swap their current device for a brand-new model, not just first-timers.

However, the largest slice of students—20.8%—are looking to buy fitness technology in the next year while 14.9% want other types of wearable technology, such as a GoPro. About 16.7% of students already own some kind of fitness gadget, but just 6.5% have a nonfitness-related wearable.

Even though many people deem desktop computers and e-readers to be “old-school” tech and predict they’ll disappear from the market shortly, some college students don’t agree. About 33.6% of students still own a desktop and 12.3% even plan to buy a new one in the coming months. More than a quarter of students have an e-reader, with 11.4% expecting to purchase a new device this year.

OnCampus Research, part of indiCo, a division of NACS, fields surveys on different topics every month to a panel of more than 14,000 college and university students.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Online Cheating Becomes Big Business

In 2014, the market research firm Global Industry Analyst projected online education would be a $100 billion business by 2015. That value will only grow if the public begins to see online degrees as carrying the same weight as the ones earned in a traditional college classroom.

It’s also the kind of money that can bring out the cheater in some. Businesses are already cropping up that will assume students’ identities and do their coursework for them, for a fee.

“If a goal of online education proponents is to convince the public and employers that an online education is as official and prestigious as a traditional one earned in brick-and-mortar and Ivy classrooms, it’s hard to imagine anything more damaging than identity-fraud schemes in which students literally pay for grades but do no work whatsoever,” wrote Derek Newton in his report in The Atlantic. “At least with a traditional degree, the assumption is the recipient actually went to class personally.”

Newton also suspects there may be more to online cheating than Internet firms making money off people who want college credit without doing the work. He suggested that the low cost of production and the high number of students an online course can reach could be an incentive for institutions to concern themselves less with online cheating.

“In at least this way, it seems both the schools and the cheating providers have a similar economic incentive: They may both profit by having more online students,” he wrote.

Newton noted there are steps available to cut down on online impersonation. Using video technology for more direct engagement between the students and teacher is one avenue. Another would be to encourage more interaction between students themselves.

“If online college programs are ever going to compete with traditional ones, the advocates and providers should at least acknowledge the threat of online cheating and take steps to stop it—even if that means increasing costs and slowing the growth of online options,” he wrote.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Campus IT Pros See Bright Future for OER

The 2015 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology found that 92% of responding faculty and 97% of administrators agreed that open educational resources (OER) should be used more in the classroom. Now, the informational technology pros on campus have chimed in.

The Campus Computer Survey found that 81% of responding technology officers said OER will be an important source of instructional material in the next five years. They also said that 38% of their institutions are encouraging faculty to use OER, up from 33% just a year ago.

The top priority for campus IT officials is helping faculty members integrate information technology into their lessons, according to a blog post in The Chronicle of Higher Education. However, the report also found that just 17% of campuses include instructional IT as part of the faculty review and promotion process.

“This is what IT officers think is important, but then we’ve got the continuing struggle,” said Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the survey. “Why is it that we don’t recognize the faculty members who do that as part of review and promotion?”

Providing user support and having qualified IT staff were next on the priority list, followed by network security and leveraging IT for student success.

Monday, November 9, 2015

New Measures of MOOC Success

Low completion rates remain an issue for massive open online courses (MOOCs). However, that’s not the only measure of success, according to leaders of the MOOC initiative at Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA.

Elke M. Leeds, associate vice president of technology-enhanced learning, and Jim Cope, executive director of distance learning, reported in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration that they found success in the MOOC initiative at KSU by looking at return on financial investment, branding, and student access.

“The new proposition shifts measures of success beyond just course completion to include measures that benefit students, faculty, and the institution,” they wrote in “MOOCs: Branding, Enrollment, and MultipleMeasures of Success.” “Students benefited through access to open educational resources, the acquisition of professional learning units at no cost, and the potential of college credit at a greatly reduced cost. Academic units benefited through a mechanism to attract students and future revenue, while the university benefited through digital impressions, branding, institutionally leveraged scalable learning environments, streamlined credit evaluations processes, and expanded digital education.”

Leeds and Cope determined that if four students enrolled in the institution’s two-year associated graduate endorsement program after taking a MOOC, their tuition would cover the production, design, and delivery costs of the MOOC. The first MOOC did much better than that, with 100 professional learning units awarded and 12 students enrolled in the endorsement program.

To evaluate the branding effect of the MOOC initiative at KSU, Leed and Cope documented more than 25,000 Twitter hashtag tweets and retweets about the program. They determined that 75% of the learners had either never heard of Kennesaw State or were largely unfamiliar with it, but all were engaged with learning materials produced by the university.

Leeds and Cope also reported that the program’s video lectures had more than 80,000 viewers, and nearly 4,000 unique viewers over a 10-month period in 2014. After just six weeks of offering MOOCs in 2015, they recorded more than 25,000 unique viewers to lectures, 28,000 streaming views, and more than 6,000 downloads of course materials.

“The traditional measures of success based on participation, retention, and completion only tell one side of the MOOC success story,” the authors wrote. “They can drive recruitment, offer cost reduction, and, in essence, become an educational product with reach far beyond that typically available to the university.”

Friday, November 6, 2015

Should Apple Buy a University?

Rumor has it that the next big thing from Apple could be an electric car. Economist Alex Tabarrok would rather see the computer giant sink its cash into a university.

To Tabarrok, an Apple University could serve as the proving ground for educational technologies. He envisions an institution of higher education that could become a leader in online technologies, artificial-intelligence tutors, and virtual-reality experimentation.

In addition, Apple’s worldwide reputation would help attract the best students, which would create a greater demand for Apple educational products. The firm has already started the process with iTunes U and training courses in business and design, according to Tabarrok.

“More than a century ago, Stanford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller used their industrial-age fortunes to build some of our best universities,” Tabarrok wrote in Marginal Revolution. “Isn’t it time for another great university built for the information age?”

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Conference to Work on Textbook Affordability

The cost of course materials has become a white-hot issue in higher education, with fingers of blame pointed in multiple directions. The second annual Textbook Affordability Conference hopes to shift the focus to working on solutions to help students.

The 2016 conference—which aims to bring together professionals from across postsecondary academia, educational policymaking, and content production and distribution—will take place April 27-29 at the University of California-Davis.

NACS is coordinating the development of the 2016 program, which will include nationally known speakers, workshops, and discussion. Informational sessions with solution providers may also be available.

The conference is open to provosts and other higher education leaders, faculty, librarians, directors and course materials managers from campus bookstores, political leaders, open education resource developers, content providers, and others.

Registration will open later. Fees will be $400 for government aned institutional attendees, and $700 for representatives of supplier companies. Fees include all sessions, meals, and receptions.

For an overview, go to www.nacs.org/TAC.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Disconnect Between Librarians, Faculty

Librarians appear to have a communications problem on campus. A survey, Bridging the Librarian-Faculty Gap in the Academic Library2015, reported that while 98% of librarians wish they had better communications with faculty, just 45% of the responding faculty members had the same opinion.

The survey of 500 librarians and 500 faculty members, conducted by Library Journal and the publishing company Gale, reported that 27% of faculty members think there is no need to consult with librarians about course reserves. One faculty respondent in the survey even claimed “faculty does not view the library as an up-to-date resource,” while another said Google Scholar was more essential than the library, according to a report in eCampus News.

In addition, 57% of faculty members who engaged with librarians said they worked together to provide resources, while only 31% of librarians agreed. Two-third of librarians rated libraries as being “excellent” or “above average” at creating collections of content to support curricula, while just 54% of faculty agreed.

“As more pressure is put on higher-education institutions to measure outcomes, there needs to be greater recognition of the value the library brings to the table,” said Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager for Gale. “From the survey, it’s clear that there is opportunity and need to ingrain the library in campus culture—which will ultimately elevate the learning experience, a common goal for all stakeholders.”

Faculty suggested dedicated library liaisons for each department could be part of the solution, while the librarians want more chances to attend faculty meetings, as well as commitments from the institution to embed library-taught research skills. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Scanner Could Be a Problem for Publishers

Relatively cheap digital scanning technology could soon be available at your neighborhood office-supply store. The funding platform IndieGoGo.com is trying to raise money for a mass-market device that, if successful, will make it much easier to copy and share printed files and will retail for less than $400.

The Czur, pronounced “Caesar,” is able to digitize printed pages in less than a second and an entire book in a matter of minutes. The device even has software that corrects for the curves of bound pages, fingerprints, and page-to-text contrast.

The problem for Keith Darnay, online manager of The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, ND, is that making the copying process easier also makes it easier to illegally copy and share any type of publication, including college textbooks.

“I have no doubt the developers of this technology have nothing but good intentions. They see their device as a way to empower everyone with something that allows them to digitize personal documents or commercial publications they have purchased and owned,” Darnay wrote in a column. “But you can almost guarantee there will be those few who will take advantage of the scanner to illegally copy and distribute material that doesn’t belong to them.”

Monday, November 2, 2015

ACE Launches Alternative Credit Project

The American Council on Education (ACE) submitted 111 low- or no-cost general education online courses to be part of its new Alternative Credit Project. Forty colleges and universities participating in the program will grant credit for these courses, which include business, critical thinking and writing, foreign language, humanities, mathematics, and natural and physical sciences.

ACE will collect data from the institutions on the number of credits accepted through the program, along with the progress and success rates of students who transfer in the courses. ACE uses faculty from regionally accredited institutions to review all courses in the Alternative Credit Project Ecosystem (ACPE) before they earn a credit recommendation.

“Nontraditional students, who often are balancing multiple family and career demands, now know where they can turn to take courses that will help them reduce the time and expense required to gain a postsecondary degree or credential at a number of outstanding institutions,” Deborah Seymour, ACE assistant vice president for education attainment and innovation, said in a press release.

The cost of the courses varies, but no participating provider is charging more than $300 per course, which includes course materials except lab kits.