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.

The site uses Google's cookies to provide services and analyze traffic. Your IP address and user agent are shared with Google, along with performance and security statistics to ensure service quality, generate usage statistics, detect abuse and take action.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Taking Back Textbook Sales

There are plenty of reasons for college stores to consider offering a virtual online solution for course materials. The model can reduce costs while providing guaranteed commissions to make up for some of the lost revenue. The newfound space created by the absence of textbooks can also be dedicated to merchandise that produce higher margins.

The Florence O. Wilson Bookstore, The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH, gave the hybrid model a try, but soon discovered that a virtual solution was actually keeping students away. After two semesters, the store decided to offer textbooks again because a branded website with competitive prices simply became another place for Wooster students to search instead of the place to go for course materials.

“College stores have long provided value, serving faculty and students in equal measure with technology, processes, and expertise to support the academic needs of the institution,” Director Kevin Leitner, CCR, wrote in a LinkedIn post. “The hybrid model, while it offers some advantages, puts a college store in danger of disintermediation and irrelevance, the ultimate danger to a college store.”

Editor’s note: The CITE will be on hiatus as the NACS offices and warehouse in in Oberlin, Westlake, and Cincinnati, OH, as well as in California and Washington, D.C., are closed the week of Dec. 26-Jan. 2. Look for the next post to appear on Jan. 4, 2017. From all the staff of NACS Inc., have a safe and happy holiday season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Job Market May Lure Away Students

Heading into the next decade, colleges and universities may have a tougher time selling prospective students on the need for a bachelor’s degree.

An article in The Sacramento Bee rounded up a lot of evidence that young people are gravitating to jobs that only require an associate degree or less. As the economy slowly warms up, companies are adding more of these higher-paying blue-collar positions—roughly 2.5 million of them, according to USA Today.

More companies are also willing to provide extensive training and apprenticeships to new workers in order to gain the exact skills needed.

Of the 11 most rapidly growing jobs in the U.S. right now, just three mandate an advanced degree. Some fields are expected to explode with new jobs, such as carpentry, which is forecast for 24% growth within six years.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Chatbots in the Classroom

Chatbots are being used in retail and finance to provide answers to common customer-service issues on e-commerce sites. Instructors at the BI Norwegian Business School are working on ways to use the same technology in the classroom.

Not satisfied with the choices in learning management systems, advisor Erik B√łylestad Nilsen and his team worked with the educational technology startup Edtech Foundry to pilot Differ, a solution that uses chatbots to encourage students to interact with course materials. Differ is able to respond to frequently asked questions and urges students to participate in class discussions and forums.

“Students have a lot of the same questions over and over again,” Nilsen said in an article for EdSurge. “They’re looking for the answers to easy administrative questions and they have similar types of questions regarding their subjects each year. Chatbots help get rid of some of the noise. Students are able to get answers as quick as possible and move on.”

Chatbots use data from the courses to learn the answers and spot student behaviors. They can also be used to send direct messages to individual students rather than posting information to the entire class. Students using the tool appear to be more open to talking to chatbots than originally envisioned.

“They’re afraid of being judged,” Nilsen said. “There’s no space where they can ask the silly questions, where they can stay out of the faculty’s loop.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

K-12 Issues May Impact Higher Ed, Too

As the new year approaches, predictions for the state of education in 2017 and beyond are starting to pop up. District Administration magazine asked a number of experts to name those issues in K-12 education that could have the most impact on student outcomes. Their answers might apply to higher education as well.

Using new technologies appropriately topped the list, in particular, a need for education leaders to receive more professional development in understanding how to evaluate and deploy tech tools. School administrators should also act “more like coaches” in utilizing technology.

Another high-impact issue is taking advantage of social media to help teachers connect with each other, share best practices, and provide feedback. Most instructors work in relative isolation and need more interaction with their peers when it comes to teaching. In higher ed, for example, many adjunct instructors don’t even have a permanent office where they might get to know other faculty.

The third issue seen as having the most potential effect on student success is ensuring racial diversity in classrooms. Some are concerned other issues, especially financial matters, have diminished diversity efforts.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Primary Schools Face Phones in Classrooms

Phones, tablets, and other electronic devices have become ubiquitous in high school and higher education. Now, they’re turning up in the hands of elementary school students as well, with one recent study finding that children in the U.S. get their first cellphones at about age 10. That has districts scrambling to devise rules to govern their use.

At some schools, phones can only be used for emergencies. Other districts still ban cellphones in primary schools, with an option for families to seek a waiver if their child needs to have a phone with them at school.

Some educators and parents are concerned about the impact phones could have on the culture of elementary school, including the fact that they might exacerbate divisions between haves and have-nots. There are also issues about access, such as using a district’s network vs. a private provider that might not be set up to filter inappropriate content. The presence of phones in the classroom also adds to teachers’ responsibilities.

“I don’t want to spend my time monitoring inappropriate cellphone usage when I could be using that time for instruction,” an elementary school teacher in Silver Spring, MD, told The Washington Post.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Different Look at Online Learning

There are plenty of consultants and management providers willing to advise institutions on the best ways to start an online learning program. Those experts are probably wrong, according to Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning.

Kim offered some unconventional advice in his recent Insider Higher Ed blog, starting with the notion that online programs should not be considered a revenue source, but that the classes should be able to cover their costs.

He also suggested that online programs need to be created in areas that differentiate the institution from others rather than simply offering courses that are in demand. Small classes featuring personal attention and quality are the best way to begin.

“The reasons that small online programs have a good chance of achieving economic sustainability have to do with the cost structure of online learning,” Kim wrote. “Colleges and universities can add more (tuition-paying) students without large fixed-cost investments. No need to build new classrooms or dorms. Almost all the costs will be variable costs—and therefore can rise with enrollment.”

Finally, Kim said online courses should be about learning for everyone involved.

“Thinking of a new online learning program as a disciplined experiment will open everyone up to a growth and learning mindset,” he wrote. “Failures (and there will be many) will be opportunities to learn and improve.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Older Students Shorted at Four-Year Schools

Four-year colleges and universities are still focused on course schedules and academic services geared to the traditional 18-24 age group, which often shuts out older students with full-time jobs and kids. Community colleges, however, are doing better at offering more online courses and counseling, evening and weekend classes, and summer terms to provide greater flexibility to students of all ages, according to The Hechinger Report.

In addition, many schools have been forced for budgetary reasons to cut out services such as day-care centers that are disproportionately used by older students.

“We talk about the college-readiness of our students,” said Daniel Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “How student-ready are our colleges?”

Those 25 and older account for 40% of all U.S. undergraduate and graduate students. “These numbers, they surprise many policymakers,” Greenstein said.

On average, older students typically take longer to graduate and a higher percentage of them drop out altogether. Some have a hard time fitting classes into their work schedules or when child care is available. Complicated transfer policies and procedures also make it difficult for these students to continue their education at another school. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lulu Dives into Academic Publishing

Self-publishing, print-on-demand, and distribution company Lulu Press Inc. recently entered the educational market with its launch of Glasstree, an online publishing platform for academic and scholarly works.

Characterizing current commercial academic publishing as a broken model, Lulu hopes Glasstree will address “critical pain points” in the market by fostering more transparent pricing, speeding up product time to market, and allowing authors to see up to 70% of the profit from sales of their works.

Glasstree offers a menu of services and tools for authors, including traditional peer review and support for open access to works through a partnership with Creative Commons.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Use of E-Learning Content is Growing

Flipped and virtual classrooms, along with blended learning, are the driving forces behind the growth of generic e-learning content and courses, which is expected to increase by 8% in each of the next four years.

Other factors in that expected growth are cost savings produced by generic online classes and the proliferation of mobile devices on campus, according to a report from the technology research firm Technavio. Generic e-learning courses are defined as classes prepared according to a standard curriculum and offered by service providers, educational institutions, and experts.

“Generic e-learning courses have been incorporated across all these methods as [they provide] learning opportunities in any kind of learning methods,” wrote the authors of the report. “This enables faculty and corporates to incorporate various hybrid and unique learning and training methods.”

The study found that the flipped classroom model has more than 50% penetration in the United States education market. In addition, the adaptive-content publishing market will produce $1.07 billion in revenue by 2020 and more than 70% of all corporate training is already done online.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Schools See Success from OER Push

Some colleges and universities believe their efforts to switch from commercially published textbooks to open educational resources (OER) are paying off for students as well as faculty.

Higher education institutions are approaching OER in different ways, as a University Business article highlighting five schools shows. Some, like Wiley College in Texas, are moving all courses over to OER while others, such as the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, are offering competitive grants to encourage professors to adopt OER for individual courses. Schools are tapping a mix of resources that include faculty-written materials, readings available online or from the campus library, and materials acquired from organizations such as MERLOT and Lumen Learning.

In every case, though, helping students save significant money was the impetus for OER, not dissatisfaction with the quality of the traditional textbooks available for purchase. However, schools are also seeing a pedagogical bonus as faculty are able to tailor course materials more closely to their instruction.

“The notion that there will no longer be textbooks is implausible,” said Edna Baehre-Kolovani, president of Tidewater Community College in Virginia. “But the reasons OER is growing are student demand and faculty interest.”

On the down side, institutions are aware that creation of OER isn’t a one-and-done deal and they will have to factor in a process for ongoing updates.

“OER is like a free puppy,” said MJ Bishop, director of the University System of Maryland’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation. “There are still costs of maintaining them and keeping them current.”

Monday, November 28, 2016

Melding Creativity and Tech for Gen Z

According to an Adobe Education survey, 93% of Generation Z—the demographic cohort after the millennials, with birth years from the mid-1990s to early 2000s—view classroom technology as essential to their preparation for a career. Eighty-nine percent also see creativity playing a big role in their identity and efforts to succeed.

Some higher-ed institutions are already establishing programs to address that intersection of tech and creativity for this next generation of college students.

An article in EdTech: Focus on Higher Education details three such programs, at Parsons School of Design, Clemson University, and Rochester Institute of Technology. Initiatives include a high-tech studio for academic programs in animation, film, and game development, and a partnership with Adobe’s education division for an open-access digital learning space that features recording studios and on-campus student internships sponsored by the company.

“Today’s students want to make a difference in the world, and they want to do it using the technology tools they’ve grown up with,” Jim Holscher, vice president of education field operation for Adobe, said in a press release.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

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 safe and happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Students Own Less Tech Than You Think

Nearly all college students possess a smartphone and some type of computer, but despite their reputation for being crazy about fun tech gadgets, students don’t actually own a lot of them.

According to a NACS OnCampus Research student survey conducted in October, 95% of students already have a smartphone and 17% plan to buy a new one sometime in the next year. Almost 94% own a laptop computer and 21% have a desktop computer, indicating some students have more than one computer at home. Tablets are also popular, with 46% of students owning one.

However, far fewer students are owners of video game consoles (38%), MP3 players (22%), smart TVs (21%), wearable tech such as FitBits and smartwatches (20%), e-readers (12%), or drones (1%). Some 53% of students have no plans to acquire any new tech devices in the next 12 months.

Tech accessories are another story, though. Ninety-one percent of students already own headphones and 28% are looking to buy a pair in the next year. More than 88% have a phone case, but 40% expect to purchase a new one. Most students also own a flash drive (84%), car charging device (68%), and laptop case (52%).

Students also have quite a few other tech accessories in their possession: audio speaker (48%), wireless mouse (46%), portable power bank (40%), tablet case (34%), charging station or dock (19%), wireless charging device (17%), laptop lap desk (15%). mount or stand for phone or tablet (10%), or e-reader case (9%).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Creating Optimal Conditions for Learning

Using computer games and wearables, researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington are analyzing the effect young students’ physical and emotional states have on their attention and self-control during different tasks, especially learning. The results may reshape instructional methods and where school systems focus their efforts and investments.

“We think that if we understand the different physical and emotional states related to attention and self-regulation, we could develop targeted interventions for children and adults to achieve greater well-being,” principal researcher Catherine Spann said in a release.

Volunteers aged 7 and older answer questions about their levels of self-control and attention in everyday life, as well as how they’re feeling that day, and then move on to play games on an iPad while a wristband tracks their heart rate and skin activity, which gives an indication of how calm and engaged they are. Subjects’ scores are determined by accuracy and reaction time in completing game tasks.

“We need to understand the conditions under which people optimally learn and the ways that educators can best support students,” said George Siemens, executive director of UTA’s Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge (LINK) Research Lab, which is conducting the study in collaboration with the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s Research and Learning Center.

Friday, November 18, 2016

ED Proposed Challenge for VR Developers

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has opened a competition for immersive-simulation concepts that prepare students for the global workforce of the 21st century. The EdSim Challenge will award $680,000 in prize money to the top computer-generated virtual- and augmented-reality educational experiences that work with skill-building content and assessment.

Submissions will be judged on learning outcomes and must have clearly defined goals, a description of the student skills the challenge will help improve, and a way to provide feedback. Five finalists in the EdSim Challenge will earn $50,000 each and access to expert mentorship to build a prototype, with the remainder of the $680,000 prize money going to the winning entry.

“This initiative is an exciting example of how virtual reality and game technologies can be applied to give students everywhere the tools to prepare for future success,” said Johan Uvin, the Department of Education’s acting assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education. “We encourage developers from all disciplines to answer our call and help define the future of applied learning.”

Challenge entries must be submitted by Jan. 17, 2017. A complete list of rules is available at www.edsimchallenge.com.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Majority of Kids Read E-Books, But Favor Print

Some studies say youngsters are reaching for more e-books while others say kids still prefer print books. Scholastic’s fifth edition of the Kids and Family Reading Report shows both.

Digital reading is indeed on the rise with children of all ages, the study found. In 2010, just 25% of kids had read an e-book. That jumped to 61% in 2016. However, of those who had read an e-book, 77% conceded most of the books they read are still on paper.

Even more, it appears kids don’t expect print books to go away any time soon as 65% agreed they will “always want to read books in print even though there are e-books available,” according to the report.

Nevertheless, some companies think device-happy youngsters are ripe for digital reading material. Amazon just released a new mobile app, dubbed Rapids, that enables kids to read age-appropriate short stories on their mobile devices, including an option to read the dialogue as text messages between characters.

Intended for children aged 7-12, Rapids includes an audio component so they can read along while listening to the story. Rapids’ stories are available as a paid monthly subscription (not included with Prime membership).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Online Cheating Changes Teaching

Tutoring services, online study guides, and digital forums where students can request help on their homework abound, with some students posting copyrighted homework assignments on the sites, and some “tutors” supplying entire finished papers for users. In response, some faculty members are changing how they conduct their courses.

Some instructors expend added time to craft a fresh set of homework questions for each new semester of a course, or only allow students a quick look at their graded assignments before having them turn the work back in so it can’t be posted online. Others are altering their grading scales to give more weight to in-class exams rather than written papers, which leaves them fewer measurements for calculating a final grade.

While many student-support sites have policies and honor codes in place regarding copyrighted content and completion of students’ work for them, actual self-policing appears to be minimal or nonexistent. It’s up to faculty themselves to search out whether their copyrighted intellectual property has been posted illegally and then file a takedown request via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Survey: Americans Don't Trust College Value

Many Americans are unhappy with state of higher education and no longer convinced it’s worth the trouble. Nearly half of the respondents to a poll taken in August by Public Agenda said a college education is no longer a good investment because of the debt incurred, while 44% said they considered schools to be wasteful and inefficient.

About 60% also said institutions are mainly concerned about their bottom lines and that a college education is no longer necessary to be successful. Even more troubling is that the results were similar to a February poll conducted by the Gallup Purdue Index.

The outlook isn’t much better for students already on campus. An annual survey of more than 140,000 low-income students reported that because of costs only half actually enrolled into their school of choice. A third said they couldn’t afford their first choice and nearly 90% picked a school based on cost.

“Students are also less likely than in the past to go to college just to learn, the survey found,” education writer Jon Marcus wrote in an article for Hechinger Report. “A record 60% said they were pursuing degrees because they want to get good jobs.”

College graduates did admit to researchers that their education made an impact on their lives, but not necessarily in a good way. One poll found that about a third of grads who borrowed money for college had put off buying a house and a quarter postponed starting a business because of the debt.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Students Consider Tech Tools for Shopping

Many college students are shopping at mainstream retailers with mobile apps and they’d like to use similar apps at their campus bookstore, according to a September 2016 student survey conducted by NACS OnCampus Research. However, they’re not as familiar with other shopping aids, such as chatbots and online check-in.

In the 90 days prior to the survey, 34% of students had used a store app and cited mobile coupons, ease of use, and quick loading as the aspects they liked most. Students also appreciated being able to determine whether certain items were in stock and to read product reviews.

Two-thirds expressed interest in an app offered by their campus bookstore, especially if they received a discount for downloading the app, earned instant coupons when they entered the store, or had the ability to check on prices for selling back used textbooks.

Only 3% of students had taken advantage of a chatbot to interact with a store online in real time while 11% had used chatbots in other circumstances. Stores that offer this feature need to promote it, as more than 60% of students confessed they didn’t know what a chatbot was.

Students had more experience with online check-in, which provides a text message or other notification to alert customers when it’s their turn for service, instead of waiting in a physical line. About 23% had used online check-in while 42% indicated interest in trying it out.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Disability Focus Shifts to Digital Barriers

While it’s now routine for higher-education institutions to provide physical accommodations to ensure disabled access, such as ramps and automatic doors, new barriers are being found in digital course materials, websites, and learning platforms, leading to lawsuits brought by disability groups and remedial actions ordered by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Advocacy groups are working to ensure that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and similar antidiscrimination laws are interpreted to apply to learning technologies that didn’t exist when the law was signed more than a quarter century ago. They’re also hoping for movement on proposed new DOJ rules governing how all public entities, including public colleges and universities, offer their services online.

The University of California, Berkeley, was found in violation of the ADA because much of its free audio and video content posted online lacked captions that would make it accessible to deaf students. Last month, Miami University, Oxford, OH, agreed to retool its accessibility policies as part of a settlement with a blind student who’d sued over inaccessible course materials and a lack of trained assistants.

Those and similar cases exemplify what the National Federation of the Blind characterizes as a school-by-school approach to protecting students with disabilities from being left behind by the digitization of higher ed.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Math Teachers Speak Out on OER

Open educational resources (OER) are seen as part of the solution to course material affordability. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NTCM) has issued a warning that too many open resources are not necessarily a good thing.

In its official position, the organization recognized that OER can stimulate discussions among teachers, allowing them to form communities to share ideas and compare results. NTCM also pointed out that OER can provide teachers with ways to use innovative technology.

At the same time, NTCM warned that OER can be difficult to organize and the resources students have access to can vary by teacher and school. Another risk is the potential for schools to drop the vetting process of the resources.

“A coherent, well-articulated curriculum is an essential tool for guiding teacher collaboration, goal-setting, analysis of student thinking, and implementation,” NTCM said in the release. “In a time when open educational resources are increasingly available, it is imperative that teachers be provided with curricular materials that clearly lay out well-reasoned organizations of student learning progressions with regard to mathematical content and reasoning.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Syllabus Databases Assist Course Creators

When faculty start developing new courses, they often want to know how other professors have structured similar courses and what textbooks they’re using. Likewise, textbook authors are keen to find out who has adopted their works for classes.

The Open Syllabus Project (OSP), a new database with three million course syllabuses, is designed to help both groups, and possibly also aid textbook publishers to better understand the ways in which faculty use course materials for teaching. OSP, set to open in January 2017, isn’t the first of its kind, according to an article in Nature, but it will be the largest to date.

Another database, Open Syllabus Explorer, launched in early 2016 with plans to expand its inventory next year to three million syllabuses cross-referenced with 150 million texts. Both databases can be searched in a number of ways: by academic field, textbook author, institution, and other criteria.

For now, there are limitations to these databases. They hold just a fraction of the estimated 80 million to 120 million syllabuses in the U.S. because at present they can only access syllabuses posted on public websites. Those stored in a school’s learning management system, for instance, aren’t accessible. Although a search can show which textbooks are most widely used in a particular field, the results can’t be filtered by subfields.

The team working on the OSP database also hope it will give faculty who write textbooks and other course materials a chance to promote themselves more by revealing the extent to which their published work is used in other classrooms.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Watson Tries Tutoring

Educational publisher Pearson is partnering with IBM to have the latter’s Watson computer system tutor students via Pearson’s courseware. Watson will translate questions students ask through their learning programs and provide explanations, feedback, and guidance to get past misconceptions.

Instructors will be able to use data gathered from that process to see what parts of their courses are generating confusion for students and also identify which students require additional assistance.

The partnership between IBM and Pearson will try to replicate and expand upon an experiment IBM conducted at the Georgia Institute of Technology last year, where students in a computer-science course on artificial intelligence had online access to tutoring from a teaching assistant named “Jill Watson.” Researchers had input all the questions ever asked in that course’s online discussion forum into the Watson platform. They wanted to find out if students would discern a difference between human tutors and a virtual counterpart.

At first, Jill Watson’s answers were “odd and irrelevant,” but by the end of the experiment her answers were delivered with ”97% certainty,” according to the research team. Student response was “uniformly positive” when they were eventually told the nature of their tutor.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Faculty Not Sold on Ed-Tech

College instructors still aren’t that impressed with technology in the classroom. In fact, faculty responding to the 2016 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology said they thought the quality of teaching and learning hasn’t been helped by data-driven assessments and accountability efforts, other than to keep politicians off their backs.

Just 27% of faculty members said technology has improved the quality of instruction at their institutions, while the percentage of respondents who said using ed-tech helped to improve degree-completion rates was about the same. On the other hand, 65% agreed that efforts in ed-tech were meant to pacify outside groups.

The survey found that fewer administrators and faculty members said that technology led to significantly improved student outcomes, making it hard to justify the investment. Both groups think institutions are taking the right steps to protect personal information from cyberattacks.

“Faculty members are still worried that online education can’t deliver outcomes equivalent to face-to-face instruction,” wrote Carl Straumsheim in an article for Inside Higher Ed. “They are split on whether investments in ed-tech have improved student outcomes. And they overwhelmingly believe textbooks and academic journals are becoming too expensive.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Florida System Aims for 40% Online Classes

The Florida university system sees online classes as a means to reduce the cost of an education as well as a faster route to obtaining a bachelor’s degree. To that end, the system is ramping up its efforts to enroll 40% of its undergraduates in online courses by 2025.

One of the ways the system will do that, according to a report in the Sun Sentinel, is by cutting distance-learning fees for online classes. Currently six schools in the system charge students more to take a course online rather than in a physical classroom.

A report by the system’s Board of Governors Innovation and Online Committee noted 37 other states charge similar fees to cover the cost of redeveloping a course for an online format, but the report also estimated substantial savings in classroom maintenance and construction if more students can take courses from home.

The report also found that the availability of online classes helped students to graduate more quickly. Students who took no online classes needed 4.3 years on average to earn their degrees, while students who enrolled in online courses for at least 20% of their credit hours managed to finish in four years flat. The online classes may have provided a solution when students were unable to attend required courses in person.

The Florida universities also plan to make some online courses available to students systemwide.

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Guidance on Kids and Screens

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published its updated recommendations on children’s media use.

Where the organization previously recommended no screen time at all for children under two and that children older than that be limited to no more than two hours of electronic media, it now eases up on the restrictions and acknowledges that digital content is not only ubiquitous but also has benefits as well as dangers.

AAP still advises against screen time for children under 18-24 months, although it does now make an exception for video chats via such services as Skype or FaceTime, which can help nurture relationships with long-distance family members.

It also no longer recommends specific screen-time limits for elementary school-aged children or teenagers, saying that decisions on digital media use for those age groups should depend on the individual child and the type of media. The organization does advise that parents “co-view” with younger children, talk about what they’re watching, and discuss online safety and citizenship.

Not surprisingly, the recommendations also say kids should engage in unplugged playtime and get proper exercise and sleep every day, which includes not having any devices in their room at night and avoiding screen use in the hour before bedtime.

Along with its guidelines, the AAP rolled out a new interactive online tool to help parents craft a household media plan to establish appropriate guidelines for each child. Parents can stick with AAP’s age-specific guidance or add in their own family rules, addressing such items as device-free times and areas, what sort of media to avoid, privacy settings, and more.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Higher Ed IT Takes on Cyberthreats

Cyberthreats have become an increasingly difficult threat to defend against, particularly on college campuses, where systems need to be as open as possible for students. What makes it even more challenging for higher-ed IT departments is that the end users are usually the biggest problem.

“I’m an old military guy—or I should say I’m a young military guy—and one of the things I’ve learned is that security is as strong as its weakest link,” Keith McIntose, vice president and chief information officer (CIO) at the University of Richmond, Richmond, VA, said in an article for EducationDive. “You know, we use a chain analogy. It requires everyone who is accessing information on our network—faculty, staff, and students—to be security-aware.”

End users are most often the ones who either use unsecure passwords or click on suspicious links, allowing hackers to gain access. Students are natural targets, but staff and faculty who have access to institutional and proprietary data can be a bigger risk.

The University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, has launched a campaign to reinforce the idea that everything done on the Internet is a potential security risk. The Dayton IT department runs regular phishing tests, sends updates and warnings, and offers incentives and prizes to people who participate in the program.

“Our goal here is that this is no different than any athlete training for the toughest competition,” said Thomas Skill, associate provost and CIO at Dayton. “Every day, the bad guys out there are coming up with newer, better, smarter, faster ways to trick us into doing stuff, so we’ve gotta be exercising every day with our effort to understand when we can recognize a phish and when we can’t, and we’re tracking all the data on what we’re doing here.”

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Initiative Promotes Graduating on Time

Missouri is addressing college affordability with an initiative called “15 to Finish” that encourages students to take 15 credit hours each semester. Fewer than a third of students at Missouri public institutions take 15 credit hours per semester, according to the nonprofit group Complete College America, even though that’s what it takes to graduate in four years.

As part of the program, the Missouri Department of Higher Education is working with Complete College America on promotional materials and ways to personalize the initiative for each campus in the state.

“In many cases, students need to take just one more three-hour course every semester to graduate on time,” Zora Mulligan, Missouri commissioner of higher education, said in a release. “But completing 15 hours of college credit each semester, students can graduate earlier, enter the workforce sooner, and save thousands of dollars in education.”

An issue for many students is that they are already in the workforce, trying to make ends meet while attending classes. The University of Missouri-St. Louis has been working to push more traditional students to take 15 credit hours for the last year, raising its four-year graduation rate to the highest level in school history, but administrators remain mindful that it’s not for every student.

“Lots of our students are holding full-time jobs, making it more difficult to have students managing a workload of 40 to 50 hours per week and classes,” Adam Bryd Jr., dean of enrollment services, said in an article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But we’ve done this already. We’ll just work case-by-case, looking at their work schedule and class schedule. In many cases, our students find they can pick up an online class to get them those extra three credit hours.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Students' E-Preferences Depend on Content

A new survey on e-book use in academic libraries not only confirmed there are more college students who would rather study textbooks and monographs in print rather than digital, but also determined the percentage who prefer print is growing as more students encounter problems with electronic learning materials.

However, when students need to consult reference materials, they more frequently opt to use electronic versions. In part, this appears to be due to the speed and ease of looking up information digitally while working on a paper or project.

The survey, Ebook Usage in U.S. Academic Libraries 2016, a follow-up to a similar one in 2012, was conducted by Library Journal magazine and publisher Gale, a subsidiary of Cengage Learning. The rising preference for print was something of a surprise to researchers, as it was assumed more students would choose digital when they became more familiar with the format.

Librarians who took the survey, though, noted students had difficulties with accessing e-books and sustained reading on-screen. Students also didn’t like limitations on printing or downloading.

A separate survey, conducted by Hanover Research for publisher McGraw-Hill Education, revealed a different reaction from students to digital materials. The 2016 Digital Study Trends Survey queried students who had used adaptive learning technology—digital content that had been specifically created for on-screen access, with built-in interactive and responsive elements to help students master academic concepts.

Eighty-one percent of student respondents thought the technology helped improve their grades, especially the adaptive functions and the online quizzes, and 69% said they were able to focus better on the material.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pulling Higher Ed Out of the Middle Ages

Higher education has fallen woefully behind in the race to keep up with technological change, according to a former dean for graduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.

In an effort to close that gap, Dr. Christine Ortiz is planning a new kind of residential research institution to keep up with advances while preparing students for life in the 21st century. The yet-to-be named institution would allow students to design their own learning paths and work with faculty to build an individual curriculum. Ortiz’s team has already developed software for computer-guided intelligent curriculum design that integrates science, technology, and humanistic fields.

By the end of 2016, she hopes to have started several pilot programs and to incorporate as a nonprofit in Massachusetts. The plan calls for her institution to be open to students by 2020.

“Technology is accelerating, and modernization and expansion of the higher-education system is desperately needed,” Ortiz said in an article for TechRepbulic. “Our higher-education system is still stuck in the Middle Ages.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

A New Look for the Apple Store

The College Store of 2015 Report, a study funded by the NACS Foundation and released in 2010, used the Apple Store as an example for college stores to emulate. Now, the Apple Store is reinventing itself.

“This is one of the new store designs we’re starting to roll out in America,” Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president for retail and online stores, said at the opening of a new concept store in Indianapolis, IN. “We have been intentionally reinvesting in the fleet in America because we had about half of our stores that were opened before the iPhone launched in ’07. We needed to make them larger and more customer-friendly.”

Apple wants its new store to be more like a town square with designated areas for phones and accessories, watches, computers, and repairs. In fact, the Genius Bar in the Indy store has been replaced by the Genius Grove, a section behind a large video screen that allows customers to get service on their devices without being out on the shopping floor.

The new concept also calls for staffers who are expert in the fields of photography, music, and gaming to provide customers with more information on using their new purchases. Taking a page straight out the college store playbook, Apple set aside space, called Today at Apple, to host artist events and other creative opportunities.

“A lot of people who have our products may not come into the store,” Ahrendts said. “Now, they see the avenues in the store, the changes monthly that are happening, and there’s always something new to discover. The plan is to increase traffic dramatically.”

Friday, October 14, 2016

Study Looks at Classroom Tech

A new survey from Campus Technology found that traditional laptops and desktops are the most common forms of instructional technology used in the classroom. Both devices were used in 82% of the time, according to a poll of faculty members from across the country.

More than 500 instructors participated in the study, including 49% who worked in the field of higher education for 21 years or longer. Nearly 70% of the respondents worked at public institutions, with another 23% teaching at private, not-for-profit colleges.

Laptops were ranked as either “essential” or “valuable” by 95%, followed by high-end computers with faster processors, more storage, and dedicated graphic cards by 76% of the respondents. Instructors said they used tech for instruction about 62% of the time, while one in 10 reported using it all the time. A quarter said they used it at least 75% of the time.

Instructors are less thrilled with mobile phones in the classroom. About one-fifth allow their use and 57% allow them with limitations. Another 22% forbid the devices completely.

When it came to use of digital course materials, 74% reported using a mix of digital and paper-based textbooks. A similar number said they used open educational resources to take advantage of free and low-cost content.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Benefits of Digital Course Materials

A survey by publisher Pearson found that most faculty members view digital course materials as beneficial for their students. Nearly 80% of educators reported that students were helped by using more digital in the classroom, while 70% said the switch from print to digital was important or very important to them personally.

The report also noted that 87% of instructors and 86% of administrators said they believe digital learning is “important in resolving challenges facing the education system.” In the survey, 56% of educators said that more than half of the course materials they now use are digital and 82% have used at least one digital learning product in the past six months.

The majority of students (57%) continue to report they prefer using printed materials to study, but nearly the same amount said they would like to be able to access learning materials online. Most students (57%) said it’s the responsibility of the institution to help them make the shift to digital.

“There is growing recognition of the broad-range benefits—for students, faculty, and institutions—provided by digital learning,” Tom Malek, senior vice president of partnerships at Pearson, said in a news release. “Institutional leaders have an opportunity to further explore how digital can provide a rich, more personalized learning experience for students, while lowering the cost of course materials and providing new insights and data for faculty.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Higher Ed's Dual Role: Jobs and Mental Prep

Some say colleges and universities should do more to prepare students for specific jobs. Others feel higher education should continue its traditional role in developing intellectual, analytical, and critical thinking.

There are still others, such as the new president of Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania, who believe both functions are important. In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Christopher B. Howard stressed that institutions need to ensure “students graduate with skills relevant for today’s workforce and an education that prepares them for an increasingly complex and unpredictable world.”

Howard doesn’t see universities morphing into trade schools, but does acknowledge that more need to partner with corporations to make sure classroom instruction remains relevant to current business needs and also to provide real-world experience to students.

A panel of speakers at the International Seminar on Innovation in Higher Education, held in Mexico in September, concurred with Howard’s view. “We do both,” agreed Richard Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges in the U.S., in a report for University World News. “We prepare citizens for the future, and we prepare folks who have the capacity to think and learn and add value on the job.”

Legon said it’s the responsibility of college and university governing boards, because their members are not part of academia, to promote the value of higher education and also to encourage more innovation on higher-ed campuses.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Rutgers Launches OER Initiative

Rutgers University, Camden, NJ, has joined the growing list of institutions turning to open educational resources (OER) to address the issue of rising costs for course materials. The Open and Affordable Textbook (OAT) project is offering grants to faculty and department groups as an incentive to replace traditional textbooks with free or low-cost alternatives.

The project, funded by the Office of Information Technology and administered by Rutgers University Libraries, will award grants of $1,000 to 12 groups from across the entire system. The university estimates the program will save its students as much as $500,000 in the first year.

A class in aggregate economics has already started putting together an open textbook. The required printed textbook has a new list price of $89.99, with the e-book version available for $69.99. Using the library’s Springer e-book collection, a PDF version of the book can be accessed for free and the paperback copy can be purchased for $24.99.

“We are committed to helping our students succeed, and one of the barriers to their success is the 1,000% increase in textbooks over the last 40 years,” Krisellen Maloney, vice president of information services and university librarian, said in a release. “We look forward to working with grant recipients to help them identify free or low-cost alternatives for their courses.”

Monday, October 10, 2016

Study Looks at Why Some Students Fail

Too many students arrive on campus with unreasonably high expectations of success, according to a study from the University of Toronto. Students told researchers they would earn at least a 3.6 grade-point average in first-year classes, but only averaged a 2.3 by the end of their freshman year.

The study, which focused on the wide discrepancies in college performance among students with similar high school records, found that the group it classified as “thrivers” averaged A’s in college, while the “divers” group averaged F’s despite receiving respectable grades in high school. What researchers found was that divers were less likely to describe themselves as organized and were more likely to cram for exams.

One trait that did stand out was the amount of time thrivers spent studying. They arrived on campus ready to work, planning three additional hours of study per week on average than their diver counterparts.

“Although some are hobbled by their problems with procrastination and disorganization, these same students clearly have potential,” Jeff Guo wrote of divers in his Wonkblog post for The Washington Post. “They made it through high school just fine, after all, but it seems that college demands far more of one’s ability to manage chaos and temptation.”

Friday, October 7, 2016

Some Will Pay Despite Oregon Promise

The Oregon Promise may not be as free as residents of the state were led to believe. The program was signed into law in July with the governor promising students an “undergraduate education tuition-free at their local community college.”

The promise provides tuition grants to high school students who graduated with at least a 2.5 grade-point average or earned a general educational development degree. They have to enroll in one of the community colleges in the state at least part-time within six months of high school graduation.

Most Oregon students will receive free tuition, according to the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. However, the commission estimates about 3,700 will have to pay something, anywhere from a couple of dollars to about $300 per year, depending on where they enroll.

Oregon Promise deducts the amount students receive in Pell and state opportunity grants from the cost of tuition. Students are responsible for $50 per term and tuition charged for attending more expensive schools or additional costs from taking heavier class loads.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

MicroMasters Advance Careers, Learning

The nonprofit online learning provider edX launched a new category of master’s-level courses aimed at bridging the gap between higher education and the workplace. The new MicroMasters program offers credentials and a pathway to earn college credit.

The aim of the courses is to provide high-quality education from top universities to help students advance their career or work toward earning their master’s degree. Subjects in the program range from artificial intelligence to project management.

Certificates earned in the program represent a quarter to half of the requirements for a traditional master’s degree, according to a report in eCampus News. Textbook publisher Pearson is collaborating with edX on the program, offering MicroMasters courses at its learning centers and providing in-person support.

“As part of our mission to attract the best talent, we understand the importance of providing multiple pathways to degree programs,” said Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. “MicroMasters broadens our admissions pool and also allows learners to demonstrate their abilities through a series of online courses. All who pass earn a credential valued by the marketplace; those who excel may apply and complete their master’s with an additional semester’s residence.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

States, Cities Work to Boost Financial Aid

As the presidential candidates discuss the affordability of higher education for all and hold out promises of free community-college courses, at the state level more financial aid is already being funneled to students in need. Municipalities are also rolling out programs.

The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs found that state-funded aid is up about 6% for the 2014-15 academic year (the most recent year for which it has collected data), according to an Inside Higher Ed report. Grants, which don’t require repayment, made up about 85% of the $12.4 billion in financial aid awarded.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti is working on a plan to provide one year of free classes—two years, if he can secure enough donations—at any of the Los Angeles Community College District campuses to students who graduate from an L.A. public high school, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The L.A. College Promise is intended to help a specific segment of the student body: those who would have to work full-time in order to afford to attend school part-time. Many of these students come from families who earn just enough to disqualify them from other aid programs.

The grants would enable these students to cut back on working hours and enroll on a full-time basis, allowing them to earn a degree or certificate more quickly. Students would also have to maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average to receive grant money.