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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.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ohio Defunds Education Clearinghouse

Ohio has funded an online repository of free educational resources since 2007. Next year, teachers will have to find the content themselves after the state legislature elected to stop funding the Distance Learning Clearinghouse.

Funding was cut in half, to $500,000, last year. The Ohio State University, Columbus, which operated the clearinghouse, has taken no position on the elimination of funding, but did prepare a report which estimated that 82% of the schools in the state had used the resource in some way. The clearinghouse has more than 12,000 lessons in key subject areas, more than 950 reviews of online courses, and more than 1,000 professional-development lessons for teachers, according to a report from The Columbus Dispatch that appeared in eSchool News.

“They’ll have to go to Google and try to do their own reviews,” Janet Herrelko, a math-education professor at the University of Dayton, said of instructors who previously used the clearinghouse as a resource. “It will take a lot longer for them to understand it. If you try to skim this material, you could miss problems with it.”

State politics may also be involved since a liberal advocacy group has charged the administration of Gov. John Kasich used the program to steer contracts toward a major Republican donor. One of the contracts provided an online interface that critics said didn’t work and that most users bypassed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Most Students Avoid Too-Heavy Loan Debt

The higher-education affordability movement was triggered in part by concerns that students are digging themselves into a lifelong hole of debt by taking out loans to finance their studies. However, a new survey shows that hole may be fairly manageable for most students.

OnCampus Research, part of the NACS subsidiary indiCo, asked students about their current levels of loan debt and other financial matters. Overall, 39% of student respondents said they had accumulated no debt at all toward their education so far.

Students are more likely to take out loans in their upperclassman years after exhausting other sources of money. To compare, 46% of first-year students said they were debt-free while only 30% of fourth-year students could say the same. Many graduate students, despite facing higher tuition costs and possible debt left from their bachelor’s studies, are doing all right; 39% of them currently have zero debt from student loans.

Among students who have borrowed for their education, more than half are deferring payments until they graduate and can get a full-time job. The rest are paying at least a little while they’re still in school.

However, the amount of debt that most students are shouldering appears to be within acceptable boundaries, contrary to numerous news reports about a debt “crisis.” The rule of thumb, according to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is that a student’s total loan debt should not exceed the annual salary the student could reasonably expect to earn in their particular field in the first year after graduation.

About a quarter of all students say they have less than $10,000 in educational debt and 21% have $10,000-$30,000. Only 6% have accumulated $50,000 or more in student-loan debt at this point and some of those are working on degrees in high-paying fields such as medicine, law, or engineering.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Amazon Is Making Bricks-and-Mortar Work

Amazon turned “showrooming” into a dirty word in retail. Now, the company is making showrooming work in its bricks-and-mortar bookstore, according to author and strategist Frank Catalano in an article for GeekWire.

Catalano visited the Amazon Books store in Seattle and discovered a lot to like. He found a comfortable store that made running across something new to read easier then the Amazon online recommendation engine. Prices were the same as listed online, despite signs that showed books at full publisher list price, and Amazon’s ratings and excerpts from reviews were easy to locate.

“The genius is that Amazon has neatly knocked down the virtual walls between online and physical retailing, carefully bringing online content and transactional expertise to what already works in in-person shopping,” Catalano wrote. “It just happens to be a bookstore.”

Reports have also surfaced about a pilot that places display stands of e-book-specific Amazon gift cards in drugstores in Washington state. The cards can be redeemed for the e-book on the card or turned into general-purpose store credit.

“It seems clear Amazon’s brick-and-mortar ambitions are only beginning,” Chris Meadows wrote in an article for TeleRead. “And if bookstores thought it was bad when they only had to compete with the online version of the site, something tells me their problems are just about to get a whole lot worse.”

Monday, March 28, 2016

Zero-Textbook- Cost Program Considered

California Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a program designed to allow community college students in the state to earn a degree with no textbook costs. The Zero-Textbook-Cost Degrees program would make it possible for students to earn a degree using only open educational resources (OER).

Under the proposal, community colleges would compete for grants of up to $500,000 to offer associate degrees, certificates, or credential programs that students can complete using only free and open textbooks. All of the materials would be available in the California Open Online Library for Education.

“We believe developing OER degree pathways at the community colleges is a reasonable next step,” Stephen Frank wrote in a post for California Political Review.

California is just the latest state to explore this route. The Virginia community colleges system has already funded three rounds of OER grants and begun development of OER degree pathways at each of the system’s 23 campuses. The University of Maryland University College, an online institution, has also announced that all of its degree programs will have zero textbook costs by the fall.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Pearson to Market Ohio Community College

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Cincinnati, OH, is struggling with declining enrollment and a state-mandated tuition freeze. Pearson Education has signed on to find a solution.

In an agreement signed last fall, Pearson will take over marketing, recruiting, and student services for the institution, which saw its enrollment fall to fewer than 10,000 students over the last six years. The 10-year contract provides Pearson with service fees of up to 20% of tuition revenue based on a tiered system that depends on retention and new students, according to a report in Inside Higher Ed.

“We have a tremendous amount of expertise in marketing, digital and traditional marketing,” said Todd Hitchcock, chief operating officer of the Pearson subsidiary Pearson Embanet. “We’re able to leverage everything we know about student acquisition on the front end from years of experience. If you think about the traditional community college, they may have a couple of people in marketing, where we have hundreds. So on the marketing side, we’ve developed a comprehensive plan that really focused on their brand: redesigning, redeveloping it, and defining what it means to go to Cincinnati State.”

Faculty members are cautiously optimistic about the partnership with Pearson, which has been a content provider at the school for years. Pam Ecker, president of the Cincinnati State chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said instructors have been informed throughout the contract process.

“There were a lot of people with concerns about a public college partnering with a for-profit organization, but we’ve been appropriately included,” she said. “We’re carefully watching all the steps, and we never hesitate to have our voice heard.”

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Silicon Valley Shares Its Expertise

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are morphing the concept of massive open online courses (MOOCs) into 10-minute mini-MOOCs. Known as 10 Minute Insights, the series of mobile-enabled, live-streamed videos are hosted by innovators talking about a variety of topics.

One unusual feature of the videos is viewers are able to ask questions directly of the presenters during the live-streaming event, even on their mobile devices, according to a report in eCampus News. The micro-learning classes are hosted on the social knowledge platform EdCast, with many presenters scheduling their broadcasts in advance to notify those interested in participating.

There are no credits or credentials offered for taking the micro-courses. Instead, the goal is to help entrepreneurs, students, and small-business owners develop baseline business skills.

“There is a huge demand for knowledge and skills in entrepreneurship right now, as often it can be more efficient to create a job than to find one in today’s economy,” said Karl Mehta, founder and CEO of EdCast. “Silicon Valley, specifically, is well-suited for imparting advice on how to scale entrepreneurial skills rapidly.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Students May Be Coming Around to E-Textbooks

This post has been updated.

It’s well-documented that most college students would opt to acquire print textbooks instead of digital if cost wasn’t a factor. However, students are slowly warming up to digital course materials.

Some One publisher reported that 20% of its total book units sold are in digital formats, according to Tim Haitaian, co-founder and COO of RedShelf, in his 2016 CAMEX session (E-Textbooks: The Trend is Happening Now. Are You Ready?) on March 5. While others fall more in the 2%-5% range, that's still an indicator of growing acceptance.

So who’s reading digital textbooks?

Students in the traditional college-age bracket (18-24) are more likely than older students to use digital materials for class, with this age group accounting for approximately 60%-70% of digital text sales. About 55% of digital sales go to female students, Haitaian said.

Digital readers tend to “crack” their e-books in the morning, usually between 10 a.m. and noon, and they spend around 35 minutes on average per reading session. That’s about 10 minutes longer than just a couple years ago, Haitaian noted, indicating students are getting somewhat more comfortable with studying from a screen.

However, despite the extra bells and whistles most digital materials offer, students still typically treat their digital books like print ones. Highlighting sentences is the most popular digital tool, followed by the ability to highlight entire sections. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Unlocking the Potential of OER

Convincing faculty that open educational resource (OER) content is of high quality continues to be a stumbling block for proponents of the alternative course-material model. Providing better tools to find quality material is the next big challenge.

Products are being created to locate independent quality evaluations. More faculty members are using products such as FacultyEnlight from Barnes & Noble College and Hero from Sidewalk and helping to make them better.

“Being able to think about, from a cost perspective, how one textbook compares to another, to be able to see what peers are using the materials, what their reviews are of the materials, and then being able to take those materials and adopt them,” Rich Hershman, NACS vice president of government relations, said in a report on EducationDive, “that’s where I’m really excited about where things are starting to develop in the future.”

The fact that OER content is flexible and can be tailored to fit the needs of individual students should encourage greater acceptance and growth, according to Tom Caswell, director of learning engineering who served as the open education policy associate for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges during the development of its Open Course Library.

“The next step for OER is to get away from flat resources and put OER in personalized spaces that allow students to really benefit individually from those resources,” he said.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Emails Can Be a Tough Read

College students know they get emails. The challenge is actually getting them to read messages, according to a study from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH.

Researchers polled 315 students about their email, social media, and text-messaging habits in the 2015 survey. They found that 85% said they check their university email daily and will open messages that interest them, particularly from faculty.

On the flip side, 72% said they avoid messages from organizations on campus, viewing those emails as spam. The survey also found that 39% of students don’t always read emails from academic advisers and 54% will skip emails from the university or academic departments.

Just over 50% of the students said they used text messaging for most of their communications, followed by social media (35%), and email (12%). Those students most active on social media were least likely to avoid emails.

“Text messaging and many social media tools seem to carry a greater expectation that viewing and responding happen as a real-time conversation,” Bernard R. McCoy, associate professor of journalism at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, said about the BGSU research in a report for Inside Higher Education. “You send a text message, you expect a quick reply. You receive a text message, you expect to read it and reply to it.”

Email gives users the freedom to read and respond or ignore, according to McCoy. Besides, students also know they are getting far more junk emails than junk text messages.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Napping Is the Next Big Thing on Campus

Colleges and universities have put up rock-climbing walls and state-of-the-art recreation centers to attract and retain students for years. Now, some are starting to promote napping.

Students at some major universities across the country can reserve space in specially designated nap zones that prioritize sleep. There’s even a high-tech option called an EnergyPod that vibrates, plays music, and has a helmetlike visor to help students nod off while others in the area are busy working on assignments and talking to friends.

“It’s fair to say that students are more stressed and anxious than ever before because of uncertainty about their futures and high expectations set for them by friends and family,” Ishtpreet Singh, vice president of the University of Miami student government, said in a report in USA Today. “Even 20 minutes [of sleep] can provide additional stamina.”

The student government at the Coral Gables, FL, institution pushed for the pods in an effort to improve mental health on campus. The university responded by placing napping stations in the Shalala Student Center and the Whitten University Center, adding a massage chair near the pod in the Whitten building.

“We worked with student government leaders, who presented a compelling case to purchase the nap pods for our student center complex,” said Pat Whitley, vice president for student affairs at Miami. “Research shows that having the ability to take a nap can enhance well-being, have a positive impact on mental health, and can help boost academic performance. Our students, especially those who commute, will be able to take advantage of these safe and private rest stations, which provide an opportunity for a quick, 20-minute nap.”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Campus Retail Innovation: Book Options, Store Design

Innovation comes in many forms for collegiate retailers. Two campus stores were recognized at the 2016 Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) March 4-8 in Houston, TX, for their very different approaches to supporting their institutions.

UC Davis Stores, University of California, Davis, received the $5,000 Innovation Achievement Award prize from the NACS Foundation for its Inclusive Access program, which has saved students up to 70% off the cost of their course materials in some 40 classes. The stores negotiated with textbook publishers to provide students with access to digital versions of their books. Students pay a fee that’s much lower than the price of a print book; the publishers are able to drop the price because nearly all enrollees are guaranteed to pay, rather than buying used copies.

The stores focused on courses using more expensive books (typically $100 or more for used books or rentals) with low sales. Due to the cost, some students tried to complete the course without a book or at least waited a couple of weeks before purchasing. The program ensures students have their reading materials right on the first day of class and don’t get behind.

Honorable mention for the Innovation Achievement Award went to the USD Torero Store, University of San Diego, for its creative use of technology and contemporary retail-space design concepts to transform the traditional campus bookstore into a destination spot on campus. The store, renovated in 2015, now features large video screens, elaborate lighting, a virtual mirror, a technology support desk, and movable fixtures to enable use of flex space.

The store also offers up-to-date mobile checkouts and e-commerce kiosks. There is a demonstration area with free classes and room for live performances.

A NACS webinar discussing how the USD Torero Store undertook this renovation metamorphosis, even reducing its size in the process, will be held Thursday, March 31, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern. For more details, visit the description page for The College Store of the Future webinar; registration is required in advance.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

MOOC Instructors Need More Support

A new study found that teaching massive open online courses (MOOCs) takes its toll on instructors. The research concluded that supporting instructors may be as important to creation of successful courses as attracting students, according to a report on phys.org.

When researchers from Penn State University and the University of Central Florida interviewed 14 MOOC instructors for the study, they found only four who expressed interested in teaching them on a regular basis. Two instructors said they won’t teach another MOOC and another four worried about the demands of teaching a MOOC as well as a regular class.

Instructors said they struggled to find new ways to teach a MOOC and needed support in course preparation, implementation, and feedback. Dealing with teaching a class the size of a MOOC can be a challenge. One instructor told researchers that the preparation for a course took nearly 400 hours on top of regular teaching responsibilities.

“Most of the research on how we can make MOOCs successful has focused on the student side—how do we attract and retain them, for instance—but now attention is starting to switch to instructors, who make the MOOCs happen,” said Sajing Zheng, a doctoral candidate in information sciences and technology at Penn State who helped conduct the research. “So it’s important to know the motivations of the instructors for teaching this new format and their experiences and challenges when they teach these MOOCs.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fitness Trackers Are Still Top-Sellers

Fitness trackers continue to post strong increases as a product category, according to a new report from International Data Corp. (IDC). Fitbit led the growth with 29.5% of units shipped, while Apple was a distant second at 15%.

One reason for Fitbit being ahead is consumers aren’t sure what to make of smartwatches, tending to view the device as an expensive notification center with insufficient battery life.

“People don’t quite see the value in smartwatches just yet,” Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers, said in a report in E-Commerce Times. “People understand the purpose of a Fitbit or a fitness tracker, but they don’t understand the importance of a smartwatch.”

That should change in the next three to five years as the cost of smartwatches comes down and features improve, Ubrani said. Style will also eventually help smartwatches become more important.

“Fashion and style is important,” said Billie Whitehouse, CEO of Wearable Experiments. “We’re seeing all kinds of new materials crop up, and I think that’s part of the evolution. It’s going beyond these big boxes on our wrists.”

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pindex Launched as 'Pinterest for Education'

A new social media site launched in February allows users to collect educational materials on pinboards. If the concept sounds familiar, Pindex bills itself as a “Pinterest for education.”

“I started Pindex out of frustration with the dull, dry material my 10-year-old daughter would bring home from school,” John Leaver, one of the co-founders of the startup, told British newspaper The Telegraph. “Making every topic engaging is a huge task—too much for any one person. Pindex enables teachers and professors to share their best materials. Working together like this is the only way to solve the problem.”

On the site, a bookmark button captures content from the web and adds it to the users’ “boards.” Instructors can post quizzes on the boards and visitors can earn grades on the tests, according to a report from Campus Technology. One of the co-founders of Pindex is British actor and writer Stephen Fry, who narrates videos for the site.

Topics already on the site range from Fry’s video on the Large Hadron Collider to drones, robots, and colonizing Mars. As the site grows, the founders expect the Pindex library to collect more content from educators and researchers.

“At a time when it is easy to lose faith in an online world that seems to center around trolling, bullying, hating, trivializing, and belittling, it is worth remembering the incredible power of the Internet to inform and educate, lucidly and entertainingly,” Fry said.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Policies Needed to Curb Digital Distractions

Plenty of studies have shown that digital devices cause distraction in the classroom. However, other reports indicate that while students understand their devices are distracting, they don’t want them banned.

That led Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning at Dartmouth College, to propose three principles of digital usage in his blog for Inside Higher Education. His proposals are aimed at finding ways to effectively use the technology distraction.

To start, Kim suggested that instructors determine and enforce classroom technology policies.

“The authority of the educator in the classroom must be understood and agreed upon by all parties,” he wrote. “This does not mean that the educator can abuse that authority, as that will be the quickest way to break trust with the learners. Being able to direct the students about when technology is used—even if the answer is that technology is never used—is necessary and appropriate.”

Use of student devices must also be intentional. Technology allows students to create things in real-time and is much closer to the way students will use technology in the workforce.

“Use class time to have students or groups do research, create quick presentations, and lead classroom discussions,” Kim wrote. “An amazing amount of actual work can be accomplished during class time—especially if the professor can walk around and coach.”

Finally, class time should be devoted to discussion to help students understand why the policies are in place and to think about the way they use their devices in their lives.

“Your students will be much more likely to accept (if not embrace) you classroom technology choice if you talk about the reasons behind those choices,” he wrote.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Faculty Not Sold on OER

The news is full of reports about digital learning and open educational resources (OER), and yet faculty members don’t seem to be on board. Nearly a quarter of faculty members responding to a new survey said digital will never be used in their classes and 27% said if it did happen it wouldn’t be for another couple of years, according to a report in Campus Technology.

When it comes to OER, 75% said they either never heard of them or know little about them. Another 10% said they have reviewed OER content and decided against using it.

The survey, conducted for the Independent College Bookstore Association, also found that 97% of faculty members said they consider their own assessment of course materials as either important or very important, with 86% specifying cost of the material as important. However, just 36% said course materials in digital format were important.

Most faculty members (79%) said they believed digital content “generally costs less,” but just 44% said they thought students preferred it. Fewer than 30% said digital could have a “beneficial impact” on learning when compared to print.

“While the transition from print to digital course materials may be inevitable, these new survey data make two things clear: First is that the pace of this change is much slower than anticipated by publishers, administrators, and campus IT professionals,” Kenneth Green, head of the Campus Computing Project, said in his report Going Digital: Faculty Perspectives on Digital and OER Course Materials. “And, second, most faculty are not convinced that digital products have a positive impact on student learning outcomes.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gen Z Shows Little Interest in IT Careers

The young men and women who make up Generation Z expect and demand that their mobile devices work seamlessly and are integrated into every aspect of their lives. The problem is, new data suggest they have little interest in making information technology a career.

According to a survey conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), 70% of teen and young adult respondents said they “love technology,” but only 19% of those aged 18-24 said they were interested in an IT career. In addition, 21% of those aged 13-17 said they were not interested in IT as a career.

“On the surface, it seems like the affinity for technology is a great thing for the future workforce, since technology will be so intertwined with business,” the CompTIA report said. “However, most students are not eyeing a career in IT as a result of their technology learnings.”

The lack of interest is particularly troublesome for colleges and universities that are increasing the use of technology to handle everything from enrollment to graduation rates, according to a report in eCampus News. Stanford has even made a national plea for experts in the field of data science, and innovators are creating departments on campus focused on data science, and IT management.

While the survey of Generation Z proved disappointing, there may be good news on the horizon. A January online survey from The Harris Poll found that while most parents of K-12 students discourage their kids from becoming teachers in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) subjects, 50% identified engineering as the career they would most prefer their children pursue.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Digital on the Minds of CAMEX Attendees

Digital course materials was among the hot topics—if not the hottest topic—for campus bookstore attendees at the 2016 Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) in Houston, TX. (Produced by NACS, CAMEX opened last Friday, March 4, and continues through March 8.)

For campus stores, “digital” covers the gamut: PDFs, e-books, electronic coursepacks, access codes, online labs, content delivered through the school’s learning management system, adaptive learning products, and more. Nearly all stores sell the access codes if their faculty have chosen those materials for their classes, but it’s a mixed bag for other forms of digital materials.

While some stores said they’re experimenting with the course-fee model for selected classes—which enables stores to negotiate a much lower cost for digital materials with publishers in exchange for 100% sell-through in the class—others said they are running into some roadblocks. Among the hurdles to more widespread adoption of digital course materials are:

Many textbook titles aren’t available in digital format, especially older titles. Publishers are reluctant to invest in converting backlist titles that only a few faculty are still using, preferring to put money into developing new materials that can incorporate the best features of digital technology.

Providers of digital works are not fully compatible with all of the major point-of-sale (POS) systems used by campus stores, hampering stores’ ability to sell and distribute digital materials to students. Most providers are working with publishers and POS manufacturers to resolve this, but it’s taking time.

Many faculty and students are still not entirely comfortable using solely digital materials. A growing number of students prefer to have both print and digital forms of the same textbook, so that they can easily study in their dorm or home from the print but access the digital in class on their laptop. Students will buy or rent just the digital if it’s cheaper than other options. Faculty are more willing to try digital materials if they see students will save money.

Digital is not always cheaper to produce than print. In addition, for many textbooks, the cost to rent a print copy for the term is less than the digital option.

Some digital materials must be acquired directly from the publisher, creating problems for students on financial aid or who don’t have credit cards.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Harvard Making Online Lectures Better

Tests of the commercial lecture-capture solutions used by Harvard University showed that they worked well enough for on-campus students, but could be of higher quality and faster speeds for distance learners. That led the Harvard Division of Continuing Education (HDCE) to build a customized cloud-based version of the open-source software known as Opencast.

“Other Harvard units use lecture capture as a review tool for students who don’t come to class, are sick, or need a study tool, but our distance-education group actually sells access to these lectures,” Gabriel Russell, a video, software, and systems engineer at Harvard, told eCampus News. “Lecture capture is a primary learning tool for our students, so we need to make sure the product meets their needs.”

Developers created a system that included a high-definition video stream of the lecturer on one side of the screen and a presentation window that shows the feed from the classroom’s projection system on the other. Students are then able to choose a side-by-side view, a view with one window larger than the other, or a picture-in-picture setup.

HDCE selected a third-party video firm to capture video from more than 25 units in classrooms on the campus. The group also moved its version of Opencast to the cloud through the institution’s existing relationship with Amazon Web Services.

“Opencast is free and you can get it up and running if you have a couple of knowledgeable staff members, although it helps if you have a developer that can dig into the configuration,” Russell said. “Ultimately, our plan is to commit all these improvements into the main Opencast product, so these features will be to other institutions for free.”

Friday, March 4, 2016

NACSCORP, OpenStax Launch ACCES

NACSCORP, a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores, and the Rice University-based publisher OpenStax has expanded their partnership by launching the Affordable Custom Content Enhancement System (ACCES) on the eve of CAMEX 2016 in Houston, TX. The online platform allows faculty to create open educational resources (OER) and offer them through their campus store.

OpenStax has released 16 college titles that are used by nearly 400,000 students this year. The number of instructors using OpenStax titles increased by more than 100% in 2015 because of its partnership with NACSCORP, which provides low-cost print versions of the textbooks.

With ACCES, faculty will be able to reorganize chapters and add their own content. In addition, educational publisher Dover Publications is making its catalog of anthologies of classic literature, poetry, plays, music scores, and other publications available for faculty to insert into ACCES content.

"The OpenStax-NACSCORP custom print partnership is a direct response to faculty requests for customized print versions of OpenStax textbooks that will provide students with useful and affordable course materials," David Harris, editor-in-chief of OpenStax, said in a press release. "Many faculty want to use technology to tailor materials for their students, but they don't want to sacrifice quality. They want to start with a rock-solid, peer-reviewed textbook--preferably one with full-color illustrations and a full suite of homework and testing modules--and they want to make only the changes that are relevant to their teaching."

To make it easier for faculty to track the cost of the books they are working on, ACCES will display associated print costs in real time. ACCES will also automatically format pages and create a new index.

"We are committed to providing our campus store partners with the textbooks their faculty demand, including OER titles and customized materials," said Kurt Schoen, president and chief operating officer of NACSCORP.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Health Concerns and E-Books

American University professor Naomi Baron noted in her book Words On Screen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, that 92% of college students prefer print textbooks over e-books. That may be a good thing, as a Seton Hall University researcher has discovered potential health issues associated with reading e-books.

Diane Lynch, assistant director of health services at Seton Hall, claims students could be susceptible to eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes related to computer vision syndrome. There is also a risk for carpal tunnel syndrome for students using mobile devices and tablets.

Lynch told The Setonian that there is evidence the brain doesn’t process as well, store, and retain information read in a digital format. There’s also the issue of distractions attached to reading on a computer or tablet.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Google Ending Play for Education App

Google Play for Education, created in 2013, allowed college students to buy or rent textbooks with the flexibility to read the content on a mobile device. In the K-12 world, it was an app designed for the classroom organized by subject and grade that came at a reasonable cost.

Even though Google intends to continue supporting the service, it will stop selling licenses for the app on March 14. The app was only available to a limited number of tablets, but the company plans to continue making educational apps that work on all Android tablets available in the Google Play Store.

Play for Education was launched to promote Android tablets in schools. Since Google’s Chromebook has become the device of choice for many districts, the new focus could be on changes to the operating system that would provide even more classroom tools, according to Kristin Decarr in an article for Education News.

“While nothing official has been said about why the company decided to do away with Play for Education, an unnamed Google partner executive believes the reason to include capability issues, such as the limited number of student profiles that can be put onto a single device, in addition to competition from Apple’s iPad,” Decarr wrote.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Study Finds Internet Addiction Is Real

College students always seem to be online. Now, there’s a reason to be concerned about spending too much time online. Researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill studied the phenomenon and found that Problematic Internet Use (PIU) is similar to other substance-abuse disorders.

The researchers worked with 27 undergraduate or graduate students enrolled at UNC Chapel Hill who spent more than 25 hours a week on the Internet and reported at least one health, relationship, or emotional issue because of PIU.

“Individuals with PIU may have difficulty reducing their Internet use, may be preoccupied with the Internet, or may lie to conceal their use,” Susan M. Snyder, assistant professor of social work, Georgia State University, Atlanta, wrote about the study in The Conversation. “Perhaps not surprisingly, individuals with PIU have been found to experience several negative mental health problems, which could include depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, hostility, social phobias, problematic alcohol use, self-injurious behavior, and trouble sleeping.”

Nearly half (48%) of the participants answered “yes” to five or more of eight questions about their usage, leading the researchers to consider them “Internet addicts.” Another 40% were classified as potential addicts because they answered “yes” to at least three of the questions. All of the students met the criteria used in the Compulsive Internet Use Scale, which was developed by a branch of the National Institutes of Health.

“The conclusions come through loud and clear,” Snyder wrote. “PIU exists and it affects family relationships. While those effects may be both positive and negative, those who suffer adverse consequences from PIU may have difficulty addressing their PIU because of requirements to use the Internet for classes via online assignments, online courses, and materials accessed online.”