This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Higher-Ed Critics of Net Neutrality Repeal

While some in higher education argue that repeal of the 2015 “net neutrality” orders will have little effect on campus, nearly every major higher-ed organization came out against the move. It’s feared that education could become more expensive and have slower Internet access unless the institution has the means to pony up the additional fees Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are now able to charge.

The old rules prevented ISPs from charging content producers and customers more for faster service. Ajit Pai, the new chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), contended the rules also stifled innovation and the move was passed in a Dec. 14 vote.

Repealing the rules is intended to spur competition among ISPs, which could mean institutions will be able to pick and choose the best provider for the campus. It’s also possible that universities could face higher charges because of the broadband demands of virtual courses or cloud-based storage and services.

Rural campuses are concerned that they will not benefit from any competition since they rely on a single Internet provider. Colleges and universities are fearful that research projects could be moved to slower speeds if the institution is unwilling to pay more for faster service. And if costs go up for colleges, it will likely trickle down to student fees.

“The new FCC rules do not follow in the liberated direction imagined by the Internet’s inventors,” Robert Ubell, vice dean emeritus of online learning at the Tandon School of Engineering, New York University, wrote in a column for EdSurge. “With ISPs given the reckless authority to block and shut down sites, academic freedom is a potential target—along with other guarantees of equal access.”

Editor’s note: The CITE will be on hiatus as all NACS Inc. offices are closed Dec. 25-Jan. 1. Look for the next post to appear on Jan. 3, 2018. From all the staff of NACS Inc., have a safe and happy holiday season.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

More Freshmen Persisting to Graduation

A small but significant uptick in the number of U.S. college students attaining their degrees last spring is being hailed as a positive indicator for the national economy.

“For the more than 2.27 million students who started college six years ago, the signs of postrecession recovery are clear: adult students shrank as a share of the cohort, four-year public and private nonprofit institutions increased their share of the cohort, and the total completion rate surpassed the prerecession high,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center, in its annual report on enrollment and graduation patterns for each incoming class. A key benchmark is the graduation percentage after six years.

Approximately 56.9% of the fall 2011 freshmen had graduated as of 2017. That outpaces the six-year graduation mark for the 2010 freshman class (54.8%) and the 2007 freshman class (56.1%), which had previously been the highest to date.

Almost 12% of the 2011 starters are still taking courses and the report anticipates many of those students will achieve a degree within the next two years, based on the freshman class of 2009, which managed to raise its total completion rate this year by six percentage points over its six-year rate.

Four-year schools overall had higher completion rates than two-year schools (66.7% versus 37.7%), but a much higher percentage of students who enrolled first at two-year schools would go on to earn a degree or certificate within six years (37.7%, compared to 8% of students who began at a four-year institution).

Monday, December 18, 2017

Schools Might Sidestep Repeal's Impact

Before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Dec. 14 to repeal 2015’s “net neutrality” orders, some higher-education organizations, including the American Council on Education, expressed concern about the impact on online research and distance courses. They worried institutions might end up in the Internet slow lane if business interests priced faster service out of reach.

John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning, a financial consulting firm for schools and libraries, told SmartBrief he thinks the repeal “is unlikely to have any significant impact on schools.” He conceded the repeal could affect web content aimed at consumers, but he noted that educational institutions typically don’t subscribe to those types of services (although students may do so).

If the repeal does spur more competition among Internet service providers, as some (including the FCC chairman) have predicted, Harrington said schools could take advantage of that to select a provider that will ensure speedy service for the campus, including online courses. The institution could even opt for faster service for learning content, and not-so-fast for less-critical content.

“This might give schools an opportunity to prioritize live Internet video feeds above emails and other web traffic that does not require real-time interaction,” he said.

Friday, December 15, 2017

More Support for Credentialing Proposed

Not everyone needs to attend college to achieve their career goals, but increased federal support of occupational credentialing could be a viable alternative to the idea of the “free” four-year degrees that has been making headlines, according to a report from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).

The report proposes making more federal support, such as Pell grants, available to students in credentialing programs. PPI suggests the move could provide workers with a debt-free path to the skills needed for economic security because many of the jobs that require a credential instead of a college degree can pay as much as $90,000 a year.

“The singleminded focus on college diminishes other equally viable paths to middle-class security—such as in health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and other skill professions—that require specialized occupational ‘credentials’ but no four-year degree,” Anne Kim, a senior fellow at PPI, wrote in the report.

Quality credentialing can also be an alternative for nontraditional students who have family and job obligations that make the commitment to full-time student status unrealistic. Credentialing courses often take just weeks or months to complete, helping workers who have been displaced get back into jobs and new careers.

The plan would extend student financial aid, including Pell grants, to high-quality credentialing programs and provide students with standardized information on the quality and value of credentialing options. The PPI plan would pay for the program through a new excise tax on elite university endowments.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Scholarship Donors Push Student Loans Out

With all of the ongoing controversy over whether loans help or hurt students, Brown University has managed to raise enough donations to float its financial aid without asking students to borrow money for their education.

According to University Business, Brown just wrapped up a $30 million campaign to plump its scholarship funds. That money is intended to take the place of loans in aid extended to students enrolling next fall. Both returning undergraduates and first-years will benefit.

The campaign represented the latest phase of The Brown Promise, a program launched in 2003 to ensure a diverse body of applicants could actually afford to attend the university, regardless of their personal financial situation. Brown instituted a need-blind admission process, but did rely on loans to close the gap for some students.

As an article on Quartz notes, Brown isn’t the only institution to eliminate student loans from its financial-aid package but many of the others “have income cutoffs … meaning that poorer families get better deals than those with midrange incomes.” Brown’s program reaches middle-income students, who might be able to scrape the money together but at a considerable sacrifice.

Brown is gearing up to raise another $90 million to fully endow the program to keep it going. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

AI May Help Screen for Dyslexia

Despite all of technology’s advances and the many data dashboards available to track classroom performance, screening children for dyslexia is still typically conducted using paper tests, whose evaluation can fall prey to subjectivity on the part of teachers.

Lexplore, a Swedish company operating in the U.S. out of Naperville, IL, hopes to employ eye-tracking cameras on computers with artificial intelligence and special algorithms to identify more students with dyslexia who might be missed by the current outmoded, time-consuming method.

The company’s tools analyze patterns in how a subject’s eyes follow words in sequential or nonsequential order as they read. Those at high risk for dyslexia make more right-to-left movements—vs. the more normal left-to-right—and take fewer or no regular pauses during reading.

Although its tech and algorithms are new, Lexplore’s underlying ideas draw on research dating back for decades that indicates tracking eye movements is one of the best ways to gauge reading ability. A 2015 study built a statistical model using eye-tracking that could identify dyslexia with more than 80% accuracy.

Two of Lexplore’s co-founders published their own study in 2016 that claimed an even higher success rate of 95.3% using their own technology, which is now in use across the city of Stockholm’s municipal education board.

In the U.S., Lexplore is still fine-tuning its business model and has so far only been tested in a handful of private schools in the Atlanta area.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Arizona Creates New Learning Environment

A college classroom with the lecturer in front addressing students seated at rows of desks may no longer be the best way to deliver a quality education. In fact, research done at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point found the lecture model is outdated for the digital natives now on campus.

To address the issue, the University of Arizona, Tucson, began investigating evidence-based learning and launched a pilot that used objective data to design courses featuring shorter lectures and class activities. The next step was a collaborative learning space (CLS), a large room with portable furniture and tabletop whiteboards that allow students to interact easily with each other.

“Faculty across campus began seeking out opportunities to teach in our CLS,” Jane Hunter, director of academic resources and special projects, wrote in a column for eCampus News. “They tried new strategies they had never been able to successfully implement. They found new joy in teaching which, in turn, ignited students with a passion for learning.”

From that first CLS, the University of Arizona now has 20, ranging in size to accommodate from 24 to 264 students. The new rooms serve 210 faculty members from 60 departments.

“I am trying new ideas in the collaborative learning space that I have never tried in my 10 years of teaching. It has been fun for me,” said Richard Harper, who teaches in the School of Government and Public Policy at Arizona. “The classroom has become a ‘partner’ in the learning process.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

CM-X Probes Strategies to Trim Textbook Cost

While the issue of higher education affordability simmers, some point to required course materials as a cost that could be reduced without undermining students’ learning. As the campus information hub for course materials, college bookstores must stay on top of new formats, programs, and practices.

The second Course Materials eXperience (CM-X) will help course materials specialists and store managers become knowledgeable about new developments and operational efficiencies to keep costs down for students. CM-X is a concentrated track within Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) hosted by NACS in Dallas, TX.

CM-X opens with a networking event on Friday evening, March 2, and then moves into a full day of educational presentations, roundtable discussions, and a working lunch. As a followup to last year’s CM-X publisher panel, a new group of executives from the major textbook publishers will offer their thoughts on how the industry is evolving. Other sessions will explore inclusive-access programs, open educational resources, hybrid course materials, and modernizing course materials management.

The program wraps up Sunday at the CAMEX trade show with more presentations in the Course Materials Theater, visits with suppliers of academic materials and technologies in the Course Materials Pavilion, and networking in the Course Materials Collaboration Lounge. CM-X registrants are welcome to return to the show on Monday and Tuesday.

CM-X registrants also have an opportunity to attend a bonus Friday session about course materials leadership on campus. Prior to CAMEX, a webinar exploring faculty and students perspectives on course materials will prepare registrants for the in-person event.

Visit Course Materials eXperience for program details and registration information. Register by Jan. 12 to receive early-bird discount pricing.

Friday, December 1, 2017

New Tech Lets Users Tap Out Messages

A new wearable gadget makes it possible for users to compose, edit, and send messages, texts, and emails by simply tapping their fingers. Tap is a one-handed device made up of five interconnected rings that converts any surface into a keyboard and works with smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, computers, or virtual-reality headsets.

It takes users about an hour to learn the basics through the TapGenius mobile app, according to manufacturer Tap Systems. It works with most Bluetooth-enabled devices and is usable for eight hours on a single charge.

“Tapping your fingers is much faster, more precise, and more rich in combinations than any gesture system that has ever been developed,” said Ran Poliakin, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Tap Systems. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Small Student Loans May Help, Not Harm

Are student loans a burden or a boost? The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) attempted to find out in a recent study.

The study, summarized in a report on MarketWatch, focused on the financial-aid notification letters sent to students at a community college. One randomly assigned group received letters that listed their eligibility for grant and scholarship aid, along with an offer to borrow $3,500-$4,500 in federally subsidized student loans. The other group’s financial-aid letters offered “$0” in federal loans.

Not surprisingly, students in the first group “were 40% more likely to borrow than their peers who received an offer of zero,” said the MarketWatch report. However, it also turned out that these borrowers enrolled in more course credits the following term, earned a higher grade-point average in those courses, and transferred at a higher rate to four-year institutions.

In short, the NBER study concluded, having access to federal loan funds enabled and motivated these students to make faster progress in their higher education. Students who had to rely on other means couldn’t afford to take as many classes and were less likely to complete their studies.

“The big takeaway from this paper is that restricting students’ access to federal student loans, either through making the process of getting the loans more complicated or more opaque or completely opting out of the federal loan program, can harm students’ attainment and potentially make them worse off,” said researcher Lesley Turner, an economics professor at the University of Maryland.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Mobile May Replace Computers by 2020

Forty-two percent of Black Friday shoppers placed their orders via smartphone this year, while 49% used a laptop or desktop computer, according to Fortune magazine. That marks the first time computers accounted for less than half of all online orders made the day after Thanksgiving.

As mobile gains on the shopping front, the same is happening in the classroom. Although students still prefer laptops to mobile devices, that preference may tip in mobile’s favor in as little as three years if ownership trends and technological advances continue at their current pace, according to the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

In 2010, 88% of U.S. adults aged 18-29 owned a computer, but that number had dropped to 78% by 2015. At the same time, smartphone ownership in that age group surged from zero in 2010 to 86% by 2015, and tablet ownership shot from 5% to 50% over the same period. As mobile devices become capable of doing more things that computers do, they are likely to supplant them as devices of choice.

The iPhone 7’s A10 Fusion chip is reportedly 120 times faster than the original iPhone chip, and by 2018, smartphones are forecast to be able to handle 4K streaming and virtual reality. Phones’ current shortcomings regarding connectivity and storage will diminish as tech advances, but some analysts believe that the digitally connected Internet of Things may ultimately replace both PCs/laptops and mobile devices.

In the meantime, expect to see mobile make significant inroads as classroom technology, which means school districts and higher-ed institutions need to ensure their resources are mobile-friendly. Educators may also need to modify their teaching methods, in some cases serving less as instructor and more as facilitator of students’ self-directed learning efforts.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Higher Ed Changing for Student Success

Colleges and universities often talk about student success as their core mission. A study from edtech provider Unit4 found nearly three quarters of institutions are making organizational changes to make student success happen.

The survey of 150 IT decision-makers found that 80% said they had invested in technology to support student success and 62% had recently overhauled their portals, self-service options, or apps to improve the student experience. One fifth of respondents said that more than half of their new technology was custom-built, while a little over 60% reported that less than half of their technology was custom-developed.

While strides are being made, use of artificial intelligence, chatbots, and mobile applications continues to lag behind other investments.

“The fact that today, over one in five of those we surveyed have not modernized their student mobile experience, and have no automation in their core systems to support early alerts for at-risk students is deeply concerning,” said Jami Morshed, global head of education at Unit4. “To truly close the student-college digital divide, organizations need to embrace digital transformation through integrated modern cloud applications that support a truly mobile strategy, delivering new services and value to students and faculty.”

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

The entire staff at NACS Inc. wishes you a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

K-12 Edtech Innovations Face Challenges

Many K-12 pupils are now accustomed to using their own computing device in school every day and more are learning from course materials created or customized by their teachers rather than standard textbooks.

Those are two of the edtech trends identified in EdSurge’s annual Edtech Outlook report on emerging innovations.

About 60% of K-12 kids now go to schools with a 1:1 ratio of pupils to devices, most often some sort of tablet or netbook. That has changed the mix of learning materials available to teachers, who no longer have to rely on traditional textbooks. In many cases, teachers are heading to online educational marketplaces to download free or low-cost materials to fit their particular lesson plans, instead of molding lessons around the textbook.

“[Publishers’] slow transition to digital has cost them significant market share as lower-cost, more nimble startups have undercut their performance,” said the report. Teachers are also turning to artificial-intelligence apps to complement classroom lessons and help provide better assessment of students’ skills.

However, Edtech Outlook noted another trend that’s preventing schools from capitalizing fully on digital technologies at this time: limited bandwidth. Only an estimated 15% of K-12 schools have sufficient bandwidth to allow classes to stream content on their devices.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Students Go Tech-Free for Class

At the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, students who enroll in a special course taught by Justin McDaniel, professor of religious studies, get to experience a taste of the monastic life, including a vow of silence. In what may be even more of a trial for digital natives, they also relinquish use of their phone, texts, Internet, computer, TV, and radio for a month.

Rather than phone-addicted students running the other way, the pool of applicants is larger than the class can accommodate.

The tech abstinence extends beyond just the course, which is called Living Deliberately: Monks, Saints, and the Contemplative Life. They aren’t supposed to speak to anyone, including family, classmates, or even professors teaching other classes (in the event of an emergency, they can speak to family members, police, or health-care workers). They can’t use the web or computers for other classes either, having to acquire printed copies of readings and use handwritten notes to communicate with instructors and workgroups.

Other aspects of the course include writing in a journal every 30 minutes as long as they’re awake and taking part in kindness projects on campus or in the community.

McDaniel told NPR that it was surprisingly easy for the students to go cold turkey on their electronics. “What is hard is a feeling that they are missing out on activities, chances to meet other people (in person), and loneliness,” he said. “They actually love not having the electronics.”

He added that very few students in the course try to sneak in tech use—and when they do he can usually spot it from their behavior and their journal entries.

As NPR noted, the course suggests that patterns of tech use, including addiction, may be shaped more by the communities of which we’re a part—in other words, by people—than by neural interactions with the technology itself.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Video's Impact on Higher Ed

Video technology is being used in 99% of higher-ed classrooms, which is leading to an increase in student achievement and engagement, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 educators, administrators, students, IT and media staff, and instructional designers.

The State of Video in Education 2017 found that 99% of institutions reported their instructors regularly incorporated video into their curriculum. More than 70% of the responding institutions said they used video technologies for remote learning and teaching.

The report also noted that 93% of respondents said they believed video increased student satisfaction and 85% reported an increase in student achievement. Another 70% said video increases a sense of affiliation with alumni and 78% added it makes onboarding new employees smoother.

Nearly half of the respondents said a video solution was integrated into their school’s learning management system and 15% use video tools built into the LMS. Ten percent said they had no video solution inside the LMS but that the institution was considering it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

11 Ways to Keep Low-Income Students in School

Low-income college students are far more likely to drop out than better-off students and lack of funds is usually the reason. A new report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation puts some of the blame on institutions for not providing sufficient information in clear terms about the total cost of attendance and how much financial aid students can expect.

Making College Affordable: Providing Low-Income Students with the Knowledge and Resources Needed to Pay for College lays out 11 recommended strategies for colleges and universities to help lower-income applicants better understand their options before they enroll and to assist them if they run into trouble later on.

No. 9 on the list calls on schools to “utilize low-cost textbooks,” noting that high course-materials expenses may “place a burden on students with unmet financial need.” The report points to open educational resources as a potential solution, although it acknowledges that “awareness of these alternative resources among faculty tends to be low.”

The report also endorses a five-pronged set of recommendations from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group for encouraging adoption of open materials on campus.

The first five strategies in the report advocate that institutions should furnish detailed, jargon-free information about the types of financial aid available, eligibility requirements for aid, total costs to attend for four years, and accurate estimates of living costs, and also urge students to meet with a financial adviser. Three strategies ask schools to prioritize need over merit in giving aid, commit to providing aid for all four years, and stop cutting institutional grants when students receive private scholarships.

The remaining two strategies recommend that schools set up programs to help students with financial emergencies and to find ways to integrate local social services with financial-aid programs.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Picturing a New Form of Literacy

Recorded human communication began with cave paintings and then grew into murals and hieroglyphs before developing into written alphabets. In some ways, digital technologies and social platforms are taking communication back toward its visual origins.

In a commentary in T.H.E. Journal earlier this year, Cathie Norris, a professor and chair in the School of Information at the University of North Texas, and Elliot Soloway, a professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan, noted that K-12 students spend far more time with text-based materials in school and far more time with image-based materials outside the classroom.

With an average of about 2.5 billion daily Snaps on Snapchat, and more than 400 million daily users partaking of Instagram’s shared photos and videos, it’s no surprise that today’s digitally savvy students are gravitating toward “picting,” the use of images instead of words to convey information and ideas.

Picting is an emergent form of literacy, but not one that many schools are embracing. That presents a risk that students who aren’t able to access the same tools in the classroom that they do outside of it may see schoolwork as irrelevant to their lives.

The solution, of course, is not to supplant written communication with picting, but to make reading and writing as engaging as picting’s imagery, and to teach writing as a way to support and improve visual communication.

“Schools must teach written literary skills,” Soloway responded to comments on his and Norris’ post. “This is a teachable moment. Educators can use the Snapchat/Instagram story to help students craft good stories.”

A recent post on the EdSurge edtech news site offered suggestions for how to use Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and Seesaw, The Learning Journal, to help give students “ownership of their learning” and make the classroom more engaging for digital natives.

However, engagement can’t be the only metric. Because many complex ideas can’t be communicated with images alone, effective reading and writing skills remain paramount.

They’re also a necessity for full participation in society. As recently as just a century ago, illiteracy could prevent the poor from full participation in their rights as voters and citizens. In an age of “fake news” and calculated disinformation on social media, critical reading skills may be more crucial than ever.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Pros and Cons of Inclusive Access

More colleges and universities are offering inclusive-access programs for course materials because they see the model as ensuring wins for many involved.

Students get their course materials at discounted prices on the first day of class, making instructors happy. Publishers are guaranteed 100% sell-through for offering significant discounts on the content, which provides institutions with a way to show they are keeping costs in check. There’s also a role for the campus store because they have established relationships with all the parties involved—faculty, publishers, and students—and have the means to handle the transactions.

However, not everyone sees it as the best or only option.

Proponents of open educational resources view inclusive access as a model that just replicates the same publishing structures that led to rising textbook prices in the first place. Some faculty members also see inclusive access as an academic-freedom issue, limiting their choices on content to just one publisher.

“I do think it is likely that traditionally published content will continue to be used at colleges and universities, although whether or not it is through inclusive access remains to be seen,” said Nicole Allen, director of open education for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. “Textbook publishers have been through many iterations of models for proprietary digital content—it is hard to know how long any one will last.”

The 2017 Textbook Affordability Conference is Nov. 10-12 at Georgia Tech. Updates from the conference will be posted on Twitter using the hashtag #TAC2017Ignite.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Lots of Young Kids Are Tablet Owners

In 2011, only 1% of children younger than nine possessed a tablet device. Today, 42% of kids that age have a tablet of their own, according to research by Common Sense.

The amount of time youngsters spend on mobile devices has made a similar leap, noted a report on the research in eSchool News. They now average 48 minutes a day on mobile gadgets, compared to five minutes in 2011. Some 95% of their families also own at least one smartphone.

Another surprise in the research: Tablet ownership by young children is about the same regardless of household income. About 40% of kids from low-income families own a tablet, the same percentage as high-income families, with about 45% of children from middle-income households having one.

About 78% of all families with a child aged 0-8 have one or more tablets, a big jump from 8% in 2011. That figure includes devices owned by the kids as well as those owned by other household members or considered shared property.

It’s hard to tell what sort of impact this early tablet exposure will have on their education as they get older. However, Common Sense CEO and founder James P. Steyer cautioned, “If we want to ensure our kids develop well and are successful in life, we have to make sure they get the most out of tech while protecting them from potential risks—and that means paying close attention to the role media is playing in their lives.”

Monday, November 6, 2017

Students Want a Tech-Savvy Campus

Almost 90% of college students stated it’s important that the institutions to which they apply be technologically savvy, according to a survey of 1,000 students by educational software and services provider Ellucian Co.

However, the report also found that 58% of respondents said their college, of all the companies and organizations with which they’re involved, was furthest behind in providing a personalized digital experience. That sentiment was even stronger for students on two-year campuses (71%) than for their counterparts at four-year schools (53%).

The experience they’re looking for extends beyond edtech, with 97% adding that campus technologies to support them outside the classroom are equally important.

Almost all students (94%) said they believe that connecting with fellow students, faculty, course suggestions, deadline reminders, and event calendars based on their interests and academic performance would be conducive to fostering a greater emotional attachment to their institution. Such stronger connections could lead to higher retention, as well as increased likelihood of future giving as alumni.

Friday, November 3, 2017

24/7 Access to Profoundly Change Ed Model

“The digitization of society is inevitable,” physicist, futurist, and author Michio Kaku said in his opening keynote address at the 2017 Educause Annual Conference this week in Philadelphia, PA. He foresees a future in which digital connection will be so ubiquitous that it will vanish from our awareness, just as we take electricity for granted today.

“We won’t use the word ‘computer’ anymore,” said the professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center. “We don’t say the word ‘electricity’ anymore, and yet electricity is everywhere and nowhere. That is the fate of the computer.”

Advances in virtual and augmented reality will blur distinctions between the physical and digital worlds. “In the future, you will blink and be online,” Kaku predicted. Humans will be able to essentially live and work at will in a cyber-environment. That shift will drive fundamental changes to education at all levels.

Kaku said such instant, seamless access to information will mean that instructors can emphasize concepts and principles, reducing the need to memorize facts and dates since such details will be immediately available in cyberspace.

Working in tandem with “robo-professors” powered by artificial intelligence, educators will transition to a role that involves more counseling and guidance to help students stay in school and succeed. “Professors will gradually change more and more into mentors,” Kaku said. “Mentoring cannot be done by a robot.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Faculty View Online Courses More Favorably

As more college faculty get involved in developing and teaching online courses, they appear to be changing their views on the effectiveness of digital education compared to in-person classes, according to findings in a new survey.

The 2017 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, conducted by Inside Higher Ed with assistance from the Online Learning Consortium and Gallup, revealed a fairly big shift in faculty opinion on online classes. “While faculty members remain slightly more likely to disagree than to agree that online courses can achieve student outcomes that are as good as those of in-person courses, the proportion agreeing rose sharply this year, and the proportion strongly disagreeing dropped precipitously,” Inside Higher Ed reported.

About 42% of professors responding to the survey said they have taught at least one online course, up from 39% the previous year. However, more faculty at public institutions have conducted online classes than their counterparts at private schools (46% vs. 21%).

Of those instructors who have taught online, 71% indicated the experience had sharpened their teaching skills in general. Less than half, though, had received training in creating online courses and less than a third said their schools adequately acknowledge the effort that goes into online instruction.

While many institutions have pointed to cost savings as a major reason for offering online courses, most of the survey respondents didn’t see any reduction in cost and felt that administrators and technology vendors have exaggerated the potential savings. Most respondents also said their institutions didn’t share any data on student outcomes from their online courses.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Making MOOCs Massive Again

Over the last five years, massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become on-demand sessions that allow participants to learn at their own pace. Changes were also made that allowed providers to monetize the process by charging for certification.

While a poll from Class Central, a MOOC discovery platform, found that 64% of respondents said they preferred the changes, there was also a cost. MOOCs are no longer attracting large numbers of students, and the learners taking the classes aren’t interacting on discussion forums.

“These days, most MOOC providers let learners start courses whenever they like (or on a biweekly or monthly basis as Coursera does),” Dhawal Shah, founder of Class Central, wrote in a column for EdSurge. “As a result, the forums are far less vibrant and informative than they were in the early days.”

To find a happy medium, Shah is proposing a MOOC semester offering a limited catalog of instructor-led courses with a fixed schedule and soft deadlines. The selected MOOCs would also offer free certificates to students who meet course requirements by a certain time.

“MOOC providers abandoned free certificates because they were looking for a sustainable business model,” he said. “Reintroducing them could reignite some of the enthusiasm MOOCs initially generated. The potential loss in revenue from free certificates would be offset by the marketing benefits of reaching more users.”

Friday, October 27, 2017

Students Need Skills, Not Standardized Tests

A new survey by Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) International found that the American public wants schools to teach their children career skills and to limit standardized testing. A majority of Americans also oppose using public funds to send students to private schools.

According to the 2017 Poll of the Public’s AttitudeToward the Public Schools, 82% of respondents support job or career skill classes, even if it means spending less time on traditional academics. More than 85% said schools should offer certificate or licensing programs that help students land jobs after graduation, while 82% said technology and engineering classes should be part of the curriculum.

However, just 42% said standardized testing was important and 52% oppose school voucher programs. That figure rises to 61% when religious schools are mentioned.

“These and other results suggest that some of the most prominent ideas that dominate current policy debates—from supporting vouchers to emphasizing high-stakes tests—are out of step with parents’ main concerns,” said Joshua P. Starr, CEO of PDK International, which has conducted the survey since 1969. “They want their children prepared for life and career after they complete high school.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

CA Community Colleges Awash in Aid

In California’s speed to ensure low-income students could afford at least a year of higher education, some community colleges have ended up with surplus assistance funds.

A new state measure just signed into law this month provides funding for students’ first year of studies at California community colleges. The bill was passed in response to former President Barack Obama’s call for community colleges to offer two free years of education under a proposed “America College Promise” program.

However, according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune, a number of community colleges started their own Promise programs before the state did. As a result, some have more money to support first-year students than they need.

The San Diego Community College District, for example, launched a pilot program in 2016 and raised $300,000 to pay for more than 200 area students to attend at no cost. The district had planned to raise another $700,000 for the program this year. Palomar College secured $1.5 million in donations for its Promise program. Other colleges have similar amounts to set aside to aid students and are now trying to figure out how the money should be used in view of the new law, especially since approximately 60% of California’s community-college students already qualify for tuition-fee waives due to their low income.

Some schools are considering using their Promise funds to help students with textbooks or other costs. Because the new state law is aimed at helping first-year students only, some colleges said they may earmark their Promise money to assist second-year students or dropouts who want to return.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Digital Diplomas? There's an App for That

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, launched a pilot program in the summer that gave graduates the option to receive their diplomas on their smartphone through an app, along with the traditional paper version. The Blockcerts Wallet app uses blockchain technology to provide students easy access to their diploma that is verifiable and tamperproof.

“From the beginning, one of our primary motivations has been to empower students to be curators of their own credentials,” said Mary Callahan, MIT registrar and senior associate dean. “This pilot makes it possible for them to have ownership of their records and to be able to share them in a secure way, with whomever they choose.”

Once students download the app, a set of unique numerical identifiers are created that is used in the digital diploma to prove ownership. The technology allows students to share their diploma, which can be immediately verified as authentic, for free with employers or schools.

“It really is transformative. And it could be as big as the web because it affects every sector,” said Chris Jagers, co-founder and CEO of Learning Machine, which worked with MIT on the technology. “It’s not just academic records. It’s being able to passively know that digital things are true. That creates a whole new reality across every sector.”

Friday, October 20, 2017

Good Start for Tennessee Promise

While free-tuition programs have their critics, the Tennessee Promise appears to be working. Of more than 13,000 of the state’s eligible students who enrolled in the first Promise program in 2015, nearly 60% are still in college. Only 40% of their non-Promise peers remain in school.

After two years, 56% of the original class of Promise Students are still enrolled in community college and 14.5% have earned a degree or certificate. Over the same period, 30.5% of non-Promise students were still enrolled and just 5% had earned a degree or certificate.

“These numbers are the first evidence that Tennessee Promise is doing exactly what Gov. [Bill] Haslam and the General Assembly designed: getting more students into college, including students who might not otherwise be able to attend, and helping them succeed once they get there,” said Flora Tydings, chancellor, Tennessee Board of Regents.

To qualify, Tennessee high school seniors must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, enroll in college the fall semester after their graduation, perform eight hours of community service, register for at least 12 credit hours per semester, and maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average. The Tennessee Promise also helps mentor students through the college application and enrollment processes.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Students Need Slower Pace for Digital Reads

A number of recent surveys indicated that college students would rather read print course materials, not digital. A new study which delved more deeply into reading comprehension both confirmed and contradicted those earlier surveys.

In a report for Business Insider, researchers Patricia A. Alexander and Lauren M. Singer said they first asked students which medium they preferred, then had the students read two items—one in print, the other online. Afterward, students had to identify the main ideas in the texts and describe key points. At the end, students were asked to rate their comprehension of the materials.

Alexander and Singer said students “overwhelmingly” claimed to prefer reading digital materials. Students did finish reading their digital assignment sooner than the printed one. They also said their comprehension of the online material was “better” than print. That didn’t hold up under closer scrutiny, though.

In analyzing students’ answers about the reading content, the researchers found their understanding of the main points was about the same for either medium. When it came to recalling more detailed information, however, students’ comprehension improved considerably with the printed materials in comparison to the digital.

But there was an interesting side note: Some students performed equally well regardless of the medium. It turns out this group took their time in reading online, allowing them to absorb the information.

That led Alexander and Singer to recommend that instructors keep educational goals in mind when choosing formats for course materials. If students are expected to retain more detailed concepts, then instructors should stick with printed works or encourage students to slow down their screen reading.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Faculty Envision EdTech’s Future Reality

 More than 80% of respondents in Campus Technology’s second annual Teaching with Technology Survey of higher-ed faculty said that virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality technologies will have the most impact on education over the next decade, ahead of video, adaptive learning, and even mobile devices.

That impact is already being felt. A report on the online higher-ed market by technology research and advisory firm Technavio noted that the growing popularity of augmented and virtual reality is spilling over into online education, with instructors incorporating these emerging visual technologies to boost the interactivity of the online learning experience.

Of course, awareness and enthusiasm may play out differently. In the Campus Technology survey, faculty ranked mobile devices and apps No. 2 on their list of the top 10 technologies for the next 10 years, but also listed mobile devices in second place in their tally of tech they wish they didn’t have to deal with in the classroom.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Higher Ed Focused on Social Media

Conventional wisdom suggests that Fortune 500 firms are on the cutting edge of social-media usage while higher education lags behind. In fact, higher-ed executives are 10% more likely to be using social media compared to their corporate counterparts, according to a report from the social-media monitoring firm Hootsuite.

The Social Campus Report: 8 Opportunities for Higher Edin 2018 noted that student use of technology has institutions increasing their focus on social media to keep pace. It also found that 63% of campus administrators say they believe that social media is important to strategic planning and fulfilling their institution’s mission.

Students are more likely to use social media regularly, making it an easier and more cost-efficient way to communicate with them. The report also found that many administrators view a robust social-media presence as a way to gain an advantage over other colleges and universities.

“There’s this kind of vacuum of knowledge on social and how it has impacted education,” said Phil Chatterton, industry principal for higher education at Hootsuite. “This has changed the way people communicate and education is a big part of that.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Students Need Job Skills Both Hard and Soft

In the view of one university president, higher-education institutions need to incorporate more soft skills into formal instruction in order to better prepare well-rounded students for the work world after graduation.

“Critical thinking, complex problem solving, empathy, creativity, and communication skills are all necessary in today’s work environment,” Gloria Cordes Larson, president of Bentley University, said in an email exchange with Inside Higher Education. “This is why more and more schools are finding creative ways to integrate the arts and sciences with professional and technical skills. Employers are point-blank telling us they need college graduates who have mastered soft skills in addition to the hard, industry-specific technical skills.”

Larson said college classes should give students more practical experience—through internships, immersion classes with corporations, community service, or other means—and introduce them to technologies relevant in their chosen fields, but “it all begins with an approach that combines left-brain and right-brain thinking.”

She noted that Bentley and other universities offer programs designed to enable students to major in both business/technical fields and liberal-arts studies, which helps them develop analytical and communication skills.

Getting first-year students involved in campus career services right away, rather than waiting until their senior year when they’re starting to apply for jobs, is also important, she stressed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

K-12 Teachers Still Divided on Edtech Use

While more k-12 instructors are employing education technology on a daily basis in their classrooms—63% this year, a bump up from 55% last year—a quarter of them still report being intimidated by their students’ use and knowledge of edtech, according to an annual survey from the College of Education at the University of Phoenix.

Just over a third of the more than 1,000 respondents blamed inadequate funding for not making greater use of edtech, with 23% citing concerns that technology is too distracting. Even though two-thirds acknowledged that using classroom tech helps their students remain more engaged, more than 70% said that use of personal devices is a distraction in group settings, a rise from 65% in the 2016 survey.

When it comes to their own edtech skills, 40% of K-12 teachers said they'd give themselves a grade of "C" or failing, while only 16% gave themselves an "A."