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.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Robust Mobile Apps a Must on Campus

Students don’t always bother with email, but they do check their smartphones, making it more important for colleges and universities to have a mobile strategy. The University of Texas at San Antonio (USTA) investigated its approach and found three issues institutions must address to connect with their student bodies through a mobile app.

The initiative was part of a 2015 grant the university received to develop its PIVOT for Academic Success Program. PIVOT stands for prepare, inspire, validate, orient, and transition students, and is part of an effort to understand the needs of the increasing number of first-time Latino, low-socioeconomic, and first-generation students on the UTSA campus.

Researchers found that push notifications about grade announcements, assignments, and tuition deadlines helped keep students on track, particularly those struggling to balance their academics and family responsibilities. It also discovered low-income students don’t always have access to a personal computer at home, so it created a mobile app that allows them to add and drop classes, buy textbooks, and communicate with faculty within the app.

The university integrated its student information system into its app so personal financial-aid information can be accessed, such as balances, charges, and alerts when payments are due, right from a student’s mobile devices. Along with all of the campus life information found on most mobile apps, the USTA tool also is compatible with most of the languages found on the USTA campus, which makes communications with students easier.

“Effective communication is key to keeping today’s diverse, mobile-first students engaged,” wrote Chris Hopkinson in an article for eCampus News. “As higher-education institutions continue to focus on boosting graduation rates for all students, a robust mobile strategy is quickly becoming the mainstay to increasing engagement and promoting an inclusive student experience.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stress and Early Classes Impede Learning

Some college students who score poorly on exams may be able to lay the blame on their brains, not their study habits.

Two recent studies revealed some students’ brain activities may be hindering their ability to comprehend and remember course content.

One study, published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal, determined that most people in their late teens and early 20s are biologically wired to be more active at night and consequently sluggish in the morning. College students in the traditional age bracket, according to a report on the study by National Public Radio, may have trouble remaining alert in classes before 10 a.m.

As a result, their learning suffers. These students tend to receive lower scores on morning tests than those later in the day. “While there is no ideal start time for everyone, up to 83% of students could be at their best performance if colleges allowed them to choose their own ideal starting time for a regular six-hour day,” the report said.

Another study, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, showed a strong relationship between stress and memory. Students who reported feeling highly stressed during the course often had difficulty recalling material they had studied. The most intriguing finding, however, was that students with the most confidence in their academic abilities typically encountered a greater level and incidence of forgetfulness and their test scores dropped a full grade.

These students also reported they avoided thinking about the course when not in class. Researchers concluded that students who felt stressed by the class may have subconsciously forgotten the material as a means of protecting their self-image as academically proficient.

Monday, April 24, 2017

AI to Take Higher Ed Out of ‘the Dark Ages’

The artificial-intelligence (AI) wave isn’t on the horizon; it’s already here, according to Joseph Qualls, a clinical assistant professor at the Coeur d’Alene branch of the University of Idaho’s College of Engineering. “You are either going to surf that wave or it’s going to crash on you,” he told EdTech Magazine: Focus on Higher Education in a recent Q&A.

Qualls is also CEO and president of RenderMatrix Inc., a research-and-development engineering company, and co-founder of Avid Intelligence, which researches and prototypes AI-focused products for the defense and private sectors.

He predicts AI applications will cause “massive change” from K-12 to higher ed, creating a highly personalized, interactive, and faster path forward for each student. The notion of massive lecture courses and having students all learning the same material may someday be viewed as “education out of the Dark Ages,” Qualls said.

In the long term, “having large universities and large faculties teaching students is probably going to go away,” he added. Until then—for the next 20 years in Qualls’ estimation—instructors will continue to step in when the AI isn’t ready for the task at hand. After that, he noted, professors’ roles might change “from educating a student to educating an AI.”

Friday, April 21, 2017

Researchers Create Bendable Touch Sensor

Researchers Create Affordable, Bendable Touch Sensor

Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, are working on flexible, stretchable touch sensors that could make the next generation of touchscreen devices bendable.

Sensors are already being used that can detect touch or a hovering finger, and there are also sensors that are foldable, transparent, and stretchable. The work at UBC combines all those features into one package.

To create the sensor, a highly conductive gel is inserted between layers of bendable silicone. The process casts an electrical field above the sensor that can detect touch even while bent. In addition, the materials used in the process are low in cost, making it attractive for use in a wide range of products.

The research, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, is part of a larger effort to create robotic skins that could make human-robot interactions safer.

This video (below) from the UBC Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers a closer look at the material used to create the sensor.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More Students Take Note of Online Programs

Inquiries about online college courses jumped in February, even though for more than a year fewer people have been expressing interest in higher-education programs overall.

A new report from Gray Associates, a higher-ed consulting company, revealed there has been a growing number of queries about online education since November. The drop in general inquiries about higher ed can be explained by the improvement in the economy (which opened up more jobs) and the decline in the number of high school graduates, but reasons for the uptick in interest about online classes are harder to determine.

According to Education Dive, one possibility is “a desire on the part of students for education opportunities that can be accessed nontraditionally,” most likely due to other responsibilities, such as a job or kids at home.

Prospective students don’t seem to be fazed by controversy over whether online programs can deliver the same or better results as face-to-face classes. The timing and availability of online courses may be a bigger factor for them. Colleges and universities continue to experiment with different types of digital programs to see what works.

“Perhaps the diversity of courses is meeting the demand of students, which will only encourage educational institutions to further expand the options of courses available online,” noted Education Dive.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Teacher Buy-In Not Top Digital Priority

In a piece for eSchool News, a Discovery Education executive lays out her case for school districts not to let a lack of instructor buy-in stifle efforts to transition to digital learning materials.

Karen Beerer, vice president of learning and development for the provider of digital content and assessment tools, writes that waiting to get teachers aboard on new education technology can stall innovation and do a disservice to students by not preparing them properly for an increasingly digital world.

She acknowledges legitimate barriers, such as some students lacking digital access at home or tight budgets that may prohibit a 1:1 device rollout. “No matter our concerns,” Beerer says, “we need to recognize that our students are ready—they want to engage with textbooks that are replete with immersive and interactive experiences. They want access to up-to-date information and they want opportunities not only to consume content but to create content as well.”

Her suggestions include integrating digital approaches with traditional teaching strategies, and using new technologies—whether apps, virtual reality, or digital personal assistants such as Siri or Alexa—to help students discover new ways to learn.

Students will also help transition the classroom, she notes, "because when it comes to buy-in with digital, they are leading the charge."

Friday, April 14, 2017

Colleges Provide More Internet Access

Colleges and universities appear to be doing a good jobmaking bandwidth available, with more than 70% offering 1GB or more per student, according to the 2017State of ResNet Report. The study found that available campus bandwidth has increased threefold in the last five years, with about a quarter of the campuses in the survey offering 7GB or more per student.

The survey of 320 colleges and universities reported that while desktops and laptops consume the most bandwidth, smartphones have moved past tablet computers into second place. Smartphones are now seen as academic tools because they allow a more flexible learning environment for multitasking students.

The ResNet report also noted that video entertainment platforms, such as Netflix, consume the largest percentage of campus Wi-Fi, followed by web-based rich content, music, and video games. Classroom learning tools, such as interactive digital textbooks and e-books, were at the bottom of the bandwidth-consumption list.

More than 80% of the institutions reported using bandwidth-management tools, but only 18% cap usage. In addition, 61% of the schools charge a general tech fee to pay for the services.

While bandwidth numbers have improved, a third of the students responding to a 2016 multinational survey said they felt their institutions could still do more. Students claimed that current campus technology was cumbersome and should be more like the apps many use each day on their devices.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Med Students Rely on Web, Not Textbooks

When students attending the American Medical Student Association Annual Convention & Exposition in February 2017 were asked to rank their preferred sources of medical information, textbooks was not the first choice for most. Or even the second choice.

About 47% of med students said they turn to Google for answers to their questions, while 32% named medical websites. Only 7% indicated they would look in their medical textbooks first before resorting to other sources.

The survey, conducted by Merck Manuals, a reference publisher for physicians and pharmacists, did involve a fairly small sample of 180 students, which included some in premedical programs as well as med-school enrollees. However, nearly all of the students agreed that growing up with access to digital technologies has shaped how they learn and gather information.

Being able to look something up quickly on a mobile device made a big difference to them as medical students, although 83% admitted they sometimes had difficulty determining whether an online source was legitimate or credible. On the other hand, 45% of students said they had found useful medical videos on YouTube, something a traditional print textbook can’t duplicate.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Colleges Win by Pairing with Boot Camps

Short-term, narrowly focused, and job-oriented, coding boot camps were initially seen as a potential disruptor of traditional higher education. However, some of the companies offering those programs are now finding they need the imprimatur of established universities in order to have credibility with employers, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The relationships can take various forms. In some, boot camps and colleges share tuition revenues, while in others there are no direct financial ties. In many cases, schools provide space for the courses.

Both groups are finding these arrangements to be win-wins. The boot camps gain greater legitimacy, benefiting from the schools’ more trusted brands, while colleges and universities use the boot camps to expand their capacity to train students in desirable IT-related skills and increase their diversity, since the shorter, lower-cost programs attract more women and minorities.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Study: Adult Learners Aren't Digitally Ready

Many adult learners are either uncomfortable with or don’t want to use the electronic tools necessary for online learning, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. The study identified five stages ofdigital readiness among adult learners, grouping 52% of the respondents in a “relatively hesitant” category when it comes to using digital tools in online learning.

“The analysis shows there are several distinct groups of Americans who fall along a spectrum of digital readiness from relatively more prepared to relatively hesitant,” wrote John B. Horrigan in DigitalReadiness Gap. “Those who tend to be hesitant about embracing technology in learning are below average on the measures of readiness, such as needing help with new electronic gadgets or having difficulty determining whether online information is trustworthy. Those whose profiles indicate a higher level of preparedness for using tech in learning are collectively above average on measures of digital readiness.”

The survey found that 33% of American adults are “reluctant learners” when it comes to using electronic devices. Another 31% are considered “cautious clickers” who are confident in their ability to use the tools, but have no plans to take advantage of learning opportunities either online or offline.

Of the relatively hesitant group, 5% are active learners who simply prefer using traditional means of study and 14% are not prepared for online learning in any form. Just 17% of the respondents consider themselves digitally ready for online learning.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Active Learning Classes May Bump Lectures

Instructors lecturing to a classroom of students will probably remain the most common form of higher-education teaching and learning for the time being, but active learning classrooms (ALCs) are on their way.

These student-centered seating setups—stocked with tech tools to enable sharing and collaboration and encourage greater participation—were cited as the top strategic technology in 2017 in a new report from the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR).

The report considers ALCs as experimental for now, although it forecasts they will become mainstream within five years, along with a number of other research, academic, and administrative technologies to support such activities as degree auditing, mapping educational plans, integrating student data, public-cloud storage, utilizing mobile devices and apps, and alumni/donor relations.

A fully tricked-out ALC might feature round or curved tables with freestanding chairs so students can work in groups and reconfigure the furniture as needed based on their activities. The tables might come with whiteboards, LCD displays to enable students to share their computer work with the class, Wi-Fi for on-the-spot web research and connections to the school’s learning management system and library, and microphones to aid discussions in larger rooms.

“In practice,” the report conceded, “considerable variation in the levels and combinations of low and high technology persist due to costs, infrastructure, and goals.” Educause recommended that institutions become more familiar with ALCs already in operation at similar schools and work with instructors to determine how the technology might fit into their academic programs.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Horizon Report: High Tech in Higher Ed

The NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Ed Edition, produced by the New Media Consortium in partnership with the Educause Learning Initiative, examines what’s on the horizon for technology in postsecondary education. This year’s topics were chosen by a panel of nearly 80 experts from 22 countries engaging in a three-month virtual discussion.

One new topic for 2017 is finding technological solutions to advance digital access and equity for students from all backgrounds to enable them to succeed and complete their education. Artificial intelligence in the classroom and next-generation learning-management systems are tech developments that are also new to this edition of the report.

Already identified as a trend in previous reports, use of virtual reality, while still a developing technology, will continue grow in higher ed. “The most effective incarnations of this trend,” the report said, “incorporate emerging technologies that enable students to learn in ways they would not be able to on a strictly physical campus.”

Overall adoption of both existing and upcoming technologies, however, will require a level of digital literacy that is still lacking. As a preview for the report states, “Digital fluency is more than just understanding how to use technology.” In short, students need to develop not only technical proficiency but also cognitive skills in order to use technologies to absorb, evaluate, create, and communicate information.

One of the challenges cited in the report as “most wicked” will be rethinking educators’ roles amid a move toward more student-centered learning. That shift will require instructors to retool their approach to act more as “guides and facilitators.”

This year’s Horizon Report also looks back to track topics addressed in previous reports, listing blended learning as the most pervasive trend across the last six years.

Friday, March 31, 2017

UMUC Takes Privatization to Another Level

The concept of third-party vendors leasing campus services is all too familiar to college store professionals. The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is taking that a step further, spinning off it’s own units into start-up companies offering their own services to others, all in an effort to grow endowments and keep tuition rates down.

“We believe that if you look at higher education, there is a core—what you teach, who teaches it, and how we teach it,” UMUC President Javier Miyares said in an interview for Inside Higher Education. “That is the existential, essential core of the university. Everything else are business processes that do not have to be run in the traditional way within the university.”

In 2015, the UMUC office of analytics was converted into a data-analytics service and there are plans to spin off the IT department into a company to be known as AccelerEd. UMUC Ventures was formed as a holding company to help the university realize some financial benefit when these new firms sell their services.

“UMUC recognizes that higher-education institutions have an obligation to students to reimagine how they achieve their missions,” said Ryan Craig, managing director of the investment firm University Ventures. “Too much of college and university spending is currently allocated to functions that do not directly serve the interests of tuition-paying students.”

However, there are critics of UMUC’s unbundling tactics.

“As a taxpayer of Maryland, I think of UMUC as a state treasure,” said former UMUC employee George Kroner. “The university has a special academic mission, and I hate seeing it put on the back burner. I don’t want to see the great work of UMUC privatized.”

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mobile Moves Digital Educational Content

A new report on the use of digital devices and content in education predicts a big jump over the next five years, but doesn’t see print materials going away any time soon.

The report, Digital Education Publishing Market in the U.S. 2017-2021, anticipates growth of 10.68% in the U.S. across all academic sectors, including K-12, higher education, and corporate learning. All are largely fueled by the proliferation of mobile devices.

“Notebooks and desktops are being substituted by mobile devices like e-readers, smartphones, and tablets as the medium of digitized knowledge delivery in the academic sector,” according to the report’s executive summary. “They make information accessible anywhere and anytime, making the learning process more flexible, which is one of the reasons for their growing popularity.”

The report stressed that print textbooks are likely to continue for the foreseeable future despite the growth of digital content. Among the reasons, it said, is that print causes less eyestrain and readers are able to focus on a printed page better than a screen. The report also noted that the U.S. Department of Health has issued recommendations to limit the amount of time children spend utilizing electronic screens.

Monday, March 27, 2017

More Reading Devices = Less Reading

The more access young students have to electronic reading devices, whether Kindles, iPads, personal computers, or mobile phones, the less likely they are to read. That was the finding of a recent study by Margaret Merga of Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia, and Saiyidi Mat Roni of Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia, and Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.

In their study of almost 1,000 children aged 4-6, even those respondents who were daily book readers tended to underutilize electronic devices for recreational reading. The greater the range of devices to which the youngsters had access, the lower their reading frequency.

This is a concern as more children use reading devices in the classroom, either provided by their school or through "bring your own device" initiatives. In addition, many schools and libraries are enlarging their   e-book collections, frequently at the expense of print books.

“Reading on Internet-enabled devices, such as tablets, also opens up easy opportunity for distraction,” the report stated, “allowing engagement in the practice of media multitasking, which has been found to detrimentally impact on student comprehension and concentration.”

Friday, March 24, 2017

Issues for 3-D Printing in the Classroom

Educators see many benefits to using 3-D printers in the classroom, particularly for science, technology, engineering, art/design, and math courses. However, institutions have also discovered issues indealing with the devices.

Major concerns for schools are managing and controlling access to the printer, printing time and materials costs, and effectively incorporating 3-D printing into classes.

According to a November 2016 report card on the use of 3-D printing in the classroom, 60% of responding schools have 3-D printers available for students, but 87% restrict student access. The survey, conducted by office-solution provider Y Soft Corp., also gave institutions a poor grade for management of 3-D printers and a failing grade for controlling costs of the devices.

“We hear from schools that they buy 3-D printers, but often lock them up so students and users cannot access them because there is no way to manage access and costs associated with their use,” said Tim Green, research director for International Data Corp. “It defeats the purpose of the 3-D printer in education, which is meant to motivate student learning.”

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Most E-Book Pirates Educated, Able to Pay

Young adults aged 18-29 are responsible for swiping 41% of the $315 million in pirated e-books in the U.S. every year, according to a new Nielsen study commissioned by Digimarc. This group downloads illegal copies from torrent websites or gets them from friends.

For financial reasons—since this age cohort is often short of cash and many are still in school—you might jump to the conclusion it constitutes the largest band of e-book pirates. Actually, the study found it’s their slightly older, better-off cousins who are doing much of the stealing.

Some 47% of those downloading pirated copies are 30-44 years old and 36% earn $60,000-$99,000 annually. In fact, 29% of all digital-book pirates earn salaries of $100,000 or more and clearly could afford to pay for legitimate copies. Convenience and the allure of getting something for free were the reasons most often cited.

Almost one third of the illegal downloaders held graduate degrees.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Video Edging Text for Class Discussions

For online discussions, more college and university classes are replacing or supplementing traditional threaded text forums with short video presentations. Sharing questions or arguments via video is seen as more “authentic” and more conducive to building community, according to a recent article on EdSurge.

In course evaluations, students say that watching videos of their classmates enhances a feeling of connectedness. One stated that responding by video rather than writing made her “more accountable” for her words and message.

There are free tools available to facilitate creation of threaded video chats that are only accessible by a course’s instructors and students. Some course-managements systems also let students submit videos, audio, or text for their assignments.

However, the idea isn’t to simply forgo text for video. Threaded text discussions and written essays remain part of many classes, so students still get experience putting their thoughts into writing.

“In life, as in school, we read and write across platforms for multiple purposes, for a variety of audiences, using different strategies,” notes Joyce Valenza, an assistant teaching professor at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Accepting Alternative Credentials Varies

Alternative credentials are given for learning experiences gained through massive open online courses, training that issues badges, and boot camps. However, institutions take differing approaches on how they issue credit for adult prior learning, according to a report from the Online Learning Consortium and the Research Center for Digital Learning & Leadership.

The study, Alternative Credentials: Prior Learning 2.0, profiled the assessment practices at six institutions, finding that each understood the need for quality measurements. However, internal assessment takes too much time and so is normally outsourced to a nonprofit organization.

Data management and reporting was also a challenge for the schools. Student data can be insufficient for evaluation or maintained by more than one department on campus, making the decision-making process on credit more difficult.

“This availability, or lack of availability, of reliable data leads to mostly suppositions made surrounding time to degree completion,” Jill Buban, senior director of research and innovation for the Online Learning Consortium, wrote in the report. “We know that prior-learning evaluation processes increase time towards degree completion and can be a cost savings for students. However, without accurate data there aren’t identifiable percentages around specific types of credentials, increasing time to degree completion.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

GPA Vs. Exams in Foretelling Student Success

Determining whether incoming college students need remedial courses in math or English before starting their regular classes may be as simple as looking at their high-school grades. A new study published by the Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance showed grade-point average was a better indicator of future academic success than standardized exams such as the SAT, ACT, or Accuplacer.

More than half of first-year students are steered to remedial math courses, while roughly a third have to undertake remedial English, which adds to their costs and often delays graduation. The study results determined some of these students didn’t need remedial work after all, while others who would have benefited from remedial classes weren’t required to take them.

In particular, the study revealed high-school grades were a fairly accurate predictor of success for students who enrolled in college within a year of graduating from a secondary school, even if the students scored at a higher or lower level on standardized exams. Many higher-education schools tend to give more weight to exam scores than school grades.

However, for college students who enrolled more than a year after finishing high school, the story was a little different. Secondary grades still served as a reliable predictor for English courses, but the standardized exams were better at foretelling success in math. The study report didn’t offer any rationale for the discrepancy.

Results of the study, conducted with University of Alaska students, were consistent with a similar study done in 2014 with students attending California community colleges.

Monday, March 13, 2017

VR and AR Await a Tip to Reality

Virtual reality (VR)—computer-generated “reality” that immerses a viewer in a place and situation that may be as real as the Alamo or an unreal as a spaceship traveling to Pluto—seems a natural fit for educating students about history, the sciences, and other topics. The same is true for augmented reality (AR), which places a layer of information over reality, such as lap speeds superimposed on racecars in a televised NASCAR event.

In response to a survey at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, 37% of attendees said that VR’s most significant impact would be in teaching and learning. However, integration hurdles still need to be surmounted and learning outcomes demonstrated before these technologies become mainstream.

The 2016 New Media Consortium/Consortium for School Networking Horizon Report K-12 edition forecast it would be another two to three years before VR adoption hits a tipping point in education. Futuresource Consulting Ltd.’s report on the 2017 Bett Show (formerly the British Educational Training and Technology Show) suggests that VR/AR products won’t find their market until there is a widespread clamor (read: large purchase orders) for them, as eventually happened when laptops entered education.

Augmented reality may have an edge on gaining adoptions since it doesn’t require special devices the way VR does; users can experience AR with nothing fancier than a smartphone and the right software.

The potential is vast. A Goldman Sachs report predicted that virtual and augmented reality will represent an $80 billion market by 2025, with the education sector attracting up to 15 million VR/AR users.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Consolidation Roiling Ed Tech

The ed-tech market is experiencing a lot of churn right now, as charted by the 2017 Higher Education Technology Landscape Report by higher-ed advisory service Eduventures, which tracks the activity of more than 500 vendors across 40 market segments. This year’s report drew on about 100 fewer vendors thanks to consolidation and closings.

Eduventures, which is owned by the National Research Center for College & University Admissions, tallied the most mergers, acquisitions, and consolidations among textbook, digital course material, and courseware companies; online course providers; learning management systems; learning analytics platforms; and constituent relationship management platforms. For online course providers and online program managers, the report saw “almost as many vendor options as there are academic programs or pedagogical models from which to choose.”

It also noted that cloud-based solutions are now nearly ubiquitous in higher ed for learning management systems, email, and educational apps, while adoption of cloud-based student information systems (SIS) is trending upward “as many institutions start moving critical operations and business processes to cloud providers.”

Adaptive learning and online program managers are witnessing “disproportionately high” growth, according to the report, while courseware and learning-analytics platforms undergo a wave of consolidation.

The segments showing rising competition include student-success and     -retention solutions, e-portfolios, social media platforms, online program managers, and business intelligence and analytics platforms.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

10 Years of Change: What Publishers Think

What surprises higher education publishers about the past decade of rapidly changing course materials and academic technologies?

That was among the questions posed to panelists in the Thought Leader presentation Course Materials Today and Tomorrow: Views from Publishing Executives held March 4 at CAMEX 2017 (Campus Market Expo) in Salt Lake City, UT. Here are some of their responses:

Tim Stookesberry, senior vice president education, Wiley: “Being in product development for a long time, I did think about what digital was going to mean. I’m surprised most by how digital has changed the distribution network and we’ve had to change accordingly. Students have a lot of choices: the way people buy materials, what they’re looking for. It’s very dynamic.”

Scott Smith, president, Elsevier Education: “Technology simultaneously changes the way the market actually works and how people acquire materials. It’s a completely different environment in which we have to work. There are more links in the chain.”

Kevin Stone, chief sales and marketing officer, Cengage Learning: “In this day and age to be sending cardboard printed access cards with numbers students have to put in is crazy. We need to fix this. I think we can fix it. It’s about access … all about getting materials on day one.”

Peter Cohen, executive vice president, McGraw-Hill Education: “There’s serious empirical data that using adaptive technology improves student achievement, literally hundreds of data. What surprises me is students love print books. There’s a resounding cry to continue to have print resources.”

Tom Malek, vice president and head of channel partnerships, Pearson Education: “Why does it take so long to change? Uber has come and gone in terms of figuring it out. We all serve the industry of higher education. That tends to go quite slowly … tends to put things in the conceptual rather than the real.”

Monday, March 6, 2017

Four Ways to Meet Higher-Ed Challenges

Among the key challenges facing higher education in the U.S. today, said Catharine Bond Hill, managing director at Ithaka S+R, an organization working on economic and technological issues in education, and president emerita of Vassar College, are declining graduation rates, rapidly rising costs, and barriers to would-be enrollees, including lower family incomes.

Speaking at the March 4 Mega Session at CAMEX (Campus Market Expo) in Salt Lake City, Hill outlined four possible recourses to help address these challenges.

The first is to direct more public funding to higher education, although she acknowledged this is unlikely to occur at the state level right now. “Our best hope is we won’t face significant cuts in the coming years,” she said.

Because of state reductions and growing costs, families will be asked to shoulder more of the expense to educate their children and loans will be one of the means they use. Although media coverage has focused on the small percentage of students with unmanageable debt, students who do graduate are typically able to meet their payments. Hill advocated giving more attention to helping students get their degrees, rather than on limiting loan programs.

Hill also suggested reallocating existing higher-ed funding toward improvements in outcomes, to ensure institutions remain focused on access to education, affordability, and student success.

Finally, Hill expressed hope that higher education “will somehow benefit from the technological advances other sectors have experienced.” Some new tech has generated a lot of hype—massive open online courses, for example—that has distracted from conversations over how emerging technologies can be harnessed to improve higher ed.

Friday, March 3, 2017

New Batteries for Higher Ed’s IoT

As more Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices find their way into higher education—whether as aids to student learning or components of campus infrastructure—the need will only increase for advanced batteries to keep them powered round-the-clock.

“Knowledge development, discovery, and sharing are not really on/off tasks that one starts and stops easily and often,” Pedro Ferreira, assistant professor of information systems, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, told EdTech: Focus on Higher Education. “We are constantly learning, and we need IoT devices on 24/7 to support that.”

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, discovered a way to prevent highly conductive but fragile nanowires in lithium-ion batteries from fracturing in the course of repeated charging and discharging, potentially increasing their lifespan significantly.

Many other universities are immersed in researching refinements or replacements for existing batteries. The Pocket-lint site outlined some of the most promising and interesting advances that are either already on the market or could be coming soon to a gadget near you, including:
  • The Bioo plant pot that generates a photosynthesis reaction to charge a device.
  • Copper-foam batteries that offer faster charging, longer life, smaller size, and lower price—all without any flammable electrolyte.
  • A Stanford University-developed aluminum graphite battery that can recharge a smartphone to full in only a minute.
  • A waterproof, foldable, paperlike battery that could be used for wearable devices or connected clothing.
  • Nanogenerators that can convert ambient noise into electrical current.
  • An MIT-created organic flow battery that uses quinone molecules—nearly identical to those found in rhubarb—and would save 97% per kilowatt hour over metal batteries without sacrificing efficiency.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

States Boosting Funding, with Caveats

Many states that cut back on higher education funding during the recession are now ready to restore some of those dollars, albeit with strings attached. States are looking for ways to tie funds to student success and affordability.

In Kentucky, the state senate passed a bill to provide $1 billion to public colleges and universities. The amount each school would receive would be based on a variety of performance measures, including:
  • 35% on student success metrics such as graduation rates, number of degrees awarded to low-income and minority students, and number of science and math degrees awarded.
  • 35% on course-completion statistics.
  • 10% on the amount of space devoted to student academics.
  • 10% on how much each school spends on instruction and services.
  • 10% on full-time enrollment.
In Wisconsin, the governor has proposed giving an extra $140 million to the university system, with $35 million covering the cost of a 5% tuition reduction for students and $43 million contingent on “affordability, workforce readiness, student success, efficiency, and service,” according to the University of Wisconsin. The proposal also calls for allowing students to opt out of paying certain fees that support student organizations. Those amount to about $89 of the total $607 in fees charged annually.

Ohio’s governor has proposed slowly increasing funding to public institutions, but schools would have to submit reports on how they’re cutting costs for students. As part of the plan, colleges and universities would also be expected to provide textbooks as part of tuition with a special fee no higher than $300 per year.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Where Course Materials Go from Here

Digital formats, adaptive learning, access codes, inclusive access, student user analytics, custom products—the world of higher-education course materials has changed a lot in recent years. What’s next?

A panel of publishing representatives will discuss their views on the evolution of course materials and what tomorrow’s textbook is likely to encompass during the Course Materials eXperience track as part of the 2017 Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) in Salt Lake City, UT, March 3-7. CAMEX is produced by NACS.

Just how course materials can best support student success is a critical component of the discussion, not just for colleges and universities, but also for academic publishers that are encountering dwindling revenues due to declining enrollments, faculty adopting open resources, piracy of textbook content, and other factors.

Moderated by Ashley Gordon, academic resource strategic for NACS, the panel will feature Robin Baliszewski, managing director, higher education sales in North America, Pearson Education; Peter Cohen, president, U.S. K-12 and higher education, McGraw-Hill; Scott Smith, president, Elsevier Education; Kevin Stone, chief sales and marketing officer, Cengage Learning; and Tim Stookesberry, senior vice president, education, Wiley.

Also during the Course Materials eXperience, a second panel will discuss the new role of course materials on campus from various perspectives. Moderated by Mark Palmore, senior vice president, sales, Nebraska Book Co., that panel will include Imelda May, digital and course materials manager, Simon Fraser University Bookstores, Burnaby, BC, Canada; Greg Fenton, CEO and co-founder, RedShelf; and Allyson Mower, head of scholarly communication and copyright, University of Utah Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, UT.

Friday, February 24, 2017

MOOC Develops Sense of Touch

A Stanford University professor created a massive open online course (MOOC) that teaches the science of touch, or haptics. Student use a Hapkit to build a programmable device to perform haptic experiments, providing a better understanding of the sense of touch.

“Haptic technology tries to make virtual experiences seem more real in order to improve how people perform tasks or enjoy virtual experiences,” Allison Okamura, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and designer of the course, said in an article for eCampus News.

The Hapkit includes a sensor, motor, and controller board that can be programmed with a personal computer to produce sensations, such as running your hand over a wall or the click of a ballpoint pen. A redesigned version of the Hapkit, which incorporates low-cost electronic components, uses 3-D printing, making it possible for anyone to download the files and print the kits.

“MOOCs are becoming really big, but are often missing that hands-on component,” said Tania Morimoto, a third-year Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering who worked with Okamura on the Hapkit. “Professor Okamura realized that haptics would be a good way to add that element. People learn in different ways, and having something physical can really help them understand.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Female Faculty Rated Lower by Students

Millions of college students use online sites such as RateMyProfessors to show what they think of their instructors and find out more about certain faculty before enrolling in their courses.

However, a new study of almost eight million online ratings of professors at U.S. universities revealed a troublesome pattern.

“So across all of the disciplines on the site, there’s not one discipline where female professors score higher than male professors,” explained Andrew Rosen, a graduate student at Northwestern University and developer of the computer program used to analyze the ratings. Rosen believes the difference in ratings is evidence of gender bias among students, although he suggests most students aren’t aware they’re rating female instructors lower on average.

The ratings analysis also uncovered signs of other types of bias. Instructors who got high ratings for good looks received higher ratings overall for quality as well. Not surprising, students also gave higher quality ratings to professors whose classes were deemed “easy.”

Science and math instructors also averaged lower ratings than their colleagues in fields such as art and foreign languages. One reason, according to Rosen, might be that faculty in scientific disciplines may have more experience in research, rather than teaching.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hacking Worries Slow IoT Adoption

The Internet of Things (IoT)—a network of computing devices embedded in everyday objects and connected to the Internet—can encompass everything from vending machines to light posts to entire building automation systems.

And that interconnection is growing, with the number of such devices forecast to surge from 13.5 billion units now to 38.5 billion by 2020. It’s already spreading into schools and across college and university campuses via online portals, digital textbooks, classroom devices, wearables, and other connections. Although such adoption of IoT has been slower at educational institutions than in the consumer market, experts predict that will begin changing this year.

However, one major roadblock to that growth remains the security of IoT devices. A sneak peek Verizon released ahead of its 2017 Data Breach Digest report recounts how one unnamed university was hacked via more than 5,000 connected devices on its campus.

“With a massive campus to monitor and manage, everything from light bulbs to vending machines had been connected to the network for ease of management and improved efficiencies,” the school’s incident officer at the time says in the report preview.

To regain control, the school had to shut down all network access to its IoT segments. “Short-lived as it was,” the incident commander says, “the impact from severing all of our IoT devices from the Internet during that brief period of time was noticeable across the campus.”

The preview identifies the underlying problem as “many IoT manufacturers are primarily designing their devices for functionality; proper security testing often takes a backseat.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Higher Ed Finds Uses for Beacons

Beacon technology has been adopted by some campus stores because of its potential for proximity marketing. Institutions are starting to find ways to make the technology work in the classroom as well.

Beacons emit short-range Bluetooth signals to mobile apps that allow retailers to deliver location-based content, such as sales and directions to certain merchandise. Colleges and universities have found the technology useful in helping students navigate the campus, tracking attendance, granting access to buildings, and identifying where students are during an emergency.

They are also being used to restrict Wi-Fi access to students’ mobile devices when the professor enters the room.

“Coupled with the growth in use of mobile devices by students and academics, beacons have significant potential to dramatically transform learning by offering new ways to students to interact with their peers and tutors,” researchers from Sheffield Hallam University in England wrote in a Research in LearningTechnology abstract. “The potential benefits of beacons suggest that they are powerful, yet simple, unobtrusive and flexible technology that can be applied to a wide variety of situations within higher education.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Stories Could Tell How Diplomas Get Jobs

Higher-education professionals believe providing “a well-rounded education” is more important than preparing students for specific careers, while the public at large has the opposite opinion, according to research presented at the recent National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities meeting.

That difference may be causing some families to rethink whether it’s worthwhile to send their kids to college and could have an impact on future enrollment.

In an Inside Higher Ed blog post discussing the presentation, writer Michael Stoner noted that schools actually do incorporate more job-related skills and knowledge in coursework than students and parents might realize, but they often use statistical data to tout the value of study programs and research rather than describing the successes of their alumni and faculty.

“Telling better stories about what colleges and universities do and how they do it will help immensely,” Stoner wrote. He also agreed that institutions need to participate more often in public discussions and debates about the value of higher education.

An Education Dive brief also suggested schools should share more information on the percentage of recent graduates who obtain good jobs in their fields and identify which industries are most likely to hire grads from their programs.

Monday, February 13, 2017

OER by Students for Students

LibreText traces its roots to Delmar Larsen’s frustration that his students had each shelled out $200 for a chemistry textbook that he discovered was riddled with errors. Larsen, an associate professor at the University of California, Davis, didn’t have the funds to assemble a textbook of his own, but what he did have was a valuable creative resource in those students.

Ten years later, the project that began in that class has grown into an extensive library of open course resources, accessible through a Creative Commons license, with much of the content created via crowdsourcing by students, instructors, and topic experts. A dozen subjects are covered, including math, statistics, biology, physics, medicine, and the humanities. Students participate via class assignments to address a specific question or mirror a chapter’s worth of content from an existing resource. Afterward, some continue to contribute as volunteers or paid content developers.

Like a wiki, there is no formal peer-review process for LibreText resources, although certain account-holders can correct errors instantly and anyone else can highlight mistakes through feedback. Larsen noted to EdSurge that even with peer review, traditional textbooks can be full of errors. In print, those persist until the next edition, while most mistakes in the LibreText library can be corrected within a half-hour of being pointed out.

“No textbook or resource is going to be 100% accurate, ever,” an executive of OpenStax, the open course materials provider based at Rice University, told EdSurge. The closest to perfect is content that can be fixed immediately.

In 2014, Larsen conducted an experiment by teaching two chemistry classes, one with a conventional textbook and one with LibreText. At the end of term, the open resource was judged in no way inferior to the traditional content.

Friday, February 10, 2017

MOOCs Can Rely Too Much on Social Media

A recent Australian study found concerns about integrating too much social media into massive open online courses (MOOCs). Carpe Diem, a MOOC offered in 2014, used Facebook and Twitter for online communication and collaboration, but about half of the course participants didn’t use either.

According to the study,  41% refused to use social media because they felt it blurred the line between their social and professional identities. Nearly 50% were also unhappy with the learning management system (LMS) used by the course.

Respondents complained that the social media sites were intimidating to use and created confusion. Some said it took too much time to check into the LMS, Facebook, and Twitter, while others thought it would have worked better if social media worked within the LMS.

Facilitated discussions, work sharing with peers, and networking opportunities were the most-cited benefits of using social media platforms within MOOCs. However, the group that wasn’t as thrilled saw Facebook and Twitter as useless.

“It may be useful to outline in detail to students the contributions that social learning can bring to a MOOC and, indeed, to any online learning environment,” the researchers wrote. “Those who believe that conversations on social media are a waste of time may view things differently if they understand how conversations and knowledge sharing with their peers can support their learning experience.”