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


Monday, June 26, 2017

OER Project Takes Off at Community Colleges

After its first year, Achieving the Dream’s Open Educational Resource (OER) Degree Initiative appears to be on track for success, according to the 38 community colleges taking part in the project.

The initiative intended to boost the use of OER for community-college courses as a means to reduce the cost for students. A new report released by Achieving the Dream said that “faculty at colleges participating in ATD's OER Degree Initiative are changing their teaching and that students are at least as or more engaged using OER courses than students in non-OER classrooms.”

The report estimated students saved an average of $134 on textbooks per course, although it also noted a more in-depth study was underway to determine true savings “given that not all students purchase textbooks at full price, and some OER savings may be offset by other costs.”

Among the strategies deployed by the initiative was targeting faculty who had experience using digital resources as part of online or hybrid courses and encouraging them to build on that experience in developing and selecting course materials for regular classes. The quality of the materials was the main factor for faculty; cost to students ranked second.

The report also outlined a number of “key actions” to increase faculty use of OER materials, including providing more training and support, better communication of the initiative’s long-term goals, enabling faculty to work together on OER materials to save time, offering incentives, getting noninstructional staff to assist with OER, and “getting students involved in evangelization.”

Friday, June 23, 2017

MOOC Less Stressful to MIT Students

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, departed from its normal practice of marketing massive open online courses (MOOCs) to the public by offering a popular circuits and electronics class to its on-campus students for credit. A study of that pilot program found students who took the class online not only liked the flexibility, but also reported feeling less stress.

MIT launched the pilot to address student concerns over scheduling conflicts. The results have MIT administrators considering more ways to create flexible learning environments for students and professors.

“As you can imagine, MIT students are a very active bunch,” Sheryl Barnes, director of digital learning in residential education, told Insider Higher Ed. “And they expressed frustration they couldn’t resolve scheduling conflicts by having more flexibility.”

There were differences between the MOOC version of the class and the traditional course. MOOC homework and final exam allowed for multiple tries at answers, but provided no partial credit. MOOC students weren’t able to review their graded exam to find out which answers they got wrong, but were provided instant online feedback on homework.

“On the open courseware version of the class, they have lecture slides for each topic that also almost match identically in order of topic,” one student said in the report. “And so I’d just read through all those lecture slides, which were similar, but it was just a little cleaner and a little easier to go through. And they had nice summaries at the beginning of each lecture, like a review of what was covered in the previous set, so I went through those, and then I’d go to the homework, and then while doing the homework, as needed, I’d go back to the videos and watch to listen and review over anything that I didn’t get.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gen Z Blurs Line Between Web and Physical

Generation Z’s first college graduating class has already made its mark on the world by being the first “phigital” generation—a term coined to indicate these young adults (born 1995-2012) don’t separate online from offline. It’s all one experience to them.

In an article for eSchool News, writer Meris Stansbury noted how “phigital” students are reshaping higher education. For one, this group has had access to information via the Internet their entire lives, mostly through mobile devices.

“For higher education, it’s never been more important to allow prospective students to explore their potential institutions via mobile and online methods,” Stansbury wrote.

Because of their exposure to digital technologies, Gen Z seeks more personalization, customization, and individual options when it comes to their studies. While millennials typically liked to tackle class projects in groups, Gen Z students prefer independent work in order to pursue their own goals.

As part of that, Gen Z also expects coursework to provide some sort of real-life connection, such as supporting social causes or honing skills directly related to jobs after graduation.

“In higher education, many colleges and universities have begun tailoring courses, like journalism, to the real world by harnessing ed-tech to mirror current job expectations,” Stansbury wrote. “They’ve also started creating entirely new programs to address current student and job market interests.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

A High-Tech Helper for Students with ASD

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have difficulty with basic social interactions, such as making eye contact, saying hello, or even deciphering what a smile or frown means. But thanks to a Dallas-based company, they can now add another member to their team at school who can help them learn, understand, and practice appropriate social behavior and build confidence in their skills. His name is Milo and he’s two feet tall with spiky brown hair and a superhero-style uniform.

He’s also a robot.

Milo’s face is covered with Frubber, a soft synthetic skin that’s pliant enough to replicate human expressions. Two versions are available: a walking, gesturing Milo and a less-expensive model with the same expressive head but a static body. Created by RoboKind, Milo models facial expressions, speaks—slowly, to help students process what he’s saying more easily—and displays symbols on a chest screen with cues from a tablet-equipped educator who lets Milo know when a child has responded correctly.

Since last fall, RoboKind has been partnering with the Autism Society of America on Robots4Autism, a nationwide school grant program to integrate curriculum delivered by Milo for children ages 5-17. The grants allow interested schools to complete the purchase of their own Milo.

It’s recommended that children spend 30-60 minutes with Milo and an instructor or therapist at least three times per week. One of Milo’s big advantages is that he can teach the same skills over and over with the positive consistency that autistic children need. He never gets tired or frustrated or impatient.

RoboKind has also brought out Robots4STEM, a K-12 curriculum to teach the basics of robotics and coding using Milo’s robot sibling, Jett, and the JettLingo visual programming language.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Higher Ed Embracing Badges

Even though most employers continue to require new hires to have college degrees, diplomas are not always the best way to show that employees have the skills needed to do the job. That’s where digital badges are coming into play.

“The bachelor’s degree or Ph.D. will never go away,” Philip DiSalvio, dean of the College of Advancing and Professional Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, said in an article for University Business. “But every higher-ed portfolio is going to have some form of alternative credential that will demonstrate a student’s competency in certain areas.”

Digital badges, available for everything from problem-solving to career readiness, can be posted to social media sites, stored in digital portfolios, and displayed on specially designed platforms. The badges are linked to lists of skills students have mastered, in addition to the grades they’ve received.

Colleges and universities are trying to stay ahead of the curve on badges by developing programs that recognize skills students have acquired through their studies. Badges can connect skills needed in the workforce to what a college teaches, as well as provide a clearer picture of a student’s academic record.

“The reason they’re taking off in higher education is most employers are not getting the information they need about people emerging from higher ed,” said Jonathan Finkelstein, found and CEO of the badging platform Credly. “The degree itself doesn’t get to the level of describing particular competencies.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tech Makes Studying Easier

Technology helps improve grades and makes it possible to study from anywhere, according to students who responded to a 2016 survey from McGraw-Hill Education. The report noted 74% said they preferred to study at home, while 82% claimed digital tools helped them spend more time studying.

The research found that more than 90% of students use laptops and 60% make use of their smartphone to study. More than half said digital learning technology saved them time, better prepared them for class, and gave them more confidence in their knowledge of the course materials.

“College students enjoy and regularly use digital learning technology,” the authors of the report wrote. “Overall, college students agree that digital learning technology is helpful across a wide variety of activities, including doing homework, preparing for exams, and doing research.”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Competitors’ Data Keep Students on Track

College and university administrators are increasingly using data not only from their own institutions but also from other, potentially competing, schools to predict when their students might require an academic intervention.

Observing and understanding data on common factors that impact student retention and success—such as feeling isolated or overwhelmed, selecting the wrong classes, or being unable to afford the next semester—enhances administrators’ ability to proactively identify which students need help. For example, using predictive-analysis processes developed by the University of Texas at Austin, administrators at the University of Kansas discovered that 1,200 out of 1,500 students having difficulties on their campus hadn’t received any kind of intervention.

Both schools are part of the three-year-old University Innovation Alliance, a consortium of 11 research universities dedicated to raising undergraduate graduation rates. Since the group’s founding, its member universities have managed to increase the number of degrees awarded by 10%, with a 25% bump among Pell Grant recipients.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Higher Ed Needs to Keep Up with Tech

Higher education needs to develop new educational and training programs to keep pace with the technological changes that are reshaping the job market. Online learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will be part of those changes, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The poll of industry experts and higher-education thought leaders noted that online learning is a flexible format that can play an important role in training workers, but added that requires more “on-demand” training focused on lifelong learners.

“Most of what we now call online learning is little more than glorified textbooks, but the future is very promising,” said David Karger, a computer science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an article for EdTech. “Online teaching will increase the reach of top universities, which will put pressure on lesser universities to demonstrate value.”

Nearly 30% of respondents to the survey said that AI and machine learning will be disruptive forces, killing more jobs through automation than they create. While automation eliminates many jobs, online learning could be the format to provide training for more sophisticated job skills.

“People will create the jobs of the future, not simply train for them, and technology is already central,” Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft, said in the Pew report. “It will undoubtedly play a greater role in the years ahead.”

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

First-Gen Profs to Inspire First-Gen Students

Many college campuses offer some type of academic and social support to students who are among the first in their families to enroll in higher education. The University of California is trying a different tack with a new program involving faculty.

The program, dubbed First-Gen Faculty, encourages professors who were first-generation students themselves to open up about their experiences with their classes. Those who sign up to participate will wear special shirts or buttons during the first week of school next fall so students can identify them.

According to a report in Inside Higher Ed, an estimated 800 faculty from nine campuses are expected to take part. About 42% of UC students are the first in their families to enroll in a four-year school.

“The idea is that first-generation students can seek out professors with similar experiences as role models or mentors,” the report explained. “Faculty members can share advice and alert students to essential campus services.”

The program will also provide training about first-generation issues to UC faculty and staff.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Clickers Can Impair Deeper Thinking

A new study in the journal Computers & Education claims that while classroom response clickers are effective for helping students with rote learning, the devices can actually impair their ability to understand more conceptual information.

The results were most striking when fact-based questions answered with clickers were followed by big-picture conceptual questions. Lead author Amy M. Shapiro, interim associate dean of graduate studies and research, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said that the factual questions appeared to shift students into a “hyperfocus” on factual knowledge that made grasping the deeper concepts that followed more difficult.

“While many published reports indicate the technology can substantially benefit learners, we found that clicker effects are somewhat more complicated than previously reported,” the study said. “The technology’s use appears to interact strongly with overall pedagogy, resulting in different outcomes for students enrolled in large, lecture-based courses than for those in smaller, problem-oriented courses.”

The study, whose results are so far unique, doesn’t recommend that educators delete clickers from their toolbox, but it does suggest limits to the devices’ efficacy in certain types of courses and that instructors may need to consider changes in how they’re used.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Apple Has Big Plans for New AI Chip

While Siri gave Apple an early lead in voice-recognition technology, the competition answered with artificial intelligence (AI) devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Reports now suggest that Apple is working on a new AI-enabled processor of its own.

“Two of the areas that Apple is betting its future on require AI,” said Gene Munster, former Apple analyst and co-founder of the venture-capital firm Loup Ventures. “At the core of augmented reality and self-driving cars is artificial intelligence.”

The new chip will be a dedicated module designed to control AI functions while providing battery performance, according to a Bloomberg report. Currently, Apple products use their main processor and graphics chips to handle AI processes.

The new AI chip is reportedly designed to handle functions such as facial recognition in the photos application, some speech recognition, and the iPhone’s predictive keyboard. Developers will also have access to the chip to develop apps that can handle AI-related tasks.

Apple has been designing in-house processors since it created the A4 chip in 2010 for the iPhone and iPad. It has also released dedicated processors for the Apple Watch, the wireless component for its AirPods, and the fingerprint scanner for its MacBook Pro.

The new AI chip has been tested in prototypes of the iPhone, but there’s no word that it will be included in the next generation of the device. Apple will introduce the iOS 11 operating system for iPhones and iPads at its annual developers conference later this month, as well as discuss its updates to laptops, which include faster processing chips.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Future Higher Ed to Mix in Worker Training

Earning a degree in a major field of study may not be sufficient to qualify new graduates for good jobs in the future. Most likely, according to the results of a new survey, students will need to take a blend of educational programs to prepare them for employment as well as lifelong learning.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center and Elon University, asked 1,400 experts in higher education, research, government, and technology fields about the type of education that will be developed to properly train a massive workforce in the next decade.

More than 70% agreed new forms of education would probably emerge to teach the required skills. That wouldn’t spell the end of traditional higher education, but students would supplement their regular courses with more hands-on training and online content aimed at honing specific skill sets.

“Plenty of respondents foresee potential for alternate credentialing systems,” noted a summary of the survey in Campus Technology.

The survey also identified a number of impediments to shifting to such a scenario, including lack of funding, reluctance of leaders to institute change, pushback from current workers who need retraining or updated skills, and ongoing difficulties in teaching competence in soft skills.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Remember on Memorial Day

The NACS Inc. staff in Oberlin and the PartnerShip staff in Westlake, along with our colleagues around the nation and Canada, salute all veterans this Memorial Day.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Virtual-Reality Tech Keeps Getting Better

Gaming and educational applications are expected to increase the use of virtual-reality (VR) devices by 85% over the next five years, according to a report from technology market intelligence firm ABI Research.  The market for those devices is changing, with technology such as headsets and 365-degree cameras becoming more affordable and effective.

“Education is on the cusp of a profound change in the way we use VR technology,” said Emory Craig, director of e-learning at the College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY. “People are starting to use it in higher ed even though the tech is very fluid at the moment.”

Headsets for high-quality equipment can cost close to $2,000 per setup, but technology firms are developing devices that work with lower-end desktop computers for the more affordable price of $299. Newer 365-degree cameras have more user-friendly features, making it easier to introduce video content into course materials. VR hand controllers are also improving to provide full-motion interactive experiences.

Content developers are experimenting with new ways to create virtual medical simulations, as well as creating applications that allow users to manipulate VR content. At the same time, Facebook is working on ways for users to connect and collaborate virtually.

“We can expect to see certain trends in VR to move forward, while others will disappear,” said Maya Georgieva, tech strategist and co-founder of the consulting group Digital Bodies. “As devices continue to shrink, we will see the development of augmented- and mixed-reality experiences that will power compelling visualizations, immersive storytelling, gamified simulations, and learning experiences.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Campus Libraries Fear Support is Eroding

Campus librarians believe they strive hard to support student success, according to a recent survey, but are struggling to show their institution exactly how their efforts boost academic achievement and scholarship.

About 80% of the library directors responding to the Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2016 said their libraries “contribute significantly to student learning in a variety of ways.” However, the survey report, released in April 2017, noted that only half of the faculty respondents on a separate survey recognized the impact of libraries on students’ education.

To reinforce their role in academics, library directors indicated they plan to spend a greater share of their budgets on developing services directly related to teaching, learning, and research. They still expect to continue expanding their collections of materials, but will focus more on acquiring or licensing digital versions instead of print.

Survey respondents reported a “decreasing sense of support from their institutions,” said the Ithaka report. “There is evidence across the survey that library directors feel increasingly less valued by, involved with, and aligned strategically with their supervisors and other senior academic leadership.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lack of Ed-Tech Transparency Costs $3B

A new study by the Technology for Education Consortium (TEC) indicates school districts overspend on education technology by at least $3 billion every year, primarily because of a lack of transparency on the part of ed-tech vendors.

Prices on Chromebooks, iPads, and Accelerated Reader 360 licenses vary widely from district to district, with vendor discounts applied to the total cost of purchases muddying what’s actually paid per device or user. In its study of data from 130 school districts, TEC found that prices could differ 20%-40% for both hardware and software, without any correlation to district size.

In the case of Chromebooks, for example, some districts shelled out up to $90 more than others for the same device and service bundle. The TEC study estimates that a single uniform price for Chromebooks across districts could save a total of about $500 million per year.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Different Approach to Higher Ed

The traditional model of higher education just wasn’t working for students of Paul Quinn College, Dallas, TX. The school’s solution was to incorporate flexibility, experiential learning, and entrepreneurial thought.

Under the New Urban College Model, the first federally recognized urban work college, participating students are employed for 10-20 hours a week and earn an annual stipend of up to $2,000 each academic year. Since nearly half of Paul Quinn students live at or near the poverty level, the institution uses open-sourced course materials so students don’t have choose between helping their families financially or buying textbooks. Varsity football was also eliminated and the field turned into an organic farm, providing hands-on learning and helping to feed the surrounding community.

The effort has driven down the cost to attend Paul Quinn College from nearly $24,000 annually to just under $15,000 for residential students. In addition, four-year loan debt averages are now less than $10,000.

“It is irresponsible to tell students from poverty that the way out of poverty is massive amounts of student loan debt,” said Paul Quinn President Michael J. Sorrell, during his presentation at the ASU + GSV Education Technology summit. “That is not right. We refuse to buy into that culture.”

The model has worked for Paul Quinn, which has been called an emerging national leader by The New York Times. Sorrell also earned a 2017 Social Innovator award from the Lewis Institute at Babson College for his efforts.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

K-12 Students Eager for More In-School Tech

K-12 students, especially those in middle and high school, may be embracing educational technologies at a faster pace than their institutions. Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up 2016 report found that more schools are adopting and using digital learning tools, but even more students say they are utilizing these technologies outside of school.

For example, 48% of high-schoolers go online daily (79% at least weekly) as part of doing their homework, even though only 29% of teachers assign work that specifically requires accessing resources on the Internet.

Many schools are earmarking more funds to improve availability and use of digital technologies. Speak Up determined, for instance, that twice as many students now have access to Chromebooks at school compared to two years ago.

However, students complained on the Speak Up survey about limitations at school that they often don’t face at home or other places, such as the library. According to a report in eSchool News, 53% of students were unhappy with the slow speed of Internet service at their schools. A majority of students wish their schools offered more educational digital games and more instruction in coding.

Monday, May 15, 2017

VR Allows Risk-Free Hands-On Training

Rising adoption of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality in higher education is expanding and improving students’ hands-on training in a wide range of fields, from agriculture to medicine.

As noted in EdTech magazine, Southwest Virginia Community College’s crime-scene technology program employs Microsoft’s HoloLens “mixed-reality” smartglasses to let students practice their investigative skills as detectives in a virtual game environment.

Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic are collaborating on a new 485,000-sq.-ft. Health Education Campus, expected to open in summer 2019. The facility will incorporate HoloLens and other cutting-edge technology to transform anatomy lessons, the teaching of surgical procedures, and other aspects of medical education. Students will be able to practice and improve their skills risk-free on virtual patients.

EdTech points out that VR may also foster more empathetic caregivers by allowing students to experience old age “firsthand” through a VR headset and specialized software.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Iris Scans Could Be the Next Student ID

Identification cards have served college campuses well over the years, allowing students to do everything from gaining access to buildings to eating in the dining halls to charging purchases in the campus store. Soon, however, advances in technology may make the ID card obsolete.

With fingerprint readers and iris cameras already basic components in smartphones, some colleges and universities are working on ways to put those features to work. Campus stores are already experimenting with low-energy Bluetooth beacons to offer shoppers discounts as they enter. Advances in hand-geometry readers, which identify the shape of a user’s hand, are also on the horizon.

The University of Georgia, Athens, will allow students to enroll in a system that uses iris authentication to enter dining halls and the student center. Georgia Southern University in Statesboro has used iris cameras to control entry into dining halls since 2013 and has found data gained from the technology useful.

“If we have a freshman who’s living on campus and required to have a dining plan, and suddenly we see the student’s not coming in anymore—what’s going on?” said Richard Wynn, director of Eagle Card services at Georgia Southern. “We can actually alert housing staff and let them know we haven’t seen that student in a while and they can actually go check on them.”

Iris authentication could also be used for entry into residence halls, the library, and sports venues, providing the institution an idea of how individual students spend their day. That sort of information would be valuable in university marketing efforts, yet it also brings up privacy concerns.

“These aren’t scanners,” Bryan Varin, executive director of UGA dining services, said of hand-geometry readers and iris cameras. “Both of them are simply taking a picture and ending up with a mathematical equation that grants you entry.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Small Loans Cause Big Woes for Some Students

Much of the discussion about student loan debt has focused on the small percentage who borrowed the most money. However, two-thirds of students who default on federal loans owe less than $10,000.

Many of those students were enrolled in community colleges. A new report from the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) confirmed “previous findings that low-balance borrowers are at the highest risk of student loan default,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown.

The ACCT study looked at students who had taken out federal loans in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Iowa. Default rates in those states ranged from 18.5% (Iowa) to 26.2% (Kentucky). In all three states, the number of defaults rose among students who owed the least, even though the states offered income-based repayment plans.

ACCT recommended more study on the reasons behind the high default rates, but also suggested that the repayment process was too complicated and that borrowers should have better options for paying off loans. The report also said there should be more “transparency in the loan program” so that students understand what they’re getting into.

Another study, conducted by the Navient financial services company and the EverFi education technology company, showed that students tend to underestimate how they’re going to finance their education. Only 41% of high-schoolers bound for college expect to borrow for educational expenses, but once they’re in college, 61% of students plan to take out some type of loan.

Students whose parents had attended college were actually more likely to land in debt, the study found. First-generation students tended to exhaust other options first—such as working during school, commuting from home, or attending cheaper institutions—before applying for loans.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Harm and Help in Teens’ Device Use

A new study published in the May 3 edition of the journal Child Development indicates that use of digital technology can be simultaneously detrimental and beneficial for adolescents at risk for mental health issues.

For the study, more than 150 children ages 11-15 from poor U.S. neighborhoods were given smartphones, then asked to respond to brief surveys three times a day for a month about their digital activity and how they were feeling. Eighteen months later, they were assessed for symptoms of mental health problems.

The children averaged 2.3 hours per day on their phones or other digital devices, sending an average of 41 texts every day. They reported more behavioral problems and symptoms related to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder on days when they used digital technology more heavily. However, their levels of anxiety and depression dropped on days when they texted more often.

Study co-author Candice Odgers, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, noted the findings suggest that "for already at-risk teens, high usage may amplify existing problems." Yet, she added, that may be counterbalanced by the fact that the majority of kids are "connecting in often positive ways" and benefit from the support of their online peer networks.

With that mix of pros and cons, neither unlimited tech use nor outright device bands are likely to be appropriate for teens.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Traditional Computer Labs on the Way Out?

With more students bringing their own devices to campus, there’s a growing trend of moving away from the traditional computer lab in favor of comfortable areas that encourage students to connect to the Internet to study.

“The whole dynamic is changing inside computer labs,” said Casey Gordon, director of IT for College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, and St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. “By virtualizing IT resources, we can revolutionize the way students do their work, give them spaces that foster greater collaboration, and expand how they use their own devices.”

However, making the transition requires planning, a commitment to training and support, and a willingness to discuss the change with all stakeholders because eliminating a bunch of desktop computers doesn’t automatically mean the move will cost less. Available campus bandwidth has increased threefold over the last five years, requiring more investment into the technology necessary to support it.

“I shy away from discussing cost savings and focus instead on deciding what’s the best use of our dollars to meet the changing needs of students,” Gordon said.

Faculty must also be part of the conversation. The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, found that some faculty members saw the labs as a way to attract students into their department.

“So if you remove them, that’s a major concern,” said Heath Tuttle, assistant vice chancellor for IT services at UNL. “We discuss the benefits of collaborative learning spaces where students can sit down with their laptop or a device they check out, have a coffee, and do their work.”

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Females, Minorities Worry More About Cost

Not all first-year college students are equally concerned about covering the costs of their education. The latest freshman survey report by the Higher Education Research Institute based at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) reveals divisions along gender, ethnic, and economic lines.

The annual survey, based on responses from 137,456 full-time freshmen at 184 U.S. colleges and universities, showed 55.9% of respondents overall were feeling some level of concern about college costs.

However, 15.8% of female students said they were very worried about costs, compared to just 10.1% of male students. The gap widened among racial groups: 24.7% of Latino freshmen and 22% of black freshmen expressed major concerns about paying for school, but only 9.2% of white students did. Conversely, more than half of female, Latino, and black freshmen thought they had a “very good chance” of landing a job during school to help finance those costs, but less than half of white and Asian freshmen thought they’d be able to find work.

Some 15% of students said they had to give up their first choice of school because of cost, the largest percentage since the question was included on the survey in 2004. More of these students also indicated they hadn’t been offered financial aid by their top choice.

There was a hopeful note in the survey report, though: “Although concerns about the cost of attending college and strategies to finance college continue to be at the forefront of students’ and parents’ minds, first-time, full-time students entering college in the fall of 2016 placed less weight than previous cohorts on economic considerations when deciding whether to pursue higher education; instead, they drew their motivation for a college degree from a place of personal and intellectual development.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

New Models Challenge Traditional Higher Ed

Adam Braun, CEO and co-founder of MissionU, says he believes traditional higher education is “broken.” While employers may not stretch that far in their assessment, the fact is some high-profile companies see a college education as less necessary or relevant today. Some, such as Google, have removed a college diploma as a requirement for hiring.

Braun’s MissionU doesn’t require a high school diploma for admission and charges no upfront tuition for its nondegree program in business intelligence and data analytics. Instead, through a profit-sharing agreement, students only pay MissionU 15% of their salary for three years once they make $50,000 or more per year; if a student fails to reach that salary threshold within seven years they’re absolved of any debt to the company.

During the one-year program, MissionU students take online classes and work on project assignments for employer partners such as Uber, Lyft, Spotify, Chegg, and Bonobos. Six weeks of the program are devoted to training for the job-interview process and salary negotiation.
Available undergraduate majors are business, arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and computational sciences. There is also a graduate track to earn a master of science degree in applied analyses and decision-making. MissionU began accepting applications for its first sessions in March.

Launched in 2014, Minerva Schools at KGI is a nonprofit, accredited four-year university founded as a partnership between the Minerva Project and Keck Graduate Institute, a member of the Claremont University Consortium. Courses are online, but students also move around the world as they study, undertaking assignments at companies and organizations in Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Argentina, and Britain, as well as in the U.S.

Some critics question whether science can be taught online-only, without labs, or whether employers will seriously consider job candidates coming from programs that don’t yet have an established brand or proven track record. However, if more companies drop the sheepskin from their hiring requirements, that may become less of an issue.

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.