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

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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.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cheating Common in Student Survey Group

An investigative company specializing in background checks detected that academic cheating and unethical acts were surprisingly frequent in a sample group of college students.

Kessler International surveyed 300 students attending public and private colleges and universities, which included online schools. A whopping 86% had cheated at least once in school and 54% even thought “cheating was OK,” a Kessler press release said.

Many admitted to passing someone else’s work off as their own for a class. More than three-quarters had copied “word for word” another person’s homework assignments, according to Kessler, and 79% had plagiarized material from the Internet or another source. Some bought papers and essays online (42%) and 28% had “a service take their online classes for them.”

Why would students do these things? Apparently because they can get away with it. Of those who said they had cheated, 97% bragged they hadn’t ever been caught.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Research on Adaptive Learning in MOOCs

According to a research paper, students taking a HarvardX massive open online course learned more using adaptive assessments than their classmates who didn't have that opportunity. The study focused on the course Super-Earths and Life, which ran in in the current academic year.

The adaptive-learning group was provided interactive content and assistance crafted to suit their individual learning level through TutorGen’s Student Centered Adaptive Learning Engine (SCALE). Assessments were added for both the experimental and control groups to gauge the effect of the adaptive experience on students’ mastery of the material.

The knowledge gain of the students in the experimental group was 19% higher than their peers in the control group. They also moved through the class material more quickly and demonstrated greater persistence in assessments. Despite this, the study found “no statistically significant differences” between the two groups’ course-completion or certification rates.

Friday, February 3, 2017

For-Profit Coding Camps Hurt by 'Bad Actors'

Coding and science boot camps teach in-demand technical skills that are being used by industries desperate for trained employees. A surveyof 2014-16 boot camp graduates found that 80% were satisfied with the training and 63% reported receiving a salary increase of more than $22,000 within six months of completing the course.

While boot camps continue to be popular, last September the founder of online coding camp Devschool disappeared with $100,000 in student tuition. Students who lost money don’t expect to ever see it again, even though they complained to state and federal authorities, forcing the site to shut down.

“For boot camp founders, there is almost no barrier to entry when starting up,” Salvador Rodriguez wrote in an article detailing the fraud for Inc. magazine. “To lure in customers, all that is needed is someone who can teach how to code and is bold enough to promise students a job.”

There are things students can look for to protect themselves when choosing to participate in an accelerated learning program, according to Jim Deters, CEO and co-founder of Galvanize, which has nine campuses around the country offering programming, coding, and data-science courses. The most important is to check with state agencies to see if the boot camp opens its process to review. It should raise a red flag if the provider isn’t working with the state officials.

“Boot camps have a lot of success stories already, but it’s still such early days,” Darrell Silver, co-founder and CEO of online coding camp Thinkful, said in the Inc. article. “For-profit education has left a lot of scars, and it’ll take years for boot camps to remedy that reputation. Bad actors slow us down, so it’s in all of our interests to call them out quickly and fix the situation for students.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Transfers, Dropouts Don't Feel Ties to School

About 48% of college students indicated mental-health issues such as stress and anxiety were among their biggest challenges during the fall 2016 term. That could be a red flag for higher-education institutions, as students who reported issues with mental health also had problems staying motivated, felt less satisfied with their school, often didn’t feel as if they belonged, and were more likely to consider transferring or even dropping out.

The finding was part of the Student Panel survey conducted in December 2016 by NACS OnCampus Research.

Half of survey respondents pointed to time management as among their biggest challenges last fall. However, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, time-pressed students were more apt to feel connected to their school and less likely to be thinking about leaving.

Students who took part in at least one school organization or activity also reported feeling a greater sense of belonging to their institution.

More than three-fourths of students said campus activities enabled them to meet new people and 60% made more friends through activities. Almost half rated these activities as very or extremely important.