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

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Friday, 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.