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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, January 30, 2017

Apple Joins Partnership on AI

Apple has joined the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society as a founding member, taking its place alongside Amazon, Facebook, Google/DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft. The nonprofit organization, established last fall, is working to advance public understanding of artificial intelligence (AI), develop best practices to deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by the technology, and conduct and openly publish research on it.

Education is one of the major sectors that will feel the impact of advances in artificial intelligence, according to a report released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy last October. “An AI-enabled world demands a data-literate citizenry that is able to read, use, interpret, and communicate about data, and participate in policy debates about matters affected by AI,” it said.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Harvard, MIT Share Findings of MOOC Study

study of massive open online courses (MOOCs) by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University researchers found registration continues to grow. The survey reported that new registrations for MOOCs average more than 1,500 people each day, while the median number of active participants for each course is nearly 8,000.

HarvardX and MITx: Four Years of Open Online Courses noted that 2.4 million unique users participated in one or more MOOCs offered by the two institutions and nearly 250,000 learner certificates were issued over the last four years. It also found that the average number of students enrolled into computer sciences courses is more than 21,000, compared to just over 7,900 for other courses, according to a report in Campus Technology.

At the same time, the study reported a significant drop in MOOC enrollment in 2016. MIT and Harvard University each had about 800,000 participants enrolled in MOOCs in 2015, but last year those numbers fell to 670,000 for MIT courses and 540,000 for HarvardX offerings.

The number of people earning certification also fell to its lowest point in the four years of the study, although the total number of certificates awarded in 2016 was higher than the number presented in the first year of the research. Researchers are concerned that the drop in participation was caused by the decision to not provide free certification for the courses.

“The typical course is smaller than it used to be, but this decrease is also steady and related to the proliferation of courses with more specialized content and smaller audiences,” Andrew Ho, a Harvard researcher who co-authored the study, told TechCrunch. “The MOOC audience continues to grow, but the number of MOOCs is growing faster. An analogy is television viewership numbers, and now we have more ‘channels’ than ever. The question now is how can audiences find the best course for them and on what merits.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Future LMS Encompasses Multiple Apps

The learning management system (LMS) of the future—possibly the near future—will enable colleges and universities to connect a variety of educational and administrative applications together as needed, much like a set of building blocks. At least that’s the scenario the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) is working toward.

In a report in Campus Technology, ELI Executive Director Malcolm Brown said his team originally assumed the LMS would still work as a single application, although with greater functionality. They came to realize that institutions needed to be able to tailor their LMS to accommodate the wide array of course activities and the needs of a diverse student body.

“Again, that takes you away from the idea of a single application being able to fit the bill for all comers,” Brown said. “We decided an ‘uber application’ is not going to work.”

One possibility is that the LMS could provide the main interface for students, who would access other applications through it. Or, students could log directly into applications, with the LMS serving as a connection.

The biggest challenge, Brown noted, will be working out open standards to allow systems to plug in multiple applications.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Digital Use Trails Awareness

The vast majority of students, faculty, and administrators say they believe digital course materials will play an important role in meeting systemic challenges faced by higher education, according to the report Digital appetite vs. what’s on the table: Student attitudes toward digital course materials in 2016, derived from a recent Pearson Education survey.

More than 80% of both students and faculty view digital materials and courseware as the future of education. In addition, 78% of faculty realize that digital courseware benefits students and 70% see the migration from print to digital content as important to themselves personally. However, implementation and use has some catching up to do, as only 56% of students and instructors said half or more of their courses had used digital materials in the past six months.

“Educators’ appetites for digital course materials and courseware are growing, the capabilities are available, but the stark reality is that they—and their students—just aren’t biting,” the report said.

Forty-four percent of students said they still prefer to have all their learning materials available in a print format. Almost 60% declared that it’s the learning institution’s responsibility to help them shift from a reliance on print to greater use of digital content.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Some Schools Finding Ways to Manage Fees

While college students have always been quick to complain about textbook prices, the fees added to tuition are rapidly becoming as great a concern. A study from Project Muse found that student fees at a four-year public university averaged more than $1,700 each year, adding an additional 27% to the cost of tuition.

The fees pay for everything from student activities to maintenance. In one case, a school of business even charged a “professional development fee” for a subscription to The Wall Street Journal. That has some students seeing red and a few institutions thinking about other ways to approach the issue.

The University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, has rolled fees into its tuition since 2013, making it possible for students to use their financial aid to cover the bill. The results have been promising. The first class of students eligible for the program is set to graduate this year and the university said they borrowed 15% less to pay for their education. Dropout rates also fell, along with the number of applicants who didn’t show up for their freshman year after receiving their first bill.

Dayton is also saving money. The university no longer sends out up to 40,000 separate bills each year to students for the fees.

“This is very much about building trust,” Jason Reinoehl, vice president for strategic enrollment management at Dayton, said in an article that appeared in The Hechinger Report. “It’s our beacon. I think the whole industry is going to have to do this.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Focus on Course Materials Issues, Trends

Since the format and delivery of course materials are evolving faster than almost any other aspects of higher education, course materials specialists at campus bookstores must stay on their toes if they expect to help faculty and students. The first Course Materials eXperience (CM-X) on March 3-5 will give specialists an opportunity to network and learn more about trends and innovative practices involving textbooks and other course content.

To be held in Salt Lake City, UT, in conjunction with NACS’ annual Campus Market Expo (CAMEX) and Conference, the CM-X program will kick off with a discussion of issues surrounding textbook affordability and student access.

The second day of specialized educational sessions will explore inclusive access programs, textbook rentals, how to analyze course materials sales to determine student purchase patterns and cost savings, and advanced strategies in sourcing and dynamic pricing. In addition, a panel of publishing executives will discuss trends emerging now and on the horizon. Over lunch, participants will delve into performance data and talk about what practices work best.

On day three, CM-X moves to the Course Materials Theater on the CAMEX trade-show floor for a series of presentations on new programs and formats now available for textbooks.

Networking events for course materials specialists are also built into the three-day schedule.

For more details on the schedule and registration, go to Course Materials eXperience.

Monday, January 16, 2017

edX Survey Charts MOOC Growth

At the end of last year, Isaac Chuang, senior associate dean of digital learning, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and professor of physics at MIT, and Andrew Ho, professor of education and chair of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning Research Committee at Harvard University, released one of the largest surveys of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to date. Their report, HarvardX and MITx: Four Years of Open Online Courses—Fall 2012-Summer 2016, draws on 290 courses, 245,000 certificates (both free and paid), 4.5 million participants, and 2.3 billion events logged online on edX, the MOOC platform established by Harvard and MIT.

The survey revealed that the typical participant in an edX MOOC is a 20something male from outside the U.S., who already has a bachelor’s degree and is taking the course for certification. The number of participants has grown steadily since edX launched in 2012, with more than 1,500 people registering for a course every day.

While the median number of participants in an edX course is about 7,900, only 500 end up becoming certified. The report noted that not all courses offer free certificates and not all participants sign up in pursuit of certification.

The complete report is available on publisher Elsevier's Social Science Research Network site.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Time to Rethink the Lecture

The lecture remains a basic element of many college courses, but research continues to show it’s time for a change. Researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, recently found that students taking traditional lecture classes displayed little or no improvement in their problem-solving skills after the first semester of their freshman year.

The results were similar to a 2011 UBC study which showed that student engagement and learning doubled when interactive teaching methods were utilized. Researchers from the University of Washington also released a report in 2014 that found students in lecture classes were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students who took classes with more stimulating instruction.

“There is strong evidence that different methods of teaching can heavily influence the development of problem-solving skills,” Andis Klegeris, associate professor of biology at UBC, told eCampus News. “It does not appear that the traditional, lecture-style of information delivery is well suited to helping students build those skills.”

The latest UBC research involved a test that measured problem-solving skills throughout an undergrad’s educational career. One test was given at the start of the first semester and another at the end.

“As problem-solving is becoming an increasingly sought-after skill, it is likely postsecondary institutions will need to adapt their teaching styles to ensure students are able to better participate in a skill-based economy,” said Heather Hurren, a UBC researcher and manager of academic development at the UBC Centre for Teaching and Learning. “If they haven’t already, professors will need to move from traditional lectures and expectations of memorization to approaches that see small groups of students actively discover knowledge on their own.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Liberal-Arts Grads More Successful Later

As part of the ongoing debate about affordability, many politicians and policymakers—not to mention parents—are concerned that colleges and universities produce too many students with “soft” learning rather than job-specific “hard” skills. A new study of liberal-arts colleges reveals those grads do just fine in the job market after all, according to a report in Inside Higher Ed.

The study, which was previewed at a recent meeting of presidents of the Council of Independent Colleges, was based on interviews with 500 graduates of liberal-arts programs and 500 graduates from other types of institutions. The grads had been out of school for 10-40 years.

Although a lot of the liberal-arts grads earned less than other majors in their first few working years, it turned out they quickly made up the difference once their careers got going.

“Those who take more than half of their coursework in subjects unrelated to their majors (a characteristic of liberal-arts colleges but not professionally oriented colleges) are 31% to 72% more likely than others to have higher-level positions and to be earning more than $100,000,” the report said.

Perhaps more importantly, the study also found that liberal-arts graduates who engaged in discussions of academic and nonacademic issues during class time and who continued discussions with faculty and fellow students after class were more likely to feel “personally fulfilled” in their lives now and to become leaders, lifelong learners, and community volunteers.

Monday, January 9, 2017

U.K. Detox Camps Help Teens Unplug

After touring secondary schools and surveying students ages 13-18, the founder of a British “digital detox” company said she’ll expand its services this spring to include teenagers.

Tanya Goodin of Time To Log Off found that 29% of the young people she polled said they spend more than eight hours a day online, and more than a third regularly fall asleep at night with their phone or laptop in bed with them.

In the U.S., in response to a December 2016 survey of more than 4,500 college students by NACS’ OnCampus Research, a quarter said they spend two hours every day on social media, 19% said three hours, 14% said four hours, and 9% said five hours. Three percent admitted actually devoting 10 hours every day to social media.

Unlike Internet-addiction treatment centers in China, which are run more like army boot camps, Time To Log Off’s three-day teen retreats in Britain will emphasize team-building and creative activities such as painting, cooking, and photography.

Richard Graham, a London psychiatrist, told The Guardian newspaper that schools should be looking into running their own digital-detox programs, especially close to midterm and final exams. He said what’s needed is a “systemwide approach, with clean times and clean zones where everyone switches off.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

Getting in Front of Tech Needs

The technology research firm Gartner predicts there will be 20 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020. That bandwidth demand will make it difficult for colleges and universities to find ways to expand their use of technology.

To meet anticipated needs, institutions should be able to provide at least 1GB for each residential student, according to a 2016 study from the Association of College and University Technology Advancement. The study also found that nearly 70% of the universities surveyed were already providing that much bandwidth for their students.

Schools must also accept that students have to be connected in the classroom, which means campuses must be expanding their technology capabilities while setting up guidelines to maintain control of the network. To accomplish this, universities may have to collaborate with local partners to make faster networks available for students and the surrounding community.

“The digital transformation is here to stay,” Ivo Pascucci, an expert on the American telecommunications market, wrote in an article for eCampus News. “It is now up to universities to invest in network infrastructure that scales for the future. IT administrators will need to develop a plan that expects to handle cloud storage, millions of devices, virtual reality, 4K and 8K video, and research initiatives.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bulk of Tech Budget to Support Online Classes

Most colleges and universities anticipate a big bump in enrollment for online courses in 2017, according to a University Business survey of campus technology administrators.

About 75% of survey respondents said their institutions expected to enroll more students in online classes in the coming year and 60% forecast their schools will add more options to their online programs. As a result, almost half of the technology administrators are looking to build up the online learning infrastructure this year.

Where will institutions be spending their tech dollars? The largest group of respondents (49%) said they’ll be investing in improving academic technologies, such as lecture capture and audiovisual equipment. Of those, 30% plan to enhance technologies that instructors can access from anywhere on campus, while 29% will be boosting tech equipment within classroom and lab spaces.

In response to some campuses experiencing hacking attempts on their networks, 47% of survey respondents will be increasing network and data security in 2017, a big jump from 28% in last year’s survey. Forty-seven percent also intend to put more budget money into cloud computing and storage, up from 30% the prior year.

As students and staff consume ever-increasing amounts of bandwidth, 45% of campus tech administrators also expect to expand their Internet and Wi-Fi infrastructure.