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, September 24, 2018

The CITE's on Hiatus

The CITE is going on hiatus, with no new posts planned for the time being. Previous posts will still be available in the blog archive and the blogroll will continue to update with related stories from around the web.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

An OMG about EMV

Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) chip cards were meant to make transactions more secure, but Texas IT consultant and forensic investigator Colman Ryan has pointed out that after three failed attempts to read a chip, a terminal will allow the card to be swiped.

A criminal presenting a cloned credit card embedded with a fake chip will still have the stolen account information stored on the card’s magnetic strip. If the point-of-sale terminal can’t read the chip after three tries, a fallback feature will ask the user to swipe the card instead. That fallback feature cannot be switched off.

The EMV chip is designed to protect the retailer against fraudulent charges by verifying the card was physically present during the transaction. But if the chip isn’t read, the merchant—not the bank—will be on the hook for any fraud.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Horizon Report Offers Tech Outlook

A greater emphasis on measuring educational outcomes, coupled with new efforts to modernize college classrooms, is likely to drive technology adoption on campuses in the next couple of years, according to the NMC Horizon Report, 2018 Higher Education Edition.

The report was recently released by Educause, which has taken over the project from the now-defunct New Media Consortium. The report looks at key trends, challenges, and developments facing technology adoption in higher ed.

The types of technologies most likely to be adopted include analytics that can help institutions track at-risk students and customize the learning experience. Makerspaces for activities such as 3-D printing and virtual reality are also on the rise, as these functions become more mainstream in the work world.

Adaptive learning technologies and artificial intelligence may require another two to three years before they have much impact on colleges and universities. Technologies such as robotics and mixed reality (a blend of digital and physical objects) are at least four years out, according to the report.

While there has been considerable public debate on the role of higher education in preparing students for work, the Horizon Report analysis shows that aligning college campuses with workplace practices will be a “difficult” challenge, as institutions will need to “adopt more flexible, team-based matrix-like structures to remain innovative and responsive.”

Monday, August 20, 2018

Tool Helps New Students Adjust to Campus

With more than 6,000 first-year students expected to arrive soon for the fall term, Florida State University, Tallahassee, is deploying a new online tool to assist them in reducing stress and adjusting to the campus. Called the Student Resilience Project, it was developed by the Institute for Family Violence Studies at the school’s College of Social Work.

As part of the project, all incoming freshmen and transfer students receive mandatory training through animations, TED Talk-style audio presentations by faculty members and mental-health providers, and videos of current FSU students recounting their own first-year issues and how they dealt with them. The project website also offers audios for mindful meditation and music therapy, along with journaling tips and connections to university and community trauma resources.

Recognizing that the transition to higher ed and new surroundings can be very stressful for some students, the project’s aim is to guide new arrivals in building on their existing strengths and promote strategies for resilience and coping with that adjustment and the frustration, stress, and feelings of loss or grief that may accompany it.

“Unmanaged stress responses can interfere with student success in college and cause long-term negative consequences,” Karen Oehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies, said in a release.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Free College in New York Is Complicated

Complications appear to be bogging down the “free college” movement, particularly in New York. An August report from the Center for an Urban Future found that just 3.2% of the undergraduates statewide received an Excelsior Scholarship.

The program requires students to earn at least 30 credits every year of enrollment, which proved to be the main reason students applying for the funds were rejected. According to the report, 43,513 of the 63,599 scholarship applications in 2018 were rejected, with more than 36,000 denied because of insufficient credits.

“Admittedly, it’s still early days for the program, so the numbers may drift upwards a bit,” Matt Reed, vice president for learning, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, NJ, wrote in his Confessions of a Community College Dean column for Inside Higher Ed. “But with complicated paperwork requirements, an extraordinarily high credit requirement, and a postgraduation residency requirement in place, it’s not surprising that the impact has been minimal.”

To Reed, the more complicated the program, the fewer resources it will receive. Free colleges should be simple and transparent, not screening people out.

“Beat the program with a simple stick,” he continued. “Get rid of income caps, postgraduate residency requirements, and unrealistic credit requirements. Over time, make it as free, open, and easy to use as a public library. The future is worth it.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Research: Bigger Role for CC Libraries?

A new Ithaka S+R research project aims to determine whether campus libraries could do more to help community-college students complete their studies. The first phase of the project discovered that libraries and students aren’t always on the same page.

For libraries, “student success” often has been defined by measurable academic data, such as the number of students who attain degrees or certificates, according to EdSurge’s account of the project. On the other hand, researchers found students viewed success in school in terms of personal satisfaction with their work and their lives—a much more nebulous goal.

However, when students were asked about ongoing challenges, their answers provided some insights into how libraries could lend a hand to help them. Many students reported that applying for financial aid was confusing and they were having trouble paying for normal living expenses. Quite a few students were working parents who said they struggled to find affordable care for their kids so they could attend classes or study.

The second phase of the research project is looking more closely at how some campus libraries are already addressing these problems, either directly or indirectly. For example, one library provides private study spaces where students can do classwork while their children play, so they don’t have to pay a sitter. Another library tackles the problem from a different stance, requiring all first-year students to meet with a librarian to review library services to ensure they’re aware of available resources and won’t be intimidated to ask for help.

The final report is expected to be out in mid-2019.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Have the Social Giants Peaked?

Last week, when Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat reported their latest quarterly earnings, all three social platforms noted a slowdown or drop in users.

Facebook’s user numbers remained flat in North America and fell in Europe on a quarter-over-quarter basis, Twitter reported a slight downturn in monthly users, and Snap posted a decline in daily active users for the second quarter.

CNBC floated the possibility that social-media growth has peaked, with no room to add significant numbers of new users—at least in the West. Facebook still hopes to use “lite” versions of its apps to secure gains in huge, virtually untapped markets such as India and Indonesia. And, of course, China, with its billions of potential users, remains closed for now to Facebook and other popular platforms.

Facebook and Twitter both blamed the European Union’s new data privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation, as a factor in their declines. However, Facebook’s monthly page visits have been falling sharply for some time, according to a study by market research company SimilarWeb, from 8.5 billion to 4.7 billion over the past two years.

Thanks to that drop, YouTube, experiencing increased traffic and viewership, is poised to potentially pass Facebook within the next few months to become the second-biggest website in the U.S.

Friday, August 10, 2018

States Risk Missing Higher Ed Opportunities

A new study found that not one state in the United States has enough adult workers who have earned some sort of postsecondary degree to meet its workforce demands. Even those states that graduate a high number of workers with degrees are projected to fall well short of their expected needs by 2025.

The College Opportunity Risk Assessment, a state-by-state comparison of risks to higher educational opportunity from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE), also noted that even states making the most per-student investments are struggling to produce enough graduates.

“The world has changed, but our public policies haven’t,” said Joni Finney, professor of practice at Penn GSE and director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education. “We’re still touting the successes of a system designed in the wake of World War II to allow 30% to 40% of the country, drawn mostly from white, affluent backgrounds, to earn a college degree, even though that system now leaves us woefully unprepared for the challenges of the 21st century.”

According to Finney, states should be prioritizing those students who are traditionally left out of higher education, such as low-income, first-generation, minority, and working-adult students. At the same time, policymakers have to understand that cutting education budgets is turning many students into dropouts with debt and no degree.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

First Impressions Count in STEM Retention

How can universities attract and retain more students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses to fill the growing need for employees in these fields? As it turns out, one of the ways is to ensure students have a positive first experience with STEM education, according to University Business.

After noticing that a lot of students who enrolled in an introductory STEM course never took any more, Michigan State University put more resources toward bolstering instruction in these 100-level classes. When the instruction improved, so did student success, and more students continued to sign up for STEM classes.

“Twenty years ago, especially at research universities, a lot of faculty would see their primary job as research, and teaching as something they had to do,” James Fairweather, professor emeritus of higher adult and lifelong education at MSU, told UB. “I’d say the attitude of faculty toward teaching today is more positive. I don’t think they see it as the dregs of their job.”

Other institutions—including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Howard University, and Purdue University—also found that providing more professional development to faculty to help them brush up their teaching skills resulted in better student outcomes in STEM courses. Some faculty needed ideas for strategies to help struggling students get up to speed, such as giving regular quizzes to see how they were progressing or providing questions they could consult while reading course assignments.

The University of Arizona also placed more emphasis on introductory STEM courses, creating more interactive classroom spaces to encourage hands-on learning and collaboration among students. A storage room for library journals was converted into a learning space with tables and chairs that could be moved around into groups. The configuration worked so well that UA will have a total of 30 similar spaces available for classes this fall.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Google Glass May Help Autistic Kids

While the first iteration of Google Glass was scuttled in the market by concerns about privacy, etiquette, and safety, the smart glasses may find fresh relevance in helping children with autism spectrum disorder to socialize with others.

A new report published in the journal npj Digital Medicine details a pilot study in which autistic children used Superpower Glass, a prototype machine learning-assisted app designed to run on Google Glass paired with an Android smartphone. The app, trained from hundreds of thousands of facial images, displays an onscreen emoticon to alert the wearer when someone with whom they’re interacting expresses one of several core emotions, such as anger, happiness, or surprise.

After using this tech at home for an average of about 10 weeks, the families in the study reported that their kids demonstrated increased eye contact and greater ability at reading facial expressions, results that were confirmed by testing. Anecdotally, those behavioral changes have persisted beyond the end of the pilot.

The researchers wrote that “our system’s ability to provide continuous behavioral therapy outside of clinical settings will enable faster gains in social acuity, and that within a limited and self-directed period of use, will permit the child to engage in increasingly more complex social scenarios of his/her own.”

Additional clinical trials are planned to validate Superpower Glass’s impact and suitability for home behavioral therapy.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Games Help Make Learning Fun

Playful design, the blending of serious educational games (SEGs) with immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, is becoming the next big thing in higher education. Playful design works because people like to play games and games make learning fun, according to David Chandross, professor of education, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada.

“Serious games work by practicing skills and tracking achievement, but also by giving learning an addictive quality,” he wrote in an article for The Conversation. “The ‘one more move’ thinking that keeps video gamers up all night is harnessed for learning.”

Chandross noted peer-reviewed studies show SEGs encourage students to use what they learn while playing, engage them better than most lectures, and reward learners for their achievements. It’s a form of active learning that helps students succeed.

“We learn a lot when we love what we are learning,” Chandross said. “It’s a basic trademark of achievement in higher education. Human beings love doing certain things, and learning to become a master of their own world, however fantastical it might be, is one of them.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

We Write Good, Say College Students

College students hold a fairly high opinion of their writing skills, even when their grades don’t merit it.

According to Inside Higher Ed, a new survey by Primary Research Group found that 46% of students didn’t think they needed any more instruction in writing and just over half said they didn’t require assistance with spelling or grammar. About a third were willing to concede their writing and grammatical skills could use a little work, but believed they were able to brush up on their own without formal instruction.

Students who earned A grades were more likely, as you might expect, to say their writing skills were just fine, but students with lower scores were almost as confident. Only 17% of C students admitted to needing more instruction in writing.

Students in their first or second year of college overwhelmingly held a positive view of their writing capabilities, but seniors (who had presumably by then received more feedback from professors on their papers) were somewhat more apt to say they should get more instruction in this area.

The study also determined that about 30% of students have never been assigned to write a paper with more than 10 double-spaced pages, the type of paper typically calling for deeper research and/or analysis. Social-sciences majors were more likely to have written such papers.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Classroom Multitaskers Get Poorer Grades

Despite students’ claims to be adept at dividing their attention, their use of phones, laptops, and tablets during classroom lectures does have a negative impact, according to a just-published study by researchers at Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ.

Rather than testing college students against a control group of their peers, the researchers tested two sections of an upper-level psychology course—118 students in all—against themselves. The students were permitted to have their electronic devices out during half the lectures, but were prohibited from using them during the other half. Immediate retention of information was assessed with daily quizzes, and longer-term retention by three unit exams and a final exam.

Students’ scores proved to be “significantly worse” on device-approved days, even for those who opted not to use their electronics, demonstrating how devices’ capacity for distraction extends beyond just the actual user. In addition, the study posited that what was—and wasn’t—learned in the classroom influenced the quality of students’ out-of-class studying for exams.

“Dividing attention between an electronic device and the classroom lecture did not reduce comprehension of the lecture, as measured by within-class quiz questions,” the authors pointed out. “Instead, divided attention reduced long-term retention of the classroom lecture, which impaired subsequent unit-exam and final-exam performance.”

Professor Arnold Glass, the lead researcher, told Insider Higher Ed that he recommends other faculty follow his lead and call out students they see using their devices during lectures, “not because I’m tremendously offended by this, but because I know it negatively affects them.”

Friday, July 27, 2018

Pediatricians Should Ask about Social Media

When doctors examine kids, especially adolescents, they often use a HEADSSS (home life, education, activities, drugs, sexual activity, safety, and suicide and/or depression) assessment to identify any potential mental health or alcohol or drug issues.

Now, an editorial in the May 2018 journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates that health-care providers add in queries about social media use, including sexting, cyberbullying, and the impact of social media on self-worth.

While noting that social media does provide some positive benefits in terms of social connection and support, the researchers behind the article noted that teens who devote the most time to it are at higher risk of negative effects.

“Aberrant and/or excessive social media usage may contribute to the development of mental health disturbance in at-risk teenagers, such as feelings of isolation, depressive symptoms, and anxiety,” the authors wrote.

A study of 500 college undergrads who were active social media users, presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in May, found that how they used social media—especially passive consumption vs. active engagement—was associated with depression, with depressed users more likely to:

• Score highly on a survey of social media addiction.
• Compare themselves to others they perceived as “better off than me.”
• Say they were bothered by being tagged in an unflattering photo.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Hidden Costs for Online Courses

Developing an online course usually isn’t cheap, but one particular expense is often underestimated: updating the course down the road. Face-to-face class content also needs to be refreshed from time to time, but online courses may call for hardware or software upgrades or time-consuming reviews to ensure web resources are still accessible.

Inside Higher Education took a look at how institutions are grappling with processes and costs to keep online courses up to date. Some schools didn’t take into account the maintenance cost for online courses, which over just a few years can add up to more than the original development cost.

Schools that offer quite a few online courses tend to require faculty to conduct a formal review of the course every few years, more often in the case of rapidly evolving subjects, such as computer science or biology. At Walden University, the review includes a report on whether the course is achieving learning outcomes. Western Governors University reviews each course annually, but it also has 200 faculty who work solely on course development.

If the faculty member who originally created the course leaves, it can take much longer for someone else to review and update the material. Installing cybersecurity measures to protect online courses from hackers is also a growing cost.

“I definitely would caution any institution from thinking of online courses as a quick moneymaker, at least if you want to do it right,” said Jessie Guy-Ryan, who heads the online learning team at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Voice Assistants Not Ready for Classrooms

Representatives of Amazon and Google made it clear at the recent International Society for Technology in Education conference that voice-assistant devices should not be used in K-12 classrooms because of compliance and privacy issues. While privacy issues is still a concern, the devices are finding their way into campus dorms and classrooms.

Amazon donated 1,600 Echo Dots to engineering students at Arizona State University, Tempe, and is providing grants to institutions that create class curriculum using Alexa-enabled devices and mentorship. Additionally, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, will give some students the option to connect an Echo Dot device to their university accounts this fall.

Jason Hong, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, has studied the home use of Alexa and said the device isn’t quite ready for educational use. He noted they could be handy in specific college situations, such as a lab where students need hands-free interaction but added there are risks, such as demands to view the dialogue history stored in the device.

“These things are not geared for schools and for lots of people at the same time,” Hong said, adding that could change as the technology improves. “I think it could be really exciting, but also rather thorny.”

Friday, July 20, 2018

College Students Worry About Time

Academics are not the only thing keeping college students up at night. A new survey of more than 1,500 undergrads currently enrolled in a two- or four-year institution found that 36% of respondents said time management and 35% identified anxiety as the key factors keeping them from a diploma.

Students also listed being overwhelmed with managing responsibilities (31%) and working too many hours (24%) to pay for school as other factors. The survey results may be the tip of the iceberg since so many nontraditional students are heading to college.

“We have a lot of students with very complicated lives and they have broader issues,” said Mark Milliron, co-founder and chief learning officer of Civitas Learning, which did the study. “Trying to design the right kind of advising support is going to mean a level of diversification and a level of personalization.”

Advising is becoming much more important to students. The study noted that 40% ranked information on career options after graduation and on staying on track to finish a degree as the highest types of advice they should receive. Time management and academic success strategies were listed by 33% of the respondents.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

CSU Opens Online Options to Live-In Students

California State University is opening the system’s entire catalog of 3,000-plus online courses to its residential students. Full-time students who live on one of the 23 CSU campuses can take one online class per term at no charge, regardless of which CSU branch is offering the class.

Many schools allow on-campus students to enroll in online courses, but most don’t make all courses available to those students. CSU used to limit access, too, but opted to drop most of the barriers. One remaining hurdle is that students can only take online classes from campuses that have the same semester or quarter term as their residential campus. That means the two quarter schools (in San Luis Obispo and San Bernardino) can only offer courses to each other.

One of the objectives of the program is to help students finish their degrees on time by making available online options if they can’t get into a required course at their home campus or the class is scheduled at an inconvenient time. Students will also be able to take advantage of courses not offered on their own campus.

To help residential students determine whether they’ll be able to succeed in an online class, CSU offers a self-test to assess students’ learning styles before they enroll.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Work the Social Brain Network to Get Ahead

To communicate more effectively and increase your opportunities for advancement, you need to exercise your social brain network—regions of the cortex that are activated when we need to interpret the behavior, intentions, and appearance of other people.

Studying interactions among both humans and primates has revealed that the structure of a person’s social brain network is strongly influenced by the shape of their social network.

In some social networks, all the members know one another independently, while in others, certain people act as hubs indirectly connecting individuals and groups who otherwise wouldn’t know each other. Research has found that their exposure to more diverse perspectives confers a host of benefits to those in the hub position, labeled “information brokers.” They’re not only better at problem-solving but also more likely to accrue faster promotion and higher pay.

In one 2017 study, teenagers’ brains were scanned as they made decisions about whether to recommend various products to friends in their Facebook network. The researchers found that those who were information brokers used their social brain network more in selecting what to recommend to their peers than did teens whose contacts all knew one another independently.

In both humans and monkeys, those who exercise their social brain network more to translate ideas and information between different groups increase the size and connectivity of that neural “muscle,” which further expands their capacity for effective networking. That suggests that providing greater access to broader and more diverse social networks in both educational settings and the workplace could change how people use their brains in day-to-day decision-making.

Since previous research has demonstrated that activity in one person’s social brain network can stimulate similar activity in others during communication, putting both speaker and listener in greater sync and making communication more successful, any effort to widen and diversify social networks could create an ever-expanding ripple effect throughout the community.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Netflix, Smartphones Eat Up Bandwidth

The Netflix video-streaming service and smartphones are the two biggest drains on campus bandwidth, according to a report on residential networks (ResNet).

Netflix was named the biggest content threat to bandwidth capacity by 88% of the IT, housing, and business officers who participated in the State of ResNet 2018 Report, while smartphones were listed as the largest consumers of bandwith by 73% of respondents.

The smartphone percentage was an 11% increase over the 2017 report, with desktop computers and laptops finishing second (65%) and smart TVs in third (59%). At the same time, online learning tools and interactive digital textbooks were considered a threat by 33% and 14% of respondents, respectively.

Almost every respondent said their institution viewed “high-performing” ResNet as essential to attracting and keeping students on campus. Ninety-six percent of housing administrators said quality ResNet was “very important,” while 92% of IT respondents and 90% of business officers said the same thing.

At the same time, 41% of the respondents admitted their schools were shaping and limiting bandwidth, up 10% from the year before. There was also a double-digit increase in blocking activities such as peer-to-peer sharing and music downloading, from 34% in 2017 to 44% in 2018.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Student Debt Fuels Concern and Confusion

There may be growing anxiety among many college students and their parents over whether attaining a bachelor’s degree is worth the expense, especially when student loans are involved.

Two surveys—both, ironically, commissioned by companies that provide student loans—conducted last spring with young adults reveal some of the concerns. In the survey from Ascent Student Loans, 51% of respondents said they “do not believe the value of a college education has kept up with the rising cost.” Almost half said they were responsible for paying at least 50% of their school tab.

In a survey from Discover Student Loans, 26% of current students and recent graduates were worried they’d need to take on a second job and give up leisure activities in order to pay off loan debt for their education, but that percentage rose to 59% among young adults who had been out of college for a few years.

However, a lack of financial literacy may be contributing to students’ apprehension. More than 40% of the Discover survey-takers indicated they didn’t fully understand how to budget for payments or even exactly how much they were required to pay back. In the Ascent survey, two-thirds didn’t know when loan interest begins accruing and many thought the average loan payment was less than $100 a month (Ascent said it’s more than $200).

A report on MarketWatch noted that the class of 2016 graduated with an average loan debt of $29,669, although the average was $32,596 for students whose parents had borrowed through the federal PLUS program.

Monday, July 9, 2018

QRNG Claims ‘Unbreakable’ Online Security

Creation of the world’s first practical quantum random-number generator (QRNG) could potentially render cyberattacks impossible, according to its developers at Lancaster University and Quantum Base Ltd., a company spun off from the university in 2013.

Random-number generation underpins the privacy and security of all electronic communications, as well as gaming, cryptocurrencies, smart appliances and vehicles, and much more in the digital world. Conventional “pseudo” RNGs don’t produce numbers that are as random as most consumers believe, leading to potential predictability, and existing quantum solutions are hindered by their size, speed, and pricetag.

Quantum Base, on the other hand, claims its product’s low power requirements and simple, highly scalable structure make it capable of revolutionizing online security. The nanoscale quantum device—only 1,000th the width of a human hair—can be embedded into any semiconductor chip—“with little or no incremental cost once volume production is achieved,” according to a release—and produces “pure random numbers.”

The company said that by overcoming weaknesses in current encryption solutions, its QRNG will "allow blockchain to be implemented with unbreakable quantum security, and will be vital in sensitive areas such as banking finance, defense, and social media."

Friday, July 6, 2018

Decisions Needed Before Going Online

Online degree programs have become a strategy for growth at some colleges and universities, and for survival at others. However, it involves much more than slapping a course or program online.

“You are not simply putting a course online; you are creating an online product,” said Furqan Nazeeri, a partner at the online education platform provider ExtensionEngine. “It’s an important distinction. Your product—the program, course, certificate, or degree—has to be unique and very specific to what your market to current and prospective students want.”

With institutions developing new online programs each year, colleges and universities should be striving to create something unique and not just a replica of the course provided in the classroom. All campuses are different and schools should be looking at their online programs the same way.

“It’s time to move away from mass-produced, cookie-cutter programs that take a one-size-fits-all approach,” Nazeeri continued. “Instead, differentiate your students’ online learning experience, and thus your institution, by creating authentic, adaptive, engaging, customized programs that embrace your institution’s distinctive approach to education.”

Anyone going this route must also understand there are risks and considerable costs to online programs.

“What are the key considerations in the push to go online?” Aleksandar Tomic, associate dean for strategy, innovation, and technology at the Woods College of Advanced Studies, Boston College, asked in a column for The EvoLLLution. “There are no obvious answers to any of these challenges, but each institution must consider the options in front of them and clearly define the answer best for their organization and success.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Enjoy the Fourth!

From all of the NACS Inc. staff, have a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Grads Not as Ready for Careers as They Think

Just 41% of U.S. college students said they feel “very” or “extremely” prepared for their post-college career, according to McGraw-Hill Education’s fifth-annual Workforce Survey. While far from ideal, that’s a significant bump up from the 29% who said they felt well prepared in the 2017 survey.

More men (50%) reported feeling “very” or “extremely” prepared for their career, while only 36% of women said the same. Overall, nontraditional students—here meaning those who didn’t enter college within a year of finishing high school—expressed feeling prepared more often (49%) than their traditional counterparts (34%). Students in technical and vocational programs were far more likely to see themselves as well prepared for their career than any other academic discipline.

Fewer than half of the 1,000 students surveyed were confident they’d gained the critical skills necessary to enter the workforce, such as complex problem-solving (43%), résumé writing (37%), and interviewing (34%). There is, however, something of a disconnect between stated desires and actions: Although 51% said they’d like access to more internships and other professional experiences during college, fewer than half reported taking advantage of the career services offered by their institution.

There’s a lot of daylight between students’ perceptions of their own preparedness and how employers see them. Although more than three-quarters of students were confident in their own professionalism and work ethic, the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2018 learned that just 43% of employers surveyed felt that recent college grads were up to standard in those areas. And while more than 60% of students felt their leadership skills were sufficient for the workplace, only a third of employers agreed with them.

Those findings dovetail with the results of Building Tomorrow’s Talent: Collaboration Can Close Emerging Skills Gap, a new study by Bloomberg Next and Workday Inc., a provider of cloud-based financial and human-resources management software. The study, which queried 100 U.S. academic institutions and an equal number of U.S. corporations, found that only 35% of corporations said new hires possessed both the hard and soft skills to perform at a high level in a professional setting.

There isn’t much encouragement on the horizon, as 84% of academic respondents said budget constraints were the biggest barrier to implementing plans to better prepare students for the workforce.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Integrating Access to Content

Seamless integration of academic content and tools with a school’s learning management systems (LMS) really shouldn’t be an issue. However, institutions regularly face challenges in integrating digital learning materials with all the different campus systems.

“When solutions integrate well, the students and professors shouldn’t notice any differences between our platforms and the external content,” said Steve Kessinger, director of information services and technology at Bluefield College, Bluefield, VA. “Integrations should enhance the educational experience, not be a barrier.”

Integration should make access to digital content possible from the institution’s LMS interface and not in a new window from a new interface. Students shouldn’t have to log into the LMS a second time to access the material. Seamless integration can also make it possible for students to immediately access content as soon as they register for a class through their LMS accounts.

A well-integrated system allows students’ quiz and homework grades to go directly to the LMS gradebook for review by the instructor. It should also be easy for instructors to edit and share content with students, while administrators should be able to see analytics and student performance measurements.

To make it all happen, colleges and universities, along with instructors, need to be working with LMS providers on universal standards.

“When vendors adhere to sets of standards as opposed to proprietary approaches, it becomes far easier for institutions to adopt their solutions,” Kessinger said. “Our application development resources are extremely limited. Developing custom integrations can be very time-consuming and costly.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Students Need a Hand with Basic Costs

Low-income, first-in-family college students sometimes need a little help getting to the finish line. Institutions typically respond with solutions such as tuition aid and academic counseling. That may not be enough, according to speakers at The New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum held recently.

“The new economics of college goes way beyond tuition; we spend so much time talking about whether tuition is going up, whether it’s frozen, whether that makes college affordable. But the vast majority of the cost of attending college faced by students in the United States are things like books and supplies, room and board, medical expenses, transportation, clothing,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University, in a report about the conference on Education Dive.

Goldrick-Rab and other speakers pointed out that some students need assistance covering basic living expenses while they’re in school, yet that gap has been overlooked by colleges and universities. A study conducted by Temple University with the Wisconsin HOPE Lab indicated 36% of students are food insecure and 36% are housing insecure.

Similar findings emerged from the Monthly Student Panel survey conducted last spring by NACS OnCampus Research. When asked how concerned they were about having enough money to pay necessary bills such as rent, food, and monthly expenses, 23% of student respondents were “extremely” or “very” concerned. Another 23% were “somewhat” concerned.

In the same survey, students ranked “paying for home/rent expenses” as their No. 1 cost concern and 29% said they “often” or “sometimes” go without food when they’re hungry because they don’t have the money.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Most Teens Want to Cut Their Screen Time

Almost two-thirds of young people ages 13-18 claim they wish they were better able to self-limit how much time they spend on their smartphone, according to a survey of more than 1,000 teens by Screen Education, which consults and conducts research and workshops on "digital wellness" issues.

Even more (68%) said they’d attempted to reduce their screen time and 26% said they wished someone else would limit their screen time for them. More than half who attend a school that bans smartphones in class said they were glad of that policy.

“These kids know their phones are compromising so many aspects of their lives and they want help, Michael Mercier, president of Screen Education, said in a statement. He recommended imposing “reasonable limits” on screen time and cultivating teens’ ability to police their own screen time.

Among the survey’s other findings:

• 69% of respondents said they wish they could spend more time in face-to-face interactions rather than socializing online.
• 32% want to stop using their phone but find themselves unable to do so—every day.
• 41% said they feel overwhelmed every day by their notifications.
• 41% said phones present an obstacle to getting the best grades they can.
• 36% said they witness cyberbullying on a weekly basis.
• 31% have seen online bullying escalate to physical violence.
• 73% said they feel social media use is a factor in conditions that can lead to school shootings.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Campus Store Weights In on Rental Debate

In an opinion piece earlier this month in Inside Higher Ed, a University of North Dakota professor claimed that rental textbooks limited student access to course materials and stifled critical thinking and conversation. Jason Katzman, CCR, assistant director for academic resource support, CU Book Store, University of Colorado Boulder, says he understands the prof’s points but argues rentals are a symptom rather than a cause.

Twenty years ago, a student bought a book, sold it back at the end of the semester, and maybe received something close to half (although probably not) of what they had paid if the book was being used again the next semester,” Katzman wrote in his Inside Higher Ed rebuttal. “Of course, professors complained then that the buyback process devalued the educational experience by encouraging students to part with important materials they might need for another class or later in life as a reference. Then, along came the Internet and Amazon, and the model that traditional collegiate textbook retailers had been using for years was upended. For many stores, renting textbooks is a way to compete while remaining financially viable.”

Market forces determine where students decide to get their course materials. Selling a textbook for $400 has become unthinkable, so rental has become a way for bookstores to remain relevant and viable. The current trend of providing students low-cost digital course materials as part of tuition or course fees is another solution that helps publishers and bookstores stay in business while driving prices down for students.

“If the higher-education community wants to spend large amounts of energy working on the high cost of course materials, they should. It’s important,” Katzman wrote. “However, we’re being shortsighted. In addition to course materials delivery, another model that’s broken is higher education itself. What happens when Amazon or somebody else finds a way to offer a bachelor’s degree for 75% of its current cost?”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Online Students Prefer Quick and Easy

Convenience and speed appear to be very important to college students who are taking—or plan to take—all of their courses online.

A new study conducted by Learning House, which operates online courses for institutions, and Aslanian Market Research showed that 67% of online students are using mobile devices to finish some portion of their course requirements. Reading course materials and communicating with instructors are the most-common activities. That suggests students are using their smartphone or tablet to catch up on schoolwork in between other responsibilities, most likely when they’re away from home.

Online students gave lower ratings to scheduled class sessions conducted via webconferencing than they did to other class activities they could access in their own time, such as videos, slides, readings, interactive media, and discussion boards.

“When students were asked about the features they deemed most important in the online programs they chose or were considering, a double-digit share of their responses went to innovations that can expedite their education,” noted a summary of the study in Campus Technology. Those innovations include year-round courses, self-paced classes, accelerated courses, and online programs that can be completed in less time than face-to-face classes.

The survey also showed a growing number of online students have at least some interest in exploring other new types of postsecondary education, such as competency-based education, stackable credentials, and “textbook-free” programs.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Users Retain Info Better from Virtual Study

People recall information better after viewing it in an immersive virtual environment than they do when using a desktop display, according to recent research conducted at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Volunteers first studied printouts of two 21-image sets of famous faces, such as Napoleon, Gandhi, Mickey Mouse, George Washington, and Marilyn Monroe. They were then shown one set of faces placed throughout one of two “memory palaces,” either an ornate palace or a medieval townscape.

After five minutes to navigate and study the memory palace and then a two-minute break, the subjects re-entered the memory palace, where the faces had been replaced by numbers, and were asked to recall which faces had been in which positions. Half of the participants viewed the scene first using a virtual-reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) and then a desktop computer display with mouse-based interaction; the other half used the desktop first and then the HMD.

“The users that used the HMD first and then moved to a traditional desktop had better performance than those who used the desktop first and then the HMD,” wrote the researchers. “This suggests a positive transfer effect from the HMD to a desktop.”

Overall, VR users showed 8.8% better recall, which means immersive VR-based education and virtual memory palaces may prove more effective than traditional methods in K-12, higher ed, and job training.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Digital Student IDs Are Here

It was just a matter of time before colleges and universities started offering students the choice of digital identification cards. Apple is taking a big step to move the process forward, rolling out a digital student ID initiative to begin in the fall at Duke University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma, and at Johns Hopkins University, Santa Clara University, and Temple University by the end of the calendar year.

The ID cards will use the same near-field communications chip used for Apple Pay and will be available on newer iPhones and the Apple Watch. Phil Hill, an edtech consultant and blogger, views digital student IDs as a way for schools to better serve their students and for Apple to sell more watches.

“The bigger play here for Apple is about the watch, with the iPhone thrown in as a backwards compatibility and ensuring a usable program for students who have far more iPhones than watches,” Hill told EdSurge.

Some worry the initiative might be seen as discriminatory since students who don’t have an Apple device won’t be able to participate. Colleges and universities will also need to create guidelines for tracking the information the IDs will collect on students.

“This fits into [the] overall trend of ‘Trojan Horse’ technology that is designed for one purpose, but has data collection as part of its platform,” said Avi Chelsa, founder and CEO of empow cybersecurity. “Universities are becoming more and more data-driven, using data to track behaviors and derive insights in the same way that hotels, airports, and other institutions are.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

STEM Jobs Losing Steam with Teens?

Fewer teenagers are interested in careers in science or the arts, but more are looking at health and public-service work. However, colleges and universities might want to hold off on adjusting their course offerings just yet.

For the second consecutive year, Junior Achievement and Ernst & Young surveyed 13- to 17-year-olds about their career ambitions and financial literacy. The percentage of teens who said they’re considering working in the arts dropped from 18% in 2017 to 13% this year, but the decrease for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers was even bigger.

Just 24% of teen boys, compared to 36% a year ago, have their eye on a STEM field after high school, even though the number of girls interested in STEM (11%) didn’t change year over year. The reasons behind such a large drop with the boys in just 12 months isn’t clear, though.

“It’s definitely disconcerting that we see declining interest in STEM,” Ed Grocholski, senior vice president of brand at Junior Achievement and manager of the survey project, told U.S. News. “Teens look for a career they’re good at, and they may not think they’re good at math and science.”

The survey indicated that Mom and Dad may be playing a more important role in shaping teens’ views on careers, as 28% of survey respondents said their parents were the major influence, compared to 19% in 2017. It could be those parents are steering their kids toward other fields. Nineteen percent of teenagers want careers in medical or dental fields, up from 15% last year, and 10% would like to enter the public-service sector, up from 7%.

About 43% of the teen respondents also said they expect their parents will pay for college (compared to 32% last year), and 45% (up from 33%) anticipate taking out a student loan.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Screen Time Linked to Insomnia, Depression

For adolescents, the more time spent on electronic screens the greater the likelihood of insomnia and shorter sleep duration, which in turn are linked to a higher incidence of depressive symptoms. Those were the findings of a new study by researchers at Stony Brook University, Pennsylvania State University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Higher rates of depressive symptoms among teens may be partially explained through the ubiquitous use of screen-based activities, which can interfere with high-quality restorative sleep,” Stella Xian Li, a postdoctoral associate at Stony Brook.

Parents, health-care professionals, and educators should consider instructing adolescents about the effects of screen time and regulating device use.

“We’re very interested to see whether the adverse influences of social media and screen use on sleep and mental health persist during the transition to adulthood,” said Lauren Hale, a professor of family, population, and preventive medicine at Stony Brook who also collaborated on the study.

The researchers analyzed data from surveys of more than 2,800 teens, about evenly divided between males and females. Respondents reported how many hours they spent daily on gaming, social messaging, TV/movies, and web surfing. Gaming was found to have a stronger link to depressive symptoms than messaging activity.