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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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Studies Paint Different Picture of Student Debt

New statistics from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study show fewer college students are taking out loans to pay for their education, while another report indicates that a large chunk of student debt is concentrated in families with the means to pay it off.

The federal study, according to Inside Higher Ed, found that 38% of full- and part-time undergraduates had taken out student loans for the 2015-16 academic year, compared to 42% for the 2011-12 year (the last time the study was conducted). The drop occurred across the board at private and public institutions, two- and four-year schools, and even at for-profit colleges.

The average loan amounted to $7,600, up about $500 from four years prior. However, that average includes loans by students at for-profit schools, who typically borrowed much more than students attending nonprofit institutions.

One reason for the decline in borrowing rates may be that grants to college students increased during the period covered by the study, from an average of $6,200 up to $7,600.

A separate study by the Urban Institute found that half of college student debt was held by families earning the top 25% of income (roughly $81,140 or more per year) and the top 10% accounted for almost one-fourth of student debt, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“The concentration of education debt among the relatively affluent means that some policies designed to reduce the burden of education debt are actually regressive. Focusing on lowering the interest rate on all outstanding student debt or on forgiving large amounts of that debt would bestow significant benefits on relatively well-off people,” wrote the researchers.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Twitter Goes to School

Despite all the anxiety over Twitter’s impact on civil discourse and society in general, more and more educators are finding the social platform a valuable tool for sharing assignments, increasing student engagement, and archiving classroom resources.

In intermediate and high-school grades, Twitter can be used to connect with students where they already are. One New Jersey high-school teacher found that students checked her classroom Twitter account more often than they read school emails.

Some school systems or individual instructors may be dubious of Twitter’s value or uncertain about what sorts of content they should tweet. In a blog post, Steve Williams, co-founder of Campus Suite, a provider of cloud-based communications solutions for schools, set out four areas where Twitter can and should be used by educators:

1. Enhancing student engagement—Any additional channel for communicating with students is a plus. In addition to tweeting project due dates and reminders about quizzes and tests, teachers can send links to class notes and even design projects that encourage students to use the platform to connect with each other (such as comparing their interpretations of a reading assignment) or with others (such as professionals in an industry being studied).

2. Community engagement—Twitter is a quick and easy way to share classroom news and student accomplishments with the broader community, including other school systems.

3. Connecting with parents—Almost any parent knows that classroom information isn’t always passed on to them by their offspring, so Twitter provides another path for ensuring everyone is kept in the loop, whether the content is a class reading list, a field-trip reminder, or an emergency alert.

4. Extending the school’s reach—Twitter can also deepen connections with a school system’s wider network of vendors, consultants, boosters, and board members to generate interest in new programs or support for fundraisers or a tax levy.

Friday, January 26, 2018

MOOCs Made Strides in 2017

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are now more readily available than ever, with more than 9,400 courses and 500 credentials available to anyone interested. Providers are also finding ways to make the courses more sustainable through premium credentials, online degree programs, and access to content.

Access to content has become a big business, ranging from free to million-dollar licensing deals between providers and employers. Providers are also placing more content behind paywalls, including graded assignments.

At the same time, though, enrollment has slowed. New data from Class Central, a MOOC discovery platform, showed that 20 million learners registered for their first MOOC in 2017, about three million fewer than in 2016.

“Over half a decade since their debut, MOOCs may finally have found their footing and a sustainable revenue model,” Dhawal Shah, founder of Class Central, wrote in a recent post for EdSurge. “No, they didn’t disrupt universities, but they may have changed how working professions access continued learning and career-advancement opportunities.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

In Search of Business Innovation on Campus

Higher education has a reputation, deserved or not, for being resistant to change. Some universities, according to a report in eCampus News, are trying to dispel that image by appointing a chief innovation officer to lead and encourage positive change on the business side of the institution.

A study by Russell Reynolds Associates found that 20%-30% of the “top” 50 U.S. universities have developed a senior-level position devoted to innovation, entrepreneurship, or new ventures. Their specific duties may vary, but in general “this role is strategic and aims at driving and maximizing revenues from innovation,” said the report.

Chief innovation officers focus on finding new and different revenue sources for the university, rather than looking for ways to bring innovation to teaching and learning, but some are involved in fostering greater collaboration across departments and disciplines.

Innovation can take two forms: sustained or disruptive, according to Education Dive’s new monthly Innovation Column. “Sustained innovation maintains the current framework of competitive idea engineering, while disruptive developments change the trajectory of how leaders must operate for their institutions to stay competitive, or even survive,” wrote Shalina Chatlani.

Chatlani noted that slow adaptation—sustained innovation—may be more effective in higher education. “It’s important for leaders to consider what it means to stay true to a mission or navigate an uncertain financial or political environment,” she wrote. “Positive change does not necessarily have to be disruptive.”

Monday, January 22, 2018

Faculty, Staff Can Influence Career Readiness

About a third of college students leave school feeling unprepared for the workplace, according to a new survey. One way institutions can help is by making officials and faculty aware that initiating contact with students about their career readiness makes a big difference.

Researchers found that students who had a conversation with at least one instructor or staff member were more likely to feel ready to begin their careers. About 40% of those students said they were confident they would graduate with the necessary skills to be successful in the job market.

When faculty or staff failed to initiate the career conversation, just 25% of students said they were convinced they would find success in the job market.

“We tend to think in higher ed, that’s the job of career services,” said Carol D’Amico, executive vice president of mission advancement and philanthropy for Strada Education. “Well, we learned that most students don’t access the career services department, so it’s really everybody’s job at the university or college.”

More than 32,000 current students from 43 four-year institutions selected at random participated in the survey, conducted by Gallupand the Strada Education Network. The schools ranged from large public universities to small liberal arts colleges, but for-profit institutions were not included.

The study also reported that 62% of students earning science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees strongly agreed that they would find a good job. Just 40% of liberal arts majors and 51% of business majors felt the same way.

“If I was still a chancellor … I would be concerned by that and I’d want to know about my own students,” said D’Amico, a former chancellor for Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. “This is a nationally representative sample so I think they should want to know where their students stack up.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Study Finds Benefits in Microlearning

Tools such as flash cards have been helping students learn for generations. Now, the idea of providing short bursts of information lasting no longer than 15 minutes—known as microlearning—is taking on a new focus in the digital age.

After short lessons, students at Northeastern University, Burlington, MA, use Twitter and Snapchat to create posts of hyperfocused content for others to consume. Research there also found that using social media for microlearning increased student engagement, created learning communities, and provided opportunities for information retention.

“We focus on microlearning where students sometime consume, but often create, content,” said Lindsey Sudbury, academic instructional technologist at Northeastern. “It’s usually created quickly after a lot of thought and integrating what they already know.”

The Northeastern work on microlearning found that breaking education into small pieces allows students to access content more easily and learn at their own pace. The study also reported that it helped reduce student burnout syndrome, which is a concern for medical students.

“With microlearning, you’re constantly getting this information over and over again, so it’s allowing for you to really synthesize information and connect those dots more frequently,” said Clair Waterbury, who works with Sudbury as an academic instructional technologist at Northeastern.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Online Courses Solve Two Hi-Ed Problems

There is still a lot of debate and conflicting research on whether online higher education is as effective academically as in-classroom instruction. For some institutions, however, online courses are filling a two-part void.

A report on Education Dive noted a growing number of colleges are offering more online courses aimed specifically at nontraditional students. Those courses also are available to the colleges’ traditional-aged students, but the pool of new high school graduates has started to dwindle in line with the lower birthrate two decades ago.

The online courses not only help to bolster enrollment numbers (and revenue) for the schools, especially community colleges, they also open up educational opportunities for adults with full-time jobs and family responsibilities. These older students are often unable to fit classroom courses into their schedules.

The nature of online instruction also better enables colleges to adapt coursework to working adults’ needs, such as condensing courses so students can attain an associate degree sooner. For example, Riverland Community College in Minnesota created the FlexPace program to offer accelerated business courses, squeezing a semester’s worth of work into six weeks.

At Indiana Wesleyan University, the 12,000 online students outnumber the 2,700 who go to classes on campus. “What students like most is the flexibility,” said Lorne Oke, IWU’s executive director of the Center for Learning and Innovation. “There’s a significant change in the way students interact with learning and their expectations from a college.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Revenue Shouldn't Drive Online Strategy

The percentage of students taking online classes continue to rise, but is it the right investment? If institutions see it as a way to generate revenue, they may need to think again.

Online education needs to be economically sustainable. It should also make sense from a cost and investment standpoint, according to Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning.

“Putting money as the first and ultimate goal of online education will cause a school to make a series of bad choices, while simultaneously closing off other potential benefits of online learning,” Kim wrote in his regular blog post for Inside Higher Ed.

Online programs should align with and support the strategic mission of the institution. In developing online classes, the school needs to start with an understanding of where its strengths lie as opposed to developing courses to meet particular market demands.

“There will be winners and losers in any such conversation, and the role of leadership is to have the discipline and courage to invest in areas of comparative strength,” Kim wrote. “Only once a clear institutional strategy has been built around areas of differentiating excellence should any online education strategy be enacted.”

Friday, January 12, 2018

Copyright Law Expiring Should Help OER

Public-domain documents are often important sources for open educational resource (OER) providers. Educators could soon have more public-domain documents from which to choose.

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, passed in 1998 in honor of the late entertainer and congressman, extended copyright protection of future works to 70 years after the creator’s death (previously 50 years) and added 20 years to the copyright of works already in existence. The law expires at the end of the year and there appears to be little momentum to extend it any further.

“We are not aware of any such efforts, and it’s not something we are pursuing,” a spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America said.

Historians have criticized the copyright protections because they prevented preservation of some works that are nearly 100 years old. In addition, the Internet has led advocacy groups and companies such as Google to organize public opinion against open-access limits.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that Big Content companies plan to push for another term extension,” said Daniel Nazer, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This is an election year, so if they wanted to get a big ticket like that through Congress, you would expect to see them laying the groundwork with lobbying and op-eds.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Many, Not All, Able to Survive Hi-Ed Change

Most higher education institutions will adapt to change, but some won’t and may be forced to close, in the view of two economics professors at the College of William & Mary.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman discussed how four-year colleges and universities are under pressure to provide value to students at an affordable cost. Feldman and Archibald are the authors of The Road Ahead for America’s Colleges & Universities and Why Does College Cost So Much?

Both said they believe there will be enough students to fill classrooms, due to greater enrollment by students who are older, lower-income, and from more diverse populations than the traditional student. However, institutions with a high percentage of low-income students may have a tough time finding the resources to adapt.

Flagship public schools and other selective institutions will be able to shift to a tuition-driven model that depends less on state support, according to Archibald. Highly selective private institutions with deep endowments will also make the leap.

“The ones that will fare worse are essentially the rest of the state institutions, particularly those in states less willing to support higher education and in states that are losing population,” Archibald said.

Colleges and universities will need to find a competitive edge to attract applicants. “All institutions outside of the most elite need to invest in something that sets them apart from hundreds of other similar institutions and which offers a real distinction among the much smaller set of schools that makes up their most important regional competitors,” Feldman said.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Enrollment in Online Classes Keeps Climbing

The number of U.S. undergraduate students enrolled in at least one online class continues to grow, according to provisional federal data released in December.

The statistics, from the spring 2017 data collection by the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), indicate that 31% of all students reported enrolling in at least one distance course, charting a steady rise from 24.8% in 2012.

Those online enrollments keep growing while the IPEDS numbers show overall enrollment remaining fairly flat. Almost 31% of community college students enrolled in at least one online course, as did 29% of their counterparts at four-year schools.

Unsurprisingly, students at for-profit colleges were the most likely to be enrolled in a distance course (57.5%). However, the for-profit sector overall saw enrollments drop from about 1.54 million students in 2015 to about 1.46 million in fall 2016.

Some nonprofit institutions, on the other hand, experienced big gains in online enrollment. At Arizona State University, for instance, online enrollment surged from 22,220 in fall 2015 to 30,989 for fall 2016.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Digital Learning Tools Are Helping Students

A 2017 survey of chief academic officers (CAOs) found that more than 85% said they believe digital learning tools make learning more efficient and effective for students. In addition, 92% said adaptive learning has great potential to improve learning outcomes and nearly 90% would like their faculty to use the technology more often in entry-level and gateway courses.

Students clearly agree, as 94% responding to the fourth-annual McGraw-Hill Education digital student trends survey said using digital learning technologies helped them retain new concepts and 60% said the tools helped to improve their grades.

“Powerful digital learning technology can customize the learning experience for every student, helping him or her understand challenging concepts more fully and empowering them to improve their classroom performance,” said Scott Virkler, chief product officer, McGraw-Hill Education. “As these solutions continue to make inroads on college campuses, we look forward to seeing even more improvements in student learning outcomes.”

Students said digital learning tools were helpful in preparing for tests and exams and completing assignments, and made self-study easier. The survey also reported a majority of students use laptops more than printed materials to complete homework and in test preparation, while just 38% said they used their smartphone on assignments or for test prep.

On the other hand, the CAOs told pollsters that students without the necessary digital devices were holding back campus efforts to go more digital or all-digital.

“Owning a digital device—a laptop or tablet—really is essential for digital access,” said Kenneth C. Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project. “Although well-intended, extended hours in campus computer labs do not adequately serve the needs or the schedules of full- and part-time students who have families, jobs, and other community commitments beyond their college coursework.”

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Digital Media Permeates Hi-Ed Trends

With a new year come new predictions for higher education. eSchool Media asked a number of educators, edtech specialists, and others for their thoughts for the annual trends report. This year’s edition identified 25 trending education topics for 2018, including some anticipated to affect K-12.

Not surprisingly, digital media of various types factored into many of the trends.

“Artificial intelligence to advise how each student learns best and adapts materials for them will transition us for the future and lead to the careers that students depend on higher ed to open up,” said Laural Stiller, solution marketing manager for higher education, Hyland.

“Employer demand for career-ready candidates will drive the continued growth of immersive learning experiences like virtual and augmented reality to provide real-world practice at scale,” said Matt Seeley, product director, career education, Cengage.

“With industrial networking and connectivity between laboratory equipment, the instructor, and remote locations, students will be able to configure lab equipment and perform experiments and demonstrations at a distance. That removes the biggest obstacle to technical education at a distance and will be a game-changer for STEM courses,” said Brian Stefanchuck, professor and coordinator, computer engineering technology, Mohawk College of Applied Arts and Technology in Canada.

Instant-access initiatives underway at Hinds Community College, Clinton, MS, will spread to other campuses, in the view of Keri Cole, dean of e-learning at Hinds: “By preloading all learning materials into our course shells through our learning management system before a term begins, we ensure all students are provided equal opportunities to be successful in their coursework. They are ready to hit the ground running on the first day of class.”

“Considerations for cloud technology is nothing new; however, most wariness around it is diminishing while more institutions look at this approach more closely,” said Jennifer Wilson, director of marketing and communications, Softdocs.

“Connected campus is another area of priority … if [students] cannot connect to Wi-Fi, they are not going to that school,” said David Doucette, director of higher education, CDW-G.

“Data integration that drives learning analytics is a core theme for 2018. Providers will be unfavorably regarded by campuses if, either by design or by omission, they make it hard to bring data together or to share it seamlessly,” said Geoff Irvine, CEO, Chalk & Wire.