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.

The site uses Google's cookies to provide services and analyze traffic. Your IP address and user agent are shared with Google, along with performance and security statistics to ensure service quality, generate usage statistics, detect abuse and take action.

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.