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The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gen Z Blurs Line Between Web and Physical

Generation Z’s first college graduating class has already made its mark on the world by being the first “phigital” generation—a term coined to indicate these young adults (born 1995-2012) don’t separate online from offline. It’s all one experience to them.

In an article for eSchool News, writer Meris Stansbury noted how “phigital” students are reshaping higher education. For one, this group has had access to information via the Internet their entire lives, mostly through mobile devices.

“For higher education, it’s never been more important to allow prospective students to explore their potential institutions via mobile and online methods,” Stansbury wrote.

Because of their exposure to digital technologies, Gen Z seeks more personalization, customization, and individual options when it comes to their studies. While millennials typically liked to tackle class projects in groups, Gen Z students prefer independent work in order to pursue their own goals.

As part of that, Gen Z also expects coursework to provide some sort of real-life connection, such as supporting social causes or honing skills directly related to jobs after graduation.

“In higher education, many colleges and universities have begun tailoring courses, like journalism, to the real world by harnessing ed-tech to mirror current job expectations,” Stansbury wrote. “They’ve also started creating entirely new programs to address current student and job market interests.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

A High-Tech Helper for Students with ASD

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have difficulty with basic social interactions, such as making eye contact, saying hello, or even deciphering what a smile or frown means. But thanks to a Dallas-based company, they can now add another member to their team at school who can help them learn, understand, and practice appropriate social behavior and build confidence in their skills. His name is Milo and he’s two feet tall with spiky brown hair and a superhero-style uniform.

He’s also a robot.

Milo’s face is covered with Frubber, a soft synthetic skin that’s pliant enough to replicate human expressions. Two versions are available: a walking, gesturing Milo and a less-expensive model with the same expressive head but a static body. Created by RoboKind, Milo models facial expressions, speaks—slowly, to help students process what he’s saying more easily—and displays symbols on a chest screen with cues from a tablet-equipped educator who lets Milo know when a child has responded correctly.

Since last fall, RoboKind has been partnering with the Autism Society of America on Robots4Autism, a nationwide school grant program to integrate curriculum delivered by Milo for children ages 5-17. The grants allow interested schools to complete the purchase of their own Milo.

It’s recommended that children spend 30-60 minutes with Milo and an instructor or therapist at least three times per week. One of Milo’s big advantages is that he can teach the same skills over and over with the positive consistency that autistic children need. He never gets tired or frustrated or impatient.

RoboKind has also brought out Robots4STEM, a K-12 curriculum to teach the basics of robotics and coding using Milo’s robot sibling, Jett, and the JettLingo visual programming language.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Higher Ed Embracing Badges

Even though most employers continue to require new hires to have college degrees, diplomas are not always the best way to show that employees have the skills needed to do the job. That’s where digital badges are coming into play.

“The bachelor’s degree or Ph.D. will never go away,” Philip DiSalvio, dean of the College of Advancing and Professional Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, said in an article for University Business. “But every higher-ed portfolio is going to have some form of alternative credential that will demonstrate a student’s competency in certain areas.”

Digital badges, available for everything from problem-solving to career readiness, can be posted to social media sites, stored in digital portfolios, and displayed on specially designed platforms. The badges are linked to lists of skills students have mastered, in addition to the grades they’ve received.

Colleges and universities are trying to stay ahead of the curve on badges by developing programs that recognize skills students have acquired through their studies. Badges can connect skills needed in the workforce to what a college teaches, as well as provide a clearer picture of a student’s academic record.

“The reason they’re taking off in higher education is most employers are not getting the information they need about people emerging from higher ed,” said Jonathan Finkelstein, found and CEO of the badging platform Credly. “The degree itself doesn’t get to the level of describing particular competencies.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tech Makes Studying Easier

Technology helps improve grades and makes it possible to study from anywhere, according to students who responded to a 2016 survey from McGraw-Hill Education. The report noted 74% said they preferred to study at home, while 82% claimed digital tools helped them spend more time studying.

The research found that more than 90% of students use laptops and 60% make use of their smartphone to study. More than half said digital learning technology saved them time, better prepared them for class, and gave them more confidence in their knowledge of the course materials.

“College students enjoy and regularly use digital learning technology,” the authors of the report wrote. “Overall, college students agree that digital learning technology is helpful across a wide variety of activities, including doing homework, preparing for exams, and doing research.”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Competitors’ Data Keep Students on Track

College and university administrators are increasingly using data not only from their own institutions but also from other, potentially competing, schools to predict when their students might require an academic intervention.

Observing and understanding data on common factors that impact student retention and success—such as feeling isolated or overwhelmed, selecting the wrong classes, or being unable to afford the next semester—enhances administrators’ ability to proactively identify which students need help. For example, using predictive-analysis processes developed by the University of Texas at Austin, administrators at the University of Kansas discovered that 1,200 out of 1,500 students having difficulties on their campus hadn’t received any kind of intervention.

Both schools are part of the three-year-old University Innovation Alliance, a consortium of 11 research universities dedicated to raising undergraduate graduation rates. Since the group’s founding, its member universities have managed to increase the number of degrees awarded by 10%, with a 25% bump among Pell Grant recipients.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Higher Ed Needs to Keep Up with Tech

Higher education needs to develop new educational and training programs to keep pace with the technological changes that are reshaping the job market. Online learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will be part of those changes, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The poll of industry experts and higher-education thought leaders noted that online learning is a flexible format that can play an important role in training workers, but added that requires more “on-demand” training focused on lifelong learners.

“Most of what we now call online learning is little more than glorified textbooks, but the future is very promising,” said David Karger, a computer science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an article for EdTech. “Online teaching will increase the reach of top universities, which will put pressure on lesser universities to demonstrate value.”

Nearly 30% of respondents to the survey said that AI and machine learning will be disruptive forces, killing more jobs through automation than they create. While automation eliminates many jobs, online learning could be the format to provide training for more sophisticated job skills.

“People will create the jobs of the future, not simply train for them, and technology is already central,” Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft, said in the Pew report. “It will undoubtedly play a greater role in the years ahead.”

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

First-Gen Profs to Inspire First-Gen Students

Many college campuses offer some type of academic and social support to students who are among the first in their families to enroll in higher education. The University of California is trying a different tack with a new program involving faculty.

The program, dubbed First-Gen Faculty, encourages professors who were first-generation students themselves to open up about their experiences with their classes. Those who sign up to participate will wear special shirts or buttons during the first week of school next fall so students can identify them.

According to a report in Inside Higher Ed, an estimated 800 faculty from nine campuses are expected to take part. About 42% of UC students are the first in their families to enroll in a four-year school.

“The idea is that first-generation students can seek out professors with similar experiences as role models or mentors,” the report explained. “Faculty members can share advice and alert students to essential campus services.”

The program will also provide training about first-generation issues to UC faculty and staff.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Clickers Can Impair Deeper Thinking

A new study in the journal Computers & Education claims that while classroom response clickers are effective for helping students with rote learning, the devices can actually impair their ability to understand more conceptual information.

The results were most striking when fact-based questions answered with clickers were followed by big-picture conceptual questions. Lead author Amy M. Shapiro, interim associate dean of graduate studies and research, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, said that the factual questions appeared to shift students into a “hyperfocus” on factual knowledge that made grasping the deeper concepts that followed more difficult.

“While many published reports indicate the technology can substantially benefit learners, we found that clicker effects are somewhat more complicated than previously reported,” the study said. “The technology’s use appears to interact strongly with overall pedagogy, resulting in different outcomes for students enrolled in large, lecture-based courses than for those in smaller, problem-oriented courses.”

The study, whose results are so far unique, doesn’t recommend that educators delete clickers from their toolbox, but it does suggest limits to the devices’ efficacy in certain types of courses and that instructors may need to consider changes in how they’re used.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Apple Has Big Plans for New AI Chip

While Siri gave Apple an early lead in voice-recognition technology, the competition answered with artificial intelligence (AI) devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Reports now suggest that Apple is working on a new AI-enabled processor of its own.

“Two of the areas that Apple is betting its future on require AI,” said Gene Munster, former Apple analyst and co-founder of the venture-capital firm Loup Ventures. “At the core of augmented reality and self-driving cars is artificial intelligence.”

The new chip will be a dedicated module designed to control AI functions while providing battery performance, according to a Bloomberg report. Currently, Apple products use their main processor and graphics chips to handle AI processes.

The new AI chip is reportedly designed to handle functions such as facial recognition in the photos application, some speech recognition, and the iPhone’s predictive keyboard. Developers will also have access to the chip to develop apps that can handle AI-related tasks.

Apple has been designing in-house processors since it created the A4 chip in 2010 for the iPhone and iPad. It has also released dedicated processors for the Apple Watch, the wireless component for its AirPods, and the fingerprint scanner for its MacBook Pro.

The new AI chip has been tested in prototypes of the iPhone, but there’s no word that it will be included in the next generation of the device. Apple will introduce the iOS 11 operating system for iPhones and iPads at its annual developers conference later this month, as well as discuss its updates to laptops, which include faster processing chips.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Future Higher Ed to Mix in Worker Training

Earning a degree in a major field of study may not be sufficient to qualify new graduates for good jobs in the future. Most likely, according to the results of a new survey, students will need to take a blend of educational programs to prepare them for employment as well as lifelong learning.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center and Elon University, asked 1,400 experts in higher education, research, government, and technology fields about the type of education that will be developed to properly train a massive workforce in the next decade.

More than 70% agreed new forms of education would probably emerge to teach the required skills. That wouldn’t spell the end of traditional higher education, but students would supplement their regular courses with more hands-on training and online content aimed at honing specific skill sets.

“Plenty of respondents foresee potential for alternate credentialing systems,” noted a summary of the survey in Campus Technology.

The survey also identified a number of impediments to shifting to such a scenario, including lack of funding, reluctance of leaders to institute change, pushback from current workers who need retraining or updated skills, and ongoing difficulties in teaching competence in soft skills.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Remember on Memorial Day

The NACS Inc. staff in Oberlin and the PartnerShip staff in Westlake, along with our colleagues around the nation and Canada, salute all veterans this Memorial Day.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Virtual-Reality Tech Keeps Getting Better

Gaming and educational applications are expected to increase the use of virtual-reality (VR) devices by 85% over the next five years, according to a report from technology market intelligence firm ABI Research.  The market for those devices is changing, with technology such as headsets and 365-degree cameras becoming more affordable and effective.

“Education is on the cusp of a profound change in the way we use VR technology,” said Emory Craig, director of e-learning at the College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY. “People are starting to use it in higher ed even though the tech is very fluid at the moment.”

Headsets for high-quality equipment can cost close to $2,000 per setup, but technology firms are developing devices that work with lower-end desktop computers for the more affordable price of $299. Newer 365-degree cameras have more user-friendly features, making it easier to introduce video content into course materials. VR hand controllers are also improving to provide full-motion interactive experiences.

Content developers are experimenting with new ways to create virtual medical simulations, as well as creating applications that allow users to manipulate VR content. At the same time, Facebook is working on ways for users to connect and collaborate virtually.

“We can expect to see certain trends in VR to move forward, while others will disappear,” said Maya Georgieva, tech strategist and co-founder of the consulting group Digital Bodies. “As devices continue to shrink, we will see the development of augmented- and mixed-reality experiences that will power compelling visualizations, immersive storytelling, gamified simulations, and learning experiences.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Campus Libraries Fear Support is Eroding

Campus librarians believe they strive hard to support student success, according to a recent survey, but are struggling to show their institution exactly how their efforts boost academic achievement and scholarship.

About 80% of the library directors responding to the Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2016 said their libraries “contribute significantly to student learning in a variety of ways.” However, the survey report, released in April 2017, noted that only half of the faculty respondents on a separate survey recognized the impact of libraries on students’ education.

To reinforce their role in academics, library directors indicated they plan to spend a greater share of their budgets on developing services directly related to teaching, learning, and research. They still expect to continue expanding their collections of materials, but will focus more on acquiring or licensing digital versions instead of print.

Survey respondents reported a “decreasing sense of support from their institutions,” said the Ithaka report. “There is evidence across the survey that library directors feel increasingly less valued by, involved with, and aligned strategically with their supervisors and other senior academic leadership.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Lack of Ed-Tech Transparency Costs $3B

A new study by the Technology for Education Consortium (TEC) indicates school districts overspend on education technology by at least $3 billion every year, primarily because of a lack of transparency on the part of ed-tech vendors.

Prices on Chromebooks, iPads, and Accelerated Reader 360 licenses vary widely from district to district, with vendor discounts applied to the total cost of purchases muddying what’s actually paid per device or user. In its study of data from 130 school districts, TEC found that prices could differ 20%-40% for both hardware and software, without any correlation to district size.

In the case of Chromebooks, for example, some districts shelled out up to $90 more than others for the same device and service bundle. The TEC study estimates that a single uniform price for Chromebooks across districts could save a total of about $500 million per year.