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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Faculty Envision EdTech’s Future Reality

 More than 80% of respondents in Campus Technology’s second annual Teaching with Technology Survey of higher-ed faculty said that virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality technologies will have the most impact on education over the next decade, ahead of video, adaptive learning, and even mobile devices.

That impact is already being felt. A report on the online higher-ed market by technology research and advisory firm Technavio noted that the growing popularity of augmented and virtual reality is spilling over into online education, with instructors incorporating these emerging visual technologies to boost the interactivity of the online learning experience.

Of course, awareness and enthusiasm may play out differently. In the Campus Technology survey, faculty ranked mobile devices and apps No. 2 on their list of the top 10 technologies for the next 10 years, but also listed mobile devices in second place in their tally of tech they wish they didn’t have to deal with in the classroom.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Higher Ed Focused on Social Media

Conventional wisdom suggests that Fortune 500 firms are on the cutting edge of social-media usage while higher education lags behind. In fact, higher-ed executives are 10% more likely to be using social media compared to their corporate counterparts, according to a report from the social-media monitoring firm Hootsuite.

The Social Campus Report: 8 Opportunities for Higher Edin 2018 noted that student use of technology has institutions increasing their focus on social media to keep pace. It also found that 63% of campus administrators say they believe that social media is important to strategic planning and fulfilling their institution’s mission.

Students are more likely to use social media regularly, making it an easier and more cost-efficient way to communicate with them. The report also found that many administrators view a robust social-media presence as a way to gain an advantage over other colleges and universities.

“There’s this kind of vacuum of knowledge on social and how it has impacted education,” said Phil Chatterton, industry principal for higher education at Hootsuite. “This has changed the way people communicate and education is a big part of that.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Students Need Job Skills Both Hard and Soft

In the view of one university president, higher-education institutions need to incorporate more soft skills into formal instruction in order to better prepare well-rounded students for the work world after graduation.

“Critical thinking, complex problem solving, empathy, creativity, and communication skills are all necessary in today’s work environment,” Gloria Cordes Larson, president of Bentley University, said in an email exchange with Inside Higher Education. “This is why more and more schools are finding creative ways to integrate the arts and sciences with professional and technical skills. Employers are point-blank telling us they need college graduates who have mastered soft skills in addition to the hard, industry-specific technical skills.”

Larson said college classes should give students more practical experience—through internships, immersion classes with corporations, community service, or other means—and introduce them to technologies relevant in their chosen fields, but “it all begins with an approach that combines left-brain and right-brain thinking.”

She noted that Bentley and other universities offer programs designed to enable students to major in both business/technical fields and liberal-arts studies, which helps them develop analytical and communication skills.

Getting first-year students involved in campus career services right away, rather than waiting until their senior year when they’re starting to apply for jobs, is also important, she stressed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

K-12 Teachers Still Divided on Edtech Use

While more k-12 instructors are employing education technology on a daily basis in their classrooms—63% this year, a bump up from 55% last year—a quarter of them still report being intimidated by their students’ use and knowledge of edtech, according to an annual survey from the College of Education at the University of Phoenix.

Just over a third of the more than 1,000 respondents blamed inadequate funding for not making greater use of edtech, with 23% citing concerns that technology is too distracting. Even though two-thirds acknowledged that using classroom tech helps their students remain more engaged, more than 70% said that use of personal devices is a distraction in group settings, a rise from 65% in the 2016 survey.

When it comes to their own edtech skills, 40% of K-12 teachers said they'd give themselves a grade of "C" or failing, while only 16% gave themselves an "A."

Friday, October 6, 2017

Tech Firms Should Play Part in Higher Ed

Americans want tech companies to take a bigger role in improving education in the United States, according to a survey from the digital news company OZY. The study found nearly 70% of 3,350 randomly selected adults who took the survey would support the federal government providing free postsecondary education and 57% said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to cover the costs.

Three-quarters agreed with the statement that there are benefits beyond a degree to traditional on-campus learning, while 23% said the education from online programs is just as good as heading off to college. The poll was equally split on the purpose of higher education as 49% said it teaches people how to think and the same amount saying it prepares students for a job.

More than half of respondents said people will need degrees in science and technology to successfully compete in the job market and 48% said that computer science and engineering majors were best prepared for the workforce. A tangible skill or trade was rated as the most valuable feature of a post-high school education by 23% of the participants, while 17% pointed to professional networking and connections.

The study also noted that tech companies could improve high schools by creating more apprenticeship programs (57%) and providing more technology resources (50%). In addition, more than 90% said that teachers can’t be replaced by robots in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Small Changes Aid Students of All Abilities

Simple modifications in classroom teaching practices could greatly assist college students with disabilities and help out the rest of the class to boot, in the view of an Assumption College professor.

In a guest column for The Chronicle of Higher Education, James M. Lang recounted how his institution invited faculty to hear a panel of students discuss their various disabilities and what they needed in the way of accommodation to succeed in their coursework.

For the most part, the students asked for easy changes that would add little to no time or cost to an instructor’s lecture preparation and wouldn’t disrupt class proceedings. Among the requested alterations were: writing larger and more legibly on whiteboards with black markers (not colors); creating PowerPoint slides with fewer words in bigger type; and providing PowerPoints or other materials before or after class so students can review them on their own.

“In example after example, [the students] described teaching practices that would have universal benefit in the classroom and that could be adopted without putting a spotlight on students with disabilities,” Lang noted. “So if I take a little more time and effort to make my writing large, legible, and organized on the whiteboard, I am going to help the student with visual impairments—but I’m also going to help everyone in the room take better notes on our discussion.”

Lang suggested that faculty “should take the diversity of learners into consideration up front as we design our courses. And if we do, we will need to make fewer accommodations at the request of specific students, because inclusive design practices help all learners succeed.”

Monday, October 2, 2017

Closing In on 100% Classroom Connectivity

Huge gains have been made in classroom connectivity, but work still remains to be done, according to the 2017 State of the States report from EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco that serves as an advocate and consultant for states and school districts to obtain high-speed Internet access for all classrooms.

In 2013, 40 million students were unable to meet the Federal Communications Commission’s 100 kilobits-per-second minimum connectivity goal for digital learning. As of this year, that number has been reduced to 6.5 million students, with 748 districts still requiring upgrades to effectively use the Internet in their classrooms. EducationSuperHighway’s goal is to have every student in the country connected by 2020.

Responding to a Funds For Learning survey, almost 80% of school districts and libraries credited the federal E-rate program for their faster Internet connections. E-rate is shorthand for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, administered by the Universal Service Administrative Co. under direction of the FCC. The largest federally funded education program, it gives discounts to help schools and libraries secure affordable and safe telecommunications and Internet access.

In addition to E-rate, EducationSuperHighway noted that 46 state governors are supporting legislation to improve affordability, increase fiber-optic connections, and get Wi-Fi into every classroom.

“Access to high-speed Internet is no longer considered a luxury but a basic necessity for 21st-century learning,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf stated in the report.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Dark Web Making Itself at Home on Campus

The dark web, a place inhabited by people looking for ways to profit from selling malware, poses a real threat to higher education. The Digital Citizens Alliance recently found nearly 14 million email addresses and passwords for faculty, staff, students, and alumni from U.S. colleges and university, 79% of them added to the dark web last year.

“Because [higher-education institutions] have large-capacity Internet connection links that served all the students and large-capacity servers that are designed for many users, they are almost always on and attackers never have to worry if a part of their infrastructure will be available for use,” Will Glass, a senior analyst for the cybersecurity firm FireEye, wrote in the Alliance study.

The first line of defense is better passwords. The report noted that too many young people use the same password for multiple services, making it easier for hackers. Colleges and universities are also installing security systems that automatically block users from downloading unapproved applications.

“We are constantly working to make sure that we incorporate layers of security, all working together to help protect the university’s data and assets,” said Timothy Cureton, IT security coordinator at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro. “At the same time, this approach still allows us to have that openness that we’ve always had and want to continue to have.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Video Use on the Rise in College Classes

More college professors are turning to the video screen to complement lectures and classroom activities, according to a recent survey which tracked the use of video in education.

Conducted last May and June by Kaltura, a provider of video products and services, the survey showed that video is most commonly deployed by schools to assist distance learning programs, with 73% of institutions using video for remote classes. About 70% are showing videos during class and 66% are assigning videos to supplement other course materials, according to a report in Campus Technology.

Although 65% of respondents said they’re video-recording professors’ lectures for students to view later, they admitted not every class presentation is recorded. Most schools record less than 25% of lectures. Lack of equipment is the main reason; cameras are usually installed in only the large lecture halls, not regular classrooms. However, almost half of respondents indicated their institutions would expand recording if students demanded it.

Schools also are interested in adding more bells and whistles to their video capabilities, such as in-video quizzes, synchronized slides, search functions, and closed-captioning.

Many institutions appear to see video as a skill students need to acquire more than instructors. Just a little more than half of respondents said their schools provide video tools and training to professors, yet more than 80% said they gave students access to technologies for creating and sharing videos.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Online Courses Require More Teacher Prep

Despite high administrative hopes to the contrary, online courses are actually more time-consuming than on-campus education, at least for the academics who have to plan them. Preparing to teach an online course takes more time than readying a traditional lecture course, according to a survey of more than 2,000 educators conducted by the National Tertiary Education Union, a trade union for Australian higher-ed employees.

Analysis of the survey responses by John Kenny and Andrew Fluck, senior lecturers at the University of Tasmania in science education and IT education, respectively, found that academics said they needed 10 hours to plan a one-hour lecture for online students vs. eight hours for an hourlong in-person lecture. Similarly, preparing an online tutorial required six hours compared to five hours for an on-campus version.

Kenny and Fluck found that reviewing and updating materials for online courses also took significantly longer, as did consultation and assessment moderation for online students. The researchers saw no generational disparity in the prep time needed by older academics as compared to their younger, presumably more tech-savvy counterparts.

As Education Dive noted, many administrators have viewed online classes as freeing up more faculty time for research, but this study suggests the added prep time required for online teaching may actually have the opposite effect.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Watson Ready to Help K-5 Math Teachers

IBM’s Watson has shown it can win at the TV game show Jeopardy and provide assistance in everything from engineering and health care to basketball and wine. Now, the question-answering computer system has found a niche in education as well.

Teacher Advisor with Watson 1.0 is a tool designed to help K-5 teachers find open educational math resources. Starting with more than 1,000 open educational resources (OER) available in its database, the search engine uses natural language to make recommendations based on content the teacher requires.

“The consensus was: Start with math at the elementary level because those teachers are usually licensed as elementary teachers—they may not have strong subject-level expertise,” said Stan Litow, president emeritus of the IBM Foundation. “If you could focus in on math, that would be a moonshot.”

Teachers will be able to search particular concepts and Watson will provide targeted lessons and recommended activities. It can also adjust to grade levels, which should help teachers with students having differing math skills.

Watson’s continuously evolving artificial intelligence will also allow the tool to refine its databank through usage to provide even more applicable searches. The system can even search its content bank to pinpoint particular parts of videos that are relevant to a teacher’s search and go directly to those segments.

“When you go and research a specific area—for example, equivalent fractions—you can look at the different designs for each lesson,” said Christine Manna, a math coach for the Waterford Township School District in New Jersey. “You can look at the wording and see very quickly if it’s higher [difficulty] or more for students who struggle. That cuts down all the work for you. I think that is most appreciated.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Those with ‘Some’ College Need More Push

Some 31 million adults in the U.S. have earned enough college credits to be classified as “near-completers,” but it will take a village to help them cross the finish line to graduation, according to a new report from the Education Commission for the States.

The commission “looked at the progress of legislation and initiatives in the area,” said an article in Education Dive, and found they were overall insufficient to boost graduation rates among dropouts. Some legislative measures were well-intentioned and may have helped new enrollees—such as state policies and funded programs designed to improve the affordability of higher education—but they didn’t move the near-completers any closer to completion.

One reason is that near-completers may have been unaware of such policies and programs, or weren’t motivated to take advantage of them. The senior policy analyst who wrote the report told Education Dive that “a consistent hurdle for states is they often need a champion for near-completers, in the form of a governor or other prominent figure, to help garner interest from institutions, policymakers, and the community at large” in contacting and encouraging near-completers to return to the classroom.

The report lauded those states that had introduced initiatives aimed directly at near-completers. For example, the University of Rhode Island works with the commercial fisheries industry while in Tennessee a new “last-dollar” scholarship program assists adults who need just a little more aid to cover the rest of their school costs.

Community colleges generally do a better job of reconnecting with dropouts than four-year institutions, according to the report.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Teaching Teachers about Digital Citizenship

As electronic devices have become ubiquitous for children of almost any age, and many districts either provide devices or implement bring-your-own-device programs, schools are now being tasked with teaching digital citizenship, a catch-all phrase for safe, responsible, and appropriate use of online resources.

One major initiative in which they can participate is Google’s Be Internet Awesome campaign.

This month, Google expanded that program to educators with its free Digital Citizenship and Safety Course. The aim is to provide instructors with the basic skills needed to ensure their students remain safe and have a positive online experience.

The course comprises 12 lessons divided among six units, with topics that include savvy searching, maintaining your online reputation, setting strong passwords, evaluating the credibility of digital sources, and avoiding scams and phishing attacks. Teachers can then incorporate what they learn into their own curricula.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Questions to Ponder for Online Courses

A recent article from the digital news outlet Quartz detailed efforts by a pair of Texas A&M economics professors to update their mandatory introductory microeconomics class. The class has been moved online, a first for the university.

Students taking the class no longer have to sit through lectures because the professors have already created prerecorded lessons, an interactive video platform, and prepared all the homework and reading material. The lecturer uses a transparent whiteboard to explain concepts and discussion boards to engage students.

“Do I think [this new course] is better than 30 students and the Socratic Method, Dead Poets Society-style? Probably not,” Jon Meers, one of the professors of the course, told Quartz. “It’s still vastly superior to delivering a lecture to 300 students at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning.”

The article claimed the course will increase the quality of learning by allowing professors to interact directly with students, while also saving money for the university. However, Joshua Kim, director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for Advancement of Learning and technology blogger for Inside Higher Education, questions that conclusion.

He pointed out that creating high-quality digital materials and video lectures is hard work, requiring time and plenty of collaboration between the professor and instructional designers and media educators. He added that while the Texas A&M approach may be more effective than traditional lectures, it’s also a lot more expensive.

“Everything that I know about flipped courses tells me that they are more expensive, not less, to develop and run than traditional lecture courses,” Kim wrote.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Textbook Costs on Schools' Radars This Fall

A number of colleges and universities have kicked off the new academic year with announcements of initiatives intended to save students on their course materials expenses. Here are a few:

The board of governors for Florida’s state university system approved a $656,000 program to develop a catalog of lower-cost digital course materials. The catalog will list open educational resources (OER) available free online, along with digital versions of traditional textbooks available at a reduced price negotiated with the publishers. The catalog will be ready in time for the fall 2018 term.

Fort Hays State University, Hays, KS, launched several projects through its Open Textbook Grant Program this fall. The program, administered by the campus library with funding from the FHSU Foundation, provided grants to several faculty to create or adapt open books or supplemental materials for their courses.

The Colorado Legislature appointed a 14-member Open Educational Resources Council to recommend how public institutions could boost the use of OER. The council has also been charged with developing a repository of digital OER.

Madison Area Technical College, Eau Claire, WI, approved a new policy to standardize the adoption of textbooks for classes, with a view toward cutting costs for students. Academic programs and departments are expected to adopt books for at least three academic years, where feasible, and to submit book selections on time in order to increase the availability of rentals and used books at the campus bookstore.

The University of Missouri and Northwest Missouri State University have agreed to explore ways they could share open educational resources that their respective faculties have developed or discovered online.

The impact of programs like these, as well as other ideas for helping to lower the cost of course materials, will be discussed at the Textbook Affordability Conference Nov. 10-12 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Paper Still Has a Place in Digital Times

Despite the proliferation of electronic devices in classrooms today, the vast majority of college students (93%) and seventh- through 12th-graders (87%) still see paper as an essential component for reaching their educational goals. While these numbers come from an understandably print-biased source—the Paper and Packaging Board’s Paper and Productive Learning: The Third Annual Back-to-School Report—they jibe with many other recent studies.

In the report, almost 95% of parents said they see their children do well on homework completed on paper, while more than 72% noted having seen their child have difficulty staying focused when working on homework on a tablet or computer. More than 88% said their child remembered assignments better when he or she wrote them down on paper.

The youngest students surveyed, seventh- and eighth-graders, agreed that they learn information best when they write it down by hand. Slightly more than half of college-age students still gave the same answer, and 81% said they always or often use paper tools to prepare for tests.

A Princeton University researcher told NPR that people who type onto a device during a lecture attempt to take their notes verbatim, while those who write their notes longhand are “forced to be more selective—because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material they were doing benefited them” in their learning.

Surprisingly, there isn’t as much research as one would expect exploring the benefits of and differences between reading on a screen and on a page. A recent paper published in SAGE Journals’ Review of Educational Research found that of 878 relevant studies published from 1992-2017, just 36 directly compared digital vs. print reading and reliably measured learning by the two methods.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Goldrick-Rab Headlines TAC 2017 Speakers

Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher-education policy and sociology at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, will deliver the keynote address at the 2017 Textbook Affordability Conference (TAC), Nov. 10-12, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta.

Goldrick-Rab is author of the Amazon bestseller Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream and founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s only translational research laboratory focused on ways to make college more affordable. Her keynote speech will discuss reasons why campuses must collaborate with internal partners to address affordability.

TAC 2017 will also feature presentations from Robin Baliszewski, managing director, Pearson North America; TJ Bliss, director of development and strategy, Wiki Education; and Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communication, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. All TAC 2017 learning events are focused on developing models that campuses can use to create more affordable, accessible, and effective course-material options for students.

Baliszewski was president of Pearson’s North American career and professional education business from 2000-09 and served as the company’s director for people, with responsibility for recruitment, retention, development, and succession of Pearson employees. Her current responsibilities include sales and field marketing for higher-education, academic, corporate, and government markets.

Bliss is responsible for developing strategies and relationships in the philanthropy community and working with the Wiki Education board to create an organizational strategy. He guided the open education resources portfolio for the Hewlett Foundation for the last three years and served as director of assessment and accountability for the department of education in Idaho.

Anderson previously worked as a bibliographer for YBP Inc., now known as GOBI Library Solutions. In addition, he was head acquisitions librarian for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro; director of resource acquisitions for the University of Nevada, Reno; and is a regular contributor to The Scholarly Kitchen blog.

The conference schedule and registration information is available at the TAC 2017 website. The Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center has rooms available at special conference rates until Oct. 2.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Spend More on Students, Get More Grads

Colleges and universities that spend more on students—even if they raise tuition prices—are more likely to see a bounce in enrollment and graduation rates than schools that trim their budgets and tuition rates.

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research appears to upend the conventional wisdom that reducing tuition would attract higher enrollment and also help students finish their studies faster. At least for public schools, according to a MarketWatch article about the study, the numbers are different.

“If your goal is to graduate more students, spending increases work better per-dollar than tuition cuts at accomplishing that goal,” noted David Deming, who was among the researchers in the study. Deming is a professor of public policy, education, and economics at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The study found that, from 1990-2013, enrollment and graduation rates rose with each 10% jump in a public institution’s spending. Schools that raised tuition did not see any effect on those rates.

The explanation, according to the MarketWatch article, is that institutions that cut back on their budgets—and were unwilling to increase tuition—often covered the financial gap by eliminating class sections. The end result was that more students were closed out of courses they needed to complete for graduation.

Monday, September 4, 2017

New 3-D Printer Does Full-Color

XYZprinting Inc. is rolling out an advance in 3-D printing: the da Vinci Color, which turns out full-color 3-D objects using a proprietary inkjet process during the build. Available now for preorder, schools can get a 10% education discount off the pricetag.

The company also offers K-12 Steam, a collection of 3-D project curricula that can be incorporated into the classroom.

Happy Labor Day

The entire NACS Inc. staff hopes you have a safe and happy Labor Day.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Amazon Sends Alexa to College

Amazon is working to make its Echo smart speakers part of the educational experience for students, urging colleges and universities to experiment with the device and add it to their curricula.

The company has already given 1,600 Echo Dots to engineering students at Arizona State University, Tempe, to gain experience in voice technology. It created the Amazon Alexa Fund Fellowship to provide students funding to develop courses that utilize the device, plus set up a multimillion-dollar research competition called the Alexa Prize for developing new ways to use conversational artificial intelligence.

“Amazon’s strategy is much more about establishing Alexa and the mechanisms and the way that people interact with the virtual world, almost becoming the front end of the next generation of Internet access,” said Phil Hill, ed-tech consultant and blogger for e-Literate. “They’re looking to say, ‘People won’t be doing this much on the browsers anymore, they’re going to be interacting with natural language and voice, and we want that to go through us.’”

Utah State University, Logan, started using the device without any prompting from Amazon, installing an Echo Dot in a classroom for a visually impaired instructor, who uses it to turn on projectors and lower screens with voice commands. At Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, an instructor is using Alexa to expand the vocabulary of students in his computing and information systems courses.

Of course, not everyone is impressed. A professor of computer science at Rice University, Houston, views Alexa as more of a gimmick. There are also privacy concerns since the device listens constantly for a trigger word when activated.

“It raises the question, OK, you have to say, ‘Alexa, tell me this,’” Hill said. “That doesn’t mean the device is not listening at all times. It just means it uses the Alexa keyword to trigger a command. Where does that information go? Does Amazon store it? Does it get thrown away?”

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New Year, New Talk on Personalized Education

The start of another academic year is prompting new discussion on personalized education and the role of technology in it.

An Associated Press article noted that “some form of personalized learning” has been incorporated into the curriculum at up to 10% of K-12 public schools in the U.S., a growing trend. However, the same article pointed out that a Rand Corp. study discovered personalized programs only improved students’ math scores by three percentage points, while reading skills showed no change.

At the same time, the article offered examples where personalized programs have made a difference. In one, students took computerized tests to assess their reading skills; poor readers were then assigned to use digital materials providing extra help with vocabulary. In another, teachers developed customized, self-paced learning plans to aid students with low math abilities.

An article in eSchool News explained how personalization is not the same as differentiation (teaching a group of similar students) or individualization (teaching geared to one student’s needs), although they’re related.

“Personalization is an incredibly powerful model because it creates a continual feedback loop between the teacher and student and empowers students to take charge of their education,” wrote Amanda Stedke. She emphasized that technology tools aren’t necessary for personalized learning but “recent advances in ed-tech have made these approaches significantly more scalable.”

Kenneth Klau, director of digital learning at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, shared similar views in an opinion piece onEdSurge, but stressed personalized learning should “address well-defined needs and achieve unambiguous goals.”

“When we hear about schools that are making the shift to personalized learning, we should not hesitate to ask why and what it will look like,” he wrote. “Otherwise, personalized learning becomes the answer in search of a question.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Most Faculty Upbeat about EdTech

The majority of college and university faculty members feel positive about the impact of technology on education, with nearly three quarters saying it’s made their job “easier” or “much easier,” according to the results of Campus Technology’s second-annual Teaching with Technology Survey.

Even though that total remains high, it’s down four percentage points from the inaugural survey last year. The number of educators claiming tech has made their job more difficult remained consistent, but those who say it hasn’t affected them either way grew from 6% in 2016 to 10% this year.

Whatever its effect on their own work, more than 80% of faculty say they see technology having a positive impact on student learning, and about the same percentage view it having a “mostly positive” or “extremely positive” influence on higher education overall.

Individual respondents did point out that any classroom tech is only as good as the instructor using it and that faculty need to be provided the time to properly understand and adapt technology to their courses.

The complete results of the survey, which polled more than 230 faculty from across the country, are available in the July digital edition of Campus Technology.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Oregon Has to Cut Back on Tuition Promise

Adequate funding has always been an issue for the free community college tuition programs that some states are trying to implement. State lawmakers in Oregon knew their two-year appropriation of $40 million was $8 million short of projected costs, so that program was recently forced to tighten its income-related criteria and won’t be able to provide for every eligible student.

Despite the cutback, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission has notified more than 8,000 students that they did qualify for the scholarship. The 6,800 students who received the award in the program’s first year will also receive all the money promised to them, regardless of their income.

“Most kids will still be able to get the scholarship,” said state Sen. Mark Hass, chief architect of the program. “It’s just upper-end families who won’t and, frankly, there aren’t too many of those at our community colleges anyway.”

Families that are able to contribute $18,000 or more for college based on information from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form are being cut out of the program this year, which has generated some criticism. Hass expects that full eligibility will be restored next year.

The Oregon Promise was never meant to provide free tuition to everyone in the state. It doesn’t cover living expenses and only pays for tuition costs that remain after other need-based grants are used. However, the program does award a minimum of $1,000 to the poorest students to help defray costs such as fees, textbooks, and transportation.

“I don’t like that they’re getting slammed for it,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, Temple University professor and advocate for college accessibility who is the keynote speaker for the 2017 Textbook Affordability Conference Nov. 10-12, at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. “I think they’re being really careful with taxpayer dollars and I find that really respectable.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Low-Income Kids Face College-Entry Wall

High-schoolers from lower-income families are confronted with more barriers when it comes to getting into college than their better-off peers.

The Hechinger Report described several hurdles, including a recent College Board study that found grade-point averages (GPAs) at affluent suburban and private high schools had risen at the same time their students averaged lower scores on college admissions tests, strongly indicating grade inflation. GPAs at urban high schools, with a higher percentage of students in poverty, showed little change, though.

With more colleges and universities basing admissions decisions on GPAs instead of tests, grade inflation at wealthier schools puts low-income students at an immediate disadvantage in applying. “This is especially an issue for the big universities and colleges that can’t really dig into the context of a kid’s high school experience,” commented an official at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Urban high schools are also less likely to offer college-preparatory courses or have enough guidance counselors to help advise students on how to apply for college, according to The Hechinger Report.

Another recent study conducted by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and summarized by Education Dive, revealed low-income students make up only a small percentage of enrollees at selective colleges. The study showed qualified students often didn’t even apply to these colleges because they had no information about financial-aid packages or funds to visit campuses first, among other problems.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Parent Groups Want Age Cap on Smartphones

A mom from Austin, TX, has created a “Wait Until 8th”pledge to encourage parents not to give their children smartphones until they’re in eighth grade or at least 14 years old. Brooke Shannon’s pledge asks that parents vow “not to give your child a smartphone until at least eighth grade as long as at least 10 other families from your child’s grade and school pledge as well.”

So far, more than 2,000 parents from 500-plus schools in 49 states have committed to the pledge.

Shannon acknowledges that the pledge may not be appropriate for families with children who need more advanced technology to help manage a medical condition, such as Type 1 diabetes.

For parents who need to be able to connect with their children, either for emergencies or for those involved in shared-custody arrangements, Shannon suggests a lower-tech option such as a basic flip phone.

There is a groundswell of similar movements around the U.S., such as Parents Against Underage Smartphones (PAUS), a Colorado-based organization that wants to ban sales of cellphones to anyone under age 13. PAUS is working to gather signatures for a proposed ballot initiative that would require retailers to ask customers the age of the intended primary user for a cellphone. Merchants that repeatedly sell phones for use by preteens and younger children would be subject to government fines.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Keeping the Google Book Project Alive

Google’s grand project to digitize every single book ran into a snag when authors and publishers objected and sued. Google prevailed in court, but the project stalled and left a digital database of 25 million books that “nobody is allowed to read,” according to author and programmer James Somer.

But he’s not entirely correct.

Libraries that partnered with Google for the project kept digital copies of their scanned work, which now make up about 95% of the content in the HathiTrust Digital Library, based at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The database is used to conduct research without the fear of copyright infringement, while students with disabilities can access the scanned work through the use of assistive technology.

“We couldn’t have done it without Google,” Mary Sue Coleman, current president of the Association of American Universities, said of HathiTrust. “The fact that Google did it made things happen much more rapidly, I believe, than it would have happened if universities had been doing it without a central driving force.”

The HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC) makes computational analysis of public-domain and copyrighted works from the collection possible. Work on copyrighted materials is done on Data Capsules, a service created by HTRC that allows for “nonconsumptive” research without violating copyright restrictions.

“I’m not a fan of everything Google, by any means,” said Paul Courant, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and the University of Michigan. “But I think this was an amazing effort that has had lasting consequences, most of them positive.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Campus Adjustment Tough for Some Students

Many college students are in peril of not graduating within four years right from the first week of their freshman year. While money is often the culprit, some students experience difficulties settling into campus life and eventually decide to either drop out or transfer.

In an article in The Washington Post, admissions directors noted today’s freshmen are not as prepared to live independently as previous generations. This may be the first time they’ve had to share a room with anyone. They’re not as proficient at planning out their day and dividing their time among numerous responsibilities and activities.

Some students, especially if they’re among the first in their families to attend college, fear they’re less capable to handle classwork than their peers. That may cause them to forgo fun activities in order to spend all their time on studying, leading to academic burnout.

Social media can provide students with a lifeline back to their families and hometown friends when they need a little emotional boost, but it can also be a retreat to hang out with high school buddies instead of pushing themselves to meet new people and engage in new experiences. Social media can also set up too-high expectations and unrealistic comparisons.

Admissions directors also point to collegiate marketing messages and entertainment media as portraying the college experience as the “best years” of anyone’s life.

“The truth is college years are not the best of your life,” said one director. “They’re just incredibly unique. There’s a big difference.”

Friday, August 11, 2017

Students Aren't Spending as Much on Books

The news is full of reports on textbook costs in higher education. OnCampus Research, the research arm of the NACS, found student spending on course materials actually decreased during the 2016-17 academic year.

Student Watch, Attitudes & Behaviors toward CourseMaterials, a survey of more than 20,000 college students, noted that average spending on 10 required courses was $579 per student, down $23 from the previous year and $122 from 2007-08. Students also said they spent another $500 on technology and school supplies.

The report found an increasing number of students cut their course materials costs by borrowing, sharing, or downloading free information needed for class, and by using formats such as open educational resources. A quarter of the students reported using free course materials, up from 19% in spring 2016 and 15% from spring 2015.

When obtaining course materials, 82% of students purchased and 57% rented from their campus store. Nearly three-quarters bought new textbooks and 70% said they purchased used copies. Just 23% bought digital, but that was an increase of 8% over fall 2015. On average, the campus store was the main source for students' course materials.

The cost of the Student Watch report is $199 for NACS store members and $999 for everyone else, and includes the final report along with data tables from both fall 2016 and spring 2017 surveys. To purchase, email mmeyer@nacs.org or go to the Insights link at oncampusresearch.com

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pricetag Drives Students' College Choice

College students are starting to head off to school for the fall term. For most of them, cost played a pivotal role in deciding which campus to attend.

According to NACS OnCampus Research’s Student Panel survey conducted in April 2017, students investigated an average of six institutions before applying to three. Some students put their school search into hyperdrive, with 17.5% exploring 10-plus schools and 18.6% applying to half a dozen or more of those.

In the criteria used for reviewing these schools, more students pointed to cost (71.2%) than any other consideration. Fairly close behind were specific academic programs (66.3%), appeal of the school’s location (66.3%), and distance from home (65.8%). A little more than half of students (51.2%) took the amount of financial aid offered into account in sizing up schools.

As their assessment of prospective schools progressed, 60.3% of students ended up not enrolling in the school that had been at the top of their list originally. Cost was the reason—or at least among the reasons—most often mentioned (by 38.8% of students). The second most-common reason was that their first-choice school didn’t accept them (22.9%).

However, when asked which factor ultimately had the most impact on where they eventually attended, cost was named by just 20% of respondents. The financial-aid package was the most important for approximately 11% of survey-takers.

Those results indicate students may use cost to filter their initial list of schools before they decide where to apply and attend based on other elements.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Millennials Claim to Learn Better from Tech

More than two-thirds (69%) of millennials aged 18-34 claim they learn more from technology than from people, according to an online Harris Poll survey conducted for Growing Leaders, a global nonprofit that produces leadership training resources. That contrasts with only about half of respondents aged 45 and older who made the same statement.

There was a gender variance, with 33% of male millennials “strongly” agreeing that they learn more from tech than from people, but only 19% of female millennials saying the same.

In addition, almost 60% of millennials reported they regularly feel overwhelmed in their daily life, compared to just 42% of adults overall. In every age group, more women than men indicated they regularly feel overwhelmed.

“Most of us don’t believe kids will be ready for adulthood when it arrives,” Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders’ founder and president, said in a statement. "We, as a collective force of parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors, must do a better job in helping prepare this future generation to be effective leaders.” That includes imbuing them with resilience and resolve, he added.

Friday, August 4, 2017

National U. Rethinking Personalized Learning

National University, a California-based nonprofit that primarily enrolls adults students, has launched a $20 million, four-year project to create a personalized learning platform that combines adaptive learning, competency-based education learning (CBE), and predictive analytics. The goal is to use the new platform in 20 general-education courses by next year.

The three elements would combine in courseware that would adjust to each student’s abilities and progress, while providing data to track that progress for faculty, advisors, and the students. Incorporating CBE will make it possible to drop conventional grading and divide the course and its credits into skills the students have mastered.

As part of the project, National has also established a research-and-development department to support faculty members and will make its research available to the public.

“How do we create a university that truly tries to adapt to the needs of its students?” asked National’s president, David Andrews. “We have to have a better model for serving adults.”

Fitting all the pieces into one cohesive platform won’t be easy. Getting the CBE portion right could be the biggest challenge because it requires approval from accreditors. Providing financial aid may also prove troublesome, in the view of some industry observers.

“There’s a huge risk that you don’t understand the problem. Will they truly learn and adjust as they go along?” said Phil Hill, co-publisher of the e-Literate blog, about designing academic programs around adult learners. But he also added, “It’s definitely interesting. It’s a relatively large university that appears to be going all in on personalized learning.”