Recently in Issues in Higher Ed Category

The result of U of M iPad Project


College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at U of M initiated an iPad pilot project in 2010 fall, providing iPad for the entire freshman class (about 450 undergraduate students) in the college. (If you want to know more about the project, read this previous blog posting)

Now the college published a Year One report explaining what they learned from the project.

In the report, they explain what they learned from using iPad in classrooms in six broad categories:

1. Reducing the digital divide: Instructors expressed optimism that the iPad could reduce the digital divide in the classroom. They emphasized finding apps that are free or very inexpensive for students.

2. Increased Media Production: Instructors frequently asked students to create media using their iPad, including development of individual photo journals, e-documents, speeches with image projections, short movies on a course theme, photomontages of images, and pictures or videos for class presentation.

3. Increased Personal Productivity: Instructors were positive about the convenience
and ease of accessing email and calendars on the iPad, and many used the iPad to schedule appointments or send email to students "on-the-spot" during class.

4. Increased information Literacy: Instructors and students agree that information access and consumption is one of the primary strengths of the iPad. And students used iPad to do many kinds of class preparation and research activities resulting in increased information literacy of students.

5. Sustainable classroom: To reduce the use and related cost of traditional course materials and to take advantage of the features of the iPad, some faculty, for example, used an e-version of required texts, encouraged students to access and annotate course readings via a reader app, and checked and sent assignments using their iPads.

6. Learning Beyond the classroom: Several faculty members developed curriculum that used the iPad to change the learning context. For example, in an introduction to psychology course students used the portability of the iPad and the college's online survey tool to collect data in the community related to their research questions.

For more information, read the executive summary of the report or the full report.

2012 Horizon Report

The New Media Consortium's Horizon Report was released today. The Horizon Report is published every year and attempts to identify emerging technologies that will have an impact in teaching and learning. The report lists technologies in three time-to-adoption time frames.

For 2012, the Horizon Reports lists Mobile Apps and Tablet Computing as 1 year or less. Game-based Learning and Learning Analytics are 1 to 3 years out, and Gesture-Based Computing and the Internet of Things being 4 to 5 years out.

The "internet of things" concept stems from the work of Vint Cerf. He describes the "internet of things" as

"The Internet of things is on its way. The clear evidence of that, of course, is mobile to begin with, appliances that are now Internet-enabled, picture frames, refrigerators and things like that, office appliances, appliances at home. The smart grid is going to accelerate that process because more and more appliances will be part of the smart grid and its ensemble. They will be reporting their use. They will be accepting control saying, "Hey, don't run the air conditioner for the next 15 minutes, I'm in the middle of a peak load." We'll see many, many more devices on the Net than there are people [and] more sensor networks on the system, as well".

When I first heard of the Internet of Things, I thought of home appliances and consumer goods. The Horizon Report connects the concept with learning, and is well worth the read.

Beyond labs and museums, where do you see the Internet of Things impacting higher education?

Open education and credentials

MIT announced it will offer certificates to students who take their online courses but are not enrolled or admitted to MIT. The credential will be from MITx, not MIT, and it looks like students will pay to receive the credential.

Higher education is an ecosystem of educational content, interaction with instructors/experts, interactions with students, credentials, and accreditation (and likely more that I am not thinking of at the moment). Until all of those aspects are addressed, open education will not overtake traditional higher education (both online and on-campus). With this move, MIT is addressing credentials. In a few years, I would not surprised to see other institutions accept MITx credentials as for-credit courses. Which would bring some form of accreditation, albeit secondarily.


The Death of Why?

I am fascinated by learning analytics and what it can, and can't, answer for higher education. A key concern, for me, is asking questions of our data that lead to meaningful answers. I don't care about the average time on task for students interacting with an online module if it doesn't lead to a meaningful understanding of how students learn that topic or a meaningful intervention for students who are struggling. I am committed to understanding "why" and always want to know "what can I do now that I know this?"

So I was taken aback by this article sent to me by a higher education colleague. The focus is on business but it touches on the same issues we have with big data in higher education. Big data is big, really big, and it takes considerable time and expertise to sort, understand, and find meaning. The author argues that it is possible to apply "analytics to massive, detailed data sources to identify what works without having to worry about why it worked." (emphasis in the original). Can this be true for higher education? Can we glean meaningful insight into what works without understanding how it works?

Higher education, unlike a point of sales transaction, has a long tail. Some of the why's we deal with when looking at success in college might have more to do with prior preparation, previous experience (or lack of experience) in the subject matter, etc etc. We can't change some of those factors, which is why this article has me thinking. If we can glean a best practice from data only, from seeing exactly what works (most of the time) and never understand why, does that matter? Is the "why" a distraction? I am not convinced it is - ultimately, for education policy, it is important to know what kinds of k-12 education experiences correlate to success in higher education, e.g. But maybe, in the medium term, it is okay to leave the "why" aside.

Cheating, Technology, and Teaching

Who would have thought that great advice to teachers for preventing cheating might come from Turnitin, the company that earns money buy selling its service to colleges and professors hoping to sniff out plagiarism?

This graphic from Turnitin shows the sources of students used when plagiarizing and, at the bottom, provides some tips on developing "plagiarism-proof assignments". There is no such thing; if someone really wants to cheat, they likely can find a way. However, the tip to break up assignments, with various due-dates, is a big deterrent to students purchasing papers. I have also heard of professors building toward major assignments and projects with smaller, discrete assignments. For example, assigning students to find sources on a topic or research question. Later, asking students to write an abstract of several articles they found for their source assignment. Another assignment might build on those assignments into a literature review. Again, organizing assignments like this will not prevent cheating in all cases, but it can help by making it much more difficult for students to cheat.

The Chronicle has a recent article about cheating as well. Two points really struck me - some students feel very uncertain in knowing when they have plagiarized and when they have not. I was surprised by this - wouldn't you know if you copied and pasted someone else's words into your paper and didn't cite them?

The other point was that students are not taught the more complex skill of engaging with texts and summarizing main points. The Chronicle article interviewed someone from the Citation Project , which studies how students cite sources in papers. The aim, their website says, is to help educators develop "best practices for formulating plagiarism policies and for teaching rhetorically effective and ethically responsible methods of writing from sources." From the studies of student papers done so far, they find that students often pull quotes from the first few pages of articles and don't engage deeply with the overall arguments. This is useful information in understanding how plagiarism happens and how to improve student writing.

Finally, in the comments on the Chronicle article, someone linked to this excellent resource (pdf) from the University of Wisconsin that describes the difference between quoting, paraphrasing, and citing sources.

Digitally Illiterate in a High Tech World

Daily use of high-tech gadgets and games does not make our students digitally literate or savvy, an article in The Chronicle notes.

The author, Ron Tanner, makes important distinctions about the ability to find entertainment online and the ability to write for the web, to use and submit content to databases, to understand electronic records, and in understanding how technology can impact students' chosen career.

The idea of digital literacy, especially for young people, has been around for a long time. I remember doing trainings for teens in digital literacy in 2000, noting that many didn't know how to write for the web, to write a clear email. What does it mean that so many people still don't have digital literacy skills? Are these skills as important as many of us think they are?

Read the full article here.

Higher Education in a Global Context

The New York Times reports that leaders in Arab and North African countries are meeting to discuss the future of higher education in the region, in part as a result of the protests and political upheavals commonly referred to as "Arab Spring".

The meeting includes 1200 leaders and educators, called together to discuss a study of higher education in the region. I tried to find a copy of the study online, but was unsuccessful. Comments in the article reflect issues found in higher education in other contexts as well: the role of the private sector, the role of governments in promoting education, and transferability and student mobility.

Read the entire article here:

More dropout in online classes: What should we do?

According to a study, it was found that the drop-out rate was higher in online classes than in traditional classes. Interestingly, there was no big difference between hybrid classes and traditional classes.

Why is that? All the comments of readers on an Inside Higher Ed article citing the study provide many insightful ideas and reasons for that.

First, students in online classes tend to have more burdens on their shoulders. They face time pressure by work and family obligations. Many single mothers, for example, begin writing papers when everything else is done and after every other work and family needs have been met. They can't invest time enough to study and can't take advantage of available university supports.

Second, the higher drop-out rate in online classes may result from poor instructions and course designs. Some instructors just throw a bunch of powerpoint slides and reading materials online, and give students assignments that students submit electronically. And they consider it online courses.

Third, more self-discipline is required for online courses. However good tools are used, online courses are not face-to-face classes. Students have to plan their learning hours and study schedule on their own. A reader (who seemed to be an online course instructor) said that it was students on 30's (parents with jobs) that showed the highest level of learning outcome. That is because they are usually self-disciplined and know the value of their education. The problematic students were the traditional freshmen who had no idea how to manage their time and had little self-discipline.

So then, what should we do to reduce the dropout rate? Three things were mainly suggested in the article.

First, faculty training. Faculty teaching online courses should take pedagogy training for online education. In order to engage students and foster interactions between the instructor and students, different approaches are needed including utilizing various instructional technologies.

(If you want to learn more about U of M resources and services for online instructors including Quality Matters, click here. And there is a podcast named as "Faculty Development for Online Teaching" on U of M iTunes U podcast)

Second, assessing student readiness. Universities should invest in a readiness assessment that provides the student with great insight as to his/her strengths and weakness along with providing support resources. In addition, students should be required to take a technical assessment prior to enrolling to find out if they have the skills they need to successfully navigate an online class.

(Visit the online learning assessment page in U of M digital campus web site)

Third, much more support. Many agreed that online courses should not be seen as a cash cow. In order to create high quality online classes, it takes as much investment as traditional classes. Once online quality is established within an institution, it will then be possible to come up with ways to save some money with online, but not before.

Should Teachers and Students be Facebook Friends?

The state of Virginia is currently debating rules and recommendations when it comes to digital communications between students and teachers. The state's Board of Education is voting on a policy that would restrict teacher-student interaction via social networks and text messages.

According to the policy, "Teachers and other school employees must decline or ignore friend requests or other private invitations from students; should an emergency force a teacher to use "a personal communications device or account to contact an individual student," that interaction must be reported." The Virginia State Board of Education took up the issue after past incidents of sexual relationships between teachers and students.

ReadWriteWeb reports, "One teacher has argued electronic communications needn't be singled out, and that administrators should trust teachers to follow the professional code of conduct regardless of where their interactions with students take place." Some educators are concerned the recommendations may make it more difficult to use technology in class.

Prof A, do I really have to be in class?

commercial_-empty-auditorium-or-lecture-hall.jpgIn an era when many elite universities such as MIT's OpenCourseWare and Harvard's Open Learning Initiative are posting materials online for free, students can easily grab material online. Such a learning environment avoids courses completely or seriously reshapes them, which might eventually produce a very effective new form of college. This provocative idea was recently posted by Randy Bass, as reported in an article in The Chronicle.

Bass pointed out that many students rate the most valuable part of their learning experience at college takes place outside the traditional classroom and beyond the formal curriculum. His observations are supported by an annual study from the National Survey of Student Engagement. Data from the study revealed that four of the eight "high-impact" learning activities identified by students who took the survey required no classroom time at all. At a time when many college administrators are taking a hard look at the status quo in college instruction, Mr. Bass hopes that instructors will stop looking at traditional courses as a goal unto themselves but focus more on linking skills conveyed in the classroom to hands-on and practical student activities. In fact, this evolution in pedagogy has already begun, as Mr. Bass argues, exemplified by a new generation of instructors using technology-infused/assisted teaching methods.

As much information can be found online, having a course without any lecture at all is not entirely absurd. According to The Chronicle, some universities have already started to challenge the traditional course model by running seven-week immersion projects with no lecture component, in which students collaborate with one another in teams on projects that benefit nonprofit organizations.

If practical activities instead of lectures become the core activity at colleges, do students even need to come to campus? What will the future hold for traditional courses? Is this the beginning of the end for the traditional course model?

Guilty Thumbs


It makes you feel guilty but you still do it anyway. That statement can be made about a variety of human behavior but a new survey of students at the University of New Hampshire found it applies to texting in class.

The survey of 1,000 students at the university revealed high rates of texting during class, and plenty of guilt about composing the surreptitious messages. According to the survey, 80 percent of the students said they normally send at least one text message in each of their classes. University of New Hampshire business students conducted the survey for a marketing-research course.

Chuck Martin, an adjunct professor in the business school is quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education as saying the researchers expected to find that most students would, like them, want to be allowed to text during class.

But views among surveyed students were actually mixed, with 40 percent of students in favor of allowing texts, 37 percent opposed, and the rest neutral.

The survey showed women were more likely to send text messages than men. It also found, not surprisingly, texting in class distracted students from class material.

JSTOR seeks to expand into full-text books

Inside Higher Ed has reported that JSTOR, a full-text internet database, has begun teaming up with several university presses to offer full-texts books soon. Other university presses and organizations are trying to get more longform content online as well. Google Books already offers some complete books and previews or the partial contents of many more.

According to its official press release, JSTOR will be teaming up with Princeton, Yale, and the Universities of Minnesota, North Carolina, and Chicago. Content is expected to be online in 2012. JSTOR sees this as "the next step in a series of efforts to integrate scholarship across formats and media and to establish a platform where librarians, publishers, authors, and users can innovate in the future."

According to Inside Higher Ed, these books would be made available through a license purchase by a university, the same way JSTOR articles are accessed now. The goal is not to sell books to individual users. JSTOR also hopes to distinguish itself by assuring its content is peer-reviewed scholarship, rather than self-published material and unverified content which can find its way into a Google Books search.

The move to increase e-books comes against the backdrop of physical textbook cost complaints. As my colleague Greta Cunningham noted earlier this week, the University of Washington recently limited the total book cost for courses. If other universities follow suit, online content will become a more important component of many courses, making recently published, well-research online content vital. Perhaps we'll begin to see more libraries without books like that at the University of Texas.

Bookless in Seattle


A Washington State program to bring low-cost, college material online is facing some challenges. The Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges began the Open Course Library as a way to help the state's half a million students in two-year colleges save the estimated $1,000 for books each year.

The project received a $750,000 matching grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so Web designers from around the state could create ready-to-use digital course modules for the 81 highest-enrolled courses. The cost for the course materials is capped at $30.

According to the Open Course Library directive, material must be available to online and accessible to anyone. Other stipulations include, "Faculty designers, hired for their teaching experience and expertise in the subject, can use material from anywhere and anyone, as long as they abide by licensing agreements. Instructors can then use and revise the material as they see fit, dropping and adding components to customize the course for their own students."

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports the $30 cap is proving to be daunting. A lot of things that are open are old," said Melonie D. Rasmussen, who teaches at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, in Lakewood, Wash. "Or they are open and strange. She remembers a 1980s math book posted online that refers to VCR's. It would take more time to explain what a VCR was than the math itself, she joked.

The Chronicle spoke to a North Seattle Community College philosophy professor who is frustrated because the five books he wants his students to use would break the $30 bank. The professor reports he is "flummoxed."

A Bellevue College chemistry professor says she and her colleagues are concerned that the $30 cap may mean their students won't be able to get the needed supplemental materials to explain basic science concepts.

Cable Green, of the state community-college board, is quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education as saying, "The Open Course Library is very much a work in progress, and may always be. Indeed, its success depends upon the academic community to continually review, revise, and improve the courses, and then post them back online for others." (The idea of freely sharing information, he concedes, might just be the more challenging cultural shift.)

But "getting there" is not in question, Green told The Chronicle. He says he's been blunt with textbook publishers and has encouraged them to get on board if they can.

"You saw what happened with Craigslist and newspapers," he told The Chronicle, referring to the free classified advertising that has helped force some newspapers out of business and required others to reinvent themselves. "We are going to get there with or without you."

Student newspaper to charge for limited audience


The Daily O'Collegian, the student newspaper of Oklahoma State may become the first college newspaper to start charging an online subscription fee, following in the footsteps of major papers around the country. Previously, the paper had received most of its revenue from advertising. The change will not affect current students, staff, and faculty of Oklahoma State. These readers will still be able to access full content for free. The same goes for anyone registering with a ".edu" email address.

The move raises two important questions. First, the Chronicle notes the move is partially in response to rising software costs. Will financial pressures cause other college newspapers to investigate subscriptions as a source of much-need revenue? What other alternatives will be proposed (e.g. freeware, license-sharing)? The second question raised by OSU's situation is which members of a campus community are entitled to free or reduced cost services? The Chronicle notes the O'Collegian's editor sees an "untapped market among parents, alumni, Oklahoma State sports fans, and potential students."

The move has been understandable to many in the journalism community, who acknowledge the financial difficulties newspapers are facing now. The Chronicle quotes Dr. Bryan Murley of Eastern Illinois' New and Emerging Media department as saying, "This is the time in journalism where we're sort of going to the coins-in-the-couch model of making money--wherever we can get a little bit here and there to keep things going." The O'Collegian's editor doesn't have high hopes for the first year of subscription services--noting as few as 100 subscribers would be a success.

College newspapers aren't the only student-run or student-oriented service suffering from harsh economic times. It will be interesting to see what the O'Collegian's experiment tells us about community members' willingness to pay and whether they're able to cause a cultural shift within their community away from universal access.

Online learning to the rescue

Colleges reported the highest-ever annual increase in online enrollment--more than 21 percent--last year, according to a report on an annual survey of 2,600 higher-education institutions from the Sloan Consortium and the Babson Survey Research Group, as seen in The Chronicle. The 21% growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population and nearly 30% of all college and university students now take at least one course online. Online learning has truly become a force to be reckoned with.

With an increasing demand for online learning, college administrators at public universities are urging their fellow colleagues to seriously consider online learning as a larger part of the solution to maintaining academic quality and student access amid budget cuts and dwindling state contributions in this tough economy, as reported in an article in The Chronicle. In a pilot program, the University of California will enroll approximately 5,000 undergraduates in high-demand courses next year in what the university hopes will allow them to stay "excellent without becoming exclusionary." The university's commitment to educating middle and lower-income students along with its dire finances are the impetus for this program.

Despite initial reservations by some faculty members to online learning and teaching, more faculty members are starting to see online education as a quality alternative to face-to-face learning. In a special report on online learning in The Chronicle, over 80% of faculty members rate online courses as not being inferior to traditional courses. Faculty members also indicated that the top motivating factor for teaching online courses is meeting students' needs for flexible access and over 70% of faculty members consider it the best way to reach particular groups of students.

The complete report, "Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010", is available here.

The Humanities Go Digital

Humanities professors are teaming up with technology experts to push research in new directions. A recent New York Times article provided some interesting examples of how technical tools can help researchers pose new questions and find answers.

For example, the article mentioned researchers who are digitally mapping Civil War battlefields to understand the role topography played in battles. Academics are combining animation, charts and primary documents to create new ways to teach students about Thomas Jefferson's travels.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has teamed up with the National Science Foundation and institutions in Canada and Britain to create a new grant program to push research in new directions. The program is called the Digging Into Data Challenge.

While some researchers are excited about this melding of humanities and technology some are critical of the alliance. The field of humanities deals with aesthetics and emotions. Some critics wonder how these elements can be measured.

The New York Times article quotes Brett Bobley, director of the endowment's office of digital humanities. He said, analyzing unprecedented amounts of data can reveal patterns and trends and raise unexpected questions for study. He cited the human genome project is an example of how an area of study can be transformed.

"Technology hasn't just made astronomy, biology and physics more efficient. It has let scientists do research they simply couldn't do before," Bobley said.

Blind students and professors allege discrimination at Penn State

Campus technology at Penn State is leaving blind students behind, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The National Federation for the Blind has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Penn students, faculty, and staff alleging the university has created serious challenges for blind members of its community. These challenges, it says, amount to an attack on students' civil rights and hinders equitable access to education.

According this press release from the National Federation for the Blind, grievances include an online library catalog which is improperly coded for screen readers, in-class technology which is not suited to blind faculty, and partnerships with campus venders, like PNC Bank, who are not sufficiently accessible. In addition, the course management software Penn State uses, Angel, is not suited for screen-readers in its full version, locking students out of important course information. Important websites, like academic departments and the Office of Disability Services are also not coded for screen readers.

Penn State's student newspaper, the Daily Collegian, reports a Penn State spokesperson assured the newspaper these complaints are taken seriously and being investigated.

This is not the first time the NFB has sued a university over access issues. Last year, it sued Arizona State over its use of Kindles in the classroom. Kindle has a text-to-speech feature in books themselves but lacks this accessibility in its interface (e.g. settings, menu, book selection). Following Arizona's agreement to discontinue Kindle use, other universities followed suit.

The NFB's official complaint against Penn State can be found here.

Some resources how to make technology more accessible can be found here, here, and here.

We've all got them: Dysfunctional illusions of rigor in higher education


A colleague sent me a fascinating article today, Dysfunctional Illusions of Rigor: Lessons from the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, by Craig E. Nelson. Nelson discusses several theorists of student learning, from Baxter Magolda to Terenzini and Pascarella to Kuh, and describes his own evolution as teacher over his career.

Nelson organizes the article around eight "dysfunctional illusions of rigor", like number one: "Hard courses weed out weak students. When students fail it is primarily due to inability, weak preparation, or lack of effort." Nelson draws on research literature in student learning to debunk the common assumption that some courses are just hard, and high percentages of students will simply fail. He notes that alternative models of pedagogy can go a long way in facilitating student learning, especially when the pedagogical improvements increase interaction - between the students and the learning material, between the students and instructor, and by extending learning from assessments by giving prompt feedback.

Nelson's article is an engaging discussion of many familiar assumptions about student learning. He doesn't directly address technology in his essay, but the findings and discussion are relevant to all teaching in higher education, including technology-enhanced learning or online learning.

The article is chapter 10 in To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, Volume 28, Linda B. Nilson, editor and Judith E. Miller, associate editor. Copyright 2010 by John Wiley & sons, Inc.

Happy World Usability Day!


You may have trouble finding a greeting card to mark the occasion, but the University of Minnesota Office of Information Technology (OIT) will help you celebrate World Usability Day on Thursday November 11th.

The goal is to raise awareness of the benefits of usability engineering and user-centered design.

Just what is "usability" anyway? Usability is defined as the study of how quickly a person can understand how to use a particular human-made object and how easily they can use it.

The OIT is inviting all U of M students, staff, faculty and the public to Walter Library for a day of free events and speakers. Here is a link to find out more.

Here is the schedule of events:

9:45-10:00 a.m. | 402 Walter Library
Program Introduction: "About World Usability Day"

• David Rosen, Usability Services Manager, OIT

10:00 - 10:45 a.m. | 402 Walter Library
Presentation: "User Centered Design Link Labeling Methods"

• Josh Carroll, Usability Consultant, OIT

11:00 - 11:45 a.m. | 402 Walter Library
Presentation: "Accessible and Usable Documents"

• Phil Kragnes, Computer Accommodations Specialist, OIT

Noon - 1:15 p.m. | B-26 Walter Library
Open House at the Usability Lab
The lab will be open for tours, and Usability Services staff will be available to answer questions.

1:30 - 2:15 p.m. | 402 Walter Library
Presentation: "Listening to Your Data"

• Chris Moellering, Technical Writer, OIT
• Ashley Piediscalzi, Graphic Designer, OIT

2:30 - 3:15 p.m. | 402 Walter Library
Presentation: "Search Engine Optimization (SEO)"

• Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Writing Studies
• Stuart Blessman, Student, Scientific and Technical Communication

Gates Foundation Funds Learning Technology Initiative

Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a 20-million dollar grant to fund new online learning technologies for higher education. The project is called Next Generation Learning Challenges and is being managed by the non-profit educational technology organization, Educause. The program is a response to low graduation rates in higher education, especially at community colleges and other two-year institutions. The Next Generation Learning Challenges web site frames the problem and project objectives this way:

"Today, too few students are ready for college: Only 70% of high school students will graduate, and of those 50% are ill-equipped for success in college. Of those that do attempt college only half will ever earn a degree. For low-income students, graduation rates are even lower, hovering at a mere 25%.

Recognizing the untapped potential of technology to drive dramatic gains in both college readiness and completion, Next Generation Learning Challenges will identify, improve, and scale solutions and will stimulate adoption of the many ways technology can deepen, accelerate, and support learning (Next Generation Learning Challenge: The Program)."

For now, the focus is on higher education but next year, Gates hopes to expand to the project to include K-12 initiatives. In a press release, the Gates foundation confirmed this grant would be a multi-year commitment. The Gates Foundation see the gift as "catalytic" and hopes it will inspire others to commit to improving education through technology.

According the Wall Street Journal, the project will dole out grants ranging from $250,000 to $750,000. The project opens for proposals on October 25th. More information can be found here.

Students Still Prefer Paper in Digital Age

College students text, surf and download but in the digital age traditional paper textbooks still rule. A recent New York Times article looked into why students still prefer expensive, heavy textbooks.

The article quotes two recent studies--one by the National Association of College Stores and another by the Student Public Interest Research Groups, a national advocacy network. The studies found 75 percent of students surveyed still preferred traditional textbooks to a digital version. The surveys found many students are reluctant to give up the ability to quickly flip through paper books, write notes in the margins and use a highlighter to mark important passages.

The expense of college textbooks, according to the New York Times, is estimated to have risen four times the inflation rate in recent years.

According to the National Association of College Stores, digital books make up just under 3 percent of textbook sales. The association expects the number to grow as high as 15 percent by 2012.

Barnes and Noble College Booksellers is working hard to market its new software application, NOOKstudy. It allows students to navigate e-textbooks on Macs and PCs. The company's vice president said "The real hurdle is getting them (students) to try it."
The company is giving away "College Kick-Start Kits" to students who download NOOKstudy in the fall semester, with ramen noodle recipes and a dozen classic e-books like "The Canterbury Tales" and "The Scarlet Letter." CourseSmart, a consortium of major textbook publishers, is letting students try any e-textbook free for two weeks.

Competing online learning: Local vs. National?

Many people, including myself, may think little about online learning in terms of business, especially business having to compete and survive in the market. According to a report from Inside Higher Ed, however, it may be possible that local online learning providers such as University of Minnesota will soon compete with some other national or even global learning institutions.

As we all know, one of the benefits of online learning is that it has no geographical limitations. In terms of learning, being able to study from home or wherever you are as long as you have an internet access is a great advantage.

Thinking the 'no-geographical limitation' benefit from the perspectives of business entrepreneurs, the geographical benefit can become an opportunity for for-profit education companies, such as the University of Phoenix or Kaplan University, to grow their business very large and make a lot of money.

The challenge here is that many institutions that until now have been able to draw students reliably from their local populations may face serious challenge and competition from other major educational institutions.

However, the good news for traditional institutions depending on local populations is that on-line learners like the tangibility of having a "real campus" nearby. A 2008 study by the Sloan Consortium noted that 85 percent of online students were taking courses through universities located within 50 miles of their homes.

There is also a matter of "hybrid education" -- online learning that has some face-to-face component. Taking a hybrid course means that students will have to choose an institution that has a nearby campus. Here too, local institutions could demonstrate their value.

The major for-profit institutions, meanwhile, have also recognized online students' preference for a nearby 'real' campus, and some have opened satellite campuses around the country (for example, Kaplan University has 80 campuses in US and University of Phoenix has more than 200 in North America).

So, providers and instructors of online learning in University of Minnesota, what should we do in order to maintain and grow our competitive advantage other than relying on local loyalty?

Richard Garrett, managing director of Eduventures, says in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, "In order to succeed online in the long term, institutions need to stake their value on something beyond the merely being online". Christian institutions have been able to work the faith angle. Similarly, regional universities can play up their ties to local employers that have hired their graduates for years, Garrett says.

U.S. Military to Scrutinize Online, For-profit Colleges

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U.S. Flag.jpg

The U.S. Defense Department wants to launch a new program to increase scrutiny of online, for-profit colleges that are attracting a growing number of U.S. troops.

Concerns about the quality and cost of online education rise as more military members take advantage of tuition assistance programs from the federal government, according to a Bloomberg article. Many troops are attracted to online education options because of flexible class schedules and it gives them access to college courses even while they are deployed in battle zones.

About 380,000 active-duty service members will get tuition assistance this year, according to Representative Vic Snyder, an Arkansas Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee. About 40 percent of the $580 million in tuition assistance for active-duty service members in fiscal 2010 went to online, for-profit colleges and 70 percent of the total was for all online programs, Snyder said in the Bloomberg article.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows former students at for-profit schools default on student loans about twice as often as those from non-profit schools. "While for-profit schools have profited and prospered thanks to federal dollars, some of their students have not. Far too many for-profit schools are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use. This is a disservice to students and taxpayers, and undermines the valuable work being done by the for-profit education industry as a whole," U.S Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan said.

In award year 2008-09, students at for-profit schools represented 26 percent of the borrower population and 43 percent of all defaulters, according to a U.S Department of Education report.

Congressman Vic Snyder's subcommittee held a hearing on troops utilizing online education sites in September and hopes to draft a policy in final form as early as December. The policy would require online colleges to undergo the same reviews as ground campuses that operate on U.S. military bases, according to the Undersecretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy.

Online education programs cost about 28 percent more than comparable courses taught on ground campuses in fiscal year 2009, the Director of Force Development for the U.S. Air Force said in the Bloomberg article. He added many online programs charge the maximum per credit hour, $250, that institutions are allowed.

Minnesota U.S Senator Al Franken, a democrat, is on the record defending more scrutiny of for-profit colleges.

"We're studying these for-profit institutions for a reason ... because the numbers are so outlandish, and if we are truly talking about saving money ... we ought to be going after the low hanging fruit and that's what this appears to be.... I think we've located a place where there are (a lot) of bad actors," Franken said in a USA Today article.

The executive officer of the Career College Association, a Washington-based industry group, said, for-profit colleges would welcome quality evaluations for their military programs.

30327112.JPGEarlier this month, the federal Department of Education released a draft of its 2010 National Educational Technology Plan--which focuses on increasing and improving online learning in K-12 settings as well as higher ed.

Kids are using technologies heavily in non-academic areas of their lives, and the report details a desire to bring those technologies into classrooms to ensure that students learn the skills they will need to work and exist in an increasingly technology-driven world. It encourages partnerships between primary and secondary schools and higher ed institutions and lays out scenarios for students to finish high school courses in order to get into college and the ways increased technology in K-12 education will affect students and institutions as they transition into college.

The report and overarching strategy is part of a push by President Obama to raise the proportion of college graduates by a third to 60 percent and close the achievement gap among disparate groups.

For-profit colleges a growing force in higher education

Two interesting articles were recently posted about for-profit higher education in the US. The first, from the Chronicle, discussed the rise of thirteen publicly traded higher education businesses that have experienced fast growth in enrollments in the past ten to twenty years. The article discussed the benefits for-profit education from a student's point of view: students can apply and enroll immediately, classes are rarely or never full, class times are offered when it is most convenient for students (including Saturdays, evenings, or online), and there is often a direct path to employment. Indeed, for-profit education specializes in programs that meet job demands, and students graduate from two-year programs at for-profit institutions at a greater rate than community colleges (60% vs. 26%).

While the Chronicle article implied the reason for the growth was student demand, Dean Dad at Confessions of a Community College Dean, analyzed the reasons a bit further. He writes that for-profit institutions "emerged to fill gaps in the nonprofit system. Their growth is a direct and predictable reflection of the existing system's failures." He draws connections to the hordes of would-be faculty graduating from research institutions with Ph.D.s and few job prospects to recent budget cuts that limit enrollments and cut popular programs, while raising tuition at many public institutions.

Higher education is facing enormous challenges in the coming years. The fault-lines of for-profit/nonprofit, online/on-campus, convenience/quality, are shifting. I don't think they are as dichotomous as we might think.

Be sure to read the comments at Confessions... They are well worth your time.

Textbooks take to the web -- for free

Textbooks can be prohibitively expensive for some students -- particularly those books used in science courses and others that frequently update information and come out with new editions. But some colleges and universities are experimenting with a system that would allow students free access to textbooks online.

North Carolina State University is one of these institutions -- they purchased a license for a commonly used physics textbook for $1,500, which allowed them to offer the book the book to students online, at no cost. Students can print out the pages freely, or they can head to the university's bookstore, where they can purchase a complete printed copy for about $45.

Is this the future of textbooks? Some seem to think so. It seems to be a good deal for students, who benefit from the cost and also the opportunity to print out only the pages they need, but the financial impact to the institution is unclear. How many $1,500 licenses can a college afford, and will they make their money back with bookstore copies? If so, we may me a lot more of these programs in the near future.

Survey Suggests Campus Technology is Underused

eCampus News

Survey Suggests Campus Technology is Underused
by Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor

Fewer than half of college students responding to a national survey said their professors are using instructional technology, and educators worry that the technology gap between faculty and students might hinder campus learning.

The study also revealed a jump in the percentage of students who use technology to prepare for college classes. Eighty-one percent said they used computers, social networking, and other tools to study, marking an 18-point increase from 2008, according to CDW-G's "21st Century Campus Report," which was released this fall.

The report includes responses from more than 1,000 faculty members, college students, and campus IT staff.

The 2008 survey established a baseline for educational technology on college campuses, and this year's report details how higher-education officials are reacting to students' shifting technology preferences.

Forty-five percent of students said technology was "fully integrated into their curriculum," a 9-percent decrease from last year. Only three out of 10 students and two of 10 faculty members surveyed said colleges and universities were "preparing students to successfully use technology when they enter the workforce."

Russel Stolins, an adjunct faculty member at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico, said fellow faculty are too often amazed during technology workshops, revealing just how little some professors know about classroom technology.

"Most of my faculty colleagues, I don't consider them necessarily front runner when it comes to using technology," said Stolins, who teaches an online writing course.

Use of instructional technology such as video and audio lecture-capturing systems and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is often lacking in community colleges, where many professors are adjuncts who don't have time for lengthy professional development meetings and seminars.

"I think they're interested, but they could be intimated by technology," he said, adding that campuses may find faculty workshops unaffordable while most colleges struggle to maintain viable operating budgets. "I think there is the desire to learn, but I don't think schools have the time or the resources to teach it to faculty."

Students are using far more technology tools than their professors, according to the survey. Thirty-one percent of students said they use an iPod for educational purposes, compared to 12 percent of faculty. And 52 percent of students use open-source tools like Google Apps, a site where students can create study guides from different locations, among other uses. Fourteen percent of faculty said they use open-source tools for educational reasons.

Brian Friedlander, an assistant professor at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J., said that each year, lecture halls are filled with students who expect more technology to be used in everyday lessons. Freshmen today, he said, are far more tech-savvy than first-year students as recently as five years ago.

"Students in our classrooms don't know a time when technology wasn't a major part of their everyday lives," said Friedlander, creator of the DVD, Assistive Technology: Powerful Solutions For Success. "They almost have to downshift now when they enter the classroom."

This year's CDW-G report reflects students' growing expectations. Seventy-six percent of student respondents said it was important for their campus to have a wireless internet network, compared to 50 percent in 2008. More than 60 percent of students said campuses must have computer labs--an 11-percent jump--and 53 percent said their college should have a course management system such as Blackboard, a 22-percent increase from 2008.

Campus IT officials recognize the prevalence of educational technology. More than seven out of 10 IT staff members surveyed said technology was "very important to incoming students." Fifty-eight percent of IT officials agreed with that statement last year.

The survey highlighted divergent views about the devices and strategies that create an effective 21st-century classroom.

While most IT staff and faculty agreed that wireless internet and LCD projectors were keys to a modern classroom, only 41 percent of faculty said interactive whiteboards were an important tool, compared to 73 percent of IT staff members. Six of 10 IT officials said video and voice lecture recordings were critical on campuses, whereas three of 10 faculty members agreed.

K-12 educators said high school teachers get a close-up preview of students' classroom technology expectations. Ignoring online video and web-based interaction with students is no longer an option as teenagers use laptops and mobile devices more in every aspect of their lives, including reviewing, studying, and doing homework, K-12 officials said.

"I believe that educators who become tech-savvy can combine their many years of educational expertise with the new ways kids engage themselves with technology for the best of both worlds," said Michael Smith, superintendent of Oakland Community Unit School District No. 5.

"Many educators don't know what they don't know. They have no idea of the shift that is occurring to the way kids learn through the use of technology."

5 Higher Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2010


Campus Technology

5 Higher Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2010

* By Bridget McCrea
* 12/09/09

There aren't too many corners of higher education that technology hasn't infiltrated. From admissions to financial aid to the classroom and everything in between, nearly all aspects of college are being handled in some way by the applications, hardware, and gadgets that help institutions work more efficiently.

Don't expect much of that to change in 2010 as more technology is developed and introduced to the higher education market. To make your trend-spotting activities easier, we spoke with some higher education technology experts and came up with these five top tech trends to watch in the new year.

1. More Interactive Classrooms
The days when professors lectured to a class of blank, unresponsive faces are long gone. Today, both students and educators are tapping technology to make the classroom environment more interactive and dynamic. Purdue University's Web-based Hotseat application, which allows students to use handheld devices to interact with professors in the classroom environment, is just a taste of what's to come.

"Anything that helps make the classroom more interactive, animated and engaging--be it multimedia, streaming video or some other innovation--will be in demand this year," said Gregory Phelan, chair of the department of chemistry and associate professor at SUNY College at Cortland in New York, which is upgrading its facilities to include streaming video that professors can access via the server while teaching (rather than "carrying" the content with them into class). "We'll be there soon."

2. More Information at Your Fingertips
In an era when information just can't be produced quickly enough, electronic book readers, smart phones, search engines, and other tools will continue to create an educational environment where both students and teachers have everything they need at their fingertips. "This faster access to information is going to change the classroom dynamic," Phelan predicted. "It will impact the way in which lessons are taught, and how students do their work."

Phelan pointed to the colleges that are "handing out" tablet PCs to all freshmen as the frontrunners in the race to equip students with all of the information they need to succeed in school. Whether other universities follow that lead remains to be seen. "I'd really like to see more schools making that move," said Phelan, "and even further integrate technology into the college classroom."

3. Mashed-Up Technologies
Technological equipment and software that serves a single purpose has gone the way of the 8-track tape and will continue to fade in 2010 as more users learn to "mash up" their technologies into more useful packages. "Students are using every communication vector that they can get their hands on right now," said Ron Hutchins, associate vice provost for research technology and CTO at Georgia Institute of Technology's Office of Information Technology. "It just makes sense that they would mash those technologies together and make them more specific and customizable."

Take online maps, for example. Once thought of as standalone applications that help the user get from Point A to Point B in the fastest, most efficient manner, online maps can now be integrated into other applications, such as location-based e-mail programs. "These types of customizable, specific mashups," said Hutchins, "will become even more prevalent in higher education this year."

4. Breaking Out of Technology Isolation
One of the coolest uses of technology that Hutchins has seen lately can be found in Rutgers University's English department, which is equipped with an entire wall of touch-enabled whiteboards. Using precision positioning technology, the wall-mounted boards allow for unprecedented participation and collaboration among students.

"Students walk up to the wall and use their hands to manipulate items," remarked Hutchins. "It's like putting your whole body into a design project." Hutchins said such innovations also go a long way in getting students up out of their seats and interacting with educators, other students and technology in a meaningful way. "Technology can be isolating," he said. "I love the notion of integrating the classroom and making it more social. This is just one way to make that happen."

5. Capabilities That Go Beyond 1:1
Last year saw college students using more devices and technology applications than ever before, and universities scrambling to keep up with those tech-savvy students. Expect the trend to pick up speed in 2010, said Shannon Buerk, education design strategist at Dallas-based consultancy Cambridge Strategic Services. Netbooks, online education, social networking, smart phones and podcasting will continue to play a role in the typical student's life, as will "4:1 computing" as a replacement for the more traditional 1:1 (one device to handle one task).

"The traditional 1:1, standardized computing is too rigid in today's educational environment, where students are tapping into multiple technologies and switching gears quickly between them," said Buerk, who said she sees the university landscape as being ripe for even more technological innovations in 2010. "When it comes to [technology], there are no boundaries in the learning environment."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at

Inside Higher Ed reports a new master teacher education program has unexpectedly high enrollment from a diverse, highly-qualified cohort of students. The program just launched in fall 2009, so metrics like teacher placement, completion rates, and certification exams won't be available for several years.

Several aspects of this venture, called MAT@USC, are interesting. The USC Rossier School of Education is a top-tier, highly regarded program. Often, faculty or administrators express concern that online programs might, as IHE notes, "dilute the brand" of the larger program or school.

In addition, teacher education has been one of the subject areas many schools think would not translate well to an online platform. That ties in to another interesting aspect the MAT@USC program; their partnership with 2Tor, a for-profit company that partners with institutions of higher education to build and deliver online programs. 2Tor is providing some of the technology infrastructure that helps ensure high student-to-student contact and student-to-faculty contact, hallmarks of most excellent teacher education programs.

It will be interesting to see the comparisons on data points like teacher placement and certification exams between the online program and the on-campus program in a few years.

News: What Doomed Global Campus? - Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed has a well-rounded piece on the downfall of the University of Illinois Global Campus. The Global Campus had millions in funding and a mandate from the president to make online learning a new revenue stream for the system. The original model called for the development of an additional campus, independently accredited, that would compete with the other UI campuses.

The faculty senates at all campuses rejected the plans, and the Global Campus needed to work in partnership with departments and campuses in order to move forward. In many ways, the waters might have already been poisoned, as few departments wanted to work with Global Campus and have their program stamped with Global Campus and possibly give up control of their curriculum.

Another issue is the model of growth the Global Campus used. Nicholas Burbules, a faculty member involved in the development of Global Campus noted:
"What we learned from this process, and what we're doing now, is a very different model of development, which is to start with very successful online courses and programs... then exploring how we can grow and scale up those programs, as opposed to creating a superstructure and then saying we need to create programs to pay off the initial investment," Burbules said. "It's basically a bottom-up versus top-down approach."

The importance of partnership in developing online programs and courses and sustaining them over time is clear. Faculty need to be at the table and be engaged actors in the process over time.

The Department of Education recently released their overview of a number of quantitative studies that have attempted to glean the impact of blended and online instruction on student learning.

For time-strapped readers, Inside Higher Ed (June 29, 2009) offers the following summary of the report:

The study found that students who took all or part of their instruction online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction. Further, those who took "blended" courses -- those that combine elements of online learning and face-to-face instruction -- appeared to do best of all. That finding could be significant as many colleges report that blended instruction is among the fastest-growing types of enrollment.

Resource Link:
Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies (2009)

From Fast Company

Never heard of an Edupunk? Neither had I. The actual idea is not as cutting-edge as it sounds. The Fast Company article interviews several people in higher education who are looking outside higher ed for new solutions to old problems. Some of the solutions could be transformative, but higher ed as we know is not going away any time soon.

This quote from the article is key:

"The Internet disrupts any industry whose core product can be reduced to ones and zeros," says Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of education startup Knewton. Education, he says, "is the biggest virgin forest out there."

I'll bypass the poor rhetorical choice of "virgin forest" and move on to the point I believe Mr. Ferreira was trying to make. There are too many aspects of higher education that cannot be reduced to ones and zeros. Higher education is credentials, culture, methodology, relationships, connections, collaborations. It is a public good and a private good. It is an economic engine that operates somewhat outside the rules of the marketplace. It cannot be reduced to ones and zeros. I say this as someone who strongly believes technology should transform the way we learn, teach, collaborate, and research. I think the author and maybe some of the people interviewed lack an understanding of the complexity of higher education and its role in the larger society.

The idea I found most compelling came from David Wiley at BYU: "Why is it that my kid can't take robotics at Carnegie Mellon, linear algebra at MIT, law at Stanford? And why can't we put 130 of those together and make it a degree?" Why indeed? Well, there are many cultural reasons why not. Beyond culture, most universities have policies and procedures requiring students to take a certain number of credits from their institution in order for the student to be awarded a degree. Few universities would want to put their seal on a diploma of a student who took most of their credits somewhere else. But what if the credential, in this case a diploma, came from something other than a single university? What if accrediting bodies started awarding degrees?

One key tension this article illustrates is the disconnect between what we in higher education think is important and what pretty much everyone else thinks is important. The article highlighted skills, competition, choice, efficiency, and costs. We tend to talk a lot about rigor, scholarship, learning, mentoring, and research. I am not saying the University doesn't pay attention to efficiency and cost - we have to, especially now. But there is a disconnect, and for that, the article was revealing.

In this article, Katrina Meyer examines some of the commonly-used metaphors that describe and name aspects of the Web. By sifting through partial understandings and hidden meanings, Meyer raises many questions about how education, information, and on-line learning come to be understood by multiple constituencies.

Meyer, Katrina A. (2005). Common metaphors and their impact on distance education: What they tell us and what they hide. Teachers College Record 107(8). P. 1601-1625.

Corruption, for the low, low price of $3.95

| 1 Comment

Inside Higher Ed is running a story on a website that will, for a small fee, sell students an intentionally corrupted file that they may then submit to an instructor in lieu of their paper. The logic here is that procrastination-prone students could buy themselves precious time to finish their assignments.

The New Student Excuse?--Inside Higher Ed

In an effort to curb high drop-out rates in online courses, some faculty at universities around the country have taken on the guise of fake students in their own online courses so as to spark discussion, monitor group work, and participate in the building of community.

While such tactics may be intended to address issues such as frustration, isolation, and anxiety, they also open up new questions about the ethical gray areas of privacy, trust, and relationship-building between faculty and students.

Online Professors Pose as Students to Encourage Real Learning--Chronicle of Higher Education

From Campus Technology magazine (3/23/09): MIT's faculty members last week decided on a new policy to make all of their scholarly articles available free to the public online. Articles will be disseminated using an open source platform called DSpace, which was developed by the MIT Libraries and HP. See the full article.

Free textbooks, created by students

Let a Thousand Wikibooks Bloom -

From the article: "The conventional premise of higher education is that information is scarce and must be assembled, evaluated, and presented to students by the instructor." The authors make a compelling point. Information is not scarce now, and one the important skills we must teach is the ability to create knowledge from all the information available to us.

I'm also thinking about our traditional ideas around scholarship. We place a premium on sharing our work so it can be evaluated by others. Research and scholarship not submitted to our peers has little value. I see connections to the textbooks the students are making; they are publishing their work in a format that allows others to correct it, comment on it, and respond to it. They are contributing to scholarship. It is exciting.

Online enrollments continue to climb

As Economy Wavers, Online Enrollments Climb

The newest numbers are available from Sloan, with online enrollments continuing to climb. The number of students taking at least one course online increased by 12.9% from the previous year.

The comments on the post at IHE are interesting as well. I think Gavin Moodie's comment that the distinction between online and face to face instruction will fade over time is a good one.

Gartner: E-learning Market Pushing Toward Open Source

Campus Technology online reports on a Gartner study indicating that Open Source e-learning/course management systems such as Moodle and Sakai are gaining ground on commercial systems. Part of this is attributed to the uncertainty created by the Blackboard lawsuit against Desire2Learn.

Using CMS reports for data mining

Colleges Mine Data to Predict Dropouts -

John P. Campbell's data mining project at Purdue is featured in the Chronicle this week. I first heard about this project at Educause Midwest in 2007; the project is much further now. Campbell and his colleagues are able to notify students when the data indicates the student is struggling, and students are responding.

Banning laptops in the classroom

In March 2008, the Dean Saul Levmore at the University of Chicago Law School announced internet access would be blocked in campus classrooms. According to Inside Higher Ed, Levmore wrote the following in an email to students:

"You know better than I that for many students class has come to consist of some listening but also plenty of e-mailing, shopping, news browsing, and gossip-site visiting. Many students say that the visual images on classmates' screens are diverting, and they too eventually go off track and check e-mail, sometimes to return to the class discussion and sometimes barely so. Our faculty (and I, as well as many of your classmates with whom I have spoken) believe strongly that we need to do everything we can to make Chicago's classroom experiences all they can be.�?

I certainly understand the impulse to ban internet access in the classroom; I have observed classes with students surfing all manner of sites. It is distracting to the students nearby. It limits the depth of discussions you can have in class if students are distracted. Even in a large lecture class, I assume it is also frustrating to the professor. Most of us can tell when our audience is not listening.

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