The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 1

The iPad sparked an eReader price war as it threatened to shake up the eBook market.

With a large touch screen that can display electronic texts in color, Apple’s iPad was greeted with huge enthusiasm by many ed-tech advocates when it debuted earlier this year. The device also inspired a host of competitors and sparked an eReader price war as it threatened to shake up the eBook market.

“I think this changes the picture for eBooks considerably,” said Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium, after Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in January. “This has a lot of potential for higher education. … [Apple] has really seemed to think through the book experience.”

Johnson’s remarks were prophetic, as the iPad has had a huge impact on ed tech in just its first year of existence. Seton Hill University was among the many schools to give iPads to incoming students this fall, and Abilene Christian University made its students newspaper available for iPads. The device has even changed medical school, where first-year med students at Stanford University are finding several ways to use the iPad to help them learn.

Not everything has gone smoothly, as technology officials at a handful of universities warned that the iPad might not be compatible with school networks or could overwhelm campus bandwidth capabilities. Others expressed concerns about the iPad’s inability to print—a deficiency that Apple resolved in November with a new operating system for the device.

Despite the iPad’s promise as a multifunction eReader device, college students are still tepid about the use of eBooks for school, a new survey suggests: Just one in 10 college students said they have bought an electronic book in the past three months.

Related links:

Educators intrigued by Apple’s iPad

‘Kindle killer’ might not be iPad, but Blio

Textbook firms ink e-deals for iPad

eBook sellers face a battle to win iPad customers

Pa. university to give all students iPads

iPad App Store has wide selection of education options

ACU makes its student newspaper available to iPad users

After ballyhooed debut, some schools see problems with iPad

iPad tablet’s popularity has rivals scrambling to roll out competing devices

Go to college, get a free iPad

Are standalone eBook readers doomed?

iPad pilots launching in higher ed this fall

Sony cuts eReader price to stay competitive

All-digital newsstand coming to college stores

iPad is changing what’s in a campus store

In price war, new Kindle sells for $139

Apple offers app store discounts to schools

Replacing a pile of textbooks with an iPad

Early iPad adopter to use art application this fall

How schools are putting the iPad to work

Samsung takes on Apple with iPad rival

iPad competitors lining up

How the iPad is changing med school

eTextbooks expected to grow with iPad on campus

Google promises Docs editing for iPad

RIM readies its answer to iPad

‘Enhanced eBooks’ could entice a new generation of readers

University of Minnesota to provide free iPads for research

Kno, a tablet for college, to debut at $599

Survey suggests college students still tepid on eBooks

Multitasking, wireless printing come to iPad

Google’s new eBook store: One store, any device

How online reading habits have changed over 2010

Microsoft to announce new slates aimed at the iPad


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 2

The Commerce Department called for the creation of an online privacy “bill of rights” for internet users.

Giving web users more control of their personal information online became a key priority for members of Congress in the past year, as well as for federal regulators and the technology industry, which sought to head off new rules by suggesting guidelines of its own.

The momentum for stronger federal regulations on how data can be used and shared began to grow after Facebook faced criticism late last year for creating complex changes to its privacy polices that made some data more publicly available. Apple and AT&T, meanwhile, were criticized in 2010 for a data breach that revealed the network identities of iPad users, while Google said it accidentally snooped on residential Wi-Fi networks as it collected information for location-based applications.

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission proposed to create a “Do Not Track” tool for enhancing online privacy, so that people could prevent marketers from tracking their web browsing habits and other online behavior in order to deliver targeted advertising. And, aiming to set ground rules for companies that collect personal data online and use that information for marketing purposes, the Commerce Department called for the creation of an online privacy “bill of rights” for internet users.

The importance of online privacy was driven home for campus leaders when a Florida man accused of using Facebook to harass Louisiana State University (LSU) sorority pledges and pressure them into sending him nude pictures was arrested Dec. 16.

Campus police officers at LSU and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents arrested 27-year-old Mitchell Hill at a home in Key West, Fla., where he worked as a chef at a Cuban restaurant. He’s facing only Louisiana charges so far, but FDLE spokesman Keith Kameg said Hill is suspected in Facebook stalking investigations by police at the University of Florida, Florida State University, and possibly other Florida schools.

Hill was resourceful in finding personal information about his victims on Facebook, authorities allege. But research made public earlier in the year suggests that students are getting better at managing their personal information online and are wising up to the need for online privacy … at least, for themselves.

Respecting others’ privacy online might be a different matter. This past fall, a former Duke University student made news when a paper she’d written critiquing her former lovers went viral online. And in a tragic case that prompted calls for more efforts to teach students about appropriate online behavior, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate secretly webcast images of him being intimate with another male student.

Related links:Site asks social networkers to rethink revelations

Technology coalition seeks stronger privacy laws

Study: Young adults do care about online privacy

Senators see privacy problem in Facebook expansion

Facebook glitch brings new privacy worries

Facebook adjusts privacy controls after complaints

Image-conscious youth rein in social networking

Privacy groups say Facebook changes don’t go far enough

Momentum building for federal online privacy rules

Students aren’t ‘nonchalant’ about Facebook privacy, report says

Code that tracks users’ browsing prompts lawsuits

Rutgers student kills self after sex act broadcast online

Do students need more online privacy education?

Ad group unveils plan to improve web privacy

Duke winces as a private joke slips out of control

Facebook vows to fix a flaw in data privacy

‘Do Not Track’ tool could enhance online privacy

Microsoft unveils new privacy feature for IE

Facebook stalking of sorority pledges rattles students


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 3

New federal rules are aimed at cracking down on misleading recruiting practices by for-profit education providers, who also are among the nation’s largest providers of online instruction.

Enrollment in online college classes grew by more than 1 million students over the past year as more people returned to school in the midst of the economic downturn—but this phenomenal growth might be short-lived, a new study suggests. That’s partly because of new federal rules aimed at cracking down on misleading recruiting practices by for-profit education providers, who also are among the nation’s largest providers of online instruction.

Following up on a promise made earlier in the year, the Education Department (ED) in October enacted new regulations that bar for-profit colleges from tying recruiters’ pay to the number of students they enroll, among other measures. The new rules came in response to investigations detailing “fraudulent” practices among recruiters for some for-profit colleges. Criticism of these institutions also mounted as figures showed that at least one for-profit school, the University of Phoenix, received $1 billion in federal Pell Grants during the 2009-10 academic year.

ED also proposed new regulations that would cut off federal aid to for-profit colleges if too many of their students default on loans or don’t earn enough after graduation to repay them. These so-called “gainful employment” rules met a flood of resistance from the for-profit industry, prompting ED to hold off on enacting them until further review.

Still, shares of for-profit schools have tumbled in the past year—and amid all the federal scrutiny of the for-profit industry, California’s community colleges have dropped a controversial plan that would have allowed their students to take some courses at the online Kaplan University and make it easier to transfer to that school for a bachelor’s degree.

For-profit education companies argue the new rules will disproportionately hurt low-income and minority students and undermine the Obama administration’s college completion goals. In one example of how the new federal scrutiny might affect online instruction, the University of Phoenix says it will offer new students a free, three-week trial program to see if they are ready for its curricula and for online instruction in an effort to weed out those at risk of leaving school before earning a degree. But the tighter admissions standards come at a cost; the school said it expects the number of new students enrolling in its programs to drop 40 percent in the next quarter.

Making things even more uncertain for the future of online learning, House Republicans who have railed against the new regulations aimed at for-profit colleges will serve influential roles on key committees in 2011—a shift that could change the Obama administration’s approach to the issue.

Republican lawmakers have sent open letters to Education Secretary Arne Duncan asking the administration to scrap the “gainful employment” rules, and Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the new House speaker when the next session of Congress convenes, has pushed for Congress to eliminate a rule that prohibits for-profit colleges from taking in more than 90 percent of tuition from federal financial aid programs.

Related links:

Spike in online enrollment not surprising to many

ED looks to crack down on misleading college recruiting

For-profit colleges find new market niche

Proposed federal rules crack down on for-profit schools

For-profit colleges face more scrutiny in new report

California schools cancel deal with online Kaplan University

For-profit schools hit back as ED finalizes regulations

Panel: Troubles abound in online learning regulation

Updated federal regulations target for-profit colleges

Online-instruction leader to make key changes

For-profit crackdown brings criticism to ED headquarters

For-profit college shares dropping as ED rules approach

Rapid growth in online instruction could wane, study says

Report finds low graduation rates at for-profit colleges

GOP takeover signals major changes for higher ed


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 4

The Obama administration said technology would be a centerpiece to enrolling more students and boosting completion rates.

The United States used to lead the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees; now it ranks 12th among 36 developed nations. That’s something the Obama administration hopes to change by focusing heavily in the last year on boosting the nation’s college completion rate—and technology has played a key role in many of these efforts.

During a first-ever White House summit on community colleges in October, Obama administration officials and junior college leaders discussed ways to position two-year colleges as training hubs that could be instrumental in the country’s economic recovery. And technology, they said, would be a centerpiece to enrolling more students and boosting completion rates.

Ceci Rouse, a White House economic advisor, said colleges that have launched virtual financial aid offices—websites that guide students through the often-tricky application process—have seen spikes in applicants and Pell Grant recipients. And Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke to educators and community college officials during the summit’s opening session, highlighting two-year schools’ use of online classes to make education accessible for non-traditional students.

The Gates Foundation later that month announced a $20 million grant program, called Next Generation Learning Challenges, that aims to help dramatically improve college readiness and completion in the United States through the use of technology tools.

Goals of the new grant program include increasing the use of blended learning models, which combine face-to-face instruction with online learning activities; deepening students’ engagement through the use of interactive applications, such as digital games, interactive video, immersive simulations, and social media; supporting the availability of high-quality open courseware, particularly for high-enrollment introductory classes like math, science, and English, which often have low rates of student success; and helping institutions, instructors, and students benefit from learning analytics, which can monitor student progress in real time and deliver proven interventions.

An example of the latter kind of project can be found at Purdue University, where a tool developed by the school to warn some students that their grades are dropping, offer study-habit suggestions, and provide positive reinforcement to students who are acing quizzes and exams was made available to other schools nationwide this past fall.

Course Signals” is being made available to higher-education institutions through a joint effort by Purdue and SunGard Higher Education. The program was developed at the university and piloted for three semesters before its 2009 launch.

“We found in our research that this can improve student [achievement] an average of one letter grade for many students,” said Gerry McCartney, Purdue’s vice president for information technology. “Course Signals is an important step forward for higher education that can be implemented successfully at many universities and community colleges across the nation to improve student retention and success.”

Related links:Duncan: Ban NCAA teams with low grad rates

Once a leader, U.S. lags in college degrees

Gates Foundation focuses on college graduation

College dropout rate puts financial strain on governments

Community college grants, prizes to be unveiled at White House summit

Obama: Community colleges central to economic recovery

Gates Foundation launches $20 million program to expand technology use

Purdue’s student achievement technology goes national

Poll: Public blames grad rates on college students


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 5

The plan seeks to bring broadband internet to 100 million U.S. homes by 2020.

College faculty whose campuses are surrounded by neighborhoods that rely on antiquated dial-up internet connections are hoping the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan will bring faster connections that won’t send students running to their campus’s high-speed network every time they need to complete an assignment online.

The plan, unveiled March 16 after a year of intense deliberation among the FCC and various stakeholders, seeks to bring broadband internet to 100 million U.S. homes by 2020. Fourteen million Americans don’t have broadband access, even if they want a high-speed option, according to federal estimates.

Ultra high-speed connections—at least 1 gigabit per second, or 100 times faster than a typical broadband network—also would be made available at “anchor institutions” such as hospitals, libraries, and colleges, according to the FCC’s plan.

The FCC did not detail the cost of the broadband expansion, but commissioners have said auctioning portions of national airwaves would help fund the massive program. That money would add to the $7.2 billion allocated for high-speed internet in the economic stimulus package passed by Congress last year.

“The status quo is not good enough for America,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who mentioned the broadband plan’s potential for expanding the use of eBooks in education during his March 16 address. “If we don’t act, we are at risk.”

Community college decision makers were encouraged by the FCC’s inclusion of robust high-speed internet networks on two-year campuses, which soon could be a central location for locals who don’t have broadband internet at home.

The FCC asked Congress for enough funding to bring high-speed internet to all public community colleges and maintain the networks. Only 16 percent of the 3,439 community college campuses in the U.S. have access to the kind of high-speed internet service that is available at more than 90 percent of research universities, according to the FCC.

A new analysis of Census data, released Nov. 8 by the Commerce Department, shows the need for a federal broadband strategy. The U.S. still faces a significant gap in residential broadband use that breaks down along incomes, education levels, and other socio-economic factors, even as subscriptions among American households overall grew sevenfold between 2001 and 2009.

What’s more, even when controlling for key socio-economic characteristics, the U.S. continues to confront a racial gap in residential broadband use, with non-Hispanic white Americans and Asian-Americans more likely to go online using a high-speed connection than African-Americans and Hispanics.

The national broadband plan that federal regulators delivered to Congress in March doesn’t go far enough to satisfy some experts, who warn that the United States would still trail other industrialized nations in prices and speed, reports the Associated Press. That’s because the proposal fails to bring adequate competition to a duopoly broadband market now controlled by giant phone and cable TV companies, critics say.


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 6

Colleges that don't do enough to combat piracy will lose federal funding

Thanks to a federal law that went into effect in July, colleges and universities that don’t do enough to combat the illegal sharing of digital movies or music over their computer networks put themselves at risk of losing federal funding.

A provision of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 is making schools a reluctant ally in the entertainment industry’s campaign to stamp out unauthorized distribution of copyrighted music, movies, and TV shows.

Colleges and universities must put in place plans “to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by users of the institution’s network” without hampering legitimate educational and research use, according to the new regulations. That means goodbye to peer-to-peer file-sharing on a few campuses—with exceptions for gamers or open-source software junkies—as well as gentle warnings on others and extensive education programs everywhere else.

Despite initial angst about invading students’ privacy and doing the entertainment industry’s dirty work, college and university officials are largely satisfied with regulations that call for steps many of them put in place years ago. But whether the investment of time and money will make a dent in digital piracy is uncertain.

As colleges and universities prepared to meet the new federal directive to curb illegal file sharing, software maker Audible Magic offered a list of 10 suggestions for higher-education technology officials. Among the company’s suggestions: Involve all key constituencies, such as those who deal with federal funding, student and judicial affairs, legal counsel, residential/housing, IT, campus decision-makers, and students and faculty; define clear policies that fit your school’s philosophy; and assess the effectiveness of whatever technologies you use.

UCLA took steps to prevent piracy even before the new federal mandate. Students at UCLA don’t have to rely on illegal file-sharing sites to get their fix of online TV anymore, thanks to a new partnership with Clicker, a programming guide for online TV content that launched in 2009. The service indexes TV shows from most American broadcast and cable networks, as well as web originals. UCLA students also will be able to access proprietary UCLA content, including videos of lectures and university events. Clicker currently indexes more than 400,000 episodes from more than 7,000 different TV shows.

One organization that’s happy about this new collaboration is the Motion Picture Association of America, which issued a friendly reminder of their federal obligations to colleges and universities in December. The letter, signed by Daniel Mandil, senior executive vice president of the MPAA, reiterated that universities must publish a “written plan to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution” of illegally downloaded movies, TV shows, and music using the campus’s internet connection.

Related links:

UCLA partners with Clicker to fight campus file sharing

Warner Bros. recruiting students to spy on illegal file sharers

Lawsuits resume against illegal file sharers

New rules bring online piracy fight to U.S. campuses

Ten ways to combat illegal file sharing

Study: eBook piracy is on the rise

Movie industry to colleges: Remember copyright rules


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 7

College IT departments have struggled to keep hackers out of campus networks.

In October, higher education saw one of its largest data security breaches ever, as the Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other personal information for about 760,000 current and former Ohio State University students were accessed by unauthorized network users. The Ohio State incident followed other security breaches at schools such as the University of Maine, Penn State University, and Florida International University in the past year—although it was a breach at the University of Hawaii (UH) that might be the most damaging of all.

That’s because a former UH student filed a class-action lawsuit against the school Nov. 18 in what is believed to be the first such case of its kind. If the lawsuit succeeds, or if UH settles, it could change how colleges and universities handle sensitive information going forward, some experts say.

Many colleges and universities already are paying more attention to how personal student information is stored and used, and the lawsuit now facing UH could cause more schools to examine their own practices, said Timothy Kaye, a law professor at Stetson University College of Law. Kaye added: “I think that a lot of these things should be rethought.”

Related links:

How to Win the Network Security Battle

Schools fall victim to P2P security breaches

Schools beef up security for web applications

Mizzou finds balance between web security, intellectual freedom

How to avoid accidental data breaches

Data breaches slam campuses this summer

Universities use tool to battle student ID theft

eCN Special Report: Next-Generation Network Security

How four institutions manage security threats

Top-notch security a must to remain in compliance, gain grants

The best way to avoid data loss on campus

University faces lawsuit after security breach

Ohio State reports massive network security breach


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 8

Facebook has become a key to colleges' marketing campaigns.

The past year saw higher-education leaders embrace social media more than ever before to engage current students, entice prospective ones, and encourage alumni to open their wallets. And while there are no hard, fast rules when it comes to social media use in academia, attendees of the annual EDUCAUSE conference in October were encouraged to keep experimenting with their tweeting, linking, and posting until they strike the right balance in terms of effectiveness.

Massive social media advertising campaigns have proven effective for colleges and universities both large and small, and an analysis released in July showed that institutions that invest the most in social media ads spend less per student on marketing than do campuses that stick to traditional strategies … with comparable results.

Carefully crafted social media strategies and web videos that tug alumni heartstrings are becoming a foundation of campus fundraising efforts, as college officials use dwindling resources to recover from the largest-ever one-year decline in alumni contributions.

The results of these social media money-raising efforts have been mixed, but at least one school—the University of Wisconsin (UW), La Crosse—has credited the use of online videos spread via eMail marketing with raising $21 million to help pay for two new buildings on campus.

Higher education’s efforts to use social media have come as new research points to the prevalence of social media use among young people.

In fact, University of Maryland students who went 24 hours without TV, cell phones, MP3 players, and laptops during a recent study reported symptoms you might expect from someone struggling with substance abuse, including an “unbearable” need for electronic communication, persistent anxiety, and a frantic “craving for some technology.”

These withdrawal symptoms also were reported by students who took part in a campus-wide social media blackout at Harrisburg University in Pennsylvania this past fall, and they raise important questions about the toll our constantly wired mentality might be extracting on society.

Related links:

Colleges increasingly use social media to interact

Social media use on the rise, but fewer young people are blogging

Can social media cure low student engagement?

Class in 140 characters or less?

Social media is changing the peer-review process

Social media: Colleges’ newest battlefield for students, alumni donations

Are today’s students addicted to social media?

Colleges click the ‘like’ button on social media classes

How colleges can drive traffic to their web sites

Software helps schools monitor athletes’ postings

Schools reach out to prospective students via Facebook

B-schools all a-Twitter over social media

New OSU social media network helps students connect

More college marketing cash going to social media

Social media help college students forge professional opportunities

Students: Social media blackout eye-opening, ‘annoying’

Students dependent on technology—for better or worse

How to use higher education’s ‘new toy’: Social media

Do students need a social media safeguard?

Can Twitter use help improve grades? Some researchers think so

Technology helps save college fundraising

College students more likely to tweet


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 9

High-profile eMail mistakes caused much embarrassment in higher education this year.

A number of high-profile incidents in 2010 served as a harsh reminder of how easy it can be for students to send messages or videos that are embarrassing to their peers or faculty members spinning around the web for everyone to see.

The prospect of an eMail bouncing to every corner of the internet had college professors measuring their words more carefully in their electronic communication to students after a New York University (NYU) professor’s acerbic eMail to a student went “viral” in February and drew worldwide attention.

And in October, video of a Cornell professor’s search for a student who yawned in class went viral on YouTube—reinforcing the idea that anything said in a lecture hall these days can be held against you in the court of public opinion.

“It is a reminder that what you do in a classroom can and will be subject to capture, if not by a formal video capture, [then] by a computer or a cell phone,” said Raymond Rose, an online education advocate who has worked with colleges and universities to create web-based learning programs. “You always have to assume that whatever you’re doing is going to be recorded somewhere. … You need to think about how you’re going to perform all the time.”

The pitfalls of electronic communication continued in October when a University of Missouri dean mistakenly sent an eMail message that referred to a student as suffering from “mental distress” to the campus’s 6,000 graduate students by hitting the “reply all” button—prompting a review of the school’s training for handling sensitive information to make sure a similar slipup doesn’t happen again.

And in March, Oregon State University learned that it’s not just embarrassing campus behavior that schools must respond to these days: Sometimes it’s simply a baseless internet rumor that has legs of its own.

An eMail message charging that the Obama administration had pledged $17 million in stimulus funds to Oregon State as long as the university retained men’s basketball coach Craig Robinson—President Obama’s brother-in-law—spread to websites, blogs, and in-boxes under the subject lines “Stimulus Does Work” or “Stimulus Money…One Job Saved.”

The message claimed that Robinson’s job was in danger, so the White House dispatched an Education Department official to arrange a special stimulus award as part of an unreported quid pro quo. The viral message stirred up so many questions that Oregon State officials had to debunk the rumor with an official statement.

Related links:

Professors, beware: Your nasty eMail could go viral

Viral eMail roils higher education once again

Duke winces as a private joke slips out of control

University dean accidentally hits the ‘reply all’ button

Professor’s ‘yawn’ rant offers a lesson in viral video


The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 10

Students have continued to look for inexpensive textbook alternatives.

College textbook rental services actually began cropping up in 2008, with startups such as borrowing from the business model of Netflix in letting students rent and return their books instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars a semester. But in 2010 this textbook distribution model really took off, aided by large companies such as Barnes & Noble getting into the act.

Last year, textbook rental company began letting students text queries about the availability of specific titles. The service logged 269 student text messages in August 2009.

A year later, that number had skyrocketed to more than 20,000 in August 2010, according to a case study published by Waterfall Mobile and Chegg.

A study released in September by the Student Public Interest Research Group showed that students will peruse the web for the best textbook rental deals and save hundreds of dollars every semester—but few students are willing to rent all of their books.

Ninety-three percent of students in the Student PIRG survey said they would rent “at least some of their textbooks,” with only 34 percent saying they would rent every college textbook.

Despite the growing popularity of low-cost textbook rental web sites like BookRenter and Chegg, there remains some demand for textbooks students can keep.

“Students know they’re going to use the book again, or want to refer back to it,” said Nicole Allen, a Student PIRG spokeswoman.

Still, using eBooks and textbook rental services can trim students’ annual book costs from around $900 to $600, according to the survey.

Related links:

Barnes & Noble unveils textbook rental service for colleges

Grand Rapids textbook rental program expands

Students send texts for cheap textbooks

Are textbooks a ‘scam’? Students think so

The textbook alternative that could save students $700 per year