Using the cloud to deliver reliable IT services

Westmont has uploaded more than 3,000 audio and video files to iTunes U.

With a host of new technologies, thousands of lectures and lessons uploaded to iTunes University, and a newly refurbished library that caters to the needs of today’s college students, Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., is our eCampus of the Month for January.

The private, Christian liberal arts college with 1,300 undergraduate students has implemented predictive modeling and cloud-computing programs to save money and spend budgets efficiently, becoming a model for small schools looking for ways to survive the slumping economy.

Here, Reed Sheard, vice president of advancement and information technology, describes the school’s programs and its keys to success.

(Editor’s note: To nominate your college or university for our “eCampus of the Month” feature, and to read about past winners, go to:

How do you use technology to advance student learning?

A few of the technologies our students use are Meraki wireless (close to 100-percent 802.11n coverage over our 111-acre campus), Moodle LMS, and Google Apps.

Our classrooms are equipped with Sanyo projectors, and we have dual-boot (Mac and Windows) iMac labs around campus, including in the newly refurbished library, where there is a 27-station open lab and a 25-station instructional lab, three new MediaScape labs from Steelcase for computer-to-computer collaboration, and Walkstations from Steelcase with built-in desks for the kinesthetic learner.

We developed an iPhone app in-house that includes a searchable campus directory, calendars, a dining menu, a GPS-enabled shuttle map, live streaming of athletic events, and host of RSS feeds, among other goodies.

There is dedicated internet bandwidth in the residence halls, along with numerous dedicated technologies appropriate to specific departments, such as Finale music composing and notation software, HyperResearch Adobe Creative Suite, and many others.

We have extensively leveraged Apple’s iTunes U and have uploaded more than 3,000 audio and video files for student access over the past 18 months. Lastly, we have our college publication, The Westmont Magazine, available as a native iPad application.


Durbin: For-profit colleges target veterans

Some for-profit colleges unfairly target U.S. veterans, offering false hope of improved career opportunities while leading ex-soldiers into debilitating debt, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Monday, calling for tighter regulation of the sector, the Associated Press reports.

“We cannot allow some in the for-profit college industry to exploit these veterans with deceptive tactics,” the Illinois Democrat said at a forum in Chicago addressing the issue.

A 3-year-old, post-9/11 G.I. Bill boosted education benefits for veterans and created a windfall for for-profit colleges, many of which, according to Durbin, cost more and have higher default and dropout rates than other schools. Durbin said Monday he is introducing legislation to reduce incentives for for-profit colleges to employ what he characterized as misleading advertising and hard sales pitches to persuade veterans to sign up for classes…

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State higher education spending sees big decline

State funding for higher education has declined because of a slow recovery from the recession and the end of federal stimulus money, according to a study released Monday, the Associated Press reports. Overall, spending declined by some $6 billion, or nearly 8 percent, over the past year, according to the annual Grapevine study by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. The reduction was slightly lower, at 4 percent, when money lost from the end of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act was not taken into account. The funding reductions, seen across nearly every state, have resulted in larger class sizes and fewer course offerings at many universities and come as enrollment continues to rise…

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Digital badges threaten colleges’ monopoly on credentials

Applicant A’s résumé shows an associate degree in business. By taking community college classes, studying online, and learning on the job, Applicant B has earned “digital badges” in product design, marketing, business writing, sales, bookkeeping, leadership, mentoring and teamwork. Who gets the job? Asks U.S. News. Badges aren’t just for Boy Scouts–or video game enthusiasts–anymore. The Mozilla Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) have created a $2 million Digital Media and Learning Competition to encourage the development of digital badges that recognize lifelong learners’ knowledge and skills. The first set of winners in the teaching category were announced Jan. 12…

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Online course start-ups offer virtually free college

An emerging group of entrepreneurs with influential backing is seeking to lower the cost of higher education from as much as tens of thousands of dollars a year to nearly nothing the Washington Post reports. These new arrivals are harnessing the Internet to offer online courses, which isn’t new. But their classes are free, or almost free. Most traditional universities have refused to award academic credit for such online studies. Now the start-ups are discovering a way around that monopoly, by inventing credentials that “graduates” can take directly to employers instead of university degrees…

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Joe Paterno rumors: Penn State editor quits after erroneous report is picked up nationally

The managing editor of a student-run news organization that covers Penn State resigned hours after the publication tweeted erroneously that former coach Joe Paterno had died, the Associated Press reports. Paterno’s sons had disputed Onward State’s Saturday posts, and the publication had recanted. Paterno’s family announced he had died Sunday. The Saturday report was amplified by media organizations across the country and retweeted uncounted times. The Associated Press did not publish the report. Devon Edwards, the managing editor, said in the letter that he takes responsibility for the misinformation…

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After protest, Congress puts off internet piracy bill

Critics said the bills would result in censorship and could add a major burden to colleges and universities.

Caving to a massive campaign by internet services and their millions of users, which also included universities such as Syracuse and MIT, Congress on Jan. 20 indefinitely postponed legislation to stop the online piracy of movies and music that is costing U.S. companies billions of dollars every year. Critics said the bills would result in censorship and could add a major burden to colleges and universities.

The demise, at least for the time being, of the anti-piracy bills was a clear victory for Silicon Valley over Hollywood, which has campaigned for a tougher response to internet piracy. The legislation also would cover the counterfeiting of drugs and car parts.

Congress’ qualms underscored how internet users can use their collective might to block those who want to change the system.

The battle over the future of the internet also played out on a different front Jan. 19 when a loose affiliation of hackers known as “Anonymous” shut down Justice Department websites for several hours and hacked the site of the Motion Picture Association of America after federal officials issued an indictment against, one of the world’s biggest file-sharing sites.

The site of the Hong Kong-based company was shut down, and the founder and three employees were arrested in New Zealand on U.S. accusations that they facilitated millions of illegal downloads of films, music, and other content, costing copyright holders at least $500 million in lost revenue. New Zealand police raided homes and businesses linked to the founder, Kim Dotcom, on Jan. 20 and seized guns, millions of dollars, and nearly $5 million in luxury cars, officials there said.

In the U.S., momentum against the Senate’s Protect Intellectual Property Act and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, known popularly as PIPA and SOPA, grew quickly on Jan. 18 when the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and other web giants staged a one-day blackout and Google organized a petition drive that attracted more than 7 million participants.

Syracuse and MIT joined the protest after higher-education groups, such as the educational technology advocacy group EDUCAUSE, said the bills would limit internet freedom on campus and expose schools to frivolous litigation. Campus librarians and IT staffers could be legally required to comb through digital traffic for signs of copyright violations if Congress enacted the legislation, higher-ed groups said.


Syracuse reverses course after expelling student for Facebook post

Syracuse drew public criticism for expelling a graduate student.

College students and activists on Twitter and Facebook this week dubbed Syracuse University a campus “where free speech goes to die” after the school’s second social media controversy since 2010.

Syracuse readmitted a graduate student Jan. 19 after a free-speech organization publicized the university’s punishment for posting racially tinged comments on Facebook.

Read more about social media controversies in higher education…

Controversial social media rules spark student backlash

Penn State students organize, vent online during campus scandal

Matthew Werenczak, a graduate student in Syracuse’s School of Education, was a student teacher at a local middle school in July when he heard a representative from the Concerned Citizens Action Program (CCAP) say that the school should hire student teachers from historically black colleges, not Syracuse.

Werenczak complained on his own Facebook page about the representative’s comment, and was later called to a meeting with Syracuse administrators to discuss the social media exchange.

No action was taken at the time, but in September, Werenczak received a letter saying he would be expelled from the school unless he took anger-management counseling, completed diversity training, and wrote a paper on his growth “regarding cultural diversity.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit group that tracks free-speech issues in higher education, sent an open letter to Syracuse officials Jan. 18 on Werenczak’s behalf. The school readmitted him less than 24 hours later.

Syracuse did not respond to interview requests from eCampus News.

“Syracuse kicked a student out of school for complaining on Facebook about comments he thought were racist, and only reversed its decision in the face of public outrage,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “It’s long past time for Syracuse to live up to its promises of free speech and stop treating its students as second-class citizens.”


What the 1% majored in

There are a lot of factors to weigh when picking your college major. Like, for example, will this major land me in the top 1% of earners? Despite the statistical rarity of such an ambition, there are majors that lead far more often to 1% status than others, the Huffington Post reports.  The New York Times recently endeavored to find what the top 1% of earners majored in while in college. Using information from the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, they found being a pre-med gave you the best chance of joining the financial cream of the crop. Economics came in second. In a surprise twist, zoology cracked the top 5. Funnily, this is a somewhat different list than 2011’s best paying majors, in which petroleum engineering took the top spot…

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