Delaware bans colleges from requiring students’ social media passwords

The law also bars schools from tracking students’ personal online activities.

Should a university be able to edit a student’s Facebook profile or check his private tweets? Absolutely not, said the Delaware state legislature, as it recently passed the first state law to forbid schools from requiring students to divulge personal social media login information.

Signed into law by Gov. Jack Markell on July 20, HB309 bans both public and private higher-education institutions from committing a range of student privacy violations.

Delaware colleges and universities cannot require or request that students turn over login information, nor can they ask students to log on to their personal social networking sites in the presence of a school representative.

The law also bars schools from tracking students’ personal online activities or requesting that the student add a school representative on a social networking site. A school could not demand, for example, that a student approve a teacher as a Facebook friend.

Originally written to include primary and secondary schools as well, the final version of the law limits its scope only to post-secondary institutions.

Legislators reconsidered the K-12 portion of the bill after hearing concerns that schools working with younger children would deal more frequently with cyber bullying problems, said Damian DeStefano, legislative aide to the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Darryl Scott.

In the wake of several high-profile cyber bullying cases, schools have been under increasing pressure to monitor instances of students bullying each other via social media.

“We wouldn’t want to handcuff a school in its ability to investigate cases of bullying,” he said.

Another factor that complicates student privacy laws in the K-12 space: the rise of “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs designed to get technology in the hands of more students.

When students are bringing their personal devices into the classroom for instruction, and teachers need to monitor those devices, “to what degree does that make everything on the student’s device available for school review?” said Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, in a phone call with eCampus News.


Amazon floats textbook rental service for college students

Forget film rentals, the next big thing for college students is going to be book rentals, at least if Amazon’s U.S. arm has anything to do with it, the AFP reports. The online retailer claims savings of up to 70% and, at the end of the rental period (a 130 day semester), the books are returned for free by means of a pre-paid address label. Naturally, e-books are also eligible for rental, at a slightly lower cost…

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Ex-Google exec’s new venture helps students avoid corporate life

Four months after leaving Google Inc, the former head of its enterprise business has a new mission – helping college graduates avoid big corporations like Google, Reuters reports. Upstart, a service that is launching in limited form on Wednesday, lets university graduates raise money from other people online so that they can start their own businesses, pursue a research project, or chase a personal dream, rather than take a “safe” job in the corporate world.

“There’s this overwhelming desire to not follow the traditional path of bolting yourself to a desk and climbing the corporate ladder,” said Upstart founder Dave Girouard.

But he said too many graduating students have college loans they need to repay and do not feel they can take a chance. Part social network, part crowdfunding service in the style of Kickstarter, Upstart provides an online forum where participants post personal profiles with their background and goals in the hope of attracting at least five financial backers…

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Most STEM degrees to Latinos granted from schools in 6 states

Of the top higher education institutions that have granted the most STEM degrees to Latino graduates in the 2009-2010 school year, more than half are concentrated in just six states, according to a new report, the National Journal reports. The report by Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization advocating Latino educational success, featured an analysis of institutions awarding certificates or degrees to Latino students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Schools were analyzed based on the number of degrees or certificates granted, then ranked by academic level. There were 25 top rankings in all, though some universities and colleges were listed more than once. The report comes after legislators have been exploring ways to increase the number of H1-B visas to encourage more highly skilled foreign workers in STEM fields, resulting in the ensuing debates over the validity of importing workers versus increasing resources for educating and attracting more native-born STEM students…

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Immigrants making gains in higher education but still lag behind overall population

While undergraduate attainment rates for immigrant and second-generation populations have increased steadily, these groups still lag behind the overall U.S. population when it comes to higher education, a new study has found, the National Journal reports. Between 1999 and 2000, about 19 percent of undergraduates were immigrants or second-generation Americans — those born in the U.S. to at least one parent born outside the country. Seven years later, the percentage for that population increased to 23 percent of all undergraduate students, according to the Education Department study. Nonetheless, these populations continue to be behind in educational attainment from the overall population…

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Florida student punished for making online course selection easier

A Florida university punished student Tim Arnold after he built a service that aimed to make online course enrolment easier for his fellow classmates, Mashable reports.

“U Could Finish” immediately notifies students via text when a spot in their desired class has opened up. Arnold, a senior at University of Central Florida, said in a June Reddit post that it checks myUCF, the university’s online portal for course registration, every 60 seconds for free seats.

Arnold launched the service, which costs $0.99, via Facebook on June 2. U Could Finish had 500 users within six days, according to its official website, though university administrators blocked the service shortly after. Arnold is now facing three semesters of academic probation, among other punishments including essay writing and attending a coaching session on good decision making. A notice from the university’s Office of Student Conduct reveals that he was charged with “misuse of computing and telecommunications resources.”

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Virtual campus tours gain popularity with colleges, prospective students

As more colleges feature virtual campus tours online, prospective students can explore a school’s grounds without ever setting foot on campus, the Huffington Post reports. It’s no secret students want to check out the lay of a school’s land prior to applying. However increasingly, parents and students posses less money and time to pile into the family car and drive cross country for physical visits to a lengthy list of schools. Colleges are seeing the potential pay-offs online tour services can have for their recruitment efforts. Digital formats eliminate the restraints time, cost and attention spans present. The growing popularity of colleges’ virtual tours is relieving some of the financial burden prospective students face when planning visits to distant college campuses…

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Best practices in higher-education technology use: August 2012

Here are some of the best practices in higher-education technology use featured in the July/August edition of eCampus News.

Students at the University of Wisconsin now can earn college degrees based on competency, not credits; Ohio State is revamping its classroom technology to meet students’ digital demands; two West Coast schools are taking an innovative approach to disaster planning; and dozens of schools this fall will see if eBooks can bring down textbook costs: These are among the best practices in higher-education technology use featured in the July/August edition of eCampus News.

Our July/August edition is now available in digital format on our website. You can browse the full publication here, or click on any of the headlines below to read these highlights:

Earning a degree with competency, not credits

Students at the University of Wisconsin now can earn college degrees based on proven competency in a subject, making UW the first publicly funded school to launch a competency-based degree program…

Ohio State unveils new ed-tech plan

Ohio State University officials have announced a major plan to revamp the school’s classroom technology capabilities to meet students’ demands in a digital age. The two-year initiative, called Digital First, is a “first-of-its-kind program” that will transform the campus, said Michael Hofherr, senior director for learning technology…

Campuses take innovative approach to disaster planning

West Coast IT leaders begrudgingly admit it: An earthquake wouldn’t be a temporary inconvenience—a bad trembler could knock out critical infrastructure for weeks, unless the school has a partner. That’s why IT officials from the University of Puget Sound and Pomona College are hosting backup computer equipment for each other, allowing either campus to access student, faculty, and course information in hours rather than weeks if a disaster should occur…

Colleges taking a team approach to eTextbooks

Reining in exorbitant textbook costs is no longer a campus-by-campus venture: A unified approach, powered by the Internet2 consortium’s NET+ cloud-based collaborative purchasing program, could make low-cost electronic textbooks available now, ed-tech leaders hope…

Cell phones help connect students with learning

Instructors at Alvin Community College in Texas are using projectors and document cameras in their classrooms to bring the world to their students, and they’re using the Blackboard learning management system, blogs, and wikis to keep students engaged outside of class. But it’s the faculty’s use of a technology that has become ubiquitous among students—cell phones—that has made the biggest difference…