Driving consortial change–it takes more than missionaries

There are clear models of where consolidation, collaboration, and aggregation do work in higher education

consortial-changeSelective residential colleges and universities usually have several things in common – they are usually small; survive upon tuition, room, and board for their operating budgets; and are very expensive to attend.

And in case you haven’t been on the web or read a newspaper for the last few years, their business model is under more scrutiny – and attack – than any time in recent memory.

An idea, with no small amount of currency, is that small colleges can survive and thrive by leveraging their academic consortial partners, to take advantage of commonalities in their Enterprise Resource Planning and Learning Management Systems, as well as consolidating purchasing power for software, equipment, and subscriptions.

In theory, this is a great idea. Power in Numbers. Stronger than the sum of our parts. E Pluribus Unum.

In practice – not so much. At least, not how matters stand today.

The practical considerations of working with one or more consortial partners are many: how to build relationship and trust across institutions, how to maintain continuity and consistency of communications for long running programming, how to fund initiatives, how to assess and communicate fairly – and honestly – the success and / or failures of programs oft championed by college presidents; yet, these considerations are largely invisible to faculty and staff.

But the biggest chink in the armor in getting consortium-wide initiatives on their feet, is that they are totally dependent upon missionaries, individuals with a self-sustaining and self-motivated desire to see any one program succeed, in order to work.

(Next page: How to achieve sustainable programming and revenue)


New cloud SRS technology has big classroom potential—here’s why

Cloud-based SRS tech relieves financial headaches, but has it’s own share of worries, say faculty and students

SRS-clicker-studentClickers, once the popular ‘it’ classroom tech tool, have come under scrutiny from cash-strapped students required to pay for these sporadically used devices. Now, say students and faculty, it’s all about a web SRS—and for a good reason.

With textbook prices constantly on the rise, the students say the last thing they want to invest in are more classroom materials; clickers being one of these many materials required for lecture participation on campuses today. These Student Response Systems (SRS) allow students to actively participate in lecture presentations by submitting responses to class-wide questions using hand-held devices.

The pros of clickers, up until recently, have been their ability to allow instructors to initiate, receive and accurately process student participation during lectures in a fast and effective way. For example, in a study conducted on the University of Wisconsin System Project, researchers Robert Kaleta and Tanya Joosten found that the use of classroom clickers improve attentiveness and student engagement in the classroom, since students do not feel the same pressure submitting a response via clicker compared to raising their hand in a lecture hall.

The biggest cons of in-class clickers, is cost. On average, clickers can run anywhere from $30-$50, from used to new. Already having to pay tuition and textbook costs, students say they often find it hard to understand the value of yet another purchase for a piece of equipment for classes that are rarely used, despite the potential benefits.

“Out of four years at Maryland, I only used my clicker twice—so it doesn’t make it worth the price,” senior family science major at the University of Maryland, College Park, Nandi McCammon said.

Enter the new web-based SRS…

(Next page: The next step in clicker technology; pros & cons)


Interested in digital badges? 9 critical issues to consider

New framework intersects digital badges with open movement to discuss nine important issues

digital-badges-open The promise of digital badges for alternative credentials and skills pathways has not been lost on higher education; yet, there are many concerns—from business, faculty, and students—on the design, and use, of these badges for real meaning. A new framework condenses these concerns into nine critical questions concerning digital badges.

According to researchers from the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, the implications for open systems and badging are numerous, ranging from incredible potential to large obstacles in real meaning; which is why they decided to develop a framework to identify these obstacles.

The researchers hope to “clarify situations where these concepts come into direct conflict or mutually enhance each other…where research is needed…and offer design considerations for developers, educators, and organizations.”

The framework takes three perspectives of digital badges (motivation, pedagogy, and credential) and correlates each of these perspectives with three different concepts of the open movement (production, access, and appropriation).

“Open badges represent an intriguing way to design, structure and reward learning through digital media, open systems and online networks, say the authors, “…[and] when designing an overall system it will be critical to identify and explicitly design for the potential obstacles or areas of opportunity…in this frame, the goals, implementation, and consequences attached to badges are linked to the concerns of teaching, learning and structuring education systems to enable these practices.”

(Next page: The new framework)


E-instructors say what should happen, and what actually happens, in online learning very different

Online instructors weigh in on what should come first in online learning, what admin could better support

online-instructor-perceptionThere are a lot of cooks in the kitchen when it comes to online learning best practices, especially from think-tanks and interested admin looking to expand an institution’s offerings…but what do the actual instructors say is important? And are these expectations being met?

According to The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, a survey reached out to hundreds of instructors from 20 universities in Taiwan—which hosts one of the best research universities in the world and is one of the fastest growing adopters of online learning–on what they perceived were the most important skills to master for online teaching, and whether or not they actually acted on those skills during teaching.

The survey, which aimed to measure the difference between what e-instructors believed was important versus what they actually put into practice, showed that some perceptions of skills needed mirrored what was implemented in class, but many differed drastically. The reasons? Lack of administrative support and lack of training.

The authors of the report say that it’s important to look at what online instructors believe is important versus what they actually implement, since the success of online learning hinges on the skills of its teachers; unfortunately, not a lot of research currently exists on the beliefs of instructors about, and their roles in, online learning.

“This [area] which has been seldom addressed [reveals that]…A gap exists between ideal and practical roles of e-instructors in higher education,” explain Chiungsui Chang of Tamkang University, and Hun-Yi Shen and Eric Zhi-Feng Liu of National Central University. “Role perceptions and role-based practices of e-instructors in higher education differ significantly in terms of teaching experience.

The authors hope that the findings of the survey can have a global impact, shedding light on what e-instructors believe is critical for online learning success, and the barriers to current implementation.

(Next page: The interesting findings)


Gates Foundation backs next-gen alternative credit system

ACE’s innovative initiative to increase attainment levels gets almost $2 million in backing

ACE-gates-alternativeACE has just announced a groundbreaking effort to form a next-generation alternative credit system that aims to boost the ability of nontraditional learners to gain a college degree–one of the most pressing issues in higher education today.

ACE, which has decades of experience issuing credit recommendations for military and corporate training and experiences, will create a pool of about 100 low-cost or no-cost, lower division courses and general education online courses across 20 to 30 subject areas.

In turn, 40 colleges and universities will agree to accept transfer credit for these courses, allow students to enroll with up to two years of credit toward a four-year degree, and track their success rates.

Many of the courses in this alternative credit pool will be drawn from existing courses that already had received ACE credit recommendations, while others will be newly created classes that have been assessed as credit worthy. Some will be taught by traditional accredited colleges and universities, while others will come from non-accredited education providers.

ACE also will expand its credit recommendation work by developing guidelines for digital credentials, certificate programs and competency-based education programs.

(Next page: Gates Foundation backing; projections for the future)


10 ways ed-tech tools promote academic honesty

Online assessment expert shares academic tools and resources for educators to prevent student plagiarism


Going to the web for teaching and learning doesn’t have to be the den of student cheating (intentional or not) as some make it out to be. In fact, online tools–if you know how to choose and implement them–can promote academic honesty at whole new level.

The internet empowers students with readily available means to compare answers, use outside resources, and look up answers to their online assignments and exams.

With answers literally at their fingertips, instructors using ed-tech tools are often challenged with maintaining their students’ academic honesty.

Instructors need to be familiar with methods that make cheating far more difficult than traditional paper and pen homework assignments, and how to check for signs of cheating in their class. With the help of sophisticated ed-tech tools, instructors can easily check for signs of cheating and employ methods to crack down on student dishonesty.

The following tactics help provide peace of mind when it comes to academic honesty and ensuring that students maximize their learning potential. These best practices can be used for homework, quizzes, or exams.

While these methods are effective, they can limit student learning when used simultaneously—so it’s important to consider all available resources and create your own cocktail of cheating prevention tactics based on your own classroom goals.

1. Randomized questions prevent students from comparing answers, as different variations of the problem will appear to students. While the problem type is the same, the numerical values and solution is different.

2. Consider using question pools, a collection of prepared questions on a single topic. Question pools let instructors develop a large list of questions on the same concept and assign each student a different set of questions from the same pool to ensure a similar, but distinct, homework experience.

(Next page: More ways to promote academic honesty)


What role can MOOCs play in the development agenda? 5 key questions

How can MOOCs accommodate those who are learning disabled and who need significant individualized attention?

udacity-moocsWith the Millennium Development Goals nearing their deadline, the development sector has been rife with speculation about what the post-2015 development agenda will look like and what role, if any, higher education should play in this future outlook.

So it is only appropriate that the United Nations is asking whether Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)—with their focus on offering tertiary-level courses for mass consumption—are a panacea for increasing access to tertiary education in the developing world, or whether they will instead widen the gap between those with access to higher education and those without.

At a recent discussion jointly organized by SUNY’s Nelson Rockefeller Institute of Government and the UN Academic Impact and facilitated by Ben Wildavsky, this topic was passionately debated by a wide-ranging panel of experts—Anant Agarwal, the CEO of edX, one of the largest MOOC platforms; Barbara Kuhn of the Wharton School of Business who teaches a popular MOOC course; Phil Altbach, higher education expert and vocal critic of MOOCs; and Professor S. Sitaraman, Senior Vice President of Amity University.

Since Matt Krupnik’s recent article in University World News provides a detailed overview of the discussion itself, I’ll focus instead on five key questions that we should ask ourselves as we consider the potential role of MOOCs for leveling the playing field between developed and developing countries.

(Next page: Questions 1-5)


2014 break-down: This is how college students use mobile devices

Survey of undergrads and graduate students reveals new information on mobile device use

mobile-device-pearson Conducting yearly surveys on how current college students use mobile devices is a smart idea, given the rapid evolution of technology. But it’s also a good idea because maybe usage isn’t moving as fast as admin may think; and could the laptop still be the best device for students?

According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Pearson—between February and March this year (2014)—over 1,200 college students enrolled in either a 2-year college, 4-year college or university, or graduate school were polled on their ownership and usage of mobile devices; how they use the devices for schoolwork, and how they expect to use them for school work in the future; their attitudes towards the devices for learning; and their preferences for different types of digital devices when reading, studying, taking notes, and other school-related activities.

The survey results, which were weighted to be representative of the U.S. college student population, reveal that though students believe tablets are the future, the laptop is still the most used device for school work, and that while the use of multiple devices for Millennials is often the picture painted by media, a majority still use only one main device during the school day.

“After four years of conducting this study, we have learned valuable lessons from students on how they use, and want to use, technology for learning,” said Seth Reichlin, senior vice president of Market Research for Pearson Higher Education. “College students have high expectations for tablets to transform learning, but our findings show that laptops are still the most commonly used device for school work.”

(Next page: The break-down of some interesting results; infographic)


Call for Applications Now Open for the 2015 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards

Call for Applications Now Open for the 2015 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards

Seven educators to receive prizes valued at $5,500 each for demonstrating innovative uses of data-collection technology in the classroom

BEAVERTON, Oregon, September 10, 2014 – Vernier Software & Technology and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) are now accepting applications for the annual Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards. Seven educators – one elementary teacher, two middle school teachers, three high school teachers, and one college-level educator – will be recognized for their innovative use of data-collection technology using a computer, graphing calculator, or other handheld device in the science classroom.

The winners will be selected by a panel of experts appointed by the NSTA and will each receive $1,000 in cash, $3,000 in Vernier products, and up to $1,500 toward expenses to attend the annual NSTA National Conference in Chicago, IL on March 12-15, 2015. All current K-12 and college science teachers are encouraged to apply by the November 30, 2014 deadline.

“The use of data-collection technology in the science and STEM classroom provides students with an engaging, hands-on way to learn and apply scientific principles,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and former physics teacher. “The awards program provides a great opportunity for educators to share the innovative ways they use the technology with their students and to be recognized and rewarded for their best practices.”

Last year’s Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards winners used data-collection technology for a wide range of investigations, including exploring friction, testing rocket prototypes, building alternative energy systems, conducting high-altitude ballooning challenges, and more.

For more information and to prepare your 2015 entry, visit http://www.vernier.com/grants/nsta/.

About Vernier Software & Technology
Vernier Software & Technology has been a leading innovator of scientific data-collection technology for 33 years. Focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Vernier is dedicated to developing creative ways to teach and learn using hands-on science. Vernier creates easy-to-use and affordable science interfaces, sensors, and graphing/analysis software. With world-wide distribution to over 130 countries, Vernier products are used by educators and students from elementary school to college. Vernier’s technology-based solutions enhance STEM education, increase learning, build students’ critical thinking skills, and support the science and engineering practices detailed in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Vernier’s business culture is grounded in Earth-friendly policies and practices, and the company provides a family-friendly workplace. For more information, visit http://www.vernier.com.

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