5 rockstar superprofessors of online learning

Who are the rockstar professors of massive open online courses?

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on the site in May, and was one of our most popular stories. Worth a re-read? We think so! Happy Thanksgiving week!]

Much has been written about how massive open online courses (MOOCs) have given rise to a cast of so-called “rockstar professors.”

rockstarWhile rockstar professors aren’t actually a new concept, their star power has always been more-or-less confined to the campus where they teach — unless, of course, they get their own TV show, like this guy –>.

MOOCs, however, have given these other charismatic professors a global stage in which to teach and — for better or worse — to entertain.

Writing for the New York Times last year, A.J. Jacobs wrote that the discussion boards about those professors’ courses often read like a One Direction fan site, with students talking about a professor’s smile, voice, and clothing.

“The pop star analogy is not trivial,” Jacobs said. “While MOOCs are a great equalizer when it comes to students around the world, they are a great unequalizer when it comes to teachers. MOOCs are creating a breed of A-list celebrity professors who have lopsided sway over the landscape of ideas.”

Not everyone is so wary of the distinction, however.

At a panel discussion last year, when Anant Agarwal was asked about the hype surrounding MOOCs, he came out fully in favor of the rockstar atmosphere surrounding some of the professors.

“Absolutely, there’s been too much hype — and what a good idea!” Agarwal said. “If you and your colleagues have to hype something, what better to hype than education? For the first time, you’re going to make the teacher a rockstar.”

So some people are wary of the idea, and some are excited about professors’ new-found global superprofessor status. But just who are these educational celebrities, anyway?

Read on to meet five rockstar professors.


10 best Apple and Android Apps for research

These research apps provide everything from citation to scholarly searches


[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on the site in June, and was one of our most popular stories. Worth a re-read? We think so! Also, happy Thanksgiving week!]

One of the biggest perks to including mobile devices in the classroom is also one of the most basic—conducting research with the touch of a finger. And outside of downloading Google’s search app, many apps cater intuitively to finding articles and annotation sources, which is helpful for any student, educator or librarian.

From showing examples of how to cite multimedia sources to being able to annotate any kind of document on a mobile device, and from creating customized online searches of scholarly publications to being able to log into your computer files from your phone, these apps are a plus for anyone interested in conducting meaningful research.

Know of any research apps for students in higher education, or apps that librarians have recommended? Have you tried any of these apps? Leave your comments in the section provided below, email me at mstansbury@ecampusnews.com, or find me @eSN_Meris on Twitter.

(Next page: Research apps 1-5)


7 tips for a great campus website

Website award-winning colleges and universities give clear, practical advice on what it takes to have great online representation

website-college-great[Editor’s Note: This story originally originally appeared on our site in August and was one of our most popular stories that month. Worth a re-read? We think so! Also, happy Thanksgiving week!]

Campus websites are crucial for providing resources, recruiting prospective students and updating the community on news and current events. But what if users are unable to navigate through certain pages? What if they can’t view it from their phones or tablets?

When students are directed to an outdated university website — even if the institution has an “amazing reputation” — this will produce a negative impact, said Mimi Young, co-founder of the design agency Behavior Design.

To attract and maintain visitors, universities may want to consider an overhaul or redesign of their website. Here are seven tips on how to improve your campus website, gleaned from informative commentary from key players behind some of the greatest (award-winning) higher education websites.


1. Invest in an easy-to-use content management system (CMS)

Stacey Shintani, the University of Chicago’s manager for strategic web communications, said a campus website is like the front door to the university, and often times it is a school’s website that provides visitors with their first interaction and impression of an institution.

“We worked hard to see what users needed and wanted and balanced it with goals of the University leadership” – Stacey Shintani
“We worked hard to see what users needed and wanted and balanced it with goals of the University leadership” – Stacey Shintani

And Shintani should know: The University of Chicago’s website won a Webby Award for People’s Choice in 2013. Though the website represents the front door, Shintani mostly deals with the backend; and when the University decided to redesign its website in 2012, one “huge change” they made was adopting a content management system—something they hadn’t had before.

CMS, said Shintani, allows users to publish and edit content on the web without requiring significant web programming knowledge. “For the most part, people can maintain their own content, which is awesome.”

When Bates College redesigned their website in 2011, they chose WordPress as their CMS after an “exhaustive” search, said Ethan Wright-Magoon, who was digital creative director at the time of the redesign.

“We need to make sure they’re getting the Bates experience online as if they were here on campus.” – Ethan Wright-Magoon
“We need to make sure they’re getting the Bates experience online as if they were here on campus.” – Ethan Wright-Magoon

WordPress “is very open-source and easy to use,” Wright-Magoon said, adding that he still uses the software every day.

(Next page: More tips and advice)


New digital content available for academic research

Gale’s digital collections online archive aims to grow Big Data opportunities for academic researchers

digital-research-galeRecognizing the benefit of data analysis for the digital humanities field, Gale, part of Cengage Learning, will make available content from its Gale Digital Collections to academic researchers for data mining and textual analysis purposes.

Data mining and textual analysis–the process by which text or datasets are crawled by software that recognizes entities, relationships and action–can help researchers draw new conclusions among disparate data.

Data mining and textual analysis is also emerging as an important area of scholarly research, says the company.

“Gale is taking an important, industry-leading step by making content available for researchers in this way,” said Frank Menchaca, senior vice president for global product management at Gale. “Data mining coupled with our new curriculum alignment service, in which Gale maps an institution’s library resources to specific areas of faculty research and course focus, is helping our academic customers realize even more value for their investment with Gale.”

Gale explains that it will deliver content upon customer request and in a “cost-effective manner” for the use of data mining and textual analysis.

Content from most Gale Digital Collections, including essential research databases like Eighteenth Century Collections Online and Nineteenth Century Collections Online, as well as content from Gale’s newspaper archives and other collections will be made available.

In addition to content, Gale is offering new textual analysis tools within the digital archives to assist researchers who may not have programming experience or digital humanities programs at their institution. “Term cluster” and “term frequency” tools will sort through the text and index terms from the content, generating visual displays of information to help researchers easily identify relationships between words and phrases.

For questions or to speak with a Gale spokesperson, please contact Kristina Massari at kristina.massari@cengage.com. Interested customers may also contact their Gale representative for more information.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Community: Here’s what I’m thankful for in higher education

Students and professors at the University of Maryland, College Park discuss what they’re most thankful for in higher ed this Thanksgiving season

thankful-thanksgiving-education There’s been a lot of vitriol about higher education in the public and media lately, but for those students and professors on campus, there’s still a tremendous amount to be thankful for in the postsecondary world.

Whether looking at higher ed as a stepping-stone in student’s career paths, a chance to be exposed to new things, or as a place to make new friends, higher ed has brought several benefits for its community this Thanksgiving season.

What are you thankful for in higher education this holiday season? Leave your comments with the story or ping us on Twitter @ecampusnews.


With the economy not as healthy and robust, more students are looking at what else they can take out of their education besides their studies.

“I am most thankful for the work/experience opportunities—specifically getting a job before I graduate. The education I received within higher ed provided me with the return on investment I was seeking,” said Molly Garfinkle, student at UMDCP.

Likewise, for those students seeking employment, networking is among their top priorities.

“ I am definitely thankful for the connections that I’ve made. Specifically for me, being interested in Sports Journalism, Maryland’s sports journalism program has really helped me get my career jumpstarted. I’ve become very close with one of my professors, George Solomon, sports editor at Washington post and creator of Shirley Povich Sports Center here at the journalism school,” Oliver Macklin, journalism student at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMDCP), said.

(Next page: Thankful for diversity and chance to teach)


New White Paper Explores Evolving Student Retention Measurement Standards

Helix Education’s Chief Academic Officer Reinforces Need to Assess Student Behavior and Educational Environments in Light of Growing Post-Traditional Student Population

Salt Lake City, UT – November 20, 2014 – A new white paper published by Helix Education, a world class provider of student life cycle technologies and services, explores the way higher education has traditionally measured student retention and graduation rates, and the implication it is having on practice and policy. The white paper was written by the company’s Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Cherron Hoppes, who has spent a significant part of her career working with both public and private institutions supporting traditional undergraduates and non-traditional, working adults through degree completion.

“The bulk of the research up to now has focused on traditional first-time, full-time students, however, this group only represents 15 percent of students today and it isn’t growing nearly as fast the post-traditional (also known as non-traditional) student population,” said Dr. Hoppes. “We need to rethink the way we assess retention rates and what they really mean as we see more and more students who may not attend school in successive terms nor complete their degree at the same institution where they started their schooling. Under traditional measures, the outcomes of these post-traditional students and the institutions they attend are not adequately factored into the equation, likely skewing overall retention results and their meaning to the broader higher education community.”

Dr. Hoppes’ paper, “The New Metrics: Tracking Today’s Post-Traditional Students,” provides context for the consideration of retention and graduation rates as an indicator of institutional effectiveness and student success. Her insight and ideas are aimed at shaping a new approach to measuring these two factors, taking into account the kind of students that schools are enrolling and the kind of educational experiences that they are delivering.

Dr. Hoppes continued, “It is alarming that almost half of all students who enroll in higher education have no credential by the end of six-years. We need to go deeper and understand why. We need to be looking at external factors that make retention and graduation an important metric, the role of the institution in retaining and graduating students, and the complexities of student behavior. Only then can these measures have real meaning for everyone involved, from students, parents and educators, to employers, regulators and law makers.”

The white paper is available for free download.

About Helix Education
For over 25 years, Helix Education’s innovative technology platforms and data-driven Marketing and Enterprise Services have helped higher education institutions find, enroll, retain and teach students. Its configurable SaaS-based CRM, Helix Retain, delivers a robust, scalable and highly flexible solution to enable retention strategies unique to each institution’s needs and their students. Additionally, Helix LMS, the company’s comprehensive and SaaS-based online learning platform, is the only solution in higher education designed to deliver a single platform to serve competency-based, on-campus, online, or continuing education formats. Helix LMS was recognized by EDUCAUSE’s Next Generation Learning Challenges Grant and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a promising technology to support breakthrough learning models. With a deep bench of education industry innovators, Helix Education offers consulting, instructional design, program development, and more to support the different learning approaches currently being used and adopted by institutions. For more information, please visit www.HelixEducation.com.
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Saint Joseph Seminary College Selects Three Rivers Systems’ CAMS Enterprise as Its Higher Education ERP System

Cites automation of routine tasks, improved reporting capabilities, and productivity boosts as key decision criteria

St. Louis, MO: Saint Joseph Seminary College, a private four-year college and seminary located in St. Benedict, Louisiana, has selected Three Rivers Systems’ CAMS Enterprise as its new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The institution plans to use the software to improve processes, reduce paperwork and increase operational efficiencies. Saint Joseph Seminary College offers baccalaureate and pre-theology programs to full-time resident seminarians in preparation for graduate study in theology.

According to Rev. Charles Benoit, Academic Dean of Saint Joseph Seminary College, “Our previous homegrown management system was creating too many manual processes, piles of paperwork, and had limited reporting options. CAMS Enterprise opened our eyes to the benefit of a single, comprehensive solution. It will enable us to automate routine procedures, reduce paperwork, and boost the productivity of our operations. The software is easy to use, and its reporting capabilities will help us analyze and improve our processes to support our overall mission of committing seminarians to the Roman Catholic priesthood and lay ministries.”

Amir Tajkarimi, Founder and President of Three Rivers Systems, welcomed Saint Joseph to the CAMS Community. “We’re honored that Saint Joseph Seminary College has selected CAMS Enterprise its new student information system and ERP. The Seminary College offers seminarians a community experience of faith and learning that is steeped in the Benedictine tradition of promoting the development of the whole person. It has a lengthy history of serving the Gulf South region, as well as foreign-born seminarians and non-native speakers of English. Saint Joseph Seminary College is an impressive institution with a proud tradition of offering intellectual and spiritual growth to its students.”

Tajkarimi noted that Saint Joseph Seminary College joins a list of several other Catholic-based institutions that use CAMS Enterprise as their higher education ERP, including Marian University, Rivier University, Trocaire College, Marymount California University, Aquinas College, Presentation College, Villa Maria College, and Catholic Distance University.

About Three Rivers Systems, Inc.
Three Rivers Systems, Inc. is the only privately-held, independent provider of ERP software focused solely on higher education. Its ERP solution, CAMS Enterprise, is an easy-to-use, academic management system that manages the entire student lifecycle – admissions, registration, billing, financial aid, student services, fundraising, fiscal management, and HR/payroll. For more than 25 years from its St. Louis, MO headquarters, it has helped its higher education customers increase enrollment, improve student success, and boost campus-wide productivity.


Jim Clayman, Three Rivers Systems, Inc., Director of Marketing & Communications, 636-386-8616 x1501 (office), 636-395-9619 (mobile), jimc@ThreeRiversSystems.com

Products or service names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.


What it takes for cloud tech to become FERPA-compliant

Cloud solution industry giant discusses its new software’s features needed to meet applicable FERPA requirements

cloud-security-ferpaIn the recent wake of Apple’s Cloud security breach, as well as multiple security hacks into campuses across the country, cloud solutions providers are saying that the next step in cybersecurity means becoming independently-verified FERPA compliant.

Turning Technologies, a partner for learning engagement and assessment services, announced its latest release, TurningPoint Cloud, has been independently verified for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliance. The American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) issued an official letter of notice that TurningPoint Cloud successful addressed FERPA issues with relevance to the collection, use and protection of education records.

This compliance, independently verified, will hopefully usher in a new level of security for campus IT solutions.

“TurningPoint Cloud was proactively engineered with new security features, ensuring that sensitive information is accessed only by users with verified accounts and designated access encrypted files,” said Turning Technologies’ CEO Mike Broderick.  “As good stewards of data, we are committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our users, especially students.  Providing customers with compliant, independently verified solutions makes it easier for institutions to support FERPA policies.  Eliciting independent auditors to review our data protection practices is just one of the ways we provide tools that users can trust.”

Updated with new features, TurningPoint Cloud maintains its core functionality as a student response system, offering polling with PowerPoint®, over top of any application or self-paced mode for tests, evaluations and surveys.

Along with its availability for Mac or PC so that instructors can conduct real-time assessments to track progress, instantly view results and collect data, TurningPoint Cloud has now introduced the use of Turning Accounts, available for both instructors and students to leverage what the company says is secure, centralized cloud-based management of courses, rosters and assessment data safeguarded with a secure login and file encryption.

(The 8 FERPA compliance points and features needed)


9 design concepts for creating collaborative student spaces on campus

The next step in improving students’ experience in higher ed may be in rebuilding campus spaces for collaboration and data sharing

campus-spaces-designAccording to a new study, schools need to create layered, blended and personalized places that support a variety of interactions and digital platforms, rather than creating specialized spaces, such as computer labs.

Furthermore, the study found that mobility has transformed the way students learn, and therefore requires careful attention to physical spaces now more than ever.

This revelation may just be one of the factors to shed light not only on how student homes or spaces affect learning in the classroom at college, but also how students interact in common university spaces.

The study took place in G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons at Georgia Tech’s campus in Atlanta, where a user-oriented research collaboration between Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Herman Miller, Inc.’s Insight and Exploration teams looked at the “lived experience” of college students.

The aim of the study was to properly determine how learning styles affect the way some students interact in shared campus spaces.

“There were many studies out there of what happens within the formal learning stage [but] there are very few studies out there that focus on the learning that happens outside of the classroom. […] We thought it was really important to tell that story,” said Susan Whitmer, co-author of Does Space Matter?: Assessing the Undergraduate “Lived Experience to Enhance Learning.

Past literature on user experience, the language of place and space, the role of mobility and technology, the value of community building, and the effect of ambient noise provided clear connections between the effect of physical space and student behavior for the research team, of which was used to connect the dots.

However, what made this study unique was its empathetic approach to planning these spatial designs to encourage student interaction.

“It really is about being in the moment as opposed to being reflective, [and] making sure that you can get data right from the person at the moment that they are experiencing it. The experience is the most important part to understand […] the moment and how they are responding,” Whitmer said.

(Next page: 9 steps to personalized learning spaces)