Crestron introduces next-gen presentation systems

Company says new models speed and simplify system installations thanks to new automatic display and switching control

crestron-presentation-systemCrestron announced it is now shipping its new DMPS3-200-C and DMPS3-300-C all-in-one presentation systems.

With a built-in Crestron 3-Series Control System®, these next generation models aim to deliver performance and convenience in a network-grade appliance, said the company.

Faster processing, no programming
The DMPS3-200-C and DMPS3-300-C make installation and commissioning easy, says the company, especially since users can get a matrix switching system up and running without a laptop.

Go configure
Systems integrators can configure the DMPS3-200-C and DMPS3-300-C, including selection of display drivers,  from the optional pre-loaded TSW-750 touch screen, or from an iPad or computer. Users must answer a few questions; select a display, sources, icons, and text labels. Add wireless BYOD presentation capability by connecting a Crestron AirMedia™ device (AM-100) to the HDMI® port.

All-in-one
DMPS integrates the control system, multimedia matrix switcher, mic mixer, audio DSP, amplifier, and DigitalMedia distribution center into a single 3-space rackmount package. These new models also feature enhanced audio performance compared to the prior generation of DMPS, notes the company.

Built for the enterprise
According to Crestron, DMPS3-200-C and DMPS3-300-C deliver all the advanced features of the category-leading DMPS series and then up the ante with a powerful Crestron 3-Series Control System.

IP technology is the heart of the 3-Series Control System, notes Crestron. 3-Series® also delivers enterprise security through Active Directory. High-speed Ethernet connectivity enables integration with IP-controllable devices and allows the DMPS3-200-C and DMPS3-300-C to be part of a larger managed control network.

The Crestron 3-Series also includes:

  • Support for 802.1x authentication technology
  • Built-in BACnet IP support to help enable seamless integration with existing building management systems
  • Support for SIMPL# enables C# programmers to develop AV applications
  • High-speed, real-time multi-tasking to run up to ten programs simultaneously
  • A dramatic reduction in compile time

Learn more about how the DMPS family.

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6 reasons why institutions offer MOOCs—and whether or not they’re working

New research suggests that institutions offer MOOCs to reach many goals, but they’re often unmet

goals-MOOCs-institutionsAccording to a new report, there are six main reasons why institutions are offering MOOCs, but only two of them are actually working.

The report, conducted by Columbia University and Brown University, interviewed over 80 online learning and MOOC-knowledgeable administration and faculty from a wide range of colleges and universities to determine why institutions are offering MOOCs.

What the researchers found was that many of the reasons institutions list as the motivators behind MOOC offerings aren’t accomplishing intended goals, and there are often logistical considerations as to why these goals are going unmet.

According to the study, these are the six reasons institutions are offering MOOCs, as well as information on whether or not the goal is being met, and potential solutions to reach the goal:

1. Goal: To extend reach and access. According to the report, this goal was the most cited among administrators and faculty members (42 percent) from varying institutions as to why they offered MOOCs. Some institutions said they provided MOOCs to provide high-quality education to a global population, while others said they were trying to reach a specific population or solve a particular challenge relating to access.

Accomplished? No. Though many institutions have partnered with platforms like edX or Coursera to attract a larger number of participants, the report notes that even though enrollees are spread across different countries, “only a fraction of those who registered actually participated in the courses, and far fewer completed them.” Also, most enrollees are already “well educated, with only a small fraction of these participants fully engaged with the courses.” One barrier to access, says the report, is available infrastructure and internet bandwidth across cultures. Another barrier is that education “is more complex than simply providing access to content,” and pedagogy must also be considered.

Solutions: If the goal is to better democratize education, institutions must accurately document the level and diversity of participation in their program both before and after offering MOOCs, said the report. Institutions must also identify multiple channels of communication to reach potential recruits. For example, they may need to use social media networks and advertise through high schools, employment agencies, or community organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Accreditation agencies and state education departments must also review and revise regulations to accommodate online offerings that reach beyond local confines.

2. Goal: To build and maintain a brand. Institutions (41 percent) said that MOOCs, just like other branding, can serve to retain students, faculty members, and increase partnership opportunities with funders, other institutions, and alumni networks.

Accomplished? Currently unknown. The report’s participants said that many institutions are currently trying to determine how to measure MOOC’s branding effectiveness.

Solutions: Institutions are already starting to compare historical data on applications and admission with post-MOOC statistics. Institutions must also be aware of where the brand actually lies; for example, do participants opt for a course because it is on a particular platform or because it is offered by a particular university? The report notes that some participants said that “as MOOC platform providers such as edX and Coursera open their platforms to a wider range of institutions, some of the initial cachet of belonging to these consortia is being lost.”

(Next page: Reasons 3-6)

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College creates digital teaching certificate for professors

New ‘Digital Drivers License’ aims to help prepare instructors to teach digital natives

digital-teaching-certificateThe School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA) at Saint Mary’s College has announced the launch of a Digital Driver’s License (DDL) program, aimed at ensuring quality of hybrid and online courses.

The  new initiative is designed to help professors navigate what the college explains are the challenges of teaching online courses, as well as ensure all faculty in the school’s hybrid online programs are certified as “digitally proficient” teachers for today’s virtual classroom.

The goal of the DDL program is to prepare experienced educators in the school’s MBA programs–some of whom are more accustomed to teaching in traditional face-to-face classroom settings–how to effectively engage and interact with today’s generation of online students, who are often described as digital natives.

“Saint Mary’s has a unique teaching mission, and the DDL helps insure that mission is carried into the new and rapidly expanding frontier of online education,” said Management Professor Barry Eckhouse, who directs the new program. “The DDL is a distinctive example of professional development that digitally empowers our already outstanding faculty and prepares them for a very different kind of educational environment, and some would argue, a different kind of student.”

The program’s coursework requires faculty use of a new digital media center specifically designed for the initiative. It includes instruction in managing virtual interactions, real-time voice-enabled web conferencing and virtual breakout groups, and online discussion sessions.

Participants will also develop proficiency in producing new media content, such as podcasts, digital voice grading and creating virtual learning exercises using 3D tools similar to those used in the development of electronic games and computer simulations.

After completing the coursework, faculty members will receive a DDL certificate acknowledging their pedagogical abilities as online educators.

“As more online programs emerge in the MBA marketplace, including MOOCs, institutions that distinguish themselves with online offerings must clearly show that their professors have the ability to teach in both four wall classrooms and the online environment,” said SEBA Dean Zhan Li. “The Digital Driver’s License program reflects the College’s student-centered tradition and teaching mission and provides assurance to our students that professors who instruct online are certified to teach in the virtual environment.”

Approximately 34 faculty members are expected to earn their Digital Driver’s License over a two-year period. Faculty in the program include professors in the school’s Hybrid Executive MBA, M.S. in Accounting and M.S. in Financial Analysis and Investment Management programs.

The program begins Nov. 17, 2014.

For more information about SEBA’s Digital Driver’s License contact Professor Eckhouse at (925) 631-4262 or by email at beckhous@stmarys-ca.edu.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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University of Maryland DOTS Selects StorTrends to Support its High-Demand Virtual Environment

StorTrends High Performance Storage Serves as the Core of the University’s Transportation Services Virtualized Infrastructure

NORCROSS, Ga. – November 4, 2014 –StorTrends® today announced that the University of Maryland’s Department of Transportation Services (DOTS) has selected StorTrends high-performance storage arrays to be the core of its newly implemented virtual infrastructure. With StorTrends, the university’s DOTS organization is able to achieve ultra-high storage performance, true storage tiering, data deduplication and archiving, with a user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) at a very reasonable price.

Serving over 37,000 students and 13,000 staff (not to mention hundreds of daily visitors), the University of Maryland’s DOTS in College Park, MD is responsible for the day-to-day management of every single campus parking spot and the university’s fleet of more than 60 Shuttle-UM transit service vehicles. To support these valued student services, DOTS uses a number of innovative technology solutions to help streamline key processes, such as the management of university parking permits. The University of Maryland DOTS was among the first campuses in the country to implement a virtual permit system, which uses the vehicle’s license plate as its permit. To support this process, it uses license plate recognition cameras which are mounted to enforcement trucks to scan license plates to ensure they are properly parked in the correct lots. After analyzing the data in real-time, the system can alert operators when it fails to find a license plate match so that a citation can be issued.

The elegant parking enforcement system requires a healthy amount of storage capacity and performance to remain at optimal productivity. To support the environment, the University of Maryland DOTS has recently virtualized 90% of its infrastructure using VMware. Today, the environment is comprised of 17 VMware ESX virtual servers, two physical HP servers and several Microsoft SQL databases to support DOTS-specific shared drives and directories, the DOTS website and a host of other applications and systems, including its parking permit operations.

Until recently, the organization used a more expensive SAN solution that lacked a GUI that was easy to navigate and use. As storage capacity requirements for the DOTS system continued to explode, the organization determined that a more cost-efficient storage solution was required. The new solution needed to deliver major enterprise-class features all with a GUI that was simple to use. That’s when the University of Maryland DOTS discovered StorTrends.

“StorTrends was the perfect fit for my environment,” said Tim Robinson, DOTS IT Coordinator and Systems Administrator, University of Maryland Department of Transportation Services. “They had literally every single feature I was looking for: tiered storage, data dedupe and archiving, innovative data replication and WAN optimization – everything. Then, when I got the final bid, I was literally blown away. I couldn’t believe I was getting all of this capability for the price on the SOW.”

Since implementing StorTrends, the University of Maryland DOTS has migrated its VM LUNS from their legacy storage array to the StorTrends solution. The process has been seamless, eased by the highly usable GUI and VMware Plugin. Now the department benefits from exceptional processing speeds and hasn’t even come close to touching top-end CPU/memory. Future plans for the department include purchasing additional StorTrends storage arrays to support a secondary disaster recovery site.

“StorTrends is ideally suited for organizations like the University of Maryland DOTS that have a high demand virtual infrastructure which needs reasonably-priced enterprise-class storage,” said Justin Bagby, Director of StorTrends. “There is no reason that an organization needs to compromise on performance or functionality just to meet budget restrictions. With StorTrends we pack in all the features organizations need while keeping costs low.”

To read more about the University of Maryland DOTS, and other StorTrends customers, visit: http://www.stortrends.com/resources/customer-stories/

Tweet this: University of Maryland DOTS selects @StorTrends to support its high-demand virtual environment
Twitter: https://twitter.com/StorTrends
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About StorTrends
StorTrends® from American Megatrends is Performance Storage with Proven Value. StorTrends SAN and NAS storage appliances are installed worldwide and trusted by companies and institutions in a wide range of industries including education, energy, finance, state & local government, healthcare, manufacturing, marketing, retail, R&D and many more. StorTrends meets the challenges and demands of today’s business environments by offering a wide variety of solutions from All-Flash Storage, Hybrid Storage to Spinning Disk Solutions. StorTrends is backed by 1,100+ Customer Installations, 100+ Storage Patents and nearly 30 Years of IT Leadership from a company that millions or people trust on a daily basis, American Megatrends, Inc.

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Online course evaluation software gets tailored for administrators

New user interface, dashboard aims to improve access and ease-of-use for administration 

online-course-evaluationEvaluationKIT, a provider of enterprise online course evaluation and survey software for higher education institutions, is bringing real-time analytics and alerts to the student feedback process, says the company, with the goal of increasing accessibility for administrators.

Through newly released dashboard, navigation and design functionality, administrators and instructors can more readily access relevant information anywhere, anytime, noted the company.

“By streamlining the overall usability of our system, we’ve enhanced the way institutions collect and access data so they can make timely continuous improvement decisions based on student feedback,” said Kevin Hoffman, president and CEO of EvaluationKIT. “Through our improved user interface, we’ve further modernized and simplified the online course evaluation experience by making information more accessible, meeting the on-the-go needs of users, and making the entire process even easier to manage.”

According to the company, a new customizable and more engaging dashboard allows for faster access to “key information,” analytics and alerts. For example, upon login administrators can instantly view operational metrics and results specific to the areas they oversee. Survey responses can be monitored and summarized so that they can keep tabs on overall response rates, daily submissions and real-time activity.

Within the system, administrators and instructors can discuss student feedback, and alerts will display on the dashboard when new postings are added. Additionally, while taking a survey students now have the option to send alerts directly to the administration or an instructor if they would like to be contacted separately about their experience.

EvaluationKIT’s new “responsive design” aims to bring convenience to all users, noted the company, allowing for access from any device type. Students can complete their course evaluations from desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones using either their web browser or free mobile apps from EvaluationKIT. Additionally, administrators are also able to check on the status of projects and access survey results from any device.

“The EvaluationKIT system has always been easy to use, and these latest enhancements will make the operational processes even more streamlined for our administrators and faculty,” said Eric Friedman, director of Boston University’s Office of Distance Education. “Moreover, we feel it’s important for the systems we use to keep evolving as technology evolves and for the user experience to become more intuitive and graphical in its presentation. EvaluationKIT does a great job at continuing to release valuable enhancements every year. We have been very impressed with the work they put into this most recent release.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Must-have capabilities in a campus network upgrade

Illinois State University discusses what’s needed to support thousands of devices; faculty collaboration

mobile-network-illinoisA new network is helping one university connect more than 30,000 mobile and wireless devices to boost collaboration in academic programs.

Illinois State University, which has begun deployment of a campus-wide Aruba 802.11ac-based network, says the gigabit Wi-Fi infrastructure will help securely connect the mobile and wireless devices being used on campus and allow faculty to incorporate a wide range of education technologies.

The implementation began as a response to complaints about coverage—a similar problem facing many institutions across the country.

Illinois State’s Administrative Technologies department had been receiving complaints about their existing network’s coverage, reliability and speed, especially in sections of the campus with extreme device density.

“Some students today are bringing up to five mobile and wireless devices each onto campus,” Johnston said. “From laptops, tablets and smartphones to televisions, Blu-ray players, gaming systems and printers, there is truly an explosion of devices trying to access the network. Our students expect their devices to work anywhere on campus, and to work as well as they do on their home networks.”

“One of the main issues was quality control,” explained Ryan Johnston, interim director of Infrastructure, Operations and Networking for Illinois State. “We had to revert back to older versions of code and we were not able to run the latest version of code due to that. So we were looking to go to a vendor that had a little more stable code base to work from. We needed a reliable vendor that had reliable support.”

In order to address those concerns and improve network access for students, faculty, staff and guests, Illinois State decided to replace its Meru Networks wireless infrastructure with an upgrade. After a thorough review of options, including Aruba and Cisco, Illinois State selected Aruba’s 802.11ac solution, considering the solution’s ability to handle increasingly high device density and quickly authenticate device connections on a multi-vendor network, said the University.

The University will migrate to the new Aruba infrastructure over the next three years.

(Next page: Implementation benefits faculty, too)

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Are STEM mentors really helping students?

New study reveals STEM mentors are not always as effective as they could be

STEM-mentor-research[Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect more accurate details]

Growing institutional pressures on faculty time may be causing STEM graduate students to complete programs without accurate assessments of their skills.

According to a new study, STEM students in graduate programs do not perceive their strengths and weaknesses in alignment with their mentors. Furthermore, faculty mentors do not always accurately assess their students’ skills. The reason, say researchers, is that in some cases, college and university pressures on faculty rarely allow for accurate alignment of student assessment with skill.

This revelation may be just one of many factors that not only shed light on the increasing pressures on faculty time, but also why many STEM students—specifically women and minorities—either never obtain their doctorate or can’t sustain a career post-graduation.

The study is part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) grant-funded research on STEM research teaching, conducted by lead researcher David Feldon, associate professor of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State and director of the university¹s STE2M Center, and is an area most researchers haven’t yet examined, he said.

“Graduate education is the least examined program, yet graduate students are given tremendous roles to fill, such as teachers, innovators, and scientists,” said Feldon. “It’s time this program received a lot more attention and focus.”

Taking the first steps in what Feldon hopes will lead to further and in-depth (using performance-based data) research on STEM graduate education practices in the future, the study documented students’ perceptions of their skills, faculty mentors’ perceptions of students’ skills, and then measured students’ actual skills through performance-based data.

What the study found was that, when compared against performance-based assessments of mentees’ work, neither faculty mentors’ nor their mentees’ perceptions aligned with rubric scores at rates greater than chance in most categories.

In other words, students and mentors can’t accurately assess students’ skills.

(Next page: Why perceptions aren’t aligning to actual performance; solutions)

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Major companies partner to help improve student outcomes

Chegg and Blackboard Learn partner to provide students learning tools designed to increase retention and graduation rates

blackboard-chegg-retentionChegg, Inc., the Student Hub, and Blackboard Inc. have announced a partnership that will allow Chegg’s self-directed learning services–Chegg Study, Chegg Tutors, and Chegg Career Center–to be accessible within Blackboard Inc.’s teaching and learning environment.

According to Chegg’s own user research, 87 percent of students said Chegg Study helped them better understand their homework and 75 percent said it better prepared them for exams.

“Blackboard and Chegg share a commitment to improving student outcomes through high-quality and affordable learning services designed to improve academic and career outcomes,” said Nathan Schultz, Chegg’s chief learning officer. “Together, we believe we can deliver powerful learning services to the millions of learners and teachers that Blackboard supports through their innovative learning solutions.”

Chegg’s self-directed learning solutions will now be available for faculty and students to use directly from within the Blackboard learning environment. Universities leverage Blackboard solutions to create collaborative learning environments for students and provide a platform where instructors can create and assign projects, keep track of lesson progress by student, and assist students in their coursework, said Blackboard.

“Together, we are working towards a goal shared by students, institutions, faculty, Blackboard and Chegg: better outcomes and higher graduation rates,” said Jim Hermens, vice president of content partnerships at Blackboard. “By providing schools with the opportunity to integrate Chegg Study’s supplemental learning services into our learning environment, students will be in a better position to master their coursework, persist in their schooling, and ultimately be able to graduate at higher rates than they do today.”

For more information about the partnership contact press@chegg.com.

This material is from a press release.

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6 apps that block social media distractions

Anti-distraction apps aim to create a more focused and efficient course, classroom, or study session

apps-distraction-students

[Editor’s Note: There is a more recent version of this article which includes new apps that block mobile distractions here.]

A collection of apps, lauded by educators and students alike, are helping to solve one of education’s biggest tech-related pet peeves: unnecessary distraction.

As mobile initiatives and social media implementation gain steam in college and university courses, the biggest complaint among educators is lack of student concentration—and students agree.

Industry has taken note with the creation of apps that block students from certain sites deemed unnecessarily distracting.

One popular app among college students is SelfControl.

The free Mac OS X application lets users choose specific sites to block under a “blacklist” for a set amount of time, the max being 24 hours. Taking functionality a step further, founding developer Charlie Stigler, created the app without loopholes or cheat escapes. Users can attempt to restart their computers, delete the app, et cetera, but no action will affect the remaining time for the blocked sites.

University of Maryland, College Park (UMDCP), student Cindy Rosales only trusts SelfControl to help her avoid distracting websites. “It’s very easy for me to get distracted on social networks or online shopping. SelfControl was a great app that really disciplined me, while also rewarding me for the time I studied diligently,” she said.

Concerning usability, the app comes with no tutorials, and  runs  what the company says is a user-friendly interface that consists of a button to add the URL’s of the sites users want blocked, a slider bar timer, and a start button to begin the block. The app also has no installation requirement.

However, the app does come with its caveat. While it promotes a basic interface, it is not compatible with PC’s. Furthermore, there is still no mobile version that can be used on iPhones or Androids.

(Next page: 5 apps against distraction)

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New tool for managing open access

Wiley’s online tool aims to automate account administration for open access funds

dashboard-wiley-openJohn Wiley & Sons, Inc. has launched the Wiley Open Access Account Dashboard, an online tool that aims to simplify management of open access funds for institutions and funders.

In what the company says is a first for a global publisher, the dashboard provides funder and institutional customers with “complete control” over their open access funds online.

“Any time, any where customers can log-in online and view and make decisions on their account,” said Natasha White, associate marketing director and author engagement at Wiley. “The Dashboard gives them control of all payment requests, allowing customers to review and approve or deny payment requests from authors who have selected their institution or funder account to pay their article publication charges (APC). Customers can also query payment requests and make an online note with Wiley before approving or denying. When approved the payment is added or deducted from their account.”

There are over 42 Wiley Open Access Account holders who pay open access charges on behalf of their authors publishing with Wiley. Until now, the processing of payments for these account holders was completed manually. Each request was submitted individually to the publisher and sent onto the account holder for decision. The Wiley Open Access Account Dashboard reduces this administrative burden and provides account holders with the tools they need to manage and report on their open access funds, notes the company.

“The Account Dashboard automates account administration, making it more efficient by enabling customers to manage their accounts online,” noted the company.

The Dashboard, explained White, was developed with funders and institutions in mind. Many funders require the published output of funded research to be made freely available. Funders also provide monies to institutions for open access payments. As a result, institutions are under increasing pressure to manage and report on article publication charges for open access publications.

Wiley’s open access technology simplifies this process and ensures transparency, said the company. The Dashboard’s reporting function generates statements that include historical payments, the articles funding sources and any discounts provided by Wiley. The Dashboard also enables account holders to check their account balance, top up account funds, and receive email reminders for reports and payments.

“The Wiley Open Access Account Dashboard…gives an aggregate view of all open access papers they have funded,” said Rachel Burley, Wiley vice president and director of Open Access said. “We designed the site in consultation with our customers and so it is expressly intended to save them time by making open access fund management and reporting automated, fast and simple.”

Instead of copying and pasting the details into an Excel sheet or requesting the information from Wiley this information is stored online in the Dashboard; when a customer wants a full report for a specific time period, they can click to download into Excel.

“I like to compare it to the launch of your online bank account: instead of waiting for a monthly statement you can go online, do various actions to manage your payments and see your bank statement online in real time. Customers can also receive regular reports on a monthly basis and edit their account information such as an email address for alerts. When they see that their funds are getting low customers can click and request to receive a top up invoice,” White said.

So that their customers can make informed decisions, the Dashboard allows them to download spend reports from the dashboard and into Excel, said the company. Then, they can merge this with other reports to give an overview of open access spend, as well as allowing for reporting back to both funders and managers.

The Account Dashboard is now available for all Wiley Open Access Account holders.

Hayley Goodman contributed to this press release. Goodman is an editorial intern with eCampus News.

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