New commission will explore higher-ed finance models

Bipartisan panel will explore finance models that promote innovation, expand capacity to serve all students.

finance-HEDIncreasing pressure on state budgets, along with changing student demographics and new academic models arising from advances in teaching and learning, create both opportunities and challenges for American higher education.

However, without creative new funding policies that expand access to meaningful educational opportunities beyond high school, including increased access made possible by wise use of existing public funds and by partnerships that generate greater private investment, the nation could fall short of the educated population it needs.

To address the need for innovative new ideas, the University of Virginia’s Miller Center has announced the creation of a nonpartisan National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education.

(Next page: 4 potential areas with promise for higher-ed funding)


Can technology reshape adult education?

National survey of adult educators shows opportunity for instructional technology to dramatically improve and expand adult basic education.

adult-educationA national survey of stakeholders from across the adult education ecosystem finds enthusiasm and desire for instructional technologies among those serving the nation’s underprepared adult learners.

An overwhelming majority of surveyed adult education administrators and practitioners – 86 percent – believe technology solutions can effectively support instruction.

“Learning for Life: The Opportunity for Technology to Transform Adult Education” is the first of two papers exploring the effective use of advanced learning technologies in adult education and presents findings from the national survey. Published by Tyton Partners with support from the Joyce Foundation and in partnership with the Commission on Adult Basic Education, the paper is available for free download here.

“Ed-tech funding was at a record high in 2014 as investors and businesses chase the promise for technology to make a transformative impact on student learning and achievement in preK-12, postsecondary and corporate and professional learning environments,” said Adam Newman, co-founder and managing partner at Tyton Partners in Boston and co-author of the new research report. “We need the same level of zeal, creativity, and resources applied to solutions supporting the significant number of underprepared adults.”

(Next page: Top findings from the survey)


Professor: Here’s what I learned from SXSWedu

From learning VERSUS career outcomes to learning AND career outcomes.

career-sxsw-professorThere was one contradictory trend at this year’s SXSWedu that’s quickly becoming a hot topic for many colleges and universities.

This year’s SXSWedu—a Conference and Festival invites educators from different spaces—featured high profile opening and closing speakers such as Charles Best, founder of, Goldie Hawn and Sal Khan, as well as a lineup of programming centered around the themes of social and mobile learning, entrepreneurialism in education and big data and learning analytics, among others.

As I reflect back on the conference, there were some contradictory trends that I noticed which made me pause and reflect on my role as a faculty member in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.

While some presentations (Disrupting the Disruption in Higher Education) looked at prioritizing job skills in higher education as potentially “anti-intellectual,” Matt Sigelman from Burning Glass Technologies (Not Just Learning Outcomes, Career Outcomes) presented how to stronger align higher education with job and career-aligned skills. The ideas he presented ranged from “evolutionary” steps such as adding external experiences to existing degrees (e.g., an anthropology student gaining robust Excel skills to make oneself more marketable) to revolutionary or “disruptive” ways such as organizing existing courses into new programs customized for specific market opportunities.

(Next page: Making sense of the dichotomy between education and training)


Rethinking the university portal

How to take the student portal from intranet to revenue generator.

university-web-portalColleges and universities are businesses, and like all successful companies, they need to present and maintain a positive brand image. Many universities have nurtured their “distinguished” brands for decades, but a budding trend among lesser known institutions to promote a stronger brand image has now exploded, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of institutions that are willing to invest significant time and money in brand management.

Why is this occurring now? Well-executed branding leads to increased retention rates, increased applications, and higher perceived value. What many institutions fail to realize, however, is that they don’t need to make a major new investment in order to begin promoting their brand. They likely already have the key tool for doing this: their student portal.

Typically used for class registration, grades, assignments, campus news, etc., this “enterprise portal” is really a gateway to a complete brand experience that can increase engagement and loyalty and increase the perceived value of the institution far beyond the existing student body. A recent University of Massachusetts Dartmouth study concludes that an effective and intuitive website should be considered the “ultimate brand statement for an institution” and that the portal should reinforce the brand image with seamlessly integrated customized applications.

(Next page: 6 essential steps to customizing your student portal)


MIT to release new online homework review system

Online homework system clusters similar student programs together, so instructors can identify broad trends.


A screenshot of the OverCode user interface. The top left panel shows the number of clusters, called stacks, and the total number of solutions visualized. The next panel down in the first column shows the largest stack; the second column shows the remaining stacks. The third column shows the lines of code occurring in the cleaned solutions of the stacks together with their frequencies. (Courtesy of the researchers)

In computer-science classes, homework assignments consist of writing programs. It’s easy to create automated tests that determine whether a given program yields the right outputs to a series of inputs.

But those tests say nothing about whether the program code is clear or confusing, whether it includes unnecessary computation, and whether it meets the terms of the assignment.

Professors and teaching assistants review students’ code to try to flag obvious mistakes, but even in undergraduate lecture courses, they usually don’t have time for exhaustive analysis. And that problem is much worse in online courses, with thousands of students, each of whom might have approached a problem in a slightly different way.

In April, at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, MIT researchers will present a new system that automatically compares students’ solutions to programming assignments, lumping together those that use the same techniques.

(Next page: In-depth detail about how the system functions)


5 skills of successful online faculty

New study discusses the skills and motivations of qualified online faculty in order to prevent burnout, inefficiency.


Not all faculty are created equal for online learning, argues a new report.

In the midst of low retention rates and lingering perceptions of faculty around the quality of online learning, it’s never been more important to identify what makes effective, and motivated, online faculty, says Dr. Lisa Marie Portugal, education professor at the University of Phoenix.

Knowing what skills and motivations are needed by online faculty “may be useful to stakeholders such as administrators, faculty mentors, faculty trainers, and faculty interested in employment in the modality so that identifiable and realistic criteria may be available upon which to base future hiring standards, employment practices, training, and decisions about teaching online,” she explained. “Insights about procedures and practices have been identified that may be effective in helping to develop initial training programs, faculty mentor supports, administrative decisions, and on-going faculty training.

Using phenomenological data (qualitative analysis of narrative data) from 12 online faculty with three or more years of experience in online teaching at many institutions, Portugal’s report highlights 5 skills all online faculty should possess, as well as how these skills differ from traditional skills, and factors that could lead to job burnout.

(Next page: 5 skills and how they differ from traditional skills)


4 critical areas in higher education that get the least support

A new report highlights the four student need areas two-year MSIs serve; discusses need for support and growth.

MSI-MSIsAccording to new research, two-year minority-serving institutions (MSIs), which are tasked with educating students-in-need, are given the fewest resources.

This revelation is concerning, say researchers, since MSIs are uniquely positioned to play an important role in educational attainment and the workforce, according to On Their Own Terms: Two-Year Minority Serving Institutions, a new report examining MSIs’ potential for students and society.

A large number of all students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities attend two-year MSIs. In fact, two-year MSIs enroll 30 percent of Hispanics/Latinos, 26 percent of Pacific Islanders,
22 percent of Asian Americans, 12 percent of American Indians, 10 percent of blacks/African
Americans, and 6 percent of whites.

Two-year MSIs “linger in the shadows of American higher education research,” the authors note, adding that four-year colleges and universities receive the majority of research attention, and when that attention does turn to two-year institutions, MSIs are not always placed in their own category.

(Next page: What research reveals about two-year MSIs)


Study: This is why mobile is king on campus

Annual report on digital study trends reveals major jump in college students’ use of mobile tech.

mobile-technology-campusMobile use among college students is on the rise, and has jumped 40 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to new research released by McGraw-Hill Education.

The second annual report, “The Impact of Technology on College Student Study Habits,” conducted by McGraw-Hill Education and Hanover Research, found that 81 percent of students included in the study use mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) to study, the second most popular device category behind laptops and up 40 percent year over year.

Of the different types of learning technologies available, surveyed students found that adaptive learning technologies were the most effective, with 85 percent indicating a moderate or major improvement in grades.

(Next page: What the study found about mobile technology’s impact on student learning)


Chalk & Wire aligns assessment platform with LMS offerings

Upgrades offer a smooth and efficient data entry process between ePortfolio and institutions’ LMS tools

LMS-assessmentChalk & Wire has unveiled a newly upgraded ePortfolio Connect Server (EPCS) to smooth accessibility and eliminate duplicate data entry between the company’s industry-leading assessment platform and top learning management systems (LMS).

LTI 1.1 certified, Chalk & Wire’s EPCS provides a secure intermediary service between institutions’ LMS and Chalk & Wire. New EPCS features include support for universities using multiple LMS platforms, along with other intuitive functions that help improve the process of connecting various technology platforms.

“Saving students and faculty valuable time, the deep integration between Chalk & Wire’s assessment platform and our LMS helps us offer a more seamless learning experience,” said Mike Mathews, CIO, Oral Roberts University.

Next page: New benefits in the ePortfolio-LMS alignment