Student-led TEDx aims to bridge curricular gap

Undergraduate students launch TEDx on campus to discuss blending science with art–and why it’s important.

Bentley-coalescence-tedxWith growing pressure for students to focus on STEM, pioneering undergraduate students from one university recently decided to focus not just on science, but on a “coalescence” of science and art–a topic so critical, said the students, that it warranted a self-made TEDx summit.

Bentley University hosted its first TEDx event on Saturday March 28, 2015. Not only was it unique in that it was the first, but it also was organized entirely by undergraduate students.

TEDxBentleyU featured 13 speakers, including the founder of clothing retailer Johnny Cupcakes Johnny Earle, Boston Globe Reporter Bob Ryan, Bentley faculty members and recent alumni.


Inspired after watching TED talks in his New Product Development and Marketing class, Kevin Ma (’15) decided to apply for a license in May 2014 for Bentley to host its own TEDx event. Once the license was approved at the start of the school year, Ma and 15 undergraduate peers, all members of a newly appointed TEDxBentleyU board, came together with the guidance of a faculty advisor, Natural Sciences Professor David Szymanski, to organize the day-long conference.

(Next page: The importance of “coalescence”)


On classroom tech policy

On the first day of a face-to-face class, I read my syllabus aloud, which includes my policy regarding technology in the classroom. As if it were some kind of old-fashioned essay, the policy is titled “On Technology,” but it should be titled “Anti-Technology.” “During class time,” the policy begins, “every electronic device must be turned off.” We use the computer and projector at the front of the room, but the technology my students are allowed to use at their desks is pens and paper (fitting with the old-fashioned theme). Quills and inkwells would be more readily acceptable than anything invented in our lifetime.

After I read each section of the syllabus aloud to the class, I usually put it down and talk “off the record” about why the policy is written. After “On Technology,” I say something like this: “If computers are on in the classroom, you’re on Facebook. If your phones are on your desks, you’re texting. I don’t blame you for it; it’s just the way we live now. If technology is at our fingertips, we’re living our new-media lives, and whatever we do together as a class is compromised.”

In the syllabus for my online classes, there is no “On Technology” essay, and of course I have no idea what my students are doing in front of their computer screens. They could be texting, Tweeting, and Facebooking all at once. Perhaps they’re at work, or watching TV, or eating dinner, or all three. Their attention could be divided between all the windows open in their browser—or the windows in their house for that matter, as distraction doesn’t only come in the form of electronics. Perhaps they’re distracted by something terribly old-fashioned, like nesting birds on a budding branch in unseasonably warm sunshine.

Is what we do as a class compromised as a result? No.

Off the record, what do I take from this? It’s the one aspect of online education that is not just different but opposed to face-to-face classes. In the classroom, it’s my policy that their student persona must not allow for electronic distraction. It’s an old-fashioned vision of a classroom, for better or worse. (I should mention that I haven’t changed my “On Technology” policy for face-to-face classes.) In online education, however, if I don’t have a statement against electronic multi-tasking, I implicitly condone it. I wouldn’t say my class is “Pro-Technology” in that it encourages Tweeting, texting, and doing schoolwork all at once, but for the first time in my teaching life, I can say I’m “Non-Anti-Technology.” I must say, it feels like progress.


How to apply game-based learning to course curriculum

Two leading researchers of game-based learning discuss best practices for enriching course curriculum through the integration of consumer games.

educational-game-designEducation-specific games are not the best way to incorporate games into curricula—a sentiment perhaps unexpected by an avid game-based learning professor.

This is just one of several tips given by experts in the higher-ed game-based learning field. eCampus News recently sat down with two leading researchers in the field of game-based learning to discuss best practices for enriching course curriculum by using consumer games to demonstrate and assess key concepts.

Sherry Jones is a Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Game Studies Instructor at the University of Colorado, Denver, and the Creator and Facilitator of the Game Studies track for the Metagame Book Club, supported by ISTE’s Games and Simulations Network. Karen Novak is an instructional designer for online learning at Front Range Community College in Westminster, CO, and chair of ISTE’s Special Interest Group for Virtual Environments.

Here are their top five tips for successful game-based learning:

(Next page: 5 tips)


Admissions officers feel pressured to accept these students

Survey says admissions officers feel pressured to accept well-connected, less qualified students. But things are about to change, thanks to FERPA.

admissions-accept-studentsAs millions of college applicants begin to receive word about where they may enter as freshmen this fall, a new Kaplan Test Prep survey of admissions officers at 400 colleges and universities explores the question: is the admissions process rigged for the well-connected applicant?

According to Kaplan’s survey, 25 percent of admissions officers say they have “felt pressured to accept an applicant who didn’t meet your school’s admissions requirements because of who that applicant was connected to.”

The survey also found that 16 percent of college admissions officers say applicants to their school who are the children or sibling of alumni have an advantage over those who aren’t.

(Next page: An “open secret” and why it’s not uncommon)


Does website capability signal the future of higher-ed tech?

University says its collective mindset toward progressive technology speaks to a positive, growing trend in higher ed.

CSULB-website-accessibilityCalifornia State University, Long Beach (CSULB) today announced its recent launch of a redesigned website, with capabilities that signal a shift in higher ed  from being limited by the status quo to proactively seeking to meet students’ wants and needs when it comes to their digital presence, says the University.

Accessed more than 500,00 times a month, the CSULB website is one of the most visited sites in all of Long Beach, says CSULB.

The impetus for the redesign was to make the higher-ed experience more accessible for students and prospective students, and to embrace flexible technology that can grow alongside the university and its evolving needs.

In order to accomplish these goals, the new site was built with responsive design, meaning it automatically scales to fit a variety of devices—desktop, tablet or smart phone. Other changes include a makeover of the homepage design, a new content management system, accessibility compliance, a digital style guide and multiple language feature. The homepages for the Shark Lab, University Art Museum and the 49er Bookstore were redone as well.

 (Next page: The tech behind the website and the importance of accessibility)


Performance-based funding could disrupt community colleges

A new report on performance-based funding reveals potential downfalls that could disrupt community colleges in the long run.

performance-based-fundingPerformance-based funding (PBF) has become progressively utilized in order to reward higher education institutions for their success in enhancing student advancement and completion, but may have some critical drawbacks.

Data has increasingly shown that performance-based funding  may cause some undesirable side-effects, such as more prestigious schools only admitting students who are likely to graduate, while institutions that serve a greater number of disadvantaged students fall even further behind without the additional funding.

Still, 35 states have already taken steps to adopt PBF initiatives. Texas adopted PBF for the state’s 50 community colleges in 2013, and their Student Success Points Model gives funding based on student achievement of intermediate performance metrics, such as completing developmental coursework or passing college-level gatekeeper courses; as well as key milestones such as earning a certificate or associate degree, or having students transfer to four-year universities.

For each of those “success points,” the state awards $185 to each college. While this money currently only accounts for 10 percent of state funding, some are proposing to increase the pool to 25 percent of funding for colleges.

Dr. Lyle McKinney and Dr. Linda Serra Hagedorn conducted a study on this policy and reported their findings on ACE’s Higher Education Today blog. The study “retroactively applied each of the success point metrics from Texas’ PBF model to a cohort of 5,900 first-time-in-college students who entered a large, ethnically diverse, urban community college system in Texas in fall 2007,” and then tracked their progress across the next 6 academic years in order “to understand which students would procure little, or no, PBF for the college during their time of enrollment.”

(Next page: learn about the findings of the study and how they reflect on PBF)


School launches first-in-the-nation tuition matching program

Initiative aims to make legal education more affordable and expands Pace Law’s national recruitment.

law-Pace-tuitionPace Law School recently unveiled a first-in-the-nation tuition matching program designed to make legal education more accessible to students across the country.The School also announced a tuition freeze for 2015/16 academic year.

The program, which aims to save students tens of thousands of dollars, enables qualified students from throughout the U.S. to enroll at Pace Law at the in-state tuition rate of their home state; allowing those students for whom a legal education in New York might be out of reach.The new tuition matching program will begin with the 2015/16 academic year.

“The affordability of education has become a critical issue, and this program is a unique approach to making a first-rate legal education more accessible to students across the country,” said Pace Law School Dean David Yassky. “Law school enrollment has declined in recent years even as complex legal issues are becoming an increasingly common part of today’s business environment. This initiative will provide a broader population of students with a roadmap for successfully entering the legal field without the crushing weight of unmanageable debt.”

(Next page: How the tuition-match will work)