Google embeds engineers as professors

Efforts to diversify Silicon Valley lead Google to pair engineers with minority students.

google-engineersHoward University freshman Alanna Walton knew something was different about the professor teaching her introduction to computer science course.

First, there was her name: Professor Sabrina. She was an African American woman, kept office hours until 2 a.m. if that’s what it took to see everyone, and had an additional title: Google In Residence.

“It was an awesome class,” said Alanna who has already chosen her major at the Washington D.C.-based university: computer science.

In ongoing efforts to diversify Silicon Valley’s tech sector, Google is embedding engineers at a handful of Historically Black Colleges and Universities where they teach, mentor and advise on curriculum.

(Next page: How Google’s efforts aim to boost diversity in the tech industry)


Universities find a collaborative way to measure and obtain success

An Amazon Web Services infrastructure has allowed for a predictive analytics framework to determine college and university at-risk students.

PAR-data-institutionsBy using student data from partner colleges and universities across the country, it can identify more than 75 percent of an institution’s at-risk students, with the ability to save millions of dollars in lost tuition revenue  – as much as  $7 million at a campus with 10,000 students  by identifying students twice as likely to drop out and intervening with them. It can also help identify, measure and prescribe intervention services.

It’s called the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework, a non-profit, analytics-as-a-service provider, and its success comes not only from a revolutionary infrastructure from Amazon, but from the 25 million cross-institutional course-level records from over 2.5 million students.

“With more than 5o member institutions spanning over 351 unique campuses, all using common data definitions and insight tools, [PAR Framework] is the only national multi-institutional lens for examining dimensions of student success from both unified and contextual perspectives,” said Beth Davis, CEO of the PAR. “PAR member institutions collaborate on identifying points of student loss and to find effective practices that improve student retention in U.S. higher education.”

PAR is also being covered by Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm, which calls PAR a “major step forward” for higher education.

“…In this complex endeavor we recommend a ‘learning by doing’ approach and joining or at least studying the PAR Framework project experience. This is the most advanced openly available information in higher education to our knowledge,” noted Jan-Martin Lowendahl, VP distinguished analyst for Gartner in a 2014 report.

“We’re innovative because we’re unlocking the potential of scale,” emphasized Davis. “Using comparative data with a common language among institutions allows any institution—large or small, community or state, traditional or progressive—to crack the code on what works and what doesn’t in student successprograms.”

(Next page: How PAR works; the power of transparency)


3 ways tech can support future digital learning

Metastudy offers insights into how colleges and universities can evolve and leverage digital tech for student learning

digital-futureInstitutions of higher education should identify and implement technologies that support student learning, should welcome blended learning environments, and should ensure degree programs adapt to students’ digital needs, according to a new metastudy of technology’s role in higher education.

The study, Preparing for the Digital University: A Review of the History and Current State of Distance, Blended, and Online Learning, provides an overview of technology-enabled learning models and highlights strategies for colleges and universities moving in a digital direction.

One of the biggest takeaways, according to lead study author George Siemens, is that universities must evolve from outdated policies to policies that embrace and leverage digital technologies for learning.

(Next page: What best positions colleges and universities to leverage tech as they evolve learning practices?)


Harvard partners with liberal arts colleges for business programs

HBX, Harvard Business School’s online education initiative, announces additional agreements with liberal arts colleges.

harvard-liberal-businessHarvard Business School’s online digital education initiative has announced that it has entered into agreements to work with several U.S. liberal arts colleges to provide additional benefits for their students taking the Credential of Readiness (CORe) program.

CORe is an online program, consisting of approximately 150 hours of learning, for students and early career professionals to learn the fundamentals of business on what HBX says is a highly engaging and interactive platform designed by Harvard Business School faculty.

The newly-announced colleges are Carleton College of Northfield, MN; Grinnell College of Grinnell, IA; Hamilton College of Clinton, NY; Wellesley College of Wellesley, MA; and Williams College of Williamstown, MA.

The agreements with these colleges aim to increase student access to CORe by enabling HBX to offer increased levels of need-based financial aid for the program and guaranteeing space in CORe for students of the participating colleges.

HBX announced a similar partnership with Amherst College on April 27, 2015. These agreements are based on a similar arrangement that has been in place for Harvard College students since summer 2014.

HBX CORe consists of three courses: Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting.  Launched in summer 2014, it has since been offered to three more groups of learners. It will next be available starting on  June 3 (11-week duration), on July 7 (8-week intensive format), and on September 9 (12-week format).

“The HBX CORe program has been designed to teach the fundamentals of business to college students and prepare them for the workplace,” said Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand, faculty chair of HBX. “We created our own course platform to allow students to learn using Harvard Business School’s signature inductive learning approach. The CORe program leverages certain key aspects of the HBS learning environment, including real-world problem solving, a highly interactive experience, and the integration of social learning to allow participants to leverage the knowledge of their peers. We are delighted to partner with these five prominent colleges to create additional opportunities for their students to participate in the CORe program.”

To learn more about the CORe program, visit the HBX website at

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Northwestern students apply big data to presidential speeches

Data analysis discovers link in positivity and popularity.

big-dataTeradata Corporation, a big data analytics and marketing applications company, announced winners from the second annual Teradata Aster and Northwestern University Hackathon event held April 29.

A hackathon is a data mining competition during which data science experts and students compete using advanced analytics platforms to resolve complex hypothetical problems. This, and similar hackathons, are emerging in academic culture as the dramatic explosion in global demand for practitioners in data analytics continues.

The April 29 Hackathon was led by Teradata team Lee Paries, John Thuma, Russ Ratshin and Mary Gros in collaboration with Northwestern Professor Diego Klabjan in the context of the university’s Master of Science in Analytics Program. Graduate students in Northwestern’s Data Sciences curriculum showcased their data science skills, competing to resolve complex problems using analytical techniques such as pattern recognition, text analysis, graph analytics and predictive computation.

(Next page: How did students use the data sets?)


Could this be a new direction for assessment?

Why a fourth path could finally provide legitimate evidence of valid and reliable measure.

assessment-measure-educationAmong high impact educational practices there are few more controversial than assessment.

The leading reason cited by reviewing agencies for not handing out the revered 10-Year Reaffirmation accreditation is that the assessment of outcomes and learning is not adequately addressed across an institution. As a result, five years has become the norm. For some institutions, reports are even required annually to show progress in data-driven improvement efforts.

The typical assessment approach involves 1) working on the General Education program to ensure it covers the appropriate outcomes and relates well to the institution’s educational mission—usually amounting to 8-12 big statements that virtually no one could argue against; 2) mapping the big outcomes to the key assignments in a broad range of courses that students will take; and 3) beginning the assessment process by using some type of assessment system and running reports as the data rolls in.

For most, this whole process does not go well despite good intentions. Assessment inter-rater reliability is consistently low. Why does this happen?

The all-inclusive outcome is usually too big

The problems begin with Outcome statements, which tend to read something like this:

“The student demonstrates communication competency in writing and speaking standard English, in critical reading and listening, and in using information and research resources effectively.”

Read that aloud a few times and ask yourself how one would collect data to demonstrate learning progress over time related to this broadly stated goal.

It’s daunting, because any valid statement of progress over time requires consistently measured criteria across multiple faculty, who are teaching in different programs and disciplines, collected from the moment the student crosses the threshold until he or she graduates. Stated as is, the outcome actually encompasses multiple competencies: writing, speaking, comprehending written and oral texts, and effective use of sources.

What are the chances of all faculty agreeing on the quality of student work related to an outcome statement that mixes several skills in so many contexts and over so many years? The odds are not good.

(Next page: Paths chosen and their fatal flaws)


A note for the Blackboard Help-with-a-capital-“H” Desk

I wish I could be a computer genius. I also wish I could be a chess champion and an Olympic diver, but I’ll leave all these wishes to my daydreams. At this point in my life, I figure I’ll do what I know and leave the rest to the pros.

I’d like to take some eCampusNews blog space to recognize some pros on campus: the Blackboard Help Desk. I don’t know what I’d do without them. When I send them an email, they often respond within the hour. If I’m in a moment of near-panic (post-panic, as the case often is) and have to call, even their outgoing voicemail message—“You have reached the Blackboard Help Desk…” brings me calm. This is rare for a recorded message.

The best part of this Help-with-a-capital-“H” is its availability. Sometimes I’ll be stuck clicking something over and over to no avail—banging my head against the Blackboard, you might say—and want to call. But wait, I say to myself, it’s Sunday! No one is on campus now! I look up their webpage and see someone is there. Wait, it’s lunch hour… no problem. Wait, it’s almost eleven at night… no problem. Wait, it’s eight in the morning—OK, no one is there, but just wait a half-hour. Someone will pick up the phone at 8:31 am (yes, I’ve called at 8:31 am before—and 10:50 pm). I’ll tell her or him my problem, and without fail they figure it out.

Better still, they’re there for my students. Even though I put the Help Desk contact information in my syllabus, my online students always email me when they’re having troubles with Blackboard. I don’t fault them for it; as their teacher I expect to be the first point of contact with any difficulty they have. I confess I can be little help, however. I try to troubleshoot the problem with what technical know-how I have, but then I always write, “If that doesn’t work, call the Blackboard Help Desk. Write me back if the problem persists.”

I never hear back. No news is good news.

Thanks, Blackboard Help Desk. You’re like the computer wizards I wish I were. I suppose you all play speed-chess and can do reverse 2 ½ somersault pike dives, too.


3 ways to stay ahead of technology accessibility compliance

As colleges and universities move to the cloud, so do accessibility concerns. Here’s what you should know.

accessibility-compliance-cloudIt’s a media headache that happens once a year to a college or university that hasn’t taken the right steps, say experts. The good news is it’s preventable.

Becoming accessibility-compliant may not seem like a top priority, but with the ubiquity of technology—especially cloud technology—accessibility is an issue no institution can afford to ignore, emphasized panelists during the recent Internet2 Global Summit 2015.

“Just look at cases such as the University of Montana or Louisiana Tech: Online instructional materials and web content need to be accessible,” said Jarret Cummings, director of Policy and External Relations at EDUCAUSE. “Even EDUCAUSE isn’t exempt! When we conducted our eText pilot, we ran into issues with accessibility that the NFB [National Federation of the Blind] thankfully pointed out to us.”

EDUCAUSE has since begun working on the TEACH Act in expectation of the HEA reauthorization, and Cummings noted that accessibility in higher ed is a “significant, ongoing issue, especially as services move to the cloud. Prevention and proactive approaches are critical.”

(Next page: 3 ways to get started on accessibility compliance)


University launches iPad-powered bachelor’s program

Lynn University also introduces a digital publishing platform.

ipad-universityLynn University is launching an iPad-powered online bachelor’s degree program, which will be called iLynn.

“Technology has enabled us to reimagine college,” said Lynn President Kevin M. Ross. “We have been using iPads on our campus to improve student engagement and reduce the cost of traditional textbooks by up to 95 percent. Now, we are excited to announce that we are using that same mobile technology in our iLynn program to reduce the cost of tuition by 20 percent.”

The iLynn program empowers adult students with work, family and other obligations to pursue their undergraduate degrees online, on campus or both.

The program also offers accelerated terms, transfer of college and certified work experience credits and professional coaching for every student.

Starting at $35,400 ($8,850 per year), iLynn offers a personalized education, small class sizes, and access to next-generation collaboration tools.

The school also is launching Lynn University Digital Press, a digital publisher of scholarly works designed for iPad- and iTunes U-enabled academic curricula.

“The model of having faculty write and create the texts they use in class not only reduces textbook costs for students, but also increases faculty and student engagement with the content,” said Chris Boniforti, Lynn’s chief information officer.

To date, the university has created 24 multi-touch books, with another dozen works underway, including a contribution by Presidential Fellow James Guthrie, who will address the field of educational leadership.

The university anticipates the digital press will also significantly enhance its sustainability efforts by replacing traditional printing, shipping and inventory practices with immediate access to digital content.

Material from a press release was used in this report.