Getting tech-resistant educators to embrace change

The secret may be in organization-wide changes and lots of support.

change-tech-professorsMany millions of dollars have been wasted over the years by the well-intentioned, but ad hoc, introduction of technology into education. Eager tech-savvy professors or administrators may jump in feet first, but a significant portion of their colleagues are left struggling along or resisting the change.

The results of well-planned, long-term implementations, however, can produce momentum. When even reluctant adopters are given support, training, and time, positive changes can occur.

The diffusion of innovation

Teachers are similar to other groups in society. They follow the “Diffusion of innovation” graph as proposed by Everett Rogers. This categorizes users (professors) into innovators, early adopters, etc. (users are represented by the blue line; the yellow represents market share, which will eventually reach the saturation level).


(Next page: Deconstructing the tech adoption process)


Study: Smartphones could cripple learning for these students

First-time smartphone users say devices hinder, not help, learning.

study-smartphones-studentsA yearlong study from researchers at Rice University and the U.S. Air Force has revealed that first-time smartphone users felt the devices actually hindered their ability to learn.

The report, published in a recent edition of the British Journal of Educational Technology, reveals how participants rated the impact of smartphones on their learning process.

“Smartphone technology is penetrating world markets and becoming abundant in most college settings,” said study co-author Philip Kortum, an assistant professor of psychology at Rice. “We were interested to see how students with no prior experience using smartphones [either by choice or due to an equity gap] thought they impacted their education.”

The longitudinal study, funded by the National Science Foundation, was conducted from 2010 to 2011 and focused on 24 first-time smartphone users at Rice who were given iPhones. Participants were given no training on smartphone use prior to the study, and had to answer several questions about how they thought their device would impact their school work. Phone use was monitored throughout the year, and at the end of the study, participants answered the same set of questions so that researchers could compare users’ preconceived notions to their actual experiences.

Even though participants initially believed the iPhones would improve their performance on homework and tests and ultimately help them earn better grades, research revealed that the opposite was reported at the end of the study.

(Next page: Why users felt their smartphones were detrimental to learning)


Major tech partnership to deliver “interactive” lectures

Top Hat and OpenStax College partner to deliver peer-reviewed textbooks and an interactive teaching platform.

openstax-top-hatTop Hat, a digital learning platform for higher education, today announced it is teaming up with OpenStax College, Rice University’s non-profit educational materials initiative.

Through the partnership, college professors are able to engage students through OpenStax College’s digital textbooks and be involved every step of the way before, during and after lectures through Top Hat’s interactive teaching platform. Professors have already adopted OpenStax College with Top Hat in a number of universities and colleges, including University of Kentucky, College of William and Mary, Collin College, Eastfield College, Tidewater Community College and Northern Illinois University.

“It’s becoming more evident that online learning alone cannot replace face-to-face lectures,” said Mike Silagadze, CEO of Top Hat. “Student outcomes continue to be superior when there is a component of live interaction as opposed to purely web-based learning. With digital textbooks from OpenStax College, Top Hat brings a new level of ease and depth to the university lecture. In-class student assessment can now encompass visual and auditory stimuli, and new ways of manipulating and interacting with classroom material through sorting, matching, click-on-target and word or number answer questions.”

(Next page: How professors are already using the partnership’s technology)


How a 1970s policy can boost completion rates today

How extending Credit for Prior Learning can accelerate college completion and improve employability.

credit-prior-learningThe face of the “average” college student is changing. Seventy-five percent of today’s students (mostly adult learners) are juggling some combination of family commitment, job, and education, while commuting to campus, according to Complete College America.1 Growing demands placed on working adult learners can make higher education seem unattainable, inflexible, and unrealistic. For too many people today, time is the barrier to college completion.

Making the case for CPL to help employment and the economy

The 2009 unemployment rate of high school graduates 25 and older was 9.7 percent, compared with 4.6 percent for college graduates.2 Moreover, by 2020, our economy will have jobs for nearly 165 million people —65 percent of which will require postsecondary training.

However, at our current production rate of graduates, the U.S. will fall short by five million workers with the necessary education and training to meet the skill profiles of the jobs likely to be created.3

Credit for Prior Learning has emerged as an effective pathway to help more learners today, with busy lifestyles, to achieve their higher education goals.

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is a term educators use to describe learning that a student acquires outside of a traditional academic environment. This learning may have been attained through work experience, professional development courses, military training or experience, independent study, noncredit courses, volunteer or community service, travel, non-college courses, or seminars, many of which are offered online, such as MOOCs.

CPL is also similar to Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)—the process by which an individual’s experiential and other extra-institutional learning is assessed and evaluated for the purposes of granting college credit, certification, or advanced standing toward further education or training. CPL is a practice used by institutions at or close to the time of a student’s admission, to award institutional credit for demonstrated competency mastery earned in other settings.

(Next page: Specifics on how the CPL model works for students and institutions)


Making sure graduate degrees never become obsolete

“Master Access” offered to University of Florida graduates to provide affordable lifetime learning options.

graduate-access-floridaThe University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications today announced a program that provides graduates of its professional Master’s programs with affordable lifetime access to graduate-level courses.

The program, called “Master Access,” affords online master’s degree graduates the chance to access coursework in their specialization or that of two other programs for an annual fee that is less than the cost of a single graduate credit.

“It’s simple,” said Dr. Michael Weigold, the College’s director of distance education, “Communication competencies rust. We ensure a UF degree is never obsolete by allowing access to the latest courses and content in graduate education for the professional lifetimes of our graduates. I don’t know of any other program that makes that kind of commitment to its alumni.”

Ranked as one of the top mass communication programs in the nation, the College aims to continually enhance its educational offerings. Its latest innovation, Master Access, is a graduate benefit that gives its online master’s degree recipients a lifelong advantage for career success.

“When you’re working in social media, digital communication or international advertising and public relations, the industry landscape shifts constantly – new innovations, new technologies, new concepts,” Weigold said. “To stay relevant, professionals must continually refresh their education. At UF, we are committed to ensuring that our graduates can do that through lifetime engagement with our programs.”

(Next page: How the program works)


An honest look into a liberal arts iPad program

Idaho State University takes open approach to faculty and student use of iPads in the humanities.

ipad-college-liberalOffering a realistic glimpse of what it’s like to try and use mobile technology in undergraduate and graduate courses in higher education, one rural, liberal arts college says the only way to effectively implement an iPad program is if the technology has no usage hiccups and comes second to pedagogy.

Another key element of making a mobile tech program work? Start the program as an open experiment for faculty members to use as they see fit.

“By leaving the experiment open, the instructors had an unbounded creative space to do what we demand of our students: critically think our way through the existing problems to find novel solutions,” said Mark McBeth, associate dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Idaho State University (ISU), and lead author of the College’s case study report. “Theory and research informed this project, but much of the success required simple trial and error with faculty and students in classroom experiences.”

The iPad Pilot Project (iPP), which started at the College in spring 2013—thanks to the support of its dean, associate dean, and director of development—began as a response to both the national emerging interest in mobile technology in the classroom, as well as the supposed notion that liberal arts institutions and technology don’t mix.

Two years later, the College has put together a report detailing four case studies from faculty, which aims to offer an honest look into how the implementation fared in their classrooms, as well as begin to answer the question: Can mobile technology truly enhance liberal arts learning in higher education?

(Next page: How the program is designed; pedagogical challenges)


Universities create national initiative for competency-based education

National survey, fall conference and online resources will give educators and policymakers unprecedented levels of collaboration and information.


Several nonprofit and higher education organizations are collaborating to create new resources and opportunities in response to growing interest in competency-based education (CBE).
This work includes the largest survey to date of institutions developing CBE programs and a national conference this fall to listen to the challenges and barriers faced by institutions and to help them learn more about what it takes to design high-quality programs that are competency-based.
The multi-pronged effort is led by Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and public engagement organization, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation. The effort responds to calls from institutions of higher education and policymakers for more resources and support to help guide the planning and development of high-quality competency-based degrees, certificates and other postsecondary credentials.
The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) is the Sponsoring Organization of Integrative Liberal Learning. The American Council on Education (ACE), the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) and EDUCAUSE are sponsors. The thought partners are the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and Quality Matters.
In addition to the survey and conference, the organizations are researching models, trends and gaps in knowledge around CBE, and will organize the findings into a publicly available online source of information. For institutions that want to adopt CBE programs, the group is creating a set of research-based design elements of CBE programs and an online tool to help institutions build programs around those elements.

(Next page: Research initiatives and how to participate in the survey)


3D printers get a software update

Cura software now comes with all-new features for free to the 3D printing community.


Ultimaker, a 3D printer manufacturer, has released new Cura software for all of their 3D printers.

The original Cura software, the advised software for preparing 3D print files, has been completely reengineered from the ground up for seamless integration between hardware, software and materials, says the company.

New features include an optimized support structure, overhauled user interface, a time-quality slider, support for high-DPI screens and more. Ultimaker is sharing this software upgrade for free to the 3D printing community. The new Cura software can be downloaded here for free.

Thanks to its innovative Uranium framework, Cura’s ready for rapid expansion with a host of upcoming features to make it more powerful. The new Cura software is free for everyone to enjoy.

New foundations. Built on the robust Uranium framework, Cura is incredibly reliable and flexible, allowing Ultimaker’s dedicated software team to easily add new features as they become available. As it’s the start of a brand new platform, some elements from the previous Cura are yet to be incorporated, but these will arrive soon. In the meantime however, users can still use and receive support for the previous version of Cura.

Powerful new features. As you might imagine, Ultimaker has been working hard to make the whole experience even more refined and seamless. For example, there’s a new time-quality slider which replaces the three default profiles. This gives users more control over the balance between quality and time. Ultimaker is sure users will enjoy a handy new undo/redo button. The user interface has also been completely overhauled making it more intuitive and easy to use.

But to add, they also had to subtractUltimaker’s ambition was to create the best software for the future so they assessed every aspect of Cura to rewrite it from the ground up. As a result, some features were removed. Some are permanent and others will be added in future updates due to their complexity. For example, the Configuration Wizard and Bed Leveling Wizard for the Ultimaker Original and Ultimaker Original+ aren’t yet included. Rest assured the Ultimaker team wants these features as much as users do and will implement them as soon as possible. There will be some users that will miss certain features, but to make Cura viable for future growth, it needed to be reengineered. For the full list of what’s included and what’s not, visit

Support through the transition. While they work to implement new features, Ultimaker wants to reassure all their advanced users who wish to continue using the previous version of Cura that they will continue to offer support for it.


OpenStax College expands higher-ed offerings for fall curricula

Odigia comes to market with OpenStax College.

openstax-odigia-courseOdigia has partnered with OpenStax College, an initiative of Rice University, to offer a catalog of interactive courses this fall.

Odigia’s educational platform aims to transform the traditional classroom experience with teaching and learning tools that are designed for college-level learning, and are also used by businesses and non-profit organizations for advanced training.

“We’re not digitizing the traditional learning experience, we’re transforming the entire learning model for students and teachers,” said Joshua Moe, CEO of Odigia. “We support true student engagement and ways for students to progress through content using their own learning styles, at their own pace, using the tools that help them learn best. Odigia also provides teachers with real-time learning data, giving insight into how to best use class time. Traditional learning management systems (LMS) don’t track student learning the way we do, so this is a big breakthrough.”

(Next page: Courses available this fall)