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These top programs increase Latino college success

Excelencia in Education adds 20 new programs to nation’s largest inventory of proven practices for accelerating degree completion among Latinos.

latino-collegeElected officials and higher education leaders from across the country came together in the nation’s capital for the announcement of the 2015 Examples of Excelencia, America’s top evidence-based programs that increase higher education achievement for Latino students.

Celebrating its 10th year, Examples of Excelencia is the only national initiative to systematically identify and promote evidence-based programs and departments effectively boosting Latino enrollment, performance and graduation. Over the past decade, Examples of Excelencia has reviewed more than 1,300 program nominations and recognized over 150 programs across the nation.

Excelencia in Education, the nonprofit that conceived and runs this national initiative, honored the following programs as the 2015 Examples of Excelencia:
• Associate Level: Early High Schools Program, South Texas College, McAllen, Texas
• Bachelor Level: STEM Program, Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, Calif.
• Graduate Level: Hispanic Center of Excellence, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Ill.
• Community-Based Organization: Nine-Week Parent Engagement in Education Program, Parent Institute for Quality Education, National City, Calif.

Using a multi-step, results-driven process and a committee of national experts, one Example of Excelencia each was selected from among 265 programs nominated from 30 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia in four categories: associate, baccalaureate, graduate, and community-based organization. Additionally, 16 programs were recognized as Finalists.

Examples of Excelencia was inspired by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s 1999 Convening on Latino Youth, a historic, first-ever White House gathering that resulted in the publication, “What Works for Latino Youth.”

To recognize this year’s anniversary, Clinton produced a special video tribute that premiered during today’s program.

“This program is near and dear to me,” said Clinton in the video message. “The programs you identify, support, and help grow have become a valuable resource for Latino students and their families. You’ve worked to give them the chance to finish college and live up to their own potential, and you have so many success stories to prove it works. Congratulations on 10 years of excellence. I’m very proud of you. Here’s to the next 10 years, and the 10 after that.”

“This whole process has helped me get myself educated and now I’m able to better educate my siblings and help them lead the road and not make the same mistakes that I did because I didn’t have anybody to lead me,” said Christopher Deleon, a double major in environmental studies and business enrolled in the STEM Program at Fresno Pacific University, this year’s Example of Excelencia in the baccalaureate category.

“The programs being recognized today contribute to a decade of sustained effort to identify, support, and grow programs that demonstrate through evidence and data they are at the forefront of improving higher educational achievement for Latino students,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education. “We congratulate them for their current and continued efforts. By increasing awareness about effective programs like these and showing the impact of investing in what works, Examples of Excelencia is influencing higher education institutions to be accountable for serving Latino students.”

“Since being chosen as one of the Examples of Excelencia in 2008, our program has expanded, now having served nearly 2,500 students with over 70 percent being the first in their family to attend college,” said Dr. Richard Cherwitz, founder and director of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin. “Best of all, we were able to leverage the Examples of Excelencia recognition to obtain over $300,000 of funding and support.”

The announcement event, Celebraciòn de Excelencia, coincided with the release of the 2015 edition of “What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education,” a compendium of all 20 recognized programs along with the evidence of their success. Through this annual process, Excelencia in Education continues to “call the question” about increasing Latino student success. At the same time, Excelencia in Education continues to expand America’s largest inventory of programs and strategies that education leaders, policymakers, and grant makers use to accelerate degree completion among Latinos.

To download “What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education,” which includes detailed information about all of the programs recognized today, visit www.EdExcelencia.org.

“We remain committed to advancing what works to support educators, community leaders, funders, and policymakers to take an asset-based approach to serving Latino students,” said Deborah Santiago, COO and vice president for policy of Excelencia in Education and author of the publication. “This has been a sustained effort for the past decade, and you can count on us to continue inspiring, informing, and supporting the recognition, replication and scaling of evidence-based practices that serve Latino students and thus serve the country.”

Examples of Excelencia is presented in collaboration with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The 2015 sponsors are ACT, Comcast NBCUniversal, Telemundo, Univision, DeVry Education Group, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, the Edwin Gould Foundation, PG&E Corporation, and the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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3 reforms for higher education accessibility

Former governors recommend policy changes to keep higher education accessible, affordable.

education-accessibilityChanges to the federal student loan program to ensure better information for students, a broader definition of higher education, and more accountability for universities, can increase competition, transparency and innovation in higher education, according to new recommendations released by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Governors’ Council.

The council consists of former governors Mike Beebe (D-AR), Jim Douglas (R-VT), Christine Gregoire (D-WA), Linda Lingle (R-HI) and Sonny Perdue (R-GA).

Their recommendations seek to ensure that higher education remains accessible and affordable while preparing young people for jobs in an ever-changing marketplace.

The council recommends three critical reforms:

• Delinking financial aid from the traditional definition of a credit hour to make it easier for students to receive aid while participating in competency-based programs.
• Requiring universities to have more “skin in the game” regarding their graduates’ loan default rates. The council argues that holding schools more accountable for their students’ post-college careers will encourage universities to provide degrees and educational experiences that have value in the job market.
• Providing prospective students with better information before they accept loans about their total projected debt from student loans, their repayment options, the length of time it will take to repay student loans and income potential based on their intended major.

“Our higher education system is among the best in the world and should be accessible and affordable to all students for whom college is the best career path,” the council members said. “Just as with our workforce training programs, colleges and universities must better prepare students for the modern workforce. Students must also be given ample information to assess their options and make the choice that best fits their goals, aspirations and future economic security.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Managing IT chaos starts with a library

Ohio State University is using the ITIL service-management framework to help IT maintain its customer focus and improve key operations.

chaos-ITIL-OhioWhen Bob Gribben, director of service operations in the Office of the CIO at Ohio State University, wants to rein in what he calls “the organized chaos that rules most [IT] organizations,” he turns to ITIL. More formally known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, ITIL is the most widely used IT service-management framework in the world and has helped Ohio State dramatically improve user satisfaction in its service desk and incident-management operations.

ITIL consists of five volumes of best-management practices that cover the life span of any IT service: strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual improvement. Now managed by Axelos, a joint venture between the British government and Capita, the library was initially developed more than 20 years ago by the UK’s Cabinet Office to improve organizational efficiency in its IT operations.

“ITIL is about best practices that have been tested but that also allow you to customize what you do—it’s not a cookie cutter,” said Gribben, noting that Ohio State’s ITIL experience goes back more than six-and-a-half years. “A lot of times, people look for a template that they can place on top of their department, follow certain steps, and things will get better. It’s not that.”

Any pain point in IT—how a service is delivered or provisioned, for instance—is a candidate for ITIL, says Gribben. “You use the library and its best practices to define what you’re trying to do, which will then help you set up your metrics,” he said. “It’ll help you design and create an actual repeatable process.”

Gribben advises using ITIL to make incremental improvements to an IT organization. “Don’t try to do everything all at once,” he wrote in a white paper about his experience at Ohio State. “Start with what is causing sleepless nights and go from there.”

In the case of Ohio State, the biggest pain point was incident management, which involves handling and resolving IT service problems reported by users. “The ITIL process takes you through a reusable set of procedures that allows you to get users up and running again,” said Gribben.

Given that most IT organizations have finite resources, ITIL prompts IT to prioritize incidents according to their impact on the campus as a whole. “Customers will call in to a help desk with a problem and think that their issue is number one,” said Gribben. “I agree with them: From a customer standpoint, their issue is number one and the help desk’s job is to make them feel as if they’re number one. From a true incident perspective, though, you prioritize it based on its impact and its urgency. By doing that, you can dedicate the resources needed to get a particular customer up and running.”

If one person is having trouble with e-mail, for instance, ITIL protocols might lead IT to address the problem immediately but assign perhaps only one person to the task. If the entire e-mail system were to fail, on the other hand, several teams from across the organization might be deployed immediately.

“In the second scenario, there’s money walking out the door because no one on campus can communicate,” explained Gribben. “The impact is higher so the urgency is higher. It’s easy to paint that picture for management when you put it into business terms. ITIL helps us prioritize all of that.”

In Gribben’s eyes, one of the biggest advantages of ITIL is that it pushes IT shops to focus on the needs of the customer. “IT gets a very bad rap because we tend to focus only on the technology,” he said. “If a customer can’t do something but the service is still operating in the background, for instance, an IT guy might say, ‘It’s still working.’ ITIL helps break down this mentality. In provisioning a service, everything is about allowing a customer to utilize it for value.”

The Importance of Process

ITIL also places great emphasis on creating predictable, consistent processes that are thoroughly documented. In today’s complex IT environment, small changes in one service can have unexpected ripple effects that can derail a host of other operations. Without knowing what changes were made and when, it can be extremely difficult to trace problems back to their origins. To help maintain and track these processes and changes, Gribben utilizes knowledge-management systems, often referred to as ticketing systems. “We write out our process, get agreement on it, and then build a tool around the defined process,” he said. “It’s documented, it’s reusable, and you can then teach people how to use the tool.”

In keeping with the best practices advocated by ITIL, Gribben ensures that every process has an owner, someone who is not only accountable for the process but who also has the power to make decisions on its behalf. “The process owner is the one who has the final say,” said Gribben. “It’s their job to say, ‘Yes, let’s move toward this, let’s build toward that, or this is where we find value.'”

The results of implementing ITIL at Ohio State speak for themselves. Since rolling out its incident-management, request-fulfillment, and knowledge-management processes, customer-satisfaction levels at Ohio State have risen from the 77 percent-79 percent range to 93 percent-94 percent, according to Help Desk Institute, a third-party monitor hired by the school. “We can attribute the improvement to the ease with which customers can get the services they need,” said Gribben.

Ultimately, Gribben attributes much of IT’s efficiency gains to ITIL’s relentless focus on creating repeatable processes. “I’m very fond of saying, ‘Work smart, not hard,'” he said. “If I can find a way to get the same results more easily—and I can keep repeating that process—then I’m going to keep doing that.”

Andrew Barbour is a contributing editor with eCampus News.

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What makes college worth it?

National annual survey asks 60K alumni to rate their college education investment.

college-investmentOnly 50 percent of 60,000 college alumni participating in a national survey said they “strongly agree” their university education was worth the cost.

This 50 percent figure varies only slightly when comparing surveyed alumni of public universities (52 percent) and surveyed alumni of private nonprofit universities (47 percent). It takes a sharp dive to 26 percent among surveyed graduates of private for-profit universities, who also were more likely to have taken on higher levels of student loan debt.

However, if surveyed recent graduates strongly agree that they had any of three experiential learning opportunities — an internship related to their studies, active involvement in extracurricular activities or a project that took a semester or more to complete — their likelihood to strongly agree that their education was worth the cost increases 1.5 times.

The second national Gallup-Purdue Index identified stark differences in graduates of public, private and for-profit colleges when asked if their degree was worth the cost and raised questions across all institutions about the value of a college degree.

The survey also found student loan debt had a significant impact on respondents’ post-graduation plans and confirmed 2014 survey results that highlight the importance of supportive relationships between professors and students and the value of internships and other work experiences.

Released Sept. 29, the second annual Gallup-Purdue Index (GPI) was conducted by Gallup in partnership with Purdue University and Lumina Foundation. The survey was launched last year as a response to the call for increased accountability in higher education and does not serve as a ranking or rating system. The study will be released annually through 2018.

This year’s GPI shows that almost two-thirds (63 percent) of alumni who graduated from 2006-2015 say they used student loans to help finance their education. Among those who borrowed, the median loan was $30,000.

“Given that higher education has become one of the largest financial investments a person will make over their lifetime, it’s a bit alarming that only half of all graduates strongly agree their education was worth the cost,” said Brandon Busteed, Gallup’s executive director for education and workforce development. “Clearly, we all need to work harder on improving quality and reducing cost as much as possible.”

Nearly half of recent graduates who incurred any amount of student loan debt reported postponing further training or postgraduate education because of those loans. A third or more have delayed purchasing a house or a car because of debt, and nearly one in five have put off starting their own business. Each of these figures rises significantly among those with a debt burden of $25,001 or higher.

“The GPI continues to highlight deficiencies on which we in higher education should be focused,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. “This year’s results serve as another reminder that student loan debt can be a significant obstacle to a student’s future success — and, in some cases, a long-term handicap.”

Recent graduates with a debt burden of $25,001 or more are almost twice as likely to strongly agree that their education was worth the cost if they recall supportive relationships with professors and mentors.
And recent graduates with high debt are also less likely to put off continuing their education or starting a business because of student loans if they strongly agree they had supportive relationships in college.

The survey found only a loose correlation between universities’ U.S. News & World Report rankings and perceptions among their recent graduates that their education was worth the cost.

“We’ve said before that it’s not where you go to college but how you go to college that matters,” Daniels said. “Students get out what they put in, and they can get an excellent education at a wide variety of institutions across the country. As the study shows, their experience is determined much more by the relationships they build with mentors and the success they are able to achieve via their work on campus or abroad.”

Recent graduates who strongly agree with any of three items measuring supportive relationships with professors or mentors were almost twice as likely to strongly agree that their education was worth the cost. These relationships hold even when controlling for personality characteristics and other variables, such as student loan debt and employment status, that could also be related to graduates’ perceptions that college was worth it.

“The Gallup-Purdue Index continues to reinforce the importance of the outcomes of higher education,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “In our quest to increase college attainment and meet the growing need for talent in the United States, we must produce graduates who are able to thrive both professionally and personally. The GPI provides critical new data and information on the factors that drive these outcomes.”

The current GPI results reaffirm the importance to undergraduates of supportive relationships with professors and mentors. If employed graduates strongly agreed that they had professors who cared about them, they had at least one professor who made them excited about learning and they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams, their odds of being emotionally engaged at work nearly double.

The results from the initial GPI national survey were released in May 2014. Besides the findings about student engagement with faculty mentors, the index also reported there is no difference in workplace engagement or a college graduate’s well-being if they attended a public or private not-for-profit institution, a highly selective institution, or a top 100-ranked school in U.S. News & World Report. It also outlined the relationship between the level of student debt and a graduate’s well-being and entrepreneurial experience.

For more on the GPI, visit purdue.edu/gallup. The report is available for download at: http://www.gallup.com/services/185888/gallup-purdue-index-report-2015.aspx.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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University opts for cloud-based CBE

University of the Incarnate Word joins beta program to deliver competency-based education program for students.

cbe-cloudThe University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) will be a beta partner for Ellucian Brainstorm, Ellucian’s new cloud-based solution for helping higher education institutions support competency-based education (CBE) programs. The university will use Ellucian Brainstorm to power its Extended Academic Programs (EAP).

Higher education institutions are quickly realizing the value and potential of CBE–a 2013 CAEL CBE report mentioned that 87 percent of institutions surveyed thought they had prepared students well for employment. However, only 49 percent of employers agreed that new employees had the training they needed.

CBE assesses what skills a student has mastered and defines a clear pathway to address the skills students needed for course completion and career advancement.

This approach aims to help students clear the hurdles of access and cost by focusing on efficiency. Ellucian Brainstorm is designed to help higher education institutions leverage CBE to drive student success.

“The University of the Incarnate Word is not just another traditional campus. Our unique position allows us to be at the cutting edge of market changes and respond to them quickly,” said Dr. Cyndi Wilson Porter, UIW Vice President for Extended Academic Programs. “We understand that our students today are not like those of yesterday and require new methods of engagement. With Ellucian Brainstorm and CBE, we’re pushing to understand what students already know so we can more effectively engage with them.”

Ellucian Brainstorm is a modern Learning Management System (LMS) that powers institutions to offer competency-based education programs with highly personalized learning experiences for their students.

Leveraging social media-like engagement, big data, and mobile capabilities, the Ellucian Brainstorm CBE-based LMS focuses squarely on the student and faculty experience, enabling both groups to deeply engage, and to clearly understand and nurture pathways to student success.

Ellucian Brainstorm also integrates with Banner by Ellucian and Colleague by Ellucian.

“Institutions that embrace CBE are addressing the professional skills gap problem head-on,” said Jeff Ray, President and CEO at Ellucian. “Dr. Porter and UIW understand that achieving student success today, in which the traditional student is no longer in their early 20s, takes an innovative approach driven by technology. UIW’s institutional commitment to CBE and its cutting-edge approach to education will help ensure higher student success rates and more effective student engagement.”

For more information on Ellucian Brainstorm, please visit http://www.ellucian.com/competency-based-education-learning-management-system/.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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The library of Alexandria goes virtual for online scholarship

A virtual repository aims to bring students together with an array of digitally-accessible material.

virtual-libraryThe ancient Egyptians would be proud: With the increasing proliferation of online lesson plans and learning resources, virtual worlds are collaborating to build a virtual Library of Alexandria for higher education.

The repository, aptly called Alexandria, is a Linden-based virtual library created to offer reference materials to support learning activities.

An article describing the virtual library, written by researcher Joseph M. Graham and Eva Comaroski of Wizardry and Steamworks Consulting Group, describes the library as a way of storing content digitally to eliminate burdens associated with costs, potential damage to physical books, and risks of losing a book. This method also helps preserve materials and avoids physical deterioration of the materials.

Different from Brick-and-Mortar, Just Online

Though digital resources offer the aforementioned benefits, the authors note that they don’t always offer the social experiences learning affords to students and teachers.

Recognizing this, Graham and Comaroski joined the social aspects of a brick-and-mortar library with the digital dissemination of learning materials.

“The result is a virtual world library that contains learning material for students, as well as providing a game-like multi-player experience that allows students to meet virtually in order to disseminate data together,” Graham and Comaroski note.

Alexandria is built on a platform similar to that of Second Life. The OpenSim platform, Graham and Comaroski explain, is a “game-like sandbox” allowing users to connect online and interact with one another. It also lets users build content in the virtual world without additional tools.

The virtual library contains collected literature from various sources with many literary works supplied by the Gutenberg project. Currently, the library spans multiple DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification) classes that are displayed in either Notecard or tablet format.

“Browsing a library with thousands of books becomes extremely difficult if there is no previous knowledge of the material sought after,” explain the authors. “Alexandria tries to address such shortcomings by providing much more than book covers, searching system or timeline-based triage. Alexandria is built by creating floating islands, each decorated and themed by the literature that is placed on those islands.

An overview of Alexandria structured as disparate floating islands, each themed by the type of literature that the shelves on the islands contain. Copyright: Graham and Comaroski.

An overview of Alexandria structured as disparate floating islands, each themed by the type of literature that the shelves on the islands contain. Copyright: Graham and Comaroski.

The authors believe these floating islands make it convenient to “just browse” the repository by following the decorations and artwork. For example, they explain, someone looking for wartime journalism will find a floating island decorated with sculptures of soldiers, a burning vehicle and perhaps a house on fire that contains the bookshelves with the corresponding literature.

In other words, say the authors, what makes this presentation of materials unique is that Alexandria does not address data archival in the traditional sense as much as it focuses on the delivery and display of that data. The technology of the virtual library uses a database as a backend, but includes the ability to feature “artistic hints and pointers in order to deliver thematic literature repositories at a glance.”

A tablet-like book rendered in Alexandria on the screen with the ability to browse chapters as well as turn pages whilst still being able to interact in-world with other people. Copyright: Graham and Comaroski.

A tablet-like book rendered in Alexandria on the screen with the ability to browse chapters as well as turn pages whilst still being able to interact in-world with other people. Copyright: Graham and Comaroski.

Graham and Comaroski offer an overview of the library in the article and point to a number of what they say are useful aspects:

  • Backing up and restoring items is made easier given Alexandria’s virtual nature.
  • Student and teacher interactions may be more comfortable in a virtual setting.
  • Social interaction is promoted and encouraged, allowing students to collaborate and learn in the environment.

The “Book Club” landing point where students can meet and talk. Copyright: Graham and Comaroski.

Users also can take books from the virtual repository to other “grids” where related simulations might occur. For instance, the authors note, a user can take a physics book from Alexandria and bring it to a physics simulation.

“The ability for anyone worldwide to access a library at any hour, have materials organized by their topics, as well as a way to talk to colleagues at any time, is something that very few real world libraries have,” Graham and Comaroski say.

“The additional help of automatic shelving and ability to instantly find any book (via the oracle platform) and instantly send a user to their requested material is also unparalleled in the real world, but easily possible in virtual space. Any catastrophic failure in Alexandria is virtually unheard of, with the ability to cloud store books and documents, and automatically re integrate them into the system, a feature that is not quite so easily available in the real world; if a fire hits, either the fire, or water damage from attempts to put out fire will occur, making losses inevitable.”

The authors plan further work on Alexandria, including the conversion of content to a widely recognizable format such as ePub by sending a requested book to an user via E-mail on a request popup of a shelf. Other ideas include expanding the library from primarily English to more languages, adding document uploading systems for teachers, and allowing students to send, receive, print, and/or edit documents.

More about the virtual library, including how to add materials, searching, indexing, and backing up data can be found in the article, here.

Alexandria library is part of the VIBE grid and hosted at the University of New Orleans. It can be accessed from any OpenSim world that is capable of establishing hyperlinks by writing on the local chat: secondlife:///repo.bio-se.info:9000/ and then opening the chat log and clicking the link. This will establish a hyperlink from the user’s current grid to the library at Project Alexandria and allow teleportation.

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