OLC kicks off prize for digital learning

Competition will recognize exemplar higher education faculty and institutions for advancing and adopting next-generation digital learning courseware

digital-learningThe Online Learning Consortium (OLC), a professional organization devoted to advancing the quality of online learning worldwide, is launching the OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize, an annual prize competition to recognize exemplar higher education faculty-led teams and institutions for advancing student success, particularly among underserved student groups, through adoption of digital courseware. Digital courseware refers to adaptive digital learning tools, including software that supports student learning such as games, apps and personalized content.

The OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize, which is accompanied by a meaningful monetary reward, is supported by a $2.5 million grant OLC has received from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the purpose of fostering effective practices in digital learning targeted at improving outcomes for underserved students.

“Access to quality online learning is at the heart of OLC’s mission,” said Kathleen S. Ives, D.M., CEO and executive director, Online Learning Consortium. “We are thrilled to be able to leverage our experience to recognize and reward faculty and institutions that are improving student success, particularly among underserved students.”

The new prize competition, with its distinct focus on digital courseware, will complement the annual OLC Awards, which offer recognition of excellence in online teaching and learning across a range of categories, such as leadership, faculty development, research and overall excellence.

The inaugural OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize competition will open in January 2016, with a call for applicants in two prize categories:

  • The OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize: Faculty-Led Team, a $10,000 prize, to be awarded to up to 10 faculty teams per year that have excelled in advancing and adopting next-generation digital courseware with a strong pedagogical focus and a sustained impact on student success in gateway courses
  • The OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize: Institution, a $100,000 prize, to be awarded to up to three institutions per year that have showcased sustained innovation in the adoption and application of next-generation digital courseware on a broader scale that has resulted in improved student success in gateway courses among underserved student groups.

Winners of the OLC Digital Learning Innovation Prize will be announced annually at the International Online Learning Consortium Conference each fall, beginning in 2016.

Detailed information regarding the prize competition, including judging, requirements, submission guidelines and resources for preparing applications will be available on the OLC website in December.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Virtual community college automates proctoring

Consortium administrators report time savings and improved efficiency with proctoring pilot

proctoring-collegeMississippi Virtual Community College (MSVCC) is automating proctoring through the use of an integrated service intended to help ease testing overload.

The MSVCC is a consortium composed of each of the 15 community colleges in the state. MCCB is piloting a statewide implementation of SmarterServices’ SmarterProctoring™ system in all 15 of its schools.

SmarterProctoring is a complete Proctoring Process Management System that provides LMS integration that facilitates all phases of the proctoring process. It includes daily access and reports for students, faculty, proctors, and administrators.

Through this pilot, the MCCB has standardized and streamlined its proctoring process statewide. In the first nine months of the pilot alone, more than 161,000 exams have been administered, and that total is estimated to reach 250,000 by year end.

“Our eLearning program continues to grow and our schools felt overwhelmed with all the tasks associated with scheduling, approving proctors, and helping students navigate the testing process,” explains Ms. Audra Kimble, Assistant Executive Director of eLearning & Instructional Technology at the MCCB. “SmarterProctoring alleviated this administrative headache by centralizing all these systems and functions. And it’s flexible—we were able to customize standards to give all 15 schools autonomy.”

SmarterProctoring manages the entire proctoring workflow—proctor approval, exam scheduling, faculty-student communications, exam submission—for multiple modalities, including: instructor as proctor, MSVCC testing centers, third-party testing centers, approved human proctors, and virtual proctoring. Of particular benefit to the MCCB is its ability to facilitate test center registration for students taking courses at multiple colleges, taking into consideration process rules for both institutions.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Faculty get a new, copyright-flexible digital media backpack

A new “Digital Backpack” provides legal use digital media specifically for higher education that allows for creativity in use beyond the Creative Commons license.

digital-media-VideoBlocksDigital media company VideoBlocks has begun a service for higher education to, simply put, provide accessible creative tools for students and faculty without the traditional worries over quality and copyright.

VideoBlocks, founded in 2009 with the mission of providing high quality stock video at an affordable price, began “VideoBlocks for Education” earlier this year upon recognizing how prominently the service was beginning to be used by consumers in in classrooms.

A subscription to the service, which provides unlimited downloads from the VideoBlocks Library (over 115,000 videos, After Effects templates, motion backgrounds, photographs and even sound files) offers an higher-ed educators a “Digital Backpack” filled with copyright-free video, graphic and audio content for campus media projects. The service can be subscribed to by entire campuses or even just relevant departments such as film, journalism and marketing schools–think Netflix, but for digital media.

VideoBlocks for Education launched with an early enrollment program offering the first semester free of charge, and over 40 institutions have signed up already.

According to the company, with the Digital Backpack, faculty can incorporate digital media into their courses to engage and support their students with a more active, outcomes-based curriculum that has the potential to build digital literacy. When professors lead with teaching theory but then go a step further and ask their students to create, it brings about a marriage of knowledge and skill that allows them to build their portfolios while giving them the practice they need to succeed after graduation, says the company.

“Having a single data base that is easily searchable for content clear for use leads to better quality projects and more widespread use across many disciplines,” said VideoBlocks CMO TJ Leonard, who runs all educational initiatives for the company. “The flexibility, affordability and searchability [of VideoBlocks] help students actively engage with digital media content and bolsters creativity.”

Since most users already have their own personal favorite tools, programs and workflow, VideoBlocks is focused on providing the raw materials for creation. This means that the company aims to fill their library with professional quality multimedia that allows for creative flexibility in a way that simply is not possible with creative commons content. Additionally, it has been reported that 87 percent of students don’t ask for the rights to digital content they find online, so VideoBlocks provides a great solution for campus leaders looking to stop the rise of digital piracy and better teach students to respect copyright laws.

“It’s exciting to work with students,” said Leonard. “They are the future creatives that will be driving video making. In the future, we want to continue increasing the breadth and depth of our content library by…staying in tune with students and faculty and providing what they need. This also means greater integration with tools used for digital creation.”

VideoBlocks also wants to help provide greater understanding in how to maximize the impact of digital learning and help students become creative problem solvers for life.

Their first initiative to achieve this goal started this year with their 2015 Student Film Contest. Ending November 2nd, the contest will be judged by Arthur Albert, director of photography for Breaking Bad, ER, The Blacklist, Better Call Saul and numerous television shows and feature films, and will award a total of 10,000 dollars in prizes including 5,000 dollars for first place winner.

The second initiative is their Digital Media Action Grant, which is aimed at faculty researchers. Launched in July, the program will award grants of 10,000 dollars to two higher education researchers attempting to study the impact of digital media on engaging students in order to improve learning outcomes, as well as how to best help learners develop 21st century communication skills and ethical content use habits.


Schools focus on data analytics, cybersecurity

Dell survey ranks cybersecurity as top concern for higher-education IT professionals; Dell will offer data science analytics software for free

data-analyticsAt EDUCAUSE 2015, Dell announced the Dell Statistica Free Academic Program, a free version of its Statistica advanced analytics software now available to all U.S. college students and professors, to help boost interest in and preparedness for data analytics careers.

The Dell Statistica Free Academic Program is designed to bolster college students’ interest in data analytics.

Recognizing the nationwide shortage of data scientists and other professionals with data analytics skills, and the increasing importance of employees with analytical skills in our data-driven economy, Dell has made its advanced data analytics software free for college students and professors in the U.S. through the Dell Statistica Free Academic Program.

A solution that does not require coding and integrates with open source R, Dell Statistica delivers advanced and predictive data analytics tools that help organizations predict future trends, identify new customers and sales opportunities, forecast industry shifts, explore “what-if” scenarios, and reduce the occurrence of fraud and other business risks.

The Dell Statistica Free Academic Program provides college students with free access to industry-leading advanced data analytics technology, as a well as a host of support materials, including a free online statistics textbook, how-to-videos, and access to a growing base of collegiate and professional users in the broader STEM community. The free offering also applies to all college and university professors, enabling them to make hands-on practicum a more relevant part of their curriculum, and to aid in their own research endeavors.

“The use of predictive analytics is key for us as we continue to work at improving student retention rates,” said Patrick Bauer, chief information officer, Harper College. “Our model leverages analytics to pull disparate data sources together to provide a reporting framework, so at-risk students can be identified quickly and early intervention can increase student success.”

“Today’s organizations, including institutions of higher education, depend on advanced technologies in security, data analytics and mobility to stay ahead of student and faculty needs. At the same time, they realize that students who gain knowledge and expertise in these technologies learn critical career-enhancing skills,” said Jon Phillips, Dell’s managing director of Worldwide Education Strategy. “Today, we see a dangerous nationwide shortage in professionals with data analytics skills, which has prompted Dell to offer our Statistica advanced analytics software free for all U.S. college students and professors.”

Dell also revealed the results of a security survey conducted by the Center for Digital Education, which found that while organizations in the higher education industry are now better aware of the latest threats and vulnerabilities, numerous challenges still remain.

Survey findings include:
• 73 percent of respondents rank cybersecurity high or very high among their institution’s technology priorities;
• While institutions rank their ability to detect and block cyber-attacks relatively high, with 65 percent citing their abilities as good or excellent, only 17 percent indicate they have not experienced a network breach/incident in the past year; and,
• 77 percent of respondents expect to spend more on network security in the next 12 months and 63 percent expect to spend more on secure access to data and applications.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Stanford asks its students to tackle the biggest education challenges

In Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, students spend a year in pairs or teams developing solutions to some of the most pressing education challenges

education-challengesBuoyed by the idea that today’s collaborating young minds, armed with a technology arsenal, can solve most any problem, Stanford’s Learning, Design and Technology (LDT) Program in the university’s Graduate School of Education are asking their students to address any number of challenges existing in education today.

Though learning by doing is not a new concept–many educators believe students learn best when they participate in project-based learning where instructors act as coaches–the LDT program is going one step further, asking students to actually solve some of the biggest education challenges by learning to work with peers from diverse backgrounds and gain new perspectives on the challenges they’re attempting to solve.

“We’re bringing together people with a range of skills, backgrounds, approaches, and perspectives to work together for a year and collaborate about these meaningful problems, and develop new insights into what we can do with technology,” said Karin Forssell, the LDT program director.

“If you just throw technology at things without some deeper understanding of the complexity that is education, you’re unlikely to be lucky enough to hit on something that’s really important. It’s nice to get people to work together and honor each other’s skills and perspectives,” she said.

The program admits roughly 20 students each year, and Forssell said one emphasis is on evaluting each student’s project idea with an open mind, because students generally work in pairs or teams to bring a master’s project to fruition.

This year, the LDT Expo took place on July 31, 2015. During the expo, students give private presentations, offer oral defenses and conduct question-and-answer sessions in the morning. In the afternoon, the expo is open to a larger group.

The LDT website offers a glimpse into some of those student master’s projects.

Superherolympics: Unleashing the superpowers hidden inside all of us,” by Mariana Duprat and Seth Trudeau, is a “multi-player massive-scale board game designed for early adolescent ‘Third Culture Kids’ who are navigating different cultures in their home life and in their world at large.” The game’s interactive and collaborative nature helps users “develop their collaborative and cooperative skills while also practicing different forms of self-presentation.”

CodeTalk Revisited: Getting computer science students to talk in class,” by Mikala Streeter, was created under the premise that while students can learn by talking about content or ideas, not all students are comfortable with speaking in class. “This interactive guide teaches computer science instructors why productive talk is important, what a productive problem solving discussion could look like in computer science, how to set and maintain classroom norms that help students feel safe to participate, and how to plan, practice and evaluate their discussion faciliation.”

ToGetThere: Empowering teachers and students for group work success,” by Jesse Harris and Laura Pickel, is a “centralized digital repository of interventions and activities designed to help teachers and students learn, perform, and reflect in group work. It also serves as an online community of practice designed to promote sharing and learning between teachers, researchers, and students about group work experiences.”

A critical course component is cooperation and remaining open-minded.

“If you buy into your own ideas too soon, then you’re not as open to working with someone else,” Forssell said. “We’re focusing on owning different people’s ideas. We work to the point where students build on ideas and work together, so no one sees a project as someone’s idea.”


NYU highlights professional pathways

New initiative focuses on skills, job training, career development

professional-pathwaysThe NYU School of Professional Studies (NYUSPS) is developing and introducing several new non-degree educational initiatives, which will serve professionals who are already established in their fields, as well as those who are unemployed and underemployed.

Spearheaded by Dennis Di Lorenzo, Harvey J. Stedman Dean of the NYU School of Professional Studies, the newly launched Professional Pathways offer Diploma Programs and Career Advancement Courses that tailor the educational experience to meet the needs of two very distinct groups of students.

“As the composition of the workforce, the demands of industry, and the economic climate of New York City and New York State have changed, we have worked diligently to ensure that NYUSPS has developed educational programs and services that take into consideration these paradigm shifts and meet them head on,” asserted Dean Di Lorenzo. “We have met with, and listened carefully to, government officials, hiring managers, educational leaders, and members of educational advocacy groups, all of whom have voiced deep concern about workforce development, job readiness, and employment and educational inequality, as well as the ability to validate the skills acquired through professional education programs at all levels.”

The School’s new Diploma Programs have been designed to help those who are unemployed or underemployed to acquire skills in key industries that are hiring in New York City and New York State. Three tiers of Diplomas are offered to ensure that content is relevant for the specific groups they serve—those who have earned high school degrees, those who have earned some college credit, and those who hold a college degree.

“This is a new and exciting venture for the NYU School of Professional Studies—one that allows us to truly make a tangible difference in the lives and the livelihoods of people in the local community and beyond. We know the industries that are hiring and our curriculum aligns with their needs.”

Diploma Programs are short in duration (many can be completed in one semester), affordable, and deliver skill sets in fields that offer onramps to solid careers including those in: medical coding, project management, health care informatics, real estate, hospitality, restaurant management, and financial planning. In addition to immediately applicable skills, these programs also feature comprehensive online career development resources that serve to complement knowledge gained through class participation.

Career Advancement Courses offer established professionals the option to focus granularly in areas of specialization that differentiate them in the marketplace and increase their value to current and prospective employers. “These courses provide students with a more concise form of learning that maps to their career paths,” noted Dean Di Lorenzo. “They are distinct from the typical exposure based programs you would find in the realm of continuing education.” Students who successfully complete a Career Advancement Course earn a digital badge, which can be displayed through their social media presence or on their digital résumé.

The School announced these new initiatives during a thought leadership event titled: “Workforce Development: Empowerment Through Partnership,” which was held on October 7 at the New York Marriott Marquis. Two panels featuring top experts from government, industry, and education, discussed the current job market, the plight of the underemployed and the unemployed, and the ways in which they could partner to create educational and employment opportunities that would benefit all New Yorkers.

The panels were moderated by Steven Greenhouse, former labor and workplace reporter, The New York Times; and Lauren Weber, a reporter at The Wall Street Journal. Nearly 300 attendees heard from a diverse array of panelists that included: James Brown, NYC labor analyst, NYS Department of Labor; Jeff Livingston, educational policy expert; Marshall Steinbaum, research economist, Center for Equitable Growth; Richard Constable III, senior vice president, government relations and commercial contracts, Wyndham Worldwide Corporation; Steve Fiehl, chief innovation office, CrossKnowledge; Katy Gaul-Stigge, executive director, Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, New York City; Michelle A. Henry, vice president, global philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Stacy Martinet, chief marketing officer, Mashable, Inc.; and Deborah A. Santiago, co-founder, chief operating officer and vice president of policy, Excelencia in Education. The lunch keynote speaker was Danielle Moss Lee, chief executive officer, YWCA of the City of New York.

“As a leader in professional higher education, it is our job and our duty to bring the best minds together and begin the dialogue that will open the doors to collaborative efforts between education, government, and industry, said Dean Di Lorenzo. “Working collectively, we can build educational and training programs that serve the workforce of today and the future.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.


5 considerations to realize the full potential of campus IT

Access is not enough! Why advanced technology supported by campus IT has become critical to a college’s future.

edtech777I’m a traveling man so I have the luxury of hearing views from institutions across North America on technology in education.  Soon I’ll be attending two higher education conferences in the same week (ACUTA and EDUCAUSE), sharing the insight I’ve gained from my travels. Sound exhausting? Well, it’s not as exhausting as it is exciting!

From my travels I see that higher education information technology has reached an inflection point—the point at which the trends that dominated thought leadership have motivated early adopters and are now cascading into the mainstream.

As I venture around all areas of the U.S. visiting various sizes of colleges and universities, I’m well aware of technology’s impact on the fundamental operations and success of these institutions–IT has become critical to higher education.

Today’s college students are some of the most avid digital natives you will ever meet. So you might say, “Yeah, technology on a college campus…It’s there, it has to be there. So what’s new? What’s the big fuss?” It’s no longer about a university having the basic technology capabilities. 60 percent of students said they wouldn’t even look at the college if it didn’t have free Wi-Fi everywhere–it needs to do more than that.

1.What is the school doing to keep ahead of the curve as students, faculty and staff are expecting more every day? What are you doing to provide a personalized and connected experience at that institution? Its all about balance. What are we doing to meet expectations of students and faculty? To either keep tuition down or at least show great value for money? Does our innovation retain the student longer, and does our innovation help guarantee that student a career? Or at least a good stab at getting one?

Higher education IT professionals have shifted their focus.  They’re looking less at tactical technical problems, but to more strategic business problems that make a difference to the bottom line. After all, cash is king!

2.Can the under-resourced IT departments of these colleges get a strategic voice? The good news, and as evident from the ACUTA and EDUCAUSE agendas, is that education technology (and the advances in blended learning, the opportunities offered by MOOCs, and the adoption of digital tools in the classroom) means the tide is turning.

There are three areas that higher education IT professionals should consider. These help prove the strategic value of the IT organization in the evolution of an educational organization:

3.Use innovative technology to deliver a personalized, connected (student/faculty) experience.  A personalized connected experience is the ability for students and faculty to seamlessly access content and applications using their preferred devices, from mobile phones to tablets, from anywhere at any time, connected to a new generation of intelligent networks and cloud courseware.

This is a perfect way for IT to help drive innovation and create value as it relates to a student’s reason for attending and a teachers’ reason to educate. A personalized connected experience can be the thing that differentiates your school from all other colleges.

For example:  A student arrives on their first day. Scans a QR code and the device is immediately onboarded to the college network, their records are automatically updated, and they receive a college app (complete with their personalized schedule, even their dorm information).  This allows them, and their parents, to focus on those first days of separation without worry.

4.Make IT strategic to the success of a college. By driving educational success and financial solidity through technology, IT becomes a critical factor to the overall operations of a university. Today’s technology-rich innovation offers support that meets the new expectations from students and teachers.

Technology through consumption models is one way to balance technology advancement and drive down costs. Solutions that are tailored to satisfy the unique needs of your education environments are what help fuel IT strategies that lead to student success.

For example, IT can be a premium product with an affordable price, and with an even lower total cost of ownership. This strategic change drives down the cost per student and helps your institution stand out as an option when a high school student is evaluating which college to attend. (Just ask California State University). Add to this new advancements in automated techniques, such as self healing equipment, SDN deployment tools, and interoperability with incumbent brands, and a college can make significant savings instantly which can help lower fees.

5.Drive real-time collaboration that leads to success in students’ education and learning experience. IT professionals should consider evolving the way higher education people communicate by leveraging the next generation information and communications technology (ICT) environment, thus lowering the total cost while improving the quality of education. ICT can be tied directly to the shared success for students’ outcomes (better connected) and lowering the cost per student (lower TCO). With an outcome-based approach, technology helps strengthen a college’s reputation and attract students and faculty in the process, while lowering tuition by being tied directly to the success of the IT project.

For example, using interaction management tools, a college can focus on every dollar of tuition, but not effect the consistency of education. This translates to a better student experience and improved brand reputation that works for the college.

One thing is clear: the inflection point is good news for every ICT person in higher education. Together with education technologists, CIOs can blaze a trail in the next generation education environment, and not only attract new students but do it steeped in business sense!

Neal Tilley is an Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Education Solutions Specialist. This post was originally published on the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Blog here.


D2L launches CBE solution for nontraditional learners

Experts say CBE meets the needs of an increasingly diverse student population

cbe-adultD2L, the ed-tech company behind Brightspace, has launched a new competency-based education (CBE) solution for schools that incorporates Brightspace Learning Environment, strategic consulting, domain expertise, and a CBE community.

Today, there are more than 30 million adult nontraditional learners in the U.S. who have started a post-secondary education but haven’t completed it. This solution allows higher education institutions to launch CBE and make a degree more accessible and attainable for nontraditional students and underserved populations.

“When most people think of the path to a college degree, it’s a fairly traditional scenario—four years of high school then off to campus for four more years of dedicated, on-campus study, graduating with the promise of a good job and a decent salary. Instead, this pathway is becoming increasingly atypical,” said John Baker, CEO of D2L. “We built our CBE solution to address peoples’ needs and fill the gaps in the educational system. By helping institutions implement CBE, we’re helping millions of students attain the degrees they want to earn.”

CBE is a learning model that focuses on the outcomes of education, including what students can do rather than simply what they know. This has become increasingly important as more students take time off to work in between years of school, attend classes while working full time, or often leave their universities without completing their degree program. Additionally, the greatest increase in higher education enrollment today is among historically underserved populations, which creates a more diverse collection of students with equally diverse needs.

According to Eduventures, CBE has gained momentum in recent years because it precisely meets the needs of unique student populations.

“Every time we survey nontraditional students and ask them what would compel them to go back to school,” says Principal Analyst Jeff Alderson, “time and time again they describe precisely the characteristics that define CBE.” These include “not just lower tuition costs, which CBE makes possible through various subscription-based pricing models, but also access to academic programs that are readily aligned with the needs of employers and that take into account the knowledge and skills adults already bring into a program.”

The Brightspace Competency-Based Education solution includes offerings such as:
• THE BRIGHTSPACE COMMUNITY: D2L connects CBE clients with other customers operating and developing CBE programs. The company also offers self-serve content on how to set up Brightspace for CBE as well as resources on how to pursue innovation and funding.
• CBE CONSULTING SERVICES: D2L offers three levels of CBE consulting to meet every school’s needs.
o CBE Getting Started Service: Institutions will learn how to use Brightspace tools to implement CBE programs.
o CBE Strategic Planning Service: D2L’s CBE experts will help schools build a CBE strategic plan. This includes communication planning, business processes and practices review, pedagogy/andragogy review, technology review, and a Plan/Achieve/Measure implementation plan.
o CBE Monthly Change Management Service: A one-year service to assist schools as they roll out their CBE programs.
• CBE COURSEWARE DEVELOPMENT: Using CBE best practices and methods, D2L can help schools transform their courses into CBE offerings, ensuring competencies are aligned to content and assessments.
• BRIGHTSPACE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: Brightspace is a CBE-ready learning management system (LMS) and offers a variety of assessment types, an adaptive learning engine, an ePortfolio tool, and a badging tool. The platform is cloud-based and built for online and mobile learning.

In addition to unveiling its new CBE solution, D2L also shared that the University of Wisconsin System (UW System) has become its first statewide CBE customer. The UW System serves more than 180,000 students annually. In Wisconsin, more than 650,000 nontraditional students have completed some post-secondary education but lack a degree. The UW System’s CBE program, the UW Flexible Option, has been designed to meet the needs of those students.

“UW Flex is built to provide a high-quality UW education to adult learners who are working full-time and supporting families. After only 22 months in operation, UW Flex is flourishing—enrollments are strong and our students are moving through their programs successfully. About a dozen have already graduated. The availability of technology for online learning, coupled with the competency-based education model, offers our students access to an education that simply did not exist before,” said Aaron Brower, Provost and Vice Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Extension.

For more information about Brightspace, its capabilities for CBE, and how higher education institutions are using it, visit www.brightspace.com/solutions/cbe.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


How Technology Helps Students Take Ownership of Learning

NurevaInfographic200x300aWe all know that learning is not a spectator’s sport, and that it doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. Explore this infographic to discover the many ways technology is helping students to connect, collaborate and take true ownership of their learning before, during and after school.