Faculty: Why should we collaborate with campus librarians?

A new report details significant barriers to communication and collaboration between librarians and faculty…and why it matters.

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More than 20 percent of surveyed faculty say there is no need for campus librarians and faculty to consult each other on course resources.

This finding is one of many revelatory highlights part of a new survey on campus libraries, revealing that greater collaboration and communication are needed between librarians and faculty in order to maximize their effectiveness and improve learning outcomes for students.

The survey of about 500 librarians and 500 faculty members was conducted by Library Journal and Gale, a global provider of research resources as part of Cengage Learning.

Many previous studies over the years have shown that library use leads to better grades and helps with student retention, and, therefore, faculty members should encourage their students to use the resources made available to them by libraries and incorporate these resources into their own curricula.

“The findings support what academic librarians already know anecdotally: proactively engaging librarians in the work of teaching faculty, including research and curriculum development, is key to a robust working relationship that leads to better outcomes for students,” said Meredith Schwartz, Executive Editor at Library Journal.

However, the report emphasizes that there is significant room for improvement. As it stands, 27 percent of faculty thinks there is no need for campus librarians and faculty to consult one another, with one respondent reporting that “faculty does not view the library as an up-to-date resource” and another claiming that quick and easy access to Google Scholar is more essential than library resources.

For those faculty members who do wish to engage with librarians, there is a perceived disconnect between how much collaboration actually occurs. More than half of faculty (57 percent of respondents) says they coordinate with librarians on course reserves, but only 31 percent of librarians say they coordinate with faculty.

Similarly, while a whopping 98 percent of librarians wish for better communication with faculty, only 45 percent of faculty members reported the same hope.

“As more pressure is put on higher education institutions to measure outcomes, there needs to be greater recognition of the value the library brings to the table,” said Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager for Gale. “From the survey it’s clear that there is opportunity and need to engrain the library in campus culture – which will ultimately elevate the learning experience, a common goal for all stakeholders.”

Limits to Library Presence

If there is a clear need for libraries to become a greater presence on campuses, what is limiting growth? According to the report, disconnects on main library service focus play a large role. While librarians and faculty unanimously agree that supporting student information literacy is the most essential service provided by the library, there was less agreement around other services such as developing discipline-wide collections, supporting faculty research, developing collections in direct support of course curricula, and text and data mining.

The results of the survey suggest, however, that a greater emphasis from libraries on supporting course curriculum could go a long way in bridging the gap between faculty and librarians. While 66 percent of librarians rated their libraries as being “excellent” or “above average” at developing collections that directly support course curricula, only 54 percent of faculty agreed. Thus, even greater strides from librarians in making this an increased area of focus could pay large dividends in establishing better relationships with faculty over time.

However, librarians shouldn’t be too hard on themselves. While only 46 percent of librarians thought so, 58 percent of faculty think libraries did an “excellent” or “above average” job in supporting faculty research.

How to Improve

Main suggestions from respondents on how to improve communication and collaboration centered on increasing personal interaction. For both parties, the preferred line of communication is e-mail.

Additionally, faculty indicated that they would like dedicated library liaisons for each department in order to learn their disciplines and then better instruct how the library can help them.

Meanwhile, academic librarians want more opportunities to attend faculty meetings and an institutional commitment to embedding library-taught research skills.

Perhaps the greatest key to facilitating greater collaboration between librarians and faculty at this point lies in simply making the commitment toward actually doing so.

For the full report,“Bridging the Librarian – Faculty Gap in the Academic Library 2015,” and the complete results of the survey, click here.

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100G research circuit connects education networks

New TransPAC-Pacific Wave link between Tokyo and Seattle will deliver 10 times faster connectivity

research-circuitIndiana University and the Pacific Northwest Gigapop have launched a 100-gigabits-per-second research circuit connecting Pacific Rim research and education networks with their counterparts in the United States.

Called the TransPAC-Pacific Wave, the new link connects network research hubs in Tokyo and Seattle. It will deliver data transfer speeds that are 10 times faster than current rates to researchers between Asia and the U.S.

The project is a collaboration between Indiana University; the Pacific Northwest Gigapop, which is the provider of the link; and the National Science Foundation.

The TransPAC-Pacific Wave is a joint effort of two NSF-funded projects: TransPAC4, which supports backbone circuits between the U.S. and Asia, and Pacific Wave, a distributed open exchange created by the Pacific Northwest Gigapop and the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, or CENIC.

The principal investigators on the Pacific Wave are Ron Johnson of the Pacific Northwest Gigapop and University of Washington iSchool and Louis Fox of CENIC. Jennifer Schopf, IU director of international networks, is principal investigator on TransPAC4.

“From high-energy physics, astronomy and bioinformatics to climate science and geoscience, TransPAC4 enables better, faster research in a wealth of disciplines — and I’m excited by the possibilities this new 100-gigabit circuit and open exchange fabric will enable,” Schopf said. “Researchers will now be able to share their largest databases at extremely fast speeds. The TransPAC-Pacific Wave circuit is a game changer for the world of big data research.”

In March, IU and its International Networking group announced it had received a new five-year, $4.8 million NSF grant for TransPAC4. This is the fourth consecutive NSF grant to IU to lead trans-Pacific advanced research networks since 1998.

In terms of speed, how much faster is the new research circuit? If a U.S. scientist needs to download several hours of ultra high-definition 8K video from Tokyo, what had previously taken more than one hour can now be done in less than 10 minutes.

The TransPAC-Pacific Wave research circuit will support:
• Research and education network traffic across the Pacific
• Research efforts, including ultra high-definition video distribution as well as real-time instrument control, telepresence, virtual reality and big data applications
• Software-defined exchange and software-defined networking capabilities, including OpenFlow efforts
• Better interconnections between Asian research and education networks and their major U.S.-based counterparts, including multiple direct 100-gigabit connections to the U.S. Department of Energy’s high-speed networks, the Energy Science Network, or ESnet, and Internet2

The TransPAC-Pacific Wave research circuit is now operational between Pacific Wave’s node in Seattle and Pacific Wave’s access point in Tokyo. Direct connectivity to Japan’s Tokyo Research Exchange is scheduled for this fall.

“This link represents a new era for East Asia-U.S. cyberinfrastructure and for Asia-U.S. research and education networking,” said Kevin Thompson, a program director at NSF. “Indiana University and the Pacific Northwest Gigapop are appropriately leading this effort in the United States, and both institutions have a rich history in support and innovation in international research and education networking.”

Greg Bell, division director at ESnet, added that he is excited about the network’s potential and pleased with the collegiality surrounding its creation.

“This milestone is great news,” Bell said. “The world’s hardest problems can only be solved through global collaboration, and 10-gigabit links will soon be insufficient to support large-scale science. Faster data almost always means faster discovery. More important than bandwidth, though, is a growing spirit of international cooperation in our community: Multiple stakeholders are working toward a common goal of open, fast and safe research networking for the world.”

International Networks at IU leads two large-scale international research networks that link scientists around the world, making it possible for them to collaborate and share information that can lead to life-changing discoveries. IU International Networks is responsible for planning, operating and managing the National Science Foundation-funded America Connects to Europe network, which links the U.S. to Europe, and TransPAC4, which links the U.S. to Asia. TransPAC4 is supported by NSF grant number 1450904.

The Pacific Northwest Gigapop is a nonprofit corporation serving research and education organizations throughout the Pacific Rim. It provides networking to support the missions of these organizations and the needs of researchers, faculty, students and staff.

Pacific Wave is an open, distributed exchange fabric that integrates nodes across the U.S. West Coast. It has major points-of-presence in Seattle, Sunnyvale, Calif., and Los Angeles on its purpose-built 100G open-peering backbone. Pacific Wave is a joint project of the Pacific Northwest Gigapop and the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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ASU moves toward open content

ASU joins Pepperdine, Notre Dame, Stanford and other ProQuest SIPX customers that are saving students and schools a combined $3.67M

open-contentArizona State University (ASU) has entered into a three-year partnership with ProQuest SIPX, provider of digital course materials solutions in higher education.

ASU will integrate the SIPX Central servic-—a scalable, self-service configuration that enables anyone at the school to set up course readings—-into the campus’ Blackboard learning management system.

The technology is intended to put more library resources and open access content into the hands of instructors. The service aims to reduce the cost of course materials for students and simplify sharing of the course readings between instructors and students.

ASU joins other new SIPX schools including Purdue University, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Claremont Lincoln University, among others.

“ASU continues to invest in technologies that advance the future of higher education. Our goal is to continue preparing students for success and deliver a great university experience,” adds Adrian Sannier, Chief Academic Technology Officer for ASU Online. “By expanding access to our library, we are providing the tools needed regardless of our students’ physical location.”

“We are excited to partner with ASU. They are clearly a thought leader in online learning innovation, with ASU Online initiatives like their Starbucks partnership helping employees achieve college degrees and the Global Freshman Academy that gives students of any financial means a way to obtain a quality four-year online degree,” said Franny Lee, ProQuest SIPX General Manager. “ASU and ProQuest SIPX share similar goals of improving education and making it more attainable for all.”

ProQuest SIPX offers three product solutions to support unique teaching and learning workflows: SIPX Central, SIPX Campus and SIPX for MOOCs, all three based on innovative digital course materials technology that address a variety of copyright and costs concerns for universities. By connecting students to materials that are open access or available to them through their library subscriptions, the SIPX solutions have saved its customers and students $3.67M to date.

SIPX solutions are affordable, sustainable, easy to implement and offer benefits across campus:
Students typically save 20-35 percent in course materials costs.

Instructors have more visibility to relevant content that is available at no charge to students, such as open access and library subscriptions, when they assign curriculum readings. They are also supported with intuitive tools for sharing non-subscribed copyrighted materials compliantly and see useful analytics that give insight into students’ engagement with reading assignments.

Administrators and deans can optimize and streamline their campus operations while driving student success, supporting quality curricula and lowering the cost of education.

IT directors can integrate SIPX into their existing LMS and teaching platforms with SIPX’s cloud-based, scalable technology.

Instructional technologists can leverage a fast and easy copyright and content tool to support all types of teaching, including online education innovations and MOOCs.

Librarians get more use out of their collections investments and more insight into the content their campus needs for teaching and online education, as well as saving over 50 percent of their own budgets in cases where the library pays for permissions.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Mobile development expands across majors

More professors are finding it useful to teach mobile development skills to students in business, sales and marketing classes.

mobile-developmentIncreasingly, professionals across departments–from IT to sales and marketing–are playing a role in building mobile apps and are encouraged to have mobile development skills.

Institutions of higher education are responding to these growing expectations by weaving mobile development courses into a variety of majors.

As the demand for mobile development skills in the enterprise increases, many professors are turning to mobile integration platforms such as Appery.io to help students get the hang of mobile development.

Appery.io gives users the ability to build with visual development tools while still providing access to the code. Students in a business curriculum can build complete apps using visual tools while students in IT can write code.

“We chose Appery.io because the development platform was superior to others we tried. With its ability to integrate to third party APIs and its visual development environment, business majors with no prior programming experience are able to create meaningful mobile applications in one semester,” said Dr. Richard Halverson, adjunct professor at the Shidler College of Business, University of Hawaii.

“For our MIS majors, the flexibility of being able to add any amount of custom code and to integrate to our own server side APIs made it perfect for teaching client side JavaScript programming as well,” he said.

Halverson added that the economy will still need programmers for complex tasks, but more and more non-programmers are learning basics.

“There will be a division of labor shift, in which some things that used to have to be done by programmers [can be done by non-programmers],” he said.

Appery.io’s team capabilities enable faculty members to assign platform resources to student teams, while students can easily collaborate with each other to complete their mobile apps. Students can also share their apps with teaching assistants and faculty to streamline grading and feedback.

“Our work with top business and engineering academic institutions ensures that students are equipped with the mobile development skills they will need as they enter the workforce,” CEO of Appery, LLC, makers of Appery.io. “Partnering with these schools and universities provides an exciting opportunity for Appery.io to extend its offering as the most complete mobile app development platform into the education sector, a decision that will help shape the leading developers of our future.”

“Our partnership with Appery follows the implementation of M-government, a UAE initiative that aims to deliver all government services to the community via mobile devices,” said Dr. Hamad Odhabi, Executive Dean at Higher Colleges of Technology, the largest system of universities in the UAE. “Appery.io enables our faculty members to prepare our student body for the increased demand of mobile applications in both the private and public sector in the UAE.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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New collaborative sheds light on learning outcomes

Learning outcomes pilot study gathers data from 59 higher education institutions.

learning-outcomesA new project focused on advancing learning outcomes has demonstrated that rubric-based assessment can be scaled and can offer up valid findings, along with actionable information, about student learning. This information could be used to improve curriculum and assessment design, and to improve program and class effectiveness in an effort to advance learning outcomes at colleges and universities.

These findings come from the pilot year of the Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment (MSC) project, which launched in 2011 and supported by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Association.

In its pilot year, the project initially engaged faculty in 59 institutions in nine participating states. The nine states participating in the MSC during the pilot year were: Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah. (See: www.sheeo.org/msc for the full list of participating institutions involved in both the pilot and continuing phases of the MSC work.)

As part of the pilot study, more than 7,000 samples of student work produced for course assignments in students’ regular courses were uploaded to a web platform developed by Taskstream. 126 faculty members were trained, and then independently scored students’ work to produce a preliminary landscape analysis of student achievement at the participating schools.

Samples of student work were collected and evaluated for achievement in three important learning outcome areas: written communication, critical thinking, and quantitative literacy. The faculty members used common scoring rubrics—called VALUE rubrics—that were developed and validated by faculty as part of AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.

“What this pilot study showed is that faculty from a variety of disciplines, from dozens of colleges and universities, from nine different states across the nation could assess the work students had done and evaluate it in a consistent and reliable way,” said SHEEO President George Pernsteiner. “There was no special test. There was no time away from the classroom. There was, however, a common understanding by faculty from diverse places and backgrounds of what constituted learning and whether students had demonstrated it.”

The MSC is part of AAC&U’s ongoing VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) initiative originally launched in 2007. In its pilot year, SHEEO and AAC&U tested the feasibility of cross-state and cross-institutional efforts to document student achievement without using standardized tests and without requiring students to do any additional work or testing outside their regular curricular requirements. All the student work samples were assessed using common rubrics developed and tested against student work by teams of faculty at hundreds of individual institutions across the country.

In the MSC pilot study, 126 faculty from across the participating states and campuses used the common VALUE rubrics to evaluate student work and scored only work products produced by students from institutions that were not their own.

The pilot successfully demonstrated that:
• A wide array of institutions can develop sampling plans to provide reliable samples of student work from across a variety of departments and that demonstrate achievement of key cross-cutting learning outcomes.
• Faculty can effectively use common rubrics to evaluate student work products—even those produced for courses outside their areas of expertise.
• Following training, faculty members can produce reliable results using a rubric-based assessment approach. More than one-third of the student work products were double scored to establish inter-rater reliability evidence.
• Faculty report that the VALUE rubrics used in the study do encompass key elements of each learning outcome studied, and were very useful for assessing student work and for improving assignments.
• A web-based platform can create an easily usable framework for uploading student work products and facilitating their assessment.
• Actionable data about student achievement of key learning outcomes on specific key dimensions of these important learning outcomes can be generated via a common rubric-based assessment approach.

While the findings from the pilot study are not generalizable across the entire population of students in the participating states or nationally, the study found within the cohort of participating institutions some clear patterns in students’ achievement levels.

Using a 0–4 rating scale, much higher percentages of student work products were rated at either a “3” or “4” in four-year institutions than were rated at those levels in two-year institutions in the project. Significant numbers of students nearing degree completion at two-year institutions demonstrated high or very high levels of achievement on key outcomes.

“The calls are mounting daily for higher education to be able to show what students can successfully do with their learning,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider. “The VALUE Multi-State Collaborative is a very important step toward focusing assessment on the best evidence of all: the work students produce in the course of their college studies. It is exciting and inspiring to see the results of this project. Higher education owes a debt of gratitude to the educational leaders and faculty members in the participating states who helped develop this pilot study and contributed to these illuminating results.”

See the MSC pilot summary slide deck for full information on demographics of students in the pilot study institutions, rubrics used in the assessments, and preliminary results of scoring of student work products.

For more information, see VALUE and Multi-State Collaborative on Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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University takes 4 Steve Jobs steps to engage students

A California school successfully improved enrollment thanks to a human-centered design system. Now, multiple others are following suit.

human-centered-designWhen students have negative interactions with a school’s online systems, it hurts the brand and the bottom line—problems that are all too common in higher education. Luckily, there’s a relatively painless design fix that’s proven to increase enrollment.

Steve Jobs built a corporate empire around the concept that tech products should be elegant and easy to use. Unfortunately, higher education didn’t get the memo. Indeed, many university systems—from payment tools to registration and websites—often appear to be the work of vengeful bureaucrats, with more focus spent on the needs of the technology than of the students and staff who must use them.

The problem is most acute at large state systems, which often favor comprehensive solutions despite having incredibly diverse programs and student needs. But when students—and prospective students—have negative interactions with a school’s online systems, it not only hurts the brand but the bottom line as well.

The good news is that schools can often fix these issues without having to throw out their legacy systems and start again.

That’s what California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) Continuing Education (CE) discovered when it embarked on an ambitious program to overhaul the user interface of its existing systems. The problem wasn’t the systems per se—it was the way students were forced to interact with them.

“We’re kind of big bureaucratic institutions and we focus so much on process that we have a tough time thinking that we have customers,” explained Dan Bellone, marketing director for CSUEB’s University Extension. “There’s a lot of competition out there. If you’re not customer-centered and not serving the needs of your prospective audience, you ‘re in trouble.”

To help CE recapture its customer focus, Bellone turned to Story+Structure, a Boston-based design and technology firm that specializes in what its founder, Chokdee Rutirasiri, calls “human-centered design.”

“Often folks focus mainly on the technology,” said Bellone of why Story+Structure’s approach appealed to him. “Instead, we focused on what type of experience we wanted to offer our clientele. Then we made the technology fit around that.”

A crisis in the school’s registration system served as the catalyst for change. While Bellone didn’t believe it at the time, it may have been the best thing that could have happened because it forced the division to act.

1.A System for ALL people

The crisis was precipitated when CSUEB decided to move all CE student data into PeopleSoft, which already handles CSU’s traditional student programs across its 23 campuses. “It makes sense to have one system of record across the whole campus supported by the IT department,” acknowledged Bellone. “But it created this really big issue for us around the registration process. When we moved into PeopleSoft, the system had been set up for traditional students, and it didn’t really make sense for our students.” It’s a problem, Bellone noted, faced by CE and Extension departments across the CSU system and probably many other institutional users of PeopleSoft.

CE students are primarily adult learners who might enroll in the middle of a quarter or even for a single day, as happens with CE’s eight-hour notary public class. While CE did manage to shoehorn its courses into PeopleSoft, it proved very difficult for students to find and then register for them online.

At the beginning of the process, for example, students were asked whether they were enrolling in a graduate or undergraduate program. “Notary public doesn’t really fit into any of those categories, but you had to select one to move onto the next step,” said Bellone.

Even if CE students succeeded in navigating their way through the labyrinth, they still couldn’t register and pay until PeopleSoft generated an ID for them—two days later. “You want to take this program, you’ve got your wallet out, and we’re telling you to come back in two days to register,” said Bellone.

2.No Hoops

Payment created a whole new set of issues. Like a lot of universities nationwide, CSUEB uses CASHNet, a third-party payment system that requires the university to hand students off to its site. Unfortunately, under the old system, almost no information was conveyed to CASHNet.

“Your course information didn’t follow you, so you were basically presented with a blank field,” said Bellone. “Hopefully, you had written down the price of the course. And if you were paying by credit card, we relied on you to do the calculation of the 2.9 percent fee. We were making it really hard for students to register for class.”

Not surprisingly, a lot of students were unprepared to jump through the hoops. “We saw a drastic drop in registration when we moved to PeopleSoft,” noted Bellone. “It was really clear to the higher-ups that this created a big problem and we needed to fix it.”

3.The User Community Comes First

At the same time, Bellone realized that the problems with PeopleSoft and CASHNet were part of a much broader loss of customer focus across the division.

To understand the scope of the problem, CE and Story+Structure first conducted a discovery phase. “We spent a lot of time looking at the organization top down,” noted Bellone, who believes this was the most important step in the whole process. “We spent a lot of time talking to staff. We also surveyed our current students, we surveyed past students, we surveyed prospective students. We got a sense of who we were, who we wanted to be, where we wanted to go, and we used that discovery document to really launch this whole project.”

Once Bellone and Story+Structure understood the full scope of the issues they faced, they were in a position to consider possible solutions. Starting from scratch was out of the question, though.

“We were told, ‘You can’t get rid of PeopleSoft and we have a payment gateway that we can’t change,'” recalled Story+Structure’s Rutirasiri, citing some of the key takeaways that his team learned during the discovery phase. “That’s fine, but you also don’t want to show the messiness of the sausage-making to the student. Instead, let’s use API calls that bury everything—all the back-office stuff—under a really great UI, and float the student on top of that.”

4.Designing a Beautiful Face

Working together with IT, Bellone, and vendors, Story+Structure developed a familiar shopping cart experience to replace the previous registration and payment system, and eliminated the two-day wait for an ID.

For Bellone, the significance of this achievement should not be underestimated. “The fact that we were able to create a shopping cart using PeopleSoft is the most amazing thing,” he noted.

CE’s overhaul did not stop with the development of the shopping cart, however. The CE website and course catalog were among a total of four major projects (including a Salesforce CRM implementation) that the division undertook all at once. “A respectful experience is one that takes into account the entire student experience,” said Rutirasiri as explanation for the broad scope of the redesign.

The CE website had not been redesigned since 2004.

“The old website used catalog-type language that’s quite common in higher ed,” said Bellone. “We wanted to build a site that was easy to use but also had more of an emotional appeal. We went from talking about programs at an institutional level to talking directly to prospective students by using words like ‘you.’ The new site is also really beautiful: big hero images at the top, a lot of graphical elements, and a lot less content.”

Student testimonials, quotes from professors, as well as data about how programs mesh with today’s job market further round out the website experience. Also key, in Bellone’s view, is a distinct call to action on every page: a button, for example, where students can request more information.

Bellone is the first to admit that the ambitious agenda left him and his staff running around with their hair on fire. “It may seem crazy to be doing these four projects all at the same time, but I wouldn’t do it any other way,” he recalled. “It made much more sense to develop them in unison. The end product is much stronger than if you tackled them one at a time.”

According to Bellone, since January, enrollment has increased 7 percent, or 1000 students. He explains that while these are just numbers, the positive responses from students and staff are also something to celebrate.

“From day one, the number of info requests has gone up drastically,” said Bellone. “We went up from getting six or eight a day to 60, and that’s been consistent since we launched.”

And thanks to the successful conclusion of phase one of the company’s work with CSUEB CE, additional members of the CSU system have engaged with Story+Structure. CSU Channel Islands, CSU Fullerton and San Jose State University have all enlisted the firm to help them establish a strategic roadmap towards providing both students and staff with a more human-centric experience. In addition, the University of California, Santa Cruz is about to begin work with Story+Structure at its Silicon Valley Extension campus.

“We asked Story+Structure to lead a discovery initiative for a planned CRM implementation, as well as an overall rethinking of our user experience, across five programs,” said Carol Creighton, associate dean, Extended Education, California State University, Fullerton. “We look forward to this process helping us build consensus with all stakeholders, gain insight into our target audience, better understand workflow and services, and identify opportunities to innovate.”

For Bellone, the benefits of CE’s new customer-centric approach far outweigh the costs. “The percent of our overall budget that we spent on this project was small,” he noted, “In exchange, we’re presenting students—and prospective students—with a user experience that is very friendly.”

“We understand the pressing need for our higher education clients to make the most of any technology investment,” said Chokdee Rutirasiri, founder and CEO, Story+Structure. “By assisting them from the very beginning of their technology decisions, we help them ensure a holistic approach that best meets the needs of the users. Our end goal is no less than using human-centered design to revolutionize the student experience.”

Andrew Barbour is an editorial freelancer with eCampus News.

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New project tackles alternative credit

Participating universities are part of an initiative using alternative credit courses to help nontraditional learners.

alternative-creditA group 111 of alternative credit course offerings will be part of a new initiative to help nontraditional learners earn college degrees.

The American Council on Education’s (ACE) Alternative Credit Project features low- or no-cost, lower-division general education online courses that were submitted by a group of non-accredited course providers chosen to participate in the Alternative Credit Project.

The 40 colleges, universities and systems taking part in the project—two- and four-year, public and private—each have agreed to grant credit for a large number of these courses, which include disciplines such as business, critical thinking and writing, foreign language, humanities, mathematics and natural and physical sciences.

The 7 non-accredited providers selected to join the project include: Ed4Online; edX; JumpCourse; Pearson Learning Solutions; Saylor Academy; Sophia Learning; StraighterLine. A list of the courses can be found here. Students can select courses and determine which colleges and universities accept specific courses by visiting www.AlternativeCreditProject.com.

“This is an important step for an initiative that already has significantly increased our body of knowledge about the most effective ways to increase the number of Americans able to earn a college degree or credential by using education, training and life experiences gained outside a formal classroom,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad.

“Nontraditional students who often are balancing multiple family and career demands now know where they can turn to take courses that will help them reduce the time and expense required to gain a postsecondary degree or credential at a number of outstanding institutions,” said Deborah Seymour, ACE assistant vice president for education attainment and innovation.

ACE will be collecting anonymized data from participating institutions regarding the number of credits each institution accepts through this project as well as progress and success rates of students who transfer in consortium-approved courses.

The project is made possible by a $1.89 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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How an ePortfolio helps students from college to career

The California State University System has entered into a three-year agreement to provide its students with ePortfolios powered by Portfolium.com; helping 460K students and 3M alumni prove competencies and employability to top companies.

eportfolio-onlinePortfolium, an ePortfolio and Career Readiness Network, has signed a 3-year agreement with the Cal State University System, making Portfolium the sponsored provider of ePortfolio networks to CSU’s 460,000 students and 3,000,000 alumni from all 23 CSU campuses.

“The CSU is excited about its partnership with Portfolium, which represents another tool to help our students be successful while attending the university, as well as help them find jobs after they graduate,” said Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Loren Blanchard. “We also see this as another way to increase the opportunities for networking among our alumni.”

Portfolium’s relationship with the CSU system is rooted in successful campus-wide launches at CSU San Marcos, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, San Diego State University and Cal State Northridge. An incredible 65% of Cal Poly’s students began building their ePortfolios within just 7 days of the campus-wide rollout. Due to the positive buzz among students, over 80,000 students from the CSU system have joined and started their portfolios organically outside of the formal CSU partnership.

“We are very pleased with the ease of implementation of Portfolium and their entire team’s responsiveness before, during, and after the launch. Preparation was minimal. We are very excited for our students and alumni to have a competitive tool that will help them translate their academic preparation to a career or promotion,” said Neal Hoss, VP Advancement, Cal State San Marcos.

Students and alumni access Portfolium via the exclusive network for their CSU campus. Through this network, they create a digital portfolio of their academic and professional accomplishments including projects, presentations and papers. The interface highlights talents and achievements that aren’t easily captured in a traditional resume, and their work is showcased in a collaborative environment that connects them directly to companies, recruiters, internships and jobs.

“After having our students test multiple ePortfolio options over last summer, Portfolium was chosen as the ideal platform to showcase the work and projects of Cal Poly students and alumni,” said Charlotte Rinaldi, Assistant Director, Career Services, Cal Poly SLO.

Students and faculty alike have attributed Portfolium’s high marks and adoption success to its unique social networking feel, user-friendly interface, high level of accessibility, and rapid onboarding and implementation portal.

The partnership with Portfolium highlights the CSU’s commitment to high-impact practices that support student success and expand opportunity. The tool helps students focus on outcomes including career readiness, skills planning, assessment and reflection, and employer engagement, while integrating with pre-existing LMS tools such as Blackboard and Canvas.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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5 gray areas of higher education’s reinvention

New innovations in higher-ed technology and practice are popping up daily in higher education’s reinvention—but that doesn’t mean they have seals of approval.

higher-education-reinventioneTextbook engagement analytics, cloud systems, career training programs, MOOCs, flipped learning, virtual worlds, game-based instruction…the list could continue for pages. And while institutions emphatically communicate that many of these technologies and practices part of higher education’s reinvention need further research, even some of the seemingly accepted innovations have yet to receive a clear green light.

These “gray areas” on campuses across the country often occur due to technology-based changes in social practices; and though college and university staff often are eager to incorporate these practices in the classroom or within administration, conflicts over institutional mission, student satisfaction or learning quality can occur.

For example, take online assessments: the ability for a student to take an assessment anywhere on a computer initially seems to benefit both the student (easy access) and assessment quality (adaptive functionality). Yet, after initial trials-and-errors, the verdict is still out thanks to major concerns over student cheating and identity verification.

But even online assessments seem small in practice compared to the larger gray areas of higher education’s reinvention. Don’t see a major gray area on the list? Leave your suggestions and thoughts in the comment section below.

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Gray area: Social Media

Why it’s being considered: The explosion in popularity of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, spearheaded by today’s youth, has led institutions to use social media for recruitment, for safety, and simply to better communicate with the student body. According to the 2014 Social Admissions Report, prospective students are beginning to use platforms such as Instagram (26 percent increase since 2012) and Twitter (15 percent increase since 2012) to better help them select their college or university. Nearly two-thirds (67 percent) of students use social media to research colleges, and nearly 75 percent find it influential. Also, the percent of pre-admission students who like or follow a college on social media increased by 23 points from 2012-13.

The issue: Moving away from campus accounts, some faculty use social media as a communication tool with students, or simply use a personal account. Specifically, college and university presidents using social media are becoming more prevalent—in 2012, communications consultant Michael Stoner posted a series on the mStoner blog about presidents who used social media. However, according to a new survey on faculty attitudes about technology from Inside Higher Ed and Gallup, while only a small percentage of faculty members use social media to discuss politics and scholarship, a majority say they are concerned about attacks on academics for their social media posts. Stoner found that although social media gave presidents the opportunity to reach previously untouched groups, they tended to stay away due to a mixture of time constraints, potential control problems, risk aversion, questions of social media’s effectiveness, ROI, lack of social pressure, age, and performance anxiety.

Moving forward: Recently, Dan Zaiontz, social media expert and professor at Seneca College in Toronto, released his best practices text #FollowTheLeader: Lessons in Social Media Success from #HigherEd CEOs. Also, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recommends that all institutions of higher education work with their faculties to develop policies governing the use of social media. Hank Reichman of AAUP recently wrote this post to help faculty understand the complex issue of social media.

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Gray area: MOOCs

Why it’s being considered: From positive branding and recruitment efforts to the idealistic concept that higher-level learning can be broadcast for free to the world, the idea of hosting a MOOC seems like a no-brainer.

The issue: Where to start? From the unexpected costs that could be associated with MOOC development to issues of access, and from new innovations in MOOC formats to determining their value within a range of online learning options [read about these issues here], colleges and universities are still trying to decide whether or not MOOCs are a passing trend or part of a long-term strategy. There’s also the budding issue of who owns MOOC content.

Moving forward: There’s one thing institutions do agree on when it comes to MOOCs: it has to make sense for the individual college or university. While one university’s MOOC experiment could be found unworthy of the investment, another university’s implementation could have real value. The key is in mapping out what the institutional goals are in offering a MOOC, and whether or not the MOOC format delivers on those goals.

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Gray area: Online Learning

Why it’s being considered: The potential for online learning to reach a wide population of under-served students for lower costs has seen online learning experiments and implementation explode across U.S. campuses. In fact, recently released data from NCES on today’s student demographic suggests online learning options may be an even larger necessity in higher education that previously believed.

The issue: Do a quick Google search for face-to-face vs. online learning and you’ll find hundreds of articles from both proponents and critics of online learning. On one side, many faculty and students say online doesn’t compare to the human interaction, instant feedback, and sense of community provided by face-to-face courses; and these characteristics make for higher quality learning. Many critics of online learning also emphasize that only a small percentage of students possess the self-motivation needed to take online courses. On the other side, many faculty and students believe that today’s technology tools allow for the communication necessary for community-building and professor-to-student interaction, such as instant messaging, online forums, and VoIP capabilities.

Moving forward: Though most institutions agree that some form of online learning should be on offer, many are testing the online learning waters with blended and flipped learning within on-campus programs with successful results. However, even blended learning hasn’t received the green light just yet.

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Gray area: Skills Training

Why it’s being considered: The national conversation on whether or not higher education is worth the financial investment from students is centered on the idea many students may not find a job post-graduation due to the economy’s need for skilled workers. Just take a look at the ever-expanding college ranking lists by sources such as the Wall Street Journal and U.S. News that highlight job procurement after college. The pressure on institutions to help students find employment after graduation means many traditional four-year institutions are turning to businesses for help not just in securing internships, but creating skills-based programs and degrees (i.e. cybersecurity, data analysis, etc.).

The issue: Higher education seems torn between what it considers business versus education, especially in the liberal arts. Critics of the university as a business often oppose what they say is the emphasis on “skills” versus “higher-order thinking.” However, many say higher education has always been a business—it’s just the terminology that’s changing.

Moving forward: Community colleges still reign supreme when it comes to preparing its graduates for skill-specific jobs, but that doesn’t mean colleges and universities can’t help bridge abstract “higher-order thinking” to post-graduation career success through competency-based education options, microcredentials and badging, and community-building platforms. Fidelis, for example, has a learning relationship management (LRM) system with the ability for admin to track student progress of goals throughout their education and receive actionable data on student interactions with communities, businesses, and micro-credentialing opportunities.

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Gray area: Mobile for Learning

Why it’s being considered: According to numerous industry reports, as well as simple observation, mobile technology and electronic resources are booming in education. According to a recent Harris Poll-conducted Pearson report on college student use of mobile devices, 84 percent of 2014 college students surveyed own a smartphone, up from 72 percent in 2013. 45 percent own a tablet, up from 38 percent a year ago. 8 percent own a hybrid or 2-in-1 computer. And according to McGraw-Hill Education and Hanover Research’s second annual report, “The Impact of Technology on College Student Study Habits,” 81 percent of students included in the study use mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) to study, the second most popular device category behind laptops and up 40 percent year over year.

The issue: Much hype has been built around the concept of today’s student as a tech-savvy digital native, yet many students still prefer traditional tools for learning. For example, even though use of tablets and smartphones is increasing, students still rate laptops as the most useful device. And according to Pearson’s report, when asked about their future use of mobile devices in class, half of students surveyed (48 percent) say their usage is just right, while one in five (17 percent) would like to use mobile devices less often than they do now. The problem, say researchers, is that planning coursework around mobile, as well as optimizing e-Texts for mobile, is still in its infancy and requires fine-tuning. Many students and faculty also say that mobile devices in the classroom can cause distractions, especially if some students are using mobile for the first time.

Moving forward: Mobile is here to stay. But for faculty and students to fully embrace mobile learning, specific use policies should be implemented; as well as lessons designed specifically around mobile that yield measurable, positive learning outcomes.

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ASU System to deploy CampusNexus Suite

Deployment will help institutions boost enrollment, retention, engagement.

campusnexis-suiteThree institutions in the Arkansas State University System (ASU System) have chosen CampusNexus – including CampusNexus Student; CampusNexus CRM and CampusNexus Finance, HR & Payroll, as well as Campus Management’s Fundraising solution – to more efficiently grow enrollment, increase retention, improve student engagement, share interdepartmental information and make data-driven decisions.

Campus Management’s technology will be used by every department across three Arkansas State University System institutions – Newport, Beebe and Mountain Home – with nine campuses in total, reaching over 6,000 students. All three of the ASU colleges shared an immediate goal to replace their legacy systems with new technology designed for the evolving needs of today’s students.

The solution will be delivered in Campus Management’s cloud environment, which will enable each institution to remain focused on strategic initiatives while Campus Management manages the infrastructure, security, reliability and system upgrades.

“ASU-Mountain Home is excited about the opportunity to implement Campus Management software,” said Dr. Robin Meyers, Chancellor at Mountain Home. “This system will provide us with a solution to enhance our overall operations and allow us to better serve our students. From recruitment and retention to alumni relations and advancement, we will now have the foundation we need for improving engagement across the student lifecycle.”

Jerry Carlisle, Vice Chancellor at ASU-Beebe added “The ASU-Beebe campus found that the CampusNexus suite of solutions provides the most value to our institution compared to other vendors in the ERP/SIS marketplace. We feel that the students’ higher education experience will be dramatically improved at our institution once Campus Management’s products and services are fully implemented and available for use.”

“ASU-Newport is looking forward to partnering with Campus Management to deploy a leading-edge student information system. Our college is convinced that Campus Management offers the system that will serve us the best as we look to increase the level of service to our students while increasing efficiency within our institution,” said Adam Adair, Vice Chancellor at Newport. “Campus Management will allow us to save costs while significantly upgrading our service to students.”

“As universities continue to experience greater competition for students and constantly evolving business models, Campus Management’s goal is to provide traditional institutions like those in the Arkansas State University System with the technology that puts them ahead of the curve when it comes to achieving growth, staying connected with students and operating efficiently,” said Jim Milton, CEO at Campus Management. “We understand that two-year institutions encounter significant enrollment shifts and budget constraints, yet are highly in tune with their community’s needs. Campus Management is delighted that these Arkansas colleges recognize the alignment of our solutions to their missions and needs.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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