Most Popular of 2015, No. 1: Moving past the myths of mobile learning

Two research professors discuss the mobile learning myths associated with its adoption infancy, and what they’ve learned since.

mobile-learning-myths[Editor’s note: Based off of Google Analytics, this story was our most popular article. It was originally published on July 6, 2015.]

By now, educators are familiar with the term mLearning, having experienced its rush in classroom popularity starting as early as 2000. But two researchers say it’s now imperative that educators slough off the myths from the reality to avoid ineffective classroom practice moving forward.

“In recent years, many projects have assisted in the maturation of mLearning and much has already been done to integrate mLearning into mainstream education. However, mLearning is still in its infancy and we are merely seeing the tip of the iceberg,” notes Tom Brown, associate professor of research and development in tech-enhanced learning at the University of South Africa , Pretoria (UNISA), and co-author of the report (title is at the time of this report’s publication. He is currently CEO of a portfolio management company).

“Our perspectives on [mobile learning] seek to…stimulate an appetite to embrace the opportunities in open and distance learning, while minimizing the potential negative effects of technological, social and pedagogical change,” explains Lydia Mbati, senior researcher with specialties in higher ed-tech and pedagogic theory at UNISA, and co-author of the report.

Most of the myths identified by Brown and Mbati focus on mobile learning’s oft-described “techno-centric” characteristics, which the researchers say may do a disservice to those educators either interested in implementing mLearning, or have already done so.

(Next page: 7 myths associated with mobile learning)


Most Popular IT of 2015: 5 massive MOOC lessons learned by colleges and universities

Recent best practices and research from adventurous, innovative colleges and universities yield 5 takeaways about MOOC implementation.

MOOC-online-learned[Editor’s note: Based off of Google Analytics, this story was our most popular IT article. It was originally published on Aug. 11, 2015.]

Love them or hate them, MOOCs are still a popular option among college and universities. Yet, only the institution that takes note of MOOC evolution via trial-and-error will be able to effectively harness the multiple campus and student benefits offered by this notorious mode of online learning.

After reviewing recent studies, best practices, and research reports over the last two years as published by eCampus News, there are five major takeaways from the MOOC implementation boom, which could potentially help students, professors, and campus marketing better take advantage of what MOOCs originally aimed to do for higher education: increase access to education, increase student engagement, and promote branding of the institution—all without adding an unmanageable financial burden to the institutional budget.

See any MOOC lessons learned not on the list? Leave your suggestions in the comment section below, email me at, or leave your feedback on Twitter @ecampusnews.

[Listed in no particular order]


1. They may be more expensive than you think…and you should care.

Is a MOOC worth anywhere between $39,000 to $325,000 in development and delivery costs to your college or university? How do you know? According to Fiona Hollands, associate director at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; and Devayani Tirthali, independent researcher at Brown University, “…lowering costs is not the highest priority for MOOC initiatives,” say the authors: “among the 140 or so institutions of higher-ed offering MOOCs in Allen and Seaman’s sample, less than ten indicated that exploring cost reduction was an objective for their MOOC initiatives.” In a separate study, Hollands and Tirthali also found that, of 29 institutions offering MOOCs, improving economics was a goal for only 38 percent. But with recent national spotlights on college affordability, as well as questions surrounding MOOCs’ effectiveness for learning, can institutions continue to turn a blind eye to the high price of MOOCs?

Based on interviews conducted with 83 administrators, faculty members, and researchers; and using case studies, as well as the U.S. national average salary and benefits rates for public postsecondary faculty members and public sector research scientists, the two authors aimed to determine not just what most MOOCs cost institutions [as the producer, as opposed to the platform provider], but also how to calculate those costs.

“We estimate total costs per MOOC, including facilities, equipment, and overhead, of $38,980 to $325,330” the authors explain. [The costs of the platform, captioning, content hosting, and analysis of user data to populate the data dashboard were assumed by Coursera for all xMOOCs analyzed by the authors.]

For the full findings of the study, as well as how to calculate the costs of developing a MOOC at your institution, click here.

(Next page: Access and reinvention)


Most Popular of 2015, No. 2: 20 should-know technology tidbits from EDUCAUSE

A quick-hitting guide to technologies, solutions and business talk from the 2015 EDUCAUSE exhibitor hall.

educause-conference-technology[Editor’s note: Based off of Google Analytics, this story was our second most popular article. It was originally published on Nov. 3, 2015.]

Enabling personalized learning, ensuring mobile capacity and security, and partnering with industry leaders to provide game-changing solutions dominated the exhibit hall at this year’s EDUCAUSE 2015. Come take a look at what innovative technology companies have in store for today’s fast-paced higher education institution:

(Listed in alphabetical order of company mentioned)

1.An Author Tool for Online learning

Acrobatiq, an adaptive learning-focused company, announced the launch of its Smart Author™ Adaptive Learning Platform—the first in a new generation of enterprise-level course authoring and data analytics solutions for higher education institutions to develop and deliver online courses and programs. The company said Smart Author has web-based tools to develop outcomes models; content and assessment tied to outcomes; adaptive course delivery; and analytics showing who is learning and who is not, which content works and which content does not, and where to focus time in making improvements. Institutions can use Smart Author to extend educational access online through mobile-ready seat or competency-based programs; to facilitate blended instruction; and to improve learning outcomes in “red flag” or traditionally high failure courses by developing “smart” courseware that personalizes student learning. Acrobatiq Smart Author is a cloud-based software-as-a-service solution, purchased as an annual subscription and supported by professional services to ensure successful and sustainable implementation. For more information on Acrobatiq’s solutions for higher education, or to request a meeting, please visit here.

2.A Simpler Way to Access Cloud Security

Akamai Technologies, Inc., a content delivery network (CDN) services, revealed its intent to join the Internet2 NET+ initiative in order to improve the ability of colleges and universities to respond to threat of DDoS and other cyber attacks. Akamai’s Cloud Security Solutions, a suite of security solutions including DDoS mitigation, threat analysis, and dedicated site defense, has entered the NET+ Evaluation stage. NET+ streamlines the process and helps make it more affordable for colleges and universities to purchase cloud-based technology solutions. Akamai was at EDUCAUSE to discuss how it can help higher education institutions protect their online assets from DDoS and other web application threats. “Cybersecurity is an issue that is top of mind for colleges and universities, as they seek to protect data and information from students, researchers, and faculty,” said Shel Waggener, Internet2, senior vice president. “The NET+ initiative leverages the R&E community to vet services and share insights on solutions and applications that have been beneficial for others, and we are pleased that the Internet2 community can now access Akamai’s industry perspectives, experience, and technology.”

3.Meeting Mobile Campus Demands

ALE, operating under the brand Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, is continuing to invest in delivering wireless LAN solutions with its new 802.11ac Wave 2 Access Point. As the world’s reliance and use of mobile devices continues to grow, enterprises as diverse as higher education are faced with the challenge of having the appropriate network capacity to support the increase of users’ and traffic. The new Alcatel-Lucent OmniAccess 320 wireless 802.11AC Wave 2 Access Point provides the benefits of Wave 2 WLAN technology including:

  • Dynamic multi-user multiple input/multiple output (MU-MIMO) technology, providing increased network capacity and boosting network efficiency,
  • Increased Wi-Fi performance by delivering at least a third more throughput,
  • Providing better long-term investment protection over 802.11ac Wave1 or 802.11n technology.

The new OmniAccess 320 Access Point aims to enable the growing number of mobile devices to share Wi-Fi bandwidth and relieves wireless performance issues in the network. The new access point is the latest product in the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Unified Access technology roadmap to deliver solutions for the mobile campus that increase network capacity, boost network performance and provide a consistent customer experience for wired and wireless devices.

4.Virtual Collaboration to Learners with Disabilities

Blackboard Inc. discussed two accessibility milestones for the latest version of its online virtual collaboration tool Blackboard Collaborate™. According to SSB Bart Group, Blackboard’s accessibility partner, Blackboard’s browser-based web conferencing tool supports the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 at Level AA, which includes features like live captions, 4.5:1 contrast, consistent navigation, and more. SSB Bart Group also gave the technology approval for meeting Section 508 standards in the U.S., which apply standards to electronic and information technology used by federal agencies. One example of an organization currently using these accessibility features is at the University of Montana, where the school’s Accessibility Interest Group uses the new Ultra experience of Blackboard Collaborate to conduct their regular webinars. “It’s extremely important to us that we use tools and technologies that share the same values and standards that we’re working hard to achieve through our Accessibility Interest Group,” said Marlene Zentz, Senior Instructional Designer and Accessibility Specialist at the University of Montana. “The new Blackboard Collaborate is not only the tool we use to allow our campus leaders to keep working toward making teaching and learning an inclusive process on our campus, but the tool that our disabled students themselves can use to collaborate and learn at their highest potential.” Read more about Blackboard’s commitment to accessibility or get involved in the company’s ongoing accessibility work, by joining the Accessibility Community.

5.Cloud Content + LMS = Personalized Learning
A platform of educational resources powered by cloud technology, Boundless announced an alliance partnership with the Canvas learning management system (LMS) from Instructure. The integration will give Canvas users access to the Boundless library of more than 10,000 pieces of digital content in over 20 subjects, fully vetted and customizable with Boundless’ content-creation services, study materials and assessment items.  Boundless is currently available to all Canvas users through the EduAppCenter. Access to Boundless is free for instructors and allows educators to create content and harness real-time data analytics to personalize education and improve student outcomes. For students, Boundless provides content at $29.99 per student, per class. Content is modular, openly licensed and tagged with assessment items to support mapping content to learning outcomes. All content contributions to Boundless are reviewed by a team of experts, and courseware can be accessed on computer, tablet or on its e-reading application, available on any mobile device. To learn more, visit here.

(Next page: 6-10)


Editorial Pick 2015: Is your institution under Chinese cyberattack?

A recent cyberattack at Penn State by Chinese hackers may be part of a much broader attempt to steal intellectual property at universities nationwide.

cyberattack-chinese-colleges[Editor’s Note: Our editorial picks include stories the editors believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016.]

In May, the College of Engineering at Penn State shut down its network for several days in response to a cyberattack, making it the latest in a long line of higher education institutions to suffer network breaches in recent years. But this particular attack may not be over. In fact, the Penn State incident is likely just the tip of an ongoing espionage effort to infiltrate similar schools nationwide, according to Ken Westin, senior security analyst at Tripwire, an Oregon-based cybersecurity company.

“It doesn’t look as if Penn State initially detected this attack itself—it was actually notified by the FBI,” said Westin. “That’s usually a sign that the attack is part of a larger campaign that has been detected.”

According to a statement released by Penn State, a Chinese hacking group is behind one of two known attacks at the university. Eric Barron, president of Penn State, described the group’s activities as typical of “well-funded and highly skilled cybercriminals…in search of sensitive information and intellectual property.”

If that’s the case, colleges and universities nationwide should assume that they too are in the hackers’ crosshairs. “It’s very rare that a group is going to target one particular institution,” said Westin. “Usually, they will target an entire industry or a network looking for intellectual property. If they’re going after Engineering at Penn State, odds are it’s part of a larger campaign targeting similar departments and groups in higher education.”

Indeed, Westin believes that the FBI is already working with other institutions that have been breached. Considering the initial intrusion at Penn State dates back to September 2012, the hackers may have spent years developing cyberattacks elsewhere.

(Next page: Unpublicized attacks and vulnerabilities)


Editorial Pick 2015: Biggest cloud challenge? It’s not the technology

As universities migrate enterprise applications to the cloud, change management—not technical challenges—is proving to be the biggest hurdle of all.

cloud-computing-challenges[Editor’s Note: Our editorial picks include stories the editors believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016.]

Go ahead and call it: 2015 is the year when higher education finally accepted that the cloud offers advantages its institutions simply can’t match. Gone is the suspicion that the cloud is a Wild West of drive-by FERPA violations and nonexistent security; gone is the fear that schools will lose ownership of their data.

Today, schools are focused on the upside of cloud deployments for everything from LMSs to SISs—and that upside can be truly significant. But even as earlier fears about the cloud have subsided, new challenges have arisen. These challenges tend to be more organizational than technical, but they are nevertheless forcing complete rethinks in campus IT departments nationwide, and causing major upheaval along the way.

“The challenge that we’re hearing from all of our campuses is change management,” said Shel Waggener, senior vice president of Internet2, a nonprofit consortium of higher ed institutions, companies, and education networks focused on advanced networking technologies. “Even those institutions that were early cloud adopters are really struggling with the pace of change management and the impact it’s having across areas that haven’t had to change for a very long time.”

Ignoring these looming changes is not really an option, however, since few IT university shops can afford to pass up what the cloud has to offer: Cost savings, better performance and uptime, increased flexibility, and tighter security are all quantifiable benefits offered by cloud deployments that are handled properly.

” I don’t want to make too blanket a statement, but we just know the cloud works,” said Ted Dodds, CIO and vice president for information technologies at Cornell University. “The value is almost unequivocally there and it’s just a matter of how you harvest that value. That doesn’t mean everything fits in the cloud, but when we contemplate a new service or business process, we look to the cloud first for a solution.”

Reorganizing IT

But migrating enterprise IT services to the cloud—and managing them there—is far from a fire-and-forget operation. It requires different skill sets, different knowledge, and a different approach. Helping IT staffers—as well as those in departments ranging from legal to finance—manage this transition may have as much impact on the success of an organization’s migration to the cloud as the technological underpinnings themselves.

“The technology side of things is really not the issue,” said Dodds. “The impact on campus is much more around how you handle changing from an approach where you build or buy your own solutions—and run them—to basically brokering services provided by others.”

(Next page: Changing the mindset)


Most Popular of 2015, No. 3: Website aims to replace community colleges

More than a new brand name, ACE-approved is trying to combat rising tuition costs by giving students an alternative to earn college credit online.

study-community-colleges[Editor’s note: Based off of Google Analytics, this story was our third most popular article. It was originally published on March 18, 2015.]

Could an online education resource eliminate the need for community colleges? Such an undertaking might seem drastic, but it’s exactly what the newly re-launched aims to accomplish.

More than just a trendy name, offers 19 exclusive courses accepted for credit by the American Council of Education (ACE), and another 30 are currently under review. Students can also submit their scores to more than 2,900 accredited colleges for transfer credit.

Founded four years ago as, the website was initially launched to accommodate a boom of students looking for inexpensive and flexible learning-reinforcement resources online, which they could use to study for exams or to learn for fun.

Education-Portal decided to take things a step further by creating online courses designed to lead toward college credit. At first, their courses were aimed at helping students pass College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams, which grant college credit to (generally older) students for about $80 per course. They then realized that after taking enough of these general education courses through Education-Portal, students could essentially test out of their first 2 years of college at a fraction of the regular cost.

The team found that their lessons were being viewed by more than adults, as college students were using the website to help study for exams, and high school students were even using the resource to prepare for the SAT & ACT. As a result, more and more courses and lessons were added to meet the growing demand.

(Next page: How works)


Editorial Pick 2015: 5 major trends in higher education’s use of social media

Report studies close to a thousand different institutions to provide a detailed snapshot of 2015’s dynamic college and university social media use.

social-media-trends[Editor’s Note: Our editorial picks include stories the editors believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016.]

If you want to know how other colleges and universities are using social media today, know this: they’re using it like any other media-savvy millennial. From a spike in “giving days” and crowdfunding campaigns to a heavy focus on multimedia, higher education has become a social media heavy-hitter.

But measuring success is another issue.

The findings are part of a yearly report (currently in its sixth year) conducted by CASE, Huron Education, and mStoner, Inc.—written by Jennifer Mack, senior researcher at Huron Education and Michael Stoner, co-founder and president of mStoner—on higher education’s refinement, prioritization and expansion of their social media habits.

According to the 2015 report, which surveyed a random sample of 28,000 CASE members in the U.S. and abroad and received 894 responses across all types of institutions (almost 50 percent of respondents work in universities, 27 percent in 4-year colleges, and 15 percent in independent schools), social media advancement has gone mainstream in higher education.

“Furthermore, schools, colleges, and universities continue to refine their use of social media channels as they learn how to use these powerful tools more effectively to engage constituents, communicate about institutional goals and priorities—and raise money,” note the authors.

Here are 5 trends revealed in the 2015 report:


1.A Big Growth in Campaigns

According to those surveyed, the number of institutions using social media in campaigns, which the report defines as a planned strategy to achieve a specific goal, continues to grow, with 70 percent indicating they used social media in campaigns–up from 50 percent in 2012 and 59 percent in 2014.

Also, in 2015, 91 percent of institutions that rated themselves as “highly successful” with social media reported using one or more social channels as part of a campaign.


2.There’s a Need to Measure Success

The authors emphasize that there’s a struggle for institutions in knowing how to assess their overall success with social media tools.

The data shows that 58 percent of respondents consider themselves “somewhat successful” in their use of social media; 23 percent are “very successful,” and 3 percent say that they are a “model for successful use of social media.” And among those who say their practice is either very successful or a model for others, a key characteristic of success includes a likeliness to plan, having goals, and measuring outcomes.

Other characteristics that distinguish the institutions self-labeled as successful include:

  • Using more channels: more likely to use YouTube (87 percent use it, as opposed to 67 percent overall and 63 percent of the less successful institutions), Instagram (83 percent versus 54 percent overall and 49 percent of the less successful), blogs (44 percent versus 28 percent overall and 26 percent of the less successful), Vine (13 percent versus 7 percent overall and 4 percent of the less successful), and SnapChat (10 percent versus 5 percent overall and 2 percent of the less successful).
  • Posting more frequently: 64 percent post to Facebook at least once a day (compared to 49 percent of institutions overall); 68 percent share on Twitter more than once a day (vs. 44 percent overall); and 34 percent post to their social media aggregator webpage more than once a day (vs. 24 percent overall).
  • Posting more images than text: Successful institutions post more images (52 percent of their posts) relative to text (33 percent of posts), as opposed to less successful institutions, whose posts consist of 43 percent images and 45 percent texts.
  • Having socially active leaders, especially on Twitter: Leaders of the successful institutions tend to be more active on Twitter (33 percent vs. 23 percent of those less successful).
  • Using social media in fundraising: 64 percent of successful colleges and universities raise money using social media, versus 57 percent overall; 31 percent raised over $10K-$50K in the previous fiscal year through social media; 51 percent have “giving days” versus 42 percent overall; 33 percent have engaged their ambassadors versus 22 percent overall; and 75 percent use social media for stewardship of donors versus 62 percent overall.
  • Using social media in campaigns: 91 percent of institutions successful with social media use one or more channels as part of a campaign, versus 70 percent overall and 63 percent of less successful institutions.

“We’ve [also] heard some discussion among advancement leaders about attempts to assess the level of connection individual constituents have with the institution,” say the authors. “This is sometimes referred to as ‘engagement scoring.’” This year, 34 percent of respondents said that they assign some type of engagement scores to alumni and/or donors. Some of the most common engagement scoring elements include: giving; participating in person at events; volunteering in person; participating in mentoring, internship, or employment programs; engaging with social media; engaging in recruiting prospective students; et cetera.

But in terms of measuring social media effectiveness, colleges and universities still use numbers of followers/friends/connections/comments (89 percent), click-throughs to a website (75 percent), and anecdotal evidence (55 percent). Only 9 percent tie information back to a CRM system. 54 percent of respondents rely on free software platforms like Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and Hootsuite to derive their data on social media effectiveness.

(Next page: Visuals, Channels, and Fundraising trends)


Editorial Pick 2015: New Google –like search technology is curbing course dropouts

Brilliant minds at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) are developing an intuitive course-based multimedia search engine for students and faculty; say personalized search capability on the near horizon.

google-search-tech[Editor’s Note: Our editorial picks include stories the editors believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016.]

In the wake of the multimedia resources boom in campus courses across the world, sifting through hour-long recorded presentations or hundreds of pages of online text to find specific information can be like trying to find the keyword needle in a massive academic haystack. But that’s about to change.

In an effort to help both students and faculty better categorize and access information-rich multimedia resources—with the ultimate aim of improving learning—computer science and software development experts at NJIT are in beta for their creation called Ultimate Course Search (UCS): an open source Google-esque search tool that sifts through course-generated multimedia to find specific keywords.

“We know how to search fundamental data, and we do this on a daily basis. But how can someone look up an image? Or a specific slide in a online presentation? Currently, the only way to search these multimedia objects are within a folder,” explained Vincent Oria, associate professor and chair of the computer science online program at NJIT. “We wanted to see if we could build a system like Google locally for students and faculty.”

Oria said UCS, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), aims to not only improve learning overall by giving students a better way to access information, but improve the online learning experience as well.

“Right now, thousands of students are registering for online learning courses, but the dropout rate is incredibly high. If a student could, for example, type in a search term and pull up a specific reference within that online course, as well as any linked material within that online course that specifically mentions that keyword, perhaps students would get more out of the material.”

(Next page: Using the search)


Most Popular of 2015, No. 4: University breaks student engagement record–here’s how

Survey shows that many students earning degrees online are more engaged than students at traditional universities; faculty involvement still critical to success.

student-engagement-record[Editor’s note: Based off of Google Analytics, this story was our fourth most popular article. It was originally published on Feb.5, 2015.]

According to a recent National Survey of Student Engagement, students earning an online degree reported feeling as connected and engaged as those studying at traditional universities – if not even more so.

The annual survey, which polls over 350,000 students from more than 600 institutions in the United States and Canada, asks students to rate their experiences and the quality of their education based on a host of topics including the quality of their interactions with faculty, academic support, and more.

Though the full 2014 NSSE report has not been released yet, the early information shows that online students rated their experiences highly. In fact, Western Governors University, an online, competency-based university with more than 53,000 students from all 50 states, was singled out due to its students rating it higher in several key areas than students of traditional in-person institutions.

In many cases, WGU students ranked their institution with scores significantly higher than the national average:

  • Quality of interactions with faculty—20 percent higher
  • Quality of academic support—23 percent higher
  • Would definitely attend the same institution again—25 percent higher
  • Overall rating of entire educational experience—16 percent higher

Similarly, students from WGU also responded positively when it came to the actual content of their studies. They rated the challenge presented by their course work as “very much” 19 percent higher than the national average, which included spending 13 percent more time on their studies weekly. Additionally, WGU students gave top ratings to their acquisition of job-related knowledge and skills, which amounted to being 13 percent higher than the national average for other students.

“These ratings by our students tell us that WGU is providing a great learning experience as well as high-quality, relevant degree programs,” said WGU’s vice president for Institutional Research Jason Levin. “Although our students complete their programs in an online, self-paced environment, they rate the quality of their interactions with faculty higher than students at many traditional institutions. This is because WGU faculty members, called mentors, work with students individually, guiding their learning and providing coaching and support tailored to each student’s needs.”

(Next page: Why faculty is key to success; best practices recommendations)


Most Popular of 2015, No. 5: College presidents predict new institutional models

Presidents say these new models could be the future of all colleges and universities in the next decade.

blueprint-model-presidents[Editor’s note: Based off of Google Analytics, this story was our fifth most popular article. It was originally published on March 25, 2015.]

A new think-tank-esque collection of leading college and university presidents came together to discuss the trends and disruptions shaping higher education, thanks to new technologies and the evolving global economy. Outside of just naming trends, they also predicted new models of higher-ed that may exist in the next 10 years.

The brainstorming made formal can be found in a series of papers called the Presidential Innovation Lab (PIL)White Paper Series, funded as part of a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and hosted by the American Council on Education (ACE).

Here, eCampus News asked seven of the participants part of the American Council on Education’s “Presidential Innovation Lab”—convened in the fall of 2013—to give their thoughts on the new college and university models of the future.

(Next page: Models 1-2)