LabArchives releases accessibility-compliant electronic laboratory notebook

Professional and classroom notebook editions are in compliance with a number of accessibility standards

LabArchives, which offers an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), announced compliance with major accessibility standards. LabArchives products are in use by more than than 100,000 scientists and science students users to store, organize, share, and publish their laboratory data.

LabArchives Professional and Classroom editions have been enhanced to comply with the following web accessibility standards and regulations:

  • Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Level A and Level AA of the WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0)

In addition to the specific standards above, the LabArchives platform is built to support a wide range of browsers and devices in use by researchers.

In particular,LabArchives has utilized features of HTML5 and WIA-ARIA to provide additional support for LabArchives users of assistive technology.

WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite) defines a way to make Web content and Web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. The result is LabArchives is the only widely distributed ELN with accessibility enabled capabilities.

This will be an ongoing effort. To learn more about LabArchives efforts, visit: http://www.labarchives.com/la-accessibility.

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University tech lab takes on virtual reality

Carolina Cruz-Neira’s visualization technology lab in the Emerging Analytics Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a playground for the imagination.

The virtual reality that unfolds within Carolina Cruz-Neira’s lab is helping envision better companies and cities–both modern and ancient–and even train better medical students.

Arkansas Business reports that Cruz-Neira is an internationally renowned virtual reality scientist who was recruited to UALR in 2014 by the Arkansas Research Alliance Scholars program, and the university is benefiting from her expertise and the industry credibility she brought with her.

Born in Venezuela and raised in Spain, Cruz-Neira has been on the forefront of VR since the 1990s. Before joining UALR, she established the Virtual Reality Applications Center at Iowa State University and the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise at the Univer-sity of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Her EAC program at UALR is in its first full academic year, now grown to about 25 students and a faculty/staff leadership team of six. Cruz-Neira believes the program is starting to hit its stride.

Throughout March and April, she and members of the team will continue their “world tour,” taking the VR programs developed in Little Rock to prestigious events and conferences on both coasts and in Europe. Cruz-Neira thinks the EAC team has made enough progress to show off a little in just the program’s second year.

“Right now, our biggest challenge is to tell the world we are here,” she said. “Now we have enough stuff to take the show on the road. At some of these events, we’re one of the main displays.”

Thanks to the addition of Cruz-Neira and her husband, EAC chief scientist Dirk Reiners, an expert in immersive virtual reality, UALR is beginning to emerge as a true VR player.

ARA President and CEO Jerry Adams said Cruz-Neira has not only been a valuable addition to UALR but to the research talent level of the state as well.

“Carolina has international credentials and contacts in a number of technology areas,” he said. “Recently, I introduced Carolina to a good friend who is involved with museum design worldwide and of course, Carolina has experience in that area too. Carolina has already made inroads into corporate Arkansas and has also recruited a top-notch leadership team also, all of this in less than two years.”

Last year, Cruz-Neira presented at the international Virtual Reality Summit in Santa Clara, California, alongside firms such as Adobe and schools such as the University of Southern California. She also led an EAC contingent to France where Reiners led a two-day session on VR software infrastructure.

(Next page: What the EAC crew has planned for the spring)

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Can social media enhance the MOOC experience?

Researchers say ‘yes,’ but only when taking into consideration 3 key issues.

Though social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are extremely popular for communication and collaboration—even among academics—when applied to online learning, course designers must understand that providing more options for communication without integration is not always best.

This is the main finding of a recent study conducted by academics in Australia that surveyed over 150 participants on their opinions of using social media as part of a 2014 MOOC for educators on designing their own online and blended teaching materials. [More on the detailed methodology can be found in the full report.] The MOOC, called “Carpe Diem” (CD), had just over 1,000 participants, a high level of engagement and completion, and included the use of hosting platform CourseSites’ LMS, as well as Twitter and Facebook for online communication and collaboration.

Outside of the structure LMS, the Facebook group moderators guided participants to ask question about the CD MOOC, seek practical help, communicate and discuss issues around work tasks, and share links to online group work and resources. Twitter was used by both the CD MOOC team and participants to share practical information and resources, while also encouraging participants to share their thoughts.

Using a combination of a survey (completed by 155 MOOC participants) and phone interviews (conducted with 29 of the survey respondents), researchers from The University of Western Australia, Monash University, Swinburne University of Technology, and the Australian Council for Education Research, found that while half of respondents used, and found value in, Facebook and Twitter throughout the MOOC, almost half did not use these platforms and cited specific barriers to use.

Though these MOOC participants are in a very specific age range of 46-year-plus, the lessons learned from trying to include these popular social media platforms within the CD MOOC provided by Swinburne University of Technology, can be applied to other MOOCs, and for diverse students.

3 Lessons Learned

Personal preference matters

According to the study’s findings, 41 percent of interviewees did not use any forms of social media as part of the CD MOOC. One of the main reasons for this was unease at blurring social and professional identities.

“I did not use Twitter or Facebook. Those are social sites. For professional work, I prefer it to be on a professional platform,” noted one participant.

However, for those who did use Facebook and Twitter (approx. 50 percent), a number of participants were not enthusiastic about CourseSite’s formal LMS, since they were more familiar and comfortable using platforms they knew how to use already.

“When designing for MOOCs or online learning, participants’ preferences for social media use should be taken into account,” say researchers. “One solution is to offer a few different platforms, in addition to the LMS, but not require that learners use them if they feel uncomfortable. Alternatively, ask learners to create professional identities on social media for all formal learning and professional development uses.”

(Next page: More MOOC social media considerations)

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Massasoit Community College implements threat protection

EiQ’s SOCVue provides school with ability to proactively monitor and protect against threats

SaaS security intelligence service provider EiQ Networks is working with Massasoit Community College on security monitoring and proactive threat protection. The school selected EiQ’s SOCVue hybrid SaaS security service.

Massasoit Community College will use EiQ’s SOCVue Security Monitoring to monitor several SANS controls, including Control 2 (Inventory of Authorized and Unauthorized Software), Control 5 (Malware Defenses), Control 11 (Limitation and Control of Network Ports, Protocols, and Services), and Control 14 (Maintenance, Monitoring, and Analysis of Audit Logs). They chose EIQ because of the ease of implementation and management, and because EIQ made it possible for Massasoit to monitor multiple SANS Controls even with a small IT staff.

“EiQ has allowed us the ability to be more proactive as to how we look at security,” said Jack Barrett, Deputy CIO, of Massasoit Community College. “The EIQ support staff is great! The weekly meetings are helping with the implementation of the service. Requests are handled in a timely and professional manner.”

“EiQ is pleased to be working with Massasoit Community College,” said Kim Ann King, Vice President of Marketing, EiQ Networks. “Our proactive IT security monitoring service is perfect for educational institutions looking to bolster their security posture and keep in compliance with SANS controls.”

SOCVue is a subscription SaaS service that combines people, process, and technology to deliver a cost-effective information security program, including:

  • Proactive and Continuous Critical Security Controls Auditing
  • Co-managed SIEM & Log Management
  • Continuous Vulnerability Management
  • 24x7x365 Security Monitoring by Trained EiQ SOC Security Analysts
  • Incident Analysis, Notification, and Remediation Guidance
  • Compliance Reporting

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Sony’s pro compact camcorder delivers 4K production

New PXW-Z150 with 1.0 type sensor delivers low-light performance and networking features for fast turn-around, high-quality workflows

Sony’s newest 4K camcorder, the PXW-Z150, combines enhanced low-light performance and multiple file transfer options in a compact design for professionals who need to quickly and easily shoot, edit and deliver broadcast-quality content.

With its stacked 1.0-type Exmor sensor, the world’s first in a professional camcorder, the new PXW-Z150 is Sony’s third professional 1-inch camcorder, joining the HXR-NX100 and PXW-X70. The new model also further expands Sony’s line of 4K cameras, giving users more options for matching the right technology to their production and budget requirements.

“The Z150’s low-light performance, networking capabilities and 4K resolution give pro shooters an unbeatable triple play of features,” said Jeanne Lewis, marketing manager, professional digital imaging, Sony Electronics. “It’s perfect for professionals who need to quickly deliver high-quality content, and are ready to either step up from an entry-level pro camera or need a companion to larger-format cameras.”

The PXW-Z150’s flexible operations make it suited for corporate and event production, as well as broadcast, documentary, online content creation or any application requiring fast turnaround times.

The PXW-Z150 features a 1.0 type stacked Exmor RS CMOS image sensor, giving shooters the high-sensitivity needed to deliver clear, sharp pictures in extreme low-light conditions. A high-speed read-out ensures high-speed motion shooting with minimum distortion.

The camcorder supports full HD 120fps continuous high-speed shooting, which enables 5x slow motion expression. The PXW-Z150 supports 4K XAVC Long maximum 100Mbps high quality shooting. Full HD XAVC Long 4:2:2 10bit 50Mbps and the broadcasting format MPEG2HD (50Mbps/35Mbps) are also supported.

Videographers can deliver high resolution and contrast from the center to the edge of the camera’s G lens, with the high performance 4K-compatible 29-348mm wide-angle lens with 12x optical zoom. The Clear Image Zoom technology operates at 24x zoom and 18x zoom in HD and 4K modes respectively, in addition to the standard optical 12x zoom.

High visibility is delivered with the wide view-angle and high contrast 0.39-type 1440K OLED viewfinder, alongside the 3.5-type 1550K LCD panel. A built-in 4-step ND filter offers the flexibility of exposure and depth-of-field control. The PXW-Z150 provides extended functionality with 3 independent lens rings.

Users can take advantage of the camcorder’s advanced network functions, such as built-in Wi-Fi for live streaming capabilities and FTP wireless connections. The PXW-Z150 can also be easily controlled by a smartphone or tablet using a Wi-Fi remote. Quality of Service (QoS) will be supported by a firmware update.

The PXW-Z150 is ergonomically designed for comfortable shooting and the compact, lightweight body integrates advanced features to remove the need for multiple external accessories.

Compatibility with Sony’s Multi-Interface (MI) Shoe avoids cabling with easy integration between the PXW-Z150 and Sony peripherals, such as the UWP-D series wireless microphones. The camcorder’s interface options also include: 3G-SDI, HDMI, XLR, Cold Shoe, USB and REMOTE and Composite (phono).

The PXW-Z150 has a battery life of up to 400 minutes of continuous recording time. The camcorder has two memory card slots and supports SDXC and SDHC media. The dual media slots also enable back-up, simultaneous and relay recording.

The PXW-Z150 is planned to be available in April at a suggested list price of $3,595. Find out more about the new camera at www.sony.com/pxwz150.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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10 tips for recruiting diverse students

A new survey breaks down the ways that under-represented students go about their college search, as well as their communication and technology preferences.

EAB has released a survey breaking down the college search, timing and communications preferences of minority, first-generation and low-income students, while also offering tips to institutions on how to best recruit these demographics.

The report, “Communication Preferences: How to reach the next generation of college-bound students,” surveyed 8,515 college-bound high school juniors and seniors from across the nation in the summer of 2015. The online survey was conducted by the Royall & Company division of EAB, and gauged a variety of topics relevant to the college search process including sources used to gather information about colleges, search timing, preferred communication channels and campus visits.

The report emphasizes that with affirmative action under fire, it is particularly important for colleges and universities to think more strategically and recognize the differences on how to best attract under-represented groups compared to their more traditional counterparts.

“We’re really looking for the best possible insights into how to help schools make the best efforts to increasingly recruit and enroll more diverse classes,” said Pam Royall, head of research at Royall & Company. “Everybody wants to create a campus that is a shape of the real world. First-generation students and ethnic groups bring critical life experience to college campuses that prospective students and their families look for.”

(Next page: An in-depth look at student preferences with demographic breakdowns)

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Juggling data, dropout prevention, and academic preparedness

Catch up on the most compelling higher-ed news stories you may have missed this week

Every Friday, I’ll be bringing you a recap of some of the most interesting and thought-provoking news developments that occurred over the week.

I can’t fit all of our news stories here, though, so feel free to visit eCampusNews.com and read up on other news you may have missed.

In this week’s news:

Can small grants can help retain dropouts?
Awarding small grants to students on the verge of dropping out could boost graduation rates.

Community college students not prepared
A new report examines remedial course rates and national movements to reduce remedial enrollment.

3 trends for better data management
In response to the data explosion in higher ed—and the value to be gleaned from it—institutions are rethinking data management and the traditional data center.

STEM crisis quickly becoming an IT problem
Most of today’s digital native generation has no interest in having an IT career. So who, exactly, will provide the technology and support needed to satisfy the future generation?

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First-ever mobile predictive analytics solution

D2L’s Spring release prepares graduates for the future while helping to reduce the financial burdens that limit access to a great education.

D2LD2L, a global technology company for learning, announces the Brightspace Spring16 release. Brightspace—a cloud-based learning platform—now features a new user experience, video, mobile, and predictive analytics capabilities to make learning more engaging and affordable.

“Globally, we are spending more on education than at any point in history, but we need to do things differently to deliver better results,” said D2L CEO John Baker. “This new technology helps modernize the educational experience and is designed to improve learning outcomes, keep students engaged, and address gaps in course selection that will help reduce costs and shorten the time to graduation for millions of students.”

Brightspace Spring16 Enhancements

Brightspace Degree Compass™ can help students predict the optimal path to graduation, reducing the cost of education. The original solution—pioneered by Austin Peay State University and funded by a Gates Foundation grant—has now been redesigned as a cloud-based and mobile-first application that works with two leading student information systems. Both students and Academic Advisors can use Degree Compass via their smartphones to select the right courses on the best path to success.

According to Complete College America: “Billions of dollars and millions of hours are wasted on unnecessary courses. Excess credits are estimated to cost more than $19 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $8 billion is paid by students — and more than $11 billion is the unnecessary burden of taxpayers who subsidize public higher education.”

Brightspace Degree Compass uses predictive modeling to uniquely match students with the courses that best fit their academic talents and program requirements to drive academic success and degree completion. Combining individual student performance and preparedness data with the data of all the students who have taken the same degree path, Degree Compass generates a custom set of recommended courses in prioritized order. This can help students stay on track to graduate, saving them countless hours of extra coursework and excessive tuition fees.

The new Brightspace Capture™ allows instructors to deliver media-rich content (for example, speaker video with a PowerPoint® or webcast) to a global audience, says the company. By recording a presentation and then broadcasting it live or on-demand, every member of the audience is able to enjoy a front-row experience so they can get the most out of the content wherever they are and on any device.

Brightspace Capture is a cloud-based and mobile-first solution designed to run on any device—laptop, mobile, tablet, and seamlessly stream at various speeds, so users can consume learning videos anywhere and on their favorite device.

Similar to how the most popular search engines turned the internet into an incredible source of knowledge, Brightspace Capture aims to do the same for educational videos. It automatically indexes and makes them searchable, enabling learners to instantly search thousands of hours of video and take students to the exact moments their search term is mentioned. This can dramatically improve the use of lecture capture and video in studying.

With Spring16, D2L is excited to showcase the New Brightspace Daylight User Experience across three new products: Brightspace Assignment Grader for Android, Brightspace Capture, and Brightspace Degree Compass. Brightspace Daylight is clean and easy to use, says the company, and it allows users and instructors to focus on what is most important. The rest of the Brightspace platform will be upgraded to the new Daylight Experience in the months ahead.

With Brightspace Assignment Grader for iOS and Now Android™, instructors are freed from their office computers with a simple, flexible, and offline-grading tool that synchronizes seamlessly with Brightspace, notes the company. Teachers can do much more than simply enter a grade. They can provide meaningful feedback through annotations and attach video and audio feedback in-context so that students gain even more personalized feedback on their assignments.

For more information about the Brightspace Spring16 release, visit www.brightspace.com.

Material in a press release was used in this report.

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Report: Community college students not prepared

A new report examines remedial course rates and national movements to reduce remedial enrollment.

Many community college students are not prepared to complete college-level work, do not succeed in remedial courses, and fail to attain their educational goals, according to a new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, only 39 percent of community college students earn a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree within six years. With that data in mind, the report seeks to understand community college students’ experiences with assessment, placement, and developmental education.

Expectations Meet Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges” features data from more than 70,000 community college student respondents across 150 institutions and more than 4,500 community college faculty respondents from 56 institutions.

That data reveals that 86 percent of surveyed students said they believe they are academically prepared for college success, but 67 percent of those surveyed require developmental or remedial courses, including 40 percent of surveyed students who reported a high school GPA equivalent to an A.

(Next page: National trends about student preparedness and remediation)

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