UMassOnline launches badge program

New badge program highlights spectrum of project management skills

UMassOnline, the University of Massachusetts’ online consortium, has announced the first non-credit badge program, in Project Risk Management, offered through the College of Advancing and Professional Studies (CAPS) at UMass Boston.

University representatives say this is one of the first programs of its kind offered by a public higher education institution in Massachusetts.

The Project Risk Management badge is a self-paced online sequence of modules that covers the six steps of project risk management as prescribed by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

These six steps consist of risk management planning, risk identification, qualitative risk analysis, quantitative risk analysis, risk response planning, and risk control.

“This is an exciting time for UMass Boston as we launch the first commercially released badge in Project Risk Management,” said Olga Lauterbach, director of corporate and professional training and outreach, CAPS at UMass Boston.

This badge is available annually January through December and consists of three modules:

1. Inputs to Project Risk Management
2. Risk Management Planning and Risk Identification
3. Risk Response Planning and Implementation

Each of the modules contain a video lecture, reading materials, and a test to be completed at the student’s own pace. Students complete the program as quickly as they would like within the calendar year that they enroll for the badge.

Upon completion of the sequence, students receive a digital badge which they can include on their resume and social media feeds to feature their complete list of proficiencies and certifications.


How one school beat the textbook dilemma

With more and more students opting not to purchase textbooks for class, Illinois College had to find a solution

In the face of mounting textbook costs that forced many students to attend classes without critical course
reading material, one college adopted a new model to ensure students were getting the maximum benefit out of their classes.

Illinois College officials knew that too many students came to class without purchasing the required course textbooks. Sometimes, as many as 50 percent of students did not have a textbook for class.

In some cases, students came from low-income families and did not have enough money to purchase textbooks after paying tuition fees. In others, courses required multiple textbooks, and students were only able to purchase one of the required texts.

For a number of years, faculty raised the concern that not all students could purchase course textbooks. The college started a fund to help students buy textbooks, but it wasn’t enough to meet the needs of all students, said Provost and Dean Liz Tobin.

“Our faculty were very concerned about this,” she said. “If students don’t have the books, they don’t do the readings. It also changes teaching. If you have 20 students in a class and seven don’t have the book, the professor changes his or her teaching method. The professor will spend more time trying to help students understand what was in the material instead of trying other innovative instructional methods. The teaching they do is much less engaged and much less student- centered, and we know from research that students learn less.”

The textbook industry’s need to thrive also contributed to the challenge.

“Not only are books expensive, but the book industry is being significantly pressed to survive, and one of the ways they’re surviving is by increasing the cost of books, and especially of textbooks,” Tobin said. “I have sympathy for the book industry, but the results are not so great for our students.”

Next page: A solution to the textbook challenge


5 lessons learned about alternative education

Researchers, universities give advice on implementing, designing and financing alternative pathways in higher ed.

Coding bootcamps, competency-based education (CBE) initiatives, badging, and career-and-technical (CTE) certifications have the potential to breathe new life into higher education pathways, especially for non-traditional students. But is it as easy as simply tacking on another learning option?

According to traditional universities eager to implement alternative education pathways, as well as researchers who have delved into multiple case studies, implementing a new pathway is not always smooth-sailing; and there are a few key considerations to keep in mind if the alternative pathway has any hope of sustainability…and if students have any hope of actually benefiting from the pathway.

According to faculty, admin, and researchers, when considering an alternative education pathway, remember that:


1.Implementation means a complete redesign of the traditional.

According to Alana Dunagan, higher education researcher for the Clayton Christensen Institute, alternative ed pathways will eventually bolster higher ed, but incumbent institutions will have a tough time adapting them due to stagnant business models that aren’t set up for support.

“So far, there are limited examples of established institutions adopting alternative credentialing,” she writes. “A few institutions are exploring badging, and many are offering online courses, but most traditional institutions are proceeding with business as usual. In fact, what has been notable so far is the lack of success in implementing innovative pathways, even where institutions have made impressive efforts to do so.”

Dunagan gave the example of ASU’s Global Freshman Year, which saw an uptake in terms of MOOC registrants, but resulted in few completions. There was also the University of California’s UC Online that spent millions on marketing—and three years later had one student sign up.

She posits that the results are right in line with the theory of disruptive innovation: incumbent institutions will have a tough time adapting disruptive innovations because their business models aren’t set up to support them.

“As competency-based credentialing becomes more prevalent, even traditional students may come to favor programs that give them mastery in particular skills, which they can then bring into a competitive labor market,” writes Dunagan. “In this way, alternative credentials aren’t likely to remain ‘alternative’ for long.”

[Read Dunagan’s full essay here.]

(Next page: More considerations for alternative education)


U. Illinois launches “computer science in data science” degree

New computer science in data science master’s degree aims to fill gap in data science training programs

Coursera and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have partnered on a professional data science master’s degree.

The University of Illinois will open access to its data science curriculum at a fraction of the cost of a traditional on-campus or online master’s degree through the Master of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS) degree on Coursera.

Data science has quickly become one of the most sought-after and highest-paid professions in the United States, yet few highly ranked master’s programs exist today that are developed specifically for training data scientists, and none offer the scale of an open online course platform. This degree taps a whole new demographic of potential data scientists who are unable to take a traditional education path by reimagining graduate-level education as a “stackable” degree.

Unlike other master’s degrees, students can test the waters of the MCS-DS degree with a shorter Specialization certificate program in data mining or cloud computing, earning a meaningful credential that can then fully transfer to the MCS-DS if they later decide that they want the full degree.

Next page: What makes the degree program unique?


Purdue’s first competency-based program receives final approval

Competency-based education is a key step in the Purdue Moves initiative

Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s competency-based education program has cleared its final hurdle, becoming what university representatives say is the first baccalaureate program of its kind in the nation.

The Higher Learning Commission, a regional accreditation organization, approved Purdue University’s degree in Transdisciplinary Studies in Technology. It is the first competency-based degree at Purdue.

Competency-based education gives students direct measurable learning objectives. Purdue’s program allows students to develop skills in an individualized program of study based on their interests.

Jeff Evans, interim associate dean for undergraduate programs, said the program emphasizes creation, application and transfer of knowledge through hands-on learning. Overall, learning is the constant through this program, not time.

“We believe that transdisciplinary studies in technology at Purdue Polytechnic is the first program which combines individualized plans of study, close faculty mentoring of students and a competency-based approach for traditional learners at a public research university,” Evans said.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels said competency-based education is a key step in the Purdue Moves initiative, which is designed to broaden the university’s global impact and enhance education opportunities for all students.

“This degree creates a study plan around the student rather than an academic schedule,” Daniels said. “Students take work at their own pace through the program and, in the end, come away with a proven skill set that is meaningful to employers in today’s business world.”

Next page: Details of the Purdue competency-based program


ReadSpeaker announces text-to-speech partnership with Blackboard

Partnership brings ReadSpeaker’s leading text-to-speech solution to the next level for educational institutions

ReadSpeaker has announced a new Signature Partnership with Blackboard, which will provide both educators and learners with new tools to excel in the classroom.

ReadSpeaker’s text-to-speech technology allows students to experience content on their terms, with natural voices in a broad range of widely used languages. Speech-enabled content improves accessibility, increases engagement, and provides students with a low-stress, tech-friendly study tool.

For educators, ReadSpeaker’s Signature Partnership with Blackboard provides another important tool to promote Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Every student learns in their own way, through a combination of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning. The primary goal of UDL is to make learning more adaptable and accessible for all students.

Text to speech is an important pillar of UDL, as one of the most straightforward ways for auditory learners to consume content. Rather than reading through a long, challenging document, auditory learners can simply listen to content on-demand.

In addition to benefiting those who prefer to learn by listening, text to speech improves accessibility for students with literacy challenges, second-language learners, students with visual impairments, and students with certain learning disabilities.

By partnering with Blackboard, ReadSpeaker brings its text-to-speech services to one of the premier platforms for online and classroom learning. Students will enjoy the flexibility and performance benefits of learning in their preferred format, while educators will have another powerful tool to bring UDL into their classrooms.

“Blackboard is committed to improving accessibility for our learners,” said Katie Blot, SVP of Corporate Strategy & Industry Relations for Blackboard. “This powerful partnership is one more way we are helping make learning more adaptable and accessible for educators and learners. We look forward to continuing to work with ReadSpeaker to bring text to speech to courses around the world.”

Steve Moore, ReadSpeaker General Manager, North America, expects great things from the continued partnership: “We’re pleased to expand our successful partnership with Blackboard, already starting with our sponsorship of Blackboard’s Teaching & Learning Conference in the Netherlands in April, and look forward to bringing streamlined, accessible speech-enabled text to more classrooms worldwide.”


Can corporate funding help connect students to data?

Universities are partnering with the private sector to fund research and expose students to real-world challenges

As universities increase their research efforts, many are partnering with the private sector to give students a chance to work with large sets of real data and have an impact on real-world projects and innovations.

One example lies in the Adobe Data Science Symposium, taking place on May 26, where professorts and students will be able to learn about real-world data science implementation in Adobe’s digital marketing business.

“There is a tremendous amount of learning in machine learning and data science,” said Anil Kamath, VP of Product Development at Adobe. “We’re at the forefront in applying some of these things in digital marketing and delivering experiences based on data science.”

Grants to universities can help the private sector learn how to tap into student talent and research happening in academia, he said.

“We educate them about problems we face in digital marketing in respect to using data to make decisions. We also educate them about ideas, projects, and encourage them to submit proposals based on their backgrounds. We give them funding and internship opportunities for the students, as well as access to data with which they can work on real examples of how these things will get used,” he said.

“We’re making students more aware of research,” Kamath said. “In some cases, people might be doing it in a vacuum. We’re making them aware of what real datasets are and what real applications are. Some of these universities are looking at starting programs and curriculum with big data and data analytics–we can help them create courses and have students graduate with those skills we’re looking for.”

Adobe is currently working with professors to incorporate their work into Adobe Marketing Cloud. Lise Getoor, a UC Santa Cruz professor and recipient of a grant, has produced new algorithms to improve the personalization and performance of marketing content by 10-15 percent.

“As an academic, you can try and think up real-world challenges facing marketers, but it’s much better to work with companies that actually work to solve these problems for customers every day,” said Getoor. “The Adobe Digital Marketing Research Awards allow me and my team to combine theory and practice—the goal of any researcher.”

It also helps students get a dose of the real world.

“In addition to real world problems and data, an important part of the partnership is the collaboration between academic researchers, students, and industry researchers. Exposure to this kind of experience, interacting with industry researchers and industrial problems, and having the opportunity to liaise across industry and academia puts students in a unique role, giving them real experience with real data science problems,” Getoor said. “It allows them to develop their own sense of expertise and confidence. I find that students are truly driven when facing a real-world dilemma head-on, rather than simply an artificially constructed scenario.”

“The award played a critical role in completing the data collection and analysis for my project on location-based mobile advertising,” said New York University Professor Anindya Ghose. “It is a massive validation for the importance of my and my colleagues’ research, and personally a big achievement.”

Since the inaugural awards in 2014, more than 100 proposals from over 30 universities have been submitted, with 18 selected for research grants. Recipients for the 2015 grants included professors from Rutgers University, Northeastern University, UC Berkeley and University of Pennsylvania.

As part of its efforts to further research at the university level and support future careers for students, the recent Adobe Digital Analytics Competition (ADAC) challenged students with analyzing mobile app data from Adobe customer Starwood Hotels. Brigham Young University students received $30,000 for a project focused on innovative ways to solve business problems through the use of data.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Campuses beware! 4 types of bandwidth-sucking apps

When education and business mix with recreation on the same network, it creates fundamental challenges with network capacity.

Students, faculty and staff at higher education institutions today struggle with consistently bad internet access via an unsafe and unreliable Wi-Fi connection—mostly due to bandwidth-sucking apps.

Far too often, campus-goers accept poor coverage, slow connections or drop outs as part of the game. While the use of different Wi-Fi connected devices continues to grow unabated, dependence on wireless as a utility comes into the spotlight. A recent Gartner report states, the world will see 25 billion internet-connected things by 2020, nearly 4 times the number connected today. This type of growth places an increased strain on a college campus’ Wi-Fi network.

To provide a utility-grade experience, appropriate enterprise infrastructure in conjunction with a cutting-edge design is key. While these may seem to be obvious considerations, it’s a surprise how often they are shortchanged by unscrupulous vendors or integrators who end up selling largely on price.

If you have appropriately addressed the issues of quality and design, it is important to understand specifically what consumes the capacity on your Wi-Fi network.

Higher education was the first market segment to adopt bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. BYOD brings with it the challenge of mixed usage, which combines critical education and business related application usage (e.g., online instruction, cloud storage, communication) with recreational application usage (e.g., streaming video, social media, gaming).

When education and business mix with recreation on the same network, it creates fundamental challenges with network capacity. The network must be intelligent enough to appropriately prioritize what is important and de-prioritize (or even block) what is not.

(Next page: 4 bandwidth-sucking apps)


Penn State opens “Maker Commons”

New 3D printing lab, called the Maker Commons, also houses the Invention Studio.

A new 3-D printing lab in Penn State’s University Libraries is now open, giving Penn State students and faculty at all campuses the opportunity to dream up, design and print almost anything. The lab, called the Maker Commons, houses a large-scale printing installation of 32 MakerBot desktop 3-D printers as well as the Invention Studio, where University Park students can use littleBits for rapid prototyping of devices, and offers consultants to answer questions and help with projects.

Although the Maker Commons is housed within Pattee Library’s Knowledge Commons at the University Park campus, students from all Penn State campus locations, including the Penn State World Campus, can send projects to the 3-D printers via Students can upload their designs, and each will be added to the queue of projects waiting to be printed. When a print request is complete, it will be sent via the same delivery system used for intercampus library materials requests, and can be picked up at the appropriate campus library’s main desk, such as Pattee Library’s Commons Services desk at University Park.

Joseph Salem, the University Libraries’ associate dean for Learning, Undergraduate Services and Commonwealth Campus Libraries, says the lab will give students from all disciplines the chance to bring their ideas to life, regardless of whether they have experience with 3-D printing or not. “I’m excited that the Libraries is showcasing this new space where students across the University can create, innovate and collaborate,” Salem said. “This will be a game-changer for design and invention at Penn State.”

The lab is an important step in understanding the opportunities 3-D printing can bring to Penn State, according to Kyle Bowen, director of Penn State’s Education Technology Services. “The Maker Commons provides students and faculty with new capabilities to engage in creative activities across disciplines,” Bowen said. “This initiative is designed to support our students in pursuing their own learning, research and entrepreneurial accomplishments.”

Jonathan Jaglom, CEO at MakerBot, said Penn State is preparing students for jobs of the future by bringing a startup mentality to the University and by implementing the online MakerBot Innovation Center product through the Maker Commons website. “Reports show that learning from failure, working collaboratively across disciplines and managing a product from concept to a physical product are skills that employers are looking for,” said Jaglom. “We’re excited to see the new ideas that come from Happy Valley.”

Sig Behrens, general manager of education at Stratasys, MakerBot’s parent company, and a Penn State alumnus, is thrilled with the way the University is incorporating 3-D printing into teaching and learning. “It’s not about what you make but what you learn while you are making it,” Behrens said. “Penn State is doing something with 3-D printing we have never seen before by integrating the design process into multiple disciplines. In the past, 3-D printing in higher education was reserved only for engineers. But now, Penn State is pioneering a different path, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Already, faculty and students are seeing use for use 3-D printing capabilities beyond traditional disciplines like engineering and mathematics to others, such as anthropology.

“This University has so many students with creative ideas, but until now there’s been limited access to 3-D printers to fabricate and test those ideas,” Tim Simpson, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and co-director of Penn State’s Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D), said. “The Maker Commons will help open students’ eyes to all the possibilities enabled by this technology and allow faculty across campuses to integrate the technology seamlessly into their courses.”

Mitchell Lester, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, is a member of Penn State’s Lunar Lion team, which is already using MakerBot printers to help design and build its spacecraft. Lester says 3-D printing not only enhances the team’s work — they use the printers to build engine models, clips and other small parts — but also fuels his aspirations for learning. “When you start working with 3-D printers on a regular basis, you start to think in 3-D,” he said. “And when you get to hold the final product in your hands, it ignites a great desire to learn — not just in the classroom, but on your own time, too. Education takes off with passion.”

The Maker Commons is a partnership between Penn State’s University Libraries and Teaching and Learning with Technology, a unit of Information Technology Services. For more information, visit