Finding success in the maker space

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

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

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

In this week’s news:

Data shady on how recent HS grads really doing in collegeNew report reveals that measuring enrollment, remediation and persistence data is fuzzy thanks to varying state mandates.

A 3-part guide to successful maker spaces
A recent panel hosted by The New Media Consortium detailed a framework for designing maker spaces and maker programs, allocating resources, and supporting making as a quality learning experience.

How a new university collaborative is destroying poor retention rates
An 11-member alliance is improving retention rates among students by openly sharing solutions and working together on new ways to support at-risk students.

Why traditional institutions must assess or be assessed
A Purdue University scholar discusses what standardized assessments for institutions may look like, what they should incorporate.


Could this credentialing system set a new standard?

Universities embrace new credentialing system with the University Learning Store

Six universities are banding together to offer a new form credentialing system that advocates say could set a new standard in career-focused, skills-based training.

Called the University Learning Store, the system aims to enable job seekers and working professionals to earn industry-validated micro-credentials in a range of business and technical skills.

The universities that launced the credentialing system include Georgia Tech Professional Education, UCLA, University of California, Davis Extension, University of California Irvine Division of Continuing Education, University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education and University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Micro-credentials earned online through the University Learning Store give employers confidence in learners’ capabilities because of a thorough, industry-based verification process, representatives say.

Next page: How to earn a micro-credential


7 online learning trends for 2016

A look at new tools and opportunities to take online learning in mainstream higher ed to the next level.

Let’s face it: Online education has always been the unhappy stepchild to traditional classroom teaching. It’s generally been seen as a make-do solution to serve students who—whether for reasons of geography or scheduling—were unable to attend class in person. And, more recently, its great claim to fame has been as a cost saver, a scalable way to enroll large numbers of students with minimal financial outlay. Well, the ugly duckling may be about to turn into a swan.

“We’re starting to hear a real desire for online learning to turn the corner and be focused on a mode of instruction that is inherently better than what we have today in traditional education,” said Chris Walsh, CEO of Zaption, a video learning company based in San Francisco. “People are starting to look at new tools and new opportunities to create an instructional experience that is different but hopefully better as well.”

The idea that online learning could actually be better than face-to-face instruction has gained credence in recent years as new technology solutions promise to make the educational experience more personalized and engaging. Has that time finally arrived? Here, eCampus News looks at seven trends that have the potential to remake the world of online learning.


1) Blended Learning Is the Sweet Spot

Ironically, the ideal learning environment may not be online or face-to-face: It might be both together. “We’re definitely seeing a trend over the last three to five years of people moving to these blended, online, hybrid, flipped-classroom models,” said Jennifer Ferralli, math product manager at WebAssign, an online instructional platform that specializes in STEM subjects. “We’re seeing this across the different disciplines, not just in math but also in physics and chemistry. People are trying to find different ways to connect with students to make classroom time more effective and more efficient.”

It’s a trend that has also caught the attention of ProctorU, a company that provides technology to prevent cheating and fraud in online courses. “The blended model especially is exploding,” said Don Kassner, ProctorU’s CEO. “When we first started seven years ago, we were talking to online-only programs. Now most of the programs are blended.”

In the wake of the hype around MOOCs that engulfed online learning in recent years, there is a growing realization that taking a course online requires a level of discipline and drive that many students lack. “A very small minority of people can completely learn online without any kind of motivation—without having somebody tap them on their backs once in a while to say, ‘You’ve done this very well,’ or, ‘Try a little harder,” said Gregor Freund, CEO of Versal, an online platform designed to help faculty with no technical expertise create interactive learning experiences. “Online learning has to become part of an overall learning process that blends classroom learning, remote learning, on-the-job learning—all of these different elements.”

It’s an approach that has really helped students in the School of Education at Gardner-Webb University, which utilizes Teachscape Learn, a professional development platform designed specifically for teachers. “Flipping the classroom has really changed my game,” said Kelly Taylor, assistant professor and chair of middle grades education. “Students now come in with a background about the concepts we’re studying, instead of my having to spend some of the class period laying the foundation.”

(Next page: Trends 2-4)


National Society of Black Engineers receives $2M grant

Grant will help establish a new program aiming to widen the pipeline for engineers from HBCUs

The Northrop Grumman Foundation and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) have launched a three-year, $2 million program designed to expand the nation’s engineering workforce through a partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The Northrop Grumman Corporation/NSBE Integrated Pipeline Program, funded by the Northrop Grumman Foundation, will provide 72 engineering students with $8,000 scholarship grants, internships with Northrop Grumman and year-round academic and professional development support.

The program’s three HBCU partners — Florida A&M University, Howard University and North Carolina A&T State University — will receive grants, technical assistance and a package of programs researched and managed by NSBE, to increase their already high capacity to recruit, retain and graduate engineers. NSBE is one of the largest student-governed professional societies based in the United States.

Executives of the Northrop Grumman Foundation and Northrop Grumman Corporation presented the $2-million grant to NSBE’s National Executive Board on March 26, during NSBE’s 42nd Annual Convention in Boston, Mass. The presidents of the NSBE chapters at Florida A&M, Howard and North Carolina A&T also joined the presentation. The convention drew more than 11,000 attendees to address the theme “Engineering a Cultural Change.” NSBE’s more than 31,000 members are dedicated to the Society’s mission: “to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”

“Northrop Grumman and the Northrop Grumman Foundation are committed to helping improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to ensure a future workforce that can protect our nation and maintain our global leadership,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, Northrop Grumman vice president, global corporate responsibility and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. “Our partnership with NSBE will help us achieve that goal and develop the pipeline of diverse talent that is so important to our company and our society’s future.”

“Our sincere thanks to the Northrop Grumman Foundation for this generous investment in our mission,” said NSBE National Chair Neville Green. “The student leadership of NSBE is excited about this program’s potential to move us toward the goals of our strategic plan and support HBCUs in the process. Initiatives such as this, with strong strategic partners, will be critical, as we seek to increase the number of African-American bachelor’s degree recipients in engineering from 3,500 to 10,000 annually over the next nine years.”

“We are delighted to receive this endorsement of our work from one of America’s most innovative companies,” said NSBE Executive Director Karl W. Reid, Ed.D. “For years, we have spoken about the vital role that engineering diversity plays in our national economy and national security. Northrop Grumman’s investment in this program illustrates that they understand the need exists and are willing to do something about it. This fact is reflected not only in their longtime support of NSBE but also in the high ratings the company receives from our membership.”

The first cohort of 24 Northrop Grumman Corporation/NSBE scholars will be selected in December, and their participation in the Pipeline Program will be kicked off with a summit meeting in March 2017, during NSBE’s 43rd Annual Convention in Kansas City, Mo. Summer internships for the first cohort will begin in May 2017.


Pepperdine, Noodle Partners to launch online degree-completion program

Bachelor of Science in Management will launch first online cohort in August

Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management and Noodle Partners announced the launch of a new online Bachelor of Science in Management (BSM) degree, with an inaugural cohort starting August 2016.

This degree-completion program will offer working adults and learners access to faculty and programming with the convenience of an online curriculum.

Noodle Partners is an online program manager (OPM) that leverages best-of-breed providers and the internal strengths of its university partners to transform online and campus-based programs. Absent the revenue-share model, universities can use increased revenues to support scholarships, boost financial aid, and invest in new programming.

“We are very proud of the BSM program at Pepperdine Graziadio, providing working professionals with a streamlined path to undergraduate degree-completion along with a one year fast-track to an MBA. Offering it online means giving our campus-based students exciting new options,” said David M. Smith, dean, Graziadio School of Business and Management. “Like many schools, we’ve struggled with the economics offered by OPMs, but Noodle Partners brings a commitment to sustainable excellence in an innovative business model. We’re excited to be their first partner school.”

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with Pepperdine Graziadio to take this great on-campus program to another level,” said John Katzman, CEO of Noodle Partners. “At the same time, we are excited to prove out a sustainable model for this new type of OPM relationship. As we do so, the concept of large revenue shares and long-term contracts will be proven dated.”


How a new university collaborative is destroying poor retention rates

An 11-member alliance is improving retention rates among students by openly sharing solutions and working together on new ways to support at-risk students.

“When universities collaborate, students win” is the slogan of the University Innovation Alliance, a partnership of 11 major schools that hopes to reverse the nationwide decline in college enrollment and increase the number of graduates from across the socio-economic spectrum. Recent successes in retention rates suggest that the jingle may be more than slick marketing. At its launch in 2014, the UIA set a goal of graduating more than 68,000 additional students over the next decade. Now the group expects to graduate nearly 100,000 extra students in that time.

Even so, the UIA’s efforts will make only a small dent in the additional 5 million college graduates who will be needed in the U.S. by 2020, according to projections in a 2013 study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. But the UIA is hoping that other universities will adopt some of the group’s proven student-retention strategies and forge their own collaborative alliances to spur adoption of new initiatives.

“If all other four-year public colleges and universities in the U.S. increased their graduation rates at the UIA’s pace over the next decade, we would add 1.3 million college graduates to the workforce,” said Bridget Burns, executive director of UIA, whose members include Ohio State, Purdue, Arizona State, University of Central Florida, and Georgia State. “This is a matter of national urgency, but we have to address the way that we share ideas in higher education. At the moment, innovation just dribbles between institutions—it doesn’t even trickle.”

Indeed, a review of UIA’s gains in student-retention rates shows that collaboration has been the biggest factor in the group’s success, allowing universities to identify and replicate solutions from partner institutions in record time.

Burns points to predictive analytics as an example of a key initiative that gained rapid traction despite initial reluctance from campuses that had already tried solutions without much success. “At least two UIA campuses went from saying no to predictive analytics to a full-scale implementation in about 18 months,” said Burns. “In that time, they transferred 10 years of data, got their algorithms rolled out, and piloted the projects. Prior to UIA, it took campuses years to reach the same point. We’re seeing an acceleration, and the vehicle is these relationships and this collaborative approach.”

But anyone who’s worked in higher education knows that collaboration is sometimes easier said than done. Many universities are themselves divided into jealously guarded fiefdoms, so how has UIA managed to forge such productive relationships across 11 large institutions?

(Next page: How UIA universities collaborate to boost retention rates)


Kira University launches to support admissions teams

New education portal provides in-depth courses to help admissions teams market their programs, boost applicant volume, and improve their review process

Kira Talent, creator of Kira Academic, a video admissions platform for higher education, has launched a new online education portal. Kira University is designed for college and university admissions teams and will host a variety of online courses to improve the admissions process from recruitment through enrollment.

Each free course includes weekly lessons delivered directly to participants via email, featuring insight from experts and industry leaders on how to identify top applicants, boost applicant volume, and improve applicant yield using techniques mastered by top schools in the U.S. and abroad.

“The Kira team has spent years collaborating with schools around the world to implement the Kira platform into their admissions processes. In doing so, we’ve observed what works and what doesn’t and are excited to share those insights with admissions professionals who enroll in the program,” said Craig Morantz, CEO at Kira. “This program flips the switch, putting admissions teams back in the classroom. With an abundance of applicants already enrolled in our first course, it’s evident that there is a desire to improve the outdated, traditional admissions process.”

Kira University’s pilot course, The Master of Business School Admissions, has commenced for business school admissions teams. The new course includes four lessons: Think like a Marketer, Redesign the Admissions Process, Assess Students Better, and Cultivate the Best Cohort. Master of Business School Admissions students will learn from experts at LinkedIn, Hootsuite, University of Michigan, and Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, just to name a few.

“Kira University is not just a valuable asset to admissions teams, the program will also benefit students,” adds Morantz. “By seeking better ways to assess and evaluate applicants, schools are taking steps to ensure a more transparent and holistic approach to admissions. This will help schools select the students that are the best fit for their unique programs and vice versa.”

For more information about Kira University and its upcoming courses, visit


A 3-part guide to successful maker spaces

Cohesion between purpose, people, and parts & pieces are key to a successful maker program say experts.

A recent panel hosted by The New Media Consortium detailed a framework for designing maker spaces and maker programs, allocating resources, and supporting making as a quality learning experience.

Learners as Creators” was the latest webinar in the NMC Beyond the Horizon series, and featured insight from panelists Tim Carrigan of the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS) and Peter Wardrip from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

The webinar comes at an opportune time, as maker spaces and the maker movement are increasingly emerging in college and universities over the past few years (e.g. MIT’s maker admissions, these collegiate maker labs across the country). The maker movement has provided an important outlet for students to bring their ideas to life through actions like modeling, prototyping and creating using a range of technologies and tools, such as 3D printing.

However, important questions have risen about how to best facilitate these activities through professional development, their evaluation and sustainability, and differences in institutional philosophies on making. As a result, Carrigan and Wardrip focused heavily on presenting promising practices and opportunities, as well as detailing challenges.

“We’ve developed this framework by doing mini case studies around the country,” said Carrigan. “We’re really hoping these resources and continued professional development will be useful to all practices, new or old.”

(Next page: Important tips for makers)