Partnership aims to boost financial skills

SALT and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities partner to improve students’ financial skills

SALT, a consumer literacy program provided by the nonprofit American Student Assistance, is partnering with the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities to support AICCU member institutions with tools to develop greater financial competencies in students and alumni.

“Our member institutions spend over $1.5 billion in institutional grant aid annually to foster access and ensure success of all students with a dream of higher education,” said Kristen Soares, AICCU president. “But we know that many students and families struggle to afford higher education in California. We are partnering with SALT to give our students and alumni the financial know-how they need to successfully approach, manage and repay college costs. California wins when it has a college-educated workforce who graduate with manageable education debt, and are empowered as financially competent consumers who can contribute to our state’s economic success.”

Under the arrangement announced today, all AICCU member institutions will receive reduced pricing on their SALT sponsorship. As a public purpose nonprofit organization, ASA® is committed to offering full SALT services free of charge to students and alumni. To that end, SALT is enabled by multiple partners across public and private sectors whose support extends the reach of services, amplifies impact, and ensures the program can benefit students and alumni far into the future. More than 300 higher education institutions, nonprofits and corporate sponsors nationwide currently partner with SALT to bring its resources to more than 4 million students, alumni and employees.

AICCU member institutions that sign on with SALT will have a full suite of digital services available to their students and alumni, including the program’s online personal finance curriculum; a Repayment Navigator to track loans and compare repayment plans; search engines for scholarships and careers/internships; and blogs, articles, videos, calculators, tools, and apps that teach users how to take control of their finances. SALT users can also access one-on-one counseling with a loan specialist via phone, email and chat, and receive proactive, customized information and guidance at regular intervals throughout their student loan repayment process.

“We’re excited to partner with AICCU,” said John Zurick, SALT president. “For too many students, in California and across the country, paying for college is an insurmountable barrier. SALT, along with our higher education partners, is committed to eliminating finance as a barrier to higher education, thereby unlocking the potential of college and the dreams education enables.”

Contact Sarah Arslanian, SALT community and corporate engagement manager, at or 213 422 3509 to learn more about partnership opportunities in California.


A big partnership for higher ed data analytics

Data management software company TMMData joins UPCEA in a Gold Level Industry Partnership to guide its members’ emerging data analytics and reporting efforts.

TMMData, a provider of flexible data management software, recently announced its Gold Level Industry Partnership with UPCEA (the University Professional and Continuing Education Association). Through the collaboration, TMMData will pair its data integration and management expertise with UPCEA’s efforts to anticipate and assist members’ increasingly sophisticated data analytics initiatives.

Headquartered outside of State College, Pa., with offices in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Seattle, TMMData was established in 2008 and was recently ranked in the top 15 percent of Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing private American companies. For more than eight years, the company’s says its data intelligence software as a service (SaaS) offering has enabled organizations – including large public universities – to easily access, aggregate, analyze and normalize data from nearly any source. University and program administrators can utilize TMMData’s SaaS to manage large amounts of online and offline data, driving efficiency in organizational decision-making and reporting, says the company.

UPCEA is an association for professional, continuing and online education, serving more than 400 institutions. The organization serves its members through conferences, timely publications and providing research and benchmarking information. By enhancing the quality of programs, increasing public awareness, collecting data on administrative practices and partnering with industry leaders, UPCEA works to advance leadership among member institutions.

“We’re excited to work with UPCEA to help its members continue to lead the field of professional, continuing and online education by leveraging data for institutional and student success,” said Darren Wagner, TMMData’s Chief Marketing Officer. “As data collection and analysis become increasingly important in higher education, we’re eager for TMMData’s expertise – particularly in integrating and mobilizing information across their complex organizations – to aid UPCEA’s forward-thinking objectives in advancing higher education.”

“Having worked closely with more than 100 colleges and universities, many lack the systems that can speed up the decision-making process, improve accountability and improve retention while increasing revenue and reducing costs,” said Jim Fong, director of the UPCEA Center for Research and Marketing Strategy. “Institutions struggle with legacy systems interfacing with more progressive student information or CRM systems. As a result, few institutions can produce real-time dashboards or predictive analytics – one of the many reasons I look forward to working with TMMData to provide UPCEA members with the data they need.”

The partnership, which will include joint communications and benchmarking, will provide UPCEA’s members with unique insights into best practices in data management. As reporting requirements for higher education intensify and institutions face greater-than-ever competition, mastering data is critical for compliance and the ability to recruit, retain and educate students.

Visit for more information.


Technology’s trend-influencing evolution

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.

This week, we focus on how changing technology is impacting higher education and its related marketplace. For instance, a new report explores the experiences of consortia that have implemented a common LMS in an effort to spread the word about the practice and its benefits. Plus, the advent of online and face-to-face instruction combines with telepresence to offer a unique learning solution for rural students. Also, the e-learning market is about to see some serious changes, influenced by trends and changes in technology.

Read on for more:

A technology that’s thriving with rural students
With an emphasis on flexibility and convenience, an innovative Georgia program is giving rural students—often working adults—new opportunities to pursue the jobs skills needed in today’s economy. The initiative, known as BlendFlex, is the brainchild of Central Georgia Technical College, which received a four-year government grant in 2013 to test blended-learning techniques in its healthcare program across an 11-county swath of rural Georgia.

Breaking: Billion-dollar e-learning market about to undergo major shift
An increasing number of colleges and universities are electing to replace their learning management systems (LMS), according to a comprehensive report from e-Literate, an education technology research and analysis site. The report, LMS Market Dynamics, is the first of the “e-Literate Big Picture” subscription services, which will provide colleges and universities, education companies, and investors with monthly, proprietary insight into the market.

5 considerations for a common LMS adoption
Cost savings and increasing operational efficiencies are among the top reasons educational consortia choose to adopt and use a common learning management system (LMS), according to a new report. The California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative (CCC OEI) worked with MindWires Consulting to determine what online consortia are doing and plan to do when faced with similar decisions around adopting a common LMS. The resulting report outlines a number of reasons for such a move.

How gamification is driving learning space design
Gamification is moving from simple trend status to a valid pedagogical approach that can deliver powerful learning experiences in higher education classrooms—and this growth has led to changes in how faculty approach physical learning spaces. Today’s students demand engaging educational experiences and thrive on stimulation and immediate feedback. As games become integrated into learning, game developers are realizing that many gaming attributes—challenges, rewards, and collaboration, to name just a few—have relevance in the classroom, too.


IEEE launches annual Maker Project Competition

Contestants will have a chance to showcase their talents, win prizes and get mentored by an IEEE member

A new opportunity for the innovative, creative and curious maker to transform problems into technology solutions has opened. IEEE, a technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, announced the annual IEEE Maker Project Competition, welcoming innovators and tech enthusiasts to battle it out for great prizes and the chance to work with an IEEE member. The IEEE Maker Project will be global, open and inclusive, welcoming those ready to showcase their technological prowess and gain wide recognition.

The contest is accepting submissions through September 17, 2016 at Entrants must be 18 years or older to enter and submissions must be an engineering project that was built or created using hardware or software. Submissions must also include an image or video of the tech project, as well as a description. Visitors to the site will be able to share, link, comment and even vote for their favorite submissions.

Tom Coughlin, Chair of the IEEE Public Visibility Committee, IEEE Senior Member and lifelong advocate of the maker movement, will serve as the host of this competition. He will be featured in an ongoing video series that will highlight cool projects and events to inspire contestants on the contest website.

“This contest is about the developer and tinkerer in all of us, ready to step on the world stage to show off their engineering talents and hands-on creativity,” says Tom Coughlin, IEEE Senior Member. “This competition embodies the very spirit of making, and lays the foundation for the next generation of maker talent.”

The IEEE Maker Project video series will highlight innovations featured at the 2016 Maker Faire—a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the maker movement. Tom Coughlin will be there on May 21, 2016 to talk tech and scope out the best projects on the show floor.

For a list the full terms and conditions of the IEEE Maker Project contest, please click here for more information.


Sony launches high-end visual display technology

New scalable system has 99 percent black surface area for high contrast, high resolution, immersive visuals

At InfoComm 2016, Sony will highlight its display capabilities in a big way, focusing on upgrading the landscape for large-scale visual entertainment.

The new technology, Crystal LED Integrated Structure (CLEDIS), uses Sony’s ultrafine LEDs in a unique surface mounting structure as its light source to deliver a visual experience not possible with even the highest-end conventional LED array.

“It’s a new type of canvas for limitless flexibility and creativity in public spaces and high-end visual entertainment,” said Kevin O’Connor, senior manager, sales and marketing, visual simulation and entertainment at Sony Electronics. “Compared to the technologies currently available for large-scale display, it’s a leap forward in depth, contrast, color, resolution – and pure visual impact.”

The new display technology is designed for commercial applications and immersive experiences, from industrial product design and manufacturing, theme parks, museums, and high-traffic lobbies to corporate boardrooms and broadcast studios – any environment requiring realistic simulation on a large scale and detailed video displays.

The self-emitting display technology uses R (red), G (green), and B (blue) ultrafine LEDs mounted on the display surface, with each pixel emitting light independently. Each pixel is only 0.003 mm2 in size, allowing the remaining surface area to be more than 99 percent black.

This high black-to-surface ratio contributes to the technology’s high contrast ratio in light and dark viewing environments. The surface-mounted light source also improves light use efficiency.

The technology has a viewing angle of nearly 180 degrees, with corner-to-corner image uniformity in terms of brightness and color, even on a large screen.

The canvas has a brightness of 1000 cd/m2 (1000 nits), and will support High Dynamic Range (HDR) content, producing imagery with 10-bit color depth and a wide color gamut (approximately 140 percent of sRGB).

The scalable system is made up of multiple display units (each measuring 18 x 16 inches) that can be joined together with no bezels to create a limitless and seamless large-screen display.

The canvas also features Sony’s unique pixel drive circuitry, to achieve fast video response with a frame rate of 120fps. This is critical for sports, concerts, or training simulations, where users need to present large screen visuals with no delay or motion artifacts.

The new technology — display unit and display controller — will be shown for the first time in public at InfoComm 2016 (Booth C7708) in Las Vegas, June 8 to 10, in an 8Kx2K, 32’x9’ configuration and is planned to be available in early 2017.


Why is data science so hot right now?

And what should colleges and universities know about the data science field?

The rising cost of college tuition against the backdrop of a challenging job market brings new meaning to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Once a question of endearment for the young and imaginative, today’s students focus on what will pay the bills; what career will provide the means to pay back loans; what is the next profession to boom. The medical and law professions used to top the list. Now, a new player is ready to take the top spot: data scientists.

A few years back, data science emerged as one of the most promising up-and-coming career paths. Today, it has broken barriers. The data scientist was named Mashable’s hottest professions of 2015 and Glassdoor’s most popular job of 2016. And its popularity is only growing. [Read: “3 blossoming fields of study with massive potential”]

Unfortunately, there is a shortage of qualified data scientists to fill the demand. Not enough individuals are graduating from college with the skills necessary to break into the profession. Those that do and who have degrees in fields like physics, engineering, and mathematics are receiving six-figure salaries upon graduation – and that’s with no work experience.

Before discussing what needs to be done to change this skills gap, it’s important to understand why the field of data science is booming, and what these individuals offer society that justifies changing the way we train and recruit the future generation of data scientists.

(Next page: Why data science? And what makes it special?)


MIT, Lockheed Martin launch research collaboration

Initial focus of long-term collaboration will be on transformative technologies, autonomy and robotics

As part of a new collaborative initiative in autonomy and robotics, MIT and Lockheed Martin engineers will focus on innovations needed to enable generation-after-next autonomous systems.

Improvements in human/machine teaming and navigation in complex environments are among the research challenges that Lockheed Martin is inviting MIT faculty and their students to help solve.

“We have a valued relationship with MIT and are looking forward to moving to this next chapter and partnering with world-class researchers,” said Dr. Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer (MIT BS ’89, MS ’92, ScD ’97). “We are focused on advancing technology and recruiting top talent, both of which are crucial for creating the next generation of aerospace systems.”

A master agreement between MIT and Lockheed Martin, led by the Institute’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro), and in collaboration with MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, was formalized on Friday at a signing ceremony on campus. It provides a multi-year framework between MIT and Lockheed Martin for collaborative research, exchange of visiting scientists, support of student Undergraduate Research Opportunities, fellowships, and internships at Lockheed Martin.

“We’re making the investment today, not just in research and development of the technologies that could have the most impact on future generations, but in the talent of these amazing individuals that will truly shape the future,” said Dr. Padraig Moloney (MIT BS ’00), Lockheed Martin Program Manager and architect of the new initiative. “We’re confident that our relationship and collaboration in these technical areas will influence the fields of autonomy and robotics for the next 15-20 years.”

AeroAstro Department Head Jaime Peraire said, “We’re delighted with this new agreement, which furthers a relationship between MIT AeroAstro and Lockheed Martin that goes back many years. It formalizes our partnership, and aligns with MIT’s mode of conducting research and education by melding academic rigor with real engineering challenges and applications.”

Initial research will be conducted by AeroAstro Professors Jonathan How, Nick Roy, Sertac Karaman, Julie Shah and Russ Tedrake and Mechanical Engineering Professor Sangbae Kim.


How gamification is driving learning space design

With the advent of gamification as a legitimate tool for engagement, recruitment and enrollment, campuses are reimagining how their learning spaces reflect new instructional approaches.

Gamification is moving from simple trend status to a valid pedagogical approach that can deliver powerful learning experiences in higher education classrooms—and this growth has led to changes in how faculty approach physical learning spaces.

Today’s students demand engaging educational experiences and thrive on stimulation and immediate feedback. As games become integrated into learning, game developers are realizing that many gaming attributes—challenges, rewards, and collaboration, to name just a few—have relevance in the classroom, too.

Part of what’s buoying this change is the fact that instructional models are changing—the sage on the stage model no longer aligns with the way today’s students wish to learn, said Robert Brodnick, founder of Brodnick Consulting Group, Inc. Brodnick also is principal at Strategic Initiatives, a management consulting firm that specializes in thought leadership to help organizations achieve their future vision and navigate change. He has served as an administrator and faculty member at three universities and his work has focused on building institutional capacity and effectiveness through strategy, planning, and innovation.

Gamification, typically defined as taking elements of game play and adding them to a non-game activity, can be done in different ways, and it’s becoming much more acceptable.

Common mechanics include earning points, earning badges, completing and advancing through levels, and moving through challenges or pathways.

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“What is so interesting—and this is the real driving force behind why gamification is hitting the learning environment—is that the more people engage in something, the more easily they learn or adapt to it,” Brodnick said. “Gamification, the fun side of serious play, really gets people engaged. It opens us up in new ways. It’s very different than content collection and testing based on your ability to remember something.”

Most gamified learning experiences are set in a narrative or story where the learner plays a role and must become personally engaged to understand how the game unfolds and to successfully complete it, he added. “It’s that storytelling component that helps deepen the engagement and drive motivation.”

Designing Learning Spaces for Gamification

About a year ago, Brodnick partnered with KI, a company that helps industries including education equip their physical spaces based on information about current and future trends and needs. In helping KI discover what was and would be impacting learning spaces, Brodnick identified key trends impacting learning design.

(Next page: Examples of how institutions are embracing gamification in learning spaces)