Why you can’t discuss online learning without acknowledging this

Why you can’t discuss online learning without discussing video accessibility; but what’s really required?

With nearly 1 in 5 Americans classified as having a disability, according to the 2010 census, and 13 percent of all public school students receiving special education services, accessibility is more important to educational institutions than ever before. While procedures for handling traditional materials have been well established for some time, higher ed educators’ increased reliance on video for lecture capture, supplemental materials, distance and online learning, and more is bringing the issue of video accessibility standards to the forefront.

The key to accessible videos is captioning: 99 percent accurate captions, using a 508-compliant video player optimized for accessibility, make it possible for people with hearing, visual, and motor impairments to use video materials. But adding captions to an entire library of video materials can be daunting. How necessary is it?

Meeting Regulations

In the U.S., two key pieces of legislation guide accessibility standards. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies, as well as schools receiving federal funding, to make electronic information accessible not only to members of the public but to staff as well.

This familiar piece of legislation is in the process of getting a facelift—the Section 508 Refresh was proposed last year. This year, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 will be taking effect. The guidelines specify four design concepts and three levels of fulfillment criteria (A through AAA), in which level A compliance applies to prerecorded media and level AA requires captions for live media as well. The Americans with Disabilities Act also plays a key role, with Titles II (applying to public entities at the local and state level) and III (applying to commercial entities and “public accommodations”) being the most relevant for educational institutions.

The intersection of these regulations and online video content has become significantly more critical in recent years. Two landmark cases have proven the importance of captioning, specifically. The 2012 case National Association of the Deaf, et al. v. Netflix classified the streaming service to be a “place of public accommodation”, resulting in their agreement to caption all videos by 2014. In the education sphere, in 2015 National Association of the Deaf, et al. v. Harvard and National Association of the Deaf, et al. v. MIT lead to the DOJ filing Statements of Interest favoring NAD in their complaint that the two universities’ online course materials violated the ADA.

(Next page: 2 ways to video accessibility compliance)


Game-based learning gains steam in higher education

Triseum raises $1.43M to transform educational experiences for students

Triseum announced a new funding round of $1.43 million, on the heels of its official market launch and initial game release due June 1st, 2016, raising the total investment to nearly $2 million.

Emerging out of the LIVE Lab at Texas A&M University, in 2014, André Thomas and Rahul Khanorkar founded game-based learning company Triseum combining legacies in game development, design graphics, market development and management.

Triseum has grown to over 30 staff, incorporating former Texas A&M University students, professors and leading experts in game development from around the country. It was important to Thomas that Triseum’s team be built, in an interdisciplinary fashion, to support all facets of curriculum interaction by students while maintaining and exceeding Game-Based Learning (GBL) expectations from students and teachers.

“Tuition is at an all-time high and rising. Student graduation and thruput of students is dropping and our educational delivery method for our mobile, digitally driven next generation is failing. Triseum is at the cutting edge of changing that paradigm. Why wouldn’t you invest in the future,” said Randy Rehmann, Chairman and CEO of Dynamic Systems and Triseum investor and partner.

Through their partnership with the LIVE lab at Texas A&M University, Triseum is able to develop and test game designs and prototypes prior to production. Experts, from across the university, are engaged with Triseum to ensure games adhere to rigorous scientific standards as well as the latest research prior to game production. Additionally, students and instructors are tightly integrated into the design, development and testing processes ensuring the final product has been thoroughly vetted by the very user groups Triseum aims to serve.

“We are very proud to have laid a foundation and company culture built on rigorous curriculum, and innovative, bleeding-edge digital technology,” said André Thomas, CEO of Triseum recently profiled in The Huffington Post. “This combination is enabling us to expand course subjects and grade levels throughout educational systems around the world.”

When Education Game Development is Done Right, it Works

Triseum has quickly changed the landscape of the emerging Game-Based Learning (GBL) industry. The company’s leading experts in gaming and instructional design are creating rich digital experiences for students.

“Game-based learning can serve as the missing link between curriculum objectives and student expectations,” said Thomas. “Education, as an industry, is better served when academic rigor presents itself through experiences and technologies students naturally gravitate to.”

Triseum’s upcoming release of ARTé: Mecenas is the first game to be released from the ARTé suite, a collection of games with targeted learning outcomes supporting a traditional college-level Art History survey course. Designed to supplement course instruction, ARTé: Mecenas teaches the interconnectedness of local and international economies, in Renaissance Italy, and how those economies influenced art and art patronage.

ARTé: Mecenas gives players a unique perspective on the Italian Renaissance of the 15th to 16th centuries. For example, taking the role of a member of the merchant/banking Medici family, one of the most influential families of the time, student(s) learn to balance relationships with powerful city-states, merchant factions, and the Catholic Church to build and maintain a financial empire. In the process, they play a pivotal role in the creation of famous artworks, monuments, and institutions of the Renaissance. By following the historical footsteps of the Medici family, students level up to the status of “Mecenas,” an influential patron of the arts, and experience the political, social, and economic factors that shaped the era.


Hands-on science courses could boost STEM retention, grad rates

A study from the University of Texas at Austin reveals participating in a STEM program were more likely to graduate and earn STEM degrees

College students who are enrolled in engaging science courses that allow them to conduct scientific research early on are more likely to graduate and earn STEM degrees, according to a new study.

The study analyzes how participating in course-based undergraduate research experiences affects students’ outcomes.

Across all demographic groups, students who participated in a program called the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) were more likely to graduate college and to earn degrees in STEM disciplines at The University of Texas at Austin, according to the study, which was published in CBE-Life Sciences Education.

The decade-old FRI in UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences puts first- and second-year undergraduate students in faculty-led labs, a model that is unconventional at research universities.

The newly published research finds that FRI increases a student’s likelihood of graduating with an undergraduate degree from 66 to 83 percent, and increases a graduate’s likelihood of earning a STEM degree from 71 to 94 percent.

This means that for every 10 students who enter the College of Natural Sciences and participate in FRI, two will graduate who were likely otherwise to drop out or take longer than six years to get an undergraduate degree, and three more will wind up with STEM degrees, as opposed to changing majors.

Next page: The problem with declining STEM degrees


3 keys to successful campus branding

Why creating visual identity resources supported by technology infrastructure is key to 21st century college and university branding.

In order to survive and thrive in today’s oft-cutthroat student admissions competition, creating a visual identity for your academic institution should beabout more than simply adopting a few generic best practices for campus outreach and communications. At its core, any initiative should also represent a campaign for university-wide cohesive branding, one that allows administrators and educators to proactively manage a school’s representation while empowering its constituents.

Thus, while the practical end goal for your campaign might be to create a unified “look or feel,” in the broader picture, the true aim of adopting an integrated visual identity should be to create a loyal community of stakeholders—including students, professors, and staff—and to differentiate your institution from its competition by leveraging technology infrastructure.

Here are three considerations to follow:

1. Get Campus Buy-In

Alina Wheeler, branding expert and author of Designing Brand Identity, notes that “a strong brand stands out in a densely crowded marketplace. People fall in love with brands, trust them, and believe in their superiority.” This is just as important to educators and administrators as it is to private sector marketers. Student and staff buy-in is vital to an educational community’s success, and can be measured both at the level of classroom engagement and through annual enrollment numbers.

Recognizing the essential role cohesive branding plays both online and offline in our current educational landscape, many institutions have begun adopting more overt visual identity initiatives. However, for most schools, these campaigns amount to little more than a list of dictums, which departments and programs often adopt haphazardly, leading to scattershot representation—including materials that may, on occasion, even violate campus copyright agreements.

(Next page: Open access and technology infrastructure are critical)


Data analytics initiative aims to increase retention

Agreement Gives McGraw-Hill Education exclusive rights to represent ZogoTech’s data analytics, platform, applications and services

McGraw-Hill Education, a learning science company, and ZogoTech, a provider of predictive data analytics services to higher education institutions, have entered into an agreement providing McGraw-Hill Education exclusive rights to sell the data firm’s proven services.

The agreement signals McGraw-Hill Education’s continued investment in learning science and data analytics as keys to improving student outcomes, and its desire to help bring ZogoTech’s outstanding data science to scale nationwide.

“We’re excited to team up with ZogoTech to bring its cutting edge analytics and services to colleges looking to make more data-informed decisions,” said Jerome Grant, SVP of Enterprise Services for McGraw-Hill Education’s higher education group. “As a learning science company, we’re constantly looking at the most impactful research and searching for innovators who are finding new ways of improving results for schools.”

ZogoTech is a provider of student success analytics solutions for community colleges. ZogoTech’s software transforms disparate data into actionable insights for users throughout an institution. Administrators can identify policy changes that will affect student success by surfacing hidden trends and identifying which interventions are most effective. Researchers can drill down to understand underlying causes, quickly pivoting millions of rows of data. Advisors and faculty can utilize front-end applications that guide them to which students are at-risk and which action to take.

“We’ve been working quietly for nearly 13 years with our partner institutions to deeply understand the data behind student progression,” said Michael Taft, CEO of ZogoTech. “McGraw-Hill Education has tremendous expertise and data around the learning moment. We have a unique opportunity to bring both of those perspectives together in ways that have never been done before.”

ZogoTech has successfully helped colleges improve retention rates. Through its work with Odessa College, for example, new data-based insights were obtained that led to an original scientifically based program for improving in-class retention rates. Those improvements have led to an in-class retention rate that increased from an average of 83 percent in 2010 to more than 94 percent in 2014.

“Our award winning Drop Rate Improvement Program would never have been developed without the analytic capabilities provided by ZogoTech’s products,” said Don Wood, Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness at Odessa College.


Kaplan U. weaves gamification into career services network

Online tool makes finding a job and building a career motivating for students and alumni

Kaplan University has incorporated gamification into its career services network. Gamification applies game design elements to non-game activities to drive stronger student engagement.

“Finding a job is a job and it involves a lot of hard work and determination. By incorporating gamification features into our career services network, our goal is to make that process more enjoyable, engaging and successful for our students and alumni,” said Jennifer Lasater, Vice President of Employer and Career Services for Kaplan University.

Students are introduced to CareerNetwork during their first term at Kaplan University. When entering the network, students see an individualized job feed based on their program of study and geographical location. They can apply for jobs directly from the feed and organize their search with the Career Services staff. Students start by creating their own avatar—a virtual representation of themselves. They receive points and advance levels for compiling personal information that in turns helps the University’s Career Services team learn more about them and their job search. This helps the team provide more effective coaching.

At literally any time of day or night students may engage in ‘quests’ to gain skills and build professional abilities, represented by badges and points. Examples of quests include creating an ‘elevator speech,’ reading and posting career-related articles in their field of study, conducting informational interviews, creating resumes and writing cover letters, building a social media presence, connecting with other students and employers, and applying for jobs for which they are well suited. Students can also participate in challenges such as ‘resume showdowns’ at which they learn how recruiters review resumes and the importance of customizing a resume to a position.

CareerNetwork also provides a platform for the University’s Career Services team to host employer spotlights, which are virtual information sessions with employers designed to give students an opportunity to learn more about the various companies for which they might want to work. “We understand that cost per hire is important to employers and we’re happy to offer employer interactions with Career Services at no cost to our employers” stated Lasater. “It’s an effective way to reach a pool of well-qualified candidates.”

CareerNetwork is one of the many ways the University helps its students become career ready. In addition to one-on-one career support and guidance such as resume reviews, mock interviews, interest assessments and job leads found in traditional career services models, they also include moving towards a competency-based learning model and giving all its students a personalized Competency Report that provides assessments of a student’s skill and knowledge demonstrated throughout his or her program(s) of study at the University.

Launched in 2011, Kaplan University’s CareerNetwork provides real-time 24/7 support for job seekers. This includes providing customized job feeds to students based on their program of study and geographical area along with additional tools that help students access their interest. Since its debut, CareerNetwork has hosted more than 165,000 Kaplan University students and graduates.

Kaplan University partnered with High Voltage Software, a leading independent game development studio, to develop the gamification elements in CareerNetwork.

“Kaplan University approached us with a challenge that we couldn’t say no to,” said Kerry Ganofsky, High Voltage Software CEO and Founder. “Collaboration between a software company and an educator to advance the job search experience with gamification is a unique approach that we wanted to be a part of.”


Is public better than private? New report may have answer

2016 Student Success Ratings from Eduventures reveals promising graduation and retention improvements among institutions

Eduventures, Inc., provider of primary research, analysis and advisory services that help higher education institutions support decision making throughout the student lifecycle, has released the 2016 Student Success Ratings.

As legions of college students graduate, Eduventures pays tribute to the institutions that have been the most successful in improving both retention and graduation rates for their student populations.

Understanding the Landscape for Student Success

Eduventures has created a comprehensive rating system that accounts for both retention and completion rates.

Historically the hallmark of the retention ratings is how an institution scores on first-year retention given their institutional circumstance. This year, Eduventures has added trend data to the analysis to credit institutions that have made sustained improvement in measures of student success.

According to the author of this report, Eduventures Principal Analyst, Kim Reid, “Our new student rankings seek to find the strong performers that have beat the market on student success in a number of ways. We’ve expanded our rating method to include not only first-year retention, but also six-year graduation rates in a combined index of student success.”

When Retention is Mandated from the Top

The 2016 Student Success Ratings show that the largest improvements in six-year graduation rates have come from public institutions. This category shows evidence of a state system putting its weight behind student success initiatives.

Four Florida State University System campuses are in the top 12 while private Baccalaureate-level institutions struggle the most, with larger declines than improvements in first-year retention.

As evidenced from the Florida State University System, improvements are hard to come by without a strong executive mandate, a keen understanding of institutional context, and the tools to quickly identify at-risk students, roll out interventions, and measure their effectiveness. In its 2005 – 2025 strategic plan, the Florida State University Board of Governors gave its institutions the goal of improving “degree proficiency and program efficiency.” The state also moved to a performance-based funding model in 2016, proof that the power of a well-supported mandate can stimulate improvements.

A list that includes top-ranked schools in two of our six institutional categories can be found at http://www.eduventures.com/eduventures-2016-retention-ratings/.


AIR research fuels ‘Launch My Career’ website

New site aims to help students envision return on investment for higher education choices

A series of state-specific websites, grounded in work conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), will offer students a new way to plan for life after high school.

Its interactive features show the potential return on investment for a wide array of higher education choices.

The first “Launch My Career” website, launched in Denver, will help students identify in-demand jobs across Colorado and in particular regions of the state, and will help students identify majors, as well as degree or certificate programs, that will help prepare them for those jobs.

“Students are looking for ways to demystify the process of selecting a college,” said Mark Schneider, a vice president and institute fellow at AIR. “Launch My Career offers them real information on the return that recent graduates of specific programs have realized for their investment in higher education. It allows users to select a degree program or institution based on their interests or preferred jobs, and then compare how that degree has stacked up earnings-wise against the same degree from other colleges.”

The sites were developed by College Measures (a division of AIR), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Gallup Inc. Colorado’s website will be followed by the launch of similar sites in three states, including Tennessee, later this summer.

The project is one of four supported by College Value grants totaling $3.5 million from USA Funds. The grants support development in 12 states of new models for measuring college value to help students and their families, policymakers, and postsecondary institutions make better-informed decisions about the training and skills that will provide the greatest value to students and their communities.

The site attempts to answer some of the fundamental questions students have as they prepare for college: What jobs will there be? What skills do those jobs demand? And how do I find my best route to credentials of value?

Based on data from the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the site provides degree-seeking individuals access to data that lets them:
• Compare the earnings of those who completed specific programs to the financial investment required to graduate from a particular school and program
• Analyze the earnings of many career options, using data on those who have selected these options
• Understand the personal and professional satisfaction that accompanies different careers and courses of study

The tool also features a lifestyle goal calculator, showing the number of years it will take for the projected salary from a particular occupation to meet a user’s lifestyle goals; and a break-even calculator that demonstrates the number of years it will take after completing a particular degree program for earnings to exceed the total net price of the program.

“At a time when student debt is mounting and employers are struggling to find the right people with the right skills, it’s imperative students make informed decisions about the best way to prepare for in-demand jobs,” said Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. “This tool will allow consumers to easily identify careers, majors, and institutions they’re interested in and compare the value of each program.”

“Students and families are increasingly concerned about the value of college,” said Carol D’Amico, executive vice president of national engagement and philanthropy for USA Funds. “Through this new resource, students can make more-informed decisions about their future with data that illuminate critical links and opportunities between student goals and pathways, institutional offerings, and workforce needs.”

Visit the “Launch My Career Colorado” website for more information.


Trend: Online learning going personal

Personalized support and advising achieved through new advances in technology and data analytics are all recommended for helping today’s online students.

In a recent online learning panel, innovative institutions that have achieved measurable success in their online learning programs waxed poetic on how harnessing technology to bolster personalized learning experiences is the key to online learning’s success; specifically in helping students advance toward their educational goals and create a culture of success.

The panel was part of A recent webinar hosted by The New Media Consortium (NMC) called “Getting Personal,” and featured insight from college and university IT and technology leaders on how advancements in online learning environments and adaptive learning technologies are making it possible to support learners’ individual paths.

“There are so many different things involved when you start to talk about personalized learning and putting those tools together,” said Dr. Vanessa Kenon, lecturer at the college of Education & Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “We’re trying to start from the beginning when students come in for the admissions process…getting all their degree plans laid out so that they can actually see how long it’s going to take them and what the cost is for them if they decide to make changes. It’s an approach that integrates those degree plans with the students getting the right kind of advising they need and a more personalized approach to getting them in the right courses…and try to get them to finish in four.”

(Next page: More on personalized learning strategies)