edX universities say ‘NO’ to mediocre online learning

At a conference hosted by Harvard and MIT, schools using the open-source edX platform agreed on a common data structure for their online courses, with the goal of facilitating research on how students learn.

With online courses now part of the mainstream, colleges and universities are collecting terabytes of data on how students interact with their systems and content. But most schools gather this data according to their own specs, which makes comparisons difficult for researchers trying to identify broader trends.

However, this may all change in the wake of a conference hosted by Harvard and MIT this August that saw a dozen schools implement a standardized data structure for MOOCS and other online courses using the Open edX platform. The goal: Create a better understanding of how students learn online and improve instructional approaches accordingly.

“The biggest issue we’re trying to address right now is the feedback loop in online learning—going from content back to better instruction and better material,” said Daniel Seaton, a research scientist at Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning. “We’re helping our partner schools build infrastructure that is capable of analyzing large data sets, which can be quite detailed and messy.”

A New Infrastructure

At the heart of this infrastructure are data standards intended to give researchers a common foundation on which to build. “A big part of the conference involved helping individual institutions set up a workflow that will allow them to extract data about how students interact in MOOCS and online courses, and put them in a usable format,” added Dustin Tingley, a professor of government at Harvard. “An important part of any future collaborative process is a common standard for how certain things are calculated and what specific types of data sets are produced.”

(Next page: Learning to use the right data for the right challenge)

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Marketplace trend update: 5 ed-tech developments

Remaining a tech-savvy educator means keeping on top of the myriad changes and trends in education, how technology can support those trends, and how teaching and learning can best benefit from near-constant change.

Below, we’ve gathered some of the latest and most relevant marketplace news to keep you up-to-date on product developments, teaching and learning initiatives, and new trends in education.

In June 2016, “Winning One Program at a Time: A Systemic Approach,” the paper co-written by Verified Studios CEO Adam Schultz and Kay Zimmerman, N.C. State Associate Vice Provost DELTA-Marketing and Partnership Development, won the Distance Learning Administration Conference Best Paper Award. Over the last two years, the digital marketing agency has guided deployment of a scalable, low-cost, high ROI program-level marketing system across 18 N.C. State online and distance education programs. The paper shares the results of the program-level marketing strategy, highlighting ways for other universities to deploy a similar system. Read more.

Ultimaker, a 3D printer manufacturer, announced the Ultimaker Pioneer Program. The scheme introduces 3D printing and design to North American students – both K-12 and higher education. As part of the Pioneer Program, educators (‘Pioneers’) can access 3D printing content on the Ultimaker Education website, which can be shared with students. The site welcomes contributions, and users maintain content ownership through Creative Commons Attribution, Share-Alike and Non-Commercial licensing. Through the Ultimaker Education site, educators throughout North America have access to resources and knowledge that are not commonly available. Read more.

Keypath Education and Baker College are teaming up to better serve on-ground and online students. Baker College Online recently received an exemplary endorsement from the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) – the OLC’s highest honor – recognizing the outstanding quality of its online learning programs. Keypath is now responsible for Baker College’s creative, traditional and digital media, and all inbound marketing efforts such as search engine optimization, social media and content creation. Read more.

Portfolium has partnered with the University System of Georgia to help 318,027 students and millions of alumni at 29 campuses get hired by exposing hidden skills that can’t be gleaned from a resume. This exclusive system-wide agreement gives USG the option to adopt and expand usage of Portfolium’s holistic competency network – a uniquely open platform that powers development and assessment of competencies within the classroom, while also matching learners with employers externally. Read more.

The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture launched the design phase of a new major regional program to empower young Arab women scientists and leaders in agricultural research and development. The design phase will lay the groundwork for the Young Arab Women Scientists Leadership Program, the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region. The program will help to build and improve skills and capacities of a new generation of young Arab women scientists and leaders, contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Read more.

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New program supports women sciencists in Middle East, North Africa

The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) launched the design phase of a new major regional program to empower young Arab women scientists and leaders in agricultural research and development.

Funded by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the design phase will lay the groundwork for the Young Arab Women Scientists Leadership (Tamkeen) Program, the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The Program will help to build and improve skills and capacities of a new generation of young Arab women scientists and leaders, contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, Director General of ICBA, said: “Women are keepers and developers. They do deserve and require more opportunities. That is why in this Program we wanted to give priority to equipping women, namely women scientists, with necessary knowledge, skills and tools so that they can realize their full potential and contribute more to their countries’ economies.”

The past few decades have seen a considerable increase in the number of women scientists and leaders working in agricultural research in both industrialized and developing countries.

However, empirical evidence shows that there is a disproportionately low number of women working in senior scientific and managerial positions, especially in the MENA region.

Women scientists face a wide range of barriers ranging from family and social expectations to limited networking opportunities to lack of targeted leadership programs. These challenges limit women’s opportunities for advancement into senior positions.

“IsDB pays significant attention to the role of women in development. Therefore, improving the skills of Arab women scientists in agricultural research is a step in the right direction. We believe that empowering women with the right skills in agricultural research will contribute to alleviating poverty and making food available to the poor. We will work with our partners to ensure that skill acquisition in our member countries is barrier free,” stated Dr. Osman El-Feil, Director, Agriculture and Rural Development Department, IsDB.

Agricultural research, development and extension agencies will benefit from the increased presence of women in senior research and leadership positions as increasing diversity of leadership voices is shown to improve outcomes. Women leaders in science are better placed to identify challenges and solutions for women in agriculture, resulting in improved food security and nutrition for all rural people. Therefore, it is important to promote more balanced representation of women in decision-making processes related to agricultural knowledge, science, and technology at all levels.

Mr. Hassan Al-Damluji, Head of Middle East Relations at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are incredibly optimistic about the role science can play in driving change for the world’s poorest people. We are also determined to ensure that women are front and center in all aspects of development work, and that includes women scientists creating new solutions to food security challenges. That is why we are so excited about our partnership with ICBA and the Program that this grant will help to design.”

The design phase will serve to identify the barriers and challenges facing young Arab women scientists working in agricultural research and development, as well as knowledge and skills they need to advance their careers. ICBA will assess leadership and innovation modules of agricultural science programs, as well as the needs of women scientists in the MENA region, focusing on nine Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates). The findings will inform the Program that will help to improve leadership opportunities for women scientists in agricultural research institutions throughout the MENA region and increase knowledge exchange and active peer/mentor networks for Arab women scientists. The Program will also help to identify and empower groups of women champions and build a critical mass of pathfinders, visionary leaders, and change agents, ultimately contributing to better and more women-centered solutions for improved food security and nutrition in the MENA region.

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University System of Georgia turns to digital portfolios to close skills gap

Portfolium has partnered with the University System of Georgia (USG), the 5th largest university system in the United States, to help 318,027 students and millions of alumni at 29 campuses get hired by exposing hidden skills that can’t be gleaned from a resume.

Portfolium’s unique power lies in its ability to translate digital work samples (such as class assignments, presentations, and written reflections) into the language of employment; skills and competencies. With access to previously hidden skills data, employers can make more and better matches between their jobs and qualified students.

This exclusive system-wide agreement gives USG the option to adopt and expand usage of Portfolium’s holistic competency network – a uniquely open platform that powers development and assessment of competencies within the classroom, while also matching learners with employers externally.

Partnership Highlights:
The USG system will make use of LTI integrations between its LMS and Portfolium
The partnership encompasses 3 prominent HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities)
Georgia State University has already successfully launched to its 54k students and 175k alumni

“With 50,000 students and one of the largest populations of low-income students in the country, we have struggled to scale effective career preparation across our student body. Now, we’re using Portfolium to help. We’re employing analytics to link students to careers that match their individual abilities and Portfolium as a platform for students to document their career readiness at scale,” said Dr. Timothy Renick – Vice Provost and VP for Enrollment Management and Student Success.

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Keypath Education, Baker College partner to serve nontraditional students

Keypath Education and Baker College, the largest independent, not-for-profit college in Michigan and one of the 10 largest private colleges in the U.S., are teaming up to better serve on-ground and online students.

One of the first colleges to pursue online education, Baker College Online recently received an exemplary endorsement from the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) – the OLC’s highest honor – recognizing the outstanding quality of its online learning programs.

To further the school’s dedication to high quality education, it is partnering with Keypath Education for all marketing efforts. Keypath is now responsible for Baker College’s creative, traditional and digital media, and all inbound marketing efforts such as search engine optimization, social media and content creation.

“Our guiding principle is continuous improvement, and I think our partnership with Keypath Education is a great way to exemplify this value,” said Jill Langen, Ph.D., president of Baker Online and the Center for Graduate Studies. “Keypath’s expertise, transparency and dynamic teams of subject matter experts will help us elevate our brand and reach the right-fit students for our best-in-class programs.”

For more than 100 years, Baker has been focused on preparing students for successful careers. With 23,000 students in more than 100 programs, nine on-ground campuses and multiple extension and online campuses, Baker continues to meet the needs of today’s traditional and nontraditional students.

“A partnership between Baker College and Keypath is a perfect fit,” said Keypath Education Group President Mike McHugh. “Its emphasis on innovation in online education and focus on adult learners, paired with our deep expertise in these areas, set us up for success in advancing Baker’s programs in this highly competitive market.”

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Ultimaker unveils Pioneer Program, promoting 3D printing in education

Ultimaker, a 3D printer manufacturer, announced the official launch of the Ultimaker Pioneer Program. The scheme introduces 3D printing and design to North American students – both K-12 and higher education.

As part of the Pioneer Program, educators (‘Pioneers’) can access 3D printing content on the Ultimaker Education website, which can be shared with students. The site welcomes contributions, and users maintain content ownership through Creative Commons Attribution, Share-Alike and Non-Commercial licensing. Through the Ultimaker Education site, educators throughout North America have access to resources and knowledge that are not commonly available.

“Teaching 3D modeling and printing in our schools is a new educational endeavor,” says Burton Isenstein, Adjunct Assistant Professor at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. “Faculty are on the front lines, figuring out the best methods of teaching as we continue to learn about the topic ourselves.”

He adds: “It’s smart to tap into what’s already happening in classrooms throughout the world and the Ultimaker Pioneer Program will help educators build a base of knowledge upon everyone’s experience.”

The Ultimaker Pioneer Program now has a community presence in 21 states; with 58 educators actively promoting 3D printing to students.

The Ultimaker Pioneer Program is the first of its kind. It unites North American educators, enabling them to share 3D printing knowledge with students and other educators alike.
John Kawola, President of Ultimaker North America comments: “We’re thrilled to facilitate this program, assisting in enhancing the way young generations create with technology.”

Geoff Frankl, Technology Coordinator at IvyTech Charter School at Moorpark, California, states: “The greatest benefit of this program is the facilitation of collaboration and innovation amongst education professionals in the field of 3D design and manufacturing.”

“All of this will translate into modern curricula involving this burgeoning technology, the paramount goal of which will be transforming today’s youth into tomorrow’s well-trained and globally-competitive employee or entrepreneur.”

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Verified Studios, NC State University win distance learning administration award

In June 2016, “Winning One Program at a Time: A Systemic Approach,” the paper co-written by Verified Studios CEO Adam Schultz and Kay Zimmerman, NC State Associate Vice Provost DELTA-Marketing and Partnership Development, won the Distance Learning Administration Conference Best Paper Award.

Over the last two years, the Durham-based digital marketing agency has guided deployment of a scalable, low-cost, high ROI program-level marketing system across 18 NC State online and distance education programs. The paper shares the results of the program-level marketing strategy, highlighting ways for other universities to deploy a similar system.

“I’m excited to be recognized by my distance learning colleagues and to have this opportunity to share best practices that could change the enrollment marketing landscape,” said Zimmerman.

“Many universities are missing an opportunity to focus online and distance education student recruitment marketing efforts and budget at the program level. When you consider that this can offer lower priced advertising opportunities with higher conversion rates than traditional university level marketing initiatives, universities can’t afford not to try this strategy,” adds Schultz. “I look forward to continuing our work with NC State and to opportunities to help other leading universities see the same positive results.”

Learn more about the affordable marketing support that Verified offers to help higher education institutions meet their strategic goals at http://verifiedstudios.com.

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Upgraded ALEKS solution launches for new year

McGraw-Hill Education, a learning science company, announced the release of an upgraded version of ALEKS Placement, Preparation and Learning (PPL), an adaptive placement solution that has revolutionized how colleges assess and prepare incoming students in math and helps them lower failure rates and increase retention.

By combining smart assessment with adaptive learning tools, ALEKS PPL helps students quickly relearn lost knowledge before re-taking the assessment and increases the likelihood they will be placed into higher-level math courses. Colleges that use ALEKS PPL have reported placing fewer students into developmental math courses and seen improved freshman retention rates, leading to large cost and time-to-degree savings.

The upgraded version of ALEKS PPL includes:
1) An improved and modernized interface for administrators and students.
2) A redesign that encourages students to take advantage of the Prep & Learning section of the tool so they can practice, learn and fill gaps in their math knowledge.
3) Improved dashboard data reporting for administrators, highlighting areas where students need intervention.

“Historically, placement tests used by colleges have been inaccurate, unreliable and failed to take advantage of modern adaptive technology that can provide directed learning to help students more efficiently prepare for subsequent assessments,” said Sally Shankland, president of McGraw-Hill Education’s Higher Education Group. “ALEKS PPL enables institutions to redesign their placement programs, turning a traditionally one-time, standardized test into an opportunity for students to earn the ability to take courses most appropriate for their skills and set themselves up for collegiate success. It reduces costs by helping colleges retain more freshmen, and increases students’ confidence that they can succeed in math and science.”

ALEKS PPL is part of McGraw-Hill Education’s expanding suite of enterprise products and services targeted at improving preparedness, retention and career readiness. It is being used at more than 150 institutions.

At the University of Northern Iowa, during the 2012-2013 academic year, the Drop/Fail/Withdrawal (D/F/W) rate for students who had taken the ALEKS assessment was 28.5 percent. The D/F/W rate for those students who had not taken the ALEKS placement exam was higher at 51.9 percent.

At William Rainey Harper College, when comparing students who used ALEKS PPL to those using a common commercial placement test, those who used ALEKS PPL were 19 percent more likely to receive a “C” or better in their college-level course. Those students were also 22.5 percent more likely to stay enrolled at Harper College for a second semester.

Portland State University found that of the students that studied in the Prep and Learning Modules and reassessed, 86 percent improved their placement by at least one course. 64 percent of students who initially placed into remedial math were able to refresh their course knowledge and re-place into a college-level course. That means increased retention, reduced time to graduation, and more major/degree options.

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5 ways to tell if your college programs will survive the future

Online undergraduate and graduate college programs are growing at 15 percent a year, but will soon be a thing of the past.

As will campus-based programs. Both will give way to an agile approach in which the technology and design of a program are indifferent to modality.  Courses will be online, on-campus, or a blend of the two; marketing and recruiting will be integrated, as will student support and placement.

Agile programs will enjoy a substantial cost, convenience, and quality advantage over online and campus-based programs. And while academia isn’t quite there yet, a review of changes in online higher ed and commerce over the past 15 years presents the compelling case that this level of integration between and among traditional and online offerings is inevitable.

An Agile Model

The agile model is not unique to education. Fifteen years ago, companies didn’t know what to do with the internet. They knew it was important and that people were investing heavily, but they could not figure out how to integrate it into their core practice. Many set up online divisions separate from their core, and funded them separately.

This model allowed them to experiment, but had substantial downside; for example, if you bought something at The Gap online, returning it at a store was impossible. Eventually, successful companies created a unified experience for their customers. Amazon has 30,000 lockers in stores near you and, now, most retailers allow you to shop online and pick up at the store.

It’s easy for a higher ed administrator to think his or her programs are agile, but almost none of them are right now.

(Next page: 5 ways to tell if your college programs are agile)

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Groups partner on open-source tech for digital archival processes

Marist College and the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) have partnered to develop and implement a sustainable and robust platform capable of supporting the complex archival management of digitized and born-digital records. This joint initiative builds on the College’s long-standing tradition of supporting the Hudson Valley and New York State communities and on the RAC’s leadership and expertise in the archival profession. The initiatives of this exciting partnership are supported through the New York State Cloud Computing and Analytics Center located at Marist College and with the Rockefeller Archive Center’s generous financial contribution.

The two main components of this two-year digital records infrastructure project are a repository that fulfills long-term storage and maintenance needs of digital records and a microservices API layer that orchestrates the flow of data between archival systems and this repository. The systems implemented as part of the digital records project will be compatible with existing archival standards and best practices and will be built using well-documented, open-source technologies and user-centered design methodologies, so that components can be widely shared and deployed by other institutions.

This digital records repository and API infrastructure will be built using a unique combination of applications selected by Marist and the RAC, including open-source portal technology and researching the use of Blockchain, ArchivesSpace, Archivematica, Fedora, and other open-source tools. The result of this collaboration will be a powerful platform that will allow for more scalable systems integration and the rapid implementation of emerging technologies to meet the challenging task of managing digital records in an archival context.

As part of its larger collaboration, Marist also will assist the RAC in developing a website that documents over 100 years of the Rockefeller Foundation’s international philanthropic programs. Using the open-source platform Liferay, the website will showcase selected images, documents, and films held at the RAC, along with contextual essays that provide a thorough history of the Foundation’s activities in a variety of topical program areas.

“Archivists and records creators have long struggled with how to manage the flow of archival information among diverse platforms so that digitized and born-digital records can be properly preserved and also made easily accessible to the broadest possible audience,” said Jack Meyers, President of the Rockefeller Archive Center. “We are excited to partner with Marist College to develop and implement a digital records management system that will meet the needs of our archival staff, researchers, and donor organizations and that will be widely sharable with the broader archival community.”

“One of our goals as a College is to offer open-source technologies, such as Liferay and Blockchain, to like-minded organizations that create a lasting impact on our community,” said Bill Thirsk, Vice President of Information Technology/CIO at Marist College. “Partnering with an organization such as the Rockefeller Archive Center provides the opportunity to develop innovative technologies while supporting our local and regional community through shared services.”

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