6 inspiring must-see higher-ed TED Talks

Most everyone knows what TED Talks are. The talks are so popular that many cities, including colleges and universities, host their own TED conferences and education talks.

TED Talks range from inspiring to humorous and cautionary, but there’s something we can learn from each speaker’s experience.

In this article, we’ve gathered a handful of TED Talks with higher-ed relevance. From smart computers to what’s next for the U.S. economy and fostering healthy campus debate, the TED Talks offer a variety of widsom. Some are a couple years old, and others are brand new, but they all have one thing in common: they’ll get you thinking about higher education’s place in society, its future, and what learning truly means.

(Next page: The Future of Higher Education, and 5 more TED Talks)


Report: 35 percent of this year’s graduating college seniors plan to live at home

For many graduating college seniors, the joy and excitement of commencement quickly morphs into concerns about longer-term finances and job prospects.

There are positive trends happening–such as the recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Labor that the national unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent, the lowest level in more than a decade.

However, many students are still uneasy about the future, reeling from the stress of the student loan process–and concerns about paying them off.

Insights from Graduating Seniors

To learn more, Barnes & Noble College recently conducted a national survey of college students graduating in the spring or summer of 2017.

Following are insights we uncovered relevant to colleges, universities and other organizations supporting the college student population.

Plans – and emotions – vary

While more than half of respondents plan to work at a full-time job (57 percent) or serve in the military (two percent), survey results showed a wide variety of post-graduation plans. Unsurprisingly, in the current gig economy, many graduating seniors will pursue multiple paths at the same time. Just over one-third (36 percent) are enrolling in a graduate or professional degree program. Twenty-one percent will be interning, 13 percent are taking time off to figure out what’s next and six percent will work for a non-profit organization. Close to 15 percent of respondents will travel, domestically and/or internationally. And, one or more of these paths likely will overlap with working a part-time job for some graduating seniors (21 percent).

How were these graduating seniors feeling about entering the current job market? It’s complicated. Respondents had the option to select multiple emotions, and they made use of it. They were just as likely to say that they were apprehensive as optimistic, at 43 percent for both. Likewise, about one-third indicated that they were feeling discouraged, while close to a third shared that they were enthusiastic. Just 24 percent felt confident – and 10 percent felt angry. It’s a full range of emotions that reflect the uncertainty many graduating seniors experience.

Salary takes center stage

These seniors had many concerns about their life after graduation, spanning the full range from finances to careers to simply managing adult responsibilities. “Earning enough money,” however, topped the list – by far. More than two-thirds (68 percent) expressed this concern, followed by “difficulty finding a job.” And, almost half specifically cited student loans as a concern. Less than a third of graduating seniors expressed other, more general life worries, such as relocating and adjusting to living in a new place, difficulty making friends and lack of a safety net.

In this finance-focused context, it’s not surprising that salary emerged as the most valued attribute in a post-graduation job. Salary trumped both contributing to the greater good (34 percent) and prestige (eight percent). And, most graduating seniors were not feeling optimistic about what their salary will be: 60 percent expected that their actual salary would fall short of their goal. Right around one-third expected their salary to match their goal, and only a fortunate six percent anticipated that their salary would be greater than their goal. In terms of actual dollar figures, the median expected salary across all respondents was $40,000 – a $5,000 deficit from the median goal salary of $45,000.

(Next page: Graduating college seniors on living at home; major takeaways)


Want to please students? Going virtual may be the answer

Students entering colleges and universities these days are an increasingly tech-savvy bunch, armed with a growing number of mobile devices and the expectations that they will be trained using tools and graphics-intensive applications that are in line with their every-day tech experience. They also want to have access to these software tools wherever they are and on any device they choose.

Many educational institutions are adopting virtual client technology to meet these demands as well as to ease management, reduce costs and improve the security of their data and networks. Iowa State University, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) and the University of Southern California (USC) are all embracing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology to enhance the student experience as well as the lives of their own IT staffs.

“The main driving factor for adoption was that I’m sort of a one-man show,” said Damien Bolin, former systems support specialist for Iowa State’s Department of Agronomy. “Being able to consolidate everything that we offer into a VDI solution makes my world a lot easier to manage and also makes me a lot more effective overall. So there was a business case for adopting a VDI solution with vGPU [virtual GPU] capability, but we were also looking for the ability to better educate students in their study of soil, feed genetics and crop growth—basically teaching students how to feed the world—using the latest technology.”

VDI is Booming—Both in the Market and at Universities

IDC analysts expect the virtual client market to grow 8.9 percent a year from $3 billion in 2015 to $4.6 billion in 2020. A report offered by Research and Markets said growth in the global VDI market will be 11.31 percent a year between 2016 and 2020. There are a number of factors driving this growth, including flexible user access, easier IT management, reduced energy usage, and improved security.

For Iowa State, NSU and USC, many of the applications they’re running—such as CAD and 3D animation—are increasingly complex and graphics-intensive. The schools were looking for ways to virtualize them to improve and streamline distribution and ensure all students have the necessary capabilities to access and run them regardless of the devices they are using.

(Next page: How universities are implementing VDI for students, IT success)


Big shakeup: Universities weaving this field into most campus departments

The significant sustainability issues of our day present some of the greatest challenges for the next generation. Indeed, the world that our next generation will inherit and live in will be far different from the one we live in today.

Ecosystem changes resulting from climate change, water scarcity, ocean acidification, ecosystem destruction, nitrogen and phosphorous pollution and more (all part of what is called the “Anthropocene”), coupled with social changes in the form of income inequality, human rights abuses, and environmental injustice require new ways of conceptualizing and organizing academic research, teaching, and engagement.

The traditional domain for many universities to address sustainability lies within schools of the environment, which were formed in the early 1900s to focus on issues such as forestry, fisheries, and resource management.

This structure, however, may be insufficient to the challenge at hand. Instead, sustainability education and research, especially in research-intensive universities, is finding a welcome home across the campus, in schools of business, architecture, public policy, public health, engineering, law, and many more.

This reality creates new challenges for internal coordination and focus, as well as for building external partnerships, fund raising, and engagement.

In response, universities are experimenting with new types of organizational centers and institutes that are intended to make the sum of the diverse activities greater than the individual parts.

While the institutes in this study are focused on sustainability, the information and lessons presented could be applicable to any topical institute that seeks to link the multiple disciplines of a university campus into a common endeavor.

5 Keys to Successful Cross-Curricular Sustainability Studies

The University of Michigan released a report on June 1, 2017—Examining Interdisciplinary Sustainability Institutes at Major Research Universities: Innovations in Cross-Campus and Cross-Disciplinary Models—that examines this new form of cross-disciplinary sustainability institute, exploring their distinctive characteristics, activities, challenges and opportunities.

(Next page: 5 broad keys to successful cross-curricular sustainability studies)


Stunning market data predicts the future of online learning

Today’s colleges and universities know that online learning is a must for satisfying the learning demands of a rapidly changing student body. Now, recent market data exposes just how big the business of online learning really is, as well as how much it’s expected to grow in the near future, and which components of online learning are expected to bring in the most revenue.

Online Learning Now

Recent findings detailed in “Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017,” find that thirty percent of all students in higher education are now taking at least one online course. Those online learners are split almost evenly between students who are exclusively online (14 percent) and those who take some courses in person (16 percent). [Read the full story here “6 million students? Must-know facts about online enrollment.”]

  • The numbers reveal a year-to-year online enrollment increase of 226,375 distance education students–a 3.9 percent increase, up over rates recorded the previous two years. More than 6 million students are now online learners, according to the report.
  • More than one in four students (29.7 percent) now take at least one distance education course (a total of 6,022,105 students).
  • Graduate students are twice as likely to take all of their courses online (26 percent) as undergraduate students (12 percent).
  • The number of students studying on a campus has dropped by almost 1 million (931,317) between 2012 and 2015.
  • The majority of “exclusively distance” students live in the same state as their institution (55 percent), while 42 percent are studying online at an out-of-state institution.
  • Public institutions educate the largest proportion of online students (67.8 percent), though more online learners in private institutions attend nonprofit schools than for-profits, according to the data.

And according to LMS provider Docebo, the 2016 world-wide revenue for self-paced online learning products and services (in US$ millions) exceeded $23 million in North America, beating out Europe and even Asia by a large margin.

(Next page: Where online learning is going in the future; infographic)


How Purdue blew fundraising records out of the water-in 1 day

Purdue University is a large research university based in West Lafayette, Indiana, and each year we host a fundraiser called Purdue Day of Giving. The event invites the Purdue community to come together for 24 hours to grant opportunities and transform lives.

In its fourth year, we knew we had to find fresh ways to interact with and engage our audience—students, alumni, parents, friends, retirees, faculty, and staff—in order for the fundraising campaign to beat last year’s numbers.

We decided to take advantage of the huge reach of social media, and conducted a coordinated campaign across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn—an approach that played a key role in breaking our record.

A few ways we used social media to increase our numbers include:

1. Social Listening

During the campaign, we took advantage of a tool called Hootsuite, which allowed us to monitor social media channels for mentions of our organization and for hashtags related to our day of giving. We used keyword search streams to listen to our target audience and inform our campaign strategy, which helped us raise awareness for the event, better interact with supporters, and boost audience engagement.

We also set up Hootsuite Insights’ streams for our hashtags #IGave and #PurdueDayofGiving. These dedicated streams monitored every mention of our hashtags, beyond our own social channels, and allowed our social media team to observe all online conversations in one place.

With every donor who used #IGave and #PurdueDayofGiving, the team was able to efficiently act on these online discussions and respond accordingly; this streamlined our social media monitoring activity and helped us increase engagement speed.

This year, we sent out a total of 218 thank-you videos in response to uses of #IGave, featuring a personalized short video or an Instagram Boomerang, and received over 34 million impressions throughout the campaign.

(Next page: Fundraising via social media tips 2-3)


State greenlights new funding model for universities

State funding for Kentucky’s public colleges and universities will be determined by how many and what types of degrees its students earn under a policy finalized by state regulators.

The Council on Postsecondary Education approved the details of a new state funding model that state lawmakers passed earlier this year.

From now on, 35 percent of state funding for public colleges and universities will be based on the types of degrees awarded. Of that, 5 percent will be determined by the number science, technology, engineering and math degrees; 3 percent based on degrees for low-income students and 3 percent based on degrees for minorities.

The model is based on Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and others’ push for more focus on training people for the types of advanced manufacturing jobs state officials are wooing.

The average cost of tuition for four years at a public Kentucky university will be more than $39,000 starting this fall after state regulators approved increases at all but two institutions, as all but two schools asked for the maximum increase allowed. The University of Louisville did not raise tuition. Kentucky State University’s board of trustees has not met yet to ask for an increase.

Council President Bob King said the board approved the sticker price for tuition and mandatory fees. He said students rarely pay that full price because of financial aid and scholarships. But when adding room and board and other fees, he said the net price of attendance is about $10,200 per year, or $40,800 for four years.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Why do college students have 6th-grade writing skills?

Clear and effective communication skills, including writing skills, are among the most-desired job skills articulated by employers seeking qualified job candidates. But what happens when college graduates write at a middle school level?

The importance of developing strong writing skills, and a noticeable decline in those skills, are not new issues. For more than a decade, studies have observed that students are deficient in effective oral and written communication skills, they have documented companies’ struggles to find job applicants with acceptable writing skills, and they have pointed out students’ inability to score at proficient levels when it comes to literacy.

A team from StudySoup, a peer-to-peer learning marketplace, set out to measure the effectiveness of students’ writing skills at institutions across the county. The results are described in a StudySoup blog post.

The team used the Hemingway app to analyze hundreds of written documents submitted to the StudySoup marketplace to gauge students’ writing levels.

(Next page: Alarming results after an analysis of students’ writing skills)


New gaming technology for learning now available to colleges and universities

Technology for a University of Michigan learning approach that employs video game-style strategy made its way to the market this week.

The gameful instruction tool known as GradeCraft is now available to K-12 schools and universities, and a key university that promotes the use of technology in the classroom has signed on.

“With the ability to access and leverage GradeCraft, instructors around the world are now able to join a growing global community of educators committed to increasing student learning,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation. “This is a perfect example of what’s possible when a research university like U-M supports a culture of innovation in learning, and a talented group of faculty, staff and students invests significant effort and creativity into solving a complex problem.”

One of the first universities to purchase a site license is University of Arizona, a national leader in using digital technology in the classroom.

“We are excited to partner with Gradecraft and the University of Michigan. It is fantastic to find an educational technology that is built from the ground up with faculty leadership and based upon cutting-edge scholarship,” said Vincent Del Casino Jr., UA vice president of academic initiatives and student success. “The University of Arizona looks forward to deepening our partnership over time as we push toward a more comprehensive vision of gameful learning on our campus.”

Much like the video games students grew up playing, gameful instruction encourages them to take risks as they make choices about how to progress through a course. Students choose assignments they find challenging, and the unique software not only guides them through those choices but also helps them know what to do to succeed.

GradeCraft was co-developed in 2012 by Barry Fishman, professor at the U-M schools of Information and Education, and Caitlin Holman, doctoral candidate in the U-M School of Information and lead software developer at the Digital Innovation Greenhouse within the Office of Academic Innovation.

After successful implementation in his courses, Fishman shared the approach with colleagues across the university. Earlier this year, GradeCraft became available to all U-M faculty and staff through its Canvas course management system.

To date, 56 courses have employed some aspects of gameful learning, serving more than 10,000 students. This includes a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

“We believe gameful is a great way to reconnect students to learning and we’re excited to bring it to a larger audience,” Fishman said.

He and Holman have been working on developing the web application to support scaling the technology for use by others.

Prior to the public release, the team invited instructors from K-12 and higher education institutions across the world to develop courses and programs using the beta version of the application.

“This launch is coming after five years of work that started with an idea I had for how to use technology to support gameful courses,” Holman said. “Everyone starts at zero and then they build toward mastery of the course material.

“We get questions about how rigorous a course is given how many students earn high grades, but we consistently hear instructors describe their students doing creative and high quality work. When you design these environments properly you can create an incredible learning experience for students.”

Their work was supported by funding from the U-M Learning Analytics Task Force and a $1.88 million grant from university’s Third Century Initiative, the latter a $25 million fund created in advance of the university’s Bicentennial—which kicks off in full this year—to support faculty in the creation of courses and programs that transform learning for U-M’s next century.

GradeCraft was embraced by the Office of Academic Innovation and added to the portfolio of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, where its developers could harness existing resources around software development, infrastructure expertise and user experience design.

“We created the Digital Innovation Greenhouse for just this purpose: to help translate digital education innovations like GradeCraft to scale. We’re thrilled to see it begin its expansion beyond campus, and look forward seeing gameful learning spread across higher education in the coming years,” said Tim McKay, professor of physics, astronomy and education, and director of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse.

The Transforming Learning for a Third Century grant funded the Gameful Assessment in Michigan Education (GAME) project in summer 2015, enabling the creation of a Gameful Learning Community of Practice. This resulted in formation of a Gameful Learning Lab with goals to convene educators from U-M and other institutions to collaboratively design gameful learning environments, and conduct a research-based approach to the development of tools around this theory of learning.

“The Gameful Learning Lab is committed to helping instructors at Michigan and beyond transform their courses to support students,” said Rachel Niemer, director of the Gameful Learning Lab.

Holman said some might think gameful learning is only for faculty who want to use technology extensively, but at U-M there are high- and low-tech uses.

For example, one Literature, Science, and the Arts faculty member uses a high-tech approach to teaching multiple sections of a course at the same time. Essentially being in the same place at the same time allows him to offer smaller course sections, which promotes better engagement and camaraderie among students.

A low-tech approach can be found in the College of Engineering, Holman said, where single technical communications course is paired with numerous departmental courses to give students a writing component in core engineering curriculum.


Are computer science students more prone to cheating?

As interest in computer science grows, thanks to a thriving tech and start-up industry and due to encouragement from successful entrepreneurs and celebrities, so, too, does the potential for academic dishonesty, according to an in-depth New York Times article.

The article observes that while computer science courses have swelled with students hoping to snag high-tech jobs or positions at start-ups, this enrollment increase has led to more cheating, as students “borrow” code from friends or copy it from the internet.

Contributing to the problem:

  • Coding takes time, and many students fall victim to the temptation to copy code from various online resources–often posted by someone who has taken the computer science course in the past
  • Programmers are collaborative in the professional world and often share code; some course professors’ policies allow students to talk about coding problems but prohibit them from sharing code itself–a practice that can confuse students

Consider the frequency outlined in the article:

  • More than half of last year’s alleged academic code violations at Brown university involved computer science
  • In 2015, up to 20 percent of students in a single Stanford computer science course were flagged for potential cheating
  • The Harvard Crimson reports that at Harvard, more than 60 students in the university’s Computer Science 50 course were referred to the school’s honor council for allegations of academic dishonesty, including plagiarism
  • A UC Berkeley professor discovered that in just a single year, roughly 100 or 700 students in one class had collaborated on or copied code

To read more about whether educators believe computer programming courses truly have above-average cheating rates, and to learn about penalties for cheating and the solutions computer science professors have put into place, read the entire NYT article.