3 nontraditional pathways taking over higher ed

It’s an increasingly popular trend among the young crowd: opting out of a traditional 4-year college experience immediately after high school graduation to pursue nontraditional pathways to postsecondary education.

According to a brief from Coding Dojo (a coding bootcamp), Noodle (an ed website aimed at helping parents and students make better learning decisions), and UnCollege (a program aimed to equip young adults with skills to succeed both personally and professionally post-high school), there are three distinctive nontraditional pathways students seem most inclined to pursue…and for good reason.

“College costs keep growing and student debt is over one trillion dollars,” explained Richard Wang, CEO at Coding Dojo in a statement. “These alternative education options can help keep student debt under control, while providing individuals with real-world experience and skills employers are looking for in job candidates.”

But should traditional colleges and universities be worried…or excited?

(Next page: 3 popular nontraditional pathways to postsecondary ed; what they mean for colleges and universities)


Open textbook initiative goes global

Rice University-based nonprofit OpenStax, which already provides free, high-quality, open textbooks to nearly 1.5 million college students per year, is partnering with Open University’s U.K. Open Textbook initiative to bring OpenStax’s textbooks to the United Kingdom.

The yearlong project is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as part of its commitment to supporting learning resources that students can download, edit and share. The work is part of an ongoing OpenStax initiative to make its open-textbook model available to students around the globe.

OpenStax’s open textbook initiative is expected to save U.S. students more than $145 million in the 2017-2018 academic year, and the publisher is hopeful that its approach can have a similar impact on U.K. students.

A 2012 survey by the U.K.’s National Union of Students and the California-based publisher CourseSmart reported that 81 percent of U.K. students thought textbooks should be provided free by their institution; a 2017 survey by Save the Student, the U.K.’s largest student finance website, found that U.K. students spend an average of about $506 per year on textbooks.

(Next page: Important steps to ensure U.K. students can take full advantage of the open textbook initiative)


Why every campus should provide today’s students with digital backpacks

Technology is a critical component in education delivery and growing moreso by the day, but the story of higher learning is not solely a technology story. It is a story about intellectual growth and delivering a consistent learning experience across the entire student population – agnostic of curricula, socioeconomic factors or hardware inventory.

Meshing the current information and technological tumult, these core modern challenges face colleges and universities especially acutely given the unique preferences and demands of today’s students.

Across the country, institutions of higher learning are increasingly exploring the transformative benefits of digital workspaces to ensure a consistent and democratic delivery of learning experiences for all students at any time, on any device, anywhere.

Components of a Digital Backpack

Such “digital backpack” technology ensures students have access to the tools they need to succeed, when they need them, and is especially helpful for students who aren’t living on campus or are unable to get to campus on a regular basis. Within digital workspace environments, processing power is housed in the data center, not in the endpoint user device. This enables efficient and secure access to applications through virtual portals across smartphones, computers and tablets of any make or model.

Without being attached to a designated computer lab or campus location, students can complete schoolwork anywhere and on their own time, even picking up where they left off on assignments from a completely different location. Students with past-generation laptops can enjoy the same experience as those bringing the latest products from the marketplace to campus.

Most students today use multiple devices, and through the digital workspace, they can work with the information and applications they need at any time, day or night, wherever they are–on their smartphones walking across campus, on dedicated workstations at home or in the classroom and even on tablets in the library, quad, coffee shop or student union.

(Next page: Best practices from universities in their digital backpack implementation)


3 superstar CIOs discuss the most important higher ed considerations

Many say that the one position in education that has evolved the most in recent years is Chief Information Officer, both in K-12 and higher ed. In higher education, the scope of fast-paced changes in technology are breathtaking. And unlike K-12 where the CIO/CTO position is still seen as the individual that keeps the network up and running, the higher ed CIO has become something of a star.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the CIOs of three very high-profile programs: The Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC, The Sloan School of Management at MIT, and The University of Chicago School of Business. I encourage you to watch the interviews in their entirety, but I’ve excerpted some interesting thoughts here.

We Continually Strive for a Seamless Student Experience with EdTech

– Georgia Allen, CIO at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC Chapel Hill

Georgia Allen is the CIO at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She works with students of today–advanced digitally literate students who have used technology their entire lives. There are challenges in presenting EdTech to students where technically complex improvements need to appear simple. I asked Georgia what was important to her as the CIO.

“It’s about making sure that our education is a space of learning excellence. It’s a world where we have students coming up through K-12 who are digital natives. They’ve been using technology since they started kindergarten.

It’s important that technology is a part of their education, but doesn’t get in the way of learning excellence. It should enable our faculty in their teaching, and allow our students, who have an expectation of “anywhere at any time,” that it’s about what education technology can bring when the traditional face-to-face has its limits.

In today’s world, we’re moving towards a nimbler IT environment, and we need to deliver faster. We are leveraging cloud services, cloud platforms, and software as a service in many ways to increase the speed of delivery.

Many of those platforms come with their own identity and access. In our case, we are leveraging identity access management tools that allow for a single sign-on for our students across platforms.

It’s important that our students have a seamless experience, whether they are in the face-to-face classroom or they are in our learning management systems with online instruction. As they move to another platform through that learning management system, their identity needs to be consistent across the experience.

We have our internal systems that we build, custom-developed applications versus the platforms, and our students experience it all seamlessly. They don’t know that they have traveled from one in-house system to a cloud platform; and identity access tools allow us to do that.

How do we know what tools, platforms, and systems to use in an educational environment?

With our faculty, which has truly started to embrace learning technologies in their teaching, we do a lot of pilots. We will look at new platforms or services. Sometimes they are start-up platforms. Sometimes they fit the Gartner Magic Quadrant so they’re heavy lifters.

We look at all of that and test it with a classroom and faculty member. We talk to faculty members about their learning goals. We talk about what they want that student experience to be. We try it out. As the CIO, I bring in both this innovation experience and pilot experience, as well as the thought process of enterprise delivery. If it’s successful, how do we deliver that across multiple programs, multiple degrees, and multiple courses? Is this start-up in a state in their business that they can support an enterprise rollout?

I do a lot of shark tanking, if you will. I do a lot of explaining, creating momentum, and creating excitement. My office sits right on the hallway. I get elevator pitches all the time. The students love technology. They want to come and talk about it. We talk about “How do I transition or how do we transition the idea you’re presenting into something that could be used at the business school?”

Those are new doors for us in the CIO position that I’m thrilled about. I once had a faculty member tell me that it’s important is that we see every day through our students’ eyes, that the unimaginable is possible. I would say that with technology, that’s where we are as CIOs. It’s to listen to our students and our faculty and know that we can do something that we thought five years ago was impossible.”

(Next page: 2 more CIOs weigh in on goals and challenges)


The top 5 cyber threats and how to protect your university

Higher Ed IT security professionals have their hands full contending with the various cyber threats coming their way, such as hackers using malware to compromise and take over crucial systems. With the vast amounts of private data that they gather, store, and analyze, Higher Ed institutions are a prime target for these kinds of attacks.

Here are the top 5 cyber threats now jeopardizing higher education and what steps you can take to protect your university today:

1. Unsecured Wifi

Students and faculty will connect to the Internet via Wifi, sometimes without caring whether their connection is protected. This is particularly an issue when members of the public have access to the network, which is common in higher education environments.

As unwitting users provide their login credentials, criminals eavesdropping on these unsecured Wifi networks capture their passwords, which can then be used to take over their device.

If users rely on the same password for different accounts, criminals have even more access points to illegally log in. A report from Educause recommends that employees and students should receive proper training in avoiding dubious Wifi connections. They should also have access to two-factor identification as well as virtual private networks to protect their credentials from intruders.

2. Networked Printers

A printer may seem like a simple, innocuous device, but they can often be a weak link in your institution’s network. The convenience of networking printers is offset by the danger they pose when deployed with their default settings still intact.

To combat this, your IT team should emphasize the use of stronger passwords in any networked equipment. Printers with wireless capability typically store data. Instruct your users to set their printers to automatically erase this data after printing. If they can justify leaving the information in memory, have them encrypt the data to prevent hackers from stealing it. When networked printers are set up in areas open to a lot of foot traffic, consider requiring users to enter a PIN before using them. Do not let their desire to freely share data with one another compromise these networked devices.

(Next page: 3 more cyber threats and how to prevent them)


Behind the scenes of unclaimed FAFSAs: Why it’s happening and how ed staff can help

According to NerdWallet.com, as much as $2.7 billion in free federal grant money went unclaimed in 2015 due to incomplete or unsubmitted Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. What’s getting in students’ way when it comes to filling out these forms?

A recent survey of 4,000 students conducted by the Journal of Student Financial Aid identified the following as top roadblocks to on-time FAFSA completion: a confusing application process, too much information demanded from students, and difficulty obtaining parental financial information. FAFSA forms–which are meant to help students gain access to the monetary resources needed to fund a college education–are instead hindering the students that need them most.

Is there anything that can be done to knock down these roadblocks? As it turns out, small, bite-sized text reminders are key. Not only do text reminders reach students where they already are, texts are a great way to break down the complicated FAFSA information that keeps so many students away.

In one such case, 16,000 students across the state of Louisiana received text messages about scholarship and FAFSA opportunities through The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistant (LOSFA). The result? 76 percent of seniors in the program texted back at least once, contributing to a 7 percent increase in FAFSA submissions in the state of Louisiana this year.

There’s no arguing that texting students with reminders about filling out FAFSA forms on time can be an effective solution to reducing the high amount of unclaimed federal grant money. If you’ve decided to give it a try, there are some best practices that you can put in place to get a heightened response from your student texting campaign. We’ve pulled together our top tips:

Start with a Solid Strategy

Because you’ll be reaching students directly on their phones, you want to build a text campaign that is purposeful and efficient. Start by identifying the specific goal you’re setting out to achieve by texting students.

In the case of FAFSA submissions, outline the specific roadblocks you’re working to overcome and how you plan to negate each one with text reminders. Following closely behind setting specific goals is setting deadlines related to those goals. When do students need to know the important tidbits of information you plan to send their way?

Finally, be prepared to respond in a timely manner once your text reminders are out the door. Set aside time in your calendar for prompt responses to questions from students–be prepared to answer their questions about FAFSA deadlines, financial information requested, how to submit the forms once they are ready, etc.

(Next page: The Do’s and Don’ts of texting students about FAFSA)


U.S. News & World Report: These are the 2018 Best Colleges

U.S. News & World Report today announced the 2018 Best Colleges rankings to try and help prospective students and their families research more than 1,800 U.S.- based universities. Princeton University is No. 1 for Best National Universities for the seventh year in a row. For the 15th consecutive year, Williams College takes the top spot for Best National Liberal Arts Colleges.

California schools and military academies perform strongly in this year’s top public universities rankings. For the first time, the University of California—Los Angeles moves up to No. 1 for Top Public Schools among National Universities, tying with the University of California—Berkeley. The United States Military Academy ranks No. 1 for Top Public Schools among National Liberal Arts Colleges.

U.S. News says the rankings methodology focuses on academic excellence, with schools evaluated on hundreds of data points and up to 15 measures of academic quality. Overall, the rankings emphasize student outcomes–such as graduation and freshman retention rates – which carry the most weight at 30 percent. The top National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges have significantly higher graduation and freshman retention rates than other schools:

  • The average six-year graduation rate is 96 percent for the top 10 National Universities and 92.5 percent for the top 10 National Liberal Arts Colleges.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 98.3 percent for the top 10 National Universities and 96.5 percent for the top 10 National Liberal Arts Colleges.
  • For comparison, the average six-year graduation rate among all numerically ranked schools on the National Universities list is 71.7 percent, and the average freshman retention rate is 87.2 percent.
  • For comparison, the average six-year graduation rate among all numerically ranked schools on the National Liberal Arts Colleges list is 75.7 percent, and the average freshman retention rate is 85.7 percent.

“Before taking out student loans or writing a tuition check, families should research graduation and retention rates. These are important indicators of how well a school supports its students both academically and financially,” said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News, in a statement. “Colleges that saddle students with debt but do little to support them through graduation are contributing to a vicious cycle – without that valuable degree, students will have a difficult time landing well-paying jobs and repaying their loans, which puts them in a precarious financial situation early on in their careers.”

New This Year

For the first time, U.S. News is offering postgraduate salary information on 1,000 schools. Using data provided by PayScale, U.S. News is displaying alumni salary information on school profile pages. Subscribers to the U.S. News College Compass, which provides access to the complete rankings and data, will also see salaries broken down by major per school. Additionally, the Compass tool includes salary data U.S. News collected directly from colleges on the 2015-16 graduating class. Salary was not a factor in determining the rankings.

“We’ve previously provided rich information on college location, size, academic programs, student life, cost, diversity, campus safety and more, but families and students have increasingly asked for more data on salary and potential earnings,” said Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, in a statement. “We wanted to make this information easily available to them, but stress that it should be considered as one factor among many when deciding where to attend college.”

Also, U.S. News made a slight change in the methodology for National Universities to try and better predict graduation rates. In determining whether a school is graduating students at the expected level, U.S. News incorporated the proportion of degrees awarded in the STEM fields. This was done to better reflect research showing that students in STEM fields generally graduate at lower rates compared with those in other majors.

Finally, U.S. News altered the methodology for the Best Colleges for Veterans rankings to try and more accurately capture the schools that serve veterans and active service members in making college more affordable. New this year, a school must have enrolled a minimum of 20 veterans and active service members in the 2016-17 academic year to qualify for the rankings.

Beyond the overall rankings, students can research schools with the most Economic Diversity and Campus Ethnic Diversity, as well as the Most International Students. The rankings also encompass the Best Value Schools, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Most Innovative Schools and a list of the A-plus Schools for B Students. For students with specific career paths in mind, U.S. News ranks the top schools in undergraduate engineering and business.

(Next page: The 2018 best colleges)


Study: 8 new skills college students say they need to succeed

One of the defining elements of the knowledge economy is communication. Whether that means communicating upward, downward, inside or outside organizations—almost everyone in the organization needs to do it.

This year for the first time ever, the MIT Sloan School of Management Communications Group polled its incoming MBA students to gauge what communication looks like within organizations today, and also to gauge what skills the next generation of managers hope to master.

The study was sent to all incoming MBAs, of which 308 responded (or about three-quarters of the class). This study reveals that millennials differ significantly from their older colleagues in the ways in which they use technology, as well as the skills they believe are most important in the workplace.

Some study highlights include:

Millennials aren’t comfortable communicating across cultures, and getting better isn’t a high priority. Communicating across cultures was the one skill students were most uncomfortable with (only presenting via video ranked lower), but it was also one of the skills they were least interested in improving on over their time as MBAs. Only email management was ranked as a lower priority.

“In an ever-increasingly global world, this provides a significant teaching moment,” says Neal Hartman, senior lecturer and head of the Management Communications group, in a statement. “It becomes incumbent for preparing future principled and innovative leaders to recognize the importance of communicating successfully across cultures and to positively influence their interest in developing these competencies.”

Writing isn’t a part of modern work, unless it’s an email or a PowerPoint: Though every student reported email writing was a core part of their job responsibility, less than half (48 percent) did any meaningful longer form writing. Those that did said it wasn’t a daily part of their work.

Of those who did write longer reports, 59 percent only did so on a monthly (or less frequent) basis. Compare that to 85 percent of students who said that producing presentations was a meaningful part of their job responsibilities, and that two thirds of them (68 percent) produced that output on a daily or weekly basis.

(Next page: 8 skills MBA students say they’d like to improve upon)