How to prevent a phishing attack

You know that email you once received from a friend or colleague that clearly wasn’t sent by him or her? More than 90 percent of all cyberattacks begin with this kind of phishing email. Unfortunately, higher education is no stranger to phishing. In March 2017, Coastal Carolina University revealed it lost more than $1M to a phishing scam. The attackers succeeded in the theft by masquerading as a company with a contractual relationship with the university. In an official-looking email, the phony sender requested changes to the university’s bank information. An employee complied, and the rest is history.

Phishing and spoofing attacks against students and staff are most likely when these three items are not properly in place:

  • a Sender Policy Framework (SPF), which is an email-validation system that detects spoofing attempts. (Spoofing is when a third party disguises itself as a particular sender and uses a counterfeit email address.)
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and/or Domain-based Message Authentication: DKIM uses an encrypted token pair to validate message integrity during sending and delivery.
  • a Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) policy, which is considered the industry standard for email policy and reporting tools that help to prevent such attacks.

250ok recently analyzed the 3,164 top-level .edu domains controlled by accredited U.S. colleges and universities. The scope of this study focused on DMARC adoption and found that almost 90 percent (3,211) of top-level .edu domains in the U.S. lack the most basic DMARC policy, which leaves students, parents, alumni, and employees at risk.

It is worth noting a meaningful number of institutions likely use a subdomain for some of their messaging (e.g., “college.edu” is a root domain; “mail.college.edu” is a subdomain). However, leaving the root domain unauthenticated is an open invitation for spoofing, phishing, and mail forgery. A published record at the root domain will protect the entirety of the domain, including any potential subdomain as they will automatically inherit the DMARC policy of the root domain.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Binding Operational Directive 18-01, requiring all U.S. federal agencies to achieve a reject policy on their .gov domains by October 2018. Currently, only .4 percent of top-level .edu domains in the U.S. have implemented a reject policy—the gold standard for DMARC.

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4 key findings about university innovation

Nearly all administrators (91 percent) in a recent survey say innovation is a top strategic or academic priority, but just 40 percent say their institution has a dedicated university innovation budget, according to a new report that explores the drivers and barriers to higher-ed innovation.

The State of Innovation in Higher Education: A Survey of Academic Administrators, from The Learning House and the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), surveyed more than 100 U.S. academic administrators and seeks to highlight how higher-ed institutions define and employ such innovation.

University leaders appear to share the fundamental view that innovation is “the art of solving problems to ensure students succeed in higher education,” but there is a lack of consensus on the definition of university innovation.

In the report, researchers say many respondents provided definitions they feel are too narrow for what university innovation might encompass.

“This reveals how potentially broad innovation is, which is encouraging, but without a clear-cut answer as to what it is, institutions may find it difficult to set goals, acquire buy-in, and allocate funds for innovative efforts,” according to the report.

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4 best practices around diversity and inclusion in higher ed

The next generation of employees will be more diverse than ever before, and that’s a great thing for business. According to a McKinsey & Co. study, companies with greater ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have better financial returns than their peers, and companies with more gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to outperform their competitors.

Similarly, institutions of higher learning should consider the multicultural workforce of the future when planning for recruitment and programming; doing so will encourage a more creative learning environment, pushing the student body to experience different viewpoints and prepare for life after graduation—and increasing the values of their degrees.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, student-body diversity in higher education is important not only for improving economic and educational opportunities for students of color, but also for the social, academic, and societal benefits it presents for all students and communities. Students report less discrimination and bias at institutions where they perceive a higher commitment to diversity. The report also found that higher education improves social mobility for minorities; on average, African Americans and Hispanics who completed four-year college degrees earn double compared to those who only earned a high school diploma.

Colleges and universities need to emphasize both diversity and inclusion. While “diversity” translates to minority representation, “inclusion” means striving for minority involvement post-enrollment by providing equal access to opportunities and encouraging representation across majors.

4 ways your institution can strengthen its commitment to diversity and inclusion

1. Be a strong advisor
Many minority students will need help planning for academic success. For example, in 2016 more than 57 percent of bachelor’s-degree recipients from California State University, Fullerton, were the first in their families to graduate. Lacking a family member who can show them how to successfully navigate college, students like these need strong guidance on course selection, study habits, and managing their finances. Enlisting well-versed counselors is a must, and advisory programs should continue past freshman year.

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This new program preps STEM grads for jobs

Many employers of STEM professionals are requiring new hires to communicate their research to the general public. However, most schools and graduate programs do not provide communication training to STEM students.

Now, a multi-disciplinary research team from the University of Missouri (MU) has found that after completing a science communication training program, STEM graduates are more likely to be successful in communicating their research to the general public.

“Science foundations and STEM researchers might find it difficult to get funding if they have difficulties explaining what their research is about and how it will make a difference,” said Shelly Rodgers, professor of strategic communication and senior research advisor for the Health Communication Research Center at MU. “We’ve found that in order to advance society’s understanding of science, you have to work to improve how you communicate science to a wide audience in a way they will understand.”

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Higher-ed spending gaps do a disservice to minority students

Inequities that negatively impact students of color in the K-12 education system continue into postsecondary education and are detrimental to student success, according to a new analysis.

When students of color graduate from underfunded and understaffed high schools, gaps in support and spending follow they into postecondary education.

In fact, according to a Center for American Progress (CAP) analysis of IPEDS spending an enrollment data, public college spend roughly $5 billion less educating students of color in one year than they do educating white students.

“For years, researchers have highlighted the vast inequities that persist in the country’s K-12 education system with students of color disproportionately enrolled in public schools that are underfunded, understaffed, and thus more likely to underperform when compared with schools attended by their white peers,” author Sara Garcia writes. “What has received less attention is the fact that these inequitable patterns do not end when a student graduates from high school but persist through postsecondary education.”

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Top 10 VR influencers you should be following

Virtual reality (VR) is on the cusp of explosive growth. It seems like every day we see new startups posing innovative solutions to problems in the immersive technology industry. The best way to learn about a new emerging field is to speak to people directly working in the industry right now.

At VeeR, we have rounded up the best minds you should be following in the virtual, augmented, and mixed reality space today.

Do you know of these admirable individuals and how did you discover them?

1. Kent Bye
Host of Voices of VR, Bye has traveled to the top VR gatherings around the world since May 2014 to bring you a diverse range of VR perspectives and insights from over 500 makers and seasoned academics. He is by far one of the most intelligent minds on the scene of immersive technologies, with more than 600 episodes featuring interviews with the pioneering game developers, enthusiasts, and technologists driving VR. Bye is a VR developer himself, and his journalism is informed by both his technological expertise as well as a deeply embedded need to uncover best creative practices and social applications.

2. Alan Smithson
As chief executive officer at MetaVRse, a virtual and augmented reality (AR) consultancy, Smithson is focused on developing business applications and platforms for Fortune 100 companies across a diverse range of industries including retail, media and communications, travel/tourism, industrial, and education. His business has worked with companies like Samsung, HBO, Techweek, Microsoft, Comcast, and many more.

3. Sabarish Gnanamoorthy
Gnanamoorthy is a 14 year-old VR and AR developer. He is the youngest AR developer in the world to be sponsored by Microsoft to develop for the Microsoft HoloLens. He is also supported and sponsored by the Thiel Foundation for his venture, WaypointAR. WaypointAR is an AR navigation platform for airports, campuses, large conferences, and malls. Gnanamoorthy has been awarded a scholarship from Udacity for its VR Developer nanodegree program and is one of the youngest people to have built several applications for VR and AR. He is leading his young generation into the field of transformative technologies with the mentality of it can be done, no matter how young you are.

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Why private colleges & universities are forming buying consortiums

One of the primary issues higher-ed institutions currently face when it comes to attracting and retaining students is the rising cost of education, balanced against the benefit of a college degree. With increasing costs, there’s also a rise in the number of students who don’t complete their degrees; in fact, less than 50 percent of students complete their degree within six years. All the while, colleges and universities are dealing with increasingly outdated core systems, and the upkeep costs increase every year.

To overcome these challenges, an emerging strategy among smaller, private institutions is to form consortiums to meet student success targets. While this trend is well established in public and state-level systems, its emergence among smaller, private institutions provides group-purchasing power and pricing transparency when negotiating with IT vendors.

In 2014, 11 public universities joined together to form the University Innovation Alliance. Its goal is to improve the graduation and retention rates among an estimated 400,000 U.S. undergraduate students. Through the alliance’s work, awarded degrees have increased by 10 percent.

Defining enterprise resource planning (ERP) consortiums

College consortiums, which have emerged in the last few years, are when two or more higher-ed institutions implement a new system together (either officially or unofficially) and share the associated costs. Institutions who are early adopters of this model cite a myriad of benefits.

Many colleges start a consortium for the financial benefits and discover further advantages to sharing tools, services, and knowledge. Sharing core operational system resources helps institutions establish best practices, and not just at the institution level. The new generation of cloud-based ERP and student management systems are designed with a unified database to enable a single view of the student from enrollment to alumni.

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5 ways to help students cultivate a sense of belonging

Students who report a strong sense of belonging at their college or university typically do better in school, and a new survey points to five key steps schools can take to support students’ mental health and success.

This sense of belonging is critical for students, especially students who are first-generation college students and students of color from low-income backgrounds. In fact, feeling a sense of belonging has been proven to have an effect on college completion rates.

A report based on a survey of alumni from the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), which aims to prepare its K-12 students to thrive in education and the workforce, points to clear-cut steps institutions can take to help students feel positive about their path.

The survey results indicate five actionable steps colleges and universities can take to help KIPP alumni, and students like them, sustain a strong sense of belonging and positive mental health.

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3 ways video assessment fosters community in online courses

While online courses have become a convenient option for students, their growing popularity has also exposed some significant challenges associated with distance learning. One in particular—how to foster community in online courses—is especially pressing. Unfortunately, digitizing aspects of the learning process has caused some of the human components to fall to the wayside.

Since online learning environments often include little to no face-to-face contact, building relationships between students, their peers, and the instructor can be difficult. And students have been feeling the sting, which shows in both satisfaction levels and academic performance.

The problem: face time

In many online classes, educators hold students accountable for their coursework, but student and peer-to-peer engagement isn’t always a requirement. Because of this, learners often miss out on opportunities to build valuable soft skills like communication and collaboration. Peer review is another great way for students to forge relationships, but because they aren’t physically present in a classroom, it’s difficult for instructors to enable these exercises. Distance learning also makes it harder for educators to provide personalized, timely feedback, which hampers their connection with students.

The solution: video assessment

Most instructors understand the importance of establishing a community in online courses, but they may not have the right tools to foster one. Video-assessment platforms offer a unique solution because they address the issue at a peer-to-peer and student-to-instructor level.

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11 online education trends institutions should track

Career aspirations continue to drive students’ decisions to enroll in online education programs, according to a new survey tracking online learning trends.

The report from BestColleges.com surveyed 295 online program administrators and 1,500 students, including prospective students, current students, and alumni, to gauge their experiences in online education programs.

In addition to career motivations, survey results show online students are getting younger, and schools report an increase in enrollment of traditional college students.

The survey delves into trends around online program marketing and recruitment, program design and development, and student demographics.

The trends can guide institutions as they tailor their online learning programs to best suit students’ needs:

1. Seventy-three percent of online students say career and employment goals were a major motivation for enrolling in their online learning program. Those goals include transitioning to a new career field (35 percent) and earning academic credentials in a current field of work (30 percent).

2. Online students are getting younger, and 34 percent of surveyed institutions reported an increase in traditional college students (ages 18-25).

3. Demand is increasing, as well. Ninety-nine percent of online education program administrators say demand has increased or stayed the same over the past few years, and nearly 40 percent of respondents say they plan to increase their online program budgets in the next year.

4. It appears online programs are carefully considering enrollment growth and hiring trends—73 percent of schools say they decided to offer online education programs based on the growth potential for overall student enrollment, while 68 percent also considered employment demand.

5. Prospective students use a variety of methods to research online education programs, including reading online reviews from students (23 percent), researching college websites (18 percent), contacting schools directly (17 percent), researching ranking websites (17 percent), visiting campuses (13 percent), and talking to students or graduates (10 percent).

6. The majority of students in online education programs (79 percent) and the majority of alumni (76 percent) think online education is better than or equal to on-campus education, and 57 percent of surveyed schools say employers feel the same way.

7. Cost remains students’ biggest obstacle as they choose as online education program. Estimating annual costs and applying for financial aid are identified as students’ two biggest challenges.

8. Students struggle to find the right online education program. In fact, this challenge was the third-most-identified challenge. This might be due to the increase in younger students who may not have identified goals or chosen a career path.

9. Surveyed schools predict business and related subjects such as logistics and accounting, healthcare and medical subjects, and computer science will experience the most enrollment growth over the next five years.

10. Schools say they are offering a new online education program as a growth opportunity to increase overall student enrollment (73 percent), because there is employment demand for the knowledge or skills (68 percent), and because there is a demand from students who are interested in the subject area or degree level (64 percent).

11. Schools’ biggest challenges when it comes to offering online education programs include marketing new online programs to prospective students and meeting recruitment goals (74 percent), and meeting cost and management demands required by new online programs (54 percent).

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