5 ways to support part-time community college students

Improving part-time community college students’ academic performance may play a key role in closing higher-ed equity gaps, according to new research.

In a number of surveys administered by EAB, equity has emerged as a top concern, and college presidents consistently rank closing the achievement gap in critical populations as among their top three greatest concerns.

Although community colleges have started to enroll more economically-disadvantaged students, those students are not graduating at rates comparable to their peers, according to Reframing the Question of Equity, an EAB whitepaper. What’s worse, they drop out and retain debt.

Community college students are increasingly diverse, and traditionally underrepresented student populations have increased. Gaps in college access and enrollment have started to shrink. But while underrepresented minorities are more likely to attend community colleges than their white peers, too few of them graduate, leaving gaping degree attainment gaps.


How to run a successful 1:1 program in higher ed

At Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, every incoming full-time student gets an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. University leaders credit the 1:1 iPad program with saving money and promoting student equality.

“Trying to educate all students the same way simply doesn’t work, and that’s been the great tragedy of education,” says Mark Lombardi, president of Maryville. “So many people fall through the cracks. Not because they’re unintelligent. Not because they’re lazy. Because the way they’re being taught doesn’t fit their learning style.”

Maryville is turning an outdated system of teaching into something that’s vibrant and alive, says Lombardi. Instructors are fighting tradition by allowing students to access content, information, and knowledge in the ways that best suit their learning styles.

Why a 1:1 program makes sense

Maryville’s four-year-old program was launched to focus on diversity, inclusion, and strategic growth. “We wanted to make sure all students have a device that allows them to develop the skills they’ll need for success,” says Sam Harris, director of learning technology & support.

Harris says providing devices works better than a bring-your-own approach for a variety of reasons. “I’ve been an adjunct here since 2011. In the past, students would come to class with a variety of devices. It was difficult to plan digital projects because you couldn’t prep for one thing. In a BYOD (bring your own device) environment, the easiest thing to do is nothing. With a 1:1, technology is no longer a barrier; it’s a tool for learning.”


Overcoming multi-cloud security challenges

Over the past decade, technology that supports e-learning environments in higher education settings has evolved rapidly. This has enabled a number of benefits for education, such as more efficient teaching and sharing of information, personalized lessons to let students progress at their own pace, and great cost savings. To bring cloud-based technologies into higher education, students are accessing these tools from their laptops or mobile devices.

Meanwhile, administrative offices have seen rapid growth of cloud-based support technologies such as enrollment, recruiting, and financial-management systems. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps are being used primarily for collaboration, content delivery, communication, and accessing learning materials. The economic advantages, speed, agility, flexibility and elasticity are the main reasons higher education is increasingly adopting SaaS.

Colleges and universities are turning to public clouds for flexibility and cost savings. Higher-ed IT managers need to store—and share—vast quantities of data. As analytics and big data technologies facilitate ever-more-complex analyses, the volume of student information and research data in higher ed continues to skyrocket. IT managers are increasingly choosing to augment on-premises data centers with highly scalable public cloud storage. These solutions offer faster deployment and are more efficient and cost-effective.

Security challenges of multi-cloud environments
We’ve discussed the advantages of using SaaS and IaaS technologies, but security remains a significant challenge. Adding cloud applications and environments to your network expands the attack surface and introduces gaps in security. With the median number of SaaS apps in education at 59 and IaaS apps at 40, there are quite a lot of attack vectors to keep track of.


First-of-its-kind gene editing curriculum emerges at community college

A $1 million NSF grant has paved the way for what may be the first-ever community college to include gene editing curriculum technology.

In partnership with Christiana Care’s Gene Editing Institute, Delaware Technical Community College (Del Tech) has developed a unique curriculum that will include gene editing in two courses in the biological sciences program.

As part of the NSF grant, Del Tech also will hold a series of workshops to teach gene editing techniques to community college faculty across the U.S. The workshops will help faculty develop their own gene editing curriculum.

Gene editing is a way of making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism. An enzyme cuts the DNA at a specific sequence, and when this is repaired by the cell a change or “edit” is made to the sequence.


5 keys to implementing cyber education at your school

Cybercrimes are growing exponentially, posing tremendous threats to our financial markets, undermining public confidence, violating our privacy, and costing hundreds of billions of dollars annually (estimated to cost up to six trillion dollars by 2021). Malicious cyberattacks are also used by government-led groups and terror organizations, inflicting chaos and fear, threatening critical infrastructure and nations’ stability.

It’s no wonder cyber professionals are in great demand in every walk of life. Contrary to common belief, cybersecurity is much more than a technical challenge. It is also a business challenge and a human challenge.

As a result, cybersecurity education has become one of the fastest growing disciplines in higher ed and vocational training. Building the cybersecurity workforce of the future and integrating cybersecurity awareness across all industries are top priorities for our national security, financial stability, and economic prosperity.

This landscape presents a unique opportunity for higher-ed institutions to introduce a breadth of new programs that increases their relevance to students, enhances student career prospects upon graduation, and can ultimately boost their financial health.


  • Cybersecurity specialist jobs are in high demand and are well compensated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of an information security analyst in 2017 was $95,510, and these jobs are expected to grow significantly between 2016 and 2026.
  • The cybersecurity market grew by roughly 35X over 13 years.
  • The need for basic cyber-literacy skills is taking hold in virtually every non-technical sector.
  • There is virtually a 0 percent unemployment rate in cybersecurity, with, according to experts, two job openings for every qualified candidate.

Best practices for starting a peer-tutoring program

The Berkeley College Center for Academic Success (CAS) opened in 2006, with peer tutors employed to provide positive role models for students. Since then, the program has expanded, and faculty report that students using the CAS show improvements of between 20 and 25 points in their assignments.

Central to the CAS mission is the idea that a peer tutor’s role is unique. Peer tutors reflect the student population they serve, and that helps to create a welcoming, empathetic space that encourages Berkeley’s students to seek the academic help they need.

When CAS evaluated its peer tutor program in 2016, in collaboration with faculty and staff, three initiatives emerged:

  1. Establish a certification program for peer tutors to achieve consistency.
  2. Hire additional writing peer tutors to meet demand.
  3. Enhance math instruction.

Peer-tutor recruitment
CAS directors typically identify peer tutors through faculty recommendations, particularly in subjects that are most in demand, including accounting, math, finance, and business writing. Peer tutors serve as mentors as well as tutors because of their familiarity with the methods used by particular faculty members in those courses.

Specifically, at Berkeley College:

  • Peer tutors are current students who have earned an A or B+ in the subject they are tutoring.
  • Any student applying to be a peer tutor must have a GPA of 3.25 or better.

If a student meets these qualifications, we schedule a formal interview for the director to assess if the prospective tutor has both the professional and people skills required for the program. We look for people who have a friendly, professional, and empathetic demeanor—people who know it is not just about achieving excellent grades. The peer tutors provide resources, encouragement, and direction to help the students they assist to be independent learners.

Our training program
Once a tutor is hired, there’s a three-step training process:

  1. CAS purchased a subscription to Tutor Lingo®, an online training program for peer tutors that includes eight short videos and exercises on such topics as The Role of the Tutor and Tutoring Students from Diverse Backgrounds. Peer tutors must complete the series during the first semester of work.
  2. All new peer tutors are required to follow an experienced tutor during their first week. By observing these tutoring sessions, new tutors get an idea of best practices and methods. A follow-up discussion of what the peer tutor observed, and what worked or did not work in the session, takes place after the observation.
  3. The peer tutor participates in a discussion of the difference between teaching, which is explaining a concept or problem to the student, and tutoring, or guiding the student to understand the material and answering the question on his/her own.

A blueprint for creating a successful MOOC

Brick-to-click education is not a matter of if, but rather, now. In a constantly growing global community, education modalities are evolving to meet the demands of a knowledge-thirsty and driven population.

One approach to meet these demands is the development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are intended to:

  • Host large numbers of students.
  • Accommodate an internationally diverse community.
  • Increase access for students from non-traditional regions.
  • Support international marketing and recruitment strategies for universities.

However, the almost-10-year experience with MOOCs has yielded mixed outcomes. The average retention rate for MOOCs is four percent of the enrolled class, which defeats the purpose of providing accessible, available, and equitable education.

Further, MOOCs have traditionally been offered as a one-time event. That raises questions about the sustainability of the approach.

4 keys to successful MOOCs
At St. George’s University, an international center for excellence in medical, veterinary, and environmental sciences, multi-course and multi-delivery MOOCs have yielded more than five times the average retention rates over a five-year period from 2013 to 2018. Here are the lessons we learned.

1. Develop the team
The old adage “no man is an island” holds true for MOOCs. From the very beginning of the course concept through post-course evaluations, MOOCs require and should include certain skill sets: faculty, an instructional designer, and a content editor.

The faculty will serve as the academic resource for the course. The learning strategist will adopt online technology and tools toward course delivery. The content editor will finalize and produce the course materials in text, audio, and video formats.

2. Know your audience
MOOCs are free and open for enrollment for nearly anyone in the world, which makes it difficult to know your audience. To address this issue, survey the enrolled students prior to the course and/or gather demographic details of students enrolled so you can cater the course to their interests.

Another approach is to focus the theme, content, and context of the course for the type and cohort of students. Meeting the needs, interests, and expectations from your audience is a critical step in the design and delivery of MOOCS.

3. Choose the right learning management system
MOOCs are routinely delivered using established online platforms that host the courses and handle marketing and recruitment. Most online platforms include a template for content, as well as a list of tools offered to deliver the course. Identify a platform that has a successful track record, will be user-friendly to students, and provides a simple delivery approach.


Going beyond the hype: How AI can be used to make a difference

Reference to artificial intelligence (AI) has become strategic in higher-ed discourse, joining the terms “big data” and “predictive modeling.” When I was introduced to AI in 2013 by a member of our design team, it captivated my imagination. Since then, as our data grew to proportions that were ripe for AI, I’ve become enthralled by its potential to enrich the accuracy and personalization that leads to better outcomes. That does not make me an expert.

If anything, it could make me equal to all out there who have wondered what these terms actually mean, how they matter to education, and where to draw the line between hype and results.

Defining the terms

Artificial intelligence is the broader concept of machines being able to carry out tasks in a way that we would consider “smart.”

Machine learning (ML) is a current application of AI based around the idea that we should really just be able to give machines access to data and let them learn for themselves (Bernard Marr, author, speaker).

Note: Neither definition implies the machine outsmarts or replaces its human team.

AI in healthcare

Like higher ed, healthcare systems are complex, tethered to random human behavior, constantly evolving, and looking to technology to help improve outcomes for all. I found the following healthcare example helpful for visualizing how AI makes it possible to take human expertise and replicate it at scale.

In a healthcare experiment, AI scientists worked with experts at diagnosing a certain type of lung cancer. Collectively, these teams converted expert knowledge into a set of rules and decision trees for reading a lung cancer X-ray and determining diagnosis. In the end, the machine “student” outperformed the very experts who designed its rules.

For some people this outcome seems obvious and acceptable. For others, the thought of relying on a machine diagnosis over a trusted doctor is not acceptable. The reason the machine outperforms the human, while following the same rules, is that the machine is free from bias, second-guessing, fatigue, or distraction. The AI machine becomes a critical member of the team—not a replacement.


6 big-impact technologies on the higher-ed horizon

Analytics technologies, makerspaces, and redesigning learning spaces are just a few of the numerous technology developments and trends outlined in a preview of the forthcoming annual Horizon Report.

The Horizon Report was on shaky ground after the New Media Consortium unexpectedly shut its doors in early 2018, but EDUCAUSE acquired the rights to the report and continued the research.

The annual report outlines issues, technologies, and trends that higher-ed leaders should follow and keep in mind as they outline institutional priorities.

It includes three parts: key trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education, significant challenges impeding technology adoption in higher education, and important developments in educational technology.

Ed-tech trends

Higher-ed trends are organized in terms of time of impact. Advancing cultures of innovation and cross-institution and cross-sector collaboration are long-term trends expected to drive ed-tech adoption for five or more years.


Students get smart about college ROI

Financial concerns are consistently identified as a top roadblock to higher education, and for good reason—securing scholarships and financial aid, along with carrying burdensome student loans, can overwhelm students before they even earn a degree.

Research shows that almost 3 million students drop out of school each year due to financial constraints. It also reveals that more than half of institutions don’t have, or are unaware of what they use for, automated scholarship management.

Most K-12 district leaders say it’s important to create a college-going culture, but they also cite concerns about paying for college prevent many of their students from applying in the first place. Students say another top barrier is difficultly matching potential careers to their interests, which is something reports about overall ROI, including career outlook, can address.

Students are increasingly concerned about their ROI, or their return on education, once they earn a degree—and a handful of new tools can help them get a better idea of the financial reality attached to higher education.