Where is blockchain technology going in the future?

Blockchain technology has garnered much attention in recent years, but technology leaders seem split over its future–some say the hype will be short-lived, but blockchain start-ups are growing and hiring. What does that mean for blockchain technology’s uses in higher education?

According to Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of Blockchain Revolution, blockchain “is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Information on a blockchain isn’t stored in a single location, and this means its records are public and easy to verify.

Supporters say blockchain technology has several applications in higher education, including in credentialing and security. Others caution that the technology may be too expensive or complicated to implement, or that the space between understanding and implementation is too large to bridge.

Here’s a look at some of the latest potential uses for blockchain technology, as well as where industry leaders think the technology might take higher education in the future. (Check out this visual explanation of how blockchain works.)


This one-year-old bioscience incubator is already a success

In its first year, Austin Community College’s (ACC) Bioscience Incubator (ABI) not only matched expectations, but exceeded them. More than 800 unique visitors from 10 countries toured the innovative space and more than 65 life science companies expressed interest in admission into ACC Bioscience Incubator. ABI has built a pipeline of biotech companies across the U.S.. There are currently nine member companies at the wet lab incubator with scientific projects ranging from environmental testing to new brain cancer therapeutics.

The Bioscience Incubator is accelerating Central Texas’ biotechnology economy by providing fully-equipped wet laboratory space and $1.2 million in biotechnology equipment to member life science companies while also training a highly-skilled workforce. The state-of-the-art, flexible facility moves technologies from ideas to products, allowing life science entrepreneurs to focus on innovation.

“This is innovation at its finest, which is what ACC is all about,” says Richard Rhodes, ACC president/CEO.

“The laboratory space at ABI is astounding,” says John S. Higley, CEO, principal scientist, Environmental Quality Operations (EQO). “EQO joined for access to wet lab space, and a few other items, but have been able to expand our service offerings and products substantially due to our ability to leverage additional equipment and expertise. This company would not be possible without the space and equipment offered by ABI.”


7 ways institutions can strengthen their digital learning strategy

When colleges and universities take a strategic approach to digital learning, and when they invest in designing and developing high-quality courses and programs, they are able to realize critical objectives, according to a new digital learning report from Arizona State University and The Boston Consulting Group.

The report examines the upfront and ongoing costs of supporting digital learning, and it also looks at the returns in terms of student access, student outcomes, and economic impacts on students and institutions.

And although each institution will take a slightly different path toward digital learning, the promising practices outlined in the report can act as a helpful starting point.


8 college presidents on “the best leadership advice I’ve ever received”

eCampus News asked higher-ed leaders: What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten about leadership? Here are their answers.

“The most significant thing I’ve learned about leadership is that you don’t get there alone. It’s so important to find good people who will help guide you through your career and life journey.

“This is especially crucial for young women and I often advise our students on this. As women grow in their leadership capabilities and are eligible for promotions, they need someone to turn to for support in reaching that next level. Mentors can support your career ambitions and help you reach your goals by offering useful guidance and encouraging you to succeed.

“Equally, if not more important, is a sponsor—someone who takes a more hands-on role than a mentor in promoting his or her protégé’s success. For example, a sponsor will suggest a young professional for a highly visible project, put him or her forward for ‘stretch’ assignments, and secure approval for that person’s professional training. Sponsors might alert their protégés to hidden dangers like an unspoken problem with a colleague, or they might suggest connecting with one of an organization’s hidden influencers.

“As an attorney who has worked in public policy, government, finance, and now as president of a university, I have faced my fair share of workplace challenges. But along the way, I wouldn’t have gained the confidence to achieve success without strong supporters in my corner.”
—Gloria Larson, president, Bentley University, Massachusetts

“I think the best leadership lessons have been those I’ve learned firsthand from my father, mother, and university mentors. Leadership starts with knowing your own values, and then practicing values-based decision-making.”
—Michael V. Drake, MD, president, The Ohio State University

“Probably the best advice I received was to ‘hire the best people, give them the tools to succeed, and get out of their way.’”
—John J. Rainone, president, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College , Virginia

“I believe in Donald McGannon’s quote: ‘Leadership is action, not position.’”
—Michael J. Smith, president, Berkeley College, New York and New Jersey

“There’s a lot to learn from others. The best advice I’ve received is from one of my biggest mentors, John Roueche. He taught me something simple, yet immensely important. He told me to remember to always be myself and not to try to be somebody else. You have to be yourself. If it’s not you, then it’s not natural. You have to know your values and your priorities. The second best advice I received from John is how important it is to develop good relationships with your mentors. The people you connect with as a mentor will always serve as a guiding figure in your life.”
—Richard Rhodes, president and chief executive officer, Austin Community College, Texas

“Be transparent, share your authority with your team, and include your people in making decisions. I have found that groups of people will work very hard with you when they feel empowered. That is what a leader’s chief responsibility is—to empower his or her people.”
—Elsa Núñez, president, Eastern Connecticut State University

“That leadership is about being Storyteller-in-Chief, crafting a vision and a narrative that inspires people to embrace the mission, gives them a sense of meaning, and impels them to do all they can in service to the mission. This is true of leadership at every level.”
—Paul J. LeBlanc, president, Southern New Hampshire University

“As a leader, I’m constantly seeking new ideas on how we can make things better. The people who have taught me the most in leadership are our students. Their stories of hard work and the difficulties they must sometimes overcome to improve their lives provide great motivation. Every time I speak to our students, they tell me what they need to achieve success, teach me something new, and challenge me to set new standards and goals that can help them.”
—J. David Armstrong, Jr., president, Broward College


Could an up-and-coming technology make your campus stand out?

4K resolution—also known as ultra-high definition (UHD)—is a fast-growing technology, with use of 4K content expected to increase from around 10 percent today to almost 40 percent in 2020. It was a trending topic at the recent InfoComm and UBTech conferences in Las Vegas, where higher education leaders considered implementation strategies for 4K and other emerging audiovisual innovations.

You might look at 4K adoption as a future goal for your campus, but it’s rapidly moving into the mainstream and should be a current consideration. Today’s college students come equipped with their own smartphones, laptops, and tablets, often with 4K displays, and they expect to find the same visual quality in the classroom. Although adopting 4K can be a formidable expense for colleges and universities, it’s becoming more affordable all the time.

Above all, 4K displays and projectors make the classroom experience more visually rich. Images remain constant despite different viewing angles, have more accurate and controlled colors, allow for pixel-free viewing, and can handle long uninterrupted operating times. 4K displays and projectors create visual workspaces in such disciplines as healthcare, engineering, architecture, and design that can result in time and cost savings for institutions.

Here are five ways 4K can make an impact on your campus.

1. Shared student content
More than ever before, instructors are asking students to create videos, capture images, and create multimedia presentations for their classes. Using personal devices, they’re taking photos and videos in 4K, and classroom displays need to relay content in its original quality to do it justice.


Can a focus on R&E double your enrollment?

Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering is working on an ambitious initiative called 25 by 25, with a goal of almost doubling enrollment to 25,000 students by 2025. “When Dean Banks came on board, she put some aggressive plans in place, including 25 by 25,” says Ed Pierson, chief information officer at the college. “She laid out a great plan for us to focus on student retention and to expand and enhance our program to better suit today’s students.”

Better communication = higher retention
Current retention is around 60 percent; Dean Banks wants to bring that up to 75 percent by focusing on students who transfer out of engineering to other colleges within A&M. The first step? Determining why students were changing majors.

“A lot of it revolved around a simple misunderstanding of the various types of engineering,” says Pierson. For instance, lots of students were not sure of exactly what a particular branch of engineering did so they may have selected a major that really didn’t fit them well, and that could cause them to transfer out of engineering.”

The department revised the freshman program so that students are no longer required to choose a major before they arrive. Now, during the first semester and half of the second semester, they learn about different engineering disciplines, talk with juniors and seniors and industry people, and gain insight about the various majors and their requirements so they can choose their major toward the end of their first year. Pierson says they’re already seeing positive benefits from this simple change and believes it will significantly improve retention.

Use data to add more programs
Another way the college is driving growth is by expanding career options such as ocean engineering to include the Galveston campus. “It’s one of the few ocean engineering programs in the country,” says Pierson. They also built a new campus in South Texas to reach students in the Texas valley.

The college’s Engineering Academy program is another way they are increasing enrollment. It’s a co-enrollment program with community colleges in Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. Students take math, science, and core courses at their local community college and engineering courses from Texas A&M professors. They can spend up to two years at their community college before transitioning full time to Texas A&M to finish their bachelor’s degree. “Students get to live at home and save money for the first two years while getting a standard A&M engineering curriculum,” says Pierson. “It’s a wonderful and diverse cohort.” When fully deployed, there will be 1,500 students in the Engineering Academy, and most of them will go to Texas A&M after their freshmen or sophomore year.


College presidents share “the best book I’ve ever read”

eCampus News asked higher-ed leaders: What is the best book you’ve ever read and why? Here are their answers.

“I don’t have one best book. The best one I’ve read lately is The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workforce, by Ron Friedman.”
—Kris Williams, PhD, president/chief executive officer, Henderson Community College, Kentucky

“I would pick two. Good to Great, by Jim Collins, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by the late Stephen Covey. Collins’ book offers wonderful examples of how 11 major companies changed their focus and went from acceptable performance on the stock market to exemplary performance. The alignment across this diverse set of companies was remarkable—they each had leaders who focused on the company’s mission, not themselves; each company had a singular operational focus; and their performance metrics, technology systems, and human resources approach supported that operational focus.

“Covey’s book was not only a bestseller in its time but was a marvelous checklist for personal and professional success. I have tried to apply those seven habits in my daily life, ranging from ‘being proactive’ to ‘begin with the end in mind’ to focusing on my listening skills (‘seek first to understand, then to be understood’). They sound so common sense, yet they aren’t commonly practiced.”
—Elsa Núñez, president, Eastern Connecticut State University

The Enigma of Arrival, by V.S. Naipaul. Both the story and the craft of his writing stayed with me.”
—Michael V. Drake, MD, president, The Ohio State University

“I love reading. I’m a member of a book club that reviews cutting-edge publications on management, leadership, and higher education. I order copies for my leadership team, so we can read them together and keep up with the latest innovative practices. In the last few years, I’ve read two excellent books: Good to Great, by Jim Collins; this was a good college when I arrived, but we needed to be great and The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Hulung. I recommend this book to everyone, including students. It’s one thing to have ideas but you’ll get nowhere if you don’t know how to execute them.”
—J. David Armstrong, Jr., president, Broward College

“Reading is a passion of mine. My favorite book is often the last one I have read. Two of recent note are: Zero to One, by Peter Thiel, and 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson. Both of these books spin conventional wisdom in various directions and stimulate my mind.”
—Michael J. Smith, president, Berkeley College, New York and New Jersey

The Leadership Challenge, by Barry Posner. The theme of leadership is for everyone and is based upon leaders at all levels and how ‘regular people’ can make a huge, positive difference in their organizations.”
—John J. Rainone, president, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Virginia

“I love this question because I’m so passionate about my answer! Without a doubt, my favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. It actually inspired me to go to law school. I read the book when I was 12 years old and knew then that I wanted to be this morally upright, Gregory Peck-type Atticus Finch figure.”
—Gloria Larson, president, Bentley University, Massachusetts

“I most recently read Promise Me Dad by Joe Biden. It’s a great family story. I’m an avid reader and enjoy all genres, from history to Western.”
—Richard Rhodes, president and chief executive officer, Austin Community College, Texas

“My favorite recent read is The Underground Railroad, a depiction of subjugation, power, casual violence, and a broken world in which heroes struggle, suffer mightily, and still, somehow, give us hope. It is a tour de force book.”
—Paul J. LeBlanc, president, Southern New Hampshire University


How to digitally transform higher ed without coding

Higher education has been on a tear in recent years, racing to digitize processes once held sacrosanct, such as libraries, curricula, and centuries of collections. But higher-ed institutions still struggle to keep pace with digital transformation in many core operational systems, particularly those managing the student lifecycle—from recruiting to student records to alumni fundraising.

Fierce competition for technical resources, scarce funding, and entrenched legacy systems can make it difficult to shake the dust off of internal processes. Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, said that “if he had to give campus IT a grade, he’d give it a C-plus or a B-minus at best,” in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

Off the shelf, few applications (old or new) cater to the varied and complex needs of educational institutions. The lack of IT resources, coupled with the reluctance of vendors to allow customizations, makes adaptation of existing systems untenable. So universities end up settling for applications that meet only a portion of their needs, and must try to “bolt on” other solutions and customizations as best they can. Over time, this creates thorny problems with maintenance, and typically deteriorates usability, increasing the odds that users will abandon the costly software (or at least complain very loudly).

So how can a higher education institution:

● Deliver personalized apps for students, professors, and administrators to accomplish their goals simply and easily?
● Replace or transcend monolithic core systems with adaptable, agile systems?
● Reduce or even eliminate costs for customizations?

An extensible, no-code platform can make it all happen, more quickly and less expensively than you might imagine. Berklee College of Music in Boston and World Maritime University in Sweden have already seen success, along with many others. With the right no-code platform schools can create and modify completely custom enterprise software without writing a single line of code—drastically reducing barriers to innovation.


6 ways schools can offer wallet-friendly three-year degree programs

A three-year bachelor’s degree may help students dodge some of the increasingly burdensome debt associated with higher education–that is, if the programs can get off the ground.

At least 32 institutions offer programs that help students graduate in three years, and more colleges and universities are expected to follow suit. Many of these three-year degree programs have existed for more than 10 years, notes Paul Weinstein Jr., a senior fellow of the Progressive Policy Institute and director of the Graduate Program in Public Management at Johns Hopkins University, in a report detailing the trend toward three-year bachelor’s degrees.

“American college students are facing a triple whammy–out-of-control college costs, record levels of student debt, and declining real earnings for college graduates,” Weinstein contends in the report, yet lawmakers haven’t taken any real action to remedy the issue.

But while the motive behind three-year degree programs is encouraging, the programs themselves are not–” if one were to assign a grade to the current crop of three-year bachelor’s degree programs, it would be an ‘F,'” Weinstein writes.

The primary reason for this poor performance? Many three-year degree programs try to squeeze four years of learning into three years, meaning they appeal primarily to a few highly motivated students and have small adoption rates–between 2 percent to 19 percent, according to research cited in the report.