“Research in Action” Podcast

Perhaps not too surprisingly, “Research in Action” is a podcast about research in higher education. It’s hosted by Dr. Katie Linder, research director for Oregon State University Ecampus, and the more than 130 weekly episodes often include guest interviews from other colleges and industry who share their research expertise, experience, and strategies.

Linder says the goal of the podcast is to increase research literacy and build community among researchers, and recent topics have included taking risks for research, current trends and challenges for academic libraries, and emotions and teaching.

You can access the podcast at the website or on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

[Editor’s Note: eCampus News will be featuring a higher ed podcast every Friday. Send your favorites to eullman@ecampusnews.com.]



Here’s how mixed reality is already changing teaching and learning

Mixed reality is poised to have an incredible impact on instruction and preparing students for the workforce.

At EDUCAUSE 2018, educators from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) shared how the university is developing and implementing small- and large-scale immersive augmented reality and mixed reality learning resources with great success.

The projects stem from the university’s Interactive Commons, which explores how cross-departmental teamwork and new technologies can foster innovation and new ways of teaching and learning. So far, they have yielded a fair amount of data, along with increases in student engagement, time savings, and more positive learning experiences overall.

“The workforce is collaborative, and we need to communicate across disciplines–curriculum has to drive those interactions,” said Erin Henninger, executive director of the Interactive Commons at CWRU. “We want to think about what kind of classroom we’re putting our students in in the future–the classrooms we’ve been creating for 100 years may be doing those students a disservice.”

CWRU is already using Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed reality headsets with students, and will deploy 32 HoloLens devices in its new Health Education campus, slated to open in July 2019. They can be used in any number of ways, such as to help medical students explore human anatomy together in a mixed reality environment. 


AI can humanize teaching—if we let it

While the scientific nature of artificial intelligence (AI) has frequently been used as a marketing term in recent years, AI does have some fascinating implications for instruction.

But perhaps one of the biggest things to remember about AI is that it will not eliminate teaching—it will humanize it.

“We hear that AI will take away faculty—AI is, in fact, going to supplement the work we already do,” said Jennifer Sparrow, senior director of teaching and learning with technology at Penn State. In that role, she focuses on innovation and technology-enhanced teaching and learning.

During EDUCAUSE, Sparrow, along with Kyle Bowen, director of innovation for teaching and learning with technology, shared how AI can help with teaching from different points of view, including ideation, design, assessment, facilitation, and reflection.

“We see [teaching] as a key area where AI can have influence. It changes how we think about supporting or empowering our teachers,” Bowen said.

Sparrow likened using AI tools in teaching to the way a jazz band interacts—as one instrument winds down, another picks up, much like different AI tools function for different instructional needs.

“The idea is that we grow together, build on ideas, and we come to a better result,” she said.


An AI tool can be taught to focus on certain facts or aspects of a larger idea to help educators target specific concepts.

Using Eureka!, a tool built at Penn State, educators can start with a search for a concept. Eureka! returns results, and educators select the results that best reflect the ideas they want to highlight within that concept. This teaches Eureka! to refine its original definition of the idea, leading to streamlined results and more relevant information for the instructor.


10 issues that will shape 2019 for higher-ed IT leaders

Information security strategy is EDUCAUSE‘s No. 1 IT issue for 2019, topping the list for a fourth consecutive year. The top 10 issues were previewed at EDUCAUSE 2018.

Privacy, along with the notion of the integrative CIO, make their first appearance on the list of trends and issues that are forecasted to dominate higher-ed IT leaders’ priorities in 2019.

The 10 issues fall under three general themes: the notion of the data-enabled institution; funding, including sustainable funding and higher-ed affordability; and IT as an institutional leader and change agent.

Led by Susan Grajek, vice president of communities and research for EDUCAUSE, panelists included John Campbell, vice provost at West Virginia University; Merri Lavagnino, director of strategic planning and enterprise risk at Indiana University; Loretta Early, chief information officer at the George Washington University; Joel Hartman, vice president and CIO at the University of Central Florida; and Carlos Morales, president of the TCC Connect Campus in the Tarrant County College District.

The list will be officially released in early 2019.

1. Information security strategy: Developing a risk-based security strategy that effectively detects, responds to, and prevents security threats and challenges

2. Student success: Serving as a trusted partner with other campus units to drive and achieve student success initiatives

“I believe the IT staff can do amazing things if they’re aware of this pressure on student success,” Lavagnino said. “They can identify ways the IT organization can better assist with student success initiatives.”

For instance, there will be an influx of students from disadvantaged socio-economic households, and those students typically don’t achieve degrees in the same amount of time as students from higher economic backgrounds. Data predicts large shifts in student demographics and the geographic areas producing more college students.

“Are colleges sand universities ready to address these changes? We as IT people need to bring our creativity to the table when we’re trying to address the needs of this different student body we’re going to have,” she said.


How online courseware boosted student engagement at Kennesaw State University

Universities nationwide are facing the same challenge: how to make textbooks more relevant, meaningful and engaging for students. This problem has grown as the lack of student engagement—especially among general education classes—continues to be a contributing factor to today’s rapidly declining RPG (retention, progression, and graduation) rates.

For Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Georgia, educators were working to overcome this same obstacle while experiencing rather high DWFI (D, fail, withdraw, incomplete) rates in one of its institutional requirements, WELL 1000L Foundations for Healthy Living. Students were not successfully completing this required course, which could jeopardize their college careers.

With a desire to lower the DFWI rate without compromising the academic integrity of the course, KSU faculty and staff decided to alter the WELL 1000 objectives while also replacing the textbook with online courseware that equipped students with more emerging technologies to help boost student engagement.

The implementation process
In the redesigned WELL 1000 course, KSU desired to offer a more holistic approach focused on goal-setting and building self-assessments and reflections to establish long-term health behaviors. This required a number of content progressions as well as a process to better identify and support at-risk students.

To make this happen, KSU partnered with Perceivant to house course materials as well as leverage their innovative tools, which included predictive analytics to identify struggling students and meaningful editorial support. The goal was to work together to boost student engagement by making course content more relevant and meaningful while still aligning it with the university’s general education standards.

First, KSU and Perceivant collaborated to ensure the WELL 100 courseware materials reflected this new progressive method of teaching while focusing on more modern health behavioral topics that contribute to the leading risk behaviors of college students in the United States. Thanks to Perceivant’s editorial process, KSU instructors were heavily supported in the creation of customized content that aligned specifically with course objectives.

In addition, the two partners worked simultaneously to ensure consistency across more than 35 instructors and 70 course sections while allowing each instructor to easily add content such as assignments and extra-credit opportunities.

Since recent studies show that more than 60 percent of teachers nationwide feel inadequately prepared to use education technology, Perceivant team members also came on-site to train WELL 100 instructors on the platform once the content was finalized. This process efficiently armed educators with the knowledge to leverage the platform properly to ensure the most optimal learning experience for students.


Higher Ed Ethics Watch

Are you interested in academic integrity, faculty ethics, or sports ethics? Love to debate your colleagues about accountability and student responsibility? If so, then this blog is for you!

Written by “The Ethics Sage” (aka Dr. Steven Mintz, professor emeritus from Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo), Higher Ed Ethics Watch is an award-wining blog that shares insights about issues that have an ethical dimension.

Don’t miss “It’s Time to Get Serious About Civility” for terrific insight about free speech on campus.

[Editor’s Note: eCampus News will be featuring a higher ed blog every Monday. Send your favorites to eullman@ecampusnews.com.]


How to use tech to address students’ mental health

Have you heard about TAO Connect, an online therapy platform? eCampus News was curious about how it works, so we spoke with Nancy Zlatkin, Psy.D., a psychologist at Florida International University (FIU). Zlatkin, has been using the online program for close to five years.

Q: How long has FIU been offering therapy via TAO Connect?

FIU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has been offering TAO treatment since January 2014.

Q: How many students have taken advantage of the services?

As of September 2018, we’ve had 366 students use the services.

Q: Why did you feel the need to offer this benefit to students?

Our student population consists of both on-campus and online students. Because of this, it can be difficult to find supplemental counseling services that effectively reach every student and can be personalized to their own needs. While CAPS had developed several programs to empower students to take control of their own behavioral health, we were looking for more versatility in how our services were delivered.

Offering TAO to students was aligned with CAPS’ plan to increase parity in services between traditional students and online students. Furthermore, TAO had been shown to be effective for college students presenting to college counseling centers with specific issues. Students are now able to use tools such as anxiety monitoring logs, where they can report episodes of anxiety and apply lessons they’ve learned, as well as engage in videoconferences with their CAPS therapist in between face-to-face sessions.

As TAO developed, it demonstrated versatility by being available through a self-help option as well as integration into course instruction (e.g., Freshman Experience courses). For the students who have high-level motivation and lower-level issues such as mild anxiety, the self-help option lets them work at their own pace, on their own time. Essentially, the platform’s customization has proven to be beneficial for a wide array of behavioral scenarios.

Q: Do you have any metrics about its effectiveness? 

We evaluated TAO’s effectiveness using the Behavioral Health Measure 20, or the BHM-20. This is a 21-item scale-based measure that involves four major sub-scales: global mental health, well-being, life functioning, and symptoms. These can be further broken down into anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, and suicide monitoring. When reviewing BHM-20 results at FIU after implementing TAO, students generally appear to report improvement in mood, anxiety, symptoms, and well-being. The greatest improvements also tend to occur in the first four sessions, emphasizing TAO’s effectiveness in providing information students can immediately apply to their lives.

Q: What advice would you give to other universities that may be thinking of working with TAO Connect (or another provider of online therapy)?

Investing in technology is the first step, but you have to customize it to your own student body to make it effective. Consider ways to involve departments outside of your counseling center to maximize opportunities to benefit students. Universities should be flexible with the ways TAO may be used to make the learning modules available to students through different avenues when appropriate (e.g., CAPS, Freshman Experience courses, athletics, etc.). You should also take time to train clinical staff regarding tele-behavioral practice in order to optimize clinician engagement.


Can work colleges help solve the student debt crisis?

Americans currently owe a combined $1.3 trillion on their student loans, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s more than double the amount owed just a decade ago—and nearly four in 10 adults under the age of 30 are now paying off debt from their education.

As student debt becomes a mounting problem, college and university leaders are looking for solutions to control rising costs and ensure that all students have access to a higher education. One possible solution that is receiving more attention lately is the “work college” model, in which all students are required to work for all four years of their education. Administrators track and evaluate students’ work performance, just as they do with academics—and this work offsets the cost of tuition for students.

Although work colleges have existed for many decades, interest in this model appears to be growing as rising college costs have forced more young adults to take out loans to pay for their education, putting financial stress on recent graduates.

How work colleges operate
Federally recognized work colleges must meet certain requirements, and in return they receive federal funding to operate their programs. As of press time, there were fewer than 10 such institutions in the United States. However, in just the last few years, two new institutions have joined their ranks. Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in Dallas, became the first urban work college in 2016, and Bethany Global University in Minnesota also recently became a work college.

What’s more, Silver Lake College in Wisconsin is looking to become a work college, this PBS story reports. And Paul Quinn College plans to start a national system of urban work colleges, according to the Hechinger Report—joining forces with Kuyper College in Michigan and Wilberforce University in Ohio.

At most work colleges, students assume jobs on campus. However, Paul Quinn College has taken advantage of its urban location to partner with area employers so that students have many options for working on or off campus as part of their education.


Teaching in Higher Ed

The Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, hosted by Bonni Stachowiak, features episodes on everything from cultural competence to online learning to creativity in teaching. With more than 220 episodes, there’s something for everyone!

Stachowiak has brought on close to 200 guests to discuss instructional design, diversity and inclusion, blended learning, and more. Her website has links to all of the resources mentioned in the episodes so listeners can easily access the great things they hear about.

Don’t miss episode 200, “Changing Our Minds About Teaching,” in which a group of educators discuss how their attitudes toward teaching have changed since the podcast launched in 2014.

To listen, you can search for an episode at the website, subscribe to the whole series, or tune in on Overcast, Stitcher Radio, or Google Play.

[Editor’s Note: eCampus News will be featuring a higher ed podcast every Friday. Send your favorites to eullman@ecampusnews.com.]


VR packs a powerful punch in learning

I believe in using technology to engage all learners. After spending 15 years as an elementary teacher and now as a college professor, I see the same learning needs and teaching frustrations. This column is based on the premise that everyone can learn and often technology can provide just the right learning support.

While teaching in an inner-city school, I had a student named Eddie, who was bright, funny, and an amazing artist. According to our testing, he was a pretty good reader too, though he absolutely refused to read. He was impatient and distracted and couldn’t or wouldn’t read in class. I read about digital books engaging reluctant readers and a light bulb went off. I wrote a grant, got some iPads, and began a class read along where students alternated between traditional books and digital books on the iPads. Eddie read—and he enjoyed it. It was a new and exciting experience. A game changer for Eddie and others like him.

Flash forward a couple of years. My daughter, who has a learning disability, was a college freshman in an intro to human behavior class and struggling with her big, traditional textbook. She spoke with her professor and discovered that there was a website for the text with videos that supported the concepts. She called me and said, “Mum, the reading was so much easier when I read, then watched the video—it made sense!” As an educator and parent, I could see the technology opening a door for my child.

Now that I’m a college professor, I incorporate technology into my courses all the time. Recently, my students created their own online quiz to demonstrate their knowledge of the reading. It was an instant success. One student said, “This was awesome! I felt like a professor getting ready to test my students and I knew I really had to know the material before I could test someone else.”

I see the power of technology and how it can open doors for students who may need their content presented in an alternate way. Our classrooms are full of learners like Eddie and my daughter, and all the other students who may need and deserve material presented in an engaging and accessible way.

I’m writing this column to share cool tech tools and to share great tech-enriched teaching strategies that can make a difference in all our students’ lives. I hope you enjoy.

Faculty often ask how they can engage students in the content they are teaching. They’re wondering how they can use technology in a meaningful way to cover the material and reach students who are not engaged or are struggling with comprehension.

VR comes to my class
My latest obsession (besides Queer Eye and the Red Sox) is Google Expeditions. I can’t say enough about it as a tool for experiencing and learning within every subject.

Google Expeditions can be a fairly inexpensive way to present content. Students who have smartphones (Android or iOS) can download the Google Cardboard app and Google Expeditions for free. VR glasses can improve the experience but are not required. Instructors can serve as guides with students joining expeditions or you can assign an expedition and have students explore on their own.