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]


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.


Indiana U builds community and empowers students with machine learning

In the past decade, higher education has experienced a major shift toward digital experiences. This change reflects the way in which the rising generation prefers to engage with each other and with their instructors—as well as how they desire to learn. It’s an evolution that is echoed at campuses across the nation.

This means that the way faculty and staff interact with students is fundamentally changing. Students expect to be able to connect with us anytime, from anywhere. This is particularly challenging for us at Indiana University (IU) because we are so geographically dispersed and touch an enormous diversity of individuals and groups, with a fall 2018 enrollment of more than 114,000 across eight campuses and multiple satellite locations. At IU, we have a compelling need to create new pathways to support our students and to give them digital options to engage with faculty, staff, and each other across disciplines and locations.

To address this challenge, we believe it’s important to leverage smart tools that not only tap into the expertise of our staff but also incorporate emerging capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

AI and machine learning to support human knowledge

One partner that has helped us tackle this challenge is a company called InScribe. InScribe has developed a machine learning-supported Q&A platform that allows us to efficiently crowd source answers to common issues and high-priority questions. InScribe connects our learners and experts across the traditional boundaries of class, campus, and semester.

When individuals need help, they can turn to InScribe and immediately reach a community of experts including advisors, educators, and peers. Students can seek curated verbose answers that minimize reliance on 24/7 call centers, websites, emails, or face-to-face conversations.

As questions are answered, the system automatically categorizes and stores them so everyone benefits from the conversations that came before. This community of inquiry is enhanced by an AI system that helps prioritize the flow of new questions. Using sentiment analysis and natural language processing, InScribe can proactively alert us to high-priority issues and individuals that may need one-on-one intervention.


5 reasons why Mott Community College’s mobile app blows other apps away

Like most of the higher-ed world, the leaders at Mott Community College in Michigan knew they’d better have a robust mobile app to recruit and retain tech-savvy students as well as to provide their faculty with information and resources.

That’s why, last year, Mott’s IT team took advantage of a pending wireless network upgrade and developed a mobile app with a load of impressive features. They were adamant about embedding custom applications the college was already using into the app—including the Ellucian student information system (SIS) to provide registration, billing, accounts receivable/payable, and degree auditing; and the Blackboard learning management system (LMS) to provide access to class assignments.

Beyond that, they just wanted to develop something that took advantage of the latest technology and would get a lot of use. Since launching the app, there have been more than 2,500 downloads.

Here are five features that make this app stand out.

1. Students can take care of a lot of tasks from within the app.
Because the app links to the SIS and LMS, students can register for courses, look up their billing and financial aid status, and do the following, all without leaving the app:

  • See their list of courses and get directions to their classrooms
  • Schedule an appointment with student services
  • Get the latest announcements and Mott news
  • Complete important enrollments steps

2. The app offers turn-by-turn navigation for the entire 34-acre main campus.
Imagine never being late or getting lost again!

“One of the biggest issues on campus, especially at the beginning of terms, is that students don’t know how to get to classes. Being new is daunting, and trying to memorize the campus is hard,” says Ross Domke, web application developer.

The app gives turn-by-turn directions—even inside buildings—thanks to Bluetooth Beacons that use Aruba Wi-Fi and Location Services solutions.

“Once a student accesses his or her class list in the app, they can tap the ‘Take Me There’ link for turn-by-turn directions that lead them up or down stairs, around fountains, and to the doorway of the classroom,” says Kirk Yaros, director of enterprise services.


The explosive growth of collegiate eSports, part 3

The eSports market is booming, and on its current trajectory, the number of people who watch and participate in eSports will grow from 395 million this year to 580 million by 2021 according to Newzoo. As the passion—and career opportunity—for eSports grows, colleges and universities are looking for ways to build gaming teams and gaming facilities into their athletic and academic programs.

In the case of SUNY Canton, the interest for an eSports program was already there. Upon program launch, tentative transfer students opted to stay, and the amount of interested new students grew. This year alone, SUNY Canton received 270 applications for its eSports-inspired major, Game Design & Development.

Putting the tools into place
However, before eSports became a reality at SUNY Canton, the school had to first evaluate its IT infrastructure to ensure it could support the new initiative. Strong wireless connections are critical to enable practice and play. The network infrastructure must support gaming devices and accessories, while also supporting associated academic work for gaming-related majors.

In part one of this series, Randy Sieminski of SUNY Canton shared how the school’s eSports program came to fruition. In part two, SUNY Canton’s Molly Mott covered how eSports blossomed into an academic program. In part three, we’ll share what’s required to power an eSports program from a technology standpoint.

Outfitting a state-of-the-art eSports arena
Before you can implement an eSports program, you need a place to play. Now that many colleges are jumping on the eSports bandwagon, the schools that stand out and can win are the ones with dedicated gaming arenas outfitted with advanced gaming tools and the latest technology.

Due to growing interest in eSports on campus and the need to take its program to the next level, SUNY Canton designed a state-of-the-art gaming arena with professional gaming PCs, Alienware gaming computers, gaming stations, and specialized mice and keyboards. The first step in the deployment process was setting up a gaming-quality Wi-Fi network. With that in mind, the school decided to partner with Extreme Networks. As the official Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi analytics provider for the NFL, its solutions are used in professional sports stadiums across the nation and around the world—the perfect fit for a collegiate eSports program looking to take its team to the next level.

Since advanced gaming technology works only as well as the network that powers it, SUNY Canton needed to ensure seamless, reliable, low-latency connections. As more colleges join the National Association of College Esports (NACE) and enter competitions hosted by organizations like the ECAC, being at a disadvantage due to poor network infrastructure, when milliseconds matter, is not an option.


Bryan Alexander

This week’s highlighted blog is Bryan Alexander. This prolific blogger—an internationally known futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher—has a long history of helping higher ed integrate digital technologies. His weekly posts are funny, provocative, and compelling, and he writes about everything from student loans to the future of teaching.

In a recent post, Alexander wrote about how relations between the U.S. and China will impact both countries’ higher education systems. Check out this blog for his one-of-a-kind insight and more.

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


Josie and the Podcast

Our first Podcast of the Week is Josie and the Podcast – Connecting Tech & Leadership in Higher Ed. In each episode, Dr. Josie Ahlquist, an author, researcher, and speaker, interviews on- and off-campus leaders and new media professionals through the lens of social media and leadership.

Recent episodes include a discussion on the responsibilities of digital influence with Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, founder of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice; using technology to support student persistence with Dr. Jason L. Meriwether, vice president for student success at Rhode Island College; and a chat about building community in higher ed with Dr. Mary K. Boyd, provost at Berry College.

Alquist, who has served as adjunct faculty at Azusa Pacific University, Loyola Marymount University, Loyola University Chicago, New England College, and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Florida State University, is passionate about helping people learn to view technology through the lens of empathy and empowerment.

Listen to her podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

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


What would a post-secondary institution that was designed for maximum student success look like?

What would a post-secondary institution that was designed for maximum student success look like? What would a college look like where a student could define what they were looking to get out of the experience?

“I want an education that allows me to:

  • work full time / go to school full time
  • continue earning enough money to pay my rent and living expenses / focus on my studies
  • increase my income by ____% $____ per hour or year / pursue my passion for _____”

And what if an institution was held accountable for their success in achieving those outcomes?

I recently had coffee with one of my former third-grade students who is a graduate of Johnson & Wales, one of the premier hospitality training institutions in the world. She knew beginning in middle school that she loved planning parties. Johnson & Wales made it easy for her to pursue her interest in event planning, provided plenty of opportunities for real world experience, and then connected her with an internship at the Disney Corporation which then led to a job. She chose a program that allowed her to graduate in three years; she took five classes each trimester, but her fifth class was free. She also took an additional class each summer. She has no debt. She is really happy with her experience.

She has a dedicated alumni office contact who regularly checks in not just with her but also with her parents to see how things are going, to ask if there is anything they can do to be helpful (and, in her parents’ case, to find out of there is anything she’s not sharing with the alumni office directly). He repeatedly offers to connect her to alumni in cities where she’s traveling and makes sure that she knows that when she’s ready to relocate or look for a new job, all she has to do is let him know and he will activate the alumni network to help her. She knows that this is a long-game investment in a future donation from her to the college (or one now from her parents), but she’ll be happy to support the school if she’s successful in her career—thanks to their efforts.

Johnson & Wales is a private institution, which gives it some flexibility, but the college is clear that its purpose is giving students the experiences and connections they’ll need to get into the field they’re excited about. That kind of clarity leads to success. My former student is a powerful testament to the excellence that is possible as a result.

[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the Hireable blog.]




2019 promises to be a big year of technology trends

The next year will focus on technologies that influence how users interact with the world, according to Gartner in its list of top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019.

A strategic technology trend is “one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.”

The IT research and analyst firm announced the upcoming trends at its annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in October.

2019’s trends will be all about building the “Intelligent Digital Mesh,” which David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow, says has been a consistent theme in recent years

That intelligent digital mesh focuses on three things:
1. Intelligence: AI drives everything we do across many systems going into the future
2. Digital: The digital world brings the virtual and real worlds together in a new digital reality
3. Mesh: Connecting people, processes, and things together in new and interesting ways

The convergence of these three things supports a continuous innovation process, outlined in detail in this video