Closing the affordability gap at Hocking College

 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the AACC 21st Century Center.]

The path to affordability looks different from institution to institution. At last fall’s EDUCAUSE annual meeting in Denver, Colo., Betty Young, president of Hocking College in Ohio, spoke on her vision for bringing affordable course materials to students. Passionate about arming her students for their careers but not driving them deeper into debt, Young is launching an all-inclusive pricing model for students at Hocking where full-time students will pay just $300 per semester for all course materials starting fall 2019. I recently sat down with Young to share her insight and best practices with fellow community college leaders.

Shannon Moore-Zuffoletto (SMZ): Higher education has come under criticism on multiple fronts in recent years: on affordability (rising prices/student debt), outcomes (whether students are emerging with the skills that employers want), access (whether elite colleges are enrolling enough low-income students), lack of respect for multiple viewpoints, etc. Which of these, if any, do you consider to be the most legitimate critique, and which one troubles you the most?

Young: We are experiencing a widening gap between affluent and impoverished people, I find that very troubling. The negative impact on society and our respect for multiple viewpoints and civility in our culture grows as the gap between those that believe in their ability to achieve a future of prosperity and those that do not. It continues to be true that earning credentials for the world of work is essential to advance on that pathway to prosperity. Set in this context, affordability and matching students to programs aligned with specific employers are legitimate concerns of the public. Colleges like Hocking College are establishing internships and/or related work programs with employers including the college itself to help students pay for college and to develop their work readiness and specific job skills.

SMZ: In education, we often pit affordability and quality against one another as if they cannot exist together. Is that the case?

RelatedStudents get smart about college ROI

Young: There is some point in which without adequate resources an institution of higher education will lose its ability to meet the needs of students and therefore quality of the programs and services needed for student achievement will diminish. This is not unique to higher education. That said, a less expensive institution does not equate to less quality. There is a role for technology in decreasing costs and improving quality. We must, in higher education, be willing to explore new business models for delivery of quality programming that improves learning and improves affordability and access.


10 ways student support teams can solve common challenges

Student support teams are often pulled in multiple directions at once, and the demands placed on these teams often leave many students “on hold.”

Survey data from 40 institutions conducted over the past 5 years shows that higher-ed policies and processes make it difficult for student support teams to identify and address the roadblocks between their teams and success.

This data uncovers some of the most common challenges student support teams face, and the accompanying report from InsideTrack, which spotlights different institutions and how they addressed student support needs, is intended to help student support teams create a structural framework to address obstacles preventing them from fulfilling their roles.

Read more: How to improve support for part-time students

Austin Community College (ACC), featured in the report, gave its student support and advising an overhaul after realizing students’ needs were changing.

“Several years back, we realized that in order for us to make some significant headway at scale, we were going to have to redesign and reimagine our advising,” says Dr. Virginia Fraire, ACC’s vice president of student services. “Our demographics have changed significantly and our processes and structure weren’t keeping up with the needs of our changing population.”

The team at ACC realized it needed more data, and better infrastructure, to support a new advising system.

“It’s very difficult to assess any kind of impact when you don’t have good data,” Fraire adds.

“It’s taken a lot of leadership, change, reorganizing, and setting up a complete analytics department; that opened our eyes and it gives us the data to help us know what we need to do to make a difference,” says Dr. Wade Bradfute, executive dean of student services for ACC’s south region.

ACC learned more about its student support needs using InsideTrack, and Bradfute says that shed light on the many non-academic factors contributing to students’ need for support and guidance. Close to 80 percent of ACC students are part-time, and nearly 50 percent are providing some sort of support for their families while they’re attending.


How creative thinking transformed my classroom

As educators, we develop lesson plans with careful consideration and effort. When one works, we fall in love, hesitant to change it too much for fear that change might bring less student success.

The old adage: If something works, why change it? There is a simple answer: the willingness to exit our comfort zone, to embrace new ideas, and to change our teaching results in increased student performance and engagement.

A framework for innovative teaching

If we are lucky, something triggers us to question our routines and habits, and this sets us on an unexpected trajectory. For me, that moment came in August 2018 when I became part of the Teaching and Innovation Fellows program through the West Houston Institute at Houston Community College.
The Teaching and Innovation Fellows program brings together a cross-section of college instructors and administrators, united in their interest in innovative thinking and how it applies to their respective roles.

The year-long fellowship began with a curriculum developed by EdgeMakers, an organization that teaches students and teachers to be innovative and entrepreneurial. EdgeMakers believes everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative, and the curriculum provides a framework for innovative thinking regarding complex challenges.

Related: 5 terrific edtech tools for creating a highly engaging online (or hybrid) course

In the beginning of the fellowship, our facilitator asked us to read, write, and reflect on themes surrounding innovation and creativity. As an English teacher, I’d already seen much of what was presented—brainstorming, storyboards, journaling—and it seemed like busy work. As we continued, my thinking morphed, and I began processing connections between concepts and ideas differently.

The turning point

In the fourth week, the cohort engaged in a real-time interactive discussion that forced me to recognize a sobering thought: My class, the one I was so proud of, was boring and unengaging. I went home and abruptly changed my next unit, determined to recreate the innovative experience the curriculum articulated, that creativity is within everyone.

As a result, I shifted my classroom to a flexible learning model that allowed my students to lead their own learning, to have the option to work productively in groups, and to cross disciplines. Rather than relying on teacher-led instruction, students experienced a flexible environment and felt the same engagement I experienced in my fellowship program.

Lesson makeovers

I took a fresh approach to my old poetry project. Instead of assigning a paper that I controlled and guided, groups now present all the same content using Adobe Spark, One Button Studio, or both. Initially, students were hesitant, not unlike my experience with EdgeMakers; after a few classes, however, they fully embraced this method of learning. They found that, while challenging, incorporating technology into learning was not only fun but stimulating. Students learned about poetry while acquiring new digital-literacy skills.


Universal design for learning: 3 aces up our IT sleeves

[Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with permission of the author and the publisher. “Universal Design for Learning: Three Aces Up Our IT Sleeves” was originally published in EDUCAUSE Review on February 4, 2019.]

A very short digression about cards

To become top-ranked poker players, aspiring superstars need to develop a core group of card-playing skills that go way beyond “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Experts learn the various combinations of cards that rank higher or lower, as well as how rarely such combinations occur in the game. They understand how various factors influence their confidence in the cards they have been dealt—the number of players at the table, the number of cards that have already been played, how other players are betting, checking, raising, and calling. They can bluff and indicate that they have great cards when really they don’t. All of these ideas and tactics are part of playing the game at an expert level.

Another strategy that you’ve probably seen in movies about the Old West is to hide aces—the best cards—up your sleeve and hope that no one else sees you employ them to put together winning hands. Of course, that’s cheating, and it could get you beat up (or worse).

But in colleges and universities, marshaling resources from unexpected sources isn’t cheating. It’s an expert-level practice. Let’s explore how to find some aces “outside our game” and bring them into our IT work for maximum impact. I promise that almost no one will challenge you to a shootout at high noon.

Aces up our sleeves

College and university information technology (IT) leaders are often in situations analogous to our poker-playing friends. Our goals are to serve student, faculty, and institutional needs through the tools and systems that we adopt. Decisions that we make can hinder or enhance access across the curriculum and interactions among all of our users.

On the yearly EDUCAUSE list of Key Issues in Teaching and Learning, “accessibility and universal design” jumped from 12th place in 2015 to second on the list in 2018 and is 5th on the list for 2019. Most of the advice for IT leaders in this area has focused on accessibility—making sure systems and tools meet the legal requirements for serving users with disability barriers.

That approach allows us to “check the box” to meet requirements, but it seldom moves the needle on the bottom-line concerns of our presidents, provosts, and chancellors: learner persistence, retention, and satisfaction. The concept of universal design for learning, or UDL, applied from an IT perspective, gives us three “aces” that we can use to make those strong public signals and stretch limited IT resources to have an outsized positive impact for our learners and colleagues.

Related: The Bare Bones Basics of UDL: Universal Design for Learning

Ace #1: Interface design

Based on the neuroscience of learning, UDL offers learners three main benefits: multiple means of engagement, multiple means of taking in information, and multiple means of taking action. UDL goes way beyond disability-based accessibility, responding to all sorts of barriers that learners face in whatever interactions they have, not only with content but also with each other, instructors, support staff, and the wider world. Outside in-person conversations, the way that learners engage with colleges and universities is through our web sites and learning management systems (LMSs)—most often on their mobile devices.

One concrete strategy that IT leaders can implement is to adopt consistent navigation elements across systems such as web pages and the LMS. This lowers a barrier of having to learn new “look and feel” elements for each system supported by the institution.


Crazy! GMU unleashes food-delivering robots on campus

It’s not quite The Jetsons (yet), but students at George Mason University (GMU) are able to satisfy their nutritional cravings with a little help from food-delivering robots on campus.

Sodexo and Starship Technologies launched the robot food delivery service at GMU’s Fairfax, VA campus, where more than 40,000 students, faculty, and staff are now using the Starship Deliveries app to order food and drinks to be delivered anywhere on campus.

Blaze Pizza, Starbucks, Dunkin’, and 2nd Stop, a Sodexo-branded campus grocery store, are the first retailers to participate, with more to be announced in the coming weeks. Each on-demand delivery costs just $1.99 and the service works in conjunction with student meal plans.

To get started, users open the Starship Deliveries app (iOS and Android), choose from a range of food or beverage items, then drop a pin to set their delivery’s location. An interactive map lets them track the robot’s autonomous journey. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert and can meet the robot and unlock it through the app.

The entire delivery usually takes 15 minutes or less, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. The food-delivering robots can carry up to 20 lbs each–the equivalent of about three shopping bags of goods.

The robots on campus use sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence, and arrays of sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. They can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night, and operate in both rain and snow. In addition, the robots can be stored in pods located around campus where their batteries are automatically switched so they can continue to operate independently, with no human involvement.

The initiative included a fleet of more than 25 robots on campus at its January launch, and Sodexo and Starship Technologies say this is the largest implementation of autonomous robot food delivery services on a university campus.

“This will enhance life for everyone at the university, and that’s something we’re continuously looking to build upon,” says Mark Kraner, executive director for GMU’s Campus Retail Operations, emphasizing the university’s commitment to providing an optimal campus experience in order to establish “a place where everyone can thrive.”

The move also speaks to students’ expectations–research shows most U.S. students pay close attention to an institution’s technology savviness.

“University dining programs are evolving their strategies to meet this generation’s elevated expectations, such as better quality, variety and service delivery,” says Jim Jenkins, CEO of Universities East for Sodexo North America. “George Mason University’s culture of innovation and early adoption makes it the perfect campus to introduce this cutting-edge technology and enhance the campus experience for the entire school community.”


Voice technology: the latest technology trend in higher education

As technology offers more ways to stay connected and access information, forward-thinking higher-ed leaders are leveraging voice technology such as Amazon’s Alexa to help students acclimate to campus life and feel like they’re at home.

That’s what happened last year at Saint Louis University (SLU), for instance, when the college deployed Alexa-enabled devices in every student room on campus.

Campus leaders had begun looking at voice technology as a way to help improve the student experience and personalize social and academic activities down the road.

Can voice technology increase student productivity?

A spring 2018 pilot with 20 Amazon Echo devices and 20 competitor devices yielded a firmer idea of how voice technology can help students become more productive, gain more access to information, and remain more engaged on campus, says David Hakanson, SLU’s CIO.

Related: How AI will shape the university of the future

After the pilot, campus leaders reviewed student feedback and realized the Echo devices could improve productivity. Through the university’s program, which is supported by Amazon Web Services, they built a university-specific skill to connect students with important campus information. For instance, instead of students having to pull up a browser on a mobile device to check campus library hours, they could simply ask Alexa and get an immediate answer. The seconds or minutes saved may not seem like much, but using voice technology for these purposes also caters to this generation of students’ desire for instant gratification while multi-tasking.

Making campus life a little easier

Students can ask Alexa about campus events and schedules, which goes a long way toward engagement, Hakanson adds. Resources like this are particularly useful; studies show that strong campus engagement leads to better grades and improved retention.

When new skills become available, the university emails students to let them know and to solicit feedback on the new and existing skills.

Voice technology in the classroom

The Echo devices, which are managed centrally, also are used in classes, and Hakanson says faculty could deploy department- or major-specific skills to specific groups of students in the future.

“We may find that there’s a skill specific to engineering students, so we could take that learning community and deploy the skill just to them; there’s a huge value proposition for being able to do more,” he says.

“As a university, we know a lot of these technologies are going to find their way on campus,” Hakanson adds. “How do we engage our students with this technology? They’re becoming much more accustomed to consuming information and performing tasks based off of voice commands. When we talk about productivity, we think that’s really why students want to use voice technology.”


Do you treat your adjunct professors as add-ons?

 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the AACC 21st Century Center.]

In the real world, providing the necessary resources for full-time faculty to engage in college-wide assessment work is challenging, at best, and integrating an adjunct faculty cohort of over 1,400 members into this work would seem to make the task downright impossible. But at Rio Salado College in Arizona, that is just what we have done.

Rio’s adjunct faculty are at the heart and soul of our instructional model. We were founded in 1978 as a “college without walls,” whose mission was to reach beyond traditional boundaries to provide increased access to higher education. From the very start, our structure was built on a small core of full-time faculty who provide leadership to a large cadre of adjunct faculty, most of whom are practitioners in their fields. Rather than considering adjuncts as add-ons, the adjunct faculty were, and are, essential to the success of the institution.

Here are the stats:

Over the last academic year, Rio had 1,418 adjunct faculty members teaching a total of 10,410 sections of 1,071 different courses with a faculty turnover rate of less than 7 percent from the prior year.

How do we do it? Inclusion is the key.

Adjuncts develop curriculum

At Rio, adjunct faculty serve as subject matter experts that provide valuable input in curriculum development. They are involved in the creation and modification of courses and programs, including designing instructional content and assessments that align with college-wide student learning outcomes.

Related: Adjuncts bring real-world experience, yet desire closer connection to the academic community

Throughout the development process, adjunct faculty have access to resources that help ensure that their work supports our interdisciplinary assessment efforts. We offer free, online, Adjunct Faculty Development (AFD) Courses, which include offerings in critical thinking, writing, information literacy, reading and oral communication. Developers can earn a Student Learning Outcomes badge by completing all the courses in the track. They also have access to the Rio Salado Outcomes Work Lab (OWL) website, which is a “one-stop resource” to facilitate student mastery of the five college-level learning outcomes. The site is aligned with the college rubrics, and includes comprehensive library-developed guides (LibGuides) and additional resources for student learning in these areas. The LibGuides have been embedded in AFD modules that familiarize the adjunct faculty with use of the standardized rubrics for grading assignments.

Support for adjunct faculty to actively engage in the college’s assessment work does not end once a new course or program rolls out. In addition to ongoing access to the Rio OWL and the opportunity to earn a Student Learning Outcomes badge, adjunct instructors can earn badges in Online Teaching, the Student Experience, and Learning Theory.

And at Rio, we put our money where our mouth is.

Adjuncts receive grants

Over the last academic year, $15,608 was awarded in Rio Learning Outcomes Grant (RioLOG) funding. RioLOGs are internal college grants dedicated to engaging adjunct faculty in student learning outcomes-based initiatives directly linked to assessment data. Budget is allocated every year to ensure that adjunct faculty remain among the principal drivers of these curricular improvements.

Our ongoing commitment to integrate adjuncts into our assessment work extends beyond funding for specific RioLOG initiatives. We host an annual Outstanding Adjunct Faculty reception, which honors nominees in Teaching and Learning Excellence as well as Outstanding Contributions to Assessment.

Adjunct faculty members are invited to two all-faculty meetings each year, which are live-streamed for those who are unable to attend in person.

How to support adjunct professors

Though the Rio model was built from the start with the infrastructure necessary to support a large number of adjunct faculty, other institutions that are just now beginning to wrestle with this phenomenon can benefit from what we have learned over the years:

  • Include adjunct faculty members in key teaching and learning processes from the very start.
  • Provide accessible support throughout the various stages of teaching and curriculum development.
  • Offer opportunities for adjunct faculty members to contribute to college-wide assessment efforts.
  • Publicly celebrate their accomplishments.

Ultimately, supporting the success of adjunct faculty supports the success of students, and that’s an outcome that benefits us all.

This is an abridged version of an article published by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Read the full article here.


The latest educational innovation for career prep: micro-internships

Internships can benefit college students in many ways, but not every student has the means or the opportunity to work as an intern for a full summer or semester. Now, a new model has emerged that aims to bridge this gap, giving students who can’t take part in a full internship the chance to reap many of the same advantages through experiences known as “micro-internships.”

Defining micro-internships

In a micro-internship, students complete short-term professional assignments that are similar to those given to new hires or interns. Like a full internship, these projects give students valuable work experience, the chance to explore possible career paths, and opportunities to network and stand out in a competitive job market. However, micro-internships can take place year-round and typically range from five to 40 hours of work, so they fit more easily into students’ busy schedules.

At the University of Chicago, more than 500 students have signed up to take advantage of micro-internships since the university’s Micro-Metcalf Program  launched in October. Students have completed projects ranging from copy writing to lead generation to human-resource strategy for companies such as Microsoft, Comcast, and LinkedIn.

“They’re drawn to the program because micro-internships give students an opportunity to develop professional skills, build connections with employers, and get paid for their work—all in their spare time,” says Meredith Daw, executive director of career advancement for the university.

Related: 3 ways higher ed needs to rebuild to survive

At UChicago, micro-internships and full-time internships are complementary experiences. The Micro-Metcalf Program is a sister program of the university’s flagship Jeff Metcalf Internship Program, which provides more than 2,500 paid, substantive internships for students each year.

Starting a micro-internship program on your campus

UChicago partnered with a company called Parker Dewey to provide micro-internship experiences for its students. Parker Dewey’s platform matches students with high-quality micro-internship experiences from dozens of firms around the country.

“There are typically around 100 micro-internships available (on the platform) at any time,” says Jeffrey Moss, founder and CEO of Parker Dewey. Parker Dewey’s platform is open to students or recent graduates from any college or university. The company has relationships with about 100 higher-education institutions nationwide.

There are no costs or obligations for colleges to participate. “The only thing we ask is that the schools are not allowed to require their students to take part, as we want to ensure there is real interest to work on a micro-internship,” Moss says. The company has developed a University Toolkit that includes best practices to help institutions get the most out of micro-internships for their students.


Using technology to fast-track student success at Temple University

Long after diplomas are in hand and graduation caps tossed in the air, student loan payments remain for many college grads. According to the Department of Education, students are leaving college faced with significant amounts of student debt. The national average owed for a bachelor’s degree stands at $30,500.

For those with student loans, receiving an undergraduate degree in four years—versus five or six—brings big advantages. Eliminating extra semesters means eliminating additional tuition, translating to lower overall student debt. Plus, graduating sooner allows individuals to enter the workforce sooner, getting a jump start on a career path and hopefully the ability to start paying down debt.

While graduating from a four-year college in four years seems like a straightforward achievement, only 41 percent of students are able to do it, according to The New York Times.

Temple University in Philadelphia is on a mission to change that.

Improving graduation rates

Four years ago, Temple developed the Fly in 4 program to help keep students on track to on-time graduation with the support of academic advisors. Aimed at helping improve students’ financial well-being and improving academic performance, 94 percent of Temple University’s class of 2022 are currently committed to the program.

And the program’s first graduates are proof that it works. Graduation rates are steadily rising at Temple with on-time rates up 11 percent since the program launched. Plus, nearly 300 students have graduated ahead of the Fly in 4 goal, receiving a diploma in just three or three-and-a-half years. That includes 123 early graduates in 2017, and an additional 175 early graduates in 2018—a substantial increase in just one year.

Related: Looking to boost graduation rates?

An on-time graduation is a two-way street

The Fly in 4 program begins with a commitment from students and builds in required student checkpoints throughout the year. Meeting with academic advisors to review requirements and progress is critical to the program’s success, with individuals required to register early for priority classes and to complete at least 30 credits per year. Under Fly in 4, if a student fulfills all of the responsibilities of the plan but still cannot graduate on time, Temple will pay for any remaining classes.

Temple must keep its Fly in 4 promises, too. The university provides a four-year plan designed for individual students—backed by quality academic advising—creates progress reports, and ensures alternatives if a required course is not available.

Technology and student success go hand-in-hand

Technology plays a huge role in helping both groups meet their milestones. Temple relies on a comprehensive technology system, Ellucian Banner, which was designed to enable higher-ed institutions to grant access to the right information, to the right people, at the right time. The platform gives Temple’s academic advisors and students the visibility they need to stay on track and meet required Fly in 4 milestones, with instant insight into class-registration status, wait lists, transcripts, and financial-aid data.

For example, advisors can use Banner to see checkpoints achieved, providing more personalized advice and direction for current and future semesters. Plus, Fly in 4 advisors can send a quick message to congratulate students on meeting an important checkpoint, remind them to book their required advisory check-in, or suggest registering for summer classes to earn credits needed to advance in class standing.
The academic and retention benefits have been significant. Temple has found that first-year students who sign the Fly in 4 agreement and meet all of their checkpoints earn higher GPAs, complete more credits, and are more likely to return for their sophomore year.

A future filled with on-time graduates

We’ve found that when students are able to tap into resources and support, regularly engage with advisors, and leverage up-to-date Fly to 4 milestone data, they are more academically motivated and stay on track to graduate in four years or less. Temple’s innovative approach to fast-track students’ futures is rapidly gaining momentum and the university expects on-time graduation rates to continue to climb.

It’s an approach that’s easily replicable and scalable at other universities across the country. Students today want to know that their choice of school will give them the tools they need to achieve lifelong success without saddling them with lasting debt.

Related: Here’s how Wayne State nearly doubled its graduation rate in six years

Institutions that can fulfill this mission gain a real recruiting edge while helping students start their careers on firmer footing. The impact is not only felt in the years spent at the institution, but in the decades that follow.


Ohio State University has figured out how to teach hard and soft skills

More than ever before, colleges are figuring out how to help students enter the workforce with the most up-to-date hard and soft skills possible.

For Ohio State University (OSU), that meant launching the Digital Flagship Initiative last fall to teach technology and coding skills. Understand that this isn’t a device initiative—it’s a student success initiative to blend learning technology throughout the university experience and increase student engagement and learning transformation.

The program takes a three-pronged approach:

  1. Student technology consisting of an immersive and engaging collection of shared tools, platforms, and learning experiences
  2. Coding curriculum in the form of university-wide opportunities for students to learn coding and enhance career-readiness in an app-based economy
  3. iOS Design Lab to help students, faculty, and staff explore app development from ideation to prototype to market

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

As part of the program, 11,000 first-year students at OSU’s Columbus and regional campuses were given an iPad.

Embedding technology to advance learning

“We know our students are using technology, and all of us are expected to use technology in whatever career track we pursue,” says Liv Gjestvang, OSU’s associate vice president of learning technology in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning. “We’re thinking about how we integrate those devices in meaningful ways to advance learning … [and] about how we create equitable educational opportunities for students. A common device helps, but it also opens doors for faculty on the pedagogical side.”

OSU focuses on common technology tools, a coding curriculum, and app development to give students a well-rounded chance to improve academic and professional success.

“We have a really strong commitment to thinking about how we integrate devices and build a program that does make students’ lives better, not just in the classroom, but in more broad and meaningful ways,” says Gjestvang.

The difference between using a device and learning with a device

Students are often characterized as tech-savvy, but this doesn’t mean they know how to use technology for career advancement or skill building. Digital Flagship recognizes this and builds in ways for students to strengthen technology literacy.

“With this generation of students, there seems to be a mindset that they just know how to use technology really well,” says Cory Tressler, director of Learning Programs & Digital Flagship in the Office of Distance Education and eLearning. “They know how to use aspects of technology really well, but in academic and professional settings, we’re seeing that they aren’t super strong users of technology for collaboration, information literacy, financial literacy, and organization.”