Does Gen Z value a degree over a digital connection?

Internet, or education? If you ask Gen Z, the internet wins: an astonishing 64 percent of Gen Z would rather have unlimited internet access and no college degree than a college degree and no internet access, according to a new study.

According to Reality Bytes: The Digital Experience is the Human Experience, it seems the internet and being connected are absolutely necessary for Gen Z-ers. The study, conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics and commissioned by WP Engine, is a follow-up to a 2017 study.

“Gen Z is the first generation to view the digital and physical worlds as one,” the study’s authors note. “For Gen Z, being digitally connected is an essential part of life.”

This is the first generation to view the people who manage or build the internet as more important than political leaders around the world, with 54 percent of Gen Z reporting that belief.

An internet-dependent generation

Gen Z remains the most internet-dependent generation–55 percent of Gen Z can’t comfortably go more than four hours without the internet, while 22 percent of Baby Boomers can go a week or more. Twenty-seven percent of Gen Z can’t go without the internet for more than an hour without becoming uncomfortable.

This near-dependence on the internet may be due to the fact that Gen Z strongly associates the internet with social media (85 percent) and entertainment or content websites (81 percent)–the internet is an extension of their lives, and this generation doesn’t distinguish between “online” and “offline” in the way other generations do. In fact, many educators are trying strategies such as using social media to engage Gen Z in class, while others are turning to experts for advice on the best ways educators can reach Gen Z.


Here’s how to future-proof your college campus

Higher ed is in the middle of a critical–yet often invisible–technological transformation.

Technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence are hyped daily for their future impact, but higher-ed leaders must first prepare their campuses for these technological revolutions.

According to a report from the Center for Digital Education (CDE), college and university leaders are focusing on transforming academics, securing students and data, improving student services, and modernizing IT. These for core areas, they believe, will establish a solid foundation to support future innovation on campus.

Within those four core areas, higher-ed leaders are focusing on 10 top priorities that will help them lay the groundwork for future transformation:
1. In-classroom technologies
2. Digital content and curriculum
3. Cybersecurity
4. Online services/portal/mobile
5. Faculty/IT training
6. Budget/cost control
7. IT infrastructure
8. Campus security
9. Personalized online learning environments
10. Recruitment and retention of IT personnel

CDE surveyed 169 academic and IT leaders from two- and four-year institutions to learn how these leaders are focusing their efforts to bring their campuses into the future.

How to future-proof your campus

Transforming academics

Seventy percent of respondents in the CDE survey say improving student learning outcomes is their top challenge, and faculty know significant changes are needed to meet that challenge. New classroom technologies changing in order to better integrate with learning environments and help educators better understand how students learn. Focus is on not just in-person and blended classroom experiences, but also on improving online learning experiences. Digital content and curriculum–and the professional development necessary to help educators use them–have their place in evolving classrooms, too. Participants in the CDE survey say just 50 percent of faculty members can effectively incorporate technology into teaching.

Up next: Personalized learning environments and more individualized learning experiences will be made possible with new technologies, including virtual reality and the Internet of Things. Digital content and curriculum, classroom technology, and faculty training are all necessary to cultivate a personalized learning environment.

Related: Beyond disruption: The future of higher education


Can block scheduling increase student retention and completion?

 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Community College Daily.]


The block model for academic scheduling is an age-old idea that has recently found international appeal.

Notably, only a handful of mostly private, small liberal arts colleges and universities in the U.S. currently use the block model, including Cornell College (Iowa), Colorado College, Tusculum University (Tennessee) and University of Montana Western. But a recent Australian version may provide new inspiration and spur more out-of-the-box innovation here in America as U.S. higher education institutions—including community colleges—evolve and continue to seek promising practices that can increase student retention, success and completion.

Under a traditional class schedule, students study four subjects at the same time over the course of a 16-week semester. The block model differs in that students study only one subject at a time. Each subject (a block) is taught more intensely over a shorter, four-week period.

In Australia, Victoria University (Vic Uni), a public institution in Melbourne, recently adopted a version of the block model after a change in policy toward more open-access admissions resulted in a dramatic decrease in their student retention, success and completion rates. Their student data indicated that the new admissions policy attracted more first-generation students from lower socio-economic levels, who tended to be older, had full-time jobs and/or significant family obligations—which mirrors the students body of most U.S. community colleges.

Block scheduling can improve school-life balance

In their search for possible solutions, university officials believed that the block model would successfully allow students to juggle their academics with their other, out-of-class life obligations and to reduce their exposure to student debt. Vic Uni officials ultimately implemented a new version of the block model that incorporated other promising practices and is more closely tailored to their institution and student demographics.

Related: 5 ways innovation is inspiring higher ed

Under the Vic Uni block model, classes are held only three days per week and on no more than two consecutive days, which helps students to successfully manage their competing life obligations. Labs and other related activities are also held on the same days. Students have only one teacher per subject/block.

To encourage persistence and timely completion, students who do not do well don’t have to wait an entire year to retake prerequisite courses. They can take the same block again later in the same academic year or often within the same semester.


Visionary universities teach life purpose: Does yours?

A sense of purpose is an important and teachable attribute. Studies find that pursuing one’s purpose is associated with psychological well-being. Individuals with a sense of purpose report they are happier, more satisfied with their lives, and more hopeful about the future. Knowing your purpose is also associated with improved physical health, including lower stress hormone levels, improved cardiovascular and metabolic markers, reduced pain, a regression in some cancers, and longevity.

Institutions of higher learning are beginning to see that their responsibilities include creating a framework for students to understand themselves and their pathways to success. In Student Success in Higher Education: Developing the Whole Person through High-Impact Practices, we describe college and university programs, courses, and workshops that teach students a framework for future success and emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. The “north star” of all of these frameworks is life purpose.

Colleges that teach students life purpose

At Bates College in Maine, students participate in Purposeful Work, a program to connect their higher purpose to their professions.

The University of Minnesota offers a course on “taking charge of your health and well-being” by discovering your life purpose. The University explains that living on purpose feels alive, clear, and authentic, and those who are purposeful may experience “flow,” a state of total absorption in which time seems to disappear and a person can feel content and fulfilled.

Related: Student wellbeing is more important than you think

Harvard University in Massachusetts offers life-purpose workshops through its freshman seminar, in which advisors and faculty facilitate reflection to make meaning from experience.

The opportunity to be self-reflective enables a student to think about life and one’s place in it. To make meaning requires taking classroom concepts or advice from professional advisors and relating these to one’s self, such as, “How does this content relate to me and inform my dreams for my life?”

Shaping a campus-wide academic mission

The University of Michigan uses integrated learning to impart an understanding of life purpose across the entire institution. The University has found that by placing the student at the center of their curricula and co-curricular learning, they are better able to establish self-authorship, navigate conflict, create their own learning, and identify and understand multiple perspectives. They are interested in measuring whether students understand and can direct themselves as learners to recognize personal strengths and challenges and identify passions, interests, and sources of individual influences. They want students to be able to identify personal values, beliefs, and purpose and to understand how these inform creating learning and professional goals.

Cornell University in New York has elevated student health and well-being to the mission level, and measures life purpose as an essential outcome. Cornell’s strategic plan states that it is a priority and responsibility to teach coping and life skills to students as a part of its academic mission, and “nurturing student health and well-being” is a priority. The University addresses competencies in motivation, commitment, meaning-making, and having a sense of a larger purpose.


Higher-ed leaders: Here’s how Generation Z learns best

Does your faculty embrace video?

Members of Generation Z say they vastly prefer video as a learning method, according to Beyond Millennials: The Next Generation of Learners, a recent study from Pearson and The Harris Poll. The study notes that Generation Z, or students ages 14-23, have had their educational expectations shaped by technology in more ways than the 24- to 40-year-old millennials.

Generation Z ranked YouTube second only to teachers as a learning tool. In fact, they rank YouTube well ahead of lectures, in-person collaboration with classmates, learning applications, and books.

Generation Z’s other higher-ed expectations

As much as Generation Z has embraced technology for social engagement, they very much still value an on-campus education experience. Compared with 45 percent of millennials, who seek out as many online courses as possible, only 26 percent of Gen Z say they would prefer taking as many online courses as possible.

Related: Expert advice on how to reach Generation Z

Generation Z and millennials both rank teachers and professors as the top influencers for their personal development (78 percent and 80 percent respectively)–higher than parents and their peers.

Despite growing questions around the value of college and return on investment in tuition, just 25 percent of Generation Z students say they believe they can have a rewarding career without going to college, compared to 40 percent of millennials.

Eighty percent of Generation Z respondents and 74 percent of millennials agree that college either has a fair amount of value, is a good value, or is an excellent value. Only 20 percent of Generation Z students and 26 percent of millennials said college has “little value” or “no value at all.”

By a margin of more than 20 percent, Generation Z respondents are more likely to say they want to make it to the top of their future profession one day versus millennials. The group is also very altruistic, and 60 percent of Generation Z respondents agreed that they want to help people less fortunate, compared to 48 percent of millennials.

Related: How to use social media to engage Gen Z in class and beyond

Last but not least, Gen Z values diversity. More than 6 in 10 Generation Z respondents agree that having diverse friends makes them a better person, while slightly more than half of millennials agree with that statement.


5 top-ranked AI programs in higher ed

Artificial intelligence has morphed from a sci-fi movie hypothetical to a field with real potential and impact in different industries, prompting many research institutions to offer AI concentrations–or even full degrees.

AI studies offers what many experts say is a secure future in career paths from video game design and software engineering to robotics programming and military specializations.

In fact, it is now so widespread that several groups rank AI degree programs and paths of study. In addition to its general university ranking, U.S. News also ranks schools by specific programs, including top AI programs. The ranking methodology notes that the field is evolving and will require broad training, and courses will span engineering, computer science, and other related areas.

According to U.S. News, AI program ranking, the following schools are top of the list:

1. Carnegie Mellon University: The university claims it is the first in the U.S. to begin offering an undergraduate degree in AI. Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science, says “specialists in artificial intelligence have never been more important, in shorter supply or in greater demand by employers.” The bachelor’s degree in AI will focus more on how complex inputs, such as vision, language and huge databases, are used to make decisions or enhance human capabilities.


How can higher ed address the soft skills gap?

The soft skills gap is troubling, and while a study shows that the majority of corporate and academic respondents feel their new recruits and students are prepared with hard skills, more than 40 percent of corporations and almost 50 percent of academic institutions said new hires lack the soft skills to perform at a high level in a professional environment.

What’s more, the lack of collaboration and alignment between academia and business, along with planning and budget limitations, sideline efforts to prepare students for the skills they will need to be successful in the professional world.

Building Tomorrow’s Talent: Collaboration Can Close Emerging Skills Gap,” from Workday and Bloomberg Next, also points to barriers that keep new graduates from being prepared for current and future workplaces. The study highlights how skills needs have changed in the face of new technologies and the evolving nature of work.

The top soft skills that companies and academics say are needed are team work, analytical reasoning, complex problem-solving, and agility and adaptability.

Related: These 10 hard and soft skills will be key in 2019

Only 35 percent of corporations feel new recruits and students are well prepared with both hard and soft skills to perform at a high level in a professional environment.

Just 30 percent of corporations and 39 percent of educators say they are collaborating to address the skills gap and help reskill and retrain employees.

Leaders in academia and business know workplace skills requirements are changing. Though more can be done to invest in curriculum and reskilling programs to ensure the preparedness of tomorrow’s talent, the survey shows that only half of businesses have formal plans in place to address the impact of emerging technologies.

In addition, approximately only four in 10 corporate respondents plan to invest in reskilling current employees. Eighty-five percent of companies say their top way to reskill employees is to provide internal, in-person training, while 62 percent use self-service or online training. In addition, more than half plan to evolve job responsibilities to reflect future needs and improve their recruitment of diverse talent to address the impact new technology has on their workplace.

Related: How to develop soft skills in the digital age

Despite 41 percent of businesses planning to invest in reskilling, approximately half of corporate respondents anticipate facing budget constraints in order to do so. Academia faces the biggest investment crisis of all, with 84 percent of academic respondents saying budget resource constraints will be their biggest anticipated challenge in deploying plans to better prepare students for the future workforce.

More than 50 percent of corporate respondents plan to evolve job responsibilities to reflect future needs and improve their recruitment of diverse talent to address the impact new technology has on their workforce.


The answer to better campus wi-fi: Artificial intelligence

Once a futuristic concept, artificial intelligence (AI) is starting to make its mark in the world, whether it’s helping diagnose diseases, automate manufacturing, personalize retail interactions, or assist a smartphone user in navigating city traffic.

At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, we’re harnessing AI for what has become a very important priority for us and all universities: providing better campus wi-fi.

The ubiquitousness of campus wi-fi

It’s a fact of life for higher-ed institutions today that outstanding digital service has become a crucial vector for the overall quality of life on campus, intertwined with the learning experience and student satisfaction.

Ninety percent of Dartmouth’s 4,500 undergrads live on the Hanover campus. This is their home, wi-fi is by far their primary internet access method, and they expect it to work seamlessly—in the classroom, the dorm, wherever they may be—whether it’s to email a paper due the next day or stream Stranger Things on Netflix.

Our faculty also expects the wireless to perform at the level they are accustomed to from a wired network as they increasingly adopt online techniques in the lecture hall, from online exams to visual content accessed via Apple TV to even smart speakers and digital voice assistants like Amazon Alexa.

Furthermore, Dartmouth envisions a highly automated campus of the future where AI combined with the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) capabilities in smartphones can interact with wireless beacons to, say, give turn-by-turn directions inside campus buildings, issue notifications about a special promotion at the bookstore, or guide museum tours. Such applications will only keep raising the stakes for wireless network quality.

Improving the campus wi-fi experience

However, Dartmouth, like so many other universities, was saddled with an aging wireless infrastructure that practically guaranteed a lousy wi-fi experience.

Related: 9 critical steps to wi-fi innovation

The typical network on college campuses across America is based on an architecture designed more than a decade ago, before the advent of ubiquitous wireless devices, social media, and streaming services that have drastically increased what users ask of and expect from WLANs.

In an era when the promise of technology is so often defined by the word “smart,” these obsolete networks are dumb. They’re unable to provide visibility into the service levels that users are experiencing and they force administrators into the slow, painful task of manually sifting through a plethora of computer-generated logs scattered across the IT stack to determine where and why a problem occurred before they can fix it.

A variety of vendor tools has become available through the years to try to attack the problem, but they tend to be hard to use, require a great deal of special knowledge (way beyond the skills of a typical Help Desk staffer), and, in the end, still take too much time and effort to pinpoint the root cause of wireless issues. As a network engineer, I want us to be able to know instantly that it took eight seconds for the user to connect because the DHCP server had a problem, without jumping through four intermediate systems and a central log collector to try to figure it all out.


How well do you understand your online students?

Online students say tuition and fees are among their top three deciding factors when it comes to choosing an institution, according to a Learning House survey of 1,500 students who are considering, enrolled in, or have graduated from an online learning program.

The report reveals a number of key trends as online learning evolves and becomes widely-used for career outcomes. Seventy-four percent of surveyed students enrolled in their online learning program due to career reasons.

9 facts you might not have known about online students

1. Mobile-friendly programs are important to surveyed students–87 percent say they use mobile devices to search for their online program of study, and 67 percent use mobile devices to complete online coursework.

2. Career services are also a priority for online students–because 75 percent pursue a degree for career-focused reasons, career services are a critical part of their post-graduation success. Surveyed online students say services such as working with a career adviser (50 percent), receiving resume help (48 percent), and having job search assistance (40 percent) would be useful.

3. Eighty-six percent of surveyed students say they believe the value of their degrees equals or exceeds what they paid for them. Among students who have experienced both face-to-face and virtual classrooms, 85 percent say online learning is as good or better than attending courses on campus.


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

So many faculty have approached me lately and said that they have been asked to teach an online or hybrid class. I love teaching—online, hybrid, in person—and I find that actually I use many of the same tools for each. Here is my list of go-to edtech tools, which are especially useful in the online/hybrid environment.

Remember: It’s all about engagement. If you just dump a ton of information into your course management site and don’t have a way for your students to interact with you, you’re wasting your hard work and their time. Our students will engage online if they feel that there is a real live person responding to them—whether that’s you or another student in the class. No matter who, it’s the connection that counts.

The best edtech tools for online courses

1. Screencast-O-Matic

It’s free, it’s easy, and you should use it all the time. There are other easy video sites but to me this is the one that gets the job done. I use it from day one. I do a short video (and I mean seriously short because I hate being on video) introducing myself as a professor and a person. They love it and their first assignment is to do the same.

I also use Screencast-O-Matic to describe my syllabus. This is essential, especially in an online environment. I don’t care how clear your writing is; they need to hear you explain your expectations.

2. Flipgrid 

I love this tool. It’s an app and a site. You’ll never wonder again if they have done the homework—just ask them and have them demonstrate their newfound knowledge. Flipgrid allows you to post questions—either written or via video—and students have to respond. You set the amount of time for their video response. I think this is key because giving your students two minutes to answer a question means they can’t ramble and they have to read the material and prepare an answer.

After you view their video, you can give written or video feedback using a rubric. Flipgrid has a simple one but you can use your own. But the coolest thing of all is that you can make students’ responses available for other students to see and comment on and learn from.