Enhancing the student experience through hands-on, tech-based learning

In a time where enterprises across all industries, from retail to finance, are evaluating their business processes and offerings to meet the technology advancements occurring every day, higher education is tasked with keeping up. Since the first Intranet was created for students at University of Illinois in 1960, and Electronic University Network offered its first online course in 1986, universities all across the country, and world, have worked to meet the growing demand of the online world and meet the student experience.

Gen Z-ers and beyond have grown up with technology, and many students today expect their education to be delivered in a similarly technical manner. Both students and professors are increasingly taking a modern approach to learning with hands-on experiences and access to the latest technologies, using interactive whiteboards in classrooms and educational games on tablets.

According to the NCES, 74 percent of Pre-K to grade 12 teachers say technology enables them to reinforce and expand on content and 65 percent say technology allows them to demonstrate something they cannot show any other way.


Non-degree credentials have a pivotal role in our economy

Adults who do not hold college degrees, but who have earned non-degree credentials, report greater income and happiness with their educational paths compared to adults without credentials, according to a new report.

The report comes from the Strada Education Network and Lumina Foundation. Certified Value: When do Adults without Degrees Benefit from Earning Certificates and Certifications? intends to fill the still-empty space around what is known about the value and impact non-degree credentials, such as certificates or certifications, have for those who earn them.

Specifically, adults without a degree who hold a certificate or certification:

  • Have higher full-time employment rates compared to peers without non-degree credentials (85 percent vs. 78 percent)
  • Have self-reported median annual incomes of $45,000 compared to $30,000 for those without non-degree credentials
  • View their education paths are more valuable and are more likely to recommend them to others than are those without non-degree credentials

Related: Why are alternative digital credentials necessary?


Why simulations (not VR) are the next big thing in education

We’ve been hearing a lot recently about virtual reality (VR) as one of the hot new trends in education. VR will revolutionize learning, we’re told, because of its immersive qualities and its ability to transport students to previously inaccessible places, like inside a cell or to a penguin colony in Antarctica.

While I agree with the potential of VR to open up exciting new possibilities in education, in reality (no pun intended), I believe we’re 5-10 years away from 3D VR going mainstream in classrooms in K12 or higher ed. This is because 3D VR requires a headset that, while less expensive than they used to be, requires extra spend and maintenance that most schools aren’t equipped to take on. It’s taken the better part of two decades for schools to provide laptops to students, and many schools still are not one-to-one. Schools don’t adopt new technology quickly and VR is unlikely to be an exception.

(There’s another little problem with VR which is that some people experience vertigo and nausea when wearing a VR headset. Imagine if VR becomes a standard learning tech and some percentage of students vomit while watching the construction of the Sphinx…)


The TeCK Fund: Inter-university collaboration fuels faculty entrepreneurs

Universities are constantly challenged to do more with less and to be “more entrepreneurial” about providing administrative services, while being asked to offer much more than just a classroom education to our students. Increasingly, universities support entrepreneurship and innovation that translates academic knowledge and technologies to the marketplace.

As CSU President Harlan Sands notes, “Our role as an anchor institution requires that we educate a diverse student body, perform cutting-edge research, and drive economic development that enriches both our students and the community.”

The TeCK Fund was born from the idea that the strengths of Cleveland State and Kent State are complementary, and that together we could support a robust technology validation accelerator that could create greater impact, and require fewer resources, than individual accelerators on each campus.


Here’s why understanding adult learners is absolutely critical

Adults are quickly taking over a larger and larger part of the student population at colleges and universities–and understanding adult learners is key to institutional success.

The idea of the “traditional student,” who graduates high school and enrolls in a university, graduating in four years, is transforming. The majority of today’s learners are adult learners–those juggling school with work or family responsibilities, or those seeking new skills or a complete career change.

Many institutions are focusing on adult learner programs to help boost their growth and revenue as enrollment projections decline.

But that’s easier said than done–the adult learner market isn’t as straightforward, leading institutions to work hard to better understand adult learners, their mindsets, and their unique needs.

Related: How to reach adult students online

Major findings about understanding adult learners

A new report from EAB takes a look at how adult learners are changing the higher-ed marketplace. Key to institutional success is understanding adult learners and their needs.

1. Adult learners need a clear return on their education. Students want proof that their educational investment will result in a “substantial, positive impact on their lifestyle.”

2. Adult learners are digital consumers–with high expectations. As advanced consumer analytics and smartphones have evolved, understanding adult learners’ expectations for brand interactions has become even more important. When researching and applying to schools, they expect to be able to use digital tools quickly and easily to find relevant information and complete tasks.

3. Adult learners are extremely pragmatic. Adult learners are savvy navigators of the application process, approaching it with purpose and focus, strategically limiting the number of steps and amount of time involved.

4. Adult learners require flexible options. To ensure that they can balance school with existing personal and professional obligations, many adult learners are interested in flexible options in program format and schedule, such as online, part-time, and hybrid programs.

Related: Are you reaching the “new normal” student?

Future implications

Once understanding adult learners becomes more clear, it’s important for higher-ed leaders to examine the implications adult learners have on their recruitment strategies.

1. Ensure that marketing effectively articulates return on education
2. Use data to better understand prospects and tailor marketing to their intent
3. Reach students early with awareness campaigns and multichannel marketing
4. Craft messaging that conveys school-life balance


Teaching with 3D anatomy tools

How is it possible that someone who has been involved in developing 3D anatomy technologies for 12 years took 7 of those years to find a way to teach with it effectively?

I prided myself on being a great teacher. In every possible sense – a good explainer, an innovator, a student advocate. And I was killing it in the lecture hall and in the lab, teaching in the ways that I learned from my great teaching mentors. So how was it that after 7 years of working with 3D anatomy technologies as a product developer (Cyber-Anatomy/VIVED Learning), I wasn’t really using the technology that much in my teaching?

I think a part of me was afraid of technology failures. I knew that running a huge simulation over the web just fails sometimes. I was also discouraged when I saw students starting to work with the software themselves. They clicked around aimlessly, and turned to ask the exact same question they asked in the cadaver lab – “What am I supposed to see here?” So I held back my trust and kept doing what I’d always been doing – PowerPoint-based lectures and dissection labs.

That is, until I had a problem in my dissection labs that I just couldn’t fix.


4 lessons learned from a successful badging initiative

In Colorado, digital badging is on the rise. The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) has built badging initiatives around technical math, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare and the badges are working. In fact, the system currently offers more than 85 badges.

CCCS developed a badge for an advanced manufacturing software program. A company called the CCCS office and said it had trouble finding people that could operate its software. Students shared their badges and within weeks the company filled the open seats.

In Boulder, students who earned horticulture badges received a raise from the city of Boulder Parks & Recreation department.

Here are some of the lessons they’ve learned.


Using architecture to improve campus safety

Any campus-wide design and planning process requires the engagement of a wide range of departments and stakeholders, which can include facility, administration, IT, student services, student life, security and academic departments. Security specialists may be added to the team if the institution feels their insight will bring value. The designer’s role is to then break down silos between these entities with the goal of collaboratively creating a unified plan for campus safety and security.

Campus circulation patterns are a key element in design for campus safety, both controlling and directing patterns of pedestrian and vehicular circulation. The design and planning team collectively maps these patterns—existing roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, bus stops and other vehicular and transit means, but also how pedestrians may create pathways around buildings and across green spaces and natural areas. In addition, sight lines, ‘blind spots’ and potential opportunities for circulation along unplanned paths must be explored and analyzed with the intent of reducing or preventing these situations.

For example, the former student union building at NC State University was uninviting and monolithic. Rather than walk through the building, which was a safer option, students had been circulating around and behind it, past dumpsters and service areas. Thus, in designing the new Talley Student Union, the old structure was opened from within and lighting and views into the facility now draw students into and through the space.


How USF is breaking down information silos and igniting student success

We believe that every student admitted to the University of South Florida will succeed.  The student success movement at USF is built on that simple, fundamental belief.  We hold ourselves accountable for our performance, so we have responded well to the new accountability rules and expectations of improved student outcomes.

Since the formation of a Student Success Task Force in 2009-2010, student success has been a strategic priority for the entire institution.  We introduced or strengthened a wide range of persistence and completion initiatives, including but not limited to the professionalization of academic advising, course redesigns, and living-learning communities.  We saw impressive gains in our retention and graduation rates, but in 2014, the rate of our improvements began to slow down.  We had hit a performance plateau that lasted nearly three years.

First-year persistence rates stubbornly hovered around 88 percent, and our six-year graduation rates stalled at 68 percent, both marks just below the thresholds (90 percent and 70 percent) required for USF to qualify as a preeminent university according to state of Florida guidelines. To reach the next level of student success and earn additional state dollars for our performance, we needed to ensure that we retained or graduated an additional 80 students.  That’s all it would take to become a preeminent university.


Laser projection makes 4000 lumens the new Higher Ed standard

With the introduction of lamp-free projectors that use Lasers & LEDs as a light source instead of lamps, you can now get projectors that provide the same high brightness and vibrant colors without the need to ever change a lamp.  The new Laser & LED light sources degrade at a much slower rate than lamps and so maintain their brightness for a much longer time.  Most Laser projectors are rated as having a lengthy operation life-time of up to 20,000 hours.  This means that in a typical university environment, your lamp-free projector should last over 12 years, based on an average of seven hours of use a day, and 220 school days a year, that’s without ever having to change a lamp!

What does this mean for you?  It means that a 4000 lumen lamp-free projector is going to stay near 4000 lumens for the majority of its long 20,000 hour life, unlike traditional lamp projectors, where the lamps start to degrade immediately and can lose up to 50% brightness between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of use.  If you do the math, that 5000 lumen lamp projector will be projecting a brightness of only 2500 lumens after a only a couple of years of use while the new laser projectors are keeping your images bright and clear for well over 10 years.  4000 lumens lamp-free projectors can provide the reliable high brightness needed for higher education’s large classrooms and most lecture halls for years and years with minimal maintenance.

And it gets better as there are numerous benefits gained from using Laser light source projection technology.

First and foremost, there are no lamps.  In talks with teachers and professors, almost 80% of the complaints about projectors are about the lamps.  Since lamp replacement is the single largest maintenance cost of traditional lamp projectors with replacement lamps costing hundreds of dollars over the life of the projector, lamp-free projectors will save a lot of money and aggravation because there is no need to ever purchase, stock, or replace a projector lamp ever again.

Some lamp-free projectors are now also filter-free by incorporating dust resistant cabinet designs.  Their dust resistant cabinets have separate blocks, with the primary light source unit blocked off and tightly shielded.   This suppresses dust intrusion and improves dust resistance, ensuring worry-free performance even in dusty environments.  It also helps to maintain brightness during the long life of the projector since dust is not reaching the optical system.  By eliminating dust intrusion there is no need for filters, therefore no need for cleaning, stocking, or replacing filters at your facilities

One of the more overlooked benefits is the reduced power consumption.  Electricity usage could be the biggest area of savings for larger schools that use projectors in every classroom.  Lamp projectors consume a high amount of electricity and generate a lot of heat.  Lamp-free projectors run cool and are much more efficient to operate.  Many lamp-free projectors use up to 30% less electricity right out of the box and can save up to 50% in economy mode.  Also some models have an intelligent light control feature with a built-in light sensor that can detect the ambient light in your room and automatically adjust the projector to the optimum brightness level so you only use full brightness and full power when you need it.

If sustainability and going Green are important to you then these projectors will be a big help with your earth-friendly initiatives.  With the electrical savings we already mentioned there can be a significant reduction in your carbon dioxide footprint and then there is the removal of Mercury.  Many people forget that lamp projectors still use Mercury vapor lamps.  Mercury is a highly toxic element that is hazardous to human health and to the environment.  Although the use of mercury is widely prohibited worldwide today, this hazardous substance continues to be employed as a light source for conventional projector lamps.  By choosing a lamp-free projector you are contributing to a mercury-free environment and eliminating a toxic substance from your facility.

So why are lamp projectors still on the market?  Price.  Sometimes it all comes down to budgets and a lamp projector’s purchase price is still cheaper than a lamp-free projector’s.  But that can be a big budgeting mistake and wind up costing you much more in the long run.  Even though the initial purchase price of a lamp projector is lower, when purchasing projectors you cannot only look at the initial purchase price but need to look at the total cost of ownership.

The total cost of ownership includes all the costs that you will actually pay over the life of your projector. Total cost of ownership not only includes the purchase cost, but also the cost of using your projector, such as energy, repair and maintenance costs. Lamp-free projectors consume less energy; they can typically use up to 30% less electricity when compared to conventional lamp projectors.  Lamp-free projectors have no expensive replacement lamps or filters to replace, and since they require minimal maintenance, they require minimal labor costs to maintain.  When you add up the original purchase price, the cost of replacement lamps, replacement filters, labor costs, and higher energy usage, lamp-free projectors cost much less over their long 20,000 hour life.

For higher education, projectors and screens are still the most affordable technology to use to get the large screens (100” and higher) needed for students to be able to read small text and numbers.  Think about replacing old costly lamp projectors with new 4000 lumen Laser & LED projectors as a great way to provide the high quality large images that the larger classrooms need and reduce maintenance costs at the same time.  So if you are interested in having no more lamps to replace, no more filters to replace, less down time, lower electricity bills, and lower maintenance costs it’s time to switch to lamp-free projectors.