Ensuring accessible content for all students

This summer, many faculty will work on developing or revising curricular content for their courses. One of the keys in developing new digital materials is verifying that those materials offer accessible content for all students.

Today, most learning management systems (LMS) and software programs offer some level of accessibility compliance checking. However, they are not always thorough or error-free.

Related: 4 myths about accessibility and online learning

For instance, some PowerPoint templates show less-than-ideal contrast between text and background colors. Many YouTube videos include closed captioning, but the automatic captioning often leaves something to be desired. Taking the time to review accessibility of materials makes sense to ensure all students can experience success instead of frustration.


Learn how this university adopted a successful data-driven strategy for inclusive learning

Trying to effect change and scale the impact of a new technology on Grand Valley State University’s campus of nearly 25,000 students and 1,800 faculty demands a strategic, creative approach.

When it comes to accessibility of course content in Blackboard, detailed information about existing issues and progress can be hidden from view, often leading to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

Without accessibility information, designing and implementing effective strategies can be even more challenging. With Ally’s accessibility insights and usage reporting, GVSU can more effectively leverage data to both inform outreach efforts and to demonstrate impact to drive further adoption, creating a feedback loop that is both sustainable and scalable.

Learn more from this informative white paper. Read now.


Moving from predictive to prescriptive AI

More and more universities are adopting predictive analytics and forecast modeling to improve their recruiting and retention efforts. But what’s the best way to use those analytics and how can you tell if your implementation is off to a good start?

eCN spoke with Jennifer Beyer, Vice President of CRM Product Management at Campus Management and former director of enrollment management at the University of South Florida Lakeland (USF), about how higher ed uses artificial intelligence (AI) in recruiting today and where it’s headed.

Related: How AI will shape the university of the future

eCN: It seems like AI is suddenly everywhere in higher ed. Is that your take as well?

Beyer: When I left USF in 2013, AI use was not widespread, but over the last two year there have been a lot of these ‘how to use AI to solve problems’ stories. We are now seeing very real examples of how AI is starting to make an impact and become accessible to more institutions.


New digital tool targets mental health support on campus

A national survey across hundreds of college campuses does much to paint a picture of student mental health and mental health support on campus. Now, the researchers behind the Healthy Minds Network want to immediately put resources into the hands of students who take that survey.

With technical expertise from the University of Michigan (U-M) Office of Academic Innovation, the researchers have developed a digital tool called Sage, which provides education and support to students. It boosts mental health support on campus by allowing those who take the Healthy Minds Survey to receive tailored resources based on individual needs and preferences indicated through their responses.

To date, some 300,000 students nationwide have taken the mental health survey. A trial of the tool was offered to U-M students.

Related: Student wellbeing is transformative

Daniel Eisenberg of the U-M School of Public Health and the Institute of Social Research, and Sarah Ketchen Lipson, formerly of the U-M School of Public Health and now at the Boston University School of Public Health, say they want students to be aware of the support available for their daily lives, rather than only seek services when they are in a tough situation or crisis.


What to know about higher-ed data breaches and vulnerable web apps

The recent Georgia Tech breach where 1.3 million students, student applicants, and current and former faculty and staff may have been compromised is believed to be one of the biggest higher-ed data breaches suffered by a university in the U.S.

The vulnerability found in Georgia Tech’s web application speaks to the risks of higher-ed data breaches–risks academic institutions and businesses face daily. Unsecured web applications provide easy access for hackers to gain entry into any business to conduct a variety of crimes.

Related: Don’t be complacent about data security

The three-month exposure window gave the intruder ample time to access critical details to leverage and sell on the Dark Web. This is a warning sign that nobody is impermeable and a sobering reminder to proactively strengthen application security.


Online education trends: Empower students and help them prepare for the future

Here are the most popular articles on online educations trends within the past month.

1. I taught online courses and formed stronger relationships with my students
Teaching an online course is the best way to understand how college students communicate and relate to one another

2. 3 challenges & solutions around online learning
E-learning may be the greatest revolution in today’s education

3. 7 new online education trends
Learning is changing, and these online education trends are shedding light on a whole new crop of students


Ensuring success for community college students

For generations, community colleges have been the unsung heroes of the higher education system, the engines of social and economic mobility in our country. This broad network of colleges, which attracts more than 40 percent of first-time college-goers, provides open access to college for low-income students, rural students, first-generation students, parenting students, working students, and returning veterans. These community college students seek an affordable on-ramp to education that enables them to still fulfill the other critical responsibilities of their lives. And this on-ramp has a very clear ROI: earnings can increase 30 percent over a lifetime for associate degree holders, compared to those with a high school degree.

Yet, the promise of a degree remains unrealized for too many. Graduation rates at community colleges are chronically low–just 31 percent nationally. This matters both in terms of doing right by these deserving community college students and in terms of having the educated, nimble workforce and electorate we need for our economy and democracy to thrive. Community college students face an array of challenges: many are working at least part-time, caring for children and other family members, and living on the edge of financial crisis.

Related: 9 ways community colleges have embraced innovation

New research shows that we can change the odds. Findings from the University of Chicago Poverty Lab show the dramatic impact of the One Million Degrees (OMD) system of support with Chicago-area community college students. OMD provides an integrated, holistic set of services including success coaching, mentoring, tutoring, professional development, and financial assistance.


Startup raises $6M to help colleges re-enroll ‘stop-outs’

ReUp Education, a company solely focused on helping colleges to re-enroll students who have “stopped out” of higher education, today announced the closing of a $6 million Series A funding round. TDM Partners and Hereditas Capital Management led the funding round, joining existing social impact investors Serious Change, Strada Education Network, Impact Engine, Michelson Runway, and Bisk Ventures.

Although college graduates earn, on average, nearly 50 percent more than individuals without a degree, over 37 million Americans have left college without a credential in the last two decades. In fact, half of U.S. students who entered college since 1981 never graduated. Colleges, in turn, lose an estimated $16.5 billion in tuition revenue as a result of attrition annually.

“At a time when one in five first-year students don’t return for a second year, supporting students who have stopped-out to help them re-enroll is absolutely critical to fulfilling higher education’s promise of not just access—but completion,” said Sarah Horn, CEO of ReUp Education. “This investment represents both powerful validation of our social impact mission and broader recognition of the imperative of helping adults find a pathway back to college.”

To address this crisis, ReUp has developed a three-pronged solution that utilizes a blend of data, technology, and coaching to support stopout students in returning to school and achieving their goals at scale. Building on more than 10 million data points collected over two years, their Engagement Engine and predictive analytics enable teams of professional Success Coaches to prioritize which students to reach out to and when. The technology platform closely monitors coaching quality leveraging natural language processing and machine learning to evaluate interactions with students.

Throughout the student journey, success coaches utilize ReUp’s proprietary coaching model to address barriers that students frequently encounter and engage with students around their motivations to return and succeed. Forty percent of ReUp success coaches are people of color, fifty-five percent are first-generation college graduates, and forty-five percent are former stop-outs.

“Re-enrolling former students and adults with some credit, no degree represents perhaps one of the most important challenges, and opportunities, that higher education faces as we retool to changing student demographics and new financial headwinds,” said Jim Grotrian, executive vice president of operations at Bellevue University. “As one of ReUp’s first partners, we’re grateful for the powerful technology, collaboration and focus on outcomes that their team has brought to the table. It’s helping us to fulfill our mission and reach and re-engage more students within our region.”

Since 2015, the company has helped bring back over 8,000 students with the benefit of insights generated from a network of more than thirty partner colleges and universities and more than 400 re-enrolled students have graduated to date.

“This is about solving a pressing problem for individuals, and institutions, alike,” said Anne Kubek, Chief Operating Officer of ReUp Education. “We’re helping students to leverage prior investments in education to put them on a path to higher wages. We’ve also helped colleges generate more than $25.8 million in new revenue. In the end, it should be a virtuous circle for students, institutions and society.”

About ReUp Education: ReUp helps colleges and universities find and re-engage students who have stopped out. We tap the potential of predictive analytics, technology that scales and hands-on coaching to help adult learners return and navigate a path to completion. Over the last two+ years, we have helped a growing network of more than thirty institutions to re-enroll over 8,000 students.



5 things to say to students suffering from anxiety

Understanding anxiety is something that educators, parents, doctors, therapists, students, sufferers, and non-sufferers are still working on. Just like anything else we attempt to understand, we will never get there if we don’t, first, ask questions.

I have explored five things I’ve heard and/or experienced being said to students suffering from anxiety that miss the mark in being supportive. Although parents, guardians, counselors, classmates, staff, and friends have great intentions, their comments are rarely productive. The statements they make are often judgmental and ignorant. The negative impact of saying the wrong thing to a student with anxiety might seem minimal—it’s supposed to be the thought that counts—but the long-term effects can be severe.

I challenged educators to consider the same comments being said to someone with diabetes. The statements in that context reeked of absurdity. The challenge becomes for people to view a mental illness from the same lens as that of a physical illness. Diabetes is easy to understand; if you don’t have insulin, you will not survive. No one diagnosed with diabetes is going to deny themselves the opportunity to be treated. Why, then, are individuals with mental illnesses expected to will themselves to happiness, i.e., healthy levels of neurotransmitters?

Understanding anxiety

Students with anxiety don’t understand the physiology of their own brains, and therapists tend to work to reduce symptoms instead of explaining the underlying causes. When students become symptomatic, they become fearful, panicky. What’s happening to me? Why do I feel this way? Not knowing the answers to these questions in the moment is a feeling of powerlessness unlike any other. And if those with anxiety don’t understand it, how can we expect those who don’t suffer to comprehend it?


Digital credentials need more transparency

A partnership between two groups aims to advance new interoperability and transparency standards for digital credentials and institutional data systems.

As part of the agreement, IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS Global) and Credential Engine will build interoperability between IMS Global’s widely-adopted standards and Credential Engine’s Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL), which is a common language that enables credential issuers to publish data and information on the content and value of digital credentials to the public Credential Registry and the open web.

Already, a combined 12 states and regions, nearly 400 credential providers, and several federal agencies have joined this cloud-based library that makes information such as competencies, cost, quality assurance, earnings, and connections to occupations, and pathway information searchable to the public.

“To address emerging skills gaps in the new world of work, employers and learners alike need agreed-upon digital representations of competencies, achievements, and credentials,” says Dr. Rob Abel, chief executive officer of IMS Global.