‘Collision of crises’ make change inevitable for higher ed

Change has come swiftly for higher education, and it looks like change is here to stay, acknowledged university presidents from Texas and Georgia in addressing the impacts of the pandemic and growing racial unrest on the higher education landscape.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Network for Change and Continuous Innovation (NCCI), the presidents of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, and Texas A&M University—San Antonio agreed that the ongoing “collision of crises” marks a defining moment for how universities and colleges will conduct business in the future.

Related content: Is full tuition worth it during COVID-19?

The panelists emphasized the need for higher education to determine new ways for “reskilling” workers due to changes in business ecosystem models, the urgency of addressing issues related to the structural inequities of institutional racism, and the opportunity to clearly define, as a whole and at the individual institution level, a compelling value proposition.


What’s on the horizon for higher ed?

The Covid-19 pandemic has permanently changed higher education. While other sectors may rebound to pre-pandemic conditions and some may disappear forever, our nation’s colleges and universities are most certainly going to rebound to something that looks quite different from just one year ago, Forbes reports.

There is upside and downside to this fact. The upside: change was needed and perhaps long overdue. The downside: it’s expensive and not everyone will be successful.


How college recruiters can connect with students during COVID

Technology has changed higher education dramatically since I last sat in a college classroom. Everything from library resources to career services is more streamlined and accessible. Students from around the world can access similar materials and opportunities.

And yet, place still matters. Students choose their colleges for different reasons, ranging from the practical to the romantic, but for many the deciding factor is that ineffable sense of belonging that comes the first time you step onto a campus that truly feels like home. When it happens, students know this is where they want to spend their next four years. And when students find that home away from home, colleges can expect higher retention and graduation rates.

Related content: Here’s why you should be using social media for recruitment

So what happens when students can’t set foot on campuses at all?

This is one of the many challenges facing colleges this fall, as a beloved American tradition – the college road trip – is off the table thanks to Covid-19. How do students and colleges make that match when they can’t connect in person? How are colleges supposed to enchant and recruit students from afar? Does any college website “feel like home?”


How a Modern Data Experience supports higher-ed flexibility

The new school year brings new challenges for colleges and universities. When COVID-19 hit and thousands of education institutions rushed to move classes online, preparations were already underway for potential remote classes in the fall. But now that potential has become a reality. Institutions are navigating new policies and pressures to facilitate distance learning and hybrid learning at scale – all while administrative staff work from home.

In many respects, the costs of these obligations have remained steady or even increased, while available funds have sharply declined. Stagnant state funding, lower applications and enrollment, and pressure to decrease tuition over the past years have placed incredible financial strain on institutions and also led to consolidation or closure. On top of this, one in four higher education institutions had no financial contingency plan when COVID-19 hit, according to EAB.

Related content: Why COVID-19 will spur digital transformation in higher ed

And now – with few students living on campus and paying for housing – a large source of college revenue has dried up. Further, some institutions have been forced to issue refunds when the ability to hold in-person classes rapidly reversed due to outbreaks. According to University President Gayle Hutchinson, California State University, Chico recently cancelled its limited number of in-person classes just one week into the semester due to an outbreak and will provide prorated refunds for room and board.


Too many students couldn’t access online learning in the spring

Over a quarter (27%) of university students were unable to access online learning during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to new research which suggests that disabled students and those from poorer backgrounds were worst affected, The Guardian reports.

The survey, which was carried out in July by the National Union of Students (NUS), found that disruptions to studies arose from a lack of IT equipment and software, insufficient course materials, and poor internet connections.


UBICOMP/ISWC 2020 Highlights New Visions for Anywhere & Everywhere Computing

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, will hold the annual ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2020) co-located with the ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC 2020) virtually from September 12-17. UbiComp/ISWC is the premier interdisciplinary venue for leading international researchers, designers, developers, and practitioners in the field to present and discuss novel results in all aspects of ubiquitous, pervasive and wearable computing. This includes the design, development, and deployment of ubiquitous and pervasive computing technologies and the understanding of human experiences and social impacts that these technologies facilitate.

The UbiComp/ISWC 2020 organizers have put together a broad multidisciplinary program, with research papers including  articles published by the Proceedings of ACM on Interactive, Mobile and Wearable Technologies (IMWUT), briefs and notes submitted to the International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC), and a range of other contributions to the field. This year’s program includes six keynote talks, 140 IMWUT and ISWC papers spread over 15 sessions and three parallel tracks, 49 posters and demos, six workshops, the Doctoral Symposium, and an ISWC Design Discussion.

“Our research community is keenly aware of what is going on in the world, and we have received many submissions that examine how mobile and pervasive computing might be used to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on society,” said UbiComp General Co-chair Nadir Weibel, UC San Diego. “We’ve also planned parts of our program to address this. For example, we have arranged for three keynote talks on COVID-19, featuring leading researchers working on the forefront of pandemic response. These talks will address how people are using pervasive and mobile computing to track the spread of the virus.”

Considering the impact of the pandemic on physical and mental health and social interactions, UbiComp/ISWC Program Chairs  have also invited three keynote speakers (Rana El Kaliouby, Affectiva; James Pennebaker, UT Austin; Phil Cohen, Monash University) who will speak on the topics of emotion AI, expressive writing, and dialogue systems. The opening keynotes by Kaliouby and Pennebaker will be followed by a discourse on emotion and expression. Virtual attendees will then have the opportunity to participate in an open discussion on how ubiquitous computing and wearable technologies can contribute to the research and development supporting health and wellbeing and social interaction post-pandemic.

“Although we will be virtual this year, we have put a great deal of effort in bringing the full conference experience to our attendees,” added UbiComp General Co-chair Kristof Van Laerhoven, University of Siegen. “Virtual attendees will be able to engage with the conference live and see all of the talks at the scheduled time, as well as attend the Q&A panels at the end of each session. We will be using the Whova app that will facilitate interaction across attendees and with the speakers throughout the conference. Whova will also allow you to revisit the talks and panels you missed after the fact, since everything will be available for asynchronous consumption right after the live sessions.”

“The social aspect of a conference is also extremely important, and we’ve organized incredible opportunities for virtual interaction, engagement and discussion,” said UbiComp General Co-chair Monica Tentori, CICESE. “For example, we’ve organized a gather.town interactive space for the Posters, Demos, and the Gadget Show and conference goers will be able to have coffee or a drink with friends, bump into old and new colleagues, experience the city of Cancun, Mexico  virtually, and much more.”

More information available at https://ubicomp.org/ubicomp2020/


Is virtual advising here to stay?

[Editor’s note: This post first appeared on the EAB blog and is reposted here with permission.]

History is rife with examples of old paradigms being replaced by new ones during times of stress. Between the economy, the fear, the isolation, and the uncertainty, there is plenty not to like about how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered our lives. Yet, if we look hard enough, we can also see some positives. Our sudden move to a virtual lifestyle has accelerated an ongoing technological revolution in how we access services in fields as diverse as commerce, medicine, and fitness. The massive public embrace of video conferencing means that many of these virtual innovations seem destined to become permanent enhancements long after the pandemic has abated.

Related content: How hybrid advising could help your students

One such permanent enhancement for higher education could be virtual advising. By “advising,” I am referring to the broad suite of holistic academic, financial, administrative, and personal support that has been shown to be highly effective at retaining and graduating students.

Virtual advising pre-pandemic

Before this year, virtual advising was mostly used as a supplemental offering reserved for online learners and working adults who were unlikely or unable to meet in-person with an advisor during normal office hours. It was a niche strategy at most schools, and few traditional advising offices seriously considered that video conferencing could challenge the time-honored paradigm of 30-minute, in-person advising appointments.

The pandemic has changed all of this. Virtual advising played a critical role in supporting students and keeping them connected to their colleges during the spring shutdown. Virtual advising will also continue this fall and serve as an ongoing experiment that could open the door to a new opportunity for supporting student success going forward.

Let’s take a look at some of the early data from this experiment:

Virtual advising shows promising results

Now that we have several months of data, we have started to see early evidence that virtual advising offers some advantages over traditional face-to-face advising—suggesting that virtual advising should be a permanent part of your institution’s student success strategy.


First-of-its-kind, all-electric mobile preschool

A first-of-its kind vehicle will be hitting the streets this autumn in Colorado as an all-new, all-electric, ‘Magic Bus’ Mobile Preschool will serve to put early-childhood education on wheels.

The Magic Bus is a program of the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365, and is a Winnebago Industries Specialty Vehicle – the first all-electric mobile preschool in the world.

The all-electric bus will join its gas-powered counterpart so that two buses will make the rounds through neighborhoods in Eagle County Colorado, four days a week beginning Oct. 5, 2020. Classes are an hour-and-a-half long and are free of charge, helping ensure that critical childhood learning is available to as many children and families in the community as possible.

“The children and families served by the Magic Bus need to be kindergarten-ready even considering the current crisis,” says YouthPower365 PwrUp Senior Manager Kendra Cowles. “The Magic Bus plays a critical role in preparing them to successfully transition to school.”

The Vail Valley Foundation’s Magic Bus is based on Winnebago Industries’ standard J33SE zero-emission commercial vehicle, utilizing Motiv Power Systems’ all-electric EPIC Ford F-53 chassis. Summit Bodyworks was responsible for the vehicle upfit. Significant road testing has been conducted on the vehicle that houses six batteries and delivers up to 100 miles on a full charge. The Magic Bus is expected to see up to 85 percent operation and maintenance cost savings.

“We are pleased to see our all-electric vehicle platform being used to provide early childcare programs for Eagle County’s low-income families. The all-electric vehicle will enable operation in a quiet, emission-free manner,” said Robert Kim, Director of the Winnebago Industries Specialty Vehicle Division.

When the Magic Bus rolls into a neighborhood, children climb aboard for a day of learning, growth, education and emotional support from teachers who have become integral parts of the local community. Through songs, read-alouds, exercise games and vocabulary-building activities in Spanish and English, the children gain essential preparation for the big step into kindergarten.

“Most parents walk their student to the bus for a quick check-in to see how the family and child are doing, share tidbits about class instruction or their specific child’s progress,” Cowles says. “The bus is customized to operate as a center-based preschool classroom, complete with dramatic play and kitchen areas, building blocks and plenty of dinosaurs.”

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, YouthPower365 worked closely with Eagle County Public Health to develop new protocols including the creation of a sanitary environment, utilizing social distancing, masks, frequent hand washing, and many other techniques.

Another positive change is, of course, the new Bus’ light carbon footprint.

“Motiv’s mission is to free fleets from fossil fuels, so it’s encouraging to see community outreach merge with emission-free transportation to provide education to families who are unable to access brick and mortar facilities,” said Matt O’Leary, Motiv Chairman and CEO. “Equal education and clean air are two of the most important things we can provide to the next generation, and we are proud to play a part in the Vail Valley Magic School Bus project.”

Learn more about this extraordinary project at YouthPower365.org.

About YouthPower365:

The Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365 provides afterschool and summer programming in early childhood (PwrUp), to K-12 (PwrHrs), and college and career-readiness (PwrOn) throughout Eagle County, Colorado, so that young people are working with familiar faces every step of the way along their journey. YouthPower365 has a mission to provide year-round extended learning opportunities that empower and educate the youth and families of Eagle County from cradle to career, with a vision to serve, “Every Child, Every Day.”

Visit YouthPower365.org for more.

About the Vail Valley Foundation

The Vail Valley Foundation is a 501c3 Colorado nonprofit corporation with a mission to enhance the quality of life in the Vail Valley and showcase our community to a global audience through arts, athletics and education.

The organization’s work in education is through YouthPower365, a 501c3 Colorado nonprofit corporation with a mission to provide year-round extended learning opportunities that empower and educate the youth and families of Eagle County from cradle-to-career readiness. The Vail Valley Foundation also provides the Vail Valley with several of its most treasured annual events, such as the GoPro Mountain Games, the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup races, the Vail Dance Festival, and the Hot Summer Nights and ShowDown Town free concert series’. The Vail Valley Foundation also manages and operates two performing arts centers, the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek Village and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail, providing more than 100 Broadway, dance, comedy, classical, rock, pop, jazz, community and family events per year.

Vail Valley Foundation activities and events are in part made possible by cornerstone partners: the Town of Vail, Vail Resorts, Beaver Creek Resort Company, GMC, and TIAA Bank.

To learn more about the Vail Valley Foundation activities and events visit www.vvf.org.

About Winnebago Industries

Winnebago Industries, Inc. is a leading U.S. manufacturer of outdoor lifestyle products and commercial vehicles under the Winnebago, Grand Design, Newmar and Chris-Craft brands, which are used primarily in leisure travel and outdoor recreation activities. The company builds quality motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheel products, boats, and commercial community outreach vehicles. Since the 1960s, its Specialty Vehicles division has leveraged motorhome platforms to design and build custom community outreach vehicles for customers around the world. With flexible floorplans and chassis options to suit different budgets and sustainability goals, Winnebago Industries commercial shells are ideal for applications such as mobile medical and dental services, DUI/BAT, cancer and preventive screenings, food trucks, event marketing, bloodmobiles, classrooms, bookmobiles, and many other applications. Winnebago Industries has multiple facilities in Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and Florida. The Company’s common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and traded under the symbol WGO. For access to Winnebago Industries’ investor relations material or to add your name to an automatic email list for Company news releases, visit http://investor.wgo.net.

For more information about Winnebago Industries Specialty Vehicles, please visit https://winnebagoind.com/product-classes/specialty-vehicles or follow on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

About Motiv Power Systems

Founded in 2009 and headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, Motiv Power Systems is a leading provider of proven technology to electrify medium-duty trucks and buses. Its commitment to freeing fleets from fossil fuels provides fleets a seamless pathway to electrification. Motiv’s proven EV technology is Ford eQVM-approved, CARB-certified, uses proven BMW batteries and is available for many configurations including step vans, box trucks, work trucks, shuttle buses, school buses, trolleys, and other specialty vehicles. Motiv has over 100 vehicles on the road, operating at over 99 percent uptime, and more than one million miles logged among several of the largest fleets in North America. Motiv’s adaptable technology solutions offer fleets up to 85 percent operation and maintenance cost savings and provides operators with a healthier, smoother, and quieter driving experience without polluting the communities they serve. For more information and career opportunities, please visit www.motivps.com.


Virtual reality is a natural next step in remote learning

In the midst of the fall term during the COVID-19 pandemic, some U.S. universities are continuing the shift to remote learning while other colleges are only allowing 40-60 percent of students on campus. Regardless, it is a certainty that many of the nation’s 19.7 million college and university students will be learning remotely for the remainder of this year—and virtual reality will play an important role.

Related content: Taking the classroom into the world with VR and AR

With the seismic shift to remote learning, educators are turning to virtual reality technology as one way to help engage students and support learning.

Virtual reality is defined as the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment such as a headset.

While the technology is typically associated with gaming, it is becoming more and more widely used in the education sector. According to ABI Research, spending on virtual reality in education will reach $640 billion by 2023. The research firm noted that educational leaders are investing heavily in augmented reality (AR) and VR technology because it shifts “the learning process from passive to active, allowing students to interact with content and practice their knowledge in real-time conditions. Learning by experience leads to better understanding, enhances knowledge recall, and strengthens retention. Immersive and interactive experiences stimulate students’ motivation and increase their engagement level, which are fundamental factors for achieving learning goals.”


NY colleges will go remote if COVID-19 spikes

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) tightened public health regulations for colleges and universities, announcing if a school has 100 Covid-19 cases or an outbreak equal to 5% of the campus population, it is required to transition to remote learning for two weeks while the situation is evaluated, according to Forbes.

Cuomo warned that several colleges in other states have seen large outbreaks since reopening and that schools should be prepared, saying, “when you have large congregations of people, anticipate a cluster.”