Some colleges have second thoughts on Gmail

Sixty percent of colleges that outsource eMail services use Gmail, according to a 2009 survey.
Sixty percent of colleges that outsource eMail services use Gmail, according to a 2009 survey.

A small-scale backlash against Google’s free eMail service and applications has included at least three prominent universities this year, after many colleges had begun moving to the outsourced Gmail system to save money and simplify support.

The cloud-based eMail system has appealed to college students since Google launched its campus Gmail pilot in 2004, educators said, and Google officials maintain that colleges continued to adopt Gmail even as negative headlines circulated this spring.

More than 8 million K-12 and college students use Gmail and Google Apps, according to the company.…Read More

Texas college teams up with digital signage industry

Digital signage has become more commonplace at schools, gas stations, and shopping malls, experts say.
Digital signage has become commonplace at schools, shopping malls, and many other locations.

Students enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Digital Signage Technology program will be able to network with digital signage professionals and stay up to date with the latest in interactive technology after the school became the nation’s first college chapter of the Digital Signage Federation (DSF), a nonprofit trade organization.

The DSF announced the industry’s first college partner May 17, and TSTC officials said the partnership would give its students access to industry news and trends that could make them more marketable when they finish the signage associate degree program and enter the workforce.

There are three students in TSTC’s digital signage program, which launched in the spring 2010 semester with about $1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education, said Patricia Golin, a program specialist at the college. Golin expects at least five more students to join the digital signage program next fall, and the school projects 20 signage students by fall 2011.…Read More

Ed-tech officials: Video will make schools more ‘efficient’

Retaining good students was the top priority for K-12 and college administrators.
Fifty-three percent of school officials said they would buy video technology in the next year.

More than half of education technology officials in K-12 schools and higher-education institutions said they would buy video technology in the next year to make their schools “more effective and efficient” and better prepare students for the workforce, according to a new survey from technology giant Cisco Systems.

The survey results, compiled by Washington, D.C.-based research and polling firm Clarus Research Group, come seven months after Cisco bought Tandberg, a leading video conferencing company. Observers expect Cisco’s purchase—which initially was snubbed by Tandberg stockholders, who balked at the $3 billion bid—to make the company one of the leading video providers in schools and colleges.

While 53 percent of administrators and school technology officials said their institutions “are likely” to buy video equipment sometime in the next year, more than eight in 10 survey respondents said technology plays a role in “improving how students learn,” with 82 percent agreeing that education technology will play a “large role” in “helping prepare students for the workforce of the future.”…Read More

Educators hope Ning stays affordable

Educators will have 10 weeks to decide if they want to keep their content on Ning after tha company's May 4 announcement.
Educators will have 10 weeks to decide if they want to keep their content on Ning after the company's May 4 shift to a fee-based model.

Since Ning launched its social network that lets members create groups on any topic back in 2007, thousands of educators have used the online tool to connect with their peers across the globe. Now, the company says it soon will “phase out” its free service, forcing educators to find other alternatives or pay to keep their Ning networks intact.

Education technology experts said Ning risks alienating educators with its decision, especially at a time when school budgets are so tight. Ning, which had planned to use advertising revenue to support the site, announced April 16 that company officials would unveil a new business model on May 4 that would include “price points” for the previously free service.

While Ning’s basic service had been free, it also offered a range of paid options, including $5 a month for custom domains and $10 a month for extra bandwidth and storage capabilities.…Read More

Virtual Symposium examines worldwide growth of online access

The Virtual Symposium focused partly on keeping open source technologies free.
The Virtual Symposium focused partly on keeping open-source technologies free.

Online learning, open courseware, eBooks, wikis, and many other innovative technologies have forever affected education by connecting any topic in any discipline to any learner in any place. Even individuals in remote communities now can access unlimited information free of charge, if they have an internet connection. This also provides more possibilities for international collaboration, knowledge building, and sharing of best practices.

Drexel University’s School of Education capitalized on these possibilities during its second annual live and online Virtual Symposium, in conjunction with Wainhouse Research and the World Bank Institute’s Global Development Learning Network (GDLN). This year’s Virtual Symposium built upon the theme Education for Everyone: Expanding Access Through Technology.

The symposium highlighted education technology innovations, and it examined challenges to access—for example, among poor and rural communities—and possibilities for overcoming them. A major feature of the symposium was the ability for participants to share experiences among peers in both developing and developed countries.…Read More

Data analysis tool offered to campuses free of charge

Having SAS's analytics software available on the web has changed the way professors teach their courses.
Having SAS's analytics software on the web has changed the way faculty teach their courses.

Faculty and students on 200 campuses nationwide will have free access to advanced data management and analytics software via cloud computing beginning in the fall 2010 semester, after business software company SAS last week opened its OnDemand for Academics program to more higher-education customers at no charge.

The web-hosted analytics software has gained traction in higher education in recent years, and education technology experts said the free offer could expand the software’s presence at colleges where IT departments have seen deep cuts during the country’s economic downturn.

The OnDemand for Academics tool would join a growing list of campus technologies hosted on the internet—a strategy known as cloud computing—which allows access to the most up-to-date programs without using costly on-campus servers. This means students can access the online tool from anywhere they have an internet connection and won’t be forced to buy the software for their laptops or make a trip to the school computer lab to use the SAS analytics program, saving money for the university and time for IT staff—many of whom have a larger workload after budget cuts have trimmed staff numbers in recent years.…Read More

Community colleges turn to online classes as enrollments spike

Distance learning enrollment continues to outpace overall college enrollment numbers.
Distance-learning enrollment continues to grow faster than overall college enrollment numbers.

Distance-learning enrollment in American community colleges jumped by 22 percent during the 2008-09 academic year, an increase fueled in part by an influx of nontraditional students who require the flexibility of online courses, according to a survey conducted by the Instructional Technology Council (ITC).

The ITC, which is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), collected 226 responses from community colleges in its annual survey, “Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges,” which revealed the 2008-09 increase in online enrollment. Last year’s ITC survey reported an 11-percent uptick in web-based class enrollment at community colleges.

The survey also highlighted the closing gap in course completion rates among online learners, which traditionally has lagged behind that of traditional face-to-face students. Seventy-two percent of web-based community college students completed their class last year, compared with 76 percent of on-campus students.…Read More

Class in 140 characters or less?

Only 14 percent of college faculty said they saw educational value in social media such as Twitter.
Only 14 percent of college faculty said they saw educational value in social media such as Twitter.

There are more than 20 million college students in America, and more than 50 percent will not graduate. The No. 1 reason contributing to student dropout rates is a lack of engagement. The billion-dollar question for our education system is: How do we motivate and stimulate students to take a more proactive role in their academic success?

An obvious starting point might be the environments in which we know today’s students are currently engaged, all day, every day—social networks. To date, a significant chasm has existed between students’ interactive, stimulating experiences with social media and the reality of their “low-tech” classrooms.

Of course, there are exceptions, but on the whole, the education system isn’t yet capitalizing on the social networking and Web 2.0 tools that keep today’s digital natives motivated. It’s time to unleash that potential.…Read More

Online education expert: Discipline is key

Peery says indentifying confused students is sometimes difficult for online instructors.
Peery says identifying confused students is sometimes difficult for online instructors.

Irresistible prime-time television and quick snacks that turn into 20-minute breaks are the ever-tempting enemies of online learning, according to Maryland’s distance educator of the year, who says proactive and dedicated students get the most out of web-based classes and the freedom they provide.

Tammy Peery, chair of the English Department at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus, was recognized as her state’s top online instructor March 4 by the Maryland Distance Learning Association.

Peery, a teacher at the three-campus, 60,000-student community college since 1999, grabbed the association’s attention with her role in developing Montgomery Common Courses, online classes that feature the same content for all students in different sections of a college course.…Read More

Blackboard unveils system for disbursing student aid

Students will be able to use Blackboard Pay cards to withdraw from ATMs.
Students will be able to use Blackboard Pay cards to withdraw from ATMs.

Some college students will be able to use their allotted financial aid by swiping a debit card instead of waiting for paper checks to come to their dorm rooms or houses after Blackboard Inc. this week launched a student payroll system.

Officials from Blackboard, the largest provider of learning management systems (LMS) software in K-12 schools and colleges, said the Blackboard Pay program would not charge overdraft fees or other penalties common among banks and other companies that issue debit cards.

Blackboard is teaming up with First Data and Discover to distribute the cards, which students will use to spend the per-semester or annual aid they are granted through federal or private loans. Student card holders will be able to use the Blackboard Pay cards to get cash from ATMs with the Pulse, Allpoint, or STAR Network logos, among other companies.…Read More