Pell Grants see significant changes in $1 trillion spending bill

Students who do not complete their undergraduate degrees in six years now will lose Pell Grant funding.

Congress has passed a $1 trillion omnibus spending measure that includes significant changes to the federal Pell Grant program. What’s more, an Obama administration proposal to create a new federal agency for ed-tech research and development received no funding in the bill.

The measure, which averted a possible government shutdown, funds 10 Cabinet agencies for fiscal year 2012. It awarded a slight increase to the Pentagon and veterans’ programs while trimming the budgets of most other domestic agencies. Democrats agreed to the cuts in exchange for dropping many policy provisions sought by GOP conservatives, such as attempts to block new rules aimed at preserving net neutrality and limiting greenhouse gases.

Missing from the legislation was funding to create a new federal agency designed to pursue breakthroughs in educational technology. Obama requested $90 million for the agency’s first year in the budget plan he sent to Congress earlier this year.…Read More

The 10 biggest higher-ed tech stories of 2011

Here's what we think are the 10 most significant higher-education technology stories of 2011.

New rules crack down on student recruitment by for-profit colleges … LMS powerhouse Blackboard Inc. expresses support for common technology standards … Federal officials dole out $500 million in grants to support the creation of open eLearning resources: These are among the many key ed-tech developments affecting colleges and universities in the past year.

In this special retrospective, the editors of eCampus News highlight what we think are the 10 most significant higher-education technology stories of 2011. To learn how these stories will continue to affect campus decision makers in 2012 and beyond, read on.

What do you think of our list? What other ed-tech stories do you think are worthy of mentioning? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.…Read More

Ed-tech accessibility could hinge on Congressional action

Recent lawsuits have focused on the use of eReaders in higher education.

Advocates for blind college students commended a federal report recommending steps for improving ed-tech accessibility on campuses—but without prompt attention from Congressional lawmakers, the laundry list of suggestions won’t become policy in much of higher education.

A federal commission released its 18 recommendations to expand accessibility to students with disabilities Dec.5, highlighting plans to incentivize publishers of educational material to make the material usable for all students, creating professional development programs to make educators more aware of accessibility issues, and including accessibility-related metadata in classroom material.

The Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities, released its recommendations after studying accessibility on campuses for 14 months.…Read More

Online piracy bill could be major burden for colleges

SOPA has not yet been voted on in Congress.

Campus librarians and IT staffers could be legally required to comb through digital traffic for signs of copyright violations if Congress passes online piracy legislation that has met stiff opposition from higher-education groups that see the law as broad censoring of the internet.

The House of Representative’s Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act, backed by the influential entertainment industry as a way to crack down on web-based copyright violations, could impose a lasting workload on college and university officials charged with tracking online piracy on their school’s network.

SOPA, introduced in October by a bipartisan group of legislators, would let the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders secure court orders against websites accused of contributing to internet copyright infringement.…Read More

University’s tablet program under review after tech officials put on leave

Students and faculty were asked to present their tablets for proper tagging Nov. 18.

Three employees at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) have been placed on administrative leave while officials review possible errors in the implementation of a pilot program that provided tablet computers to students in an honors program.

The university said Nov. 18 that Homer Coffman, chief information officer; Mike Herndon, director of procurement and contract services, and Dr. Bob Lyman, who resigned his position as provost on Nov. 16 but remains a member of the faculty, each was placed on leave.

About 700 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 devices were distributed as part of the U-Tab pilot program to selected students, faculty, and staff to help transform the educational experience by providing mobile access to courses and class content.…Read More

Online learning caucus coming to Congress

Members of the eLearning caucus have not been announced.

Two members of Congress formed an eLearning caucus last month–a much-needed Capitol Hill forum, educators said, after a recent survey showed Congressional representatives and their staffers lacked a basic understanding of online education.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., a conservative House member, and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., among his party’s most liberal members, created the eLearning caucus Oct. 5 to “promote research on successes and failures in eLearning so that federal education funds are used prudently, and to ensure policy is aligned with practice,” according to a “dear colleague” letter written by Noem and Polis.

A poll conducted this year by the Presidents Forum, a group of online colleges that primarily serve adult learners, showed policy makers were unfamiliar with up-to-date web-based learning. Many on Capitol Hill thought distance learning was still conducted primary through correspondence classes, and survey respondents said online programs were only equivalent to classroom learning if a large institution created and administered the curriculum.…Read More

Report: Mobile app use exploding on campus

The number of private universities deploying mobile apps rose to 50 percent from 42 percent in fall 2010.

Colleges and universities have made significant gains in deploying mobile applications over the past year, according to the 2011 Campus Computing Survey, the largest continuing study of higher-education technology use in the United States. But the survey also suggests that colleges have been slow to move key operational and research functions to cloud computing, and budget constraints continue to affect campus ed-tech services.

The 2011 survey shows big gains in the percentage of schools deploying mobile apps, and these gains appear across all types of institutions.

More than half (55 percent) of public universities have activated mobile apps or plan to do so in the coming year, compared to a third (33 percent) in fall 2010. Public four-year colleges also posted good gains (44 percent in 2011, up from 18 percent in fall 2010), while the numbers more than tripled among community colleges (41 percent this year vs. 12 percent last fall).…Read More

Ed-tech group to push for more analytics use in colleges

Analytics technology can help professors spot struggling students.

Analytics programs that use complex data sets to identify struggling students, the best ways to use campus budgets, and improve faculty and staff efficiency are coming to U.S. colleges and universities, courtesy of the educational technology group EDUCAUSE.

EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit organization that will begin its annual conference Oct. 18 in Philadelphia, announced a three-pronged ed-tech initiative aiming to bolster the use of analytics technology in higher education.

The initiative will include a “major benchmarking study of the state of analytics in higher education” that could provide a baseline that shows just how many campuses are using analytics to improve decision making and student analyses.…Read More

White House makes ‘Digital Promise’ to schools

Duncan said Digital Promise would increase research and development in ed-tech programs.

A nonprofit start-up funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will quickly evaluate which educational technologies are worth the investment – and which ones aren’t – while driving private-sector innovation that could modernize technology in public schools nationwide.

ED Secretary Arne Duncan on Sept. 16 unveiled the independent nonprofit initiative approved by Congress in 2008, called Digital Promise, which will be funded by government dollars, along with philanthropies like the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Higher education is expected to play a role in the formation of Digital Promise. The initiative will be guided by Duncan-appointed board members, including a Tulane University official, and research from the Chicago’s Urban Education Institute that will determine which technology programs work best in the classroom.…Read More

Ed-tech leaders push closed captioning, compliance monitoring

Assistive technology experts say higher-education officials have taken a closer look at such online tools in recent years, in part because of laws that require better access.

Teaming up with companies that provide transcribers or software that scans recorded lectures and provides transcription, colleges and universities are increasingly looking for new, inexpensive ways to eliminate barriers for students with disabilities in the lecture hall … or those who use a computer to access instruction.

Assistive technology experts say higher-education officials have taken a closer look at such online tools in recent years, largely because the costs of these technologies have dropped precipitously since the early 2000s. The threat of lawsuits for failing to comply with accessibility laws, and the rise of mobile devices that have removed some of the stigma attached to assistive technology programs, also are factors.

Providing accessible technology that translates lectures from speech to text and makes campus websites readable for everyone has been a welcomed development for many students with disabilities, said Jim Stachowiak, associate director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research.…Read More