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A number of colleges and universities are researching the benefits of virtual personal assistant apps and devices for students, faculty members and staff. McGill University in Montreal implemented a student app called Oohlala. Ollivier Dyens, deputy provost for McGill, said the app delivers information to baseline campus features including events, maps, tours, a directory and more. What makes Oohlala different from other apps is that it also focuses on student engagement, Dyens said.
Texas A&M University in Galveston also is using Oohlala. Shelly Fordyce, director of student activities,said she was surprised to see students use the Oohlala app to form relationships with one another before the start of the acedemic year. And Joe Hoff, associate director for recreational sports, said he saw the most value in how the app supported new students, who often struggle with time management.
The struggles of college students to afford textbooks are well known. Prices for textbooks have risen more than 1,000 percent since 1977, three times faster than tuition costs, and a 2014 study found that 65 percent of students decided not to buy a required textbook because it was too expensive.
Higher education institutions are responding to the problem by looking to open educational resources (OER), which are often free and interactive digital textbooks that replace printed materials. At the end of July, for instance, the U.S. Department of Education announced a grants program to award $5 million to up to three applicants for OER pilot programs. And just last week, the Rice University-based OER publisher OpenStax announced that nearly half of colleges and universities in the U.S. are using its free textbooks this year.
The cost savings of moving to OER are impossible to ignore.
Dennis Lower, longtime president and CEO of Cortex, a self-styled innovation hub and technology district in St. Louis, calls the sprawling, 200-plus-acre development “a handshake to the millennial workforce” in this Midwestern city.
Since 2010, when Lower arrived, Cortex, a nonprofit development and a public-private collaboration between local universities and businesses, positioned geographically between Washington University and St. Louis University, has become a nexus of the new economy.
“Every major region is trying to recruit tech companies,” says Lower. “That’s not how we’re going to get where you need to be. We need to grow our own companies, which is one of the main goals of Cortex.”
In the last eight years, the number of homegrown startups in Cortex has risen from 35 to 360, manufacturing startups have clustered in formerly abandoned brick warehouses, Microsoft just opened its first Midwest headquarters in the district last week, and the mobile-payment company Square now plans to employ 600 workers in the city’s Central West End. A former site of vacancies and urban decline has been given a second life. It’s a prime example of how a new type of university-led development has helped shape U.S. cities for the last decade, while also breathing new financial life into universities.
Anxiety about teaching used to be confined largely to staying up to date on the subject matter I was teaching and getting up to speed on new learning technologies (if I deemed them applicable and worth the effort). In other words, apart from an overflowing trash can and a dirty whiteboard, I was largely in control of my teaching and learning environment. With that control came a certain comfort and contentment with the profession I had chosen. It was 1999, and the public university I served contained a few renegade faculty members experimenting with online content delivery. But they were few, far between, and certainly not supported by large institutional structures.
As much as I liked incorporating new technologies into my courses, I was resistant to online education. Not only was I skeptical about whether online education could bring about good learning outcomes, I also recoiled at the thought of a technology that began to remove from my control many of the elements of teaching I had always known. Indeed, it became clear that since I did not possess all the competencies required to develop a good online course I would also have to open my teaching environment to “outsiders” like instructional designers and multi-media specialists. But at least online courses allowed me to maintain some synchronous teaching elements, a way of maintaining some control of the course information.
Chelsey Ivy faced a lot of obstacles getting to college. Her parents didn’t think she should go. She didn’t know how she could afford it. She worried she wouldn’t fit in.
And that was before she encountered her first traffic circle.
Driving from her rural community in Michigan’s thumb to tour Eastern Michigan University, Ivy and her boyfriend took an exit in Washtenaw County and found themselves driving on a traffic circle, with cars zooming past her 1996 Saturn.
“We’d never seen one of those turnaround things,” Ivy said. “We were like, ‘Wait, it’s a circle!’ We were just like holding on, going 10 miles an hour, trying to figure it out. We went around more than once. We said, ‘Oh wait! That was it!’ and we’d go around again.”
A large-scale study at the University of Georgia has found that college students provided with free course materials at the beginning of a class get significantly better academic results than those that do not.
The Georgia study, published this week, compared the final grades of students enrolled in eight large undergraduate courses between 2010 and 2016. Each of these courses was taught by a professor who switched from a commercial textbook costing $100 or more to a free digital textbook, or open educational resource, at some point during that six-year period.
By comparing the before and after results of these eight courses, the study found that switching to OER increased the number of A and A-minus grades students received by 5.50 percent and 7.73 percent, respectively. The number of students who withdrew or were awarded D or F grades (known as the DFW rate) fell by 2.68 percent.
A total of 21,822 students were included in the study, 11,681 of whom used commercial textbooks and 10,141 of whom used free digital textbooks. The eight courses were in biology, history, psychology and sociology, and they used OER textbooks supplied by OpenStax, a nonprofit initiative of Rice University.
Public-private partnerships are a growing interest for institutions looking to encourage student exploration into the latest technological innovations but do not have the budget to reach their goals.
While endowments, loans or donations can be a good way to overcome financial obstacles, some universities are partnering with city governments to establish innovative campuses for the technologically curious.
Across the country, university administrators and city officials are combining resources and knowledge to create technology centers, offering students the opportunity to push the boundaries of innovation and enticing entrepreneurial graduates to move to cities ready to become the next Silicon Valley.
Since the advent of bitcoin, a type of digital currency, blockchain has amassed popularity as a focus of research and development, especially as more industries recognize the blockchain infrastructure — a continuously amassing and self-verifying ledger of records — can be used for myriad purposes. In higher education specifically, institutions like CNM and MIT's Media Lab are pioneering ideas like digital certificates, where students can opt to take ownership of their stackable academic credentials via a type of digital tokens that can be easily shared across institutions and employers.
Though such plans are still in troubleshooting phases, many throughout the industry are intrigued by the promise of blockchain infrastructure, and many institutions are starting to invest in academic programs and initiatives. Post told Education Dive, for instance, the partnership between IBM and Columbia to create a center focused on blockchain is intended a "think tank," where "we will be providing Columbia with the technology so we can train more people to access it, build up the human capital of teachers and apply research to help establish products and innovations that can be used throughout multiple industries."
In July 1998, a merger of CAUSE and Educom created EDUCAUSE, an organization that tasked itself with the mission of advancing higher education “by promoting the intelligent use of information technology,” according to the EDUCAUSE anniversary page.
To celebrate 20 years of empowering university administrators and IT teams to improve institutions’ use of technology, EDUCAUSE asked the higher education IT community to reflect on the most significant moments of the past, the most promising trends of the future and everything in between.
"In the absence of being able to look next to them in a classroom and see a fellow student there, these opportunities of being able to interact with each other in an online environment is something they hold onto," Deyer said. For example, the university has created a study group on Facebook, and students are highly encouraged to participate in it.
In addition to traditional tips on time management and effective study practices, Deyer said students connect around various life challenges and form relationships that carry on throughout their matriculation. On Instagram, the university drops its brand voice and highlights the activities of its students through a user-generated process.