About R. Zager

I am an Ed Tech enthusiast and Instructional Designer at USFSP.

4 Ways Data can Empower Universities

A recent article from Ed Tech Magazine talks about how powerful data can be for higher education. We all know that data collection and management is becoming an integral part of the educational world and while it often is focused on student retention, there are other ways to utilize data to benefit Universities.

college students

The article discusses 4 specific ways that data can help empower higher education:

  1. Using data to streamline the fundraising process.
  2. Using demographic data to help update the admissions process and target students more efficiently and effectively.
  3. Using data to help university leaders understand their students better.
  4. Using data to help drive surveillance and make campuses more safe.

Data analytics is extremely powerful and universities will be smart to utilize data in the ways mentioned in the article. In the process of utilizing this data they just may find that student retention improves as well.

Improve Instruction During Your Commute

Podcasting is no longer a secret as great podcasts like Serial and the Finding Richard Simmons Podcasts have proven. These podcasts have shed a light on an often overlooked medium. The beauty of a podcast is you can learn or be entertained, perhaps both, as you commute to and from work. While you certainly can be entertained in a variety of ways, the podcast can really be a targeted and focused form of engagement.

The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast is one such treasure, especially for educators. In the most recent episode they discuss “Five Ways College Teachers Can Improve Their Instruction”. If you are an avid podcast listener or a novice who has yet to listen to their first podcast, you should check out the episode linked below.

Learn on your commute? Yes Please.

Cult of Pedagogy – Episode 65: Five Ways College Teachers Can Improve Their Instruction

 

 

Conference Mania

 

We all get swept up in the excitement of attending and possibly presenting at conferences. I recently applied to present at a conference in beautiful Keystone, Colorado

laptop and red mug on wood table with snow mountain in Pakistan

Pre-conference Coffee in the mountains

and, unfortunately, just found out my abstract was not chosen.

My disappointment was quickly replaced by the possibility of another conference and location for which I could write another proposal abstract.

I found a blog post from a very successful abstract writer, Catherine Baker,  who gives her 5 steps for successfully pitching your research for almost any conference you choose. The 5 steps and explanations are linked below. Hopefully her advice can help us all write better abstracts and get accepted to present at the conferences we really want to attend.

Catherine Baker’s 5 steps to writing a successful conference abstract.

Preparing and Teaching an Online Course: The Podcast

Podcast auf dem Smartphone

If you’re an instructor, instructional designer, or interested in education, then you should definitely check out a new podcast that the OLITS crew is debuting. If you’d like to be a fly on the wall as an instructor goes through preparing and teaching an online course, then give this podcast a listen. We will be updating with new episodes throughout the semester and mixing some strategies you may want to incorporate into your courses.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Want more money higher ed? Offer free online courses.

I know, you’re probably thinking that offering free online courses is the opposite of what a university should do. After all, the object of most universities is to make money. I’m sure in many higher ed meetings there are discussions about offering even more paid online courses to increase revenue. But are they missing out on an easy, if not obvious, option?

Educatio Laptop with books, globe, graduation cap and diploma. 3d

Laptop with books, globe, graduation cap and diploma.

Free online courses are not new but the tides may be turning as prestigious schools such as Oxford are joining in. This Engadget article explains how Oxford is using the edX platform to offer its first free online course. The course they are offering is about understanding economic development and it will be available for anyone in the world to take for free.

So why should all of higher ed follow suit? It is simply a great way to get your university experience in the hands of people interested in becoming students. My advice to higher ed institutions would be to create a high quality online course that falls inline with the type of programs you offer. Then simply place that course on one of the many free platforms and monitor the feedback from students. Use this free course as a way to continually improve the type of courses, free or paid, you offer and hopefully drive more students to enroll in your school. If a free online course can showcase your programs, be used to continually improve your online education, and possibly increase enrollment… why not give it a try?

Is Online Education Taking Over Higher Ed?

Online education is quickly replacing the traditional higher education experience… or, maybe it isn’t. A recent Washington Post article explains that fears of online education replacing the traditional experience may be unfounded.

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Rather than looking at online education as something designed to replace or take away from higher education, the focus should be on how it adds value for the students. The article talks about an online master’s degree program at Georgia Tech that found students simply wouldn’t have gotten that degree if the program didn’t exist. Findings like this are what should be driving the online learning conversation at higher education institutions. We should focus on how online education can give more options at the course and program level rather than the possibility that it is trying to replace courses or programs already in place.

This simple, yet significant, shift in thinking can be a great way to evaluate online programs at higher education institutions. Online education isn’t coming to get you, higher ed… it is coming to help you get different students and give students even more options.

Could New “MicroMasters” Programs Be the Future of Higher Ed?

Staying current with the constantly changing world of online education is no small task. Deciding which trends are worth implementing or even paying attention to is also a challenge, especially in higher education.

 

New “MicroMasters” online programs are something higher education institutions should be paying attention to. An article in Washington Monthly explains that these “MicroMasters” programs are being offered by some major universities including Arizona State and Michigan. These programs are free and open to anyone who wants to take them. The program requires those completing the course to pay a $1,000 fee to receive a certificate of completion.

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It is easy to dismiss this as another type of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that have typically had very low completion rates and are often over-hyped. These “MicroMasters”, however, offer possibilities that should be considered. They are being offered as a way to explore a possible master’s degree, give a master’s applicant a better chance for admission, and give actual credit hours for master’s programs at some institutions.

 

Rather than just dismiss these new programs because they are different and make us uncomfortable, we should explore ways to use or improve upon these ideas. Status Quo is no longer acceptable for higher education when it comes to online learning if for no other reason than the intense amount of competition. We must pay attention to these trends and consider how they could be improved upon and implemented, or we may lose students and money to universities that do.

Generational Diversity and Student Support

With increased online enrollment, traditional generational barriers are being greatly reduced. A person whose job or family may have stopped them from pursuing a college degree can now more easily become a college student again or for the first time. Universities are certainly happy about this because increased enrollment is usually a good thing. But are there things that higher ed may not be considering?

Senior Student

Middle-Aged Online Student

An Ed Tech Magazine story about generational differences and how they may affect tech initiatives provides some interesting insight. The article talks about the challenges of choosing ed tech initiatives that work for multiple generations.

 

 

It would be easy to make oversimplifications about how different generations of students use ed tech services… and this article does that. They talk about baby boomers being comfortable handing their computers over to IT for repair and millennials being more likely to try to fix the issues themselves. Although there may be some truth to these they should be viewed as anecdotal when searching for multi-generational ed tech solutions.
The most important thing that higher ed can do to help serve this generational diversity is ramp up and centralize student support. There is no practical way to separate student support by age but support can be given that reflects a more diverse population. Universities should think about ways to support their student population and build an inclusive presence for student support. Give the students a place to go whether it be a physical or virtual space, or perhaps both and support them in multiple ways so regardless of their generation students have a great support system.

Higher Retention and Better Student Success? Yes Please.

In Higher Ed we are constantly trying to find ways to help students be successful while also trying to increase enrollment and retention. With budget and time constraints it can be difficult for universities and professors to achieve these goals. Universities are trying to tackle these problems with what may seem like unconventional approaches.

Successful Students

Successful and Happy Students

An article from Inside Higher Ed chronicles the efforts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to break the “Iron Triangle”.  The triangle they are referring to is the balance of quality, cost, and access. It often seems that one of the three parts of the triangle has to be sacrificed. UNC Greensboro is challenging that assertion with a project they have been running the past two years called CRAFT.

 

CRAFT is short for create and curate Content, Replace lectures with Active, and Flipped, Team-based learning. Specifically the project focused on general education courses and courses with high rates of students withdrawing or receiving low marks. They have had positive results and found that this format allows for more students to be enrolled in the class as well.

 

This type of strategy certainly seems like it could help bring quality, cost, and access together without the need for one of them to sacrificed. This is Higher Ed, however, and nothing is quite as simple as it sounds. Developing these courses takes a lot of time and support. It would be asking a lot of a professor to use the CRAFT method on their own.

 

The bigger message of this article, however, is that you can serve more students, retain more students, and help lower achieving students be more successful with a focus on active learning. When students are actively involved in the learning process they are more likely to be successful. There is research to back this up as a report from the National Academy of Science shows. They examined 225 studies and found that 3500 more students would have passed if active learning was used in those courses. That is certainly compelling data.

 

It can seem daunting when considering how to start or increase active learning in your courses. The good news is that here at USFSP, OLITS is here to help. We offer trainings on active learning and can help you add active learning to your courses. Check the OLITS Professional Development website to see when upcoming trainings are available or schedule an on-demand training with us. If you want to learn more about active learning, check out this blog post by our very own Otis Wilder.