Author: Scott Rupp

Modern Campus Acquires Academic Catalog and Curriculum Management Provider, DIGARC

Modern Campus, a modern learner engagement platform, today announced the acquisition of DIGARC, a provider of academic catalog and curriculum management, class and student scheduling and student pathfinder software for higher education. The acquisition enables Modern Campus to accelerate its commitment to customer success by revolutionizing learner engagement with massively personalized digital experiences.

Founded in 2001, DIGARC is committed to aiding higher education institutions to engage students through the power of a connected, integrated curriculum. Today, its catalog management software solutions are used by nearly 800 higher education institutions. DIGARC enhances the student experience, helping them better navigate degree planning, and ultimately improve retention and graduation rates.

Modern Campus will integrate its award-winning web experience platform and personalization engine with DIGARC’s comprehensive course curriculum management software. Together, they will empower higher education institutions to solve two of the biggest challenges they face today: attracting and converting prospective students, and creating a highly personalized and engaging pathway to on-time graduation. In most institutions today, accessing the course catalog – typically the first stop for prospective students after the homepage – requires navigating an often-cumbersome menu structure.

Likewise, current students often struggle to set a path to successful program completion. With DIGARC, Modern Campus Omni CMS and Personalization by Modern Campus, higher education institutions can enable a modern student catalog experience with personalized content, pathways and recommendations.

“There’s never been a more exciting time in higher education. The modern learner is a savvy consumer and their expectations of higher education institutions have changed. They expect a highly personalized, Netflix-like experience. They’re primarily focused on maximizing the return on one of the most important and largest investments they’ll make – their post-secondary education,” said Brian Kibby, chief executive officer of Modern Campus. “For colleges and universities experiencing decreased enrollment, they need every advantage available to attract, engage and graduate the modern learner on time. The combination of DIGARC and Modern Campus helps deliver this, combining a highly personalized web experience with world-class catalog navigation.”

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Addressing The Shortage of Women In Tech Starts with Nurturing STEM Skills Early

Katina Papulkas

By Katina Papulkas, senior education strategist, Dell Technologies.

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), 47% of all employed adults in the U.S. are women, but only 25% hold computing roles. Racial, ethnic and economic disparities also present a significant gap among STEM fields. Of the 25% of women working in tech, just 5% are Asian, while Black and Hispanic women accounted for 3% and 1%, respectively.

Diverse thinking in the workforce drives innovation by drawing from new perspectives and experiences. With fewer women pursuing degrees and careers in STEM, there is a critical need for more significant equity in the industry. Part of this inequity starts in early in life, with young girls who can’t see themselves in STEM roles. Research shows that when asked to describe a typical scientist, engineer, mathematician, or computer programmer, 30% of girls say they envision a man in these roles.

Making this change starts in schools, with accessible STEM programs, meaningful mentorship and access to technology so students can build their skills.

Nurturing STEM Skills

Creating a diverse STEM ecosystem starts in the classroom with programs that make technology accessible and fun for girls at a young age. This can and should be a unified effort with programs supported by the technology community that take place in school, removing as many barriers as possible.

Girls Who Game, an extra-curricular program for students in fourth to eighth grade that’s lead by Dell Technologies, Microsoft and Intel, is one example of how to make technology enriching, engaging and exciting. The program provides an opportunity for young girls and underserved students across North America to learn more about gaming and the use of Minecraft as a learning tool. It goes beyond tech to also build global competencies, such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

Engaging the right individuals is also important. Programs like this can provide a personalized, safe and supportive community, with women in STEM acting as coaches, mentors and role models. Students walk away with a greater self-awareness of their skills, and are empowered to continue growing in STEM.

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Let’s Not Go Back to Normal, Let’s Create a Better One: Using Interoperable Data in Mitigating Learning Loss, Improving Student Outcomes, and Giving Teachers Their Sundays Back

Sean Casey

By Sean Casey, manager of strategic partnerships, The Ed-Fi Alliance.

How can we possibly even begin to show our gratitude for what our educators have endured and achieved this past year? Will flowers and a donut really do the trick? This year let’s give them something bigger – a promise to do better by them and not leave them alone in the road ahead to make up this ‘lost’ school year.

Today, more than a year into the pandemic, the conversation and concern surrounding how to address learning loss has reached critical mass. Interoperability, or the lack thereof, is playing a huge role in this emerging crisis. To explain:

Overnight, we moved from one educational and instructional modality — in-person learning — to five: remote, in-person, and hybrid learning, as well as synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Adapting to this shift meant adapting more software, more tools, and more variety in how we teach and learn. This surfaced some difficult questions.

Without interoperable data between systems — meaning, the ability for computer systems or software to share and exchange information to provide valuable and actionable insight — how can teachers effectively and efficiently guide learners? Ensure equitable education across modalities? How would district leaders truly get the full picture of each student’s academic situation to ensure learners weren’t falling behind? The answer: They can’t. At least, not if data continues to live in silos.

This might be the most significant disruption in education in generations. Without the granular insight that interoperable data affords district leaders, not only will learners continue to fall behind, but may do so at higher rates than pre-pandemic, and be at increased risk of chronic absenteeism — all of which create potential long-term impacts for students, schools, and communities.

Change Starts Here

As educators, student success is priority #1. And unfortunately, without the ability to easily and effectively connect data across systems, administrators are left using anecdotal evidence, or worse – guessing, when making crucial decisions about when and how to intervene, provide individual support, and help every student succeed. Below we’ll discuss three ways in which connected data enables district leaders to focus on what’s most important — supporting teachers; supporting students; achieving learning goals.

Support Teachers: Empowering Instruction Through Data

When I was a middle school educator, I had about 175 students on my roster. That’s a lot of kids to teach. Beyond teaching, being an instructor meant I was entrusted with truly getting to know my students, figuring out how each of them learned best, and understanding how to provide specific guidance and differentiated instruction when and where it mattered most. It was a lot to manage as an educator — even when school was still in the classroom and operating within a singular modality.

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Redefining Assessment To Empower Student Learning

Valerie Schreiner

By Valerie Schreiner, chief product and marketing officer, Turnitin.

Educators faced profound disruptions over the past year, pushing them to rethink and reshape assessments—how to design them, deliver them, ensure their integrity, measure their effectiveness, and ultimately leverage them to increase learning outcomes. Turnitin has spent several years considering how to support the evolution of assessment and we’re hearing loud and clear from the schools and universities we serve that now is the time for lasting change.

Dylan Wiliam describes assessment as “the bridge between teaching and learning,” a data-rich intersection where educators understand what students have learned and gain insights into teaching efficacy. We envision assessment not as an isolated measurement of student outcomes but rather as a key component of a continuous improvement cycle, providing valuable information to educators as they refine their teaching and to students as they improve their learning.

At its core, learning is an interpersonal process involving active feedback loops between students and teachers. When a connection between an educator and learner is strong and based on mutual trust, information moves more freely and with more integrity. Assessments are an essential way to establish these connections and feedback loops, especially when learning is online rather than face-to-face.

We want to partner with institutions to reimagine assessments across all subject areas and assignment types, low-stakes and high-stakes. We’ll be there every step along the way to support  assessments that are fair, consistent, accurate, and impact learning outcomes in a meaningful way.

Integrity is at the heart of Turnitin

Turnitin was founded over 20 years ago as a text similarity checking tool that helped ensure the originality of a piece of writing. We have since become a leader in academic integrity solutions and found that the majority of academic integrity issues are related to emerging skills rather than intentional acts.

Today, we work with schools and industry experts to build innovative solutions that help students learn the value of original work even as new challenges to academic integrity—such as contract cheating or text spinners—emerge. Because integrity solutions will always be at the heart of Turnitin, we acquired Unicheck and in March, announced our intent to acquire Ouriginal to expand our geographic reach and allow us to help more students find their original voices.

Along these same lines, Draft Coach, the most recent evolution of our integrity product suite puts the power of our similarity checking technology directly into the hands of students. Now, students can use our applications to assess, revise, and improve their own writing prior to submission.

Providing students with the ability to review and refine their own work becomes a moment for self-learning—opportunities for self-directed reflection are an essential part of developing original thinking skills. By building tools that empower students to do their best original work, we uphold academic integrity while guiding students down their own personal learning path.

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Our Community Colleges: The Fastest Path From Learner To Earner

By Mark Triest, chief revenue officer, Modern Campus.

Mark Triest

In my 30 years of serving higher education, I have had the privilege of visiting hundreds of community colleges across the country. I have seen firsthand their level of caring and concern is second to none, and the value offered is unequaled.

The problem is, many people don’t. All too often, prospective students have a perception that going immediately to a four-year college or university, despite the costs, carries more clout or is somehow academically superior to community colleges. Many parents are often swayed into a mindset that community colleges are second best—whatever the reasons (keeping up with the proverbial “Joneses?”) and at whatever the costs (loan debt that few can afford).

The reality is that community colleges help students transform from learners to earners. To start, students with an associate’s degree earn significantly more than high school graduates, and because of their talent and training, are attractive to employers upon graduation. Further still, students transferring from two-year colleges are highly sought after by four-year universities because they can handle college level work and are more likely to graduate.

There’s so much that community colleges do—for their students, neighbors and communities—that we should celebrate, including:

Pathways: Community colleges also offer program pathways to help students translate their interests into a career, affordable—and in some cases, free—tuition. 

Relevance: Community colleges have strong relationships with local industry and employers, giving graduates a leg up on finding a job immediately after graduation. This also improves the local tax base and encourages other businesses to come to town because the population is educated. 

Support: Most impressive, these schools provide built-in support for first-generation, low-income and returning students. 

Outcomes: Given the diverse audiences served by community colleges, they deliver a healthy program mix leading to certificates, workforce credentials, associate’s degrees and even bachelor’s degrees. 

Diversity: Community colleges serve a varied student population: students directly out of high school, employees interested in upskills or earning a degree, people in transition who want to augment training in their field or who want to change careers altogether, and the entrepreneurial workforce, people who want to work for themselves and need a specific skill set.

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Tech Equity: What It Means For Education

Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.

Shannon Flynn

Though tech is a requirement for today’s students, it’s not a universal luxury. The recent spotlight on tech equity has brought the issue to the forefront of public discourse, opening up an important conversation about the need for new policies.

The pandemic has only brought more attention to the growing disparity among students. Though many had access to digital resources through their school’s library, these tools disappeared when they were asked to learn from home.

An EdWeek Research Center survey helped contextualize the issue. Only 62% of education leaders in districts with poverty rates below 25% said everyone who needed home internet access had it. In those where poverty rates exceeded 75%, the rate of access was 31%.

How can district and school leaders manage the digital divide, and how does tech equity reflect a larger systemic issue?

Understanding the Hurdles Ahead

It’s difficult to argue that technology has made a negative impact on education. However, its absence presents a clear issue — one that continues to increase in proportion to the country’s poverty levels.

Almost 30 million low-income students currently depend on their school for breakfast or lunch. These same children are expected to have digital resources that fall outside their family’s budget, already strained by a pandemic economy.

With these factors at play, tech equity may seem ambitious. Parents may be engaged with other problems, and students don’t have the means to amend their situation. Furthermore, districts are contending with internal challenges.

Educators are planning to build on hard lessons from full-time remote learning, and any gaps in that strategy will soon become clear. Is total online schooling an effective teaching strategy? Will the deficit in tech equity compound into something larger?

Fortunately, there are strategies that offer a potential solution.

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Understanding The Cloud: Education Experts Discuss The Pros and Cons of Cloud Solutions and Classroom Management Software

Wayne D’Orio

By Wayne D’Orio, a freelance journalist who writes frequently about education, equity, and rural issues. His education stories have taken him from backstage at Broadway’s Hamilton to crisscrossing the country on a bus trip with then Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Follow Wayne on Twitter @waynedorio.

In the best of times, cloud computing is like a utility few people think about. When it’s effective, it’s invisible. When it’s not, like when a breach spills personal information where it shouldn’t be, it can be impossible to try to undo the damage.

For school leaders, these worries are multiplied. Deciding whether to use the cloud isn’t a simple yes or no question for most administrators. They need to factor in the safety of student information, cost, ease of use, and understanding of what apps and content management systems their districts are using. On top of those concerns, these days it’s imperative that whatever system schools use allow an easy transfer from remote learning to in-person instruction, potentially with a helping of hybrid mixed in.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” says Monte McCubbin, a systems engineer for Simi Valley Unified School District in California. Small districts are probably better off using a cloud solution, but larger districts, like his 17,000-student unified school district, have the option to build a private cloud, he adds.

The benefits of not being cloud-based is local control and security, says Al Kingsley, the CEO of NetSupport and a longtime education technology expert. Districts can also control data flow and capacity by relying on its own local area network. But there are just as many, if not more, benefits to using cloud computing, he says. Cloud benefits include flexibility, scalability, and redundancy. Because maintenance is the responsibility of the provider, schools can have a leaner IT staff, saving on personnel costs.

Even considering the pluses and minuses isn’t a zero-sum game, McCubbin says. Simi Valley has what’s best described as a hybrid cloud solution. His district uses the cloud for some services and keeps other information in-house.

“We feel like there are inefficiencies in having 17,000 devices go into the public cloud and then back,” he says. Also, because California law says districts have to keep personal student information from leaving the state, it’s easier to accomplish this with a local system.

While security is a major concern for all school IT administrators, McCubbin says he thinks his local network is less of a target for hackers than if he were part of a huge system with a 100 or more companies.

School officials have to remember that their choice of building their own network or choosing a cloud solution needs to work best for all their teachers, students, and in these remote learning days, parents, too.

It’s this last reason that the cloud has worked so well for her district, says Erica Smith, a sixth-grade teacher at Ready Springs School in Penn Valley, California. With students learning remotely and schools using a variety of tools, officials quickly realized that the district was overwhelming parents by expecting them to keep up with multiple apps and learning management systems depending on which schools their children attend.
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Cybersecurity Crisis: How Education Bore The Brunt of The Pandemic

Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.

Shannon Flynn

By now, it’s hard to imagine a part of everyday life that the COVID-19 pandemic has not upended and altered for the foreseeable future. Working from home, quarantines, and vaccinations — these factors have captured a lot of the public’s attention. However, education has been hit uniquely hard over the past year and deserves more focus.

From kindergarten to higher education, remote learning is now the norm. Though some schools are attempting in-person learning and others are integrating a hybrid model, technology is now a central element. It connects students, parents, teachers, and staff. Unfortunately, not all students have these same resources or access.

Around the world, students struggle with rural connections, low incomes, and humanitarian crises. War and digital illiteracy are still significant issues in many countries. Now that the pandemic has turned people to technology as a resource, the burden is clear. A lack of digital resources is an issue, and a lack of protection for all that data is the second obstacle.

Education faces unique challenges ahead. To solve them, one must first unpack each setback.

Inaccessibility of Virtual Education

As the pandemic reached each country at the end of 2019 and throughout 2020, many schools closed down and switched to virtual learning. Some schools had to shutter completely, with no virtual education resources available. Even with the schools that offer this learning dynamic, not all students have access.

In rural areas, and for students from low-income backgrounds, virtual education may not be a tangible resource. Of New York City’s roughly 114,000 students living in a shelter or with other families, access is not always possible. Slow or insufficient internet connectivity will cause the student to fall behind or not be able to participate at all. Finding a device to begin with may also be a challenge.

However, the pandemic worsens inaccessibility. Due to health precautions and the need for social distancing, shelters may have limited capacity. Additionally, if a student from a low-income background can’t afford health insurance, they may not feel comfortable learning in-person due to COVID-19 risks.

The pandemic heightens these existing cycles and creates a domino effect. One issue leads to another, and the lack of technology perpetuates each movement.

A Lack of Resources

Tech, health, and legal resources are the most important during this pandemic. Technology provides access to education, jobs, and family. Health care is essential for treating the virus if you contract it. Laws and regulations at local and nationwide levels are also necessary to ensure students and staff stay safe.

However, schools and students may be missing one or more of these resources. While learning from home, a student may not have cybersecurity systems in place to protect their information. Educational aid is another obstacle — bringing learning to the student is difficult when the virus is still affecting millions. Tutors and in-person guidance are necessary for some. Students with disabilities may have a harder time learning from home without proper accommodations.

Faculty and staff are under immense pressure as well. In the United States, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) helps eligible employees balance their work and personal life. Other countries may not have these resources, though, and instead, teachers may be out of a job if they don’t have the right technology.

In China, the total time of lost learning results in billions of added yuan in the country’s deficit. The same phenomenon is happening across other countries, too. Resources are going to waste, costing teachers, students, and nations dearly.

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Cleveland Institute of Art Selects Transact Payments For Complete Electronic Payment System Solution

Transact Payments | CrunchbaseTransact, a provider of payment solutions for a connected campus, announced that Cleveland Institute of Art selected Transact Payments for its electronic payment system solution.

The Cleveland Institute of Art is one of the nation’s leading accredited independent colleges of art and design, with approximately 600 undergraduate students from across the globe.

For more than 130 years, the CIA has been an educational cornerstone in Cleveland, Ohio, producing renowned graduates who become studio artists, designers, photographers, contemporary craftsmen, and educators.

“We are eager to simplify the student experience by automating some of the functionality that is currently a manual process,” said Stacy Fitchette, student acounts administrator, Cleveland Institute of Art. “The alignment of our organizations’ visions — as well as Transact’s higher education focus, sterling reputation, and proven past performance — made them our ideal partner. Transact aggressively and progressively invests in the development of business office solutions, and that will allow us to evolve with the changing needs of our students and our institution.”

Transact will provide CIA with payment processing and payment plan solutions. Transact will simplify and support the processing of payments with web-based, multi-layered security and privacy features designed for higher education. The addition of electronic bill presentment functionality will eliminate CIA’s use of paper and position CIA for easy adoption of touchless services in the future.

In addition, Transact’s cashiering capability will strengthen back office efficiencies, centralize reporting, and provide flexible and instant information on demand. From a system standpoint, Transact’s real-time integration with Jenzabar EX, a longstanding partner, means CIA will have access to comprehensive administrative functions all in one place.

Implementation of Transact’s full-service payment plans solution will enable CIA’s ability to accept credit cards, ACH, 529 plans, or IFT. It eliminates CIA’s cost of accepting card payments, enabling 100% retention of billed tuition & fees from card payments.

“Creativity matters at The Cleveland Institute of Art, and our creative payments solutions provide simple interfaces, seamless integration, and mobile functionality,” said Dan Glass, senior account executive, Transact. “We respect CIA’s heritage of excellence and innovation and we are proud to be their partner in transforming the student experience so that it is easy, mobile and seamless.”

For more information, visit www.transactcampus.com.

Students’ Needs Change Throughout the Year: A Campus App Should, Too

University of Southern Mississippi | TheBestSchools.org

By Valerie Craig, manager of technology applications and services, The University of Southern Mississippi.

Our students’ needs change during the course of a semester. They don’t remain the same. And yet, the mobile campus app used at many colleges and universities looks exactly the same on Day One of the semester as it does at the end.

At The University of Southern Mississippi, our mobile campus app is dynamic, not static. When students open up the app, the information, links, and resources they see on their screen changes to meet their shifting needs and priorities throughout the semester.

As a result, students are always just one click away from the resources they need to navigate their college experience successfully.

We’re constantly looking at our analytics to learn as much as we can about how students, faculty, and other stakeholders are using our iSouthernMS app. In perusing the data, we’ve learned two important lessons.

The first is that students don’t come to our app to play around. They don’t consider it a form of entertainment. There are plenty of other apps they can use for that purpose. Instead, they rely on our app to help them succeed at the business of being a student.

The second lesson we’ve learned is that the features of our app that are used most frequently change during the course of a semester.

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