Modern Campus Acquires Augusoft

Modern Campus has acquired Augusoft, an enrollment management solution for continuing and corporate education programs. The acquisition extends the Modern Campus customer base to nearly 2,000 colleges and universities across North America and allows the company to further advance and improve the delivery of continuing education while engaging modern learners for life.

With enrollment for traditional two- and four-year programs declining across most campuses, higher education institutions are investing in continuing, professional, and workforce education to fuel enrollment growth while delivering on their institutional mission to expand learning experiences, reach diverse populations, and create employment opportunities.

Modern Campus’s Destiny One product is the recognized leader in non-traditional student management, with a broad set of offerings that enable colleges and universities to thrive in continuing, online, and professional education. With Augusoft and its flagship Lumens product, Modern Campus now offers the most robust set of capabilities including products, services, and partnerships to serve the complete needs of non-traditional learners.

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Marpai Pursues Education Market with AI-Powered Health Plan Services To Improve Outcomes and Reduce Costs for School Districts

Marpai, Inc., a deep learning technology company transforming third-party administration in the self-funded health insurance market, is establishing a center of excellence in the education  market to provide premium health plan services to school districts across the country. Recently, Marpai began serving four school districts in Texas, representing 39 schools, including Region 14 Education Service Center, Abilene Independent School District, Crowley Independent School District, and Pearland Independent School District.
Edmundo Gonzalez

“School systems want to provide the best healthcare for their members and also deliver great value,” said Edmundo Gonzalez, CEO of Marpai. “We believe that our technology can make it easier for educators and their families to avoid costly health events, access top quality care and maintain annual exams which make for healthier members and a better health plan bottom line. We are committed to working with unions and brokers to serve more school systems around the country, as our educators deserve this kind of premium healthcare experience.”

Synolo, a leading provider of benefit plans for the education market, and the U.S. Employee Benefits Services Group (USEBSG) worked together with Marpai to bring Marpai to Texas educators. “We believe that Marpai’s proactive approach to healthcare mirrors Texas schools’ commitment to providing the best healthcare options to ensure employees and their families remain healthy,” said Dan Robinson, President and CEO of Synolo. “Marpai’s technology platform points members to top quality providers and affordable healthcare services in their area which can make a real difference, especially when someone needs to find a new doctor.”
Marpai is an AI-powered TPA (third party administrator) alternative serving self-funded health plans with premium services that can help to drive member health up and health plan costs down. Marpai uses proprietary deep learning models to help predict near-term health states so members can work with clinical care guides to prevent or reduce costly events. Marpai also guides members to in-network providers (ranked in the top 10 percent based on quality), offers onscreen telehealth, and delivers appointment reminders that keep members on track for annual exams, screenings and vaccinations.
“We chose Marpai for the Texas school districts because we believe that it provides the support people need to get ahead of health issues, avoid big medical bills and stay healthy,” said Rick Niles, Texas Managing Director at U.S. Employee Benefits Services Group (USEBSG). “These school districts now have the ability to access to the best healthcare available, and it ends up costing everyone less.”

Instructure Explores Pandemic’s Impact on U.S. Schools with New Research On the State of K-12 Education

Instructure, the makers of Canvas, have released new data that explores how the pandemic has impacted K-12 education and identifies six key trends moving forward for U.S. schools. Positive shifts include teachers and parents becoming more open to new ways to teach and learn, and finding value in technology to stay connected.

Student engagement became the leading metric of student success, with 92% of educators calling it the most important factor. The data also underscores challenges in areas like equity, with low-income households more than twice as likely to report difficulty in helping their children remain engaged.

“Our school communities persevered through incredibly challenging dynamics this past year, but overall we came through it more adaptive, open to new approaches and deeply focused on student engagement,” said Trenton Goble, VP of K-12 Strategy at Instructure. ”At the same time, there is a lot of hard work ahead. About half of educators and parents feel students have significantly fallen behind due to COVID-19. We know technology will remain pivotal, as the pandemic shifted its role from a nice-to-have to an essential service that connects teachers, parents and students with the entire learning journey.”

The research revealed six key trends that parents and educators across the country feel are important to teaching and learning in K-12 education.

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Learning Barriers That Still Need To Be Addressed In Online Education

Zara Raza

By Zara Raza, marketing lead, SchoolCues.

While some students have been accustomed to homeschooling or online education from a young age, most have found themselves forced into that model since COVID struck. The abrupt switch from learning in a classroom setting to learning at their homes has been challenging. 

For starters, not all children have total or even partial access to a laptop or computer, rendering online learning especially difficult or impossible, but even for those who do have their own equipment, the conditions at home might not provide a conducive learning environment due to excessive noise or crowded households. 

That said, with regards to children who are in possession of both the equipment they need and the space to use it for optimal learning at home, they still face a series of obstacles, which, while difficult to overcome, do have solutions.

Less Social Activities Means Students Get Bored

Remote learning can be damaging to children’s mental health because of the loneliness and lack of human contact with their peers. It’s understandable: waking up and spending their entire day in front of a computer screen is unnatural and demotivating for kids. On top of that, they’re required to watch long lectures with limited interaction, and that is at the heart of the problem: not being able to connect with their classmates and teachers. 

Socializing and engagement in an online classroom are limited, especially if a teacher doesn’t take measures to ensure more interaction. During a lecture in a Zoom room, many teachers will have their students muted, expecting them to be taking copious notes and paying close attention, but students are ultimately left to their own devices without much supervision, especially if their parents aren’t around. 

Attention spans have already been shrinking due to the ever-growing use of mobile apps and video games, but with education forced online, what was already an issue has become exacerbated. One of the most important places where children can disconnect from the virtual world and enjoy genuine human interactions was suddenly taken from them.

Of course, not everything is so black and white. Online learning also has plenty of benefits, and can even be more effective if used in tandem with in-person learning that ensures socializing and interaction. More importantly, there are ways to optimize virtual classroom activities to inspire and maintain student engagement, starting with the first day of class.

An introductory activity could entail having students create a short video message introducing themselves and sharing it with the rest of the class, after which, you can quiz the students to see who remembers the most from their classmates’ presentations.

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Use Task-Based Permission To Tighten Security

Erin Werra

By Erin Werra, edtech enthusiast and writer, Skyward.

One of the core tenants of FERPA states that student records should only be available to those who have a specific need to see them. On the other side of district operations, sensitive financial information can easily become fodder for fraud if it falls into the wrong hands.

There’s a lot of data to safeguard as a system administrator.

One strategy to explore is task-based roles in your student information system or enterprise resource planning system. How does this strategy keep your data safe? Let’s explore.

Roles vs. tasks

The first step is to define the difference between roles and tasks within the software.

Roles apply to the user and carry a specific set of permissions.

Tasks are actions available to the user, including screens in different areas of the software, and different data sets the user can access.

In some systems, the default method of assigning permissions (whether view or edit permissions) is based on an individual’s role in the organization. But what if users who share a role shouldn’t necessarily share access to the same screens, tasks, and data?

Task-based permission and least privilege

Rather than automatically assign everyone in a similar role the same permissions, consider instead which screens, data, and tasks people in those roles need to view. Consider the concept of least privilege: only the minimum necessary rights should be granted to maintain the highest level of security.

Let’s say, for example, a new administrative assistant needs to access data about demographics, attendance, and create new student profiles. The system administrator can create a role using those exact permissions, and then add the role to the related security group. This might mean all administrative assistants have similar, but not identical, permissions and are all part of the same security group.

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Scale Up For Success: The Role of IT In ESSR Spending

Erin Jansson

By Eric Jansson, who leads Ed-Fi’s data standards works and manages other Ed-Fi software development efforts.

The pandemic has reshaped the school experience. From how students learn to how teachers teach, and just about everything in between, has changed in some way or another since March 2020. In the edtech space we saw massive investments in instructional systems, devices, and basic connectivity infrastructure as schools scrambled to get creative and extend instruction into remote contexts.

Those tools and process still largely remain in place, and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSR) Fund spending promises to bring a new wave of investment in similar tools.

While educational organizations may have the right individual (read: siloed) resources, we must rethink how to use them together as systems, in order to support educators with real-time, secure data.

First, Carefully Consider Your Options

In response to the pandemic, the federal government is attempting to help schools and the larger education ecosystem recover by providing an unprecedented amount, $190 billion, of funding from multiple grants, including the American Rescue Plan. The money can be used at each districts’ discretion and in various ways, for example: providing extra health and safety options, additional staff, technology enhancements, and additional extracurricular programs.

Budget decision makers will likely be inundated with products and suggestions as edtech companies vie for their attention and partnership. As these funds start to deploy, it’s crucial for school leaders to work with their IT leaders to create a smart, tactical approach to their spending strategy and decisions.

The education system is at a critical juncture. Now is when schools can and should focus on laying a better foundation to connect our classrooms and modernize our technology infrastructure. And part of this foundation must be comprehensive strategic data visions, including strategic plans to implement data standards.

By making these considerations now, before solutions become adopted piecemeal, districts can ensure that the software platforms they invest in can work together and achieve data interoperability. The effort to create this data vision and plan won’t be small, but the results would have an enormous positive impact.

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Can Technology Lower The National Dropout Rate?

Shannon Flynn

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.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, high school students were dropping out less frequently than in past years — in 2005, the dropout rate was 10% and about 5% in 2018. Unfortunately, the numbers seem to be increasing as the pandemic continues to impact the education system.

With more educational institutions transitioning to hybrid learning environments, it’s become easier for students to fall behind on their assignments.

Some students, especially those at a lower income level, may have trouble accessing the technology needed to complete their work. Whether it’s missing a laptop or not having a decent internet connection, some students find the transition challenging.

As technology advances, it’s possible that it can be used in decreasing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates amongst high school students. Let’s explore some of the ways in which technology can lower the national dropout rate.

COVID-19’s Impact on Learning

It’s no secret that educators were forced to make adjustments to their traditional teaching methods in the last couple of years. Whether it was hopping on Zoom to meet with their classes or digitally assigning work, the role of technology became that much more significant.

Now, trends in education show us that an increase in absenteeism and the digital divide are contributing to a decrease in graduation rates. In addition, there are concerns regarding the national literacy crisis. The pandemic has intensified the literacy gap in high school students, but leveraging technology may be a feasible solution.

One education company trying to increase graduation rates in the country is Stride K12’s Graduation Guarantee Program. The program guarantees that eligible students enrolled in their schools will graduate with a diploma with no extra costs to their families. More programs and initiatives need to be implemented if we want to see more students graduating.

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5 Ways Access Management Can Protect K-12 Districts From Cyber Threats

Michael Webb

By Michael Webb, CTO, Identity Automation.

In K-12 school districts, one of the most challenging technology conflicts is between productivity and security. Students and staff want quick, reliable access to online resources. They’d rather not be logged off the system every 20 minutes or have to call the IT department to reset passwords. During class especially, teachers don’t want to sacrifice instructional time to troubleshoot login issues.

However, school districts have suffered 1,180 publicly disclosed cybersecurity incidents since 2016 according to the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center. These have included denial of service attacks that interrupt learning, data leaks that result in identity theft, and ransomware attacks with extortion demands reaching seven figures. When my employer surveyed 100 K-12 technology leaders earlier in 2021, 92% said they had suffered a cyberattack.

To successfully balance productivity and security, K-12 districts need a strategy for access management: the practice of serving valid users while denying access to invalid users. These five pillars of access management work together to help your district achieve that balance.

  1. Identity Management: instant access to digital resources

In many districts, IT departments manually provision accounts, meaning someone assigns digital resources, one user and one service at a time. The process is therefore time-consuming and prone to mistakes. Because deprovisioning is also manual, forgotten “ghost” accounts can become vulnerabilities. Instead, districts should use identity management for automatic account provisioning. Essentially, once a student or staff member is enrolled to a district, the identity management solution automatically provisions their account based on predetermined rules. This immediate, “zero-day access” is productive and secure. And if a student were to move or if a staff member were to quit, the identity management solution can automatically deprovision the account.

  1. Digital Stewardship: cybersecurity awareness and fundamental skills

Students and staff who learn to be good stewards of their credentials can help protect their learning environment. That starts with passwords. An analysis of 15,212,645,925 publicly leaked passwords found that “123456” is the most popular one. K-12 users must learn how to create strong (i.e., complicated) passwords that aren’t reused on other sites. Ideally, they will use one such password to access all their resources (more on that in the next section).  The second most important stewardship skill is how to recognize phishing attacks and vet links for telltale signs, like an unfamiliar domain. “Stay Safe from Phishing and Scams,” part of Google’s Digital Citizenship Course, is a great three-minute primer. Good stewardship, though important, can always use backup.

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Learnability For Learning Outcomes

Mitrankur (Mit) Majumdar

By Mitrankur (Mit) Majumdar, vice president and regional head—services, Americas, Infosys.

Gen X and older learnt a broad range of skills during their years of formal education that they applied throughout their working life. On the other hand, the millennials-and-younger employees will acquire new skills just-in-time and in short spells, repeatedly, as they change not just roles but even professions several times during their career. As the half-life of skills shrinks fast, the talent gap is widening to alarming levels: Millions of Americans remain unemployed (8.4 million in August 2021 ) even as millions of jobs go unfilled (10.1 million ).

Academic institutions, corporate trainers, and all other types of education providers have to address this issue by stepping up their learning and development (L&D) initiatives. However, simply throwing money at it is not the answer. Study after study has found that executives are disappointed with the outcomes of their company’s often substantial training investments.

I believe learnability may be the answer. Especially when nurtured alongside  a growth mindset where the learner is constantly looking to enrich their knowledge and aspire to an upward mobility in terms of skills and opportunities.

Learnability can be defined as a personal attitude based on a conscious and active focus on the permanent development of one’s own talent. It is this attitude of self-management of learning that’s different from the traditional approach of internal training, perceived as a requirement of the organization, external to the individual.

The reason why learnability works is because it empowers learners – rather than the learning providers – to manage the contours of their learning. The learners decide what to learn and at what speed, when they will learn, and through which channel. The core principle of learnability is to promote learner-centric learning; this is precisely why it produces better outcomes.

By definition, learnability requires learning to be freed from the boundaries of physical classrooms, in-person teaching, fixed timings, and linear, rigid, monolithic curriculums. The employees of today are learning lifelong, but that’s where the similarity ends.

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Education IT Trends and Its Most Pressing Challenges

Response by Amrit Ahluwalia, director of strategic insights, Modern Campus.

I’ve had conversations with hundreds of provosts and senior administrators at colleges and universities across North America, and around the world, all reflecting on how the industry is evolving, how student needs are changing, and how institutions are adapting to keep pace with those shifts. While many institutional leaders try to reflect on whether changes are flashes in the pan or meaningful disruption, the fact is that higher education has been on a consistent trajectory to make education increasingly modular and to make the student experience increasingly flexible and learner centric. 

Promising: Better Student Engagement 

We’re seeing colleges and universities invest in technologies built to support the learner in ways they haven’t before: Platforms built with the specific goal of engaging learners. Technologies that give learners direct pathways to success with clear career outcomes, that personalize the online experience or even simplify things like registration—these digital assets take the modern student from a ‘learner to earner’ in the most personalized and efficient path possible. The fact is that students enroll in higher education to get a job—58% of freshmen say this is their primary motivator for enrolling—and the industry is elevating to support those needs.  

Technologies that put the student engagement and experience first—that support the ‘learner-to-earner’ journey—must become the norm in higher education. The modern learner is savvy, they have alternatives to the traditional path to higher education and therefore colleges and universities must adapt to the needs of the modern learner.  We saw this during the pandemic: while freshman enrollment in higher education dropped 13% industry-wide, bootcamp enrollment grew 30%. The many alternatives to higher education keep pushing the status quo in how we serve modern learners. 

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