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How to Go Textbook Free

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Don’t want to deal with spending enormous amounts of money on textbooks? You should probably head to the University of Maryland University College (UMUC). As of fall 2015, they no longer expect any undergraduate to spend money on textbooks. By the next fall, the same will be true for graduate students. All together, the savings for the 84,000 student would be more than $10 million per year. But that’s not the only upside – the students’ learning will improve as well.  Figuring out how to develop a curriculum was hard though, as there was no prior model for the university to follow. They had to create a process on their own.

They first started with revising the programs to be more “outcome-based”. Other approaches were used as well, but were all met with challenges. Needless to say, the process to switch to a non-textbook campus was harder than expected.

The next part of the process was the “discovery” phase. During this phase, librarians helped identify materials that could be possibly used for the each learning objective. After gathering materials, an expert on the subject would work with the material and make appropriate decisions for the course.

Of course, there would be times when the available resources did not completely cover the learning objects of the given course. When this happened, UMUC turned to different resources. One was that the university used a proprietary database that the library subscribes to. In other cases, repurposed material was used.  At other times, there was no choice but to license content, like a novel, for certain classes.

Once the content was collected, it was put through an approval process that addressed copyright and accessibility issues. In the simplest case, the librarians would establish whether the material could be downloaded and used in the course. The last phase of this process was to “package” the content so that it would be a smooth learning experience for the students. While textbooks do a great job of providing just the right amount of information for each lesson or unit, that isn’t the case for resources coming form multiple places. In the end, the fix was placing all the information in a database for a week-to-week lesson plan.

The greatest reward of the switch was that the student’s learning improved. As the courses were taught with the new resources, feedback came in, and the content would be changed. And when new material came in for a course, they could be changed quickly and could be incorporated into the next lesson of a class.

The rewards of switching to this “no-textbook-on-campus” way of teaching was that the students were able to link with the content more and be in a more dynamic learning environment. Even if this way of education requires more work, it opens up new opportunities and helps students achieve more in their studies.

For more information, please visit the article here

Smartphones and Mobile Payment To Be Top Malware Targets in 2016

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Students and smartphones come hand-in-hand. Usually, some level of computer literacy also comes along. But what is frequently absent is security skills- the ability to tell what downloads are safe, what sources can be trusted, and the knowledge of how to use the tools that are developed to provide a second line of defense against security intrusions. Malware developers know this, and a recent report says that they’ll target smartphones and related technologies more than ever in 2016. On compromised phones, criminals may even be able to get access to mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay or Android Pay.

On Android phones, these threats are becoming more sophisticated (new malware may gain root access to the device, making them immune to virus removal software), but the way they get onto the system remains the same. Users should make sure to keep the “Install Software from Unknown Sources” setting unchecked except for when specifically installing software from outside the Google Play Store. Additionally, users should make sure that these outside sources are trustworthy before installing anything from those sources.

In addition, students should be aware that extra devices that they use carry extra security risks. Internet-connected devices of all kinds confer ways that personal information can be stolen, or methods for hackers to gain access to other devices. And as the Internet of Things develops, these methods of intrusion will only become more prominent.

For more information on this topic visit the article here.

Sharing a New Way to Collaborate and Communicate

Wayne State University has developed a social networking platform, Academia, for users to better collaborate and communicate. It is designed from the ground up to work on any mobile device.

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Academia operates through “streams” which act like Facebook walls or Twitter hashtags. These streams can be created and followed by anyone, according to their permission levels. As an example, users could create a stream for a specific club and invite people to subscribe to it. Due to its successful launch, Wayne State is looking to expand Academia to other campuses.

Over the summer of 2015, Wayne State transitioned over from the old portal Academia. As they expected, there were growing pains, however there was great user acceptance and good performance. They initially created a feedback stream where users could post any problems they ran into, and had to a team to fix and respond to those users’ problems.

The director of academic and core applications, Rob Thompson, mentioned that the platform showed its significant impact when it was used for new student orientation. It allowed students who haven’t even started classes yet to connect with each other and share their interests or thoughts.

The Merit Network plans on expanding this across many other campuses. Some universities they have visited have already shown their interested in the platform.

For more info, visit the article here.

Even Better Wi-Fi: University of Washington Leads Again

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Researchers at the Seattle campus have found a way to make a Wi-fi transmitter that uses 10,000 times less power than traditional Wi-Fi systems and 1,000 times less than existing low-power wireless technologies. It can be used by existing devices out of the box, with little to no need for extra setup per device. This technology has been attempted in the past, but limitations usually involved a dramatic drop in signal quality over a short distance or expensive, custom hardware that did not work with existing devices.

This technology, tentatively called “passive Wi-Fi,” is made possible by separating the digital elements of the transmitter (handling such tasks as encoding and encryption) and the analog (which includes the actual antenna that transmits data). This implementation creates a network that is perfectly suited for the Internet of Things.

As anyone who uses UW Bothell’s Wi-Fi knows, our internet connection is excellent and our network is extremely well-maintained. However, when infrastructure replacements or upgrades are considered in the future, admins would do well to look at the technology that the UW has pioneered for further reducing our energy usage.

For more information, see the Campus Technology blog post here.

The Future of the Transcript

Ever heard of an “extended transcript”? Well for the students at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), they will be piloting a prototype that offers a look at the transcript of the future. UMUC is one of a dozen colleges that are involved in the Comprehensive Student Record Project, a project that was launched to advance different methods of tracking a students’ academic progress.

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Joellen Shendy, associate video provost and registrar at UMUC stated that the transcript at the moment just doesn’t get a lot of screen time and that they want to build something that goes deeper into what a student can do.

This idea has been growing in popularity and offers students more information about their college career such as the students’ papers and projects and how they have contributed to their progress throughout the years, in addition to the traditional grades and hours spent studying.  Customization would also be included where the student would be allowed to modify their achievements – much like a resume – for different jobs.

This new type of transcript will also allow students to list goals they’re working towards, and even track their progress for mastering those goals. This gives students the ability to track their level of proficiency in their skills.  There is even a place where someone can view the student’s work as proof of their proficiency.

According to Shendy, in the future transcripts will give students a better understanding of the courses they have taken and how they affect their career.

Each of the universities participating in this project are in different stages and use different methods to further the transcript. UMUC is one of the ones that are farther along, developing mainly in documenting outside-of-the-class actives and increasing access to these records.

Elon University is developing its Experiences Transcript which shows a student’s involvement in extracurricular activates.  Standford is working on several projects, such as giving more access to current students, as well as giving alumni access to their records and moving transcripts to a non-paper format that are digitally signed by the university to guarantee their authenticity.

Because this project is still new and well in the beginning stages, there are no definitive results concerning this change, but after the institutions participating in this have completed their pilots, the plan is for them to promote this project and their findings to hopefully benefit other colleges and universities.

For more information on this topic, click here.