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Open Source Resources on Demand

The Campus Computing Survey began in 1990, and it is the largest study that analyzes information technology in American higher education. This year’s survey results were released during the Educause Annual Conference, where top ed-tech officials gather to discuss what’s changed in higher education IT. This year’s survey includes responses from IT leaders at 417 two and four year institutions.

It’s no secret expensive textbooks are not so popular, especially with college students. Kenneth C. Green, the founder of the survey shared that there is a lot of anger surrounding expensive textbooks. Now Open Educational Resources (OER) are starting to look like a viable alternative to expensive textbooks. In 2014, 30.8% of faculty members from public universities responded that they were encouraged by their institutions to use open-source content in their courses. In this year’s survey 42.1% of faculty members from public universities reported that their institutions encouraged faculty members to use open educational resources in their courses.

Although the OER movement is still young, the survey found that IT leaders’ number 1 priority is to help faculty members integrate information technology into their teaching. From the survey 81% of top technology officers at colleges believe that open educational resources will be an important source for instructional material in the next five years.


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On the Clouds!


Colleges and universities are finding that the cloud is an ideal environment for serving modern technology to modern day students. Using the cloud students will have easy access to course material at their fingertips to help them succeed in higher education.

The cloud gives students more ways to learn such as providing 24/7 course resources on any mobile device in a faster and easier way. Since students learn at different times, in different ways, and in different environments, the cloud provides assignments, learning supplements, self-paced tests, and other aids accessible when needed. With 24/7 access students are not restricted to library or office hours. What the cloud does is it takes advantage of modern technologies to provide a database where students can access up-to-date information. The cloud eliminates data silos, so students and faculty aren’t constantly tracking down information from multiple sources. Students also have multi-user communication, which enable collaboration and ways to learn beyond a traditional textbook or classroom lecture. In the end the cloud’s goal is not to keep up with modern technology, but to help improve student success by providing fast, easy, and reliable course material.

Schools that are taking advantage of modern technologies have noticed that the cloud offers an effective and cost-efficient experience for student resources. Meanwhile providing students with more ways to learn in an easy fast way.

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Penn State Technology Allows Faculty and Students to Build Their Own Textbooks from OER

Faculty, staff and graduate students at Penn State University cleverly came up with a way for other faculty and students to create their own online textbooks through a tool called BBookX.

Users would simply have to type in keywords related to their subject material, then BBookX will gather information from open resources regarding those keywords. Since this tool is only in its pre-release state, it currently runs on top of Wikipedia. However, once it has reached a wider release, it will support more Open Educational Resources (OER) repositories. Kyle Bowen, director of Education Technology Services in TLT, assures that “expanding future use will be a key part of our success”


The tool allows students and faculty to create textbooks chapter by chapter. Once the resources have been loaded, users can rearrange the material however they like through a click and drag interface

A huge advantage of this tool is that students will save a lot of money from textbook costs and they will be able to personalize their learning through building the textbooks themselves.

Although the primary focus of the tool is towards college students, K-12 students and faculty are able to use it as well. A public demo is not yet available, however developers are searching for “schools and organizations that would be interested in partnering and supporting future research.” There is yet to be a confirmed release date.

For more information on this topic, visit the article here.

Enhancing online learning through MOOCs

Universities are looking for opportunities to experiment with new programs. Many colleges have “double-dipped” by joining both Coursera and edX, two major platforms MOOC provides. When MOOC released their new platform at least 10 of the institutions that first partnered with Coursera joined edX. Not a single edX institution has gone the other way. After adding the University of Michigan to the list of charter memebers, edX has recruited all of the Coursera’s earliest partners. The institutions include the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Stanford University to name a few.

Coursera has a promising business model in Specializations, such as career-focused courses. Edx, has its own benefits, in addition to its code serving as the foundation for other platforms it also provides institutions with the opportunity to experiment with online learning, as a part of face-to-face education. Alan M. Garber, the Provost of Harvard University, shared that edX provides institutions with the opportunity for dialogue, collaboration and innovation. The dean of Penn Graduate School of Education explained that edX provides partners with the opportunity to experiment with the rapidly changing online learning space.

EdX sets itself apart because it has a nonprofit status. Each platform MOOCs creates, on Coursera and edX, provides different platforms that reach a verity of different student population allowing course material to be distributed as widely as possible.


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How Student Video Presentations Can Build Community in an Online Course

Robert Talbert, a STEM professor at Grand Valley State University, decided to integrate online student presentations into his online Calculus I class. He mentioned that teaching an online course came with a few challenges including setting up student presentations when the class never actually met face-to-face.

Talbert would give students one week to prepare for their presentations. The main rules were that students had to show their face, voice and own handwriting at all times in the video to ensure that they are in fact the ones doing the work. Students had to pass three video presentations to get an A, in the class and at least one to pass the class.

The professor informed all the students that he would provide any equipment that they would need to make the presentations, but all the students were able to manage on their own. Some students used basic filming tools such as their laptops or phones, while some who didn’t have whiteboards used large sheets of paper and taped them to her wall.

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(Photo credit: Chronicle.com)

These video presentations posed a number of positive impacts to the online class. Students were able to see each other’s work and use the videos to study for tests or see the different approaches to a problem. In addition, it created a slight difference from most online courses as students were able to see who else was in their class, instead of just “entries in a spreadsheet or avatars on a discussion board.”

Talbert says that “these video presentations were one of the biggest successes I’ve had as a teacher”

To view some of the presentations, visit the main article here.