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#ACEmeetDC: 5 tech takeaways for higher ed leaders

Embracing the increasing role of technology in education is not akin to admitting defeat.

“This is not based on the idea that the system is broken — it’s not,” said Stanford University President John L. Hennessey during a session at the American Council on Education’s 97th annual meeting. “It’s just that we can do better.”

The goals are threefold, he said: Increase access, reduce cost without reducing learning and improve learning and degree completion in a cost-effective manner.

Tech can enhance student services. A partnership with Innovative Educators helped Foothill College meet its specific needs: increased student preparedness and self-confidence in academic abilities, available online at all times through interactive videos. The service needed to be hosted off-site so it would require very little campus support, be ADA-compliant and provide campus leaders with extensive data. StudentLingo was born.

Through StudentLingo, students have access to more than 30 interactive videos on topics including time management, job interview preparation, reading and writing strategies and staying motivated in online courses. There are also workshops for special populations, like veterans and athletes. After each workshop, students can fill out an evaluation and get a certificate of completion. All students are encouraged to take the workshops; those on academic probation are required to take them.

Monthly reports and student input have been telling. Students are more prepared when they go to advising, and grades and confidence have improved. The program has been so successful that Foothill launched faculty-focused Go2Knowledge and is developing a new program specifically for orientation.

Tech can enable faster, cheaper degree completion. Brandman University, in partnership with Flat World, launched a pilot program in October in which 44 students are earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree — – entirely via iPad — in one of four areas The program is designed to be completed in as few as 30 months and for as little as $13,500.

Flat World CEO Chris Etesse said algorithms are designed to detect when students have issues with the material: 40% of the program is adaptive and can change based on a user’s behavior. Brandman brings in full-time faculty to help students, and each school has a grader, coach and faculty member to help students master certain competencies. The data can help teachers be more aware of their students and help students control their own outcomes, he said.

Online courses will improve student learning. There’s no reason to think online credentials — particularly MOOCs — will replace traditional undergraduate degrees, said Stanford president Hennessey. But institutions can learn from what they offer: They provide specific skill-sets that employers value and are less expensive to produce. Rather than MOOCs, LSOCs — large, selective online courses — might be more prevalent. Hybrid models and flipped classrooms work well and have improved student engagement, and have required students to spend 25% less time mastering the material.

Challenges remain in increasing attention spans, grading complex material, cheating, group projects and customization. But technology is improving in several of those areas, Hennessey said. In online courses, real-time analytics show how students are grasping each section of material through mini-quizzes and by demonstrating whether students need to replay segments of a lecture, benefiting students through courses that can improve quickly.

Tech can provide data necessary to improve holistic student success. Joe LeCluyse, vice president for client services at Collegiate Project Services, left a 16-year career in higher education to develop software that be used to help boost student engagement and development at all levels, still inspired by something he had heard at his own college orientation: one in three students wouldn’t be there in four years. As institutions face new pressures such as performance-based funding, diverse student pathways and new federal and state mandates, institutions can lose sight of the big picture of student experience, LeCluyse said.

Creating an institutional culture that enhances student success includes an emphasis on metrics and determining how metrics can be used in decision-making is key, he said.

Crowdfunding will enable advancement to reach donors where they are. Colleges need to get past the old fundraising paradigm of annual fund membership and recognize that today’s donors want to choose where their money goes, feel they are doing social good, and experience genuine engagement, said Michael Greenberg, senior executive vice president of RuffaloCODY and co-founder of ScaleFunder.

Crowdfunding has proved successful for institutions including the University of California at San Francisco, which launched a crowdfunding page for a doctor who sought to respond to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The campaign proved so successful that the alumni association wrote about it in its magazine and got additional supporters, about half of whom were new donors. Another successful UCSF campaign supplemented a faculty grant.

“It’s about reframing how we think about fundraising and advancement as a new mechanism for donor acquisition and engagement,” Greenberg said. “Get people to engage in their story by engaging in theirs. Your data shows a college major, and maybe a ZIP code can give you a wealth estimate. But this will show you a donor’s passions and interests.”

Anna Schumann edits hospitality, retail, government and business newsletters at SmartBrief. She graduated with degrees in journalism and political science from Texas Tech University, and worked as a newspaper reporter, photographer and web writer for various outlets prior to joining SmartBrief in 2013.

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