All posts by magister

Why the Convenience University Will Rule Higher Ed

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-01-13-why-the-convenience-university-will-rule-higher-ed

By Robert Ubell (Columnist)    
Jan 13, 2020

“A couple of decades ago, when I was dean of online learning at Stevens Institute of Technology, a small STEM college on the Hudson with a view of mid-Manhattan, we polled our digital students about why they chose to enroll as virtual learners. Did they come to our virtual classrooms for the strength of our faculty? The quality of the program? The reputation of the college?

When we tallied the results, one reason emerged as a driving force for our online learners: They came seeking convenience.

We shouldn’t have been surprised. Noted Columbia University legal scholar, Tim Wu, has called convenience, “the most underestimated and least understood force in the world today” and “perhaps the most powerful force shaping our individual lives and our economies.”

Of course, technology has brought new conveniences for on-campus as well as online students. Back when I was an undergraduate at Brooklyn College, for example, each semester I’d queue up for hours in the school gym in front of long tables with blank-faced staff to register for class. I’d fret that my longed-for Shakespeare class would close-out by the time I finally reached the front of the line.

Today, students register painlessly from their dorm, home, or anywhere with their laptop or smartphone. And that is what students now expect, since digital services have practically eliminated standing in line anywhere. Raised on apps and on-demand media, students can access almost anything, merely by keying a link. But these days colleges can be left behind in their digital services.

“Higher education has not yet figured it out,” Peggy McCready, associate vice president for IT services and support at Northwestern University, recently told me. “Service and support at universities are not up to the level of personalization we’ve grown accustomed to at the drugstore, where your prescription is refilled automatically and you’re reminded when you haven’t picked it up.”

One reason, she argues, is that colleges and universities are often radically decentralized, making the standard of service different in different campus departments and sectors. “With a more diverse student population, nontraditional students, without helpful and easily accessible tools, struggle to find resources they need to succeed.”

Inconvenience–like forcing students to rush around campus from one dean’s office to another for approvals–neither builds character nor imparts learning, but inflames exasperation with a college’s inattention to student needs. Student life is complicated and stressful enough without adding unnecessary obstacles.

“As consumers, convenience is one of students’ key expectations, but not often realized on campus,” said academic IT guru Lev Gonick, Arizona State University’s CIO, in an interview last month. “Even so, convenience is a huge and basic student expectation. Wrap-around services make students feel they are very much part of the university.”

Eighteen months ago, ASU launched a mobile app, an online one-stop-shop, helping students, not only with maneuvering campus services, but decisively providing robust student engagement. ASU students have now downloaded it 130,000 times, accessing it more than 3.4 times a day to check class schedules, navigate campus services, or see student alerts–all in the palm of their hands. Thanks to an integration with TicketMaster, it even gives students access to ASU football games.

One place on campus that has been quickest to bring in conveniences has been the library, where paper card catalogs were long ago retired for digital searching. “The importance of convenience is especially prevalent among younger generations in their studies, but is true across all demographic categories—age, gender and academic role,” concludes a recent report from OCLC, the giant library technology cooperative.

And for plenty of students, college is just not possible unless it is made convenient enough to fit into the limited time and space they have to devote to studies. That’s especially true for students working full-time jobs, for parents caring for children and for others who cannot just hop into their cars and drive off to a campus.

That’s why online programs at colleges have also been a leader in focusing on convenience, and why more than a third of the nation’s students are now online.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that digital replacements for onerous tasks will be simpler or easier to use. Just recently, it took me more than 20 minutes, with several failed attempts, to submit student grades to an awkwardly designed online form that would have been a snap with just pencil and paper. And no one is spared the frustration, waiting while rudely long irritating tunes keep you on hold, attempting to right some trivial, but hostile digital error. Flaws in online convenience can turn into a nightmare of dysfunction.

There are those who think that convenience is just an expensive trick, exploited by capitalism to circulate commodities faster than ever to increase profit. Like Sirens in The Odyssey, consumerism seduces our desires–envy, fame, or happiness, and love–compelling our keyboard fingers to click-open our credit cards faster than ever.

“Making things easier isn’t wicked,” argues Wu. “On the contrary, it often opens up possibilities that once seemed too onerous to contemplate, and it typically makes life less arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries.”

For scholars and academic leaders who encourage young minds to explore philosophy, science and other heady pursuits, focusing on student convenience may seem a foolishly trivial detour from what matters most. Yet ignoring convenience could send college students fleeing to more accommodating places that pay more attention to what they need.

And we owe our students convenience for the respect it represents, the sanity it embraces and the kindness it demonstrates. And for some colleges that face falling enrollments, becoming more convenient may be key to survival—just like the shops along my street that have been threatened by Amazon and other online options.”

Robert Ubell is vice dean emeritus of online learning at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. A collection of his essays on virtual education, Going Online, is published by Routledge. He serves on the advisory board of the Online Learning journal. He can be reached at bobubell@gmail.com.

Another reason to delete Facebook: better exam results

by Quentin Fottrell
Published: Nov. 12, 2019, 10:31 a.m. EDT
https://apple.news/AZ7WBqco0Rsq0g3eINpWCXw

“New research appears to validate what many parents and educators have long suspected

Instead of updating your status, why not improve your exam results?

Students whose grades are below average could boost their results if they devoted less time to Facebook and other social networking sites, according to research published Tuesday. The study, led by James Wakefield, a senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney, examined the time first-year university students spent on Facebook (FB) and how it impacted their grades.

Such students are likely already struggling with their ability to focus. “Time spent on social networking platforms puts lower academic achievers at higher risk of failing their course,” Wakefield said. “We found that if they used Facebook for three hours a day — not substantially higher than the average of just under two hours — the difference was around six marks in a 60 mark exam or 10%.”

The research, published in the latest edition of Computers & Education, a peer-reviewed journal, with co-author Jessica Frawley, a lecturer at the University of Sydney, looked at university students studying STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and business degrees, it is likely to also be relevant to high school students who use social media.”

More than 500 students enrolled in a first-year class, “Introductory Accounting,” at an Australian university took part in the study; they had an average age of 19. The researchers controlled for other factors that might influence their achievement, including whether they were planning to major in accounting, as well as their age and gender.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a grilling on Capitol Hill last month by members of the House Financial Services Committee over his proposed cryptocurrency project Libra and the platform’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. The #DeleteFacebook hashtag was trending on Twitter (TWTR) in the wake of that controversy.

Many consumers vowed to deactivate their accounts in 2018 after revelations that U.K.-based campaign strategy firm Cambridge Analytica used millions of Facebook users’ personal data without their permission. Some 44% of users between the ages of 18 and 29 deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the wake of the scandal, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

In the aftermath of that scandal, all Facebook users received a message on Facebook called “Protecting Your Information,” laying out which third-party apps have access to your individual Facebook profile. (Zuckerberg also issued a mea culpa, and pledged to be more careful when vetting third party apps, but said fixing the problem could take years.)

Last month, #DeleteFacebook was trending once more after a report from Politico that Zuckerberg held private meetings with conservative journalists and commentators over the summer. Despite these recent controversies, Facebook reported an 1.6% increase in active users in the third quarter from the previous year, bringing the global total to 2.45 billion monthly active users.”

Teen girls on birth control pills report crying more, sleeping too much and eating issues, study says

Teenage girls who use birth control pills are more likely to cry, sleep too much and experience eating issues than their peers who don’t use oral contraceptives, according to a recent study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Research has shown that adolescents who use birth control pills are more prone to be at risk for depression in adulthood — regardless of whether they continue taking the pills when they get older.

But investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, University Medical Center Groningen and Leiden University Medical Center sought to examine something more subtle — depressive symptoms, which include increased crying, sleeping too much, feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts.

“Depressive symptoms are more prevalent than clinical depression and can have a profound impact on quality of life,” co-author Hadine Joffe, vice chair for psychiatry research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a news release.

“Ours is the first study of this scale to dive deep into the more subtle mood symptoms that occur much more commonly than a depression episode but impact quality of life and are worrying to girls, women and their families.”

For this study, researchers looked at 1,010 girls and women over a period of nine years using data from an ongoing survey in the Netherlands called TRAILS, Tracking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey. They assessed birth control pill usage at ages 16, 19, 22 and 25.

“One of the most common concerns women have when starting the pill, and teens and their parents have when an adolescent is considering taking the pill, is about immediate depressive risks,” said lead author Anouk de Wit, a psychiatry trainee at University Medical Center Groningen.

Researchers found that 16-year-old girls on birth control pills reported more crying, more sleeping and more eating problems than girls who weren’t on the pill, although the symptoms diminish once they enter adulthood.

High schoolers misusing prescription drugs have more than one way to get them

Researchers warn that this could lead to substance abuse issues

By Kristen Dalli

07/18/2019 | ConsumerAffairs | Health News

“A new study from Michigan State University shows that high schoolers have many different sources they can turn to when it comes to obtaining prescription drugs.

While the misuse and abuse of these drugs raises concerns on its own, the team says the findings are also worrisome because the misuse of prescription drugs is often associated with other mental health concerns or substance abuse issues.

“These adolescents are most in need of intervention to address their substance use and any other medical and mental health issues,” said researcher Ty Schepis.

Knowing the numbers
The researchers completed two studies to gain a better understanding of young people’s misuse of prescription drugs.

In the first study, the researchers analyzed over 18,500 high school students to gain insight into their attitudes about drugs and their behaviors around them. The students were specifically asked about stimulants, opioids, and tranquilizers.

Of the students involved in this study, 11 percent reported misusing prescription drugs, with 44 percent of those same students reporting that they had more than one way to get their hands on the drugs when they wanted them. While some opted to take leftover drugs they found in their medicine cabinets, others bought them off of their peers at school.

The second study focused on nearly 104,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, and the researchers aimed to discover how these young people were securing prescription drugs.

The most common source for drugs in this study was getting them for free from friends or relatives, as this accounted for roughly 33 percent of the participants’ misuse of drugs. Getting an opioid painkiller prescription from a doctor was the second highest source, with 24 percent of participants obtaining drugs this way. Buying drugs from others rounded out the list.

These findings are certainly cause for concern, as having multiple avenues to secure prescription drugs for the wrong reasons has been proven to lead to substance use disorder in over 70 percent of young people.

“The implications from these two studies could not be clearer,” said researcher Sean Esteban McCabe. “Parents, public health experts, and clinicians must rally to address this problem. There is a critical need for clinical workforce training to support clinical and school-based education, screening, prevention, and early intervention.””

Abusing painkillers as a teen could lead to heroin use later in life

Researchers are unsure why this pattern exists

By Kristen Dalli

07/09/2019 | ConsumerAffairs | Health News

In a new study, researchers have discovered that teens are more likely to turn to heroin when they use prescription painkillers to get high.

“Prescription opioids and heroin activate the brain’s pleasure circuit in similar ways,” said researcher Adam Leventhal. “Teens who enjoy the ‘high’ from prescription opioids could be more inclined to seek out other drugs that produce euphoria, including heroin.”

Tracking drug use

The researchers’ primary focus with the study was to see how prescription painkiller use during teenage years impacted potential drug use in later years. To get a gauge of teens’ drug habits over time, the researchers had nearly 3,300 high school freshman complete surveys, which were retaken twice a year through their senior years.

The biggest takeaway from the study was that students who were currently using, or had previously used, prescription painkillers were more likely to turn to heroin by the time they graduated high school.

“Adolescents are sometimes overlooked in the opioid epidemic discussion,” said researcher Lorraine Kelley-Quinn. “The association between nonmedical opioid use and later heroin use in youth is concerning and warrants further research and health policy interventions.”

Prescription painkillers were popular in nearly 600 of the students surveyed throughout their high school experience, and this led to a large portion of students later turning to harder drugs.

Nearly 11 percent of students who reported formerly using prescription opioids and over 17 percent who were currently using the drugs were found to use heroin by the end of high school.

“While we can’t definitively conclude that there is a cause-and-effect relation, there may be something unique about opioid drugs that makes youths vulnerable to trying heroin,” said Leventhal. “The results do not appear to be driven by the tendency of some teens to act out, rebel, or experiment with many types of drugs.”

Protecting young people
A recent study revealed that parents are choosing opioids for their kids when it comes to pain relief, despite knowing other options exist.

Now knowing how prescription opioids can affect teens into early adulthood, these findings shed new light on how future treatment options could be affected.

Moreover, researchers have discovered that today’s children and teens are three times more likely to experience opioid poisoning than they were two decades ago.

Teen crashes in Bird Box challenge


Police say a teenager participating in the latest viral challenge is responsible for a crash on a parkway and will face reckless driving charges.

Friday, January 11, 2019 03:15PM

LAYTON, Utah — Police say a teenager participating in the latest viral challenge is responsible for a crash on Layton Parkway and will face reckless driving charges.

Layton Police tweeted two photos of the crash, which they said occurred Monday. No injuries were reported.

“Bird Box Challenge while driving… predictable result,” the department stated. “This happened on Monday as a result of the driver covering her eyes while driving on Layton Parkway.”

Police said they didn’t learn about the story behind Monday’s crash until Friday. The “Bird Box Challenge” takes its name from a recent Netflix movie in which the characters must remain blindfolded.

Lt. Travis Lyman, Layton Police, said the 17-year-old girl driving the pickup truck was with a 16-year-old boy when she decided to attempt the “Bird Box Challenge” and used a beanie as an impromptu blindfold.

The driver veered into oncoming traffic and struck a passenger car.

“Honestly I’m almost embarrassed to have to say ‘Don’t drive with your eyes covered’ but you know apparently we do have to say that,” Lyman said. “…The stakes are just so high and it’s just such a potentially dangerous thing as it is: to try and do it in that way is inexcusable. It really puts everybody at risk.”

Police are recommending reckless driving charges in the case but it will be up to the County Attorney’s Office to determine what charges, if any, are filed.