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Articles: Classroom

Student Caitlin Smith of Adelphi U gets a helping hand from Susan Spencer Farinacci, executive director of the Learning Disabilities Program there.

At first glance, the sprawling University of Arizona and University of Connecticut campuses might not have much in common with Adelphi University and Curry College, smaller private institutions in the suburbs of New York City and Boston, respectively. But all of these schools have built robust programs for undergraduates with learning disabilities (LD), distinguishing themselves in the process.

They’re among an expanding number of institutions working closely with students who decades ago might have struggled to graduate—or not made it to college at all.

Recently, McGraw-Hill Higher Education issued a white paper, “The Tipping Point in Development Education” stating that adaptive learning technology in higher education can bridge remedial education gaps.

The report noted that technology-enabled developmental education programs that are designed specifically for underprepared students entering or returning to college can improve educational and other outcomes. These benefits can include increased retention and completion rates, a more accelerated and efficient process for students bound for college, and greater affordability.

Big Bend Community College (Wash.)

  • Using: Mediasite by Sonic Foundry

  • Started using lecture capture: 2007

  • Classes: Pre-college level math and English

California Community Colleges

  • Using: Blackboard Collaborate

  • Started using lecture capture: 2002 (upgrades in 2005 and 2012)

  • Classes: Basic skills (including ESL,tutoring, and writing labs)

Students enrolled in remedial courses at Holmes Community College seem to be sticking it out in those courses, and the use of lecture capture may well be a big factor in why. Photo: Courtney Lange / Holmes Community College Staff Writer/Photographer

Boosting success for students in remedial education is crucial, particularly given the readiness gap seen at some community colleges. A recent report from McGraw-Hill Higher Education showed that despite receiving a high school diploma, at least 75 percent of first-year students at community colleges aren’t college-ready. And the number of students dropping out during their first year of college continues to rise. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including financial difficulties.


The 20-year-old “bubble era” of rapid expansion and leveraged prosperity in American colleges may have been a novelty; it did not, however, fund or build much that now seems original. Too bad, because there is a difference between movements or institutions (as there is for poets and scientists) that are original, truly springing from fresh inspiration, and those that are merely novel, highly derived forms growing from already familiar soils. The Great Recession continues a residual perplexity like a weather front hovering upon the shoreline.

Here we are at a coffee shop in South Boston, commiserating over the latest higher education buzz. Boston, a place that hosts 50 colleges and universities, is the kind of college town that often drives national higher learning megatrends. The talk here is about President Obama taking aim at at student debt load, gainful employment, and health care.  For Obama, “The question isn’t how we can afford to focus on healthcare. The question is how we can afford not to…because in order to fix our economic crisis and rebuild our middle class, we need to fix our healthcare system, too.”

Apps for Education


On January 19, Apple held a much-hyped education event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City where the company revealed its move into the textbook distribution market with the release of the iBooks 2 and iBooks Author apps.

Notable for its higher ed implications, iBooks Author is available as a free download from the Mac App Store and lets anyone with a Mac create iBooks textbooks and publish them to Apple’s iBookstore. Education technology experts weigh in on how this could change how professors disseminate information.

artist painting

Futurist Richard Florida moved the needle with his book The Rise of the Creative Class (Basic Books, 2002)—establishing creativity as a 21st century learning and earning skill, and a driving force of economic growth, jobs creation, and cultural enrichment in today’s competitive global society.

College campuses have long been accused of being bastions of liberal thought. But the most recent Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) survey of the nation’s entering students at four-year colleges and universities shows that current freshmen, at least, are arriving on campus with their own more liberal beliefs than previous classes. “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2011” shares findings that students are more accepting of everything from same-sex marriages to affirmative action.

Student retention is a big problem that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. About one-third of college students fail to obtain a degree six years after taking their first college course, and the United States is no longer in the top 10 list of countries with the highest graduation rates, according to the College Board. The drop-out rate affects long-term economic prosperity nationwide. This is particularly true in an age where knowledge, creativity, and innovation are key drivers in a globalized economy.

Tim Goral

Everyone remembers the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones, with his iconic Fedora and bullwhip, narrowly escapes from a Peruvian temple with a stolen golden idol, avoiding the path of a rolling boulder and a band of arrow-wielding Hovitos tribesmen. In the next scene, we see Dr. Jones home again, teaching an archaeology class at “Marshall College.” He stands before the class in a bowtie and glasses (which, oddly, he doesn’t seem to need for the rest of the film). 

Today’s universities with campus-wide, robust mobile broadband networks have secured an edge in marketing to technology-centered young adults. These young adults have embraced smartphones and are using applications that enable life on campus to be more secure, navigable, and fun. Apps are everywhere. They boost campus security by opening doors to residence halls, broadcast real-time audio and video to emergency dispatchers, use QR (Quick Response) codes to traverse campus grounds, and help students to meet up, check grades or assignments, and receive weather and class cancellation alerts.

Capture in High Def

Textbooks for rent

In this digital age, at a time when everybody is tightening their belts, it should come as no surprise that students are buying fewer textbooks. How many fewer? Two recent surveys show that 70 percent of students polled at the University of California, Riverside say the rising costs of higher ed have caused them to skip buying textbooks altogether. And findings from a 2011 Pew survey, “The Digital Revolution and Higher Education,” indicate that 62 percent of college presidents anticipate more than half of textbooks used by their undergraduates will be digital within 10 years.