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Up Front: Winter 2011

 

 

Survey: Students Still Hesitant to Embrace E-books
Two recent studies indicate that electronic books have yet to be fully embraced on college campuses, though college technology officers predict that the technology will grow in usage. According to the Electronic Book and e-Reader Device Survey, e-book purchases were made by just 13 percent of college students during a recent three-month period. The survey of over 600 students, conducted by the OnCampus Research Division of the National Association of College Stores (NACS), took place during fall 2010. Of the respondents, 56 percent stated that their main reason for buying an e-book was that is was required course material for class.
 
The poll shows that print textbooks remain the preferred option among college students. Nearly three-quarters of participants indicated that if the choice were entirely up to them, print textbooks would be their top option when taking a class. This response concurs with the results of a similar NACS Student Watch survey conducted in 2009. Only about a quarter of students in the new survey stated they would prefer a digital/electronic textbook over the traditional print version.
 
Of the students who preferred print, more than half indicated that they did not favor digital textbooks because they simply preferred print to digital. Around 14 percent said their primary reason for not preferring digital is the loss of access to content after the end of the semester. Among students who opted for digital books, 83 percent stated that they favored that format because it reduced the weight of textbooks in their back pack; 78 percent of them also liked the digital option because all their required course materials were in one place at all times.

In contrast to the NACS study, a survey of senior campus information technology officers found that more than 86 percent of them agreed or strongly agreed that “e-book content will be an important source for instructional resources in five years,” roughly a 10 percent jump from a similar survey conducted in 2009. Additionally, more than three-quarters of IT officers agreed or strongly agreed that “e-book readers (hardware) will be important platforms for instructional content in five years.”

Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, which conducted the 2010 Campus Computing Survey, noted, “E-books remain a much wished for, ‘ever-arriving’ technology in academe. The platform options, market opportunities, and enabling technologies for e-books continue to improve.” But Green acknowledged that for most students, e-books and e-textbooks do not yet offer competitive alternatives to used textbooks. “E-textbook development and pricing strategies are still evolving. Publishers still develop titles primarily for print, and then [import] content into electronic formats. Consequently, e-books and e-textbooks do not—yet—provide a compelling value proposition for most college students.”
 

Tech Trends on Campus
In addition to exploring the future of e-books within academia, the 2010 Campus Computing Survey also found that budget strains on college and university information technology services may be abating.
New data from institutions participating in the annual survey reveal that just over 40 percent of colleges and universities reported a budget cut in central IT services for the current academic year. Though this is significant, it represents a drop from the 50 percent of campuses that reported cuts in fall 2009.

Private nonprofit institutions fared better than their public counterparts: The proportion of private universities reporting IT budget cuts fell by more than half, from 56.9 percent in 2009 to 24.4 percent in 2010. Among private four-year colleges, the percentage reporting budget cuts fell from 41.9 percent last year to 31.9 percent in 2010.
 
Although the percentage of public four-year colleges and universities reporting budget cuts also declined compared with 2009, the number went up for community colleges. Almost half (46.2 percent) of the community colleges participating in the 2010 survey reported budget reductions affecting central IT services, compared with 38 percent in 2009. Among public universities, the proportion experiencing budget cuts fell from 67.1 percent in 2009 to 59.8 percent in 2010. Nearly half (46.6 percent) of public four-year colleges reported budget cuts in central IT services for the current academic year, compared with more than 60 percent in 2009.
 
The survey data also revealed that student activity on social networks can pose social problems for colleges and universities. Just over 15 percent of campuses participating in the 2010 survey report a student “incident” (such as cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying) linked to student activity on social networking sites in the past year.
“Although Facebook and other social networks are not supported or sponsored by colleges and universities, the activities of individual students on these sites can have consequences for other students and for their institutions,” commented Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, which conducted the survey. “Many campuses are likely to expand their user education initiatives as part of institutional efforts to address this issue.”
 
Copies of the 2010 Campus Computing Survey are available from the Campus Computing Project at www.campuscomputing.net.
 

Global Enrollment on the Rise
Great strides have been made in advancing higher education in both the developed and developing worlds, according to the 2010 Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme. The report reveals that no country has seen declines in literacy or years of schooling since 1970. It also shows that women’s enrollment in postsecondary education now exceeds that of men in many parts of the world. For instance, in the Arab States, 132 women are enrolled for every 100 men. Conversely, Guinea and Niger are two examples of countries where male enrollment far exceeds female enrollment, with three men pursuing higher education for every female.
 
 
ACE Assesses First Year of New GI Bill
The American Council on Education (ACE) has released data on the experiences of student veterans and campus administrators during the first year of Post-9/11 GI Bill implementation.

Based on the results of an online survey and focus group sessions on multiple campuses in three states, Service Members in School: Military Veterans’ Experiences Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Pursuing Postsecondary Education explores student experiences with transferring military training to academic credit and transitioning from military service to campus life. The report, made possible by the support of Lumina Foundation for Education, is part of ACE’s Serving Those Who Serve initiative and was written by Jennifer L. Steele and her colleagues at the RAND Corporation.
 

Among the findings:

  • Approximately 24 percent of survey respondents and a substantial share of focus group participants reported that the existence of the new GI Bill had driven their decision to enroll in higher education.
  • About 18 percent of survey respondents and a small share of focus group participants, mainly concentrated in private colleges, said the new GI Bill’s existence had driven their choice of higher education institution.
  • Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents and numerous focus group participants reported having difficulty understanding their GI Bill benefit options and choosing the best education benefit for their needs.
About 2 million Americans have served this country in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “These veterans are now poised to take advantage of the new GI bill, and our higher education system is eager to serve them well. We think this report can give colleges and universities the information they need to do that.”
 
Service Members in School can be purchased by visiting the ACE Online Store.
 

Minority Trends in Higher Ed: Going Beyond the Numbers
Higher education leaders from over 130 institutions gathered online November 17, 2010, for a discussion of the recently released Minorities in Higher Education 2010 24th Status Report. The conversation revolved around the implications of the American Council on Education (ACE) report, and what strategies institutions can use to increase underrepresented students’ enrollment in colleges and universities and ensure their success.
 
The speakers were Gailda Davis, associate director of ACE’s Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity (CAREE); Charles Martinez, vice president for institutional equity and diversity at University of Oregon; Wanda Mitchell, vice provost for faculty development and inclusive excellence at the University of New Hampshire and second vice president of the National Association of Diversity in Higher Education (NADOHE); and Susana Munoz, postdoctoral research associate and lecturer at Iowa State University. This group of diversity officers and scholars extended the findings beyond the numbers found in the report to actionable steps for institutions.
 
Much of the conversation focused on not only the data but also a special essay concerning Hispanics. That population—the fastest growing segment in the United States—is having less success in postsecondary education than other ethnicities. Speakers explained what the data meant to them and to higher education in general, indicating what specific steps might be taken to support the achievement and attainment of minority students, faculty, and staff.
 
Throughout the webinar, attendees posted numerous questions and comments. Based on this feedback, ACE will compose an FAQ page that will be made available in December through the CAREE pages of the ACE web site.

CAREE and NADOHE were co-sponsors for this event. Be sure to look for future webinars on other topics presented by CAREE.
 
 
Going Global: The Risks and Rewards
Internationalization of postsecondary education may not be a new concept, but its implementation on campuses is varied and complex. Recently, the International Association of Universities (IAU) published its third global survey, Internationalization of Higher Education: Global Trends, Regional Perspectives. Highlighting data collected from 745 higher education institutions and associations worldwide, the report provides an intriguing look at current thoughts and attitudes regarding internationalization, both in aggregate and by region.
 
Much of IAU’s current data analysis confirms trends seen in a 2005 survey. Establishing an international presence continues to be important, and most of those surveyed (87 percent) indicate that internationalization is a part of their current strategic plan. However, the level of perceived risk of such an endeavor remains unclear despite all the attention that internationalization is receiving from colleges and universities.

Of 14 options provided in the survey, the participants cited commercialization of education programs as the biggest threat to internationalization (12 percent). This concern ranked especially high in the North American region, placing second on the list (13 percent). The most frequent response from the North American region was none at all, with 18 percent of respondents ignoring the question entirely. The report suggests that this could be interpreted as a positive response, indicating that a sizable number of institutions do not consider internationalization to carry any definable risk.

Not surprisingly, given global economic turmoil, the overwhelming majority of participants listed insufficient financial resources as their main internal obstacle. The study does not delve into how institutions are addressing this issue specifically, but it does point out that all regions believe the president/rector/vice president of the institution is not only responsible for focusing on financial concerns, but also is the most important driver of increased internationalization.

The main rationale behind an increased international presence is overwhelmingly reported as increased student preparedness. Students understand that they need to be ready to enter a globally inclusive world, and their institutions are eager to help them.

For a copy of the full report, please visit www.iau-aiu.net. To see how Michigan State University’s Lou Anna K. Simon addresses this topic, see her article in this issue of The Presidency.