Student Affairs Technology Uncategorized

Student Affairs and Social Media

Warning:  I’m about to sound like a curmudgeon.  I’ve held my tongue (so to speak) on this topic for several years now, but Eric Stoller’s post today in Inside Higher Ed was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  And to be clear, this has nothing to do with this specific post, or with Eric personally.  I’ve never met Eric, and I find many of his posts thought-provoking and entertaining.  I just had to put what I’ve been thinking about into words.

Maybe I need to broaden my online reading horizons, but whenever I see posts about technology in student affairs, nine times out of ten it’s about social media.  Social media and leadership.  Social media and identity.  Social media and the admissions process.  Social media and emergency notification systems.  Social media and campus climate.  Social media and why you’re missing the boat if you’re not on the latest platform.  Enough already!  Without a doubt, social media is important, and there are interesting ramifications for students with this new “permanent record” that we older folks haven’t come to grips with yet.

Many rising stars in the student affairs profession are brilliant at using social media as a platform for self-promotion.  An irrepressibly upbeat attitude coupled with a positive message goes a long way in this field.  If you have an EdD, you’re probably also an unstoppable force of nature and you don’t give a damn what I think.  Popularity contests don’t bother me.  What bothers me is the implicit connection being made that somehow social media IS technology.

That’s wrong, and it really grinds my gears.  Mastery of social media is not the same thing as mastery of technology.

Legions of IT pros in student affairs support an incredibly diverse range of systems, services and infrastructure.  Most of them work behind the scenes and don’t draw any attention to themselves.  It just so happens that the things they work on aren’t perceived as being as sexy as “SoMe.”  But the systems they manage are an integral part of what makes a university run.  And if any of those systems fail, boy howdy.

What makes social media interesting as a technology (at least to me) is that they’re platforms designed from the ground up AS PLATFORMS.  They’re easy to integrate with and can “talk to” virtually any system you can shake a stick at.  But this isn’t what student affairs social media evangelists talk about.  They instead use it as a fulcrum to leverage against current hot topics in the field.

I usually don’t complain without bringing some sort of solution to the table, but in this case I’m annoyed and need to vent a bit.  Maybe the quiet techies need to speak up more and participate in standards-making bodies.  Maybe they should be more active in (gasp) social media.  The only thing I can say for sure is that I’d really like to see the student affairs social media evangelists slow their roll a smidge.

Frankly, I doubt this post will resonate with anyone.  Hardly a surprise, given my massive double-digit readership.  Maybe I should take the hint and use social media more effectively << sighs >>

Student Affairs Technology

Zoom videoconferencing with Slack

If you’re using Slack or HipChat without a videoconferencing integration, you should consider crossing that bridge, like, yesterday.

My web development team has been using Slack ( for over two years now.  It’s become an indispensable part of our workflow, and we use it every day, pretty much constantly.  If you’re unfamiliar with Slack, the thumbnail description I typically give is “it’s an instant messenger on steroids.”  But it’s actually quite a bit more than that.  One of the biggest benefits of Slack is the sheer number of integrations available, and how easy they are to implement.  (An integration is a way other tools “plug in” and communicate with Slack.  For example, with the github integration, whenever a developer creates a new branch or makes a pull request, it appears in-channel.)  Combining the immediacy of team IM with the awareness of integrations creates something akin to team telepathy.  In other words, it helps make your team more amazing than it already is.  The integrations we use include:

  • Airbrake
  • Github
  • Google Hangouts
  • PivotalTracker
  • Redmine
  • Zoom

Videoconferencing integrations allow you to initiate sessions with ease.  Want to start a videoconference with one person?  No problem.  How about a specific project channel?  Just as easy.  Enter a simple command like /hangout and you’re off to the races.  Daily face-to-face communication builds team confidence, and screen sharing “to show what the heck is happening with that bug” is icing on the cake.  What’s crazy is how quickly this luxury becomes something you can’t live without.

Anyway, my team has used Google Hangouts for videoconferencing from the start.  Why?  Because every developer on my team had a Gmail account, and it was easy to set up and use (for them, anyway).  Hangouts are super-helpful for daily stand-ups, because we have remote developers and customers across campus who can’t/won’t trudge across campus for face-to-face stand-ups every morning at 8:45 (in higher ed, a ghastly thing to ask of your project team).  The biggest problem we had with Hangouts was asking non-IT stakeholders to install and use it.  They often didn’t have Gmail accounts, and that involved tedious setup and explanations (CSUN is an Office365 campus for faculty and staff).  Our key stakeholders managed, but for many folks Google’s UI posed a significant barrier.

Enter Zoom.

Many campuses in the California State University System have the benefit of a contract with Zoom.  At CSUN, all faculty, staff and even students can use it.  Zoom does everything Google Hangouts does, plus a couple useful things Hangouts doesn’t:

  1. Allows you to record ANY session (Hangouts currently only does this with “On Air” sessions).  Recorded video gets transcoded into your local “documents” folder at the conclusion of your session.  Transcoding is fast, and can be quickly uploaded to Box or Dropbox.  The potential opportunities here for webinars/training are obvious.
  2. Sessions must be initiated by someone in your organization, but anyone outside your organization can join.  This is really helpful, because we frequently work with folks outside our organization.  Until recently, Google Hangouts required that all participants have a Gmail account, which kinda sucked.

Any downsides to using Zoom?

Right now, the only downside I’m aware of is that Zoom only allows one slack team domain to be configured per installation.  This is a problem, because I have multiple Slack channels I use to communicate with different organizations:  one for my department, one for a CSUN Meetup I organize, and one for an external development company my team works with.  I’ve heard Zoom has fielded this request many times, and is working to add this feature (maybe they’re reading this?).  I hope they add this feature soon, ’cause we’ll use the hell out of it!

Are you using these collaboration tools already?  If not, what’s holding you back?

Student Affairs Technology

Progress on Using Adaptive Learning Technology for Student College Success


  • Yvonne M. Belanger, Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Jo Jorgenson, Dean of Instruction & Community Development, Rio Salado College; ALMAP Grantee
  • Douglas Walcerz, VP Planning Research and Assessment, Essex County College; ALMAP Grantee
  • Louise Yarnall, Senior Researcher, SRI International; ALMAP Portfolio Evaluator

This is the last concurrent session of the conference.  Most of this presentation will be about specific implementations of adaptive learning at a couple institutions.

Adaptive Learning Market Acceleration Grant Program (ALMAP)

  • 14 grants
  • 17 colleges
  • 9 adaptive learning platforms
  • 22 courses
  • 44% average % of Pell eligible students at grantees
  • 21,644 total students enrolled across 3 terms
  • 699 instructors

Adaptive Tech personalizes instruction and learning.  Courseware provides customized feedback to student on learning gaps.  Courseware tracks progress for instructor support.

ALMAP vision and goals

Expand and build understanding of how US higher ed programs are using adaptive courseware to support student success and completion.

ALMAP Evaluation Portfolio

  • 14 grantees conducted QED student impact evaluations.  Collected instructor / student survey data and cost data.  Collected over 3 academic terms (summer 2013 – Winter 2015.
  • Grantee studies featured 3 different types of comparisons:  lecture vs. blended adaptive; online vs online adaptive; blended vs blended adaptive
  • Evaluator checked rigor of local designs, extracted insights across portfolio.

What Did You Do and Why?

Essex County, 12,000 students.  Math sequence is the biggest barrier to success.

  • How did the adaptive courseware meet your expectations?  In the adaptive classes, students use labs with adaptive courseware, and we ask the students to set goals for the things they want to master.  Invariably, the goals student set for themselves are higher than what they actually achieve.  This is something that we then work with them on.
  • The software worked perfectly for us, did exactly what we expected of us.  However, the adaptive software took our instructors about 2 semesters to get fluent with.

Rio Salado, with 60,000 students.

  • Our courses were fully online, using Pearson’s product.  We looked at student learning outcomes, faculty/staff feedback, and cost analysis.  What we’ve seen in the past is that our students tend to drop out if they were less than successful with their coursework, or if the class was “too slow” for them.
  • We were mostly satisfied with our experiment with adaptive learning.  We had a fluid working relationship with Pearson, and they were amenable to working out difficulties we had with our pilot.  Our writing assessments needed more content for our students’ needs.  While we could pick content from what Pearson had to offer, we could not develop our own.  We had to take our material for the writing assessments to beef up the product.  We videotaped sessions and embedded writing into each lesson to help ensure completion.

Aggregate Evaluation Research Questions

  • What student impacts are noted and in what HE contexts/disciplines?
  • How does using adaptive courseware affect the costs of instruction?
  • How are students and instructors experiencing adaptive courseware?

ALMAP Evidence of Impacts

Significant positive course grade gains were noted when adaptivity was:  part of course redesign (lecture to blended) OR added to online courses BUT NOT when replacing another blended technology.

Product features linked with learning gains: progress dashboards, regular quizzes/feedback; referrals to remedial content and study tips; spaced memorization practice; vendor content (but 1 supported memorization of faculty content)

Course disciplines showing more learning gains:  50% of psychology courses; 42% of math courses; 25% of biology courses; 16% of English courses

Instructor Experience:  78% of instructors reported satisfaction; 57% devoted 1-9 hours to courseware training

Student Experience:  most students reported positive learning gains; students reported different levels of engagement.

Courseware Cost Drivers & ROI

  • Courseware based on instructor content had 8% to 19% higher development and training costs.
  • Most cost reductions occurred when adding adaptivity during course redesign, so cannot attributed to courseware.

How did you change your use of adaptive learning products over time and why?  What’s next for you?

  • In Essex County, we’re not changing our approach at all.  Students going through the adaptive developmental classes are showing greater signs of success in traditional COLLEGE LEVEL math courses later on, which for us are ONLY delivered in a traditional way.
  • At Rio Salado, we didn’t see much difference, but we’re still following the students who went through online versus adaptive classes.  We’re now doing “student learning cafes,” group sessions where students and faculty can share their experiences with using the adaptive learning material.  Students like the ability to move at their own pace, but faculty want improvements in navigation and assessments.  We have 3 grant opportunities that we’re pursuing to do more.
Student Affairs Technology

UNICON Learning Analytics Webinar

I attended this webinar today because I have a great interest in learning analytics, specifically with the integration of co-curricular data with respect to intervention strategies.  It was great, glad that I attended!  These folks will be at the EDUCAUSE conference in October, I’ll be attending some of their presentations 🙂


  • Lou Harrison from
  • Josh Baron from
  • Kate Valenti from

Historical Context:  OAAI Overview (Open Academic Analytics Initiative)

  • EDUCAUSE Next Generation Learning Challenges (aka NGLC)
  • Funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • $250K over 15 months
  • Goal:  leverage big data to create an open-source academic early alert system and research “scaling factors”

Basic Flow

  1. Feed in Student Aptitudes: (i.e. SATs, current GPA, etc.), demographic data (i.e. age, gender, etc.)
  2. Feed in LMS data:  Sakai Event Log and Gradebook data
  3. Fed into predictive scoring model
  4. Fed into Academic Alert system (AAR)
  5. Intervention deployed (to students & instructors)

Review of research design (I didn’t capture all this)

  • Deployed to 2,200 students across 4 institutions


  • Predicitve models are more “portable” than anticipated
  • It’s possible to create generic models that are then “tuned” to use at specific types of institutions
  • It’s possible to create a library of open predictive models that could be shared globally

Findings on Intervention Effectiveness

  • Final course grades had a statistically significant positive impact on final corse grades

Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative Update

  • Like the Apache foundation
  • Serves higher education
  • Other projects:  Learning Analytics Processor (LAP), OpenDashboard, Larrisa, Student Success Plan (SSP)
  • Modular System:  Collection > Storage > Analysis > Communication > Action
  • Just got started with JISC National Learning Analytics Project (UK org)

Moving Toward Enterprise Learning Analytics at NC State

How we’re getting there
  • Lunch and learn sessions on LA space
  • Bring people up to speed on what questions to ask
  • Start thinking about who can generate answers


  • Many products vendors try to sell us are NOT predictive!
  • We built a plan to build us a model, and then we validated it

Predictive Power

  • Gradebook
  • Cumulative GPA
  • Academic Standing
  • Then:  course logins, content access, online flag…

Model Results

  • Overall Accuracy:  75-77%
  • Recall rates 88-90%
  • False positives were a little high at 25-26%

Proof to Production

  • Initial steps:  small sample sizes
  • Predictions at 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 points in course
  • Multi-step, manual process

Goal 1:  More Enterprise-y

  • Large sample sizes (all student enrollments)
  • Frequent early runs (maybe daily)
  • Automatic, no more than 1 click

Currently in Progress

  • Rebuild infrastructure for scale
  • Daily snapshots of fall semester data
  • After fall semester ends, look for sweet spot

Future Goals

  • Refine model more
  • Segment model by pops
  • Balance models and accuracy
  • Refine & improve models over time
  • Explore ways to track efficacy over time
  • Once we intervene, can never go back to virgin state
Student Affairs

Student Engagement and Inclusive Campus Environments – From Magical Thinking to Strategy and Intentionality

Presenter:  Professor Shaun R. Harper, Ph.D, University of Pennsylvania

@DrShaunHarper | #CSUNmagic | Terry Piper Lecture Series | Organizing Committee Members

This is the fourth annual event for the Terry Piper Lecture Series.  Previous speakers have included Dr. Laura Rendon, Dr. Vincent Tinto, and Dr. Marcia Baxter-Magolda.  I personally had the pleasure of reporting directly to Dr. Terry Piper when I started working at CSUN back in 2006.  I make sure to attend this event every year.

“Change is inevitable, progress is optional” – Dr. Terry Piper

Started faculty career at USC, and talked briefly about his relationship with Dr. Brandon Martin and Debra Hammond.  Before becoming a faculty member, Shaun was involved with Student Affairs and credits Debra’s leadership as a major inspiration to him.  While Shaun did not know Terry,  he acknowledged his work (“I feel as if I knew him based on legacy”).

Student success requires a lot from a university – it doesn’t happen out of thin air.

Some Common Occurrences of Magical Thinking Assumptions

  • The assumption that powerful educational outcomes will be automatically manufactured through student-initiated engagement with peers who are different.
  • More racial diversity = increased sense of belonging for students of color
  • The curriculum will diversify itself
  • Students will engage themselves
  • All 40,000+ CSUN undergraduates will be learned persons who are prepared for a democratic society
  • Students will confront their own biases

Dr. Harper and his graduate students did a content study of mission statements of universities with enrollments over 20,000 students. They made some interesting promises, i.e. students will be prepared for a global economy, ready for a diverse and inclusive workforce, etc.  The reality is that cultural barriers put student groups on the fringe of the university experience.

Diversity is often reflected in the student body, but this is not sufficient.  It needs to be reflected across the institution.  However, we see cultural clustering that effectively perpetuates racial segregation.  If students do not feel substantively engaged, they leave.  This can produce “accidental” racists, sexists, and homophobes.  Universities are often the most guilty institutions in perpetuating these attitudes.  Overwhelmingly, these attitudes are from men.

Dr. Harper shared some learning from his work:

  • Deliberate strategies that bring principles of good educational practice to fruition on college and university campuses.
  • Individual and Collective Reflection:  What am I doing to involve all students equitably?  When was the last time I read about these principles and intentionally attempted to implement them.
  • Remediation.  Deficits are not all the students’!  It’s completely possible to become an educator without ever teaching students.  We’re now four year into a study, the race and student affairs project.  What have we learned?  People learned in their student dev theory course about a racial identity model from the early 1970s!  It doesn’t teach how to deal with racial inequity issues.
  • Literacy.  You must read to keep up with developments within the field.  I often have people come up to me and tell me that they can’t read because they don’t have the time to.  This is not intentionality!
  • Collaboration with students
  • Cross-sectional partnerships
  • An actionable written document.  So many campuses do not have this.
  • Assessment.  How do you measure success?

Intentionality Examples

  • The professor who does not wait for the one Native American student in his class to approach him about research opportunities, but instead invites her to have a conversation about how their mutual interests might be collaboratively pursued via a research project.
  •  The academic advisor who asks commuter and part-time students how they would prefer to receive information about engagement opportunities, then communicates this information in a systematic way to the campus activities office and later checks the database to ensure her advisees are receiving info in ways they requested.
  •  The office or department leader that predetermines with colleagues who will attend which sessions at a conference, insists everyone takes copious notes, provides time during the next staff meeting to recap and collectively determine adaptability of ideas from sessions, and then signs reimbursements.

Real-World Examples from the Study

The Lumina Foundation provided a grant to work with 5 institutions to do something about enhancing and improving Black Male success – Institutional Change for Black Male Student Success Project.  Those campuses were:  UCLA, Stanford, University of Wisconsin, Community Colleges of Philadelphia, North Carolina Central University.  Teams from each university had to include:  two tenured faculty, at least one cabinet member, at least two students (black undergraduate men).  These teams created the ingredients/artifacts of the intentionality and strategies mentioned above, and then took them back to their home campuses.

At UCLA, their opportunity was to address the low first-to-second year black male retention rates, plus campus size and experiences with racial stereotypes.  The team included tenured faculty, senior admins from academic affairs and student affairs, grad students, staff from various student support services across campus, and black students.  Key components:  bringing resources to black male students (“blacklimated”).  Increased social and cultural capital via “deans day” where students could sit with their deans (deans actually gave out cell phone numbers).  Stereotype threat strategizing:  role of grad students was that they shared their experiences for effectively responding to issues (i.e. microagressions).  Introducing black male students to their first/only black male professor.  Result:  across 3 cohorts of 77 students, all but one returned to UCLA for a sophomore year.

North Carolina Central University opportunity:  black male six year graduation rate was 27 percent.  Disaggregated data showed that honors students that received additional support were most successful, and black male students who received 2.7 GPA in high school were least likely to persist.  VPSA, tenured faculty members, black undergraduates.  Key Components:  strategic “scholar” languaging (call them “Centennial Scholars”).  Apply what works for honors students to the Centennial Scholars.  Residential learning community with centralized support, RAs, and resources just for them (also moved into super-shiny residence halls like the honors students).  Result:  across 3 cohorts of 90 undergraduates, only two students left before completing their bachelor’s degrees.

Each institution received only $20,000 to accomplish these results!

Post Script:  Black Male initiatives are in vogue right now, and this I think is dangerously close to a form of “magical thinking.”