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Kickstarting Education

If crowdfunding can take a university to the moon, how else can technology drive student learning in the 21st century?

As a member of the press, each day I receive countless e-mails about new products and announcements related to technology in higher education. It's something of an organizational nightmare, but it's a pretty good way to stay on top of what's going on in the marketplace.

Then a couple years ago, something strange happened: I started to get press releases about products that didn't exist yet. These aren't missives from the future or readings from Madame Mystic, they're projects seeking funding on Kickstarter.

Typically the products being pitched are niche inventions: waterproof smartphone cases, foldable Bluetooth keyboards, shirts with special pockets for mobile devices. What's striking to me is not the products themselves, but the way crowdfunding has become mainstream and sophisticated enough to send PR campaigns to my inbox.

In fact, crowdfunding was referenced in this year's Horizon Report as a technology that puts university students "more in control of the development of their research than ever before," helping drive change in higher ed. For an inspiring example, look no further than Penn State University, which launched a crowdfunding campaign on RocketHub earlier this year for its Lunar Lion initiative. The project is angling to become the first university-led mission to land a spacecraft on the moon, with much of the work done by students. I can't think of a more impressive way that crowdfunding is having an impact on student learning — on an extraterrestrial level!

Of course, you don't have to go to the moon to find technology making a difference in higher education. This April 8-9 in Long Beach, CA, at Campus Technology Forum 2014, technology professionals from institutions large and small will come together to explore the tools, strategies and innovations kickstarting student success in the 21st century.

Some session highlights include:

  • Bridging the Gap Between Open Courses and Traditional Learning Through Janux
    As part of its One University initiative focused on using technology and digital content to enhance the student experience, the University of Oklahoma developed an interactive learning community with high-quality open courses that also serve as course content for traditional OU students.
  • Academica: A New Realtime Portal Platform for Academic Institutions
    Wayne State University created an academic portal with a responsive mobile framework, real-time social networking capabilities and leading-edge collaboration features for students, faculty and staff.
  • Sherpa, MAP, Predictive Analytics and Dashboard: Software Designed for Success
    California's South Orange County Community College District developed a suite of software programs that act together to personalize each student's online experience and improve academic success.

For more information, visit the CT Forum Web site. Hope to see you in Long Beach!

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