NEW YORK, NEW YORK (PRWEB) JANUARY 17, 2017
Macmillan Learning today announced the acquisition of Intellus Learning, an educational platform as a service company that gathers information across institutions to help faculty and administrators find and evaluate the best, most affordable digital content for each learner while providing actionable data on course engagement and success.
Using a patented approach to machine learning, Intellus indexes the millions of content learning objects in use at an institution and provides real-time analytics on student usage. By organizing the wealth of digital learning assets owned or licensed by the institution, the platform provides transparency to all stakeholders to better inform resource allocation and instructional design.
Commenting on the partnership, Macmillan Learning CEO Ken Michaels said, “Our customers are rightfully focused on providing the most affordable learning experience that engages students and lifts their performance, while providing early student retention transparency. Finding the right mix of content and tools that answers both teaching and institutional objectives can be challenging. This partnership will facilitate the alignment of teaching objectives with administrative goals and student preferences, while not sacrificing quality instruction or diminishing student outcomes.”
The National Center for Education Statistics states that university libraries spend an estimated $2.6 billion on academic resources. Filtering the massive amounts of content in use at colleges and universities is complex and leads to disjointed approaches to content and budget management.
“Intellus’s platform surfaces the best learning tools for students by matching teaching and learning objectives to all available materials. It is incredibly powerful,” said Susan Winslow, Managing Director for Macmillan Learning. “At Macmillan Learning, our goal has always been to provide the best educational content and tools for educators. Intellus allows us to continue that work while supporting institutional budgetary and retention goals.”
Founded in 2011, Intellus has indexed over 50 million online learning resources such as books, articles, videos, and digital content items by spanning library archives, publisher and institutional databases, as well as major open educational resource (OER) repositories.
“Our platform provides greater visibility for educators so they can better control each course outcome,” said Intellus founder and CEO, David Kim. “That is our mission: to make teaching and learning easier for faculty by providing a personalized and affordable learning experience for students.”
The Intellus platform is already being used at a variety of institutions, including California State University. Gerry Hanley, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Technology Services at California State University stated, “One of our innovative campuses adopted Intellus in 2015 to enable their faculty to explore and choose the more affordable and high-quality learning materials for their students. The Intellus platform has helped us better support CSU faculty to quickly and easily discover potential course materials from a wide range of publisher, library, and open educational resources collections, which in turn provides our faculty more time to choose the best materials for our students’ successful learning.”
“I’m thrilled about the partnership and the opportunity to work with the Macmillan Learning team,” said Mr. Kim. “With the backing of a commercial publisher, we can accelerate our growth and fulfill our mission for more students.”
Intellus Learning will work alongside the Macmillan Learning team, with Mr. Kim reporting directly to Mr. Michaels.
# # #
About Macmillan Learning:
Macmillan Learning improves lives through learning. Our legacy of excellence in education continues to inform our approach to developing world-class content with pioneering, interactive tools. Through deep partnership with the world’s best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers, we facilitate teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes. We provide educators with tailored solutions designed to inspire curiosity and measure progress. Our commitment to teaching and discovery upholds our mission to improve lives through learning. To learn more, please visit our website or see us on Facebook, Twitter, or join our Macmillan Community.
About Intellus Learning:
Intellus Learning supports great teaching and learning in higher education with intelligent analytics that help faculty and institutions select the best content for each learner. Through its curation and management platform, Intellus Learning helps align institutional investments with course-level learning objectives to improve transparency and reduce redundancy. Intellus Learning brings faculty insights and student preferences to the forefront of the institutional decision making, creating an environment that prioritizes value. Follow Intellus Learning on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Algorithms can help faculty discover and select open educational resources for a course, map the concepts covered in a particular text, generate assessment questions and more.
The basic definition of machine learning is that it allows a computer to learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. One obvious example: the way a Netflix algorithm learns our TV-watching habits to make suggestions of other movies we might like. We come into contact with dozens of such machine-learning algorithms every day.
Algorithms are even starting to make an impact on university campuses, taking on time-consuming tasks to ease faculty and administrator workloads. For example, RiteClass's predictive admissions platform uses machine learning to produce a "Prospective Student Fit Score" by ingesting data about current students and alumni. The Fit Score will determine how similar (or different) a prospective student is to current students and alumni, according to the company, helping institutions make data-driven admissions decisions.
And in support of faculty members, several efforts are underway to use machine learning to analyze the contents of open educational resources (OER) for their fit in a particular course.
California State University, Fresno has been urging its faculty members to seek out appropriate no- or low-cost course materials. The problem: Replacing costlier course material with appropriate OER content is time-consuming, said Bryan Berrett, director of the campus's Center for Faculty Excellence. To ease the process of selecting material, CSU-Fresno has been piloting an analytics solution from Intellus Learning, which has indexed more than 45 million online learning resources and can make recommendations of matching OER content. "If I am teaching an English course and I have a standard textbook, I can type the ISBN number into Intellus," explained Berrett. "Broken down by chapter, it will say here are all the OER resources that are available that match up with that content." The faculty member can then upload the resources directly into the course learning management system.
Intellus says it can also index the millions of learning objects in use at an institution and provide real-time analytics on student usage.
A similar homegrown effort at Penn State University has branched out into new directions, said Kyle Bowen, director of education technology services. PSU's BBookX takes a human-assisted computing approach to enable creation of open source textbooks. The technology uses algorithms to explore OER repositories and return relevant resources that can be combined, remixed and re-used to support learning goals. As instructors and students add materials to a book, BBookX learns and further refines the recommended material.
Bowen explained that the work was inspired to some degree by more nefarious uses of machine learning. Looking at examples of researchers using algorithms to generate fake research papers begged the question: If you can do something like that to create fake research papers, could you use it to create real ones or real content? "What better problem to try to solve than looking at open content?" he said. "How could we simplify or expedite the process of generating a textbook or a textbook replacement?"
In the process of training machines to search for appropriate content, the PSU researchers discovered that algorithms often surface content the faculty member may not have known about. Even if you are an expert in a topic area, there are still elements of the field you may not be as familiar with, and the algorithm is not biased by knowledge you already have.
Describing the process of fine-tuning the algorithm, Bowen said it works less like a Google search and more like a Netflix recommendation. "With a Google search, you provide a term, and if you don't like the results you change your terms. Here you are changing how the machine is thinking about those terms," he explained. "You are telling it 'more like this, less like that,' and you keep iterating. It begins to focus on what you are looking for and what you mean by that term. It goes by the meaning the faculty member is trying to get to."
Although PSU is continuing its work on the OER textbook project, Bowen said, "What we uncovered was that using this machine learning approach to generate textbooks was potentially one of the least interesting things we could do with it." The institution's data scientists have moved into three other areas with the intent of taking on even more complex issues:
1) Prerequisite knowledge. In terms of sequencing how material is presented, machine learning might help instructors understand the prerequisite knowledge a person would need in order to understand a particular body of text. "We want to make sure that as you are coming into a class, the prerequisite knowledge has already been introduced," Bowen said. "You could do that yourself by charting out the concepts to see how they relate across the material. But in this case, the machine can more effectively construct concept maps and identify disconnects inside of them."
2) Generating assessment questions. Anybody who has crafted a multiple-choice midterm or final exam knows how challenging it is to make it representative of the work and create distractors to effectively assess understanding of a topic. PSU is working on a prototype algorithm that, given an OER chapter or a textbook, can suggest multiple-choice assessments.
"This gets into an area of machine learning called adversarial learning, which comes out of security. It is how the computer identifies spam messages," Bowen said. Spam e-mails aren't real e-mails, although they are trying to look like they are — they are trying to exploit a vulnerability. With the creation of a spam filter, machine learning identifies pattern matches. "We want to do the opposite," he said. "We want to identify things that don't fit the pattern but look like they would. What are some things that might exploit gaps in someone's knowledge? What we have found is the machine creates really difficult multiple-choice tests. It shows very little mercy."
PSU has not yet begun testing this solution with faculty. "It is important to explain that it is not the goal to replace what the person is doing, but rather to assist the faculty member," Bowen said. The goal would not be to have the machine generate multiple choice assessments on the fly, but to help a faculty member craft a multiple choice test that is representative of the material and help simplify the process of creating those tests, he added. The same is true with prerequisite knowledge. It is not to replace the work being done by faculty members, but to support them as they think about prerequisite knowledge.
3) Brainstorming with your computer. A third conceptual area PSU is working on is letting the computer help you brainstorm.
"We all have friends who are really smart and who we go to to bounce ideas off of," Bowen said. Such a friend might ask if you have thought about other concepts. "You can do that with your computer," he explained. If you are thinking about a topic, the machine can say, "well based on that, have you thought about x?" It can help you brainstorm an activity and also form or prototype ideas and come out with a concept map or outline that helps you explore new areas.
"So although the original algorithm was designed to generate texts, when we look at it, these three areas are potentially higher value problems to work on. We have moved away from our original research to look at how we can provide more targeted assistance on pain points in developing OER material."
By David E. Hubler, Contributor, Online Learning Tips, and Andrea Dunn, Associate Vice President of Electronic Course Materials, APUS
There once was a bookstore owner whose media pitch was short and simple. “Books cost too much,” he said, explaining why he founded his discount bookstore chain. However, he wasn’t thinking of the ever-increasing cost of college textbooks.
Perhaps stirred to action in part by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) call for free college tuition for all, American colleges and universities today are looking for ways to reduce the cost of higher education tuition, room and board, and of course textbooks.
Institutions of higher learning are examining steps they can take, so students won’t have to make the hard choice between paying all their fees and eating. Above all, they hope to reduce the overwhelming average student debt of $39,400 that can follow college graduates for decades.
New York University recently made national news when it announced that its School of Medicine would provide full scholarships to all current and future students in its doctor of medicine program. The free tuition includes the current incoming class and all students in their second or third year as well. However, “most medical students will still foot the bill for about $29,000 each year in room, board and other living expenses,” NPR noted.
As Conerly explained, “Think of public-domain textbooks, but textbook is too narrow a term. Many courses involve interactive learning modules as well as tools for professors. It’s no surprise that this move came from community colleges, which are more sensitive to student costs than traditional four-year colleges are.”
Totally free online textbooks are available for many common undergraduate courses, such as economics and biology. Courses that require non-textbook readings can be inexpensive if the material is out of copyright. For example, Plato’s Republic is available online for free, Conerly said.
APUS’ book grant program provides textbooks and/or e-books at no charge to doctoral students and students earning undergraduate academic credit. OER brings together teaching, learning and resource materials in any medium that has been released under an open license.
Open Educational Resources include textbooks, curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation products. In 2017, APUS converted 222 courses to OER.
“With publishers having more flexible options these days, it’s getting better for students,” says Andrea Dunn, Associate Vice President of Electronic Course Materials at APUS. These options help lower the cost of purchasing class materials. Students can access free materials – textbooks, articles in journals, and articles written by professors specifically with OER in mind – through the university’s online library and open Web.
“We’re not just adopting a resource because it’s free. We’re using it because it’s of equal or better quality than a mainstream textbook publisher such as a Pearson or a McGraw-Hill can provide,” Dunn explains.
Last year, APUS made the OER initiative a priority for all academics. That extends now to graduate students and instructors. “There are five APUS programs that don’t have any associated textbook costs with them at the graduate level. The term for that is the ‘Z-degree’ for zero-cost degree,” Dunn explained.
Currently there are five Z-degree programs in APUS master’s programs:
“We’re reducing the cost to the student while maintaining the quality of the learning materials,” Dunn said.
One advantage of using timely online articles and government documents rather than textbooks for courses in International Affairs, for example, is that current events change too rapidly for textbooks to stay current.
APUS is partnering with Intellus Learning, which has integrated some of the university’s library collection so faculty and students can search for and access OER materials as well as licensed library content. The company has an index of digital assets available from OER repositories — video, ebooks, text, audio, interactive, assignments — that support teaching and learning.
The Intellus website explains that its “simple interface improves the usability of digital content by connecting faculty and students with resources aligned to specific learning objectives. All digital content is then matched with faculty and student learning objectives.”
“It’s kind of a soup-to-nuts solution that takes the heavy lifting away from those who are not familiar with the Open Educational programs in repositories,” Dunn explained.
College libraries are among the campus leaders driving the OER movement at APUS and elsewhere. For example, in Ohio, a library consortium called OhioLink is part of a statewide effort to curate and enhance a set of OER course materials for 21 course subjects. The University of Texas at Arlington has a full-time OER librarian. The University of Minnesota has an Open Textbook Library from which textbooks can be downloaded for free or printed at low cost.
Cooperation among university libraries with private learning companies like Intellus is creating a new era in information services and academic research that are significantly reducing the cost of higher education for all students.
APUS librarians and course materials staff work closely with faculty to find suitable resources for their classrooms. The collaborative, cross-departmental approach supporting the OER initiative involves faculty, program directors, deans, course material support staff, project managers, compliance staff, information technology specialists, and instructional designers.
The APUS faculty has created open textbooks that are still in use in undergraduate courses and are free for other institutions to adopt as well. If suitable resources cannot be found in the OER realm or within the library, there could be more of in-house content creation.
APUS aims to use Open Educational Resources and library materials in all courses where it makes sense to replace current textbooks. While OER may not fully support some courses, the great majority will utilize these kinds of resources to lower costs for the University and students alike.
Calls to adopt and support open educational resources (OER) are on the rise across higher education. Because of the interdisciplinary and often abstract considerations that accompany an institutional embrace of OER, early expectation setting is important for everyone involved. In this first webinar in our On the Open Road series, participants will learn about some of the early planning and ongoing practices that have led to successful university initiatives in OER.
Open Educational Resources are, by definition, free to learners. Still, running an effective OER initiative to get these free resources into the hands of students in a meaningful and pedagogically sound way takes time, energy, and money. In this webinar, TJ Bliss will explore the various ways colleges and universities are financing their successful OER initiatives, including methods for internal funding and an exploration of the external funding landscape.
Faculty are continuously searching for textbooks and materials that fit course requirements and their teaching style. Before the availability of open educational resources (OER), faculty were restricted to commercial publications designed for broad audiences with general theories and concepts across a wide array of topics. Though these resources offer relevant information and supplemental materials, they do not always meet the needs and interests of faculty and students. Adopting and creating free, openly licensed resources (OER) offers faculty the freedom to reuse and remix materials that complement their teaching style and approach based on their discipline training, expertise, and knowledge of their students. In this webinar, faculty will learn about free open educational resources, benefits of going OER, and ideas on their use and application.
Implementing an institutional OER initiative takes planning, communication, and coordination across stakeholders, sufficient funding, and faculty, staff, and administrators. In this webinar, Dr. Gerry Hanley will present the California State University system’s strategy for implementing its Affordable Learning Solutions program which showcases the adoption of OER and other affordability solutions to better meet the needs of California's students.
Join us as we walk you through the new Intellus Open Course: Chemistry. Intellus Open Courses are pre-built, fully-customizable courses that make adopting and implementing open educational resources (OER) easy. Courses are:
Many instructors have embraced Open Educational Resources (OER) as a way to take charge in addressing the rising expenses that their students bear en route to a college degree. Framing the value of OER around textbook cost, however, is only recognizing one of the qualities that make OER such a valuable innovation. In this webinar in our On the Open Road series, participants will learn how OER may sponsor new pedagogical strategies, dynamic learning environments, and improved student outcomes.