Monthly Archives: November 2016

How Big Data is Changing

Six years ago, the UN General Assembly designated October 20th as “World Statistics Day.”  As the science of learning from data, statistics plays an important role in how we wrangle massive quantities of information into meaningful insights — both within the world at large, and within microcosms of that world, including the higher education sphere. As big data gets, well, bigger, its impact on higher education is expected to continue to grow. Wondering how that will play out in higher education? Let’s take a closer look.

Leveraging Data into Smarter Admissions

While some colleges are small enough to have human eyes looking over each and every application, others have historically been at the mercy of factors like grades and standardized test scores. But were these elements an accurate reflection of student success in college? Not necessarily, according to industry insiders.

This is why many colleges and universities are using new types of data collection when trying to determine which students will ultimately succeed and graduate. One, in particular, which might come as a surprise? Social media. According to one report from PBS NewsHour, some colleges are turning to social media data as an indicator of whether students were likely to enroll and graduate based on factors ranging from how many friends they made in online communities for applicants to whether or not they uploaded many profile photos.

The ultimate goal? To reap the largest yield with the lowest risk. Statistics also come into play here, with one university chief data officer telling NewsHour that each applicant is assigned a numerical probability of enrollment to help guide the school’s recruiting spending. The benefits, admissions counselors insist, are dual fold: schools get the largest ROI, while admitted students are more likely to be a good fit, stay on, graduate, and reap the lifelong benefits of a college or graduate degree.

Leveraging Data into Student Success

High turnover rates are costly to universities, but they’re also costly to students. As Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario Executive Director Harvey Weingarten told The Globe and Mail, “For students, leaving is a failure. There is a loss of confidence, there is a psychological cost of failure.” But the costs are far from just psychological. College dropouts also do worse than their peers across everything from lifetime earnings to health and wellness.

In refining the admissions process, predictive analytics based on demographic and behavioral data also supports increased graduation rates. This allows universities not just to admit more appropriate candidates, but to better support them once they’re enrolled. Said Weingarten, “You accepted a student into your institution because you believed they could succeed, they would grow, thrive and develop. When it doesn’t work, you have an obligation to figure out what went wrong here.”

In addition to allowing universities to more proactively help struggling students, it can also be used to help teachers do their jobs better. Because feedback happens more quickly, teachers can more immediately take teaching actions in order to ultimately provide richer learning experiences for students.

And these techniques are working. Take results seen at the U.S.’s largest public university, Arizona State. Two years after implementing a new adaptive learning platform designed to assess, remediate and re-assess student progress in math readiness, pass rates skyrocketed from 64 percent to 75 percent with 45 percent of students finishing early. Drop-out rates, meanwhile, decreased by 56 percent.

Stay In Touch From Abroad

Not joining the throngs headed “home for the holidays” on planes, trains, and automobiles?  No fear. We’ve outlined some tips and tricks for those of you have don’t have data plans, those of you who do, and those of you who have none of the above, so that you can easily stay in touch with your family and loved ones—without actually being there.   Step 1?  Don’t worry.

If you don’t have a data plan

Here’s the key: access WiFi when you can.  Use internet cafes, hotels, stores, libraries, and other “hot spots” where you know you’ll be able to access the internet.

A trick and an App…

1. Type your emails whenever you want and save them as drafts.  When you get to WiFi, all you have to do is hit “send.”  Huge timesaver. (That’s the trick).

2.      Have you met Boingo?  Boingo Wi-finder is an app that helps you find thousands of free WiFi and Boingo hotspots around the world.  Easily.  You don’t have to wait until the internet café opens or until you pass advertised WiFi.  Boingo tells you where to go.  It’s reasonably priced, and you don’t have to buy a plan for a year.  You can buy one of their “AsYouGo” plans for an hour, a week, a day, a month if you want, and have access to free WiFi and Boingo hotspots to connect with your family and friends. (That’s the app).

If you do have a data plan

It’s a beautiful thing: you can send emails any time you want.  That’s not a trick.  That’s a reality.

Fun Apps to consider:

1. Skype

Probably the most well-known and it works well.  It’s a free download for phones, tablets, and computers, and you can also call cell phones and land lines (what are those?!) for a small fee.  Biggest plus?  Lots of folks already have accounts and use it.  It boasts free Skype-Skype video and voice calls.  You can instant message, screen share, and operate from a Mac or PC phone, tablet, or computer.

2. Viber

For starters, the app is free.  Everything is free if your family and friends have Viber, too.  For a small fee, you can contact non-Viber users, too.  You can call, text, and photo message, and you can use it from your phone, tablet, or computer.  Mac or PC?  Doesn’t matter.

3. WhatsApp

Avoid SMS fees by messaging friends and family for free.  You can also talk internationally for free, and have free face-face conversations.  You don’t use your cell plan’s voice minutes, but you may have to pay for data.  Double check your plan if you don’t want the “hidden” data charges to show up on your bill.

Celebrate Thanksgiving

Giving thanks.  Embracing friendship.  Sharing a thoughtful meal.  Telling stories.  Thanksgiving conjures images of extended families and friends gathered around a beautiful table, sharing a delicious meal, and expressing gratitude for what they have.  International students studying in the US during the holidays have a multitude of way to celebrate this quintessential American holiday.  We’ve put together four fantastic options for you to consider as many US students return “home for the holidays.”

1. If an American friend invites you, accept the invitation

Thanksgiving is about, well, being thankful for what you have.  This includes being thankful for new friendships.  An American friend invites you?  Accept.  It’s an invitation to be a part of the family, to share the tradition, to take a break from school, and maybe even to participate in the day after Thanksgiving—Black Friday—the day that many retail shops offer sales and discounts in preparation for December’s holidays.  How’d “Black Friday” get its name?  It’s the day that many retailers’ ledgers assure that they will end their fiscal year “in the black,” or showing a profit for the year.

2. Consider on-campus opportunities

Feel like staying on-campus during the Thanksgiving break?  Look for campus traditions at your school.  Some schools offer their own Thanksgiving celebrations for any students and faculty who opt to stay on campus, or who may not have options to travel.  Kansas’s Hesston College hosts an annual Thanksgiving weekend, with a dinner and a bevy of other activities, including art exhibits, concerts, talent shows, basketball tournaments, a benefit fun run, and other special events. At Ohio State University, any students, faculty, and staff who are not planning to head home are invited to attend an annual Thanksgiving feast—this year, the University expects over 1,600 attendees.  At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, students and faculty spend the entire month of November learning about spirituality.  Several faculty at the University host international students at their homes on Thanksgiving Day—as an expression of gratitude for sharing their learning.

3. Attend a parade

What’s Thanksgiving without a parade?  The most famous, of course, is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, with over 3 million in-person spectators and upwards of 40 million television viewers.  Several major cities besides New York also hold parades where you can enjoy the holiday spirit of gratitude.  Check out the Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.  Motor City has another option—check out America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit, Michigan for floats, bands, music, and a glimpse at the history of the US auto industry.  Also in the Midwest is Chicago’s McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade, which began in the 1930’s in an effort to raise the spirits of Depression-era residents.  Charlotte, North Carolina, Houston, Texas, and Seattle, Washington offer additional possibilities for big parades.  If you don’t live near a city, don’t fret!  Check your local paper for smaller, regional events.  Watching a parade also gives you a chance either to travel to a new place, or to learn something new and interesting about your university town.

Study Business Analytics

Data matters. “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted,” attributed to Albert Einstein, explains the purpose of business analytics perfectly.  We live in an age of bigger and bigger data—and businesses need ways to sift through it all, to figure out which combinations of data count—and which ones don’t.  The success of business in today’s global economy depends on it.  The Rady School of Management at UC San Diego offers a forward-thinking Master of Science in Business Analytics that teaches its students how to grapple with the reality of big data using business analytics.

What is Business Analytics?

Professor Vincent Nijs, co-director with Professor Terrence August of the Master of Science in Business Analytics program at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, describes the field this way, “I think of business analytics as the field focused on how to use data and models to make better business decisions.  Data Science uses many similar tools (e.g. machine learning) but the set of questions they seek to answer are often different.  You can think of business analytics as ‘data science for business.’”

The Amount of Data That Companies Collect Gets Bigger and Bigger…

Just how big is big data?  Really big, and getting bigger all the time.  The EMC Digital Universe Study predicts that by the year 2020, 1.7 megabytes of new data will be created every second for every human on the planet.  What does that mean?  There will be 44 trillion gigabytes (44 zettabytes) of data in the digital universe.  Where does the data come from?  Just about everywhere—1.2 trillion searches per year on Google alone, over 1 billion people using Facebook every day, trillions of photos taken, and billions shared.  By 2020, there will be over 6.1 billion smartphone users, and at least 1/3 of all data will be transmitted through the cloud. We haven’t even talked about online banking, business, movies, television, music, and games.

…But Businesses Don’t Always Know How to Use the Data

The Rady School‘s Professor Nijs states, “Companies are collecting more and more data but often lack the people to use it effectively.” He referenced a quote from a well-known report by the McKinsey Global Institute (2013): “Big data promises big things—but only if organizations have the right people in place who know what to do with it. A recurring theme among senior leadership across all sectors is a shortage of professionals trained and experienced at the intersection of disciplines necessary to capture, analyze, and generate meaningful business insights from big data. In addition to deep analytics talent, organizations need management with the right balance of business judgment and statistical skills to translate analysis into action.”

International Students in the US

Last year, nearly 1 million international students studied in the US.  Long considered the land of opportunity, the US has always attracted a significant percentage of the world’s international scholars.  In recent years, the numbers of international students have skyrocketed; they’re a lot younger, and while they’re from all over the globe, they’re likely from only a couple of places in the world.  They also receive significant funding from their home country.  International students coming to study in the US are changing the face of universities across the country.  Let’s take a look at what’s happening—and why.

 

1. They’re younger

A recent report published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) found that more international students who pursue higher education in the US come from US high schools. IIE’s Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation, Rajika Badhari says, “While secondary students from around the world have been coming to the United States on high school exchange programs for many years, IIE’s new analysis shows that the number of students who enroll directly in US schools to earn a US high school diploma now significantly outnumbers those who are here on exchanges.  This is a remarkable finding, and one which has implications for US higher education.”  What does this mean?  Students are coming to the US earlier and then following the direct pipeline from secondary school to higher education.

Even the ones who don’t study at US high schools before enrolling in a university program are historically younger.  International students are not just coming for graduate school anymore; they’re starting their university education in the US as undergraduates—and freshmen, more often than not

This uptick in younger international students on US campuses has forced many universities to strengthen their foreign-student services programs.  Younger international need the same academic, social, and emotional supports as domestic students, if not more so.  In addition to changing freshmen orientation to meet international needs, universities are addressing issues related language barriers, cultural and religious differences, and a new kind of homesick—typically from thousands of miles away, not to mention every college student’s need: time management skills.  Many universities started mentorship programs for international undergraduates in the US, pairing students with older international students, or even graduate students who typically have fewer emotional support needs, mostly because they’re older.

 

2. There are more of them

According to the Wall Street Journal, international students comprised nearly 5 percent of all undergraduate and graduate enrollment in the US in 2015, up from about 3 percent in 2005.   The 2015 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, an annual survey of study abroad trends published by the IIE in partnership with the US Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, confirmed that the number of international students at US universities experienced its highest growth rate in 35 years.  The IIE’s conclusion?  The US continues to be the destination of choice for international students.  According to the IIE 2015 Open Doors press release, IIE President Dr. Allan E. Goodman said, “International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st-century education.  Studying abroad is one of the best ways undergraduate and graduate students gain the international experience necessary to succeed in today’s global workforce.  And studying in another country prepares students to be real contributors to working across borders to address key issues in the world we share.”  Stay tuned for the 2016 Open Doors Report, to be released later this month.

 

3. Likely from Asia

51 percent of all international students who studied abroad in the US last year were from Asia. China contributed 31 percent of the total.  Of the 974, 926 students, 304,040 thousand hailed from China, 132,888 from India, and 63, 710 from South Korea. 20 percent of those students studied business and management, and another 20 percent study engineering.  Where are they going?  All over the country.  According to the 2015 IIE Open Doors Fast Facts, in 2015, the top five US institutions hosting the largest numbers of international students are: New York University, the University of Southern California, Columbia University, Arizona State University, and the University of Illinois—Urbana.

The Guide to Voting

The countdown to this year’s presidential election is on with just over a month to go before Election Day. And while exercising your right to vote is always important, most would agree that the stakes are particularly high this year in the U.S. But being a busy student, away from home, or even out of the country is no excuse for failing to follow through on your civic duty.  We know it may seem like a hassle, but the truth is that not only is voting easier than ever, it’s also well worth the effort.

Voting in Your State of Residence?

Just because you’re voting in your state of residence doesn’t mean you can automatically expect to walk into your local polling place, grab a ballot, flip a few levers, and call it a day.

For starters, most states don’t even allow walk-in registration. Not only that, but registration deadlines vary from state to state. For example, voters in Alaska must be registered by October 9th regardless of whether they’re doing so online, via mail or in person, while voters in Vermont have nearly a full month longer to register. Furthermore, how you plan to register is also a factor with some state deadlines for registration methods varying by as much as a month.

Looking for information on your specific state? Lucky for you, the New York Times has assembled a comprehensive guide of state-by-state deadlines, which also includes handy information about supporting materials you’ll need to register. (Usually, a driver’s license or other state-issued form of identification will suffice.)

Additionally, the U.S. government’s website Vote.gov is a terrific starting point for determining how to register in your state, while Vote.org is also a useful portal for streamlining the registration process.

Voting Outside Your State of Residence?

If you’re planning on being out of your state of residence on voting day, you can utilize Absentee Voting (also known as “mail-in voting” and “by-mail voting”) to cast your ballot.

Depending on the requirements of your state, you can register to receive an absentee ballot to fill out and return. Some even allow early voting and in-person absentee voting. While 21 states require that voters provide an excuse before being permitted to vote by absentee ballot, others — including Washington, D.C. — offer no-excuse absentee voting. (You can check out which category your state falls into here.)

In addition to students who are out of state, other valid excuses for being absent from polling sites on Election Day may include illness, physical disability, religious constraints, public service or membership in the military, age, and even vacation.

Again, the rules regarding absentee voting and early voting depend on the state. Taking time to educate yourself about Absentee Voting and Voting by Mail and Early Voting and In-Person Absentee Voting can help ensure your ability to make good on your constitutional right.

Take a Chance on Sweden

Sweden’s university system is among the top performers in the world, and the Scandinavian country aims to be one of the “most research-intensive countries in the world.” But that’s not the only reason Sweden is the perfect choice for global graduate students. We asked two international students in Sweden to tell us why earning your master’s degree in Sweden isn’t just about picking a place – it’s about picking a future.

1. Study in English and Learn Swedish

Last year Sweden ranked first out of seventy countries for English Proficiency, and most universities offer programs and degrees in English. Of course, international students are still encouraged to learn Swedish, but they don’t need to be proficient to earn a degree. Marina, a grad student from Brazil studying Digital Media and Society in Uppsala, feels that this bilingualism “gives students a chance to learn a new language” while creating “a friendly and open environment since everyone can communicate.” This open environment isn’t just reflected in language. Sweden is committed to student mobility and offers more than 1000 degree programs in English.

2. Support for Creative, Innovative Research

Sweden ranks among the top five countries in the world for commitment to higher education and research, but the country also emphasizes autonomy and freedom within its universities and master’s students have a lot of time and support for independent learning and collaboration with other students. Satu, a computer science student from Indonesia studying at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, found “a lot of things [to] learn” in Sweden and was impressed with the country’s “support [for] start-up and innovation minded” students. For digital media student, Marina, Sweden offered infinite opportunities. “You can work with a Professor, do internships in amazing companies and do different courses.” Master’s students like Marina find that Sweden offers the freedom to think creatively and experiment with new ideas. With so much support and so many chances for hands-on experience, it’s no surprise that Sweden is one of the top nations in the world for innovation.

3. Soak up Swedish Culture

If your only experience with Swedish culture is Abba and Ikea meatballs, you’ve got a lot to learn. From the daily fika (coffee breaks that include tasty Swedish treats) to gender equality, Sweden exudes an individuality that is both subtle and distinct. In fact, Swedish culture could, perhaps, be summed up in one word – lagom – which means, ‘just enough’ and applies to everything from behavior and social responsibility, to sustainability and shopping. For Satu, the biggest advantage of studying at KTH is “Swedish culture itself.” Satu believes that Sweden’s culture has “many good things we can follow…[and] by living among this value, [he] believes [he] can get used to it, and bring it home and spread it to people in Indonesia.” International students in Sweden will find that the informal, inclusive university environment encourages the spread of ideas and an open dialog, and Swedish university student unions and nationer make campuses open and inviting.

Work Life Balance

It’s about boundaries.  Most of us have heard the old maxims “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” or “work hard-play hard.”  The new normal, whatever that is, encourages us not to strike a healthy balance between the two—leave work at work—but to integrate them.  Do what you love and love what you do—that sort of thing—but all the time.  Anytime.  Take that conference call on vacation.  Right?  Maybe not.

Why has the boundary between working and living blurred?  Simple: thanks to the 21st century digital age of “instant,” “fast,” and “now,” it’s easy to work just about anywhere, anytime.  You don’t purposely take work home with you; it’s tethered to your phone, your tablet, your computer, maybe even your Fitbit—and you probably use those things at home, on the train, on vacation, and maybe even at dinner (we hope not).

Let’s break down the two ideas and see what they mean—and what will ultimately work best for you.

 

1. Work-Life Balance

What is it, you wonder?  Achieve something at work.  Enjoy something at work.  Achieve something at home.  Enjoy something at home. For the mathematically inclined:

Aw + Ew + Ah + Eh = Work Life Balance.

What does this mean?  Working and living are never truly balanced—there are no coefficients or constants to guide you through the process.  Sometimes you’ll achieve and enjoy something more at work than you will at home.  What’s important is that all aspects of achievement and enjoyment in work and life happen throughout the day.  Some days—as you know—are harder than others.

Here’s an example: you might have a fantastic interaction with a persnickety coworker (achievement) and then laugh at a joke at a board meeting (enjoyment), followed by not tripping over a pile of laundry in the middle of the floor when you get home (achievement) and meeting a friend for dinner (enjoyment).  These achievements and enjoyments do not have the same weights.  That great conversation with that persnickety coworker might be the biggest achievement because you know he’ll probably invite you to work on that project you’ve been wanting to work on with him.  You probably enjoyed that dinner with your friend the most.

The big idea?  You unplug.  You achieve and enjoy something in both parts of your life—working and not working—and there’s a clear boundary between the two. Over time, achievement and enjoyment will balance each other out.  It’s the day-to-day that can be a bit tricky.

 

2. Work-Life Integration

This is way trendier.  Thanks to the gig economy that’s sprung up in the past decade, integrating what you do and how you live have become a necessity for some.  Even in bigger businesses, there’s this idea that living and working in the same place are desirable attributes for living.

Let’s look at a few examples.  Consider Silicon Valley—companies like Google have on-campus apartments, child care centers, organic gardens with staff cafeterias, and buses for those who don’t live where they work.  The idea is simple: integrate your work into your life.    For others, technology has allowed people to live their lives—exercise, take their kids to school, go food shopping—and work full-time. No one decided that all work needs to happen between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM.  If you can meet your deadlines, show up for your meetings (even virtually), and live your daily life, then all is well.

What’s different here?  Discipline.  Strategy.  Knowing when to unplug.  And a stick-to-it attitude.  With work-life balance, the “unplug” is pre-set.  You’re done with work for the day, you leave.  With work-life integration, you plan on when you’re doing your work, meet all your job’s expectations, and still show up for touch football, or your volunteer work at that organization whose mission you love.

Revolutionizing how banks do business

A portmanteau of the words “financial” and “technology,” fintech has been defined as “a line of business based on using software to provide financial services.”

Typically the domain of startups, fintech largely focuses on disruptive innovation.  (Although some argue that fintech is more augmentative than disruptive in nature.) Fintech sub-industries span everything from algorithmic asset management to peer-to-peer lending. Additional fintech sub-industries? Thematic investing, payments, digital currency, credit scoring, education lending, cyber security, working capital management, and others — all sharing a common theme: the imperative to improve the efficiency of financial markets and systems through technology.

But is fintech truly worthy of all the buzz it’s been generating? The numbers speak for themselves: According to a report from Accenture, global investment in this sector spiked to $12.2 billion in 2014 — tripling the prior year’s $4.05 billion. And while the US tops the list in terms of fintech investment, it’s on the rise everywhere from Asia to Africa with Europe exhibiting the fastest rates of growth.

In short, fintech is transforming the traditional business model. And with that transformation come near-endless opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to start businesses as well as for existing companies looking to expand.

Why Fintech Matters

For many years the financial industry rested easy. While new technology might have penetrated its operations, banks ultimately retained control over how and when new digital financial products and services were introduced to the market. The combination of fallout from the 2007-2008 financial crisis and increasingly sophisticated technology has dispersed the power beyond banks thereby restoring balance and reshaping the industry.

In other words, fintech is changing the finance world for the better. From lower costs to more options, the potential of data-driven lending is not only huge, but uniquely profound in that it serves a previously underserved constituency: consumers.

Is Fintech Right For You?

We’ve already established how fintech is making a difference, which might leave you wondering whether you should add your talents to the effort.

If you are thinking about a career as a financial technologist, there’s good news: there’s a major fintech job boom underway. Consider London, for example, where experts are predicting that the sector will add more than 46,000 jobs in the decade between 2014 and 2024. The takeaway? If you’re looking for a job that combines security and financial payoffs, fintech is well positioned to offer both.

Fintech is also uniquely suited to Millennials — not just in terms of the fact that the products and services offered by fintech speak to their particular sensibilities, but also in terms of their role in driving the market. After all, Millennials are not only the first truly digital generation, but they also witnessed their parents bear the brunt of the financial collapse. It follows that, according to Fintech Week, “Many of the younger generation have completely lost faith in the banking world – and who are we to blame them? They need an alternative solution, and what they understand is technology and relentless innovation – a gap in the market which Fintech has now filled.”

For some younger people, meanwhile, the allure of fintech is also a very personal one: With student debt crippling the futures of many of today’s grads, fintech’s potential impact on the student loan refinancing market — both in terms of the creation of new products and serves as well as in prompting the banking industry to raise its own game in response– is particularly compelling. Imagine a future in which student loans are inherently affordable. Fintech may hold the key.