Monday, December 13, 2010

New Partnership with Blackboard Brings New Benefit to Student Users

December 13, 2010- Today ConnectEDU announced a new partnership with Blackboard.  As part of this partnership, we will be integrating our CoursEval Survey software with Blackboard's Learn platform to empower students to easily access and anonymously complete course evaluations.

This partnership is a natural step for both companies and one that will make the student online course management and evaluation process much more rewarding and simplified.

The key benefits of this partnership include:

1) Blackboard is to academic management as Facebook is to socializing for students.  ConnectEDU is now part of that academic management experience as we are now integrating with Blackboard to make completion of course evaluations a more streamlined and simplified process for students.

2) Blackboard is at the core of in-classroom activities and relationship management on college campuses.  ConnectEDU's solutions are at the core of managing all of the critical "out of the classroom" activities associated with student success, college completion, and career/graduate school matriculation.  This is a natural fit and integration of Blackboard and ConnectEDU's shared mission of streamlining and facilitating the intersection between students, professors and administrators.

3) ConnectEDU's CoursEval offering is the industry leader in collecting and reporting on student feedback regarding their courses and the professors teaching them.  At a time when there is a lot of discussion regarding teacher evaluations and student level feedback, it is important to provide a solution that utilizes a research driven approach to facilitating effective evaluations and assessments that are ultimately focused on helping instructors improve and develop professionally.

Every day we are working harder to bridge the gap, and this partnership underscores the type of relationships that just make sense.
We look forward to expanding our network to make additional smart partnerships like this in 2011!

Monday, December 6, 2010

New CAP Report Highlights ConnectEDU as Part of Solution for Informed Higher Ed Decisions

December 6, 2010 - We have a lot of respect for the work being done by the Center for American Progress.  Therefore you can imagine how pleased we were to see their latest December 2010 report titled "The Social Life of College Information" where they named ConnectEDU as part of the solution for helping students learn more about college and their options for empowering informed decision making.

One of my favorite lines: "ConnectEDU's software supports the relationships among guidance counselors, students and college officials by enriching those connections with data about college quality and student performance." 

After all, as most of you know,  at ConnectEDU we're helping students begin the dialog early on and more importantly we're helping them have all of the pieces of the puzzle in one place - an online place that provides clarity and support.

Click here to read the full report

ConnectEDU is presented as a case study on page 18, but here are the main highlights straight from the report:

The allure of a product like ConnectEDU is not just the fact that it connects the student with the counselor.  It is also that their connection is infused with data-data about the student's college search (for the counselor) and data about colleges (for both counselor and student).  This data-driven approach enhances the relationship between student and counselor so that the counselor may better tailor his or her approach to the individual student, making more efficient use of the limited time they have together.

One of the primary obstacles to using experiential and relational techniques to enhance students' and families' ability to make informed decisions is the scalability of person-to-person programs. ConnectEDU takes a step toward addressing this problem with its web-based platform for college access. ConnectEDU's software supports the relationships among guidance counselors, students, and college officials by enriching those connections with data about college quality and student performance.

The primary premise behind ConnectEDU's product is that schools hold data that can inform students' choices about college-going. ConnectEDU connects the data with interactive course planning, career exploration, and college search features to enrich the student experience. It also connects student-level information to the guidance counselor and college official portals so that these individuals can give better advice to students.

For instance, a student may log onto ConnectEDU to explore college options. The website offers college search tools that allow a student to find institutions based on criteria such as geography and program of study. ConnectEDU also links this search to data about the student's GPA, test scores, and course history to help the student gauge whether the college is a good fit.

The student's search and career exploration activities, as well as his or her college application progress, are linked to the guidance counselor portal so that the student's guidance counselor can comment (either electronically or in person) on the student's progress. This means that communication between student and counselor is more informed and more focused on the student's goals and needs. The community aspects of ConnectEDU provide "purpose networks" in which students can communicate directly with college admissions officials if they choose.  The students can create profiles of themselves that include data pulled from school records to inform their interactions with college representatives.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Five Thanksgiving Thoughts for the College-Bound

November 29, 2010 - For those Thanksgiving folks who might have been taking a break from the online news world, here is a piece I penned that the Washington Post ran online in College, Inc. on Thanksgiving day.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Honoring our Veterans

November 12, 2010- On Veteran's Day this video reminded us of how lucky we are as a country to have men and women who serve to protect our freedom and the freedom for generations to come. Many of the scenes in this video show how children are working hard at school while one or both parents are away on duty. Teachers and guidance counselors are indeed a big part of their daily support. As a company, we are proud of those that serve and we are very proud to assist those teachers, counselors and students as they strive for success with a solid education in this country.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

News Around Security and Reliablity of Online Application Systems

November 4, 2010 - As November begins, so does the home stretch for college application deadlines, a time when guidance counselors, students and parents feel the pressure. Indeed, completing the required forms and essays, gathering the necessary transcripts and recommendation letters and then submitting them all on time can weigh heavily on many. In recent years, the online application process has emerged as the preferred method for submitting applications.

Here at ConnectEDU we are pleased to see guidance counselors, parents and students confidently and successfully using our SuperAPP tool as their seamless and secure process for getting their materials in on time, electronically.

However, in the last week, two key events took place in the online education technology space, which we felt it necessary to respond to. Both events put fear and uncertainty in the hearts of students and guidance counselors regarding the reliability and security of the web-based college application process and the systems that support it.

First, the Associated Press reported the troubling news that the personal information (including Social Security numbers and grades) of over 40,000 former University of Hawaii students were posted online for over a year. A faculty member inadvertently uploaded these files to an unprotected server. Here is a link to view the AP story: (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130903298)

Secondly, we were recently made aware of a significant issue with The Common Application (TCA), regarding the reliability of their system. In a memo that reached us from concerned college deans and guidance counselors, management at TCA asked that anxious college applicants and school officials not be penalized for applications late in arriving due to delays at the processing centers used by TCA. These delays occurred because TCA’s system was not prepared to handle the growing volume of online college applications and the underlying technologies are archaic and non-scalable.

At ConnectEDU, we are saddened to think about the students and administrators who are going to be increasingly impacted by these challenges and the liabilities that they create. We value how critical it is for online application management technology to be built for security, growth and reliability, which is why we have taken a different approach in building our company and designing our platform for success.

We have built our college application management tool, SuperAPP, knowing that fast adoption is expected and that we would need to scale our technology for quick growth and increased capacity. Whereas many of the disparate application solutions are using eFax networks that, in turn, use optical character recognition (OCR) to back into XML data transcripts, we know that this is a model that cannot scale well. Some of these platforms only accept PDF’s that are scanned into the interface, resulting in little-to-no value to the receiving college. The combination of OCR with web forms and PDF’s starts to create issues that, while expected, remain difficult to fix. Worse still, they represent serious security concerns.

ConnectEDU will not risk having any student’s college application arrive late. That is why we have built our data infrastructure and back-end support in a thoughtful, measured way, providing a solution that allows the full college application package to be sent through a single, true electronic data feed, as opposed to gluing a group of existing systems together. We know that previous solutions in the marketplace, many of which have been cobbled together over time, will continue to experience these shortcomings. In short, security is at risk when PDF and eFax systems are being used for transmitting sensitive information such as academic records and college application materials.

We wanted to respond to these incidents as quickly as possible, because administrators, students and parents need to be confident that the system they use for the online college application process will perform as expected at all times, regardless of high capacity windows leading up to deadlines. College applications are deadline-driven and no student can afford to be in a position of risk when it comes to meeting these deadlines. Timing and safe delivery are vital.

We have done our homework in developing our technology. Our platform has taken longer to build and has been more expensive to create, all because we choose to invest in the success of every student who applies to college through SuperApp. We are confident that we will always deliver on our promise.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Education Nation Take-Away: One Critical Issue Overlooked

October 5, 2010 - The two days I spent at NBC’s Education Nation were full of insightful conversations and panel discussions. The dialogue mainly focused on in-classroom solutions to answer the crisis facing our education system. More charter schools, more math and science teachers, smaller classrooms, longer school days were the prevalent themes echoed throughout each session. Clearly, Waiting for “Superman” is having an immediate impact on this discussion and NBC was in full support of its message.

Unfortunately the discussions were silent on one critical issue: If we don’t dedicate time to college and career planning outside the classroom, improvements gained in the classroom will fail to empower students to be successful beyond secondary school.

In fact, statistics from a National Association for College Admission Counseling study show that on average counselors spend less than 38 minutes a year on college and career planning with their students. And it's even drastically less in inner city schools. Over 50% of counselors spend less than 20% of their time on college advising, partially as a result of time taken up by administrative tasks and reporting requirements. In truth, counselors aren't prepared to give the number of students they're responsible for the face-to-face time needed with the tools they have today. This is a real problem that will continue to be a sinkhole in all college access efforts if not given the crucial attention that is needed.

While planning ‘inside the classroom’ is essential to solving our education crisis, without ‘outside of the classroom’ planning, students will not be adequately prepared to capitalize on academic performance improvements. The transitions to college and to a career are pivotal points in a student’s development. If we don’t point kids in the right direction and provide them with all the tools and information to succeed beyond the classroom, we will have failed them despite our best efforts and intentions.

Other industries are blowing education out of the water by using proven technology to improve and advance a once tedious process, make data transfers efficient and effective, and create accessibility to all users, regardless of privilege. I am hopeful that the combined efforts of Education Nation, Waiting for “Superman”, and other awareness initiatives will also shed light on the importance of college and career planning with students, in addition to the amazing work being done inside the classroom.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NBC Education Summit Sure To Increase Decibel of Ed Reform Discussion

September 27, 2010 – I’m honored to be participating NBC’s two-day Education Nation Summit in New York City. “During the Summit, policymakers, educators, members of the business community, and engaged citizens will come together for a series of panel sessions on the challenges of America's education system, the success stories, and the solutions,” says NBC’s educationnation.com. I anticipate good discussions and dialogue amongst the attendees relative to the issues facing the US Public Education System. Coupled with the timing of Waiting for ‘Superman’, the Summit is sure to drive awareness across the general population on “just how underperforming” we are.

ConnectEDU has long been focused on working with teachers, counselors and public school administrators to rationalize the high school completion and college preparedness process into an organized, logical process. This is a crucial first step to being able to assist with the prevention of these issues while empowering the practitioners that are on the front lines fighting these battles every day.

I remain hopeful that the Summit will facilitate a national recognition that “we have a problem”, which is just the first step. And in doing so, encourage all parties involved to embark on a collaborative effort to put the solutions to solve these problems into place.

Stay tuned, I’ll update you after the Summit on how I feel it went.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Teddy Fischer’s Promotion to President of CDU in the Providence Business News

June 11, 2010 - I was happy to see that the business paper in Providence, the city where ConnectEDU began, reached out to interview Ted Fischer, our President and Chief Operating Officer. The paper was interested in understanding a few key things about our work. First, they focused on the fact that we follow the student through her various transition points from high school to college to career. They immediately got it that, from the student’s point of view, this is a single pathway to be able to achieve her goals and that the pathway needs to be seamless. They also understood how important it is to use verified data to inform the process, and our ability to increase transparency for students, while also reducing time and errors within the application process. Teddy’s commitment to our students to give them best opportunity to achieve their dreams of a college education and a promising career shone through the interview.

Congrats, again, Teddy – we’re glad to have you on our team.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

WBUR and the “Education Bubble”

May 25, 2010 - Kudos to the WBUR team for focusing attention on the growing amount of debt that college students are facing upon graduation. I am pleased to be a part of this timely series. And I am particularly pleased to see that the conversation has moved beyond simply blaming one single entity, say the loan providers, but rather focusing the discussion on the shared responsibility between colleges, loan providers, government, and students/consumers. It truly should be a shared responsibility.

Given how valuable a college degree has become, sorting out what is an acceptable amount of college debt can be difficult for families. Add in the dreams of attending the perfect college and an 18-year-old making these decisions and you see the challenges. There is no question that students and families must take responsibility for the decisions they make, and they must learn to be savvy consumers. But, what about the responsibility of colleges? Should they allow students and families to take out “whatever it takes” in loans to attend their institution? Are families allowed to buy a $2 million house if it is clearly beyond their means? And who shares the responsibility of pushing families into that $2M house? Should students be able to take out $80K in debt if they have no realistic chance of repaying that loan? Isn’t the answer that everyone shares some responsibility for this issue?

As a starting point, there is a need for much more transparency at the time students and their families are deciding about college. How about helping families connect the dots between anticipated debt and a student’s anticipated starting salary? Sure, there is a lot of uncertainty - one could change her major or chart a different course - but it’s a good place to begin. Or, how about clearer information about what share of students graduate from a given institution… let alone get jobs once they graduate? What about greater transparency of just how much it will cost? Will tuition go up from year to year? What’s the average duration of time to graduation at a given institution? What if only 50 percent of students actually graduate within six years… is that a good risk for a student to take? Shouldn’t families be able to factor these important facts into their thinking?

If the numbers don’t add up, parents should take heart in knowing that less expensive options exist. As students have more information based on real data, they can make informed choices and, hopefully, not put their futures in jeopardy by attending a college that they cannot afford, or one where the odds of completion are bleak. And, then everyone wins.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ConnectEDU Mentioned Among Some Education Reform Heavyweights

May 19, 2010 - I enjoyed reading Rick Hess’s blog earlier today and am flattered that he refers to ConnectEDU as a “terrific and path breaking” organization and includes our efforts as part of a great group of education organizations that are “smart problem-solvers creating new possibilities.” Of note, Rick punches up the well-known leading education entities such as Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools as well. Rick makes the point that organizations like ConnectEDU have so far flown below the mainstream media’s radar as it relates to education reform. Which is an accurate point. But I’d like to make another point.

When solutions, like ConnectEDU’s, are deployed within school districts and colleges, educators are now empowered to take the daily interventions needed in order to keep students on track to complete high school or college or, more generally, make a successful transition. Without these types of tools, educators are asked to prevent problems that they can’t even see. Case and point: In many instances, students are not enrolled in the correct high school courses required for high school graduation, and the discrepancies aren’t discovered until a few weeks before graduation when a degree audit is completed. Often times, several years too late to prevent the situation. Or, think about how the “data aggregation” or “data driven decision-making” movement has resulted in the creation of solutions that amass large amounts of data, create very sophisticated pivot tables, and analytics models… when all an educator really needs to know is – who needs help, what help do they need, and where can I find them?

My point is this - a good first step to reform is to simply provide a rationalization to the educational process itself. Get the data into a single location, process the information in real-time (not days, weeks, months, or years later), and deliver it to those who surround the student (teacher, parent, counselor, administrator, coach) in a simple, relevant context so that they can drive the change they so desperately desire to create. With these types of solutions, which are supportive of both the status quo and the innovators of change, we stand a chance to create an informed process that results in prevention… and therefore reform. But little steps, simple steps, could go a long way to having HUGE impacts in today’s education process.

My two cents...

Monday, May 10, 2010

National College Access Network

May 10, 2010 - I could not be more excited about ConnectEDU’s partnership with the National College Access Network (NCAN). This is a great opportunity to work together to increase so many student’s college and career opportunities! This partnership results from our shared commitment to maximizing the college and career opportunities for ALL students. ConnectEDU is excited to support the individual programs within the National College Access Network to ensure that they are provided with the very best in data-driven decision making and college and career planning technology.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Boots and Buckle are Polished Up and Ready to Go

April 27, 2010 - For those of you that know me, I am a huge cowboy boots and belt buckle guy. I suppose that it goes back to my Missouri roots. And my favorite place in the world (in fact, the only place) to buy boots is the Lucchese Boot Company in El Paso, Texas. So imagine my excitement when ConnectEDU was informed that we had won the competitive bid process to put our college and career planning solutions into Texas… statewide!

Well, to be honest, I was excited for a lot of reasons beyond the thoughts of a potential boot shopping trip. In fact, we have been working hard in Texas to assist many of their districts with their college and career planning process. So it is exciting that the State has selected us to work with them to increase high school completion and college-going rates for traditionally underserved students. We are excited to partner with the State of Texas and are looking forward to working with them to make a meaningful difference in the lives of thousands of the Lone Star State’s students! More to come on this initiative… stay tuned!

Happy 8th Birthday, ConnectEDU!

April 26, 2010 - ConnectEDU celebrated her 8th birthday over the weekend! For the past 8 years, the ConnectEDU team has been dedicated to the mission of empowering students to maximize their education and career-related decisions. And, for the past 8 years, we’ve had a great time doing it! ConnectEDU’s longevity can be attributed to the shared commitment of our team members and business partners to this worthy and justified mission.

Congratulations to all that have contributed to the past 8 years of ConnectEDU’s success! And, here’s to many more successful years ahead!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

SuperAPP… she’s a game changer for all involved in the admissions process

April 20, 2010 - SuperAPP continues to get tremendous traction from colleges that want to receive the full college application package – transcripts, letters of recommendation, school profiles, applications, etc. – from a single, true electronic data feed. And, for students, SuperAPP is a god send. 35 more colleges registered for the SuperAPP electronic data feed in the first quarter of this year.

With 176 colleges signing up for the electronic feed in the first 182 days of SuperAPP being in the market, SuperAPP is one of, if not THE, fastest adoption of technology to simplify college admissions… FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED.

Finally, a student can apply to over 1,500 colleges from one, simple application process. And, for colleges, they save meaningful time and money receiving this information electronically… eliminating lost data, information matching issues, incorrect inputs of transcripts, and a whole host of other issues. Perhaps the most rewarding is that SuperAPP is making a difference for the most underserved students who need a simplified, all-in-one process. SuperAPP also empowers high school counselors with the information and visibility they need to support students and keep them on track. One solution – SuperAPP – one big win for everyone involved!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Congratulations, Ted!

April 15, 2010 - Please join me in congratulating Ted Fischer on being named President and Chief Operating Officer of ConnectEDU. Ted has been active with ConnectEDU for several years and, most recently, joined the Senior Management Team in 2009. Ted is a fantastic leader and a passionate advocate for students and those who serve students and families. Congratulations, Ted!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Connect! a CODiE Finalist…Again



February 26, 2010 - In the spirit of the Winter Olympics, I couldn’t be prouder that our “team” was recently notified that we have advanced to the “medal round” in this year’s CODiE Awards. This is the 2nd consecutive year that we have received the Finalist nomination by the Software and Information Industry Association. This year we advanced, once again, in the Best K-12 Enterprise Solution category.

The CODiE Awards for us, as I have said before, affirms the daily focus we place on our mission of creating data-driven solutions that bridge the transitions between high school, college, and career. Indeed, winning a CODiE and stepping up onto that podium at the 25th Annual CODiE Awards Gala would be remarkable. But the CODiEs remind me how great our charge is and how much greater it needs to be as we help every student, from every neighborhood across the country, use technology and data to make informed decisions as they achieve their dream of a college education and promising career.

View the complete listing of Finalists

Thursday, February 18, 2010

They Tell Me I Have a Face for Radio

February 18, 2010- All of my friends have reminded me that I have a face for radio, and I have countered with the fact that "the camera adds 10 lbs"... (I actually say 15lbs and they correct me to 10lbs); regardless the message is an important one. The following segment was broadcasted on Fox 25 in Boston and provided an opportunity to talk about some of the important trends and issues in college admissions. Those that know me, know that I could have used another 25 minutes, but in the world of TV it’s about sound bites and short snip-its, so what can a long-winded guy like me do? Regardless, our support team stood ready and responded to a number of parents/viewers to help them gain a deeper understanding of the trends/issues in college admissions.

BTW – catch phrase of the day was “you got it"...

Enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

ConnectEDU Welcomes Governor Jane Swift to CDU Team

February 8, 2010 - I am pleased to announce that former Governor Jane Swift has joined the ConnectEDU Team as our Senior Vice President of Government Solutions and Strategy. Governor Swift has been an un-official member of the ConnectEDU family for some time now and it is great to have her on board in an official capacity. Governor Swift was an “education governor” when she held the post and has a clear understanding of the needs of states, schools and families relative to college and career planning.

We are excited to have Jane on board!

Click here
to learn more about Jane and the work that she will be doing at CDU.