By GCN Staff

Virginia community colleges pilot open textbooks

Virginia community colleges pilot open textbooks

The Virginia Community College System announced a pilot program to replace traditional college textbooks with open digital texts for students at 15 of 23 of the commonwealth’s community colleges.

Funded by a $200,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the program will allow students to download freely accessible and openly licensed digital textbooks customized to fit each school’s curriculum.

The idea was based in part by Tidewater Community College’s all-Open Educational Resources (OER) or “Z-Degree” program, a business degree that uses open educational materials. Tidewater and Northern Virginia Community College started using OER textbooks in 2013. Over the last three years, more than 100 faculty members at 16 community colleges have created more than 70 open courses.

“Technology is changing the way we access information, making it faster and less expensive without compromising quality. We owe it to our students… to bring that flexibility to every course that we can,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges in a statement.

VCCS has over 273,000 students enrolled each year, making it one of the largest college systems in the United States.

Posted on May 26, 2015 at 12:14 PM0 comments

Energy infrastructure critical in disaster response

Local gov: Energy infrastructure critical in disaster response

What: “Local Government Energy/Environment Technology Priorities for 2015,” a survey by the Public Technology Institute that suggests the top priorities for local officials involved in energy, environmental, sustainability and technology are the same as government IT managers': funding, aging infrastructure and disaster mitigation and preparedness.  Issues following closely behind are security, the role of GIS and keeping up with technology and workload pressures.

When asked, “What did we miss that keeps you up at night,” respondents cited the failure of information and data sharing between utilities and municipalities,  environmental management systems, keeping up with technology updates and statewide consistency in renewable energy standards.

The respondents serve more than 40 million people, and come from energy, environment, public works, sustainability and facilities officials from cities and counties across the country.

Why:  Because local governments are first responders, they appreciate the “interdependencies between energy systems and communications, transportation, emergency management and other infrastructure systems that are critical at the local level of government,” the report said.

After Super Storm Sandy proved the vulnerability (and expense) of energy supply and distribution systems, local government officials pushed disaster mitigation and preparedness to the top of their priorities list.

Energy assurance planning is more expensive if local governments have to develop plans in the wake of a disaster. According to PTI, such preparedness supports energy efficiency and sustainability efforts because energy enables the finance, communication, health and transportation systems that stabilize and protect the public in times of crisis.

Based on these results, PTI exhorted local agencies to raise the profile of their energy, environment and sustainability departments, continue to grow educational initiatives and create a research agenda for 2015 forward.

Get more: Find the full report here.

Posted on May 19, 2015 at 1:13 PM0 comments

NY pilots program to teach English via mobile phones

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a program that will give English language learners free access to self-paced audio and text lessons through their mobile phones.

The program, which is the first of its kind in the United States, is aimed at immigrants who do not have the time or the access to learn English through a traditional classroom, a computer or the Internet.

The New York State Office for New Americans will partner with Cell-Ed to run the program. When learners call a Cell-ED number from their cell phone, they can listen to a lesson, then review the lesson via text and text-back responses. The program is free to the learner (excluding any minute or text charges from  user’s mobile phone provider) and available 24 hours a day.

 “This innovative program will assist the Latino community in accessing English language instruction at a time that works best for them.” said Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation. “Through Cell Ed, immigrants interested in increasing their English language abilities will not have to miss out on instruction by utilizing this tool that will work around their schedules. We are extremely excited to offer Cell Ed to our network of ESL service providers.”

The program will initially be launched in the Finger Lakes and North Country regions of upstate New York, and downstate in the Hudson Valley and in New York City.

Posted on May 18, 2015 at 1:14 PM0 comments

mobility survey

iOS remains key player in public sector

What: Good Technology Mobility Index Report Q1 2015.

Why: The latest Quarterly Mobility Index Report shows that organizations are continuing to mobilize content and develop apps at an accelerated rate, as total app activations grew 160 percent in the past year.

Industries are sticking to Apple as iOS accounts for 72 percent of all phone activations, leaving Android at 26 percent. However, iOS saw some erosion in its once-dominant tablet adoption with Android continuing a surge and Windows emerging on the scene.

Regulated industries are notably Apple-friendly. The education sector is the most invested, with 83 percent of all devices running on iOS, followed by the public sector at 80 percent and financial services at 76 percent. This is the second consecutive quarter iOS has outpaced Android in regulated industries. In unregulated industries, the high-tech and energy sectors are more Android-friendly, at 47 and 44 percent of devices respectively.

And as industries push to mobilize content, secure browsing remains the most popular app aside from email.

Get more: Mobility Index Report Q1 2015.

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 7:43 AM0 comments

NOAA expands flood-mapping tool to cover the Eastern Seaboard

NOAA expands flood-mapping tool to cover the Eastern Seaboard

Coastal communities in much of the eastern United States can now view maps and data related to coastal flooding thanks to an expansion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper.

NOAA's flood exposure risk mapping tool that was developed in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania has been expanded to cover coastal areas along the entire U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

The mapper, which is built on ESRI's ArcGIS Online platform, filters results based on location and several flood scenarios, such as Federal Emergency Management Agency flood designations, shallow coastal flooding associated with high tides or flooding associated with sea level rise or storm surge. According to  NOAA, users can then view flood maps overlaid with any of three exposure maps to see how floodwaters might impact the community, the infrastructure or the ecosystem. All maps can be saved, printed and shared.

“According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of coastal communities is going to rise by 8 percent by 2020. Increased vulnerability plus increased population means communities are going to need accurate, reliable, and timely information to prepare for the future,” Holly Bamford, acting assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management, said. “Equipping our communities with ...  tools like the Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper allows them to become more resilient.”

NASA has also been paying attention to the coastal vulnerabilities.  Last year, it announced a challenge using cross-agency data to create tools and provide information so communities can prepare for coastal catastrophes.

Posted on May 07, 2015 at 12:35 PM0 comments