Forty percent of community college students study only five hours a week, according to the Community College Survey of Student Engagement. Two-thirds participate in class discussions.

What Do Students Really Think of Community College

E-books will report on students’ reading

When students read e-textbooks, e-books will be reading students, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. CourseSmart, which sells digital textbooks, will provide “a new tool to help professors and others measure students’ engagement with electronic course materials.”

Say a student uses an introductory psychology e-textbook. The book will be integrated into the college’s course-management system. It will track students’ behavior: how much time they spend reading, how many pages they view, and how many notes and highlights they make. That data will get crunched into an engagement score for each student.

The idea is that faculty members can reach out to students showing low engagement, says Sean Devine, chief executive of CourseSmart. And colleges can evaluate the return they are getting on investments in digital materials.

Students will be able to opt out if they don’t want Big Teacher monitoring their reading habits, Devine said at the Educause conference. “We do understand the Big Brother aspects of it.”

Readiness goes beyond academic skills

While “students need strong academic skills to succeed in postsecondary education,”  college readiness includes non-academic skills, behaviors and attitudes, write Melinda Mechur Karp and Rachel Hare Bork, researchers at the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia, in Inside Higher Ed. Many new students — especially those who are the first in their family to go to college –don’t understand what’s expected of them.

In our recent research, we identified four specific areas — academic habits, cultural know-how, the ability to balance school and other demands and engaging in help-seeking — in which college faculty had clear expectations of their students. These expectations differed substantively from those in high school, and while meeting them was critical to college success, they remained largely unspoken.

Many college instructors think they already clearly articulate their expectations to students, but our research indicates that behavioral expectations must be made far more explicit and precise.

. . . For example, when an instructor asks students to “come to class prepared,” what does she mean? If she means coming to class having completed a reading and being prepared to participate in discussions about it, she can include this expectation in the syllabus, explain it to students from the first day of class, and assign students to write out three questions or observations about the reading to discuss each week.

What does it mean to “study hard” for a test? Students may not know the difference between studying in high school and college — unless they’re told.

“Educators must stop blaming students for breaking rules that they do not know exist,” conclude Karp and Bork.

Smart phone can make students smarter

Smart phones can be study aids, writes Geoff Cain, director of distance education at College of the Redwoods in California.

Darrell is a part-time student who does not own a car. Every Tuesday and Thursday, he takes the hour-long bus ride to school. Like many students at his community college, he works nearly 30 hours a week while taking three classes. Between work, commuting, and attending classes, he is hard-pressed to find time for studying.

Fortunately for him, though, while taking the bus one morning, he found himself sitting next to one of his fellow classmates, Julie. He told her about his frustrations with his schedule and the homework and how he didn’t feel like he had time to see a tutor. She told him about the many educational sites that can be accessed on the phone. Sites like the Mobile ESL page from Athabasca University (http://eslau.ca) that has online grammar lessons and short self-tests that will help you check your work. She also pointed out that parts of the college’s own learning management system were accessible by phone. She even had one instructor who was using an electronic textbook that was accessible by smart phones.

Mobile learning (often called “mlearning”) can use smart phones, tablet computers or netbooks, Cain writes. Instructors can help students study by hosting content that’s easily accessible to smart phones. “Many software packages make mobile-friendly websites out of the box, and many phones have simplified web browsers that help make accessing the information easier.”

Cain has other suggestions for using smart phones to reach and teach students.

College students study less

College students study less — a lot less — than they used to concludes a study by two economists reported in the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

In 1961, the average full-time college student spent 40 hours per week on academic work (that’s time in class and studying). In 2003, it was 27 hours.

The decline in academic effort wasn’t explained by students working more hours or by the changing make-up of the student body, the economists wrote. They don’t have an explanation.

Erin O’Connor of Critical Mass  guesses at the reasons:

. . .  lower standards (easier A’s, less reading, fewer consequences for lack of preparation, more gut majors and gut courses) combined with more technological distractions (social networking, web surfing, video gaming, watching TV and films, talking on the phone, texting, etc.). Studies show that teens and young adults spend something like 35 non-academic hours each week in front of various screens.

She also blames the party culture on many campuses. With few Friday classes, the weekend starts on Thursday.