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Archive for August, 2009

On Tuesday afternoon, 260 Stephens College students volunteered their time at various locations around Columbia as part of their new student orientation week.

The Columbia Public Library, Central Missouri Food Bank, Upscale Resale, Smithton Middle School, Rainbow House and the Humane Society benefited from the event. Amanda Roberts, student services coordinator at Stephens College and director of orientation programs, mentioned that 18 shelves of books were put away and thousands of envelopes stuffed at the Columbia Public Library alone.

Most unique about the event is that the students ride the Columbia Public Transit to the different locations.

“The concept of riding the Columbia Public Transit, I decided, would be a great experience for them,” Roberts said, adding that it is an excellent option for students without a car or who would like a more fuel-efficient way of getting around the city.

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There were tutus and neon fishnets, homemade shirts, cardboard props and yes—a few jokes on Mizzou’s behalf. Wednesday night, incoming Stephens College students culminated their orientation festivities with a performance of skits and dances they had worked on throughout the week.

“The goal of it is just to start that team spirit,” Amanda Roberts, student services coordinator at Stephens College and director of orientation programs said, “it kind of bonds the freshman class.”

The theme of this year’s Songfest was “True Life: I’m a Stephens Woman,” referencing the popular MTV documentary, True Life. Each group was assigned a different show from MTV to depict through a skit or dance; Real World, True Life, MADE, Paris Hilton’s My New Bff, Cribs, America’s Best Dance Crew, Laguna Beach, Pimp my Ride, My Super Sweet Sixteen and Punk’d were all themes for skits. The Residential Aids performed a special rendition of Room Raiders while judges’ votes were tallied. Among the judges was Stephens College President, Dianne Lynch, also the subject of the “Punk’d” skit.

“It’s a very creative experience for the students,” Roberts said, adding that it also gives orientation leaders an opportunity to connect with students and hone in on those who may need more assistance adjusting to the college experience.

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Sergeant Bobby Bond just returned from his service of three and a half years in the military. After taking basic training in fall 2007, he attended Columbia College with the aid of the old GI Bill to pay partially for expenses for one year.

He joined the military with the intentions of relieving some of the financial burdens many students face.

“I’m not 18 anymore and not right out of high school,” Bond said. “I’m married now. I have bills to pay, and I signed up for the military in order to hopefully have some of those expenses taken care of fore me.”

Bond is attending MU in the fall as a sophomore, majoring in architectural engineering, with the aid of the previous GI Bill’s benefits, with hopes of covering the difference himself.

“It makes it possible for me to work part-time and go to school and still pay all my bills,” Bond said.

Bond just heard of the new additions made to the GI Bill, and even though he won’t be attending Columbia College in the fall to receive the benefits of it, he provides encouragement for it.

“From what I do know about it, I like it,” he said. “It’s a really good improvement.”

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A recently-released application for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch will bring digital textbooks to the palm of students’ hands.

An article by the Wall Street Journal reports that CourseSmart has teamed up with Apple to make its 7,000-plus textbook catalog accessible on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The new application, free to existing CourseSmart subscribers, will allow students to access their full e-textbooks, read their digital notes and search for specific words and phrases on their iPhone or iPod Touch.

The move comes as Amazon.com releases its large-screen Kindle DX, the article said. Amazon will introduce its Kindle DX in a pilot study at seven colleges this fall. The Kindle DX can hold up to 3,500 books and articles on the less than 20-ounce gadget, the Amazon Web site said. The device is about 1/3 of an inch thick and has an almost 10-inch screen.

Amazon released its own application with Apple in March called “Kindle for iPhone,” which allows iPhone and iPod Touch owners to read their Kindle content.

CourseSmart’s titles are not accessible on the Kindle or the Kindle DX as of now. But Frank Lyman, executive vice president of CourseSmart, said in the article that he would like to see his textbooks available wherever students want them.

While many people may feel the iPhone’s small screen is not ideal for reading a textbook, CourseSmart sees the application as a substitute learning tool, rather than a replacement.

“Nobody is going to use their iPhone to do their homework, but this does provide real mobile learning,” Lyman said in the article.

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IT updates at MU

Here is additional information from our technology and higher education series that has been running this week:

Terry Robb, director of IT at MU, said his division is focusing on security.

“We instituted MizzouWireless last year, which requires a name and password to get on our network.”

The division is also securing all databases so Social Security numbers are accessible to fewer people.

Along with increased security on campus, the division of IT is working to ensure its systems have “high availability and disaster recovery,” he said. MOREnet, or the Missouri Research Education Network, is the network provider between all of the University of Missouri System campuses, Robb said.

“We are looking to distribute our data among the campuses so that any disaster at one campus won’t cripple the campus,” he said.

An example of “data” is financial business data, but it really refers to any information the university has on electronic record, he said.

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A press release this morning from the Columbia College showed all the achievement of their online program that has been raved about.

According to the release, Geteducated.com has certified four Columbia College online degrees as best buys: the college’s online MBA and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Administration, both ranked No. 5; a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, ranked No. 10; and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration No. 12. The rankings are based on a review of hundreds of degrees, nearly 400 for the online MBA, from accredited distance-learning schools in the United States. The rankings factor in quality of instruction and affordability.

The article found that the college’s popularity is because of its affordability, ranking as one of the cheaper colleges nationally. At about $25,200, Columbia College’s degree costs nearly 50 percent less than average.

Other reports have also noted Columbia College’s educational performance. U.S. News & World Report named Columbia College one of America’s best colleges for the fifth year in a row and in the top tier of America’s best colleges. Princeton Review also singled out Columbia College as one of the best colleges in the Midwest in 2009, one of only 159 schools in a 12-state region to receive a “Best Midwestern College” designation.

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Textbook season is here, and students (or their parents) are probably dreading a dent in the checkbook from the high prices we spend on textbooks these days. According to the National Association of College Stores, last year students spent an average of $702 on required course materials.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with several people in the textbook industry who provided me with an abundance of textbook information. They answered questions of mine that have probably gone through every student’s head. So from student to student, I would like to answer questions that maybe you have, too.

How are printed textbooks priced?

As students, we are constantly complaining about having to pay a bucket of dollars for a textbook that “we don’t even use.” We usually blame the bookstore for ripping us off, but where does the cost really come from? And who gets all of our money? (And why don’t we really use them? But that’s for another day.)

Michelle Froese, public relations manager for MU student and auxiliary services, said publishers sell their new textbooks to the bookstore at a wholesale price; the bookstore then adds 25 percent to get a retail price. Of that 25 percent profit, the bookstore then has to pay operating expenses, keeping a 9 to 11 percent net profit on average, Froese said.

On its Web site, the National Association of College Stores provided a closer look at the breakdown of where the new textbook dollar goes.

Nationally, used textbooks are typically 25 percent less expensive than new books. Froese said the MU bookstore is ranked second in the nation in number of used books available to students: 40 percent of books sold at the MU bookstore are used while the national average is 25 percent.

How does textbook buyback work?

The only thing worse than spending a full paycheck on your textbooks is going to return them at buyback and leaving with maybe a quarter of what you spent. Again, we put the blame on the bookstore, but should we?

Faculty members play a key role in the success of textbook buyback, Froese said. When faculty members place their textbook order on time, it allows the bookstore to source for more used books for future students and offer students more money during buyback. When faculty submits an on-time textbook order, the bookstore can pay students 50 percent of the new book price at buyback. Froese offered a model of the ideal buyback situation:

“Spring 2009: New edition of ‘Textbook A’ costs $100; faculty submits on-time adoption of ‘Textbook A’ for fall 2009; student receives $50 for ‘Textbook A’ at bookstore buyback; this student invested $50 in the book.”

“Fall 2009: Used edition of ‘Textbook A’ costs $75; faculty submits on-time adoption of ‘Textbook A’ for spring 2010; student receives $50 for ‘Textbook A’ at bookstore buyback; this student invested $25 in the book.”

If a student receives less than 50 percent back at buyback, this means the book is not being used at MU and is being purchased by a used book dealer to re-sell to other universities, Froese said. Used book dealers typically offer zero to 35 percent of the new book price, she said.

Is it always cheaper and better to buy textbooks online?

With textbooks being so expensive, students are looking elsewhere to find cheaper alternatives to the bookstore. But is it always better to buy online? According to the National Association of College Stores, 61 percent of students purchased some of their textbooks online last year.

Charles Schmidt, a spokesman for the National Association of College Stores, said one thing to consider when buying online is the cost of shipping. Sometimes you can find free shipping deals from textbook vendors if you spend a certain amount. If not, you may end up spending just as much as you would in the bookstore when you add on shipping costs.

It is also important to make sure you are buying from a reliable online source so you get your textbook on time and aren’t scammed out of your money.

Students: As you prepare to head back to school, keep this information in mind. The bookstore is no longer the only place to go for your textbook needs, but in some cases it still might be your best option. Do some research and shop around to find your best deal.

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