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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Exploring the Use of E-Textbooks in Higher Education: A Multiyear Study | EDUCAUSE Review

Just look at this article in EDUCAUSE Review, published on Monday, October 9, 2017.

Key Takeaways

  • A four-year university-wide study of students' e-textbook practices found that e-textbook use has increased, particularly among younger students.
  • The major barriers — including a student preference for print and unfamiliarity with e-textbooks — show signs of being alleviated.
  • Other factors related to mobile device access and pedagogically effective e-textbooks show little change over the study period.
  • Instructor practices have improved, but there is still room for growth, with implications for focused professional development.

Photo: EDUCAUSE Review
Textbook affordability is a growing concern in the US higher education context. A study conducted by the Florida Virtual Campus found that more than 70 percent of student respondents reported spending at least $300 on textbooks during the spring 2016 term.1 Compared to a previous survey,2 there was a decrease in the "$0–$100" cost category from 9.8 to 8.2 percent, while the "$601 or more" cost category increased from 8.5 to 8.9 percent. To reduce college costs, some students may decide not to purchase textbooks or to simply take fewer classes.3 A recent survey of our students at University of Central Florida found that, due to high costs,
  • 30 percent of respondents said they have opted not to purchase a textbook at least once,
  • 41 percent have delayed purchasing a textbook, and
  • 15 percent have taken fewer courses or decided not take a particular class.
These figures are even more troubling when extrapolating to student performance, retention, and graduation rates.

Various solutions have been proposed to make textbooks more affordable for college students. E-textbooks (that is, books available electronically) have been touted as reducing costs and alleviating the need for students to carry heavy textbooks.4 In 2009, Indiana University pioneered the concept of bulk purchasing course materials from textbook publishers to directly provide books in an electronic format on the first day of a course.5 This model has been adopted by Unizin, a 22-member consortium of higher education institutions in the US. Another proposed solution to reduce costs is e-textbook rentals. The 2016 Florida Virtual Campus survey reported that students shifted away from purchasing lifetime access and toward renting e-textbooks to save money. Despite these proposed institutional solutions, however, less expensive digital materials have not reached mainstream adoption.

A movement, motivated by complex factors, has changed the narrative of e-textbooks within the academic literature. The focus has swiftly shifted from publisher-produced printed or electronic format materials to creating and adopting open educational resources (OERs). At their most basic definition, OERs are materials that are openly licensed, giving users the legal permission to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute the material.6 Examples of OERs range from comprehensive materials such as curriculum and textbooks to individual videos, syllabi, lecture notes, and tests.7 Emerging research finds that students using OERs are no worse in course performance than those using costly materials.8 

To better understand this changing landscape, our research team at UCF conducted three surveys (in 2012, 2014, and 2016) to assess college students' attitudes and practices concerning e-textbooks. Our research was limited to current practices and attitudes, since the university's restrictive bookstore agreement did not permit an institutional-level initiative to broaden the adoption of e-textbooks.

The goal for the initial 2012 survey was to provide a baseline of ownership and use on which to build future research, while the goal of the 2014 and 2016 surveys was to gauge changes that had occurred over time.9 In the 2016 survey, we paid particular attention to e-textbook types and OER.

This article compares our results to previous surveys and addresses three research questions: 
  • What is the rate and types of e-textbook use, and how has this changed over time? Are demographic factors at play?W
  • What are the influential factors to using e-textbooks, and how have they changed over time? 
  • Has instructor integration of e-textbooks changed over time?

Source: EDUCAUSE Review

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Student Engagement with E-Texts: What the Data Tell Us | EDUCAUSE Review

Key Takeaways

  • This case study of Indiana University's e-text initiative reports on students' actual use of and engagement with digital textbooks.
  • In a typical semester, students read more in the first four weeks and less in later weeks except during major assessment times; in a typical week, most reading occurs between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. from Monday to Thursday, indicating that students use e-texts mainly as a self-study resource.
  • Highlighting was the markup feature most used by students, whereas use of the other interactive markup features (shared notes, questions, and answers) was minimal, perhaps because of students' lack of awareness of these features.
  • Research found that higher engagement with e-texts (reading and highlighting) correlated with higher course grades.

"This case study of Indiana University's e-text initiative reports on students' actual use of and engagement with digital textbooks. Research found that higher engagement with e-texts (reading and highlighting) correlated with higher course grades" by Serdar Abaci, PhD, educational research and evaluation specialist in Learning Technologies, University Information Technology Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, Joshua Quick, learning data analyst in Learning Technologies, University Information Technology Services, Indiana University, Bloomington and Anastasia S. Morrone, PhD, associate vice president, Learning Technologies, Indiana University and dean for IT, IUPUI.  
Photo: EDUCAUSE Review

Although cost savings is often cited as a key advantage of electronic textbooks (aka, e-textbooks or simply e-texts), e-texts also provide powerful markup and interaction tools. For these tools to improve student learning, however, their adoption is critically important.1 This article focuses on the adoption and use of these tools and actual student reading data, which we consider understudied.2 Examination of actual reading data as well as markup use might help identify effective study practices that improve learning. In addition, adoption and use data might provide better measures to test the effectiveness of interactive e-texts as learning support tools. For example, previous research found that use of bookmarking, total number of pages read, and total number of days spent reading predict final course grade.3

Indiana University, as one of the few higher education institutions in the United States with a university-wide e-textbook adoption initiative, has also been studying adoption and use of e-textbooks by instructors and students.4 In our previous EDUCAUSE Review article5 we presented IU's e-texts program based on pilot data and some insights from faculty use of e-texts. In this article, we present findings based on actual use data on the e-text reading platform by IU students and instructors over multiple semesters. 

The Indiana University e-texts program, which began in 2009, has four primary goals:
  1. Drive down the cost of materials for students
  2. Provide high-quality materials of choice
  3. Enable new tools for teaching and learning
  4. Shape the terms of sustainable models that work for students, faculty, and authors
These goals have served us well. The program has continued to grow every year, and we now have agreements with more than 25 publishers at substantially discounted prices. As shown in table 1, the numbers — across calendar years from 2012 (when the program went into production) through 2016 — show strong growth. Now that we are more than five years into the full implementation of the e-text program, we are in a position to assess the progress we have made in addressing key concerns raised by instructors and students regarding e-text adoption. 

As noted, our agreements with publishers provide substantial cost savings for students. The formal calculation of the savings is the actual difference between the "print list price" and the negotiated IU e-text price for the publisher content. To date, student savings on textbooks amount to $21,673,338. However, we recognize that many students do not pay the full list price for paper textbooks when they purchase online, buy used copies, or recoup some of their costs when they resell their texts after the semester is over. In fact, an article from the New York Times highlights that actual student spending on course materials, including textbooks, was about half the actual cost of the textbooks and related course materials.6 Therefore, we divide the calculated savings by two and report that total as a more accurate representation of student savings. Consequently, we claim that students have saved about $11 million since IU's e-texts program started in spring 2012.

IU's e-texts program allows unlimited printing of textbook pages — up to 50 pages at a time, using the university's reading platform (Unizin Engage). According to page view records between the spring 2012 and spring 2016 semesters, 3,224 students from 251 courses (745 separate sections) printed over 130,000 pages of e-text (excluding multiple prints of the same page). In comparison, records show over 11 million distinct page view over the same time period. Therefore, paper-based reading constitutes only one percent of the total reading activity at IU. By comparison, there were 56,824 unique students in the system during this period. Thus, only five percent of the students chose to print from their e-texts.
In addition to printing through the e-text platform, students can purchase a print-on-demand (PoD) copy of an e-text for an additional fee. From fall 2012 until the end of spring 2016, our records show that 461 different students submitted 510 separate PoD requests, which varied from selected chapters of a book to a single complete book to multiple books or reading packages in one request. Some students requested paper copies more than once or requested multiple books at once, clearly having a strong preference for paper copies. Nevertheless, these students represent less than one percent of the total number of unique students (n = 52,763) active on the Engage platform during the same time period. 

Source: EDUCAUSE Review

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Designing Developmentally: Simple Strategies to Get Students Thinking | Teaching Professor Blog

Photo: Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D
notes, "I continue to be concerned that we don’t design learning experiences as developmentally as we should. What happens to students across a course (and the collection of courses that make up a degree program) ought to advance their knowledge and skills."

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog

Generally, we do a good job on the knowledge part, but we mostly take skill development for granted. We assume it just happens, and it does, sort of, just not as efficiently and extensively as it could if we purposefully intervened.

Perhaps it would help if we had some concrete examples illustrating how assignments and activities can be designed so that skills are developed. Kathie L. Pelletier describes an interesting iteration of the now vintage two-minute paper strategy. Normally students write those papers during the final minutes of class and the papers usually focus on something students have learned and/or think they should have learned but don’t yet understand. Pelletier embeds these writing events within sessions of her upper-division organizational behavior course. On a number of unannounced days in the course, a question appears on the screen and students have two minutes to write an answer. She uses a rubric to quickly grade their responses. But here’s what makes the strategy intriguing: the questions are sequenced developmentally—they get more complex as the course progresses. In the beginning, the questions ask for definitions and descriptions of theories, and by the end of the course they’re challenging students to apply theories to specific organizations.
The Teaching Professor Blog

The approach has multiple benefits. For teachers, it’s do-able: one set of questions. I wouldn’t say that makes it easy, given that we don’t generally plan question sequences, but it’s manageable. If the goal is to develop thinking skills, then the questions have to be rolled out in a way that each question promotes more complicated kinds of thinking. Preparing that kind of question set takes mental energy, but it’s bound to clarify our thinking about the kinds of questions that promote increasingly complex thinking. That’s a plus for us and our students.

Another benefit to this approach is that the questions themselves can be used, not just to debrief good answers (or with certain content, correct answers) but to explore different kinds and levels of questions. Pelletier confesses she came up with the approach (which she combined with a set of announced quizzes) to solve a couple of more mundane problems: poor class attendance and study habits. The two strategies accomplished those goals, plus they resulted in higher mid-term and final exam scores when compared with scores in sections where the strategies were not used. A good instructional strategy often garners multiple benefits.

Source: The Teaching Professor Blog

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Investing in adult learners across the Interior | Salmon Arm Observer

Alistair Waters, Author at Salmon Arm Observer says, "Province funding community-based, adult literacy programs in Okanagan and Columbia-Shuswap."

The community-based adult education programs are delivered in partnership with Okanagan College.
Photo: Google Maps

The province is investing in community-based programs to help adult learners break down education barriers.

Literacy and numeracy skills will give adult learners in the Okanagan and Columbia Shuswap the ability to read a safety label, balance a household budget and work towards higher education, said 
Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark on Monday.

“I’m proud that our government is investing in lifting up adult learners in the Okanagan and Columbia Shuswap,” said Mark. “Literacy skills can give people the confidence to greatly improve their lives. The skills they learn will allow them to interact with their neighbours, connect with services including education, as well as thrive and succeed.”

The programs include one-on-one tutoring or small group training for adult learners. This helps ensure their education is tailored to their individual educational needs, said the ministry. The programs are provided in a variety of locations that are easily accessible for adult learners, including public school libraries, community centres and public libraries.

“Our government is working to provide services where and when British Columbians need them,” said Education Minister Rob Fleming. “Community literacy programs are provided in environments that are familiar to adult learners and where they feel more welcome. This will hopefully encourage more adult learners to access the support they need.”

The community-based programs are delivered in partnership with Okanagan College. Literacy providers and post-secondary institutions collaborate to support improved learner outcomes and encourage the transition from community programs to post-secondary studies.

Source: Salmon Arm Observer 

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Potential adult learners get a chance to check out the Hants Learning Network Association | The Register/Advertiser

Those who were thinking about upgrading their education got a chance to see what it’s like during open visits at the Hants Learning Network Association (HLNA) in Windsor earlier in October."

After many years in the work force fifty-eight year old John Wilson decided with the help from the Hants Adult Learning Network Association. The association is very flexible and has enabled Wilson to tackle his task at his own pace. He is also getting help studying for work courses that he requires.
Photo: The Register/Advertiser

Katharine McCoubrey, executive director of the HLNA, said the open visits, a first for the organization, were aimed at giving people a chance to see first-hand what they offer.

“They got to come in while our regular classes were happening so that they could talk to our teachers, our students and find out a little more about,” McCoubrey said. “A few people came to check this out and we had others call in who maybe couldn’t come in person.”

This was the first time the HLNA has tried this approach, and McCoubrey said she was excited to have one participant sign up on the day they visited.

The open visits took place on Oct. 3, 5 and 11 throughout the day.

 “One of our biggest challenges is getting the word out there about what we do,” she said. “If you don’t know this service is here, you might not know you could benefit from coming.”

HLNA’s programs are free of charge, with flexible hours available.

An open house for HLNA is planned for Nov. 24, which is open to the general public and includes a ticket auction. 

Source: The Register/Advertiser

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oxford University releases new round of interview questions | The Guardian - Philosophy

The Guardian, 12 October 2017.

"Candidates asked to consider the purpose of law and the morality of air travel in latest batch of sample interview material"  inform Sally Weale, education correspondent for the Guardian.
Oxford students pass the Radcliffe Camera on their way to matriculation.
Photo: Pete Lusabia/Alamy

Efforts by Oxford University to elucidate its interview process and soothe applicants’ nerves got under way this week with the annual release of sample questions and – crucially – the answers to them. 

Law candidates invited to interview could find themselves being asked: “Should it be illegal to run a red light in the middle of the night on an empty road?” Those applying to study modern languages might be asked: “What do we lose if we only read a foreign work of literature in translation?”
Students of medicine, meanwhile, could be challenged to put the following countries – Bangladesh, Japan, South Africa, UK – in order by their crude mortality rate, and philosophy candidates might be asked to reflect on individual responsibility and the morality of air travel.

As this year’s intake begins to settle in, including campaigner and Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai who attended her first lectures at Oxford this week, the next round of applications is about to begin with the Oxbridge deadline on 15 October.
Candidates who successfully clear the first hurdle with their written application will be invited to interview in December. At Oxford just over half of all applicants will be interviewed, compared with 75% at Cambridge.
Students are encouraged to regard the interview as a short conversation tutorial about their subject. On average, it takes around 20 minutes; shortlisted students will have at least two interviews, with two different sets of interviewers, often in more than one college.
Dr Samina Khan, director of admissions and outreach at Oxford, said as well as sample questions, candidates could prepare by looking at mock interviews online, as well as video diaries by admissions tutors during the interview process...

The sample question for PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) candidates reads: “‘I agree that air transport contributes to harmful climate change. But whether or not I make a given plane journey, the plane will fly anyway. So there is no moral reason for me to not travel by plane.’ Is this a convincing argument?”

They are not being tested on their knowledge of philosophy, explained Cécile Fabre, professor at All Souls College, but on their ability to think critically about the issue of individuals’ responsibility for harmful collective action.

“Some candidates might say that the argument is a good one: given that what I do makes no difference, I have no moral reason not to do it. At this point, I would want to know what they consider a moral reason to be (as distinct from or similar to, for example, a practical or prudential reason).

Source: The Guardian

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Suggested Books of the Week 41, 2017

Check out these books below by Cambridge University Press.

Exploring Mathematics - An Engaging Introduction to Proof

Exploring Mathematics
An Engaging Introduction to Proof
Exploring Mathematics gives students experience with doing mathematics - interrogating mathematical claims, exploring definitions, forming conjectures, attempting proofs, and presenting results - and engages them with examples, exercises, and projects that pique their interest. Written with a minimal number of pre-requisites, this text can be used by college students in their first and second years of study, and by independent readers who want an accessible introduction to theoretical mathematics...
The end-of-chapter exercises and projects provide students with opportunities to confirm their understanding of core material, learn new concepts, and develop mathematical creativity.
  • Mixes the creativity and rigor that is essential to conducting mathematical enquiry and includes model proofs as well as a range of accessible topics, such as Fibonacci numbers and games, to encourage students to explore and to build intuition and background
  • Engages the reader thanks to in-text exercises with complete solutions and robust hints included in an appendix and helps students develop the skill of frequently interrogating the definitions, examples, and arguments presented
  • Offers students the opportunity to practice their mathematical writing skills in response to sometimes challenging questions, and with less emphasis on formal logic and rote proof-writing exercises

An Introduction to Indian Philosophy

An Introduction to
Indian Philosophy
This wide-ranging introduction to classical Indian philosophy is philosophically rigorous without being too technical for beginners. Through detailed explorations of the full range of Indian philosophical concerns, including some metaphilosophical issues, it provides readers with non-Western perspectives on central areas of philosophy, including epistemology, logic, metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of religion. 

The Psychology of Musical Development

The Psychology of
Musical Development
The Psychology of Musical Development provides an up-to-date and comprehensive account of the latest theory, empirical research and applications in the study of musical development, an important and emerging field of music psychology...
With an emphasis on practical applications throughout, this book will be essential reading for students and scholars of music psychology, developmental psychology, music education and music therapy.
  • Advances the study of musical development, a field which has expanded beyond recognition in the last thirty years 
  • Provides a state-of-the-art summary of theories in this field, including cognitive stage models, neuroscience, socio-cultural theory, self-theory, ecological models and social cognitive approaches 
  • Devotes attention to practical applications of music psychology, especially in child development, music education, and health and well-being

Probability and Computing
Randomization and Probabilistic Techniques in Algorithms and Data Analysis 

Probability and Computing
Randomization and Probabilistic
Techniques in Algorithms and Data Analysis
Greatly expanded, this new edition requires only an elementary background in discrete mathematics and offers a comprehensive introduction to the role of randomization and probabilistic techniques in modern computer science...
This book provides an indispensable teaching tool to accompany a one- or two-semester course for advanced undergraduate students in computer science and applied mathematics.
  • Contains all the background in probability needed to understand many subdisciplines of computer science 
  • Includes new material relevant to machine learning and big data analysis, enabling students to learn new, up-to-date techniques and applications 
  • Newly added chapters and sections cover the normal distribution, sample complexity, VC dimension, naïve Bayes, cuckoo hashing, power laws, and the Lovasz Local Lemma 
  • Many new exercises and examples, including several new programming-related exercises, provide students with excellent training in problem solving

Source: Cambridge University Press

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Retired and want to keep your brain engaged? REAP Talks may be for you |

Photo: Erin Arvedlund
"Looking to keep your brain active post-retirement? Enough that you could give a presentation on something you know nothing about in front of 75 retired professionals and executives — without mentioning politics or religion?" reports Erin Arvedlund, Inquirer Staff Writer.

REAP Talks members meet every Wednesday for senior continuing-education lectures they present to one another. Chauncey Harris (foreground) is considering giving a history lecture.
Photo: Erin Arvedlund

REAP Talks may have what you seek.

Members meet every Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center,  700 N. Cedar Rd., Jenkintown. Part of the draw is researching and learning enough to give a 90-minute presentation to other members about a topic that’s brand new to you.

The group maintains its own website ( and requires dues of $55 a year, much less than a semester at a local college. Anyone can join, although a brief interview is required, and REAP Talks follows the schedule of the academic school year — September to June.

Sylvia Silverman of Willow Grove spoke Sept. 27 about “Philadelphia: Then and Now,” with photos and PowerPoint slides that will be posted on the website. Alice Parker will speak Oct. 25 on the fall of the Berlin Wall. Chauncey Harris, a new member and retired Elkins Park lawyer, is still thinking about his topic.

“Probably something related to history,” Harris said.

REAP was founded in 1970, the brainchild of two women on the board of Cheltenham Township Adult School, which sponsors classes in the evening. They formed Retired Executives and Professionals as a separate educational experience for seniors, or “those who were seasoned,” said current president Alice Ingber, who will give a talk next year on “lighter-than-air vehicles.”

The New School in New York’s Greenwich Village served as the model, with the goal of helping seniors retain cognition, particularly those who had retired from their working lives. 

Each member researches a topic and makes a presentation to the group once every 18 months to two years.

“Although the general subject area may be familiar to you, the talk itself should represent information that is generally new to you,” said Jim Rubillo, who gave a talk on Smedley Butler, the controversial 1930s Marine Corps general who also served as Philadelphia public-safety director.

Some topics are verboten: book reviews; travelogues; religious or political subjects. Historical and cultural topics that touch on religion or politics are acceptable.

“No one wants to hear what you did for your job,” said Joe Tomei, who gave a talk on John L. Lewis, the American labor organizer of coal miners.
Read more... 

Recommended Reading
Emmet Robinson, 78, has been running King Street Recording for 50 years.
Photo: David Swanson / Staff Photographer
Reinvent yourself, and reinvent again, advises a 78-year-old Malvern studio founder by Erin Arvedlund.


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The Centuries-Old Strategy That Turbocharged My Productivity by Amy Carleton | The Cut - Science Of Us

It’s an old-school paper-planner system that requires a little micromanaging, but the payoff is worth it.

Photo: Nick David/Getty Images

A few years ago, I assigned Ben Franklin’s Autobiography as reading for the literature survey class I was teaching — and, well, to say my students didn’t relate very well might be putting it mildly. Among other things, Franklin’s memoir devotes a fair amount of space to explaining his daily strategy for maximum productivity, which includes a 5 a.m. wakeup, designated blocks of time for work, meals, and activities like “put[ting] things in their places”; there’s also time allotted for “diversion,” but no hour is without a designated purpose, a way of ensuring that as much time as possible is spent working toward a daily goal. In class, many of my students were vocal in their belief that his schedule was oppressive. A few of them wondered out loud why anyone would intentionally micromanage their day to such an extreme.

One possible answer: A timeline means accountability, something I learned earlier this year after resolving to get a handle on the messiness that ruled my life. Six months ago, my way of getting things done was last-minute and without a clearly defined work plan. This was especially true during periods when I had more flexibility in my schedule. Last winter break, for example, I had a solid five weeks of time that, in theory, should have been incredibly productive — I was largely freed from my daily duties of teaching, meetings, and grading, and made a long list of things that I hoped to accomplish with all my free time. Some were abstract (“Get in better shape”) and others more concrete (“Submit journal article”). I ended up accomplishing a few of them before the spring term started up, but for the most part, I just moved my goals from one to-do list to another.

A few weeks into the new semester, panic started to set in as I recognized some hard deadlines that were fast approaching. After an all-nighter grading papers that had me exhausted for days, I knew I needed to find a better way.  In a moment of desperation, I clicked on a Facebook ad for a paper planner that promised to help me “optimize my day, tackle my goals, and become happier.”

When the planner arrived at my door a few days later, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Franklin’s meticulous planning. Each page was broken down into 30-minute chunks of time, where I’d have to log everything — workouts, meals, Netflix watching. There was also space to enter a daily goal, along with the action items that would help me move closer to it.

As I sat with my pen in hand, mapping out my exact plan for the next day, I felt silly. Couldn’t I do this in Google Calendar? Was time-blocking really the thing that would push me to get things done, or did I just get duped into buying an expensive notebook? It did feel a little extreme, scribbling in the time of my spin class and writing down the exact length of an afternoon break — like I was prematurely sucking all the spontaneity, all the potential for inspiration, out of the day.

Source: The Cut

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Minnesota West earns ranking for online programs | Daily Globe

Minnesota West Community and Technical College has earned the No.3 spot in the statewide ranking of top colleges for online programs, according to

Campus Welcome sign.
Photo: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Minnesota West scored higher than 70 other institutions in the state. To come up with the top online colleges ranking, used 14 different criteria focused on affordability, student success, number of online programs offered, distance learning participation and more.  

The statewide study praises Minnesota West Community and Technical College for offering 28 online programs options, as well as affordable in-state tuition and fees. The complete ranking and methodology can be viewed at

Source: Daily Globe

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