Friday, October 14, 2016

Advancing the Way Students Learn Through the Use of Technology

By George Moore, Chief Technology Officer, Cengage Learning
Massachusetts is home to more than one hundred higher education institutions.  There are 35 colleges and universities in the greater Boston area alone.  Every day, I am reminded of the importance of lifelong learning.  Along with better employment opportunities and greater access to financial resources, education instills confidence and a sense of accomplishment in people.
While the significance of continuing education cannot be understated, neither can the need for learning materials to evolve to meet students where they are in their education and life journey.   
Digitizing learning materials is about much more than turning a traditional print textbook into an ebook, or programming true or false questions.  While the ease and speed of content delivery has improved, the heart of the education transformation is in how students interact with learning material.  And further, how that interaction impacts outcomes.

Through the use of technology, students can experience an education environment that is personalized to their individual needs.  There is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to delivering the most effective learning methods.  Technology has allowed for data analysis that shows individual learning paths and progress, which triggers content that is tailored to abilities.

Through data analysis, digital learning platforms figure out what each individual knows and provides real-time recommendations on what to study next. This approach represents a new student-centric model of digital innovation for the education industry. 

This technology can provide students with feedback and personalized study plans that supplement the classroom experience.  Instructors can be alerted immediately when a student begins to struggle with a concept or falls behind in class. This allows for early intervention and a better likelihood of the student finding their way back on track.  

From an instructor’s standpoint, technology has enabled the creation of customized courses comprised of original work, Open Education Resources (OER) and published content.  This is what instructors tell us they need to build the most meaningful courses for their students.  While professors used to get one piece of content, a textbook, we now give them hundreds of thousands of pieces of content that they can move around.  

While some instructors have been slower to move to use technology, we’re finding that others are insatiable about how many features they want added to their digital learning solutions.  We have added feature after feature to help them meet students where they are, with the right tools, at the right time, to improve outcomes.  

Print textbooks are not going away for good any time soon.  Some subjects lend themselves better to digital adoption than others.  I go to work every day, however, with the whole-hearted belief that technology is advancing the way students learn. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Robotics CEOs Share Insights on Scaling a Hardware Business
Key Take-A-Ways from MassTLC’s Executive Dinner Series

 Posted 9/29/16 by Joyce Sidopoulos

Robotics is booming in Massachusetts, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to build and scale a robotics business. It’s a well-known fact amongst robotics CEOs that “you have to be more right when building a hardware business.” Software companies are easier to pivot. Making a mistake when building physical things can cost you the business. That’s why it’s so important for robotics company executives to learn from those who have gone before them.

A recent MassTLC Executive Dinner focused on challenges and insights of growing your robotics business. Burlington’s Tuscan Kitchen was the venue for CEOs and other c-level executives from over a dozen robotics companies, representing a diversity of stages and industres, including: Artaic, Ascend Robotics, Boston Engineering, iRobot, Locus Robotics, MassRobotics, Myomo, ORI Systems, Rethink Robotics, Riptide Solutions, SoftRobotics, and Symbotic.

The conversation was a frank, off the record, opportunity for these executives to share both ubiquitous and unique lessons learned from a diverse array of robotics applications, ranging across healthcare, marine, consumer, supply chain, defense, creative industries, and more. Variations on rapid talent acquisition across the organization, the evolution of leadership at the management and board levels, and issues unique to various types of boards and at different stages of the business were major topics of conversation. 

MassTLC believes that innovation happens at the boundaries and that getting small numbers of CEOs together from companies of different stages around key issues relating to growth and innovation further develops executive networks and sharing of insights, partners, vendors, etc. MassTLC has been convening and leading the Massachusetts Robotics Cluster for over a decade and is working on multiple levels to ensure that Massachusetts remains the global leader in the future of robotics and automation as we enter the Fourth Industrial Age.

A special thanks JP Morgan for sponsoring this executive dinner.




Sunday, October 2, 2016

Interview with Gary Jackson, CEO of Codiscope and D3 Presenter

Why is 2016 the year of “Developer Driven Security” as RSA has stated?

It’s telling that it took us, as an industry, several decades just to talk about bringing security directly into software development.  It’s an important issue and am glad to see RSA recognize that the traditional security model needs to change. Overall, I think their statement is fueled by three things:
  • the lack of change we’ve seen in security practices
  • the continued presence of malicious or weak code in software released to the public, and
  • the rapidly increasing occurrence of security breaches.
Ultimately, the millions of dollars we’re spending each year on operational security products hasn’t reduced risk, so companies are looking for ways to reduce it on their own and that starts with developers.

Why are developers often leaving out security measures in the code they’re writing?

It’s certainly not intentional. Undergraduate CS programs don’t typically cover security, and most developers haven’t had more than a few hours of on-the-job training. Their current state of mind is to focus on delivering features rather than hardening their code, but most are very interested in making secure code and we are starting to see a mind-shift.

Who is usually in charge of reviewing code for security flaws or backdoors?

Often, no one. For companies who have a security resource, they usually handle the code review tools and triage findings to the development team. That process usually means that developers have to go back and make changes to code they wrote three weeks ago, or legacy code that they didn’t write at all.

For companies who don’t have a security resource, security is usually a nonexistent practice outside of IT.  We’ve talked to a lot of developers who want to step up to take on the role as a security lead, but they need resources that focus on quality and security to help them get started.  

In a continuous release environment, what is a best practice for doing a code security review?

The most effective time to perform a code security review is while the developer is writing the code. By pointing out security issues and giving devs training right away, they’re more likely to remember how to handle those situations in the future. Higher learning emphasizes a “tight feedback loop” for a reason.

There are a lot of developers who’d prefer to automate their security efforts and that can be effective too. By adding a tool into your CI process, you’re still getting the information at a time when it’s easier to fix than it would be the day before you’re scheduled to ship.

In a pre-cloud world everyone relied on boxed methods of security around their products, vs within.  Is there a fear people will get too comfortable with assuming AWS or Azure’s built-in protections will be enough for sloppy code, and if it’s not, is the liability on them?

It is absolutely not enough to assume your application is secure based on these boxed solutions. The bad guys are hacking our applications daily by taking advantage of the same exploits we’ve heard about for years. Services like AWS can’t protect you from improper configuration, malicious users, or scorned employees. With multiple attack surfaces in software we can’t possibly build a moat big enough or wide enough to keep everyone out. Look at the latest hacks at Yahoo! and LinkedIn, they’ve got unimaginably deep pockets for IT security and still haven’t been able to keep their records safe. We’ve got to be accountable for the applications we write and give our customers confidence that we’ll keep them safe.

Want to know more about Developer Driven Security? Check out Gary's Session at Data, Development, and Drive - Pushing the Throttle to Innovation on Oct 6th!