September 16, 2014, 12:58 PM ET
Some MOOC skeptics believe that the only students fit to learn in
massive open online courses are those who are already well
educated. Without coaching and the support system of a traditional
program, the thinking goes, ill-prepared students will not learn a
thing. Not so, according to researchers at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. The researchers analyzed data from a
physics course that MIT offered on the edX platform in the summer
of 2013. They found that students who had spent significant time on
the course showed evidence of learning no matter what their
educational background. “There was no evidence that cohorts with
low initial ability learned less than the other cohorts,” wrote the
researchers in a paper
published this month by The International Review of Research in
Open and Distance Learning.
Not only that, but the MOOC
students learned at a similar rate as...
September 12, 2014, 07:43 PM ET
College Park, Md.
— Brendan Iribe dropped out of the
University of Maryland here, but before he did he amassed 227
parking tickets. And he managed to meet two business partners who
would help him build the virtual-reality company Oculus VR, which
Facebook bought this year
for about $2-billion. One of those
parking tickets remains unpaid, but the university is likely to
forgive it after Friday, when he
to erect a computer-science building. That
makes Mr. Iribe, who is 35 years old, the institution's most
generous donor ever.
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In part to avoid parking rules and other pesky annoyances of the
real world, Mr. Iribe is now one of the most hyperbolic pitchmen
for a future in which people wear headsets and enter immersive
virtual worlds. "It really is going to be transformative, maybe
September 10, 2014, 04:55 AM ET
technology has entered the mainstream. The Apple Watch, announced on
ushers in the possibility that, one day soon, campuses
across the country will contend with students who are literally
attached to their gadgets. “These wearable technologies will become
like appendages,” said B.J. Fogg, a consulting professor at
Stanford University and director of the Stanford Persuasive Tech
Lab. “To remove those capabilities will be like tying one hand
behind your back.” While the prospect of the new device may thrill
technophiles, it may also make professors and administrators
uneasy. After all, a classroom of students with miniature computers
strapped to their wrists could seem like an instructor’s nightmare.
But Teresa Fishman, director of the International Institute for
Academic Integrity at Clemson University, believes
is no cause for alarm....
September 10, 2014, 04:55 AM ET
The providers of massive open online courses mostly cater to adults
already went to college.
Now one provider, edX, is setting its
sights on high-school students who are trying to get in. The
nonprofit organization just announced a raft of free, online
courses for high-school students. Most of the new MOOCs cover
material from Advanced Placement courses in traditional
disciplines. But one course, called "The Road to Selective College
Admissions," will aim to counsel students on how to produce a
successful college application. "We will provide tools to help
students plan their high-school summers, and begin considering
financing a college education," reads a description of the course,
which will be taught by college counselors at St. Margaret's
Episcopal School, a private school in California. "Students will
learn how to build a support network and be given tips on how to
September 8, 2014, 11:52 AM ET
To catch a fish, head to the water. That simple idea motivated the
University of Houston to adopt Snapchat, a smartphone application
popular with teenagers, as a method of communication with
prospective and current students. When it signed up for an account
in January, the university was one of only a few experimenting with
the social-media platform. Now more colleges are diving in, hoping
to hook students’ attention. “We like to bring our message to our
audience instead of making them dig for it,” says Jessica Brand,
the university's social-media manager. Snapchat allows users to
send their friends photographs or short videos that disappear after
one to 10 seconds. A newer feature allows the creation of a
Snapchat Story, a series of images and videos that lasts for 24
hours. Introduced in 2011, Snapchat quickly became popular with
teens and young adults. College social-media...
August 22, 2014, 05:03 PM ET
Ten years ago, a group of universities started a collaborative
software project touted as an alternative to commercial software
companies, which were criticized as too costly. On Friday the
project’s leaders made a surprising announcement: that it would
essentially become a commercial entity. The software at issue,
, does the boring
but important work of managing accounting, billing, e-commerce,
budgeting, and other campus functions. Colleges can pay software
companies tens of millions of dollars for these mission-critical
tools, and the vision of Kuali was to take a do-it-yourself
approach. The nonprofit Kuali Foundation helped manage development
of free software that any college or university could use, in what
was called a “community source” model. From the beginning the
software has been open source, meaning that anyone can look under
the hood of the software and...
August 22, 2014, 01:03 PM ET
Digital music has made it easier to buy and share recordings. But
try telling that to librarians. In March 2011, the University of
Washington's library tried to get a copy of a new recording of the
Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, playing
Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique
that the library could
lend to students. But the recording was available only as a digital
download, and Amazon and iTunes forbid renting out digital files.
So the librarians contacted the Philharmonic to see if there was
some way they could get a copy of the album that they could lend
out like a compact disc. The orchestra referred them to a
distributor, which referred them to the publisher, the Universal
Music Publishing Group. At first the corporation said it couldn't
license the recording to the university,
according to the librarians.
Later it offered to license 25
percent of the album for...
August 21, 2014, 03:08 PM ET
Designing a textbook or
lecture with the average student in mind may sound logical. But L.
Todd Rose, who teaches educational neuroscience at Harvard
University’s Graduate School of Education, argues that doing so
means that the lesson is designed for nobody. In a TEDx talk last
summer, the professor explained that most learners have a “jagged
profile” of traits when it comes to learning. One student might
have an affinity for science but have below-average reading skills.
Yet standard teaching practice assumes at least average skills
across the board. “Because our science textbook assumes every kid
is reading on grade level, we’re in trouble,” he said in the talk.
“For her, science class is first and foremost a reading test, and
it’s doubtful that we will ever see what she’s truly capable of.”
Mr. Rose believes that technology can help, by giving educators
detailed data on students ...
August 20, 2014, 04:56 AM ET
Earlier this month, a puckish Twitter user going by the handle
@ProfJeffJarvis managed to provoke two actual professors into fits
of outrage. Rurick Bradbury, the technology entrepreneur who runs
the account, has been sending up the jargon of contemporary
“thinkfluencers” since 2012, amassing 11,000 followers. He named
the account after Jeff Jarvis, a writer and professor at the City
University of New York’s journalism school, although the object of
Mr. Bradbury’s satire is not necessarily Mr. Jarvis but a
of new-media seers. Tweeting in character, Mr.
Bradbury got into a
with Nassim N. Taleb, a writer and professor of risk
engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic School of
with Mr. Jarvis himself, who said Mr. Bradbury “crossed a
line” by imperiling his reputation in the eyes of Mr. Taleb. We
hunted around for other...
August 5, 2014, 03:30 PM ET
People now buy songs, not albums. They read articles, not
newspapers. So why not mix and match learning “modules” rather than
lock into 12-week university courses? That question is a major
theme of a 213-page
released on Monday by a committee at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology
how the 153-year-old engineering powerhouse should
innovate to adapt to new technologies and new student expectations.
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“The very notion of a ‘class’ may be outdated,” the report argues.
That line appears in the context of online courses, but one of the
report's authors, Sanjay Sarma, who leads MIT's experiments with
massive open online courses, said in an email interview that the
sentiment could apply to in-person settings as well.
Students want to pick and choose.