Wired Campus icon

September 16, 2014, 12:58 PM ET

The MOOC Where Everybody Learned

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... Read More

September 12, 2014, 07:43 PM ET

Will the Next Classroom Disruption Be in 3-D? Facebook's Virtual-Reality Company Thinks So

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 gave $31-million to erect a computer-science building. That makes Mr. Iribe, who is 35 years old, the institution's most generous donor ever.
For more stories about technology and education, follow Wired Campus on Twitter.
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 even be... Read More

September 10, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

Apple Watch: Coming to a Classroom Near You?

applewatchWearable technology has entered the mainstream. The Apple Watch, announced on Tuesday, 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 wearable technology is no cause for alarm.... Read More

September 10, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

MOOC Provider Gets Into College Counseling

The providers of massive open online courses mostly cater to adults who 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 be... Read More

September 8, 2014, 11:52 AM ET

3 Ways Colleges Use Snapchat (Yes, Snapchat)

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... Read More

August 22, 2014, 05:03 PM ET

Collaborative That Once Criticized Software Companies Becomes One

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, called Kuali, 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... Read More

August 22, 2014, 01:03 PM ET

How Streaming Media Could Threaten the Mission of Libraries

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... Read More

August 21, 2014, 03:08 PM ET

Why Students Should Own Their Educational Data

ToddRoseDesigning 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 ...

Read More

August 20, 2014, 04:56 AM ET

That's Not #Funny: Higher Ed's Least Clever Twitter Accounts

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 wider culture of new-media seers. Tweeting in character, Mr. Bradbury got into a scrape with Nassim N. Taleb, a writer and professor of risk engineering at New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering—and then 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... Read More

August 5, 2014, 03:30 PM ET

Are Courses Outdated? MIT Considers Offering 'Modules' Instead

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 report released on Monday by a committee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology exploring how the 153-year-old engineering powerhouse should innovate to adapt to new technologies and new student expectations.
For more stories about teaching and technology, follow Wired Campus on Twitter.
“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. The... Read More