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October 1, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

New Online Journal Offers Daily Dips Into JSTOR's Deep Archive

A 1931 analysis of Herman Melville's posthumous literary reputation doesn't exactly scream headline news in 2014. But that essay, published decades ago in the journal American Literature by O.W. Riegel, got a new lease on life this week, thanks to an online journal, JSTOR Daily, that made its official debut on Wednesday. The idea is to create a publication "that bridges the gap between news and scholarship," says Catherine Halley, the new journal's editor. That means turning smart writers loose on topics that intrigue them and letting them draw on JSTOR's deep historical archive of journal articles as they explore those subjects. (JSTOR is a subscription-driven nonprofit digital library of scholarly journals, books, and other content.) "We're trying to find the stories that animate the JSTOR library," Ms. Halley says. For instance, one contributor, Matthew Wills, used Riegel's 1931... Read More

October 1, 2014, 04:51 AM ET

Optimism About MOOCs Fades in Campus IT Offices

MOOC fever is cooling, at least among campus information-technology administrators, according to the 2014 edition of the Campus Computing Survey, an annual report on technology in higher education. While a little more than half of last year’s respondents thought MOOCs “offer a viable model for the effective delivery of online instruction,” just 38 percent of this year’s participants agreed with that statement. And only 19 percent of respondents in 2014 said MOOCs could generate new revenue for colleges, down from 29 percent last fall. “I’m not surprised to see some pessimism about the role of MOOCs in the future,” said Norman Bier, director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University. “After a lot of excitement and a little bit of hype over the past year or two, what we’re seeing is, simply taking learning materials and making them available is not a... Read More

September 30, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

For Bill on Disabled Access to Online Teaching Materials, the Devil's in the Details

As smart classrooms become the norm on more campuses and online courses proliferate, some observers worry that the digital revolution will leave students with disabilities behind. But a bill under consideration in the U.S. Congress, the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (HR 3505), would deal with that concern by creating accessibility guidelines for electronic materials used or assigned by college professors and administrators. While the bill, known as the Teach Act, has bipartisan support in Congress, several higher-education organizations have raised concerns about what they consider the legislation’s broad language, inflexibility, and misplaced oversight. For example, the American Council on Education objects to the bill in part because it grants authority to create guidelines to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance... Read More

September 23, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

Time for the New Fall Season—for TV, and for MOOCs

Eric FonerThe new fall television season gets under way this week, and newspapers are full of roundups of the hottest new shows. It’s also the season for a new lineup of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, and in recent days several colleges have touted new offerings boasting star professors or popular subject matter. Despite a host of questions about the staying power of MOOCs as a trend, more free megacourses are starting this month than ever before, with 328 new offerings, according to Class Central, a MOOC guide. Among the biggest-name professors taking to MOOCs this fall are Eric Foner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and Robert Pinsky, a former poet laureate of the United States. And it's a season of firsts, including the first MOOC offered by a historically black college. Following are a few notable new free online courses. Please share others we may have missed in the comments ... Read More

September 17, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

New Online Services Aim to Democratize Admissions Counseling

Websites offering online college-admission counseling have proliferated in the past few years, with services whose prices range from free to thousands of dollars. This week saw the launch of two new options that claim to make low-cost resources more widely available. Chegg, an online textbook retailer and student-services website, entered the market on Tuesday by announcing a fee-based platform that connects college applicants with advisers for one-on-one video, audio, and chat counseling. On Thursday the online college-information hub Campus Explorer will announce its own free college-counseling resource, Campus Steps, which aims to help students communicate with their high-school counselors, manage application materials, and learn about college options. Chegg sessions start at $24 an hour, a price point the company says will make private college counseling more accessible. Other... Read More

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.
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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 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