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November 20, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

Open Education's Publicity Problem

Arlington, Va. — David Wiley calls the annual Open Education Conference, now in its 11th year, a “family reunion.” This year, the hearth is crowded. The Hilton ballroom here overflows with bodies. Mr. Wiley, the co-founder and chief academic officer at Lumen Learning, an upstart company that organized this year’s event, asks that all the new people stand up. At least a third of the crowd rises. “Our little family is growing,” he says. And yet, outside the family, open educational resources have a publicity problem. Open educational resources, or OER, are public-domain learning materials that instructors and students can use free instead of shelling out for textbooks. If you didn’t know that, you’re not alone: 66 percent of faculty members said they were “unaware” of OER, according to a recent survey by the Babson Survey Research Group. At the same time, the survey... Read More

November 13, 2014, 04:06 PM ET

At Liberal-Arts Colleges, Debate About Online Courses Is Really About Outsourcing

Lifetime residents of Maine tend to look askance at people who are “from away,” an epithet reserved for transplants, summer vacationers, and college students. Such people might mean well, the thinking goes, but ultimately they do not belong. Bowdoin College, a 220-year-old institution in Brunswick, Me., takes a similarly protective view of its curriculum. At a time when online education has blurred campus borders—and institutions face growing pressure to train students for specific jobs—Bowdoin and many other liberal-arts colleges have held the line. When I matriculated there, a decade ago, Bowdoin didn’t even have online course registration. (The college finally added it last year.) So it was a significant move last week when Bowdoin decided to offer, in the spring, a partly online course in financial accounting led by a professor at Dartmouth College's business school.
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November 6, 2014, 11:45 AM ET

An App to Make Career Counseling More Like a Video Game

JobVille Diana Cobbe believes she has a way to help students communicate their skills to potential employers: Make filling out an online résumé feel more like a video game than like paperwork, and use it to connect students looking for jobs with businesses looking for talent. In short, she's created an app that she describes as a mix of Candy Crush and LinkedIn. “In college, kids leave the job-search process for the last minute,” Ms. Cobbe says. “They’re in a situation where they don’t find out usually until it’s too late that they don’t have the skills they need." Her goal is to "bring all the stakeholders together on an app.” It's called JobVille, a not-so-subtle reference to the once-popular FarmVille Facebook game. The app presents students with three featured jobs each day and prompts them to identify and describe relevant skills they've acquired through classwork, in... Read More

October 29, 2014, 03:22 PM ET

For New Course, U. of Oklahoma Seeks Boost From Old Media

Many colleges are turning to online "enablers" to help them get new online courses off the ground, but the University of Oklahoma is looking to generate buzz through an older channel: cable television. Oklahoma is producing a new course with the History Channel, which will provide content from its archive and advertising on its airwaves. The 16-week course, which covers American history since 1865, will be open to both credit-seeking students and noncredit learners, although it is "emphatically not a MOOC," according to Kyle Harper, the university's interim senior vice president and provost. Enrollment will be limited, and participants will have the opportunity to interact with the professor and teaching assistants, who will grade their work. In other words, the course will not amount to watching a Ken Burns documentary series and then taking a test. Students will be able to... Read More

October 29, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

Technology Group Promises Scientists Their Own Clouds (the Data Kind)

Scientists will soon have access to their very own clouds. Not the meteorological sort—although these clouds might help advance weather research as well as improve medical systems and power-grid management. The new clouds for scientists are the kind that store data on servers, as part of a trend known as cloud computing. Consumers use the commercial variety to store documents, photographs, and music. Researchers use those too, but they sometimes need more control over and information about cloud systems than host companies, such as Apple and Amazon, provide.
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Advances in network architecture aim to deal with the problem. On Tuesday the nonprofit organization Internet2 announced developments that will let researchers create and connect to virtual spaces, within which they will be able to conduct research ... Read More

October 27, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

Why One Professor Thinks Academics Should Write 'BuzzFeed-Style Scholarship'

buzzademiaMark Marino wants to shake up academic publishing. To declare his intentions, the associate professor of writing at the University of Southern California chose a format both fitting and provocative: a BuzzFeed listicle. Posted on Thursday, Mr. Marino’s piece, "10 Reasons Professors Should Start Writing BuzzFeed Articles,” serves as a “manifesto” for BuzzAdemia, a new journal he’s creating to encourage “BuzzFeed-style scholarship.”
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“As newspapers fall to a new level in the hierarchy of information, people are at least spending some time on other sorts of sites to gather information, whether that’s Reddit or something like Gawker or even BuzzFeed,” Mr. Marino said in an interview on Friday. “This is going to be an important area for academics to engage and try to translate their ideas.... Read More

October 23, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

Surprising Gadgets, Not Just Books, Are Ready for Checkout at College Libraries

Justin Ellis's official title at the Georgia Institute of Technology's library is instructional-technology associate, but he thinks of himself as the gadget guy. He manages a program at the library that lets students and professors check out a growing catalog of computers, cameras, and other electronics—a selection more akin to a Best Buy store than a lending library. A colleague, Ameet Doshi, compares him to the character Q in the James Bond series because he not only has the latest device but is expert at giving "the two-minute drill on how to use it." Georgia Tech is not alone in having a Q on the library staff. Colleges and universities across the country now lend tech hardware in addition to books. And we're not just talking laptops, netbooks, and iPads, which Mr. Doshi says have become pretty standard fare. The latest offerings are increasingly exotic. Here are three that... Read More

October 20, 2014, 02:56 PM ET

Ga. State's Loss in 'E-Reserves' Case Might Actually Be a Win for Librarians

In May 2012 fair-use advocates celebrated a federal judge's decision in a high-profile copyright case. The ruling was seen as a decisive victory for Georgia State University, whose librarians wanted to be able to make freely available as much copyrighted material as possible to students via its electronic reserve system. On Friday a federal appeals court ended that celebration by reversing the judge's decision and sending the "e-reserves" case back to the lower court for further action. At a glance, the latest ruling looks like a loss for Georgia State and its allies, and a win for three academic publishers that had sued it. But was it, really? In the days since the ruling was issued, several university-based copyright experts have argued that the reversal is not as bad as it might seem. Kevin Smith, a scholarly-communications officer at Duke University, argued in a blog post that... Read More

October 17, 2014, 05:55 PM ET

How Universities Turn Slogans Into Cash

If you want to sell a T-shirt that says “Bring the Juice”—and who among us hasn’t?—you’ll have to clear it with Robert P. Cleveland. Mr. Cleveland is director of trademark and licensing at Ohio State University, which has owned the trademark on “Bring the Juice” since 2012, along with several dozen other words and phrases. The Chronicle just published a poem composed entirely of college-owned trademarks. I wrote it after combing through the federal trademark database to see if I could make a list of the weirdest ones. But there were too many, and a list wouldn’t have done them justice. Of course, trademarks are big business for some colleges. Mr. Cleveland’s office pulled in $13.6-million through trademark licenses in the most recent fiscal year alone. The biggest portion of that money went to the athletics program, but the licensing office also disbursed... Read More

October 15, 2014, 11:01 AM ET

Coursera Expands Its MOOC Certificate Program

Coursera, the online education company, announced on Wednesday that it was expanding a program that awards special certificates to students who pass multiple MOOCs. The company unveiled the program, called Specializations, earlier this year. The idea was to create certificates that, while not supplanting traditional degrees, carry more weight than a certificate of completion from a single massive open online course. The program, which requires learners to take Coursera's fee-based "Signature Track" courses, apparently has been a success: The company is adding 18 new Specializations—mostly practical, in-demand fields like project management, cloud computing, and data mining. Students who complete the sequences can expect to pay $100 to $300, depending on the number of courses, according to a spokeswoman. Colleges so far have succeeded in preventing free online courses from disrupting... Read More