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June 26, 2014, 03:21 PM ET

In the Digital Era, Print Still Gets Plenty of Love From Scholars

New Orleans — Nothing gladdens a publisher's heart more than hearing readers say they still like to buy books—and printed books at that. At the Association of American University Presses' annual meeting, which wrapped up here this week, a panel of scholars talked about how much of their work was still print-based even as chatter at the conference focused on e-books, metadata, and new ideas about how to make it easier to publish monographs digitally. The panel included associate and assistant professors as well as graduate students in the humanities and social sciences. They work with PDFs and e-books but made it clear they are still attached to the hold-it-in-your-hand, mark-it-up-with-a-pencil reading experience. "I am a person who needs to write in books," said Baird Campbell, a graduate student in Latin American studies at Rice University. Ditto with articles: "I do prefer to... Read More

June 26, 2014, 04:59 AM ET

Online Upstart's Goal: MOOC Lectures That Go Viral

Donald J. Boudreaux’s five-minute video lecture on the evolution of human prosperity—complete with slick animation, studio lighting, and killer graphics—looks seamless. Making it, he says, was anything but. “It was hard,” says Mr. Boudreaux, an economics professor at George Mason University. “There were a lot of takes.” In all, he spent two full days filming the four lectures that compose his new course, “Everyday Economics.” The result—produced by a professional film studio in San Francisco—is undeniably chic. In the winding path online education has taken, it marks a turn toward video lectures so short, scrumptious, and simple they can stand alone, and perhaps even go viral. “For this type of material, let’s face it, we’re competing with BuzzFeed,” says Alex Tabarrok, a fellow professor at George Mason and co-founder of Marginal Revolution University,... Read More

June 24, 2014, 02:23 PM ET

Google Will Finance Carnegie Mellon's MOOC Research

Carnegie Mellon University's receiving a grant to study MOOCs is no surprise. But the source's identity is bound to raise eyebrows. Google announced on Tuesday that it would give Carnegie Mellon $300,000 in each of the next two years through the Google Focused Research Award program. Google can fund the research for a third year at the same price if it chooses. The university’s research will focus on “data driven” approaches to research on massive open online courses, including “techniques for automatically analyzing and providing feedback on student work,” according to a news release. The goal, it said, is to develop platforms intelligent enough to mimic the traditional classroom experience. “Unless the MOOCs pay attention to how people actually learn, they will not be able to improve effectiveness, and will end up as just a passing fad,” said Justine Cassell, associate... Read More

June 20, 2014, 02:10 PM ET

And a Hologram in Every Lecture Hall: Marketing 3D Tech to Universities

First came the mouse, then touch-screen technology. And if Silicon-Valley-based zSpace has its way, the next leap in human-computer interaction will look like something out of your local IMAX Theater. The company calls it “immersive exploration.” In real terms, zSpace’s eponymous flagship product is a tablet-software... Read More

June 19, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

Study of MOOCs Suggests Dropping the Label 'Dropout'

Way back in 1978, Frenchy in Grease was unceremoniously dubbed a beauty-school dropout. But what if she took a MOOC today on midcentury follicular art? Might we call her a beauty-school “collector”? What about a beauty-school “bystander”? Maybe, thanks to a new quantitative study of MOOC engagement released on Wednesday by Cornell and Stanford Universities. After tracking the behavior patterns of more than 300,000 students enrolled in Stanford-based Coursera courses, the authors created a “taxonomy of engagement” to differentiate between different types of MOOC participants. In this new paradigm there are five broad types of MOOC students. Viewers “watch lectures, handing in few if any assignments." Solvers “hand in assignments for a grade, viewing few if any lectures.” All-Rounders “balance the watching of lectures with the handing in of assignments.”... Read More

June 19, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

Coursera Chief: Reach of Teaching Will Define Great Universities

In October 1993, in his first major speech as president of Yale University, Richard C. Levin talked about the importance of Yale's becoming a “world university.” Great universities have a responsibility to drive global change, he said, and they achieve that primarily by nurturing future leaders and world-changing research inside their walled gardens. This spring, after two decades at the helm of Yale, Mr. Levin took a job as chief executive of Coursera, the online-education company. His views on the responsibilities of the “world university” have not changed, but for a crucial detail: The great universities of the 21st century will not just teach an exclusive subset of the ruling class; they will teach everybody. “In 10 or 20 years, when we judge the great universities, it will not just be on their research but on the reach of their teaching,” Mr. Levin told The Chronicle ... Read More

June 18, 2014, 02:28 PM ET

Start-Up Aims to Solve Perpetual Graduation Problem: Butchered Names

Stanford University, whose students gave us the modern search engine, the modern sneaker company, and the modern method of money transfer, is finally tackling a native challenge: commencement. At graduation ceremonies over the past weekend, eight departments at the university used a web-based service that allows students to record their names before commencement for the benefit of whoever reads aloud the list of graduates. Dubbed NameCoach, the start-up was founded last year by students at—where else?—Stanford. Universities using the service send a link to graduates, who are directed to a web page where they can record their names as they want them pronounced. Nervous deans can then review them at their leisure. Praveen Shanbhag, who graduated from Stanford this year with a doctorate in philosophy, thought of the idea for NameCoach after a particularly brutal reading of his sister�... Read More

June 17, 2014, 03:46 PM ET

QuickWire: Another Higher-Ed Data Breach, This Time at a University Press

Duke University Press alerted users on Tuesday that its website had suffered a “security incident.” In an email blast to people with site accounts, the publisher said that usernames and encrypted passwords had been exposed as a result of the breach but that no financial information had been compromised. According to a spokeswoman, the press learned of the breach on May 29 and had been working with the university’s Office of Information Technology in the weeks since then to gauge the extent of the damage. “We needed to ensure that no information had been used inappropriately and wanted to make sure everything was secure,” said Laura Sell, the press's publicity and advertising manager. The publisher advised those using the same password for other sites to change it immediately. An spokeswoman for the Association of American University Presses said she could not recall a... Read More

June 13, 2014, 02:46 PM ET

Academics Continue Flirting With a Former Foe: Wikipedia

Google “straight turkey,” and you will find references to the Dardanelles (a Turkish strait), Wild Turkey brand whiskey, and a recent soccer match between the United States and, you guessed it, Turkey. You will not encounter the defunct Los Angeles-based art magazine by the same name—at least not yet. Next weekend East of Borneo, an art magazine founded and funded by the California Institute of the Arts, will host the fourth in a series of Wikipedia edit-a-thons intended to enhance Los Angeles’s art history by gathering local art enthusiasts and teaching them how to create and edit Wikipedia articles. In the past three sessions, volunteers have produced 38 new Wikipedia entries related to the local arts scene. The CalArts edit-a-thons are just the latest example of academe’s warming attitude toward the world’s sixth-most-popular website. East of Borneo's executive editor,... Read More

June 12, 2014, 12:52 PM ET

Your Cybertutor Wants to Confuse You—for Your Own Good

Picture this: You’re seated across the table from your organic-chemistry tutor. She presents you with a particularly tough problem. Exasperated, you force a thin half-smile. The tutor reads your facial cues, senses your frustration, and offers reassurance. Now imagine this: Your tutor is a camera-equipped computer capable of reading, analyzing, and reacting to your emotions. The concept is called affect-aware cyberlearning, and it isn’t entirely new. Sidney D’Mello, an assistant professor of computer science and psychology at the University of Notre Dame, has been testing such automated tutoring “agents” for about a decade with his team at the university's Emotive Computing Lab. But recent research has allowed them to refine their algorithms, and it has revealed new insights into what teaching strategies induce learning. One of those insights? Confused students learn ... Read More