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March 13, 2014, 12:28 PM ET

QuickWire: There May Be Fewer Online Programs Than You Think

A new report on online education finds "noise in the data" that institutions send to the U.S. Department of Education about their offerings. While 3,311 institutions say they have online programs, the report says, the actual number is more like 1,243—in part because the definition of "online" is "overly ambiguous and broad," and in part because an institution that has multiple campuses can count each as having online programs, even if the institution in fact has only a single online offering available to all its students. The report was compiled by ApprovedColleges.com, which hopes to become a one-stop-shopping site for adult students. Staff members started by checking the Education Department's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, known as Ipeds, to see how many colleges reported having online programs. Staff members then visited each institution's website to catalog its... Read More

March 12, 2014, 04:29 PM ET

QuickWire: Harvard U. Students Are Silenced During MOOC Filming

An English professor at Harvard University turned heads last month when she instructed students in her poetry class to refrain from asking questions during lectures so as not to disrupt recordings being made for the MOOC version of the course. Elisa New, a professor of American literature, instituted the policy at the behest of technicians from HarvardX, the university’s online arm, according to The Harvard Crimson, which first reported the news. The video technicians reportedly told her they wanted to record a continuous lecture, with no back-and-forth with students. The Crimson article prompted Harry R. Lewis, a computer-science professor and former Harvard College dean, to wonder whether Ms. New’s no-disruptions rule signaled a larger disruption of Harvard’s status quo. But on reflection he decided it was fairly innocuous. “There are lots of lecture courses in which... Read More

March 12, 2014, 04:59 AM ET

This Guy Drew a Cat. You Won't Believe What Happened 4 Centuries Later.

Franz Helm’s illustrated manual on pyrotechnic weapons was around for more than four centuries before it went viral. When the German artillery expert wrote the manual, in the mid-1500s, he unwittingly created a piece of media ideally suited to the tastes of 21st-century Internet culture: Cats that appeared to be wearing jet packs. Helm appears to have been describing a creative siege tactic. In order "to set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise," he advised in the manuscript, an invading army might arm cats (and birds) with flammable payloads and then send the animals to wreak havoc inside the enemy's walls. A version of the illustrations in Helm's book, created as part of a digitization project at the University of Pennsylvania, went viral on the web last year. This month it went viral again, after an Associated Press reporter revisited the drawings. And this... Read More

March 11, 2014, 12:35 PM ET

QuickWire: National Archives Will Shutter 3 Facilities

The National Archives and Records Administration said on Tuesday that it would close three of its facilities—in Anchorage, Fort Worth, and Philadelphia—to save $1.3-million a year. Records stored at the Anchorage facility will be moved to a facility in Seattle and will be digitized so they remain available to users in Alaska, said David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States, in a written statement. The statement was released after the Anchorage Daily News quoted Katie Ringsmuth, an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska at Anchorage and president of the Alaska Historical Society, as saying that it "would be devastating to see that national archives and all of the treasures that it holds, and those firsthand experiences of our past, disappear." The Fort Worth and Philadelphia facilities slated for closure are smaller "storefront" operations. The records stored at the... Read More

March 11, 2014, 04:56 AM ET

What Matters to Academic-Library Directors? Information Literacy

Whether they work at a big research university, a small four-year college, or something in between, academic-library directors share a "resounding dedication" to teaching information literacy to undergraduates. Beyond that, the priorities they set for their libraries depend on the size and nature of their institutions and how many (or few) resources they have to work with. Those findings come out of a 2013 survey of American library directors, released on Tuesday by Ithaka S+R US. That's the consulting and research arm of the nonprofit Ithaka group, which works on "transformative uses of new technologies in higher education." The survey went out to heads of academic libraries at all four-year colleges and universities in the United States; 499, or 33 percent, responded, according to the survey report's authors, Matthew P. Long and Roger C. Schonfeld. "Our aim in this project was to... Read More

March 10, 2014, 10:41 AM ET

New Repository Offers a Home for Data That Aren't Numbers

After spending months or years collecting data from focus groups, surveys, and other sources, what are scholars doing with the mountains of information that may or may not have made it into their published research? In the quantitative-research world, where data come as numbers that can be collected and stored in an organized way, the answer has been to share the data. But for qualitative and multi-method researchers, whose data might come in the form of lengthy interview transcripts, field notes, or even recordings, the most common practice is to discard those materials. That's mainly because data collected using less-structured techniques can be difficult to organize and share. To deal with that problem, the Center for Qualitative and Multi-Method Inquiry at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs has created a Qualitative Data... Read More

March 7, 2014, 03:35 PM ET

Duke U. Student's Porn Career a Boon for Latest College-Themed Gossip Site

In January a Duke University student stumbled upon a piece of gossip that would turn out to be valuable to the campus-gossip website CollegiateACB: One of his female classmates at Duke has a side career as a porn star, working under the pseudonym Belle Knox. On January 10 the student who had discovered his classmate's secret shared it with attendees at a fraternity rush event. Before long, the woman’s real name had been posted on CollegiateACB, a message board where students can post anonymous notes. The woman has since given interviews—never under her real name—in which she has said the unmasking was a nightmare. For Timothy O’Shea, the 24-year-old president of CollegiateACB, it was a boon. Her name has been disclosed by other sites, although many news outlets, including The Chronicle, are choosing not to publish it. But Mr. O'Shea says CollegiateACB may have been the first ... Read More

March 6, 2014, 03:17 PM ET

U. of Tennessee at Martin Encourages Helicopter Parents to Hover

Some parents want to continue parenting even after their kids go to college. Helicopter parents, as they are called, try to remain as involved as possible in the lives of their collegiate offspring, despite admonitions against coddling them into a state of arrested development. Many colleges politely tolerate doting parents. The University of Tennessee at Martin welcomes them. The university has given parents access to a website where they can see what courses their children have signed up for and whether they have been missing classes. The site, called MyUTMartinParent Portal, recently reported by eCampus News, also shows parents their students’ midterm and final grades. It alerts parents to any warnings that professors have issued about the behavior or academic performance of their child, as well as any financial-aid paperwork that might be missing. Brandy Cartmell, the interim... Read More

March 6, 2014, 06:25 AM ET

edX Adds a Second Tier of Members

edX has been trying to figure out how to build more courses, more quickly, without losing its exclusive atmosphere. Now it's settled on a plan. In December, The Chronicle obtained materials from an internal presentation suggesting that the nonprofit provider of massive open online courses was worried that it would not be able to grow as fast as it wanted to while maintaining a "small cohesive feel." The presentation proposed an expansion of edX's members-only approach that would create a second tier of institutions. They would contribute courses but enjoy fewer privileges than the "charter members." edX made that plan official on Thursday, announcing an "expanded membership structure" to supplement the 32 universities that are currently building MOOCs with edX. The 12 new members include Colgate University and Hamilton College as well as several nonacademic institutions, such as the... Read More

March 4, 2014, 03:51 PM ET

Apollo Education Group Starts Nontraditional Course Catalog

The Apollo Education Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, is starting a website to help people find courses that teach skills they need to land specific jobs in the technology industry. Call it a course catalog for nontraditional courses, most of which have no connection to colleges' degree programs. The website, called Balloon and announced on Tuesday, will be pitched to adult learners who want to pick up skills that have been flagged by technology companies as requirements for certain job openings. The idea is to make recruiting more efficient for companies, while giving learners a better idea of what skills employers in the tech industry are looking for apart from the general ones indicated by a traditional degree, said Robert W. Wrubel, chief innovation officer at Apollo. Here is how Balloon will work, according to Mr. Wrubel: Users will be able to browse actual ... Read More