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May 19, 2015, 04:56 AM ET

When Your Online Course Is Put Up for Adoption

Jennifer V. Ebbeler always knew that somebody else would end up teaching her online Roman-history course. But that didn’t make giving it up any easier. Ms. Ebbeler spent nearly two years building an online version of “Introduction to Ancient Rome” with a team of designers at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is an associate professor of classics. Most of the heavy lifting came during the last academic year, when one of her colleagues taught the course to hundreds of undergraduates while she coordinated behind the scenes. The process was challenging and occasionally chaotic, she says, but her team learned a lot about how to make the online course work. Which is why she was frustrated when she learned that the instructor whom she had recommended to lead it in the future — Steve Lundy, an adjunct faculty member who had taught the first two semesters of the course —... Read More

May 18, 2015, 04:55 AM ET

Silicon Valley Innovation: Stanford Law Student Crowdsources Her Graduation Speech

Though higher education is constantly changing, commencement ceremonies have largely stayed the same. A graduating student at Stanford Law School is trying to change that. Marta F. Belcher is crowdsourcing the speech she will give next month at the law school's precommencement diploma ceremony, offering her classmates an opportunity to share in crafting that final message. The point of a student commencement speaker, Ms. Belcher said, is to have someone who can speak to the student experience. But as she learned when she gave the student address at her undergraduate ceremony, it’s not easy for one person to represent hundreds, or even thousands, of classmates. With all the online collaboration tools that are available today, Ms. Belcher saw the possibility of updating the tradition. So she competed to be the student speaker and invited classmates to contribute to her address.... Read More

May 15, 2015, 04:56 AM ET

Want to Make Your Course 'Gameful'? A Michigan Professor's Tool Could Help

What if the classroom were more like a video game? Barry J. Fishman, a professor of information and education at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, would like to help you find out. Mr. Fishman has borrowed elements of gaming to develop GradeCraft, a learning-management system that lets instructors organize their courses in a “gameful” way. The system lets students choose their own path through a course, selecting the assignments that interest and challenge them. At its heart is a tool, called the "grade predictor," that helps to “manage some of the chaos” of such a personalized system. The grade predictor also helps students figure out what they need to do to reach the classroom goals they set for themselves. GradeCraft also aims to give students the ability to fail without detrimental consequences. There are many assignments to choose from, so any students who do... Read More

May 13, 2015, 08:00 AM ET

A MOOC Hopes to Sink Its Teeth Into a New Audience: TV Fans

Vampires are everywhere these days — books, television shows, movies. And now, a MOOC. The University of California at Irvine plans to offer a four-week MOOC based on the FX television series The Strain, which follows the spread of a disease with the “hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism.” The course, “Fight or Die: The Science Behind FX’s The Strain,” will be hosted on Instructure’s MOOC platform Canvas Network. Three Irvine faculty members will teach the course, which will focus on three topics that come from the show: parasites, cyber attacks, and disease dynamics. Sarah E. Eichhorn, associate dean of distance learning and a lecturer in the university's school of physical sciences, says she hopes the MOOC will get people interested in mathematics and science by leveraging the popularity of the television show. Ms. Eichhorn, who will teach the segment on disease...

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May 12, 2015, 04:55 AM ET

New Consortium's Mission: Improve Liberal-Arts Teaching Online

Four liberal-arts colleges on Monday formed a consortium to share information about their experiments with online education, and more members may soon join in. The focus is not on bringing down the cost of education, but on improving online-teaching projects — whether all-online or hybrid courses — by sharing experiences and collaborating. The premise is that liberal-arts institutions have goals and methods for going online that are different from those of research institutions. "There’s a steep learning curve to figuring out how to use this technology with our students, and with our teaching style," said Douglas Johnson, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research at Colgate University, a founding member of the group. By working together, he said, "we can save each other from reinventing wheels." The other colleges... Read More

May 8, 2015, 04:55 AM ET

Berkeley to Stop Adding Lecture Videos to YouTube, Citing Budget Cuts

Screenshot 2015-05-07 17.30.39 Since well before MOOCs emerged, the University of California at Berkeley has been giving away recordings of its lectures on YouTube and iTunesU. In fact, Berkeley has become one of the most-generous distributors of free lectures on the web, adding some 4,500 hours of video per year. But that web channel, webcast.berkeley.edu, will soon stop adding fresh content. Last month officials announced that, because of budget cuts, the university will no longer offer new lecture recordings to the public, although the videos will still be available to students on the campus. “Berkeley has its own budget challenges, and we made some tough decisions,” said Jenn Stringer, associate chief information officer for academic engagement. “It’s not a decision that we wanted to make,” she added. While the lecture videos were bare-bones — in most cases just showing a single-camera view from... Read More

May 6, 2015, 04:55 AM ET

Another Use for Yik Yak on Campus? Cheating on Exams

YikYakAnswers With new technologies come new ways to cheat. Yik Yak, the anonymous, location-based app that has been a hotbed of cyberbullying on college campuses, is also the newest tool for students seeking to cheat on exams. J. Scott Christianson, an assistant teaching professor in the department of management at the University of Missouri at Columbia, has been monitoring Yik Yak recently to see what students are talking about. When he was on the app, he saw several yaks about an exam. It looked as if a student had just gotten out of the test and was using Yik Yak to share what he or she could remember about the questions, seemingly an attempt to provide a cheat sheet for students who would be taking it later. In November the student newspaper at the State University of New York at Stony Brook reported that students there had used Yik Yak to share answers on quizzes and tests, especially in... Read More

April 30, 2015, 02:55 PM ET

5 Ed-Tech Ideas Face The Chronicle's Version of 'Shark Tank'

In the TV series Shark Tank, entrepreneurs with budding companies pitch their ideas to a panel of investors who ask probing questions and then decide whether to back the proposals. The Chronicle adopted a modified version of the format during a session at the South by Southwest Edu conference in March, with a panel of experts weighing in on five new products or ideas to fix pressing problems in higher education. True, our panel didn’t have any money to invest. But the session was fast-paced and provided a chance to grill some innovators on their ideas and the ideas' value. Our sharks were Goldie Blumenstyk, a senior writer at The Chronicle; Jason Jones, a co-editor of the ProfHacker blog and director of educational technology at Trinity College, in Connecticut; and Paul Freedman, founder of Entangled Ventures, an education-technology company. Each spoke from a different perspective �... Read More

April 30, 2015, 04:55 AM ET

What Is Being Learned From MOOCs? New Report Takes Stock

The hype around the free online courses called MOOCs has drawn millions of students, who are all essentially part of a teaching experiment of unprecedented scale. These days, researchers are increasingly checking in on that experiment. A new report, released on Thursday, seeks to answer the question "Where is research on massive open online courses headed?" The report is the work of the MOOC Research Initiative, funded with more than $800,000 in grant support by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The group put out a call for research submissions and used much of the grant money to fund 28 of them, which were then analyzed for the report. When MOOCs emerged a few years ago, many in the academic world were sent into a frenzy. Pundits made sweeping statements about the courses, saying that they were the future of education or that colleges would become obsolete, said George Siemens, a... Read More

April 27, 2015, 03:01 PM ET

Wearable Teaching? College to Experiment With Apple Watch as Learning Tool

Even before the Apple Watch was released, professors and pundits began speculating on whether it and other wearable devices might play a role in college classrooms. On Monday researchers at Pennsylvania State University's main campus announced that they would be among the first to test the device’s usefulness in the classroom. The experiment will begin this summer, with eight Apple Watches the university purchased for the project. Penn State plans to expand the research to more students in the fall. We caught up with Kyle Bowen, director of education-technology services at Penn State, to hear more about the project, and his thoughts on the possible role of wearables in teaching and learning. Following is an edited version of the conversation. Q. I understand a professor there will be experimenting with Apple Watch to measure student learning this fall. Can you briefly describe that... Read More