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July 7, 2014, 03:28 PM ET

Anthropology Group Will Test a Faster, Digital Approach to Book Reviews

It takes years to research, write, and publish a scholarly monograph. It can take just as long to get that book reviewed by a scholarly journal once it's in print. But a review that appears years after the book does, even if it's a rave, doesn't help an author whose tenure clock is running. Nor does it help a publisher hoping to attract attention to front-list titles. The lag time between publication and review "is, for lack of a better word, appalling," says Oona Schmid, director of publishing at the American Anthropological Association, a major publisher of scholarly journals. The association announced on Monday that it would test a prototype designed to expedite the review process by moving it online, in an experiment made possible by the backing of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Speeding up the process is one goal. Another is to test the idea that, in a digital publishing... Read More

July 7, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

QuickWire: Sloan Consortium Picks a New Name

The Sloan Consortium, an influential champion of online learning that grew out of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's early interest in the topic, is changing its name and will now be known as the Online Learning Consortium. In keeping with the times, it announced the change in both a traditional news release and a colorful infographic. The consortium was founded in 1992 and published the first issue of its Journal of Asynchronous Learning in 1997. It has been a stand-alone membership organization since 2009, when its parent foundation shut down its online-education program after spending some $80-million on various undertakings and playing a leading role in the growth of online courses, particularly under the leadership of A. Frank Mayadas, a program director at the foundation. Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 2.28.46 PMThe consortium's infographic notes that 6.7 million students took at least one online course in 2013 and that ... Read More

July 2, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

Ed-Tech Companies Oppose U.S. Agency's Plan to End Net Neutrality

Four educational-technology businesses have filed objections to a Federal Communications Commission plan under which companies could pay extra to have their content delivered more quickly over the Internet. The companies said in a joint news release that ending the current policy of net neutrality in favor of high-speed toll lanes and slower free lanes would make it possible for "entrenched education players such as for-profit giants in higher education" and "expensive traditional universities" to "squelch competition and stifle innovation from up-and-comers providing affordable, quality education." The companies are General Assembly, which offers classes in web development, user-experience design, digital marketing, and data science; Codeacademy, which teaches programming; CodeCombat, which takes advantage of online gaming to teach computer coding; and OpenCurriculum, which enables... Read More

June 30, 2014, 02:04 PM ET

Hackers May Have Obtained Data on 163,000 at Butler U.

Butler University has joined a growing list of higher-education institutions hit by data thieves. Butler's president, James M. Danko, said in a letter to those who may have been affected that personal information on as many as 163,000 students, alumni, employees, and even potential applicants might have been obtained by hackers, according to The Indianapolis Star. The data breach was discovered in late May, when a flash drive containing information about some Butler employees turned up in California. A subsequent investigation revealed that a hacker or hackers had access to the university's network from November 2013 to last month. Names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and bank-account details were all exposed. The university, which says it has since secured its network, is offering those affected a year's access to an identity-protection service. Read More

June 30, 2014, 12:04 PM ET

QuickWire: Deal Adds Campus-Security Features to Blackboard App

Students and campus-security officials alike are increasingly turning to mobile apps to report incidents and disseminate emergency information—in part because students are "mobile-device driven," as one university police chief puts it, and in part because those devices incorporate features, like GPS and cameras, that can come in handy when reporting a problem. Now Blackboard, the course-management heavyweight, is setting up a partnership that will incorporate an app called In Case of Crisis into the Blackboard mobile app, Mosaic. According to a news release, the enhancement can store up-to-date emergency information on the mobile device, so the information is available even if the device loses contact with wireless and cellular networks. Colleges will also be able to send emergency alerts to the devices, and students and other users will be able to report incidents—along with... Read More

June 27, 2014, 03:46 PM ET

Who Ought to Underwrite Publishing Scholars' Books?

New Orleans — At almost any gathering of academic publishers or librarians, you'll hear someone float the idea—sometimes phrased as a question—that the model for publishing scholarly monographs is broken. Two sets of ideas aired at the Association of American University Presses' annual meeting, held here this week, don't say the model is damaged beyond repair. But the proposals, both from groups outside the university-press community, suggest that it needs to be retrofitted, at the least. One possible approach came from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the other from a task force on scholarly communications run jointly by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Research Libraries. Both raised the question of how to better subsidize the digital publication of scholarly monographs, and both included the notion that faculty authors' home institutions might do...

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June 27, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

5 Things Researchers Have Discovered About MOOCs

In December 2013 a group of academics gathered during a Texas snowstorm and began the second phase of a discussion about massive open online courses. They were not terribly impressed by the hype the courses had received in the popular media, and they had set out to create a better body of literature about MOOCs—albeit a less sensational one. The MOOC Research Initiative, backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had given many of those academics research grants to study what was going on in the online courses. Now the organization has posted preliminary findings from some of those research projects. The findings have not yet been peer-reviewed and should not be generalized, but they do represent some of the most rigorous analysis to date on MOOCs. Following is a synopsis of the more interesting findings. For wonkier interpretations of the data, you can find the researchers’... Read More

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