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February 5, 2015, 04:55 AM ET

3 Things Academic Leaders Believe About Online Education

The Babson Survey Research Group released its annual online-education survey on Thursday. The Babson surveyors, Jeffrey Seaman and I. Elaine Allen, have been tracking online higher education since 2002, soliciting responses from chief academic officers at thousands of institutions. You can read this year's report, based on a survey conducted in 2014, here. But if you don't have the time, here are three things academic leaders believe about online education: 1. Online education has become mission-critical, even at small colleges. The percentage of academic leaders who agreed that online education is critical to the long-term strategy of their institutions crept up steadily until 2013, when it fell slightly, from 69 percent to 66 percent. In 2014, however, the percentage was back up to 71 percent, the highest rate yet. The most-drastic recent shift in the perceived importance of online... Read More

February 2, 2015, 12:55 PM ET

App Gives Students an Incentive to Keep Their Phones Locked in Class

screen568x568Resisting the urge to pull out your phone in class is quite difficult for many students, apparently. There are texts to answer, emails to read, snapchats to send, and rude comments to post on Yik Yak. But two students at California State University at Chico have created something they hope will persuade students to keep their phones tucked firmly in their pockets: An app that rewards them with coupons for local businesses when they exhibit self-control and leave their phones untouched during class. Rob Richardson, a junior computer-science major, got the idea for the iPhone app, called Pocket Points, by looking around his classes and seeing what he considered to be far too many students with their heads down, paying attention to their phones rather than to the lesson taking place in front of them. If you’re in class, it’s simple: “There should be no reason you should be on your... Read More

January 26, 2015, 04:55 AM ET

Could Video Feedback Replace the Red Pen?

Writing useful comments on students' work can be a fine art. And for instructors who put a lot of effort into crafting a critique, there's always a substantial risk students will skip the written feedback and go right to the grade. When Michael Henderson is grading his students' final assignments, he likes to skip the written comments for them. Instead of a red pen, Mr. Henderson, a senior lecturer in education at Monash University, in Australia, takes out a video camera. He records a five-minute, unscripted critique for each student. He doesn't bother editing the videos, even if he says "um" a lot or has to rephrase a sentence or two. Mr. Henderson and Michael Phillips, a colleague on the education faculty, have been doing it this way for about five years. They say their students prefer video feedback, finding it clearer and seemingly more sincere than written notes, notwithstanding... Read More

January 21, 2015, 04:17 PM ET

Facebook Addiction and GPA

Facebook is a tempting distraction. I have it open as a tab in my browser as I write this. And look, it’s showing that I have a new notification! I must see it, immediately. Facebook designed the site to make me feel that way. This doesn’t bode well for college students. If professionals, and even some professors, have a hard time resisting the lure of Facebook, then what chance do 18-year-olds have? New research suggests that the kids may be all right. A study of Facebook activity and grade-point averages suggests that students may learn to regulate their use of Facebook, both as a distraction from coursework and in their free time, as they move through college. Reynol Junco, an associate professor of education at Iowa State University, collected data from about 1,800 students at a four-year college. He found that students who spent a lot of time on Facebook while also trying to ... Read More

January 15, 2015, 02:34 PM ET

How to Ruin a Date With an Academic in 5 Words

Academic life can be lonely. Professors, postdocs, and doctoral students spend their lives holed up in libraries, labs, and lecture halls, becoming intimate with words and ideas that are liable to alienate them from other people, especially nonacademics. That can make dating awkward. The latest evidence of this has coalesced around the Twitter hashtag #RuinADateWithAnAcademicInFiveWords. Over the past day or so, people have been contributing phrases they say would raise red flags. In hundreds of tweets, clear themes have emerged. Apparently, a sure... Read More

January 13, 2015, 04:55 AM ET

Obama Proposes Bill to Protect Student Data, but Not in Higher Education

The abundance of data being collected on students has been celebrated as an opportunity to “personalize” education. But privacy advocates have long warned that digital paper trails might leave today’s students exposed if their personal information fell into the wrong hands. The White House announced on Monday that it would be taking up the cause of student privacy, pushing legislation that would “prevent companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes unrelated to the educational mission,” according to a news release. However, the bill, called the Student Digital Privacy Act, would focus on students in elementary and secondary schools, not college students, according to Obama-administration officials. In a speech at the headquarters of the Federal Trade Commission, President Obama pitched the Student Digital Privacy Act as a measure to keep companies from... Read More

January 6, 2015, 04:56 AM ET

In STEM Courses, a Gender Gap in Online Class Discussions

Women and men behave differently in online class discussions, at least in science, engineering, and computer-science courses, according to a new study conducted by Piazza Technologies, a company that makes a digital class-participation tool. The company found that women use its program, called Piazza, to ask more questions than do their male peers, but that they answer fewer questions. When women do answer, they are more likely to answer anonymously. The findings come in the midst of an online debate about male privilege in the sciences. Part of Piazza's mission is to level the playing field for men and women in academic environments. Piazza is an online discussion platform that professors at more than 1,000 colleges use to encourage students to ask questions of and answer questions for their classmates. Participation is usually optional, although some professors track students’ use... Read More

January 2, 2015, 04:25 PM ET

MIT Professor’s Blog Comment Sets Off Debate Over Nerds and Male Privilege

A deeply personal posting by an MIT professor and self-described “nerdy male” wrestling with the idea of male privilege has set off a debate about feminism, nerds, and privilege across the Internet. The posting, by Scott Aaronson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appeared as a comment on his blog in December. It was part of the discussion on a post Mr. Aaronson wrote earlier about how MIT had reacted after determining that Walter Lewin, a former professor, had sexually harassed women on the Internet. In the original blog post, Mr. Aaronson wrote that sexual harassment "must never be tolerated," but he took issue with MIT's decision to remove Mr. Lewin's online lectures. Mr. Aaronson's later comment stated: “I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not... Read More

December 19, 2014, 12:42 PM ET

Call for Nominations: Who Are the Top Tech Innovators in Higher Education?

We're reviving our annual feature profiling influential technology innovators and the ideas they're advocating, and we'd like your suggestions. Our hope is to cover a wide range of areas within the college world—teaching, scholarship, administration, libraries, student life, and more. So this is not just about decisions made in the top tech offices of colleges. And we hope to hear about a wide range of institutions—we're just as interested in a scrappy project on a shoestring budget as we are about a big-ticket outlay. To see what we've done in past years, see our 2013 list, The Idea Makers, or our 2012 edition, Rebooting the Academy. We expect to publish the new articles in April 2015. If you have a person to recommend, or you'd like to nominate yourself, please use the form below. The deadline for nominations is Friday, January 9. Editor's Note: Nominations are no longer being ... Read More

December 19, 2014, 04:56 AM ET

The 10 Most-Popular Wired Campus Articles of 2014

Technology continues to change colleges, and our coverage of digitally driven change won the most attention from readers over the past year. We crunched the numbers to find the most popular coverage of 2014. The list—which includes predictions of big changes in classroom teaching, in academic publishing, in communicating with parents, and in the mission of libraries—highlights the range of aspects of campus life affected by technology. And it reminds us how mainstream technology coverage is these days. Here are the 10 top articles, as voted by your clicks:
  1. Are Courses Outdated? MIT Considers Offering ‘Modules’ Instead
  2. Taking Notes by Hand Benefits Recall, Researchers Find
  3. Why One Professor Thinks Academics Should Write ‘BuzzFeed-Style Scholarship’
  4. 6 Technologies Will Change Colleges in Coming Years, Experts Say
  5. 5 Things Researchers Have Discovered About MOOCs
  6. The �...
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