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October 20, 2014, 02:56 PM ET

Ga. State's Loss in 'E-Reserves' Case Might Actually Be a Win for Librarians

In May 2012 fair-use advocates celebrated a federal judge's decision in a high-profile copyright case. The ruling was seen as a decisive victory for Georgia State University, whose librarians wanted to be able to make freely available as much copyrighted material as possible to students via its electronic reserve system. On Friday a federal appeals court ended that celebration by reversing the judge's decision and sending the "e-reserves" case back to the lower court for further action. At a glance, the latest ruling looks like a loss for Georgia State and its allies, and a win for three academic publishers that had sued it. But was it, really? In the days since the ruling was issued, several university-based copyright experts have argued that the reversal is not as bad as it might seem. Kevin Smith, a scholarly-communications officer at Duke University, argued in a blog post that... Read More

October 17, 2014, 05:55 PM ET

How Universities Turn Slogans Into Cash

If you want to sell a T-shirt that says “Bring the Juice”—and who among us hasn’t?—you’ll have to clear it with Robert P. Cleveland. Mr. Cleveland is director of trademark and licensing at Ohio State University, which has owned the trademark on “Bring the Juice” since 2012, along with several dozen other words and phrases. The Chronicle just published a poem composed entirely of college-owned trademarks. I wrote it after combing through the federal trademark database to see if I could make a list of the weirdest ones. But there were too many, and a list wouldn’t have done them justice. Of course, trademarks are big business for some colleges. Mr. Cleveland’s office pulled in $13.6-million through trademark licenses in the most recent fiscal year alone. The biggest portion of that money went to the athletics program, but the licensing office also disbursed... Read More

October 15, 2014, 11:01 AM ET

Coursera Expands Its MOOC Certificate Program

Coursera, the online education company, announced on Wednesday that it was expanding a program that awards special certificates to students who pass multiple MOOCs. The company unveiled the program, called Specializations, earlier this year. The idea was to create certificates that, while not supplanting traditional degrees, carry more weight than a certificate of completion from a single massive open online course. The program, which requires learners to take Coursera's fee-based "Signature Track" courses, apparently has been a success: The company is adding 18 new Specializations—mostly practical, in-demand fields like project management, cloud computing, and data mining. Students who complete the sequences can expect to pay $100 to $300, depending on the number of courses, according to a spokeswoman. Colleges so far have succeeded in preventing free online courses from disrupting... Read More

October 13, 2014, 03:54 PM ET

A New Department Marks the Rise of a Discipline: 'Computational Media'

Pixar movies, interactive video games, smartphone applications—all are forms of computational media, the marriage of computer science to the arts and humanities. Signaling a deeper investment in that fast-growing if slippery field, the University of California at Santa Cruz announced the creation on Monday of what it called the first computational-media department ever. “There’s always been, in the heart of computing, a concern with human communication and media,” said Noah Wardrip-Fruin, an associate professor of computer science at Santa Cruz. Mr. Wardrip-Fruin and Michael Mateas, a professor who will become chair of the new department, argued this year in a university report that computational media is an interdisciplinary field, not one that simply applies computer science to arts and humanities projects. The report was supported by the National Science Foundation, the... Read More

October 7, 2014, 03:35 PM ET

New App Measures Students' Moods and Mental Health

A computer-science professor at Dartmouth College is building a smartphone application that can detect users’ levels of happiness, stress, and loneliness, he says, with the hope of helping students monitor their mental health. The app, called StudentLife, draws on sensor data from smartphones to "infer human behaviors," says the professor, Andrew Campbell. It was inspired partly by the mental-health struggles that Mr. Campbell’s brother experienced while in college. The professor also wants to test his hypothesis, based on classroom observations, that students’ fluctuating stress levels correspond to their behaviors. “I feel as if there’s a divide between faculty and students. We don’t want to delve too deeply in their lives, but we want to be as helpful as we can,” Mr. Campbell says. “Is there anything that could give us an objective view?” To find out, he ran a 10... Read More

October 7, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

The 5 Least-Flattering Details in Report on San Jose State’s Tech Spending

San Jose State University's spending on technology over the past year has made the campus ground zero for heated discussions about how university leaders should try to innovate—and the role faculty members should play in those decisions. And it hasn't been pretty: Just five months ago Mohammad H. Qayoumi, the president, had to apologize for bypassing "longstanding SJSU consultation practices" in his attempt to move quickly toward his goal of "engaging SJSU with Silicon Valley." That was in May. Now the San Jose Mercury News has published an article that lends more context to how Mr. Qayomi's administration lost the faith of the rank and file. According to the article, Mr. Qayoumi struck a sweetheart deal worth $28-million with Cisco Systems, the locally based technology giant, to overhaul the campus's communications infrastructure. San Jose State did not take other bids for the...

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October 2, 2014, 12:09 PM ET

3 'Game Changing' Ideas From an Ed-Tech Start-Up Competition

Orlando, Fla. — More than two dozen start-up technology companies exhibited at this week's Educause conference, making their pitches in a section of the exhibit hall the group calls "start-up alley." Some of the companies are led by recent graduates, others by professors, and many competed in the group's Game Changers Business Competition. Here are three ideas from start-up alley that stood out: Automate test proctoring: Many colleges with online programs have turned to technology in recent years to proctor tests from afar. In the remote-proctor model, a proctor in a call center can watch students live via webcam as the students take tests in their own dormitory rooms. But what if the job of monitoring test takers could be completely automated? Proctorio argues that machines can watch for cheaters. In its system, students must still take tests in front of their webcams, but an... Read More

October 1, 2014, 02:58 PM ET

At Tech Trade Show, a Push to Give Colleges Better ‘Digital Intelligence’

example of a data dashboardOrlando, Fla. — More than 7,000 college officials gathered here this week for what is probably the largest higher-education-technology trade show in the United States, the annual meeting of Educause. Walking the trade floor, where some 270 companies mounted colorful booths, serves as a reminder of how much of college life today happens in the digital realm, and how much colleges are betting on technology to help alleviate the many challenges they face. The biggest emerging trend this year is data analytics. Company after company here promises to sell systems that provide “data dashboards” to give professors or administrators at-a-glance reports on student activity in the name of improving retention or meeting other institutional goals. Diana Oblinger, president of Educause, described it as giving colleges “digital intelligence.” What kinds of things have colleges learned from... Read More

October 1, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

New Online Journal Offers Daily Dips Into JSTOR's Deep Archive

A 1931 analysis of Herman Melville's posthumous literary reputation doesn't exactly scream headline news in 2014. But that essay, published decades ago in the journal American Literature by O.W. Riegel, got a new lease on life this week, thanks to an online journal, JSTOR Daily, that made its official debut on Wednesday. The idea is to create a publication "that bridges the gap between news and scholarship," says Catherine Halley, the new journal's editor. That means turning smart writers loose on topics that intrigue them and letting them draw on JSTOR's deep historical archive of journal articles as they explore those subjects. (JSTOR is a subscription-driven nonprofit digital library of scholarly journals, books, and other content.) "We're trying to find the stories that animate the JSTOR library," Ms. Halley says. For instance, one contributor, Matthew Wills, used Riegel's 1931... Read More

October 1, 2014, 04:51 AM ET

Optimism About MOOCs Fades in Campus IT Offices

MOOC fever is cooling, at least among campus information-technology administrators, according to the 2014 edition of the Campus Computing Survey, an annual report on technology in higher education. While a little more than half of last year’s respondents thought MOOCs “offer a viable model for the effective delivery of online instruction,” just 38 percent of this year’s participants agreed with that statement. And only 19 percent of respondents in 2014 said MOOCs could generate new revenue for colleges, down from 29 percent last fall. “I’m not surprised to see some pessimism about the role of MOOCs in the future,” said Norman Bier, director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University. “After a lot of excitement and a little bit of hype over the past year or two, what we’re seeing is, simply taking learning materials and making them available is not a... Read More