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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

June 20, 2014, 02:10 PM ET

And a Hologram in Every Lecture Hall: Marketing 3D Tech to Universities

First came the mouse, then touch-screen technology. And if Silicon-Valley-based zSpace has its way, the next leap in human-computer interaction will look like something out of your local IMAX Theater. The company calls it “immersive exploration.” In real terms, zSpace’s eponymous flagship product is a tablet-software... Read More

June 19, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

Study of MOOCs Suggests Dropping the Label 'Dropout'

Way back in 1978, Frenchy in Grease was unceremoniously dubbed a beauty-school dropout. But what if she took a MOOC today on midcentury follicular art? Might we call her a beauty-school “collector”? What about a beauty-school “bystander”? Maybe, thanks to a new quantitative study of MOOC engagement released on Wednesday by Cornell and Stanford Universities. After tracking the behavior patterns of more than 300,000 students enrolled in Stanford-based Coursera courses, the authors created a “taxonomy of engagement” to differentiate between different types of MOOC participants. In this new paradigm there are five broad types of MOOC students. Viewers “watch lectures, handing in few if any assignments." Solvers “hand in assignments for a grade, viewing few if any lectures.” All-Rounders “balance the watching of lectures with the handing in of assignments.”... Read More

June 19, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

Coursera Chief: Reach of Teaching Will Define Great Universities

In October 1993, in his first major speech as president of Yale University, Richard C. Levin talked about the importance of Yale's becoming a “world university.” Great universities have a responsibility to drive global change, he said, and they achieve that primarily by nurturing future leaders and world-changing research inside their walled gardens. This spring, after two decades at the helm of Yale, Mr. Levin took a job as chief executive of Coursera, the online-education company. His views on the responsibilities of the “world university” have not changed, but for a crucial detail: The great universities of the 21st century will not just teach an exclusive subset of the ruling class; they will teach everybody. “In 10 or 20 years, when we judge the great universities, it will not just be on their research but on the reach of their teaching,” Mr. Levin told The Chronicle ... Read More

June 18, 2014, 02:28 PM ET

Start-Up Aims to Solve Perpetual Graduation Problem: Butchered Names

Stanford University, whose students gave us the modern search engine, the modern sneaker company, and the modern method of money transfer, is finally tackling a native challenge: commencement. At graduation ceremonies over the past weekend, eight departments at the university used a web-based service that allows students to record their names before commencement for the benefit of whoever reads aloud the list of graduates. Dubbed NameCoach, the start-up was founded last year by students at—where else?—Stanford. Universities using the service send a link to graduates, who are directed to a web page where they can record their names as they want them pronounced. Nervous deans can then review them at their leisure. Praveen Shanbhag, who graduated from Stanford this year with a doctorate in philosophy, thought of the idea for NameCoach after a particularly brutal reading of his sister�... Read More