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July 11, 2014, 02:15 PM ET

Mellon Comes to the Rescue of Missouri's Moldy Books

This past January, Jim Cogswell, director of libraries at the University of Missouri at Columbia, got news no library administrator wants to hear: Mold had invaded a rented remote-storage facility that housed some 600,000 of the university's books. It wasn't a happy time. Then came an email from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation expressing sympathy and offering to help. "I practically shouted out loud," Mr. Cogswell said. "It was the first time in so long that we'd had anything that approached good news." Mellon's offer has now taken the form of a $400,000 grant that Missouri's library will use to restore or replace the materials affected by the mold. The library announced the grant in a blog post this week. Because of the grant, "we will be able to salvage the greater majority of those 600,000 books," Mr. Cogswell said in an interview. "We thought we would have resources to do maybe ... Read More

July 10, 2014, 12:51 PM ET

11 University and Library Groups Release Net-Neutrality Principles

The nation’s colleges and libraries have a message for the Federal Communications Commission: Don’t mess with net neutrality. Echoing almost a decade of pro-neutrality sentiment in academe, 11 higher-education and library groups released a set of 11 principles on Thursday that promote the notion that all Internet content, regardless of origin, should be treated equally. The 11 principles—meant to guide the FCC as it considers new open-Internet rules—include recommendations to prohibit the blocking of legal websites, ensure neutrality on public networks, forbid paid prioritization in the transmission of some content over others, and adopt enforceable policies. Before adopting enforceable policies, though, the FCC will have to find some that stand up in court. In January the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the commission’s existing... Read More

July 10, 2014, 04:55 AM ET

Can MOOCs Help Professors Teach Traditional Courses More Efficiently?

Using free online materials such as massive open online courses in traditional classes can help colleges teach more efficiently without harming students, according to a long-awaited report from Ithaka S+R, an education-technology nonprofit group, and the University System of Maryland. However, the report notes practical barriers that might make it difficult for professors to incorporate MOOCs or similar materials into their classes without incurring other costs. Those costs might limit any gains in efficiency, according to university officials. In their study, researchers closely tracked 17 courses at universities across the Maryland system that incorporated “interactive online learning platforms” into existing courses, including 14 that used MOOCs from Coursera. (Some courses used online software from the Open Learning Initiative and Pearson.) In seven of the experimental courses... Read More

July 8, 2014, 12:55 PM ET

U. of Zurich Says Professor Deleted MOOC to Raise Student Engagement

[Updated (7/8/2014, 2:53 p.m.) with news of a post on the controversy by the MOOC instructor.] The University of Zurich says it has cleared up the bizarre case of the MOOC that went missing. But the university is offering few clarifying details to the public, which has been left to piece together theories from the university's statements and from cryptic tweets by the course's professor about an unspecified experiment he might have been trying to conduct. As I reported this morning, the content of a massive open online course taught by one of the university's lecturers, Paul-Olivier Dehaye, vanished last week without explanation, leaving an empty husk on Coursera's platform. The course, “Teaching Goes Massive: New Skills Required,” was one week into its planned three-week run when the videos and other course materials disappeared. Coursera officials said Mr. Dehaye, a... Read More

July 8, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

QuickWire: Blackboard Swallows a Small Competitor

The course-management and campus-technology heavyweight Blackboard said on Wednesday that it was acquiring Perceptis, a competitor in the helpdesk and student-services markets. With call centers in South Carolina and Arizona, Perceptis has customers both in higher education and in other sectors. Blackboard said the acquisition would "enhance a service model that the industry needs: one that fully supports students from the first moment they are interested in a school to the day they graduate."

July 8, 2014, 05:00 AM ET

In a MOOC Mystery, a Course Suddenly Vanishes

[Update (7/8/2014, 2:47 p.m.): See a new post on this topic: "U. of Zurich Says Professor Deleted MOOC to Raise Student Engagement."] A massive open online course on making sense of massive open online courses caused massive confusion when the course content was suddenly deleted and the professor started writing cryptic things on Twitter. The MOOC, called “Teaching Goes Massive: New Skills Required,” was taught by Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a lecturer at the University of Zurich. Offered through Coursera, the course had been conceived of as a meta-MOOC designed to help disoriented educators find their feet in the online landscape. The course “grew out of the author's experiences as an early adopter and advocate of newer technologies (such as Coursera) for online teaching,” according to a description on Coursera’s website. So far, the course has produced chaos rather than clarity. ... Read More

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