Posts by Jeff Young
May 19, 2009, 03:43 PM ET
Mexico City — With the H1N1 flu epidemic wreaking havoc on exchange programs throughout the Americas, the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration started a new Web site today to track the virus’s impact on universities.
Since the epidemic broke out in Mexico, in late April, the organization, known as Conahec and based at the University of Arizona, has been flooded with calls and e-mail from university administrators, students, and parents. Many have asked whether to halt or delay international programs in Mexico and whether students already there should be sent home, said Francisco Marmolejo, Conahec’s executive director.
The new site, accessible through a flashing icon on Conahec’s main Web page, includes flu-related statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Mexican government, as well as the responses of...Read More
May 15, 2009, 01:30 PM ET
Last year Noah Wardrip-Fruin, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of California at Santa Cruz, ran an experiment with his latest academic book: He let readers of a popular blog to which he contributes peer review the book in public. This week he shared his final conclusions about the strengths and weaknesses of his unusual approach.
The book’s publisher, MIT Press, administered a traditional peer review of the book, and Mr. Wardrip-Fruin was able to compare the two approaches. One major difference: Blog commenters tended to focus on discrete paragraphs and points, and rarely compared ideas in one chapter to those later in the work. But the blog readers offered more detailed input than the anonymous reviewers...Read More
May 14, 2009, 04:32 PM ET
Henry Jenkins, co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Comparative Media Studies Program, thought it was some kind of joke when he got an e-mail message from a Hollywood casting director asking him to be an extra in the latest Star Trek film (which opened last weekend). But a few weeks later he was getting fitted for a Klingon costume, as the professor describes today on his blog.
“I had to do it, even though it meant postponing some significant meetings, ducking out early from academic conferences, and taking a series of red eye flights, not to mention spending several thousand dollars,” Mr. Jenkins wrote. The scholar is a life-long Star Trek fan, but he also pioneered the idea of studying fan culture, so he’s written about Trekkies. He posed for The Chronicle holding...Read More
May 14, 2009, 11:07 AM ET
This morning executives from Blackboard and Angel Learning faced a room full of skeptical college administrators at Angel’s annual user meeting in Chicago.
In a surprise move last week, Blackboard announced it planned to buy Angel, and many college officials who use the Angel software expressed frustration with the move. Many of them say they chose Angel in part because they were trying to move away from Blackboard’s products.
Anger has turned to a sense of resignation, say some Angel customers. Many say they tried to enter today’s session with an open mind to hear what Blackboard planned for their future.
The Chronicle was not allowed to attend the session, but those in the room described it on Twitter, and one...Read More
May 12, 2009, 04:26 PM ET
What if you could ask your encyclopedia to not only spit out facts, but to perform an analysis with those facts or compute the answers to a math problem for you? A free Web site set to go live this month promises to do just that, potentially becoming a virtual research assistant for professors — or a new way for students to cheat on their homework.
The new site, called WolframAlpha, seems bound to be a useful — and possibly controversial — tool on college campuses. The service will present users with a simple search box, as Google does. But WolframAlpha won’t just point to Web sites about what the user types; it will attempt to compute an answer based on its vast collection of facts and statistical-analysis software.Read More
May 11, 2009, 04:30 PM ET
On Friday, Blackboard closed its acquisition of rival Angel Learning, amid complaints by Angel customers.
Several college technology administrators said they were surprised and upset when Blackboard announced last Wednesday that it planned to purchase Angel Learning. The company had marketed itself as an alternative to Blackboard, a company whose aggressive tactics have upset some college officials.
Immediately after learning of the pending deal, Janet Mayer, an IT project manager for the State University of New York at Fredonia, started a Facebook group called “Free ANGEL LMS from the Bb Monopoly,” which now has more than 60 members. “Blackboard might think that they bought us, but I’m not so sure,” said Ms. Mayer, in an interview with The Chronicle. “Angel recruited a lot of us and sold us the software based on not being Blackboard.”
Sicco Rood,...Read More
May 6, 2009, 04:00 PM ET
Blackboard Inc. announced this afternoon that it plans to buy Angel Learning, a rival course-management software company, for $80-million in cash and $15-million in stock, adding to the company’s many acquisitions over the last several years.
Both companies have approved the deal, and Blackboard expects the arrangement to become final by the end of May.
Michael L. Chasen, president and chief executive of Blackboard, said in an interview with The Chronicle, that in the short run the combined company plans to continue to sell Angel Learning’s software as a separate product, so the 400 colleges and elementary and secondary schools that use it can continue to do so for now. Down the road, the best features of Angel will be folded into Blackboard software, Mr. Chasen said. “There are a number of great features and functionalities from Angel that we would like to incorporate into our...Read More
May 6, 2009, 03:08 PM ET
This morning Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, held up a new, wider model of the Kindle loaded with a biology textbook — marking the company’s official entrance into the electronic-textbook market.
The news had been widely leaked all week, and the rumors turned out to be true. The screen on the new version of Kindle is 9.7 inches across — much bigger than the other Kindle, which will still be offered. And the company has set up pilot projects this fall at six higher-education institutions — Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Pace University, Princeton University, Reed College, and the University of Virginia’s business school.
New details included the price: $489. And the publishers involved with the pilot projects: Pearson, Cengage Learning, and John Wiley & Sons.Read More
May 5, 2009, 08:24 AM ET
Rumors are buzzing this week that Amazon is set to unveil a new, wider-format version of its Kindle e-book reader in the hopes of making it a platform for electronic textbooks.
Amazon has invited journalists to a news-media event tomorrow morning at Pace University for a big announcement, and though officials from Amazon and Pace refused to talk to The Chronicle, anonymous sources told The Wall Street Journal that the company will unveil a bigger model of the Kindle and describe a pilot project with six major universities to try textbooks on it. The company will announce new deals with magazine and newspaper publishers, the newspaper said.
But a previous effort to use e-book readers in the classroom bombed, and it’s not clear how Amazon will do any better.Read More
May 4, 2009, 01:58 PM ET
Facebook and Wikipedia are just the beginning. The real power of social networks will be showcased by projects that unite far-flung participants to help track disease outbreaks, revolutionize neighborhood-watch programs, encourage energy conservation, and serve other civic and community goals, according to a group of researchers calling for greater government and university investment in social networking.
More than a dozen researchers met at the University of Maryland at College Park last week to draft a white paper calling for the creation of “a National Initiative for Social Participation.” They argue that computer-science programs at universities and federal agencies need to move faster to support research into social-networking technology, which they see as the next frontier of innovation.
Not everyone in higher education sees Wikipedia as a model of quality, of course. Many...Read More