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Posts by Marc Parry

May 27, 2010, 12:00 PM ET

The Grooviest Online Degree: Bootsy's Bachelor of Funk

Put a glide in your stride, a dip in your hip, and come on down to Funk University.

Bootsy Collins, a legendary bassist who played for James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, is starting an online program for bass players. Professor Bootsy's fledgling funkateers will commence their schooling July 1.

"Wow, I just can't keep all this funk to myself," Bootsy explains in a video laying out his vision for the school.

According to SoulTracks, that vision got started with one message to the 370,000 people who follow Bootsy's Twitter account: "If You Build It, They Will Funk."

And funk they did.

Announcements of new online programs rarely get any attention, but Bootsy's e-learning debut is going viral. Wired Campus tried to grab a piece of the four-string funk for Chronicle readers. Unfortunately, the P-Master of the Universe was unavailable for an interview.

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May 20, 2010, 12:00 PM ET

Cash for Clicks: College Offers a Year's Tuition for Viral YouTube Video

Students can get information about colleges from an endless number of sources. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana hopes to cut through that clutter by essentially crowdsourcing its marketing.

In a new contest, the college is asking current or prospective students to upload videos on YouTube explaining why they deserve a scholarship. It promises up to $3,000—roughly a year's tuition—to the three people whose videos get the most views.

The strategy has helped positive messages about the college go viral "without us having to figure out how to crack this nut to get some message from us to go viral," says Jeff Fanter, vice president of communications and marketing at the 150,000-student statewide college.

But could Web-savvy students game the contest?

Asked about view-count fraud, Michael Wesch, a Kansas State University anthropologist who studies new media, directed Wired Campus to a...

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May 12, 2010, 03:45 PM ET

Colleges 'Freaking Out' Over New Facebook Community Pages

An official Facebook page is like a garden. Colleges have invested effort and money tending their patches of the social-networking site, even bringing in outside vendors to help with the landscaping.

Now they're fretting that a new Facebook feature—community pages—will undermine their efforts.

Community pages aggregate content about topics by pulling information from Wikipedia and from posts by Facebook users connected to those topics. So, for example, the community page for Clark College displays one post about an upcoming conference and another slamming the institution as a place "run by morally corrupt DB's." If you search for Clark, the site doesn't even turn up its main page in the top eight results, as the blogger Michael Fienen points out in a post entitled "Facebook Hates Your Brand."

The problem, as Jessica Krywosa sees it, is that nobody has reached out to official sources...

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May 10, 2010, 01:00 PM ET

Is Higher Education Losing Its Influence Over the Tech Industry?

Are universities losing their influence over the tech sector?

Yes, argues Greg Smith, chief information officer at George Fox University, in a provocative post on his blog.

The influence stemmed from how students' computing experience would affect their future buying habits, he says. As evidence of its decline, he points to how Apple "has not been catering to higher education with their shift to the new iPad consumer line," and how Microsoft seems relatively unconcerned about universities as it tries to retain its business and government markets.

Do you buy his argument? Was there ever a golden age of university influence, anyway? Is anybody else frustrated with how tech companies are treating higher education?

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May 7, 2010, 12:00 PM ET

Library of Congress, Facing Privacy Concerns, Clarifies Twitter Archive Plan

If you don't want that tipsy 3 a.m. Twitter post preserved for posterity, then start deleting. Now.

Faced with privacy concerns, the Library of Congress is clarifying its plans to archive all public tweets posted since Twitter went live in March 2006. The database won't contain deleted tweets or private account information, according to a list of frequently asked questions recently posted on the library's blog.

And the Twitter database will only be made available to “qualified researchers,” Martha Anderson, director of the library’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, tells The New York Times. The plan is to embargo messages for six months before making them available, but that period could be extended, she says.

“There’s concern about privacy issues in the near term, and we’re sensitive to these concerns,” she says. “We may have to filter certain things ...

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May 4, 2010, 04:20 PM ET

Most Professors Use Social Media

More than four out of every five professors use social media. And more than half of professors use tools like video, blogs, podcasts, and wikis in their classes.

Those are some of the findings of a new national survey of nearly 1,000 faculty members released today by Pearson, the publisher.

But, while the data suggest a remarkable pervasiveness, drill deeper into how professors are using social media and a different story emerges.

Don't picture a nation of professors asking students to tweet in class. Only about 10 percent or 12 percent of survey responses represent "active" uses of social-media tools, meaning professors expecting students to post or comment on or create something, said Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, which conducted the study with Pearson and New Marketing Labs. He contrasted that with "passive" activities like reading or watching a...

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April 19, 2010, 10:00 AM ET

After Struggling in Search, Cuil Re-Emerges With an Encyclopedia

Cuil, a search engine created by former Google employees, created a buzz in the library world when it debuted in 2008. The product failed to become a "Google killer," as one blogger put it, but the company is back this month with a new encyclopedia.

It's called Cpedia. Instead of giving you a list of references like a search engine would, the site responds to queries by generating an automated summary of the topic.

"We do the heavy lifting of removing all the repetition, so that unique and novel content surfaces," the company says in its announcement. "Just as Wikipedia uses the effort of a large number of people to edit a topic, we combine all the documents written about an idea on the Web to generate one article."

So is it any good?

As TechCrunch pointed out, results can be odd. Search "library," for example, and the first thing you get is a link called "digital library." Click on ...

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April 12, 2010, 05:00 PM ET

Agenda for Open Online Courses Can Go Forward, Federal Officials Say

Washington — Education Secretary Arne Duncan laid out the Obama Administration's open-education agenda in Politico last year: an ambitious plan to spend $500-million on developing freely available, high-quality online courses. This great course giveaway attracted both buzz and skepticism in education-technology circles.

It was all part of the president's landmark push to invest $12-billion in community colleges, a sum that got drastically reduced in the legislative sausage-making process that ended with an overhaul of the nation's student-loan system. So is the online agenda dead, too?

Federal officials insist it isn't—although one community-college lobbyist is skeptical.

On a White House blog post about the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HR 4872), which included the student-loan changes, Brian Levine, deputy domestic policy adviser to the vice president, had this to...

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April 8, 2010, 08:54 PM ET

U. of Texas System Plans to Close Its Central Distance-Education Arm

The University of Texas system announced late Thursday afternoon that it plans to close its central distance-education arm. Online education at individual campuses has matured to the point that the services offered by the current system-level office aren't necessary, a university spokesman said.

The 12-year-old UT TeleCampus is a veteran in its field, one of several state or system-level efforts begun in the late 1990s. It does not grant degrees, but it encourages campuses within the system to put programs online, facilitates collaborative degrees that pool courses from different campuses, and offers services like marketing and faculty training.

In announcing the move Thursday, the university put out a news release with the headline, "UT Institutions Use Distance Education to Teach More Students, Improve Graduation Rates." The release described the TeleCampus changes as a...

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April 8, 2010, 04:36 PM ET

Blackboard Makes Nice With SunGard, Polishes Its 'Darth Vader' Image

Blackboard, often in the news for buying and suing rival software companies, is making nice with SunGard. The two higher-ed software giants announced on Wednesday an agreement "to deliver better integration and support services to their common customers."

Under the deal, support and integration-services staff from both companies will be trained on each other's products to improve customer support, among other changes, according to a news release. Blackboard has over 2,000 e-learning customers in the United States and Canada, and the company estimates that slighlty more than half also use SunGard.

For customers, "their big question has always been, 'Well, will SunGard's new release work with the old release that we've got of Blackboard, or vice versa?'" said Fred Weiss, senior vice president for product strategy at SunGard. "We will provide utmost clarity to our customers, and be...

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