How Student Video Presentations Can Build Community in an Online Course

It may sound pretty routine to convert a course to an online format, but doing so presents many unexpected challenges and can even challenge a professor’s assumptions about the nature of academic coursework.

Giving a timed test, for instance, is something that’s almost trivial in a face-to-face course but approaches impossibility in an asynchronous online course. How do you give a timed test when you don’t have fixed meeting times? (There are ways to do this, but they are almost all creepy.)…


Academic Social Network Hopes to Change the Culture of Peer Review

An academic social network has added a tool it hopes will shake up the system of peer review.

The network is called, and it has grown to more than 25 million registered participants, who use it mainly to post their published papers in order to help others find them (and, it’s hoped, cite them). The site’s new tool, called Sessions, lets researchers post papers that are still in progress, and invite colleagues to comment on them so the papers can be improved before being submitted …


What the Results of a Survey of Coursera Students Mean for Online Learning

When Coursera, Udacity, and edX started up within four months of one another, in 2012, The New York Times declared it the year of the MOOC. Now that the clamor is dying down, researchers are gauging what actually has developed in terms of massive open online courses.

A report released this week draws on a survey of Coursera students to look at their motivations and what kinds of educational and career results they are seeing. Published in the Harvard Business Review, it is the first study of Cou…


UMUC Plans to Create a Company to Help Colleges Harness Big Data

The Maryland Board of Regents on Friday approved the University of Maryland University College’s request to create a for-profit business-intelligence company. The new company will offer data-analysis technology and services to universities across the country, and the revenue will go toward the university’s endowment.

The company, called HelioCampus, will provide two main services: the technology to combine and analyze a university’s data, as well as analysts to help administrators understand w…


In Online Courses, Students Learn More by Doing Than by Watching

When students enroll in MOOCs, they almost always watch a series of video lectures. But just watching videos — without also engaging interactively — is an ineffective way to learn, according to a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

The study, “Learning Is Not a Spectator Sport: Doing Is Better Than Watching for Learning From a MOOC,” looked at a generally available course, offered through the Georgia Institute of Technology, called “Introduction to Psychology as a Science.” Some …


Penn State Starts Network for Entrepreneurs With Focus on Online Learning

Education-technology companies are hot these days. So are online programs by universities. Pennsylvania State University hopes to tap into both trends with a new effort to turn its campus into an innovation hub for ed-tech companies.

The effort is called the EdTech Network, and officials hope it will spark entrepreneurship around the campus geared toward improving services for online students, said Craig D. Weidemann, the university’s vice provost for online education. That could help Penn State…


Readers’ Definitions of Ed-Tech Buzzwords: Confusion and Skepticism Continue

Professors, administrators, and ed-tech vendors don’t always speak the same language when it comes to talking about experimental approaches to teaching and research. Terms like “flipped classroom” and “digital humanities” get thrown around a lot these days, but different people often mean different things by them. And some people still don’t know what they mean, despite their buzzword status.

To get a sense of the buzzword landscape, we asked Chronicle readers to give their definitions of four e…


As Coursera Evolves, Colleges Stay On and Investors Buy In

Three years ago everyone was talking about Coursera, which had begun partnering with some of the world’s most elite colleges to offer free courses. There was overheated hype, as pundits speculated that it could be a magic bullet to bring down college costs. And there were tough questions, as people wondered what the goal was for partner colleges, and how the Silicon Valley company could make enough revenue on free courses to survive.

Today the MOOC hype has dissipated, but the company’s leader…


How an App Helps Low-Income Students by Turning College Life Into a Game

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 3.19.38 PMStudying in the library, getting help from a tutor, even cheering at a college football game — all of those activities carry a little extra reward for low-income students at Ball State University.

The university is in its second year of offering a mobile application called “Ball State Achievements,” designed for students who come to Ball State on federal Pell Grants. The app essentially gamifies their college experience; they earn points for engaging in specific aspects of campus life, which c…


‘Machine Teaching’ Is Seen as Way to Develop Personalized Curricula

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison say they are getting closer to designing a system to deliver the ideal lesson plan for each student, through a process they call “machine teaching.”

If the idea of machine learning, a popular area of artificial-intelligence research, is to let computers learn from data to detect patterns and better deal with large data sets, machine teaching looks for the best way to share particular information with a student, says Jerry Zhu, an associate pr…