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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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‘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…

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Following the Money in Ed-Tech Investment: Number of Mergers Grows

Investors are rushing to buy into higher-education-related companies these days, and there’s plenty of consolidation in the market as well.

The number of mergers and acquisitions in the industry has reached its highest peak in two and a half years, according to a recent report by the investment-banking firm of Berkery Noyes. In the past six months, the number of such mergers grew by 9 percent.

Most mergers highlighted in the report don’t share a major theme, said Trace Urdan, an independent an…

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Pioneer of Ed-Tech Innovation Says He’s Frustrated by Disruptors’ Narrative

George Siemens is a key innovator in higher education, having coined the term “MOOC” and worked to study the effectiveness of online learning. So it’s no surprise that he was invited to a recent closed-door gathering at the White House to discuss “innovation and quality in higher education.”

Though he isn’t able to divulge details of what transpired, he wrote about the meeting on his blog, in a post filled with strong feelings about some of what he heard there. The post uses such words as “stu…

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Researchers Open Repository for ‘Dark Data’

DataBridge LogoResearchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are leading an effort to create a one-stop shop for data sets that would otherwise be lost to the public after the papers they were produced for are published.

The goal of the project, called DataBridge, is to expand the life cycle of so-called dark data, said Arcot Rajasekar, the lead principal investigator on the project and a professor in the School of Information and Library Science at Chapel Hill. It will serve as an archive for…

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Web Platform Seeks to Give Students an Alternative to the ‘Wall of Text’

It’s difficult to keep students engaged — and awake — when assigning them readings from long and often dull textbooks. Two researchers wanted to change that.

Their creation is zyBooks, a web-based platform that mixes learning activities such as question sets and animations with some written content, largely as a replacement for text. The idea is that professors can use zyBooks instead of traditional textbooks in order to help students engage with the material and perform better.

zyBooks was foun…

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New Model of ‘Smart Campus’? Carnegie Mellon to Embed Sensors Across Landscape

Imagine a world where you’re driving to campus, and before you get there, your car tells you to park in one lot because it already knows another is full. That could soon be the reality at Carnegie Mellon University, where researchers have teamed up with Google to place wireless sensors around the campus to connect everyday items with the web.

The idea is to make life more convenient, and to provide useful data about the campus, said Anind K. Dey, the project’s lead investigator and an associate …