All posts by Steve Kolowich

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Could Video Feedback Replace the Red Pen?

Screenshot 2015-01-24 08.12.56

Stills from a video critique by Monash U.’s Michael Henderson.

Writing useful comments on students’ work can be a fine art. And for instructors who put a lot of effort into crafting a critique, there’s always a substantial risk students will skip the written feedback and go right to the grade.

When Michael Henderson is grading his students’ final assignments, he likes to skip the written comments for them. Instead of a red pen, Mr. Henderson, a senior lecturer in education at Monash University, …

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Facebook Addiction and GPA

Facebook is a tempting distraction. I have it open as a tab in my browser as I write this. And look, it’s showing that I have a new notification! I must see it, immediately. Facebook designed the site to make me feel that way.

This doesn’t bode well for college students. If professionals, and even some professors, have a hard time resisting the lure of Facebook, then what chance do 18-year-olds have?

New research suggests that the kids may be all right. A study of Facebook activity and grade-poi…

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How to Ruin a Date With an Academic in 5 Words

Academic life can be lonely. Professors, postdocs, and doctoral students spend their lives holed up in libraries, labs, and lecture halls, becoming intimate with words and ideas that are liable to alienate them from other people, especially nonacademics.

That can make dating awkward. The latest evidence of this has coalesced around the Twitter hashtag #RuinADateWithAnAcademicInFiveWords. Over the past day or so, people have been contributing phrases they say would raise red flags.

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Obama Proposes Bill to Protect Student Data, but Not in Higher Education

The abundance of data being collected on students has been celebrated as an opportunity to “personalize” education. But privacy advocates have long warned that digital paper trails might leave today’s students exposed if their personal information fell into the wrong hands.

The White House announced on Monday that it would be taking up the cause of student privacy, pushing legislation that would “prevent companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes unrelated to the educati…

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5 Things We Know About College Students in 2014

Everybody wants to know what college students are thinking, especially educators and marketers. What do they like? What are they like?

The surveyors at Student Monitor, a market-research firm, are among those trying to peel back the layers on the minds that so many people invest so much in courting. The firm’s latest research, based on interviews with 1,200 full-time students at four-year institutions, confirms some stereotypes while defying others.

I, for one, welcome our future overlords. Goin…

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Sexual Harassment in the Age of MOOCs

Following an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Tuesday severed ties with Walter Lewin, a retired physics professor known for his lively lectures and live demonstrations.

The story of the professor who makes sexual advances on his students is as old as academe itself, but this one was unusual because of its ultramodern setting: the free online courses known as MOOCs.

But even old problems are made new by the dynamics of MOOC…

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Rethinking Low Completion Rates in MOOCs

Completion rates in free online courses are low—to critics, laughably so. But exactly how low are they? The answer might be a matter of interpretation.

Let’s say 79,500 people sign up for a handful of massive open online courses offered by Harvard University. About 44,500 of those people say they are there to complete the course and earn a certificate. About 23,000 say they are there either to browse the course materials or to complete a few assignments. The remaining 12,000 say they haven’t…

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Open Education’s Publicity Problem

Arlington, Va. — David Wiley calls the annual Open Education Conference, now in its 11th year, a “family reunion.” This year, the hearth is crowded. The Hilton ballroom here overflows with bodies.

Mr. Wiley, the co-founder and chief academic officer at Lumen Learning, an upstart company that organized this year’s event, asks that all the new people stand up. At least a third of the crowd rises. “Our little family is growing,” he says.

And yet, outside the family, open educational resources have …

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At Liberal-Arts Colleges, Debate About Online Courses Is Really About Outsourcing

Lifetime residents of Maine tend to look askance at people who are “from away,” an epithet reserved for transplants, summer vacationers, and college students. Such people might mean well, the thinking goes, but ultimately they do not belong.

Bowdoin College, a 220-year-old institution in Brunswick, Me., takes a similarly protective view of its curriculum. At a time when online education has blurred campus borders—and institutions face growing pressure to train students for specific jobs—Bowd…

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For New Course, U. of Oklahoma Seeks Boost From Old Media

Many colleges are turning to online “enablers” to help them get new online courses off the ground, but the University of Oklahoma is looking to generate buzz through an older channel: cable television.

Oklahoma is producing a new course with the History Channel, which will provide content from its archive and advertising on its airwaves.

The 16-week course, which covers American history since 1865, will be open to both credit-seeking students and noncredit learners, although it is “emphatically …