All posts by Steve Kolowich

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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 …

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Ga. State’s Loss in ‘E-Reserves’ Case Might Actually Be a Win for Librarians

In May 2012 fair-use advocates celebrated a federal judge’s decision in a high-profile copyright case. The ruling was seen as a decisive victory for Georgia State University, whose librarians wanted to be able to make freely available as much copyrighted material as possible to students via its electronic reserve system.

On Friday a federal appeals court ended that celebration by reversing the judge’s decision and sending the “e-reserves” case back to the lower court for further action.

At a gla…

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How Universities Turn Slogans Into Cash

If you want to sell a T-shirt that says “Bring the Juice”—and who among us hasn’t?—you’ll have to clear it with Robert P. Cleveland.

Mr. Cleveland is director of trademark and licensing at Ohio State University, which has owned the trademark on “Bring the Juice” since 2012, along with several dozen other words and phrases.

The Chronicle just published a poem composed entirely of college-owned trademarks. I wrote it after combing through the federal trademark database to see if I could make a lis…

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Coursera Expands Its MOOC Certificate Program

Coursera, the online education company, announced on Wednesday that it was expanding a program that awards special certificates to students who pass multiple MOOCs.

The company unveiled the program, called Specializations, earlier this year. The idea was to create certificates that, while not supplanting traditional degrees, carry more weight than a certificate of completion from a single massive open online course.

The program, which requires learners to take Coursera’s fee-based “Signature Tra…

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The 5 Least-Flattering Details in Report on San Jose State’s Tech Spending

San Jose State University’s spending on technology over the past year has made the campus ground zero for heated discussions about how university leaders should try to innovate—and the role faculty members should play in those decisions. And it hasn’t been pretty: Just five months ago Mohammad H. Qayoumi, the president, had to apologize for bypassing “longstanding SJSU consultation practices” in his attempt to move quickly toward his goal of “engaging SJSU with Silicon Valley.”

That was in May. …