All posts by Steve Kolowich

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Free iPads, With a Catch: They’ll Squeal if You Cut Class

Lynn University, a small institution in Boca Raton, Fla., started giving away iPads to all its new students about a year and a half ago. Now there is a catch: If those students cut class, their iPads might tattle on them.

The university is planning to try out a new app, called Class120, to “ping” its students’ iPads during class periods. If GPS or the campus wi-fi network indicates that someone’s device is not present, the app will send the student an automated reminder, and may notify his or he…

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Meet the 26-Year-Old Behind Academic Twitter’s Most Popular Hashtags

It didn’t take much for Glen Wright to figure out that academics on Twitter are just like everyone else.

“#AcademicWithCats—let’s get it started people!” wrote Mr. Wright, a Paris-based researcher, from the account for his blog, Academia Obscura.

Many academics spend their days reading and purveying dense, largely humorless tomes, or buried in lab work or archives, and have a reputation as a serious tribe. Cats and Twitter, however, are great equalizers. Following Mr. Wright’s post, in early D…

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The MOOC Hype Fades, in 3 Charts

Few people would now be willing to argue that massive open online courses are the future of higher education. The percentage of institutions offering a MOOC seems to be leveling off, at around 14 percent, while suspicions persist that MOOCs will not generate money or reduce costs for universities—and are not, in fact, sustainable.

The latest figures come from the Babson Survey Research Group’s annual survey, which was based on a 2014 survey of more than 2,800 academic leaders and was released …

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3 Things Academic Leaders Believe About Online Education

The Babson Survey Research Group released its annual online-education survey on Thursday. The Babson surveyors, Jeffrey Seaman and I. Elaine Allen, have been tracking online higher education since 2002, soliciting responses from chief academic officers at thousands of institutions.

You can read this year’s report, based on a survey conducted in 2014, here. But if you don’t have the time, here are three things academic leaders believe about online education:

1. Online education has become mission…

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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…