June 28, 2012, 2:01 pm
The battle between tech giants Microsoft and Google over who is to provide student e-mail services at colleges rages on. This week, Microsoft hoped to win over more colleges by ending a fee it had charged for some services in its cloud-based e-mail and productivity suite, Office 365, matching terms long offered by Google.
Office 365 was originally a free e-mail service called Live@Edu. In late 2011, Microsoft renamed the service and expanded it to include features such as an online calendar, word processor, and instant messaging. Colleges could still use the e-mail component of Office 365 for free, but were charged $120 per user per year for the other tools. Last year, Microsoft paid the University of Nebraska $250,000 to switch to Office 365.
The entire Office 365 suite is now free for all accredited educational institutions, said Sig Behrens, the company’s general manager for…
June 13, 2012, 4:59 pm
Behavioral nudges help people quit smoking, exercise, and vote. Can they help students finish college, too?
A start-up company is banking on just that hope, with a new service that directs nudges to the devices that students carry at all times: mobile phones.
The venture, Persistence Plus, bills itself as “the Weight Watchers of college completion.” It draws on behavioral research to deliver personalized messages to students through an iPhone app or text messages. Say, for example, a group of students has a forthcoming math test. The program will send messages to them asking when and where they plan to study for the exam, says Jill Frankfort, who co-founded the company in August 2011.
“Reminders don’t actually change behavior that much,” she explains. “But when you can help someone actually plan out their time and create a mental map of when they’re going to do a behavior,…
April 4, 2012, 10:01 pm
More Americans are reading e-books than ever before, on more kinds of devices, a new report from the Pew Research Center has found. That news won’t come as a shock, given the rapid spread of e-readers and tablet computers and the rise of e-content. What might be a surprise, though: The report contains good news for print lovers, too. Readers of e-books like to read in all formats, they favor print books for sharing and to read to children, and on average they read more books over all than print-only readers do.
“They’re heavier readers. They’re more frequent readers,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the group behind the report. “These devices have allowed them to scratch that itch.”
The report, “The Rise of eReading,” analyzes findings from a survey of almost 3,000 people nationwide in November and December 2011, along with data from follow-up…
March 26, 2012, 4:54 pm
As more students arrive at college with tablets and smartphones, residential computing networks are trying to keep up with the demands of the data-hungry devices. This trend can strain network resources, a survey suggests, forcing some institutions to upgrade their equipment.
The findings were published last week by the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, or Acuta. Of the survey’s 255 respondents, 68 percent said they allowed students unlimited access to their residential networks. Only 19 percent said they limited the bandwidth available to mobile and network devices. Such a hands-off approach can be costly: Half of the respondents said they paid to supply bandwidth but didn’t recover their investment.
The technology administrators said their top concerns were the growing popularity of mobile devices, the increasing thirst…
March 14, 2012, 3:01 am
The number of college students who say they own tablets has more than tripled since a survey taken last year, according to new poll results released today. The Pearson Foundation sponsored the second-annual survey, which asked 1,206 college students and 204 college-bound high-school seniors about their tablet ownership. The results suggest students increasingly prefer to use the devices for reading.
One-fourth of the college students surveyed said they owned a tablet, compared with just 7 percent last year. Sixty-three percent of college students believe tablets will replace textbooks in the next five years—a 15 percent increase over last year’s survey. More than a third said they intended to buy a tablet sometime in the next six months.
This year’s poll also found that the respondents preferred digital books over printed ones. It’s a reversal of last year’s results and…
March 6, 2012, 2:25 pm
Florida State University has resolved a lawsuit that was brought by two blind students who accused the university of discrimination due to inaccessible technology. Under the settlement, the university agreed to pay each student $75,000 and “to continue its efforts to make courses accessible to all students,” according to a news release issued by the National Federation of the Blind, which helped the students bring their lawsuit last summer. Florida State did not admit liability or wrongdoing.
The students, Christopher S. Toth and Jamie A. Principato, had argued that a mathematics course relied on e-learning systems that were inaccessible to people with disabilities. The students could not access software that was used for homework and tests, their lawsuit said. The course also relied on inaccessible “clickers,” remote-control-like devices that allow students to answer…
February 14, 2012, 3:45 pm
Your text messages may be worth more than you think. They could help advance the understanding of just how language changes—or at least that’s the theory behind Text4Science, a global project to gather 100,000 donated texts. Linguistic researchers from three Canadian institutions—the universities of Montreal and Ottawa, and Simon Fraser University—are collaborating to build a database that will depend on the public sending old texts to the project’s Web site.
The Canadian researchers hope to dispel the theory that texters “r” lazy and fully expect to find that texters are instead creative, literate people who have found imaginative ways to use the medium. They dismiss the idea that people sending text messages are illiterate.
“When they talk to their friends, they speak differently than if they were to speak to [Canadian Prime Minister] Stephen Harper or the queen or to a…
February 13, 2012, 12:01 am
Want to learn the basics of what goes inside your smartphone and computer?
You can get a better grasp of that gadgetry in a free online course announced today by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—the first class to open in the institute’s closely watched new interactive online learning venture, MITx. And if you pass the course, MIT will award you a certificate for free.
The prototype class, “6.002x: Circuits and Electronics,” opens for enrollment today (sign up here). The course will run from March 5 to June 8. Modeled on an introductory class typically offered to between 100 and 250 undergraduates on campus, the course will help students make the transition from physics to electrical engineering and computer science. Teaching it will be Anant Agarwal and Chris Terman, co-directors of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; Piotr Mitros, a…
November 4, 2011, 3:08 pm
Students’ use of electronic books has grown little, if at all, over the past three years, according to international surveys of more than 6,500 college students conducted in 2008 and again this year. The finding, from ebrary’s Global Student E-book Survey, surprised audience members when the survey report was previewed this week at the Charleston Conference, a gathering of librarians, publishers, and e-book vendors. Even so, presenters said they felt confident that the number of e-book users would grow more rapidly over the next six months, and that libraries and colleges must be ready to handle the demand. Other results from the survey showed that while students feel there is a need for both print and e-books, they would opt for the e-book if available. Respondents also said the availability of more titles in their areas of study would help make e-books more suitable for the classroom. …
November 2, 2011, 3:54 pm
Welcome packets for students at Western Governors University now include a free Webcam, part of an extensive monitoring program used by the online university to make sure test-takers are who they say they are.
At Western Governors, the average student is 36 years old, has a family, and takes a full course load on top of holding a full-time job. Because it’s convenient for them to be able to take tests from home, students have embraced the technology, says Janet W. Schnitz, associate provost for assessment and interim provost at the university.
The university, which first started handing out cameras in July 2010, now has over 30,000 Web cams in use.
Before 2009, when the university introduced its Webcam pilot program, students had to go to one of 6,000 on-site assessment centers to take a test. For many students, this could involve taking time off work, securing a babysitter, and…