Category Archives: Research

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5 Things Researchers Have Discovered About MOOCs

In December 2013 a group of academics gathered during a Texas snowstorm and began the second phase of a discussion about massive open online courses. They were not terribly impressed by the hype the courses had received in the popular media, and they had set out to create a better body of literature about MOOCs—albeit a less sensational one.

The MOOC Research Initiative, backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had given many of those academics research grants to study what was going on in…

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Study of MOOCs Suggests Dropping the Label ‘Dropout’

Way back in 1978, Frenchy in Grease was unceremoniously dubbed a beauty-school dropout. But what if she took a MOOC today on midcentury follicular art? Might we call her a beauty-school “collector”? What about a beauty-school “bystander”?

Maybe, thanks to a new quantitative study of MOOC engagement released on Wednesday by Cornell and Stanford Universities. After tracking the behavior patterns of more than 300,000 students enrolled in Stanford-based Coursera courses, the authors created a “ta…

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Academics Continue Flirting With a Former Foe: Wikipedia

Google “straight turkey,” and you will find references to the Dardanelles (a Turkish strait), Wild Turkey brand whiskey, and a recent soccer match between the United States and, you guessed it, Turkey.

You will not encounter the defunct Los Angeles-based art magazine by the same name—at least not yet.

Next weekend East of Borneo, an art magazine founded and funded by the California Institute of the Arts, will host the fourth in a series of Wikipedia edit-a-thons intended to enhance Los Angeles…

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Your Cybertutor Wants to Confuse You—for Your Own Good

Picture this: You’re seated across the table from your organic-chemistry tutor. She presents you with a particularly tough problem. Exasperated, you force a thin half-smile. The tutor reads your facial cues, senses your frustration, and offers reassurance.

Now imagine this: Your tutor is a camera-equipped computer capable of reading, analyzing, and reacting to your emotions.

The concept is called affect-aware cyberlearning, and it isn’t entirely new. Sidney D’Mello, an assistant professor of…

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QuickWire: Authors Guild Responds to HathiTrust Ruling

A federal appeals court on Tuesday largely upheld a district court’s ruling in favor of the HathiTrust Digital Library in a copyright-infringement lawsuit brought against it by the Authors Guild.

On Wednesday the guild released a statement in response to the ruling, calling it a “narrow fair-use decision” that “was not a total victory for either side.” The group did not say what its next legal move might be or whether it had decided to mount another appeal.

That could depend in part on the next …

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HathiTrust Digital Library Wins Latest Round in Battle With Authors

In what legal observers and fair-use advocates are calling a victory for libraries, a federal appeals court has upheld most of a lower court’s 2012 ruling in favor of the HathiTrust Digital Library in a copyright-infringement lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and other plaintiffs.

The decision is another legal setback for the Authors Guild, which has also been fighting a long court battle over Google’s mass digitizing of books. But the appeals court’s move will encourage both scholars who wan…

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Latest Christensen Disruption: Crowdsourced Journal Article

Are companies reluctant to invest in long-term innovations? The Harvard Business Review says they are—and guesses at why—in what its editors say is the journal’s “first formally crowdsourced” article, “The Capitalist’s Dilemma.”

No doubt you’ve heard of one of the two lead authors—Clayton M. Christensen, a professor of business administration at Harvard known for his work on disruptive innovation. His co-author was Derek van Bever, a senior lecturer in entrepreneurial management, but the list…

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Frustrated Scholar Creates New Way to Fund and Publish Academic Work

In 2011, Tim Peterson was your archetypal frustrated academic. He’d just landed a paper in the journal Cell but had grown disillusioned with the publishing process after nine months of back-and-forth among his team, the reviewers, and the editors.

“I was just totally disgusted by the whole process,” says Mr. Peterson, now 37 and working as a postdoctoral fellow in biology at Harvard University. “I remember when I stood up and said I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

So Mr. Peterson began…

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QuickWire: Harvard and MIT Release Scrubbed MOOC Data

“De-identified” records of more than a million people who took part in the first year of massive open online courses offered by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been released to researchers, the two institutions said on Friday.

The institutions said the records had been “subjected to a careful process of de-identification: removing personally identifiable information, using best practices including aggregation, anonymization via random identifiers, and blurri…

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10 Times the Computing Capacity, at Only Twice the Electricity

Staff members put the finishing touches on Deepthought2, a new supercomputer at the U. of Maryland.

Staff members put the finishing touches on Deepthought2, a new supercomputer at the U. of Maryland. (Photo courtesy of U. of Maryland)

The University of Maryland at College Park has a new Ferrari of a supercomputer, and it’s students who are taking it for a test drive.

Some 60 students enrolled in the university’s high-performance-computing boot camp, now in its second of two weeks, are the first to make use of Deepthought2, the newest supercomputer in higher education. The $4.2-million machine …