May 13, 2013, 11:00 am
Isolated. Too exclusive. Antisocial.
That’s how Brian Whitmer, a founder of Instructure, describes the education-technology sector, particularly the space occupied by developers of learning-management systems like Instructure’s Canvas. “It’s become clear that ed tech does not have the type of ecosystem that other sectors have,” he said. “It’s hampering innovation. We need to fix that.”
To call attention to that problem, Instructure and other learning-management-system providers, including Blackboard and Desire2Learn, are offering cash rewards to encourage the creation of apps using the Learning Tools Interoperability standard, or LTI.
Similar to Facebook apps, LTI apps focus on a specific function that may be missing from a larger platform—a better way to track grades, for example—while taking advantage of the platform’s existing features, like basic log-in…
April 3, 2013, 12:01 am
Starting in June, colleges that want to deliver their own massive open online courses will be able to use a free software platform developed jointly by Stanford University and edX, the nonprofit MOOC provider founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The move is a merger of sorts between two previously competing software-development projects with the same goal. EdX has long said it would make the software it built to power its MOOCs freely available to anyone as an open-source package. And Stanford was working on Class2Go, its own free software for online courses. Now the two software teams will work together and focus on developing a single platform.
Here’s where it gets confusing. Despite the joint work on software development, Stanford has no plans to join edX as a partner, and it will not offer courses via edX. Instead, Stanford will create it…
March 6, 2013, 5:13 pm
Handing over your car keys to a complete stranger is an accepted risk for the benefit of valet parking. But what about handing over access to your inbox for the benefit of increased productivity?
Researchers at Stanford University are finding that people could be willing to do just that—with the right security in place.
EmailValet, a graduate research project at Stanford, finds remote assistants through the crowdsourcing-for-hire Web site oDesk, then allows them to read a user’s messages and create a to-do list from the information they’ve read. Like some valet keys that allow parking attendants to open car doors and start the engine but prevent them from getting into the glove compartment or the trunk, EmailValet lets users select what kinds of e-mails their assistants can read.
The idea for the project came from Nicolas Kokkalis, a computer-engineering Ph.D. student at…
February 1, 2013, 5:45 pm
Course-management systems have become crucial to the everyday operations of colleges so gradually that many users may not think about it all that much. That is, until the lights go out.
A number of institutions had a rude awakening this week, when Desire2Learn, which makes a course-management system used by many colleges, saw what one top official described as the biggest malfunction in the company’s history.
Desire2Learn was moving its clients’ data from the servers of one “cloud” storage provider to another, when sometime on Tuesday a technical glitch triggered errors and outages across its entire network of higher-education, public-school, and corporate clients.
About 25 percent of the company’s clients were affected, according to Jeff McDowell, Desire2Learn’s vice president for marketing and business development. The company does not know what percentage of those…
January 24, 2013, 10:00 am
If you watch a film on Netflix or buy a book on Amazon, those online services quickly provide suggestions of what else you might like. A service for college advising inspired by those recommendation systems is now entering the marketplace.
Desire2Learn Inc., a learning-software company, announced on Thursday that it had acquired DegreeCompass, a program designed by Tristan Denley, provost of Austin Peay State University, in Tennessee. The project is designed to enhance graduation rates, and therefore lower costs, as well as improve retention.
DegreeCompass uses an algorithm based on each student’s transcript, combined with thousands of past grades and standardized-test scores, to generate individualized course suggestions ranked on a five-star scale. Essentially, the suggestions tell students what courses they need for their majors and what courses, based on past performance, the…
November 8, 2012, 3:01 pm
Denver — Data mining is creeping into every aspect of student life—classrooms, advising, socializing. Now it’s hitting textbooks, too.
CourseSmart, which sells digital versions of textbooks by big publishers, announced on Wednesday a new tool to help professors and others measure students’ engagement with electronic course materials.
When students use print textbooks, professors can’t track their reading. But as learning shifts online, everything students do in digital spaces can be monitored, including the intimate details of their reading habits.
Those details are what will make the new CourseSmart service tick. Say a student uses an introductory psychology e-textbook. The book will be integrated into the college’s course-management system. It will track students’ behavior: how much time they spend reading, how many pages they view, and how many notes and…
October 8, 2012, 2:12 pm
A department at New York University is beginning to use a free online service to help teach computer-programming courses.
The department of media, culture, and communication in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development recently announced a partnership with Codeacademy, a free site that started last year and has quickly gained a following in the computer-science field, to provide a 10-week programming course this semester.
Fifty undergraduates will participate in the pilot program, which includes a weekly class and monthly lectures from technology-industry leaders. If all goes well, the course may be incorporated into the department’s curriculum.
September 10, 2012, 10:49 am
The last few years have seen new players emerge to challenge Blackboard, the leading provider of course-management software used by colleges. But last week a longtime Blackboard competitor got an unexpected boost, announcing that it had received an $80-million infusion of venture-capital financing in a bid to expand and develop new features.
The company, Desire2Learn, is based in Canada, and its officials say the deal is the largest-ever venture-capital investment in a Canadian software company. The company’s chief executive, John Baker, said the money would allow Desire2Learn to expand its research and development and remain independent for the long term.
“We want to make sure we’re building support for our clients and driving a lot of innovation in the educational market,” Mr. Baker said. “We see what education clients are looking for.” The firms making the investments are New…
July 27, 2012, 3:58 pm
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have each contributed $30-million to the edX online-learning program, but a third university will provide technology instead. The University of California at Berkeley is bringing a new online platform to the project.
The nonprofit group edX is working to create courses specifically for online learning; seven of them will start this fall. The new platform, called CourseSharing, allows students to complete multiple-choice assignments online and receive automated grades and feedback as soon as they click “submit.”
CourseSharing was developed by Pieter Abbeel and Dawn Song, professors of computer science at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. student, Arjun Singh. They tested the program last spring in an artificial-intelligence course. (People can test out the technology at the class site; registration is required, but any e-mail …