Category Archives: Startups


App Gives Students an Incentive to Keep Their Phones Locked in Class

screen568x568Resisting the urge to pull out your phone in class is quite difficult for many students, apparently. There are texts to answer, emails to read, snapchats to send, and rude comments to post on Yik Yak. But two students at California State University at Chico have created something they hope will persuade students to keep their phones tucked firmly in their pockets: An app that rewards them with coupons for local businesses when they exhibit self-control and leave their phones untouched during cla…


Start-Up Aims to Solve Perpetual Graduation Problem: Butchered Names

Stanford University, whose students gave us the modern search engine, the modern sneaker company, and the modern method of money transfer, is finally tackling a native challenge: commencement. At graduation ceremonies over the past weekend, eight departments at the university used a web-based service that allows students to record their names before commencement for the benefit of whoever reads aloud the list of graduates.

Dubbed NameCoach, the start-up was founded last year by students at—whe…


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…


edX Adds a Second Tier of Members

edX has been trying to figure out how to build more courses, more quickly, without losing its exclusive atmosphere. Now it’s settled on a plan.

In December, The Chronicle obtained materials from an internal presentation suggesting that the nonprofit provider of massive open online courses was worried that it would not be able to grow as fast as it wanted to while maintaining a “small cohesive feel.” The presentation proposed an expansion of edX’s members-only approach that would create a second …


Bitcoin Gift to U. of Puget Sound Could Be a First

The University of Puget Sound, a private institution in Tacoma, Wash., has received a $10,000 Bitcoin donation that could be the first to a college in the United States. The digital currency was transferred to the university last week and converted into dollars using the e-commerce processor BitPay.

The gift was made by Nicolas Cary, chief executive of the Bitcoin site Blockchain and a Puget Sound alumnus. He said he had always wanted to give back to the university and had used Bitcoin becaus…


U. of California-Davis Teams Up With Amazon to Create Online Storefront

The University of California at Davis is testing a new Davis-oriented storefront that funnels a portion of its revenue to the university. About 2 percent of the value of each sale goes to the university on most transactions started through the storefront, which features campus-themed clothing, organic snacks, and popular films in addition to books, textbooks, video games, and such dorm-room necessities as laundry hampers and storage bins.

The one-year pilot started in September and …


British University to Accept Bitcoin as Payment for Some Courses

The University of Cumbria, a seven-year-old institution in Britain, said on Tuesday it would accept Bitcoin as payment for some courses, the latest in a growing list of companies and organizations around the world that use the virtual currency.

The move is an exercise in learning by doing, university officials said in a written statement. Bitcoin, a decentralized currency exchanged on the Internet without an intermediary such as a bank or broker, will be accepted for two certificate program…


Textbook Publishers Settle Suit Against Boundless, Digital Start-Up Company

Three big textbook publishers and Boundless, a digital-textbook start-up company, have reached a confidential settlement of a lawsuit that the three publishers filed last year, when they accused Boundless of distributing “‘replacement textbooks’ that are created from, based upon, and overwhelmingly similar to” textbooks from the companies—Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Higher Education.

The publishers’ suit alleged that Boundless had boasted that “they copy the precise select…


Academics to Udacity Founder: Told Ya

In a new magazine profile of Sebastian Thrun, the Udacity founder calls his company’s massive open online courses a “lousy product” to use for educating underprepared college students. That assertion has prompted a chorus of I-told-you-sos from his critics in academe.

In interviews for the Fast Company profile, Mr. Thrun reflected on the discouraging results of an experiment at San Jose State University in which instructors used Udacity’s online platform to teach mathematics. Some of the stude…


Minerva College Start-Up Hires Academic Leaders

The Minerva Schools at KGI, an online liberal-arts-college start-up scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, is building out its administrative ranks.

The for-profit venture said on Tuesday that James D. Sterling, vice president for academic affairs at the Keck Graduate Institute—the KGI of the name—has been named director of Minerva Labs. Mr. Sterling will also serve as interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences for Minerva. Eric Bonabeau, a complex-systems expert and founder of the I…