Category Archives: Teaching


Public-University Group Expands ‘Personalized Learning’ Efforts

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities is expanding its support of “personalized learning” with the help of a new $4.6-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Personalized learning” means different things to different people. It’s a buzzword, and it can be difficult to get past the hype. Depending on whom you ask, it can mean such things as data analytics, video games, or artificial-intelligence research.

For the university association, it has to do with using tec…


Many Colleges Now See Centers for Teaching With Technology as Part of ‘Innovation Infrastructure’

In the past few years, many colleges have expanded the scale and scope of centers that support teaching and learning with technology, as part of an effort to build a new “innovation infrastructure” for instruction.

That’s according to the results of a new survey of directors of academic-technology centers at 163 colleges and universities, released last week at the annual conference of Educause, an organization that supports technology on campuses.

One key change has been the creation of new or …


Measuring Academic Skills and ‘Grit’ to Help Identify At-Risk Students

With the help of a grant of nearly $2 million, Excelsior College wants to use analytics to identify at-risk students.

The private nonprofit institution, in Albany, N.Y., was one of 17 recipients of a First in the World Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the college announced on Wednesday. It plans to use the grant money to fund an open-source assessment tool that colleges will eventually be able to use free of charge.

Called the Diagnostic Assessment and Achievement of College Skills,


How Student Video Presentations Can Build Community in an Online Course

It may sound pretty routine to convert a course to an online format, but doing so presents many unexpected challenges and can even challenge a professor’s assumptions about the nature of academic coursework.

Giving a timed test, for instance, is something that’s almost trivial in a face-to-face course but approaches impossibility in an asynchronous online course. How do you give a timed test when you don’t have fixed meeting times? (There are ways to do this, but they are almost all creepy.)…


In Online Courses, Students Learn More by Doing Than by Watching

When students enroll in MOOCs, they almost always watch a series of video lectures. But just watching videos — without also engaging interactively — is an ineffective way to learn, according to a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

The study, “Learning Is Not a Spectator Sport: Doing Is Better Than Watching for Learning From a MOOC,” looked at a generally available course, offered through the Georgia Institute of Technology, called “Introduction to Psychology as a Science.” Some …


Penn State Starts Network for Entrepreneurs With Focus on Online Learning

Education-technology companies are hot these days. So are online programs by universities. Pennsylvania State University hopes to tap into both trends with a new effort to turn its campus into an innovation hub for ed-tech companies.

The effort is called the EdTech Network, and officials hope it will spark entrepreneurship around the campus geared toward improving services for online students, said Craig D. Weidemann, the university’s vice provost for online education. That could help Penn State…


Readers’ Definitions of Ed-Tech Buzzwords: Confusion and Skepticism Continue

Professors, administrators, and ed-tech vendors don’t always speak the same language when it comes to talking about experimental approaches to teaching and research. Terms like “flipped classroom” and “digital humanities” get thrown around a lot these days, but different people often mean different things by them. And some people still don’t know what they mean, despite their buzzword status.

To get a sense of the buzzword landscape, we asked Chronicle readers to give their definitions of four e…


‘Machine Teaching’ Is Seen as Way to Develop Personalized Curricula

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison say they are getting closer to designing a system to deliver the ideal lesson plan for each student, through a process they call “machine teaching.”

If the idea of machine learning, a popular area of artificial-intelligence research, is to let computers learn from data to detect patterns and better deal with large data sets, machine teaching looks for the best way to share particular information with a student, says Jerry Zhu, an associate pr…


Pioneer of Ed-Tech Innovation Says He’s Frustrated by Disruptors’ Narrative

George Siemens is a key innovator in higher education, having coined the term “MOOC” and worked to study the effectiveness of online learning. So it’s no surprise that he was invited to a recent closed-door gathering at the White House to discuss “innovation and quality in higher education.”

Though he isn’t able to divulge details of what transpired, he wrote about the meeting on his blog, in a post filled with strong feelings about some of what he heard there. The post uses such words as “stu…


Professor Says Facebook Can Help Informal Learning

Who says Facebook is always a distraction? A new study suggests that if engaged in online debate, college students can use the popular social network to learn and develop a variety of skills.

In a paper released on Monday, Christine Greenhow, an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University, argues that using informal social-media settings to carry on debates about science can help students refine their argumentative skills, increase their scientific literacy, and supplement lear…