Technology tools improve engagement in science courses, instructors say

Science instructors share digital tools they use -- from virtual reality to 3-D printing -- to help students connect to the material.

Northwestern Settles in Wrongful Conviction Case

Northwestern University settled Friday with a man who said he was wrongly convicted in a double murder case following attention from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. The man, Alstory Simon, in a federal lawsuit accused Northwestern and David Protess, a former professor of investigative journalism, of conspiring against him to free death row inmate Anthony Porter for the 1982 murders of Jerry Hillard and Marilyn Green, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Simon sought $40 million, but the amount of the settlement was not disclosed. Matthew Piers, Protess’s attorney, said Protess admitted no wrongdoing and stood by his work, which he still believes proves Simon’s guilt. Northwestern also admitted no wrongdoing and said it was “pleased” with the settlement. Simon’s attorney declined to comment. Simon also reportedly filed a motion to dismiss claims against private investigator Paul Ciolino, who worked for Protess and obtained a controversial confession from Simon.

Protess founded Medill’s Innocence Project, which helped exonerate 11 wrongfully convicted men, according to the Tribune. He left in Northwestern in 2011 to found his own organization, amid controversy about the project’s tactics. Many of the details in the Simon case remain under seal. Simon has said he was pressed into confessing. His case contributed to the end of the death penalty in Illinois.

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Think Tanks Stress Importance of Completion

Two think tanks, one leaning conservative and the other liberal, have partnered to release five reports detailing the importance of college completion.

The American Enterprise Institute and Third Way have teamed up to offer a series of bipartisan solutions to help policy makers address issues preventing students from graduation.

Each of the reports examines how to improve student outcomes, the importance of being academically prepared, why college completion matters, the best reforms to increase attainment and policy tools that should incentivize getting a degree.

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California online community college proposal divides legislators and observers

The California system firmly believes adult learners in the state will benefit from more nondegree options -- but some existing colleges think they're better positioned to serve those students.

Columbia College Online eliminates fees, textbook costs for students for transparency, affordability

Columbia College Online wants students to pay less per credit hour, and to know up front how much they're paying. The move marks another salvo in the debate over the value of online education.

Debate on Role of Theory in Discipline of History

Three historians last week issued a manifesto, saying that the discipline of history has become dominated by empiricist approaches, to the neglect of the role of theory. This approach, they argue, limits the relevance of history as a field. "Existing academic history promotes a disciplinary essentialism founded upon a methodological fetishism," says their document. "Treating reified appearances (i.e. immediately observable, preferably archival, evidence) as embodying the real and containing the truth of social relations, it evaluates scholarship based on whether this empiricist method has been capably employed. The field tends to produce scholars rather than thinkers, and regards scholars in technocratic terms."

They added, "History, as a field, encourages a system of discipline or punish. Those whose positions appear to be cutting-edge but hedge their bets and organize their thought around common convention are rewarded, while those who strike out for new territories are condemned. By 'new territories' we mean alternative epistemological inquiries, orientations, or starting points, not new themes or topics. The disciplined are rewarded by the guild while the innovators are punished. Nowhere is this disciplining process more apparent than in the review and publication process of the American Historical Association’s flagship journal. The disciplining occurs via the practice of multiple anonymous reviewers policing their disciplinary turf and then congratulating themselves and their authors for their scientific objectivity and resultant meritocracy."

The American Historical Association has announced steps to "decolonize" its main journal, but the manifesto says that those steps have not gone far enough.

James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association, said that the organization's Research Division planned to discuss the statement this week, but he declined to comment further.

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Compilation on Grading Frustrations and Ideas

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation,  "Grading: Frustrations and Ideas." You may download a copy free, here. And you may sign up here for a free webcast on the themes of the booklet, on Tuesday, June 19 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

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Canada's top digital learning program to be absorbed into academic department

After four decades as a freestanding entity with budget autonomy, a center for distance education programs and research will be absorbed by its university's social sciences and humanities department. Some faculty members are unhappy.

How might new technology tool enabling communication between human and computer affect learning? (opinion)

A new technology tool from MIT enables silent communication between human and computer. Ray Schroeder looks ahead to potential implications for teaching and learning.

U.S. Distance Learning Association has new leader

Reggie Smith III will serve as the U.S. Distance Learning Association's CEO and executive director after serving for seven years as chairman emeritus of the association's board of directors.

In 2009, Smith was elected the first African-American president of the association's board. A year later, he achieved the same milestone in the board's chairman position. He has worked in various capacities since the Distance Learning Association since 2004.


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