Harvard University on Monday sent a letter to thousands of alumni, asking them to volunteer to serve as discussion leaders for a new massive open online course based on a class they took at the university, The New York Times reported. The professor who teaches "The Ancient Greek Hero," said he was thrilled with the idea of a MOOC reaching many more students than he could in Cambridge. But Claudia Filos, editor of content and social media for the course, said that there was a need for more help with discussions. She said that, in some MOOCs, discussions "tend to run off the rails." Alumni who volunteer will be screened before taking on duties monitoring and helping to guide discussions.
The University of Melbourne is a member of Coursera, one of the primary (and U.S.-based) platforms for massive open online courses. But an all-Australian MOOC platform was launched today, The Conversation reported. Several universities are already signed up to offer free courses through the platform, called Open2Study.
About a third of distance learning operations have not applied for any authorization to operate, though on average they serve students in more than 30 states or territories. Still, compliance efforts are up from 2011, when two-thirds of institutions had not sought any authorization.
Some institutions are deciding not to apply for authorization in certain states because of compliance efforts, confusion or cost. "As institutions have gained a greater understanding of the laws and regulations of each state, more have opted to bypass those states that they perceive as being too costly or the approval processes too cumbersome, for the number of students they enroll in certain states," said Bruce Chaloux, executive director and chief executive officer of the Sloan Consortium, which helped put together the survey.
About a third of the institutions don't bother to notify students about state authorization issues. Because of that, the report said "students may, unwittingly, get caught in the middle."
The federal government had once tried to require distance education providers to get authorization from each state they have at least one student in, but the government dropped that requirement and now institutions are bound, in theory, only by state regulations.
Officials in New York State have drafted plans to spin off the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering from the State University of New York at Albany, The Albany Times Union reported. The plan would make the nanoscale college its own specialized college, much like SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The nanoscale college has been a major research success for SUNY, attracting considerable industry support. State and SUNY officials declined to comment on the plan, which would require several levels of approval.
The University of California at Irvine is offering video and course materials for all required courses for a chemistry major plus some electives and graduate courses, online and free. Open Chemistry does not provide credit or a laboratory experience, but Irvine says that the material could be used by anyone trying to learn chemistry, and that other institutions could provide laboratory experience or testing to certify learning. Single courses have been provided in the past, and have gained followings online, but Open Chemistry is designed to go further. "That is the key innovation: making a full undergraduate education’s worth of classes available for immediate incorporation in part or in full by institutions of higher education or by individual professors," says a website for the program.
Harvard University secretly searched the e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans -- administrators who work with students on academic and other issues -- trying to identify the source of a leak about the university's cheating scandal, The Boston Globe reported. The news surprised and concerned some at Harvard. The university did not explicitly confirm that it engaged in the secret searches. But the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Michael Smith, issued a statement saying: "Harvard College would take all necessary and appropriate actions under our procedures to safeguard the integrity of that process, which is designed to protect the rights of our students to privacy and due process,” the statement read. And Jeff Neal, a university spokesman, appeared to acknowledge the incident when he denied that e-mail is regularly checked, telling the Globe that "any assertion that Harvard routinely monitors e-mails – for any reason – is patently false."