The University of Maryland University College -- an institution known for distance education -- has announced that it will award academic credit to those who complete six massive open online courses and who pass tests offered for those courses, CBS News DC reported. The MOOCs are introductory mathematics and science courses, and are offered by Coursera and Udacity.
Anant Agarwal, president of edX, one of the major providers of massive open online courses, appeared on "The Colbert Report" this week, where he faced some questions on MOOCs that journalists had previously failed to ask him, at least not the Stephen Colbert way. After Agarwal explained the basic concept of MOOCs, Colbert asked if he was talking about the University of Phoenix. After Agarwal explained that MOOCs are free, Colbert said that if he owned a shoe store, and Agarwal was an employee and suggested giving away shoes for free, "I would fire you and throw shoes at your head."
In today’s Academic Minute, Alan Willner of the University of Southern California reveals how twisting light could drastically increase data transmission speeds. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Harvard University acted in "good faith" in conducting secret searches of e-mail files of some instructors, an outside report has concluded, The Boston Globe reported. The outside report, by a law firm, was commissioned amid widespread faculty and student anger over the e-mails searches, which were conducted as the university was concerned about leaks about a cheating investigation. Administrators believed at the time that they were acting in ways consistent with university policies, and administrators did not read the e-mail messages in the accounts that were searched, the report said.
High school and middle school teachers think students' writing is affected by digital tools, for better and for worse, according to a survey led by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Of the 2,462 Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers surveyed, 68 percent said digital tools make students more likely to take shortcuts and 48 percent said students are writing too carelessly and quickly. But, at the same time, teachers said students' potential exposure to a broader audience online and the feedback they receive from peers encourage investment in writing and the process of writing. “These results challenge in many ways the notion that students’ writing skills are being undermined by their increasing engagement with digital tools and platforms,” said Kristen Purcell, the associate director for research at the Pew Internet Project. “Teachers do have concerns that digital tools are blurring the lines between formal and informal writing and see writing skills that need improvement, but they also see the benefit of students having more people respond to their writing and the increased opportunities for expression these digital tools offer.”
Blackboard, the classroom software company, may be heading in the right direction, judging from a question and answer session with top executives the company hosted for customers on Thursday.
The unusual ritual at Bb World of subjecting executives to public and not always positive feedback from clients has served as a big griping session for perturbed customers in previous years. The company has lost market share over the last several years, according to annual surveys by the Campus Computing Project, though Blackboard remains the largest provider of learning management systems to American colleges.
This week, clients who stood up to talk to the executives generally tossed aside those overarching gripes as things of the past. Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt joined the company seven months ago following the departure of Michael Chasen, a co-founder.
Jean Mankoff, the director of learning technology support at Texas Woman's University who has attended 14 of the company's conferences, praised Ray Henderson, who joined the company four years ago. She said the company had lost its collegial feeling for several years until recently.
The company is not without issues, however. Mankoff said the company had too many different product lines and sometimes she feels like she is working with different companies when she tries to purchase each product. That's something Bhatt said he is working to fix. Another user complained a featured in one of the disparate product lines had been neglected.
Another customer complained the software has become so feature-laden that faculty have trouble using it, something Bhatt also said he is working to deal with.