Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 3:00am

In today's Academic Minute, Martin H. Krieger, professor of planning at the University of Southern California, discusses art in the Motor City. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Cengage Learning is expanding its presence in the online program management market with the acquisition of ed-tech company Learning Objects and its learning platform, Difference Engine.

Cengage CEO Michael Hansen called the acquisition a “logical extension” of what the company, primarily known as a publisher, does today. Cengage already has an online learning platform of its own, MindTap, but it is primarily used by students as an alternative to a physical textbook in individual courses. With the acquisition of Learning Objects, Cengage will soon be able to help colleges put entire degree programs online, he said.

“Learning Objects had the right middleware for that work and what the institutions want in terms of integrating different courses with each other, making sure that the learning gets transferred to the other courses,” Hansen said in an interview.

The acquisition gives Cengage a new argument for why colleges should partner with the company instead of any of the other players in what is rapidly becoming a crowded market for online program management providers: it can offers its own content and a platform to host it. While other companies offer a full suite of services, from marketing to retention support, Hansen said Cengage doesn’t want to “overreach,” and that it will leave those responsibilities to institutions.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Learning Objects' engineers will be integrated into Cengage's technology group, Hansen said, and the company's long-term plans involve combining the features of the two different platforms to offer MindTap on an institutional level.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Federal regulation of government-funded research at colleges and universities is so burdensome on the institutions that it's diminishing the effectiveness of federal investment in research, a new report published Wednesday says.

The report, commissioned by Congress and produced by the National Academy of Sciences, found that growing federal requirements on research institutions were forcing researchers to spend more time on administrative matters instead of their research. It recommends that Congress, the White House and federal research agencies take steps to create more uniform rules and eliminate redundancies.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 4:16am

This item has been updated.

The discovery of what looked like three nooses on a tree at the University of Delaware Tuesday evening upset many, but it turned out that they weren't nooses.

Nancy M. Targett, acting president, issued a statement after the discovery of the apparent nooses that said in part: “Such cowardly and reprehensible acts are clearly designed to intimidate and frighten, and they are unacceptable on our campus. I assure you we will work diligently to get to the bottom of this situation, identify the person or persons responsible, and hold them accountable for their actions.” She also scheduled a campus gathering for today in response.

But she then sent a second message to campus this morning in which she said that the apparent nooses were “the remnants of paper lanterns” from a previous event. The campus gathering will go on as scheduled today because, she wrote, “the sensitivity of our campus to this potential issue clearly indicates a need for continuing dialogue within our community.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 4:28am

The student body president at the University of Southern California, who was born in India, has set off a broad discussion on campus by reporting what happened to her while walking by a fraternity house, The Los Angeles Times reported. Rini Sampath, the student body president, wrote on Facebook that while she and friends were walking past a fraternity (which she didn't name), a fraternity member screamed at her that she was “an Indian piece of” (an expletive) and threw a drink at her. “Once his fraternity brothers realized it was me, they began to apologize,” Sampath wrote on Facebook. “This stung even more. Today, as I try to unpack these events, I couldn’t quite figure out why their after-the-fact apologies deepened the wound. But one of my friends explained it to me the best this morning: ‘Because now you know, the first thing they see you as is subhuman.’ And that’s the first thing some students on our campus see when they look at anyone who looks like me.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Pope Francis arrived Tuesday in the United States, and many Roman Catholic colleges are getting involved in his visit.

  • A University of Notre Dame professor crafted, at Spotify’s behest, a playlist for the music streaming service in advance of the pope’s visit. In addition to plenty of classical and liturgical music, Tim O'Malley, director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, also included Bruce Springsteen, Boyz II Men and Alicia Keys.
  • Just under 100 Catholic college presidents in the United States, and almost 80 from elsewhere in the world, signed a document supporting the pope’s “courageous leadership” on climate change, according to the Catholic News Service. In the pledge, signatories commit to “integrate care for the planet, integral human development and concern for the poor within our research projects, our educational curricula and public programming, our institutional infrastructures, policies and practices, and our political and social involvement as colleges and universities.”
  • Catholic colleges near Washington, New York and Philadelphia have donated parking, canceled classes and sent volunteers, also according to the Catholic News Service. Many colleges that are farther away have set up live streams of the pope's events, and some have encouraged students to take the “Walk with Francis” pledge, committing themselves to prayer, service or advocacy work advancing the pope’s mission. Others are holding talks or panels, and one “pope-a-palooza,” four days of “service, prayer and advocacy work.”
  • The president of one Catholic college is taking some time off from his day job during the pope’s visit to serve temporarily as national media correspondent for several different outlets. The Reverend James Maher, president of Niagara University, will serve as expert commentator for The Tavis Smiley Show and Telecare TV, a 24-hour Catholic news network, among other outlets.
  • Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, offered a weekend pope workshop including lunch for $25.
  • St. Mary’s College of Maryland is sending a biology professor to sing for Pope Francis at the canonization Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. His co-workers were surprised, Jeff Byrd told WTOP, because “My voice doesn’t sound anything like my singing voice. I’ve been told I have more of a Kermit the Frog speaking voice.”
Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Flipping the classroom is particularly beneficial for women and students with low grades, according to a new study by researchers at Yale University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The findings emerge from five years' worth of data gathered from an upper-level biochemistry course first taught in a traditional setting, then flipped. Students in the flipped sections of the course scored 12 percent higher on exams than students in sections that used lectures, and the flipped sections also showed less of a gap between the exam scores earned by male and female students. Students with the lowest overall grade point averages appeared to benefit the most from flipping the classroom. The study appears in the December issue of CBE -- Life Sciences Education, a journal of the American Society for Cell Biology.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, on Tuesday signed into law legislation to limit severance packages for community college presidents to no more than one year of salary and benefits, The Chicago Tribune reported. The law also limits contracts to four years and requires public notes and public votes to approve changes. The law was prompted by widespread anger over payments that the College of DuPage, a community college outside Chicago, agreed to make to President Robert Breuder -- totaling $763,000 -- to retire in March 2016, three years early. While the DuPage board, with new members, is trying to undo that contract provision, many are calling for broader reforms.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 3:00am

Syracuse University opted not to use its "kiss cam" during this weekend's football game, after a letter to the editor on Syracuse.com questioned its appropriateness given colleges' current focus on preventing sexual assault. Kiss cams are a popular staple of football and basketball games. During game delays, the camera seeks out couples, encouraging them to kiss. The kiss is displayed on the Jumbotron, often to cheers from the crowd.

But the author of last week's letter stated that the kiss cam "can encourage and condone sexual assault and a sense of male entitlement" by coaxing men to kiss the women they are seated next to, even if the women do not want to be kissed. "We are taking the time to assess the concerns expressed in the letter to the editor," Sue Edson, executive senior associate athletics director for communications, said on Monday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 3:00am

The U.S. Department Education said Tuesday it is poised to release an extensive reference guide for institutions that are participating in an experiment on competency-based education. Since that project was begun last year, the department said it became clear that more guidance was needed -- for both colleges and accrediting agencies.

The department has yet to release the document publicly, but plans to post it at this link.

“We believe that this guide will offer tremendous support for both experienced and new competency-based education providers as they implement this experiment,” Ted Mitchell, the under secretary of education, said in a written statement. “We recognize that many of you were anticipating that the guide would be released earlier this summer, but it was very important for us to have a high level of confidence that the guidance it contains is on very firm ground.”

The experiment also will expand, the department also announced, to better include institutions with competency-based programs that are based on a subscription model. Under this approach, students can work through educational content and assessments at their own pace, paying a single fee for a specific amount of time.

Under the experiment’s expansion the department will change its financial aid disbursement period to fit with the subscription model.


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