Researchers who used a remote control helicopter to collect samples of whale snot and demonstrated that, "on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes" were among those honored last night with Ig Nobel Prizes, the annual recognition granted to scholarly work that "first makes people laugh, then makes them think." The awards, made by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, come out just before -- but hardly presage -- the Nobel prizes. In one other award -- and this was almost too easy, wasn't it? -- the group honored BP (and three researchers who wrote a paper on the subject) "for disproving the old myth that oil and water don't mix." A full list of the winners is available here.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The Southern Regional Education Board has issued a series of practical and policy recommendations designed to help 16 Southern states do their part toward the Obama administration's college completion goal. The report, "No Time to Waste," calls on each state to ensure that 60 percent of its 25- to 64-year-olds have a postsecondary credential by 2025, and offers specific proposals for state and institutional leaders to do so.
The federal government may have no need for a website that would allow students to compare the rates and terms of education loans, given changes in the market and the difficulties inherent in creating such a tool, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Wednesday.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association did not violate federal antitrust law or interfere with the business of a lacrosse stick manufacturer by changing its rules governing equipment in the sport, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. Warrior Sports, which makes sporting equipment, had argued that the NCAA's decision to change the allowable dimensions of lacrosse sticks had damaged the company's business, but the court ruled that the rule change affected all companies similarly and did not in any way single out Warrior.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday signed legislation that will ensure admission to the California State University System for students who earn a newly established transfer degree from one of the state's community colleges. SB 1440 requires each community college district to create an associate degree for transfer and guarantees admission to Cal State for any student who earns one of those degrees. A second measure, AB 2302, directs the University of California to develop a better transfer pathway to its campuses.
SunGard Higher Education announced Tuesday that, in partnership with rSmart, the technology giant would help colleges and universities buy and integrate the open-source Sakai learning platform into their SunGard enterprise systems. The move would appear to give SunGard, which has historically focused on administrative software, some entree into the learning management space by selling subscriptions to rSmart's integrated version of Sakai; the arrangement is also likely to be a boost for Sakai. “As our customers seek to address needs of their students and faculty, they have asked us to provide them with greater flexibility,” Fred Weiss, senior vice president of SunGard Higher Education, said in a news release. “Our partnership with rSmart helps achieve this as it provides access to a community-source system with a subscription pricing model." The move follows a similar corporate/open-source partnership announced last year between Datatel and Moodlerooms, a provider of hosting and services for Moodle, another open-source learning management platform.
The technology infrastructure of postsecondary institutions continues to improve -- but the gap between doctorate and nondoctorate institutions, as measured by bandwidth, is also growing, according to a report released by the National Science Foundation. The report contains a wealth of information about the cyberinfrastructure of colleges and universities, including data on the speed and types of institutions' connections to the Internet generally and to research networks in particular, and access to high-performance computing systems. While the data show that higher education as a whole is hurtling forward into better, faster technology, it is doing so unevenly, with the gap widening instead of shrinking. In 2005, 24 percent of doctorate-granting universities and 14 percent of non-doctorate-granting institutions had total bandwidth of at least 1 gigabyte; by 2007, those figures had risen to nearly 39 percent and 20 percent, respectively. (The study estimates that the numbers by 2008 had changed to about 50 percent and 25 percent.) And 62 percent of the non-doctorate-granting institutions had bandwidth of 100 megabytes or less, compared with just 24 percent of doctorate-granting institutions.
The president of Western Governors University is one of three recipients of the 2010 McGraw Prize in Education, which this year sought to recognize contributions designed to bring successful educational reforms to scale. The prizes, worth $25,000 each and awarded annually to people who've made a major contribution to improving education in the United States, are awarded by McGraw-Hill. This year's recipient in postsecondary education is Robert W. Mendenhall, president of Western Governors, for expanding the nonprofit, online institution to 20,000 students and building support for its model of competency-based education and training. The other recipients were Larry Rosenstock of High Tech High, in secondary education, and Christopher Cerf, creator of the children's television show "Between the Lions," in pre-kindergarten and elementary education.
A student wearing a suit and bearing a rifle began shooting Tuesday in a plaza at the University of Texas at Austin, firing several times into the air but hitting no one, before entering a campus library and killing himself, the Associated Press reported. Medical examiners identified the student as a sophomore mathematics major at the university, UT officials said.
A new white paper suggests better ways to promote collaboration in higher education between European and African institutions. The paper, with sections directed at governments, universities and development agencies, reflects work by the European University Association, the Association of African Universities, the Flemish Inter-University Council for Development Cooperation, the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions, the European Access Network and the European Students’ Union.