Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

February 21, 2014

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the two institutions behind the massive open online course provider edX, on Thursday released a set of tools that visualize the age, gender, location and level of education of their almost 2 million MOOC users.

Called Insights, the tools were developed by Sergiy Nesterko and Daniel Seaton, research fellows at HarvardX and MIT, respectively. In a news release, Nesterko said Insights “can help to guide instruction while courses are running and deepen our understanding of the impact of courses after they are complete.”

A side-by-side comparison of HarvardX and MITx’s enrollment numbers shows Harvard’s MOOCs have attracted more than 1 million users to MIT’s roughly 820,000. More than one-third of Harvard’s MOOC students are in the U.S., compared to about one-quarter of MIT’s. The only other country to register in the double digits among either institution is India, whose students account for 15.5 percent of HarvardX’s total enrollment.

Similar to the student bodies at the physical campuses, MITx students are more likely to be male -- 66.2 percent to HarvardX’s 59.5 percent. They are also younger -- MITx’s median age is 27; HarvardX’s, 28 -- and, by a few percentage points, less likely to hold a postsecondary degree. MOOCs are still dominated by students who hold such a degree, however. Among MITx students, 64.6 percent hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and for HarvardX, those students make up more than two-thirds, or 67.8 percent, of the total enrollment.

Insights will be made available to the member institutions in the edX consortium.

February 21, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Michelle Sauther of the University of Colorado Boulder reveals a discovery about the preferred sleeping arrangements of lemurs. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


February 21, 2014

The Texas Faculty Association is suing the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College in federal court on behalf of three tenured professors who say they were fired for being too old, after the two institutions ended a 20-year-old joint operating agreement. Juan Antonio Gonzalez, a professor of modern languages; Dorothy Boven, an assistant professor of English; and Karen Fuss-Sommer, an instructor of nursing, all were granted tenure at Texas Southmost prior to the merger of the college and university in 1992 but had their tenure revoked following their split in 2012.

The lawsuit alleges that was due to an administrative charge that prioritized the retention of non-tenure-track faculty members with master’s degrees over tenured faculty without master’s degrees during downsizing related to the split. But the professors, all over 40, say their positions weren’t even eliminated, and that they were replaced with younger professors without due process.

"Tenure is a property right, and it is not to be taken without good cause or due process, and these individuals were denied both,” said Mary Aldridge Dean, executive director the Texas Faculty Association, affiliated with the National Education Association, in a news release. Some 80 tenure-line and non-tenure-track faculty lost their jobs following the institutions' split.

A spokeswoman from Brownsville said the university does not comment on pending litigation. Texas Southmost did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

February 21, 2014

The public safety director at Illinois's Concordia University has been fired after his arrest for allegedly masturbating in a colleague's office, The Chicago Tribune reported. A female employee told police that she spotted Timothy Margis adjusting his belt while leaving her office, and then discovered semen in one of her shoes. Officers arrested him at his home for misdemeanor public indecency and disorderly conduct, and Concordia suspended and then fired him, the newspaper reported.

February 20, 2014

Eight students at Fordham University have contracted mumps, CBS New York reported. All of the students had prior vaccinations, but those vaccinations do not provide full protection.


February 20, 2014

"Changing Student Pathways" is a collection of news articles and essays -- in print-on-demand format -- about the different paths students take (including some detours) on the way to a college degree or certificate.The articles aren't breaking news, rather analyses about long-term trends and some of the forward-looking thinking of experts about the changes in the routes students take through higher education. The goal is to provide these materials in one easy-to-read place. Download the booklet here.

This is the latest in a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.
On Thursday, March 6, at 2 p.m. EST, Inside Higher Ed's editors will discuss these issues in a free webinar. Sign up to participate by clicking here.


February 20, 2014

The personal information of 309,079 students, faculty members and staffers at the University of Maryland's campuses at College Park and Shady Grove has been compromised, university officials announced on Wednesday. The cybersecurity breach was first reported by The Diamondback. In a letter to the community, President Wallace Loh said anyone at the two campuses who has received a university ID number since 1998 is affected. The compromised database included names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, but no financial or academic information, Loh wrote.

"I am truly sorry," Loh wrote. "Computer and data security are a very high priority of our University."

The breach is still under investigation, but Loh said the university will offer a free year of credit monitoring to those affected.

February 20, 2014

University of Wyoming officials are speaking out against legislation that would require deans to meet twice a year with state legislators to discuss various issues, The Star-Tribune reported. Legislators say they want to work more closely with the university, but many academics believe that it is the job of the president and the board to lead deans -- and to communicate with politicians.

February 20, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Daniel Scott of the University of Waterloo discusses the potential inability for previous winter Olympic host cities to host the games again due to changing weather patterns. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


February 20, 2014

Some state legislator are calling for the University of Oklahoma to return a painting that was looted by the Nazis to the Jewish family that once owned it, The Oklahoman reported. Family members have sued the university, but Oklahoma has said it will not return the painting unless ordered to do so by a court. There is no dispute that the Nazis looted the painting from the family, but the university cites a 1953 court ruling in Switzerland that the family waited too long to claim the painting. “The university does not want to keep any items which it does not legitimately own,” said David Boren, president of the university. “However, the challenge to the university, as the current custodian of the painting, is to avoid setting a bad precedent that the university will automatically give away other people’s gifts to us to anyone who claims them.”

But Edie Roodman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma City, said, "I think it’s certainly of concern within the Jewish community that a painting that was plundered under the Nazis was not returned to its rightful owner."

The painting is "Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep," by Camille Pissarro, currently part of the collection of the university's Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.



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