Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 1, 2013

Massive open online course provider Coursera will provide physical spaces in which to use its digital content, the company announced on Thursday. Along with five partner organizations, including the U.S. State Department, Coursera will establish "Learning Hubs" at more than 20 locations around the world, including at campuses and U.S. embassies.

The hubs will provide free access to the Internet and Coursera's MOOCs, but the company is also promising a more traditional learning experience. Some courses will feature in-person sessions, which can range from tutoring to discussions, moderated by a "local facilitator who has familiarity with the subject."

Coursera's announcement is the latest in a trend of MOOC providers expanding abroad. In the past month alone, Coursera and edX have both targeted China to broaden the scope of their platforms.

November 1, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Elaine Handley of Empire State College explores the long literary tradition of writing about inanimate objects. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 1, 2013

The University of Oregon has discovered that some employees working on federal grants padded their pay by putting in for hours they didn't work, The Oregonian reported. The university has already repaid the government $330,000 as a result, and officials said that there are other employee pay records that are still being investigated.

 

October 31, 2013

The Georgia Institute of Technology has in 20 days received almost 1,000 more applications for its low-cost online master's degree than it does in a year for its residential program, according to data released by the university.

The 2,359 applicants are also demographically different from the students who normally apply for the residential program, which is popular among international students. About 80 of applicants for the online program come from the United States, compared to about 20 percent for the residential program. The master's degree program in computer science is a partnership between Georgia Tech, AT&T and massive open online course provider Udacity. The degree costs only $7,000, and university officials have promised it will be as rigorous as the residential program, which can cost up to $40,000 a year.

Men make up about 86 percent of the applicants, and the program has drawn almost as many applicants from Georgia -- 336 -- as California, the highest represented state, with 343 applicants. AT&T employees total 514 of the applicants.

Because of space issues, about 450 of the applicants will start the program in January, but every qualified applicant will be accepted and may start next summer, a spokesman said. University officials have previously said the program could scale up to enroll as many as 10,000 students within three years.

October 31, 2013

The cuts continue in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. East Stroudsburg State University has announced that it is eliminating 15 tenured and tenure-track positions, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The university also plans to close its movement studies and lifetime fitness department and to place a moratorium on bachelor's degrees in music and in French.

 

October 31, 2013

Professors in Cleveland State University's College of Law believe the college dean likened some faculty members with union ties to the devil when awarding them $666 merit raises. The Cleveland State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors filed an unfair labor practice charge with Ohio’s State Employment Relations Board in August against the dean, Craig Boise.

AAUP organizers received raises of $0 or $666 despite “exemplary scholarship and teaching scores,” according to the charge. Of the eight union organizers listed in the charge, two did not receive raises and the remaining six received $666 raises. Other faculty members in the College of Law received $3,000 or $5,000 merit raises, according to the charge.

The charge says Boise’s actions are “a poorly veiled threat in opposition to AAUP’s organizing and concerted activities.” Boise and representatives from Cleveland State University did not respond to requests for comment.

October 31, 2013

San Francisco State University was the site of the first sustained protests for the creation of ethnic studies programs, in the late 1960s. But The Los Angeles Times reported that in the California State University System, of which San Francisco State is a part, ethnic studies is now on the defensive. Administrators have cited enrollment declines to suggest cuts in a number of programs. Faculty leaders are asking for a moratorium on changes to the programs. Experts in the field say that the career focus of so many students today makes it more difficult to attract students. "A discipline like ethnic studies lays itself wide open to the critiques of what the hell do you do with this, can you run a corporation or fly a plane with this?," said Ron Scapp, president of the National Association for Ethnic Studies.

October 31, 2013

A University of Mississippi employee learned the importance of school spirit this month after being reprimanded by an administrator for cheering on an opposing team during a home football game. The reprimand came in the form of a mass letter from the physical plant director to all his staff. According to an article in the Daily Mississippian, which first reported on the incident, "The letter states that while the university will never tell its employees whom they can or cannot cheer for, there is an expectation to support Ole Miss while on the clock.... [I]f employees cannot support Ole Miss, they shall 'remain neutral and without comment.' "

The comment in question was actually a tweet, sent while the employee was working the sidelines of the Oct. 19 game versus Louisiana State University. A Mississippi spokesman, Danny N. Blanton, said in an email to Inside Higher Ed that the message was in response to the employee's "game day responsibilities."

"We in no way try to influence who our employees support in their own time," Blanton said. "However, we will ask that when employees are on the clock that they are respectful of their employer and not disrupt the team or the fans. We also ask employees who are hired to do a specific job to do that job and not focus on social media."

Mississippi pulled a major upset over No. 11 LSU to win the game, 27-24.

October 31, 2013

The largest athletic programs -- many of which think they are constrained by the smaller budgets of their peers -- will most likely have to suck it up. Or at least their reprieve probably won't come in the form of a separate division, Nathan Hatch, chair of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I Board of Directors, said in a statement Wednesday. At their quarterly meeting in Indianapolis this week, the university presidents who make up the board's membership heard ideas from various groups regarding NCAA governance and structure. Afterward, the NCAA announced it will create a subcommittee to "develop some alternative plans the membership can discuss" at the association's annual convention in January.

A new governance plan could be put up to a vote as soon as August, Hatch has said.

While Division I will likely remain as is and university presidents should stay in control, an altered rule-making process that allows some flexibility for institutions to make decisions in areas like recruiting and financial aid could emerge as a compromise, the statement said. Currently, all Division I institutions must abide by the same limitations and rules, despite their drastically different budget levels.

The board identified other key elements to emerge from the feedback this week: the board should be less focused on day-to-day operations and more focused on overarching strategy for Division I; the division needs a more transparent, fast-moving, streamlined and simple governance process; and all groups, particularly athletics directors and athletes, should have "representation within the governance structure."

The much-discussed prospect of a new division or subdivision for the largest athletic programs garnered support (or at least consideration) from numerous organizations, conference commissioners and faculty groups. But others, including associations of athletics directors and faculty athletics representatives, as well as the Division I Leadership Council, oppose the idea.

October 31, 2013

Janet Napolitano, one month into her University of California System presidency, made her first substantive address in that role Wednesday night, in a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. She said that, in two weeks, she will be sharing some "big ideas" with the university's Board of Regents. But in a hint of her priorities, she announced several initiatives Wednesday. She proposed a $5 million increase in spending on postdoctoral fellows and a $5 million increase in spending on recruiting graduate students. "Graduate students and postdocs are the essential links between teaching for California and researching for the world. They are our future faculty members. They are our future innovators. They are our future Nobel laureates. They merit our additional support right now," she said, in the prepared version of her remarks.

Napolitano also announced that she was setting aside $5 million to help UC students who lack the legal documentation to reside in the United States. She reiterated her view (from her time as U.S. secretary of homeland security) that federal law should give such students a path toward citizenship. But she said that the university will do more to help them now. The new funds, she said, will be used "to support these students with resources like trained advisers, student service centers and financial aid. Consider this a down payment -- one more piece of evidence of our commitment to all Californians. UC will continue to be a vehicle for social mobility."

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