The Florida Senate passed a measure Wednesday designed to allow outside groups, including the providers of massive open online courses, to offer credit-bearing courses to Florida public college students. The measure has been amended significantly since it was first introduced by a Republican senator as a way to take on the accreditation system. The new version of the bill, which the Senate inserted into a digital education bill the House had sent the Senate earlier, substitutes the phrase “Florida Approved Courses” for the old phrase “Florida-accredited” courses and adds requirements that outside course providers must meet to qualify their courses for the new pool, including limitations on the subject areas that MOOCs can be used for.
Higher Education Quick Takes
In today’s Academic Minute, John Ragosta of Hamilton College explores the historical roots of the National Day of Prayer. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Pacific Lutheran University has become the latest to object to a possible union of non-tenure-track faculty members, saying that collective bargaining could infringe on the institution's religious mission, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported. Several other religious universities are currently making the same argument in various cases before the National Labor Relations Board. They cite court rulings limiting NLRB authority at religious institutions. Union organizers argue that adjuncts want to negotiate over pay and benefits, not religion.
Dining hall workers at Pomona College voted Tuesday, 57 to 26, to unionize and to be represented by Unite Here, The Los Angeles Times reported. The vote followed a three-year campaign, marked by numerous campus protests by students backing the workers.
A majority of the 18 universities in Quebec have said they will leave the association that represents postsecondary institutions in the province, University Affairs reported. According to the publication, the institutions are unhappy about how well the group has represented their needs, partly because of its muted response to recent government budget cuts.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently annoyed academics in his country by suggesting that only a law-and-order approach was needed to fight terrorism, and that people should not "commit sociology." In response, "Worldviews 2013: Global Trends in Media and Higher Education," a conference organized by academic and journalism organizations (of which Inside Higher Ed is a co-sponsor), has invited attendees (in a spoof of Britain's wartime slogan) to "Keep Calm and Commit Sociology." Details on the conference and buttons with the new slogan are available here.
There are more than 120 programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision – the top level of National Collegiate Athletic Association competition – but only 23 of them turned a profit in 2012, according to a new NCAA report on athletic department finances. That is despite upward movement in generated revenues: a 4.6 percent increase at FBS programs and a 9.06 percent increase at the smaller Football Championship Subdivision ones. While the median spending at FBS programs is $56 million, for other institutions, it hovers around $14 million. FBS median expenses increased 10.8 percent above the previous year, compared to 6.8 percent at FCS programs and 8.8 percent at Division I institutions without football. The report also notes the gap in the growth of expenses between institutional and athletics spending. At FBS programs, the median athletics expenses increase was 4.4 percent higher than the institutional increase. At FCS and Division I no-football colleges, the gap was 3 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.
An open letter from 1,000 Australian academics to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, published today in newspapers across that country, calls for an end to cuts in spending at universities, The Australian reported. "Universities have made by far and away the largest saving contributions of any federal budget line item," the letter says. "We feel betrayed and taken for granted. Your government's cuts fundamentally jeopardize the future of our sector."
Coursera, the Silicon Valley-based provider of massive open online courses, is entering the teacher education market. The company is partnering with teachers colleges and other educational institutions to provide online professional development courses for K-12 teachers and parents. The company described the new effort as its first foray into early childhood and K-12 and its first partnerships with non-degree-bearing institutions, including art museums.
With this, the company may be eyeing a professional development market that includes about 3.7 million teachers in American plus millions more across the world. “We want to help K-12 students by helping their teachers,” Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said in a statement announcing the new program. “Many schools just don’t have the resources to provide teachers and parents the training and support they need. By providing free online courses on how to teach, we hope to improve this.”
A revenue plan was not immediately clear. The company has been committed to offering its courses for free but is charging some users who want bona fide certificates of completion. A company spokeswoman said in an e-mail that Coursera will be working with school districts to see how the courses could be used for required professional development training and she said teachers are also encouraged to talk to their administrators to seek approval.
Gordon Brown, the United Nations special envoy for global education said in the company statement that Coursera’s plan is “an important and crucial innovation” to meet the “global challenge of training and supporting over 2 million more teachers” by the end of 2015.
Coursera's partners in the venture are University of Washington's college of education; University of Virginia's school of education; Johns Hopkins University's school of education; Match Education’s Sposato Graduate School of Education; Peabody College of education and human development, Vanderbilt University; Relay Graduate School of Education; University of California at Irvine Extension; the American Museum of Natural History; The Commonwealth Education Trust; Exploratorium; The Museum of Modern Art; and New Teacher Center.
Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has lost his appeal of the decision to deny him tenure, Yahoo! Singapore reported. George, who researches press freedoms and state power in Singapore, was denied tenure for a second time in February despite rave reviews from international colleagues and current and former students. Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a journalism professor at Cardiff University and an external reviewer of George’s tenure application, told Inside Higher Ed that George’s teaching and research records are “stellar… so much so that he could easily get a full professorship elsewhere in my estimation.” Theodore L. Glasser, a professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University and George’s dissertation adviser, wrote in a letter that George’s “studies of journalism in Singapore set an agenda – for himself and for others – for research that extends far beyond Singapore.”
“Finally, I want to be unambiguously clear about what I think is at stake here," Glasser's letter concludes. "Cherian George’s career is on the line, and that’s obviously very important to him and to his friends and colleagues. But just as important is NTU’s reputation as a university of international standing. Many of us view this case as a measure of not only NTU’s commitment to academic freedom but its commitment to apply its promotion and tenure standards fairly and equitably.” Although George was promoted to associate professor in 2009, the promotion was de-coupled from the awarding of tenure.
George did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. A spokesman for NTU declined to comment on George's case, "as it is NTU's policy to keep all employment matters confidential."