Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

November 15, 2013

Bowie State University has announced that it is ending student health insurance due to the increased costs associated with the new federal health care law. The university is encouraging students to either get on their parents' plans or participate in Maryland's health insurance exchange.

 

November 14, 2013

Faculty members at George Washington University last week sounded the alarm about a new online course policy that appeared to present a breach of academic freedom, but the outrage quickly evaporated after the administration specified it only applied to accessibility testing and technical issues.

The furor was sparked by a memo sent from Provost Steven Lerman’s office that some faculty members interpreted as the administration granting itself the power to share course content with outside groups and change it without consulting the instructor.

“In order to provide centralized review of GW’s online courses to ensure compliance with legal requirements imposed by federal, state, or district law (e.g., that materials are reasonably accessible as required under federal disability laws) , the Provost’s Office may, at its discretion, grant access to online course materials and recordings of online discussions to auditors, outside contractors, or designated University personnel for the purpose of reviewing such materials for legal compliance or to propose improvements to GW’s online education programs,” the memo read.

Lerman clarified the administration’s intentions during a Faculty Senate meeting last Friday, said Charles A. Garris, a professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science who was in attendance.

“They put forth this badly written memo, and there was a big misunderstanding, and they have absolutely no intention of releasing online course materials without faculty members’ authorization,” Garris said. “I think it was more more or less a tempest in a teapot.”

Garris’s take on the situation shows how the faculty’s outrage has deflated over the weekend. When the issue was reported in the student newspaper The GW Hatchet on Friday, Philip W. Wirtz, vice dean of programs and education, was quoted as saying the policy appeared “to be a clear trampling of faculty rights.”

Paul S. Berman, vice provost for online education and academic innovation, further elaborated on the policy in a statement.

“The policy is only meant to help the university ensure that all of our online courses are in compliance with various legal and accreditation requirements by allowing us to grant access to administrators or to third parties hired by the university to audit for such compliance issues and make recommendations,” Berman said.

For example, the university could grant access to an outside consultant to test if an online course conforms to accessibility standards, or to check the robustness of student identity verification methods and exam integrity, Berman said.

“Sometimes this access must be granted on an expedited basis, making it not feasible to track down every faculty member that may be involved in order to get individualized permission, and since these are legal or accreditation requirements, it is not something that is optional in any event,” Berman said. “Thus, this policy will simply help streamline the compliance process. No broader scope or review of course content or curriculum is contemplated by this policy.”

November 14, 2013

University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst said Wednesday that students misinterpreted her response to their speaking out against sexual assault on campus, The Hartford Courant reported. After seven students filed a Title IX complaint (and subsequent lawsuit) against the university in October, alleging that the university failed to protect them from sexual violence, Herbst said the claims were “astonishingly misguided and demonstrably untrue.” Students held a rally in protest, and state lawmakers called for a hearing on sexual assault on Connecticut campuses (which took place Wednesday afternoon). But on Wednesday Herbst said she was not suggesting the students were lying, but was rather responding to “the broad allegation of institutional indifference.”

November 14, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Sophie Wuerger of the University of Liverpool explains how our perception of color remains constant even though our vision degrades with age. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

November 14, 2013

Google on Wednesday announced a $3.2 million grant that four organizations will share to produce data-based research on how student veterans are faring in college. The Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Student Veterans of America, Posse Foundation and Veterans of Foreign Wars will study which colleges are the most successful at supporting student veterans, which campus programs have the biggest impact and how veterans' majors of study match up with employment opportunities. The resulting report will be made public, Google officials said, and the company will fund the expansion of programs that are found to be the most effective.

November 14, 2013

University of California students need another tuition freeze in the coming year, and a more rational approach to tuition than the past mix of freezes and large percentage increases, Janet Napolitano said Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported. Napolitano -- the new president of the university system -- made the proposal to the university's Board of Regents. Over the long run, she said, the university must strive to keep costs to students and families under control. "I want tuition to be as low as possible, and I want it to be as predictable as possible," she said. Napolitano said that she wanted to work "to bring clarity to, and reduce volatility in, the tuition-setting process." She also said she wanted to increase the number of transfer students from the state's community colleges.

 

November 14, 2013

The University of Colorado at Boulder is starting a major marketing campaign so that more people know about the university's academic excellence, and to fight the campus reputation as a party school, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. Officials did focus groups in which they asked people for celebrities that they associated in some way with the university, and answers such as Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan reinforced the concern about the impact of the party school reputation. The new campaign is called "Be Boulder," and focuses on accomplishments and qualities of Boulder students, faculty members and alumni.

November 13, 2013

Children with professional parents are about three times likelier than those with working-class parents to be admitted to the most selective universities in England and Australia as well as the United States, according to a study reported by Times Higher Education. The study, produced in conjunction with a conference sponsored by the Sutton Trust, a British philanthropy focused on educational access for those with low-income backgrounds, concludes that while a significant portion of the gap in access can be explained by differences in educational preparation, about a quarter of it cannot.

 

November 13, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Max Guyll of Iowa State University reveals how an innocent person can be driven to confess to a crime. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 13, 2013

Elsevier on Tuesday became the latest academic publisher to add an adaptive learning component to its products. The company announced it will use a memory management tool provided by Cerego, a company based in California and Japan, to help nursing students learn basic concepts.

Cerego is content agnostic, meaning the technology can be applied to any topic. With textbooks, for example, subject matter experts can go through a chapter, highlight important concepts and feed the data to Cerego, which will turn the concepts into review exercises. As students complete the exercises, the system will tailor the content to test students on gaps in their knowledge, and also calculate how often they should review.

“Our vision for this goes beyond what we have today, but our current app is really, really good at translating that foundational information into personal knowledge,” founder and executive chairman Andrew Smith Lewis said.

Elsevier is looking to add the adaptive learning technology to the majority of its titles, Smith Lewis said. The company will roll out titles throughout the year.

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