Higher Education Quick Takes
Two days after massive open online course provider Coursera announced the creation of a Chinese-language web portal, edX on Thursday unveiled a new consortium of Chinese partner universities during an event in Beijing.
Some of the universities that will join the initiative, called XuetangX, include Beijing Normal University, China Agricultural University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, National Tsing Hua University, Tsinghua University, the University of Science and Technology of China, and Zhejiang University. The first online courses will launch on Oct. 17.
EdX also announced an initiative to work with French universities on Oct. 3.
Santa Clara University has removed elective abortion from its health coverage for employees, becoming the second Roman Catholic university (with Loyola Marymount University) to be facing faculty backlash over such a decision, The San Jose Mercury News reported. University officials said that they are trying to be consistent with church teachings. But faculty members say that they object both tp the decision, and to the fact that it was made without consultation with professors. "This really makes Santa Clara University's express commitment to openness, diversity and inclusiveness ring hollow," said Nancy Unger, a history professor.
Desire2Learn on Tuesday announced an upgraded version of its learning management system has begun rolling out to the company’s roughly 750 clients. The newest version of the Learning Suite reflects the series of startups Desire2Learn has acquired in recent months, including group collaboration software created by Wiggio.
John Baker, president and CEO of Desire2Learn, said one of the major goals of the new platform is to smooth out the technical difficulties of collaborating across different applications and websites. Instead of logging in to access their online documents on one site and their photos on another, users will be able to tie those credentials to their Learning Suite account.
The platform also features support for institutions to create their own massive open online courses without the use of a MOOC provider. The upgrade will come at no charge to Desire2Learn’s existing customers.
Large numbers of students who have transferred to a four-year institution from a community college before earning an associate degree may be eligible to receive that credential, according to a newly released study from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The report, which is dubbed "Credit When It's Due," looked at the potential for "reverse transfer" policies in 12 states, finding that 27,000 students who had no credential four years after transferring would have been eligible for an associate degree.
Three researchers will share the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems." The winners are Martin Karplus of Université de Strasbourg and Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford University and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California.
Princeton University's new president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, has appointed a faculty committee to review the institution's grading policies. In response to concerns about grade inflation, the university in 2004 adopted a policy stating that each department, over time, award no more than 35 percent of its grades in the A-range. The policy has been widely praised by educators who worry about grade inflation, but many Princeton students have been frustrated by it. In his charge to the committee, Eisgruber wrote: "Since the implementation of the policy ten years ago, the number of A-range grades awarded across departments has become much more consistent. Likewise, the grade inflation of the late '90s and early 2000s has been halted. Yet concerns persist that the grading policy may have unintended impacts upon the undergraduate academic experience that are not consistent with our broader educational goals."
Massive open online course providers Coursera and edX will this fall launch new initiatives to expand their platforms abroad.
Coursera on Tuesday announced it will partner with the Chinese Internet company NetEase to create Coursera Zone, a web portal that will make the MOOC provider’s content available to Chinese students. NetEase operates the website 163.com, which is the world’s 27th most visited site, according to Alexa.com’s Internet rankings. Coursera Zone will feature course synopses, discussion forums and student testimonials in Mandarin Chinese.
In France, edX’s open source code will power a national online learning platform that will be available to the country’s more than 100 universities. The platform, announced last week by the French Ministry of Higher Education, will feature 20 courses that will start in January 2014.
Officials at Georgia Institute of Technology are investigating an e-mail sent by a Phi Kappa Tau member to his fraternity brothers on "luring your rapebait," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. "The institute does not condone this type of behavior and continues to provide resources and education designed to create a supportive campus environment for all students, even those who exercise extremely poor judgment," said the statement. The e-mail, which appeared on several websites Monday, outlines strategies for getting women drunk and having sex with them.