Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 26, 2013

Harvard University on Monday sent a letter to thousands of alumni, asking them to volunteer to serve as discussion leaders for a new massive open online course based on a class they took at the university, The New York Times reported. The professor who teaches "The Ancient Greek Hero," said he was thrilled with the idea of a MOOC reaching many more students than he could in Cambridge. But Claudia Filos, editor of content and social media for the course, said that there was a need for more help with discussions. She said that, in some MOOCs, discussions "tend to run off the rails." Alumni who volunteer will be screened before taking on duties monitoring and helping to guide discussions.

 

March 26, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Jason Keller of Chapman University explains how organisms alter one of life’s most fundamental processes in oxygen-poor environments. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

March 26, 2013

CourseSmart, a company that provides online course materials, said it has now partnered with 100 campus learning management systems and campus portals to provide content to students.

That, officials at the six-year-old company said, makes it the industry leader in this space. The company offers 40,000 electronic textbooks from more than 50 publishers, including Pearson and McGraw-Hill Education. Cindy Clarke, the senior vice president of marketing at CourseSmart, said the company’s online offering plugs right into different learning portals, including Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Pearson LearningStudio, Moodle and custom software created by some universities. By integrating its offerings with such portals, the company can give students at the different institutions immediate access to the course materials it sells alongside other class materials posted by instructors and used by students.

Now, the company is beta testing an analytics package, Clarke said. The goal is to produce a program to track how and if students are using materials to let educators see how engaged students are.

Simba, which analyzes publishing trends, predicts the overall market for digital course materials will account for 14 percent of the textbook market by 2014, CourseSmart said.

March 26, 2013

California's community colleges would be serving 600,000 additional students if the system had not absorbed $1.5 billion in budget cuts over four years, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California. Since 2007, the state's 112 community colleges have been forced to substantially reduce staffing, which in turn led to a 21 percent dip in course offerings, the report found. And first-time students were the most likely to be turned away, with a 5 percent enrollment decline even as the number of California high school graduates increased by 9 percent.

March 25, 2013

An effort in Wisconsin to create standards for for-profit colleges has collapsed, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. The state panel had been considering rules that would have required for-profit colleges to show that 60 percent of students who started programs finished them and found jobs. But the panel working on the standards was disbanded, the newspaper reported, amid criticism from the for-profit colleges and some lawmakers.

 

March 25, 2013

Academic Programs International has received a license from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control to operate short- and long-term study abroad programs in Cuba, making it the first study abroad provider organization to announce that it had earned such approval. While regulations released back in 2011 cleared the way for U.S colleges to resume exchange programs in Cuba, the provider organizations were required to submit applications for "specific" licenses – applications that heretofore have gone unapproved. Those in the study abroad field who have been involved in discussions with U.S. government officials say they have been told to expect that other pending applications by study abroad providers will be acted upon shortly. 

"This is really an opening that will increase student participation going forward,” said Brian Whalen, president and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad, which has been advocating on the providers’ behalf. Whalen noted that Forum data show that about 50 percent of colleges' study abroad programs are run in collaboration with providers.

“We’ll see more programs being developed, more universities being able to offer the experience to their students," he said.

March 25, 2013

A student at Florida Atlantic University says that he was suspended from a course for refusing to engage in an activity he said was insulting to his faith. While the university has announced that the activity won't be repeated, it is contesting many details of the student's story.

The student says that as part of a class in intercultural communications, students were told to write the word Jesus on a piece of paper, fold it, and then to stamp on it, CBS4 News reported. The student, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that when he refused, saying the exercise was insulting to his faith, he was suspended. The story was quickly picked up by conservative news and websites, with headlines such as "Professor Makes Students 'Stomp on Jesus.'"

The university released a statement in which it said that it could not comment on experiences of any one student, citing privacy laws. The university said that "no students were forced to take part in the exercise; the instructor told all of the students in the class that they could choose whether or not to participate." Further the university said that "no student has been expelled, suspended or disciplined by the university as a result of any activity that took place during this class."

Nonetheless, the university statement added: "This exercise will not be used again. The university holds dear its core values. We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs."

 

 

March 25, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Ben Horton of the University of Pennsylvania reveals what we know about sea level change over the past two millennia. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

March 25, 2013

The University of Oxford has agreed to review policies under which its St. Hughes College has required applicants to demonstrate -- as a condition of admission -- that they can afford the living expenses, BBC reported. The agreement resolved a suit filed by an applicant who said he was rejected when he could not demonstrate that he had that money on hand. The applicant said that the rules were a human rights violation.

 

March 25, 2013

The University of Maryland at College Park doesn't have a copy of the contract it signed to join the Big 10, The Washington Post reported. The Post filed an open records request for the contract, and was told that the university didn't have a copy. The Big 10, which is not subject to open records requests, keeps all such copies. Maryland officials said that not keeping a copy was in line with Big 10 policies, which are designed to reflect that most of its members are public universities, subject to open records requests.

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