Higher Education Quick Takes
A day after Blackboard announced its acquisition of two prominent Moodle partners and the creation of an open-source services arm, various Web discussion boards were abuzz with chatter about the implications. At Moodle.org's official "Lounge" forum, some open-source advocates lamented what they read as a corporate intrusion on the open-source community -- prompting Martin Dougiamas, the founder and lead developer of Moodle, to defend his decision to lend moral support to Blackboard’s takeovers of Moodlerooms and NetSpot.
“Moodle itself has not, and will not, be purchased by anyone,” Dougiamas wrote to a discussion thread. “I am committed to keeping it independent with exactly the same model it has now.” While the new Blackboard subsidiaries and their clients have produced many helpful modifications to Moodle’s code, “it's always up to me to include [modifications] in core (after it gets heavily reviewed by our team),” Dougiamas said, “otherwise it goes into Moodle Plugins.” He added that Moodle still has dozens of other partner companies that are not owned by Blackboard.
Charles Severance, another big name in the open-source movement who not only endorsed the deal but has been hired to work with Blackboard’s new open-source services division, expanded on the implications of the move in a post on his own blog. “The notion that we will somehow find the ‘one true LMS’ that will solve all problems is simply crazy talk and has been for quite some time,” Severance wrote. “I am happy to be now working with a group of people at Blackboard that embrace the idea of multiple LMS systems aimed at different market segments.” The watchword of this era of multiple learning platforms per campus, he said, is interoperability, and that will be a priority for him in his new capacity with Blackboard. (This paragraph has been updated since publication.)
Severance assured the open-source community that contributions he makes to Sakai on Blackboard company time will remain open, and that he “[doesn’t] expect to become a developer of closed-source applications.”
A few years ago, a number of community colleges introduced "midnight classes," courses meeting late at night, at a time that works for some working adults (and for institutions without space during peak hours). The Miami Herald reported that Miami Dade College and a few other institutions have started courses that meet at 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. For some students, this is the time that they have free. Students report that the courses fit their schedules and it's one time of day that parking is easy to find.
Princeton Review is selling the test-prep business around which a larger education business has grown, and is giving the purchaser -- the private equity firm Charlesbank Capital Partners -- its name, the Associated Press reported. Princeton Review was once the upstart in the test-prep business, boasting of teaching test-takers how to outsmart testing companies, but of late has faced competition both from less expensive outfits and from boutique operations. The company will now focus on its Penn Foster division, a for-profit online education provider; it at one point seemed to be an effort to diversify the company's operations, but now appears to be its focus.
The Washington Internship Institute has selected a Vanderbilt University expert on experiential learning to lead the organization. Mark Taylor Dalhouse, founding director of Vanderbilt's Washington internship program and a lecturer in history and assistant dean at the university, will succeed Mary Ryan as the institute's president and CEO. The internship institute sponsors numerous programs that place American and foreign college students in government and international relations positions.
The University of Alabama has extended the contract of its head football coach, Nick Saban, in a way that boosts his annual pay by $550,000 a year and restores his status (at least for the moment) as the country's best-paid coach, the Associated Press reported. (Saban had been the best-paid coach when Alabama hired him in 2007, but he had since been passed up by others.) The new contract, which would keep Saban at the university until 2019, will pay him $5.32 million in 2013 in salary, benefits and what Alabama calls "talent fees," which include his contracts with apparel and media companies; that total will rise to $5.9 million by the end of the contract, AP reported.
Gov. Chris Christie's plan to restructure New Jersey's higher education system -- most notably (and controversially) by merging Rutgers University's Camden campus into Rowan University -- needs the approval of the state Legislature before it takes effect, an independent panel in the state declared Monday, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark. Christie had signaled a willingness to work around the legislature to push through the plan, which includes merging parts of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers. But the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, in a non-binding opinion obtained by The Star-Ledger, said the plan requires the approval of lawmakers.
In a related development, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg asked U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to look into Christie's proposed restructuring of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Lautenberg's letter expressed concern that the plan was "crafted to benefit powerful political interests without regard for the impact on students."
The trustees of the University of Massachusetts on Monday selected Kumble R. Subbaswamy, provost of the University of Kentucky, as chancellor of the system's flagship campus in Amherst, which will have had four chancellors in a decade. The reign of the current chancellor, Robert C. Holub, went off the rails last spring when word leaked that a UMass panel had recommended that his contract not be renewed. Subbaswamy, a physicist, has been provost at Kentucky since 2006, and previously served as a dean at Indiana University at Bloomington and the University of Miami. (Note: This item has been updated from an earlier version to correct Subbaswamy's academic discipline.)
The National University of Singapore has revoked the scholarship of and imposed other punishments on a Chinese student who posted online comments saying that Singaporeans were "more dogs than humans," Asia One reported. The comment infuriated many in Singapore. The student -- who has apologized -- must pay a fine of $3,000 and do three months of community service to be eligible to graduate.
When Datatel and SunGard Higher Education merged last year, the two companies said that the combined venture would have a new name, but one wasn't ready. So the merged company has been called Datatel + SGHE. On Monday, the entity announced a new name: Ellucian. Michelle Reed, chief marketing officer, said in a statement that "Ellucian evokes the clarity and light that learning brings to life, aspects that we aspire to share in our relationships with institutions of higher, further and vocational education around the world."
University of Minnesota graduate student workers have voted against unionization, The Star-Tribune reported. About 62 percent of graduate assistants opposed forming a union, according to results announced Monday, with two-thirds of 4,400 eligible students voting. This was the fourth failed attempt since 1990 to unionize graduate workers. University administrators said they were pleased with the results.