New data on an early MOOC course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are being released today in the journal Research and Practice in Assessment. The data are about the course Circuits and Electronics, which already has been the subject of some analysis. In an article in the journal, researchers reported on the use of course resources by those who earned certificates (greatest use on weekends, when students presumably had more time and just before assignments were due), the use of discussion boards (most students were lurkers, and viewed others comments without adding any of their own), and the countries of origin of students, based on IP addresses and perhaps not completely accurate as a result (greatest enrollments from the United States, followed by India, Britain, Colombia and Spain).
Higher Education Quick Takes
Canadian universities have been seeing steady growth in international enrollments, but only minimal interest from Americans, many of whom could potentially save a lot of money and (for those in some Northern states) enroll at institutions very close to home. An article in The Globe and Mail describes new efforts by some Canadian universities seeking to attract more American students. Special scholarships and increased marketing efforts are being tried by several universities.
Saint Paul's College, a historically black institution in Virginia founded in 1888, will close at the end of this month. While college officials did not respond to reports over the weekend of an imminent closure, the Associated Press reported that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools confirmed that it had been formally notified by the college of plans to close. The college has been in danger of closure since SACS announced a year ago that it was stripping the college of accreditation, making its students ineligible for federal aid. There had been some hope that the college would be rescued by merging with Saint Augustine's College, a historically black college in North Carolina. Both institutions were Both founded by the Episcopal Church. But last month, Saint Augustine's announced that it did not consider that plan viable.
Tenure-track faculty members at the City University of New York have voted overwhelmingly that they have no confidence in Pathways, a controversial curricular shift in the CUNY system designed to make it easier for students at its community colleges to transfer to four-year colleges and in two additional years earn bachelor's degrees. More than 60 percent of eligible voters participated in the no confidence vote, and 92 percent of those voted no confidence. While the goal of smooth transfer from community colleges to four-year colleges is one that is generally endorsed by faculty members and administrators alike, many professors have spoken out against the way this is being done. Some have complained about specific changes in requirements, while others have questioned whether too much control of curricular matters has shifted away from department and college faculties. "It should be clear now, if it was not before, that CUNY should not move forward with Pathways. A 92 percent vote of no confidence is a mandate for change," said a statement issued Saturday by Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the faculty union, which organized the vote.
CUNY officials have defended Pathways as a needed reform to help more students earn bachelor's degrees. The system maintains a webpage with information about the program here.
While a number of adjunct leaders at CUNY have spoken out against Pathways, some have also criticized the vote of no confidence for excluding their participation.
The University of Chicago and the Marine Biological Laboratory, in Woods Hole, Mass., are moving toward a partnership that would involve substantial collaboration but keep the laboratory a freestanding institution. The laboratory's corporation -- largely made up of scientists who currently or formerly used the facilities there -- voted to endorse the move this weekend, and that sets the stage for negotiations over a formal agreement between the boards of the two institutions. The laboratory has been looking for an affiliation that might give it a more stable financial basis, and the University of Chicago has a history of working with laboratories (such as Argonne National Laboratory) that are closely affiliated but not owned by the university. Currently much of the activity at the laboratory takes place in the summer and one possibility for a collaboration is more support that would allow for a full program of teaching and research year-round.
Stanford University reported this week that it has made progress in diversifying its faculty. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of underrepresented minority faculty members (black, Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native) increased by 43 percent, to 146. During the same period, the overall growth in the Stanford faculty was only 9 percent. At the same time, the university said that a study based on interviews with 52 of the minority faculty members found areas that need improvement. Many minority faculty members, the university found, report feelings of research isolation, diminished peer recognition and "lesser collegiality."
Faculty members and some trustees are raising questions about why St. Mary's College of Maryland, well regarded for providing a public liberal arts education, missed its enrollment target for the fall's class by 150 students, The Washington Post reported. Some are criticizing President Joseph Urgo, who has said that the college will be cutting its budget to make up for the lost tuition revenue. Urgo has said that he is studying what happened and will make necessary changes, but many faculty members say he is responsible. They particularly note that Urgo has replaced most senior administrators since arriving three years ago, and that changes in the admissions office replaced people who knew Maryland high schools well.
A new paper sponsored by several divestment advocacy groups and written by the Tellus Institute, a think tank that works on issues of sustainability, attempts to chart a course for institutions to follow in order to divest fossil fuel holdings from their endowments and overcome administrators' objections that divestment would be too costly and onerous. In the past few months, several university governing boards and endowments have become the target of a coordinated national campaign, which most wealthy institutions have so far resisted.
In the paper, author Josh Humphreys, a fellow at the Tellus Institute, who is this? -sj lays out a three-step path of freezing and divesting investments in coal companies, investing in renewable energy companies and "strategic reallocation across all asset classes in order to manage climate risk and embrace sustainable opportunities in a holistic way." The paper does not present any new calculations on the potential costs or benefits of divestment, instead relying on previous works, though it does express a belief that colleges that divest will likely see higher returns than institutions that continue to invest in fossil fuels.
More than 46,500 American students were pursuing full degrees abroad in 2011-12, according to a new report released by the Institute of International Education. This represented about a 5 percent increase from the year prior. Of those going abroad, about 42 percent are enrolled in bachelor’s and master’s degrees, respectively, with the remaining 16 percent pursuing doctorates.
The report is based on data from 14 countries, including the United Kingdom, the largest host of American students. (Other countries in the sample are Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, China, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Denmark and Malaysia.) The numbers do not include students who study abroad as part of a course of study at a U.S. institution.
On Thursday, Inside Higher Ed's editors, Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman, discussed the latest developments and issues surrounding massive open online courses during a free webinar. To watch the webinar, which was held in conjunction with the recent release of "The MOOC Moment," a collection of articles and essays about MOOCs, click here.