Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 2, 2014

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the two universities behind the massive open online course provider edX, on Friday released the data sets behind the data visualization tool Insights. The data covers students who enrolled in the 16 edX courses offered by the two institutions during 2012-13, and has been scrubbed for information that could identify individuals. The data set can be downloaded from the MITx and HarvardX Dataverse.

June 2, 2014

Academe has been debating -- on this site and elsewhere -- trigger warnings, notices on a syllabus to let students know that they may be hurt or traumatized by some of what they are about to read. Advocates see the warnings as a basic courtesy, while critics see political correctness. The National Association of Scholars, which advocates for a traditional curriculum and opposes what it sees as political correctness, is, not surprisingly, dubious of trigger warnings. So the association is starting a contest today, asking people to tweet (with the hashtag #triggerwarningfail), mock trigger warnings for classic books. For example, the association says that a warning for Oedipus Rex might be "warning – prejudicial treatment of alternative family structures" and that one for Gulliver's Travels might be "warning -- size-ist."

 

June 2, 2014

Tens of thousands of college athletes could receive funds from a $40 million fund that would be created in a proposed settlement of an antitrust lawsuit in which former college athletes sued the makers of video games over use of the athletes' likenesses, USA Today reported. Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co. were defendants (along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association) in two lawsuits by athletes, but they settled, while the case against the NCAA is scheduled to go to trial next week. Under the proposed settlement, current and former athletes whose likenesses were used in NCAA-themed games.

June 2, 2014

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been known in philosophy circles for being one of the few well-regarded Ph.D. programs that did not require applicants to submit GRE scores. But MIT has started to require the GRE. Via email, Alex Byrne, head of philosophy at MIT, explained the decision: "This decision had nothing whatever to do with the utility or otherwise of the GRE as a predictor of success in philosophy graduate programs. Many applicants to our program sent in their GREs anyway -- both good and bad scores. These scores were not ignored, at least by some faculty members. Probably some applicants had the mistaken belief that we did require GREs, and probably some applicants had the mistaken belief that GREs were not taken into account at all. In the interests of transparency and fairness we decided to join our competitors and require the GRE, ensuring that we have the same data points for every applicant. There will be absolutely no change in the weight attached to GRE scores, which is marginal at best."

Officials at the philosophy departments of Cornell and Johns Hopkins Universities confirmed that they would continue to keep the GRE optional for Ph.D. applicants in philosophy.

 

 

June 2, 2014

David Smith, former president of the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, has agreed to pay $100,000 and to retire from the university by October 1, The Albany Times Union reported. He is paying the funds to settle complaints that he took consulting payments from businesses that had contracts with SUNY Upstate without authorization and in violation of SUNY rules. His various business ties came to light as Pennsylvania State University was apparently on the verge of naming him as the institution's next president.

 

June 2, 2014

Blackboard, which in January acquired the college and career planning service MyEdu, on Monday revealed how it will include the online tool in its products. MyEdu's student profiles will now become a part of Blackboard Learn, giving students a dedicated profile page within the learning management system, called the Enhanced Cloud Profile, where they can display their achievements and skills to potential employers. In a press release, Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt described the digital portfolio as a replacement for the resume, which he said "is on its way out."

June 2, 2014

A new oil boom is enriching the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, primarily their flagship campuses, but also the other institutions in the systems, The Dallas Morning News reported. The universities benefit from the Permanent University Fund, created by the state with land in west Texas. The energy produced from the land is resulting in recent endowment growth of 70 percent a year, leading to considerable building of facilities and expansion of programs at a time many state systems remain unable to find cash.

June 2, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Norah Feeny, professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University, discusses -- and debunks some myths about -- post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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May 30, 2014

Black legislators in North Carolina are blasting a provision in the State Senate's budget bill that they say is an attempt to force the closure of Elizabeth City State University, a historically black institution, WRAL News reported. The provision is presented as a cost-savings measure, and would require the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to study closing any institution that saw an enrollment drop of at least 20 percent from 2010 to 2013. Black legislators note that Elizabeth City State is the only part of the UNC system that would be covered by the provision. Further, they say that if the provision becomes law, students may be reluctant to enroll.

 

May 30, 2014

Bard College announced Thursday that it will keep an option it introduced last year under which applicants can win admission by submitting four 2,500-word research papers. Those whose papers are judged by the college's faculty members to have produced B+ work or better will be offered admission, without any SAT scores, review of high school transcripts, or teacher recommendations. Bard leaders have said that they want to encourage the evaluation of applicants beyond traditional measures such as test scores and grades. For the class admitted this spring, 41 applicants (out of 7,000) tried the essay approach. Of the 41, 17 were admitted. But Bard introduced the program in September. The new essay topics will be ready in June, giving the next class more time to consider and act on the option.

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