Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, September 24, 2012 - 4:23am

Christopher Newport University, following a protest letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, may change its protest policy, The Daily Press reported. The university requires groups planning a protest to provide notice 10 days in advance. Last week, the university refused to grant an exception to the rule when some students wanted to protest a visit by Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate. Ryan's visit was announced only a day in advance, so there was no way those who wanted to protest could have met the university's 10-day requirement. "It is very disconcerting that an institution of higher education, which is supposed to educate young people, has instead abridged their constitutional rights," said Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. In response to the ACLU letter, the university has invited the student government to propose changes in the protest rule, and has said that it will try to have changes in place soon, given that the election season may lead to other situations similar to the Ryan visit.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Saylor.org, a clearinghouse for open educational resources (OER), announced on Thursday that it has teamed up with Google to offer its recently unveiled line of free online courses through Google's new massive open online course (MOOC) platform. Google leaped into the MOOC fray earlier this month with Course Builder, which it has pitched as an "open-source," do-it-yourself platform for colleges and individuals that want to adapt their courses to the trendy MOOC format.

Saylor.org, which is run by the nonprofit Saylor Foundation, recently announced it will be opening 240 peer-reviewed courses. It also announced partnerships with Excelsior College and StraighterLine that could give learners who take those courses pathways to formal college credit. Right now the Saylor courses live on their own website; the organization has not yet promised to migrate the lot of them to Google's platform -- just one for now, an introductory course in mechanics.

Google is not the only MOOC platform provider that has expressed an interest in letting other developers and course designers build freely on its code. edX, a nonprofit MOOC provider funded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been talking about making its own software platform similarly "open source."

Google's arrival in the fray has produced some unusual bedfellows. Peter Norvig, the company's director of research, has been involved with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider that grew out of an open teaching experiment Norvig led last year with Sebastian Thrun, a colleague of Norvig's at both Google and Stanford. Google has now made Norvig a figurehead for Course Builder, and he has been talking up a potential collaboration with edX. "edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms," wrote Norvig in a blog post for Google.

"We're all still experimenting to find the most effective ways to offer education online," he says in a video introducing Course Builder. "And that's why we're so excited to be offering this initial set of tools: so that there will be more of us trying different approaches and learning what works."

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 4:25am

Cornell University officials are criticizing an e-mail sent to student leaders by an unknown person with the fake signature of David Skorton, the university's president. The fake e-mail appears to suggest a lack of interest in dealing with bias issues on the campus. Tommy Bruce, vice president for communications at Cornell, sent an e-mail to student leaders to tell them the alleged Skorton e-mail was a forgery. In a statement, Bruce said: "In a community of trust, that is Cornell, where our collective efforts should focused on improving the Cornell experience and lifting the climate on campus, this fraudulent behavior can have serious unintended consequences." The text of the fake e-mail can be found here.
 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

A new blog -- MLA Jobs, with the slogan "putting the AACK! back in the tenure track" -- is a parody of the sort of job postings for which job seekers hope to interview at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association. Many of the fake ads poke fun at the increasingly complicated qualifications that departments are seeking (such as multiple, not necessarily related, specialties). Other postings take aim at recent controversies, such as the push by some trustees at the University of Virginia for the institution to expand online.

A fake ad for the university "seeks Professor of English with specialty in 'educational' technology for setting up MOOCs. Position will be responsible for attracting national attention with bombastic, unproven claims about the future of education; ideal candidate will be heavily read in David Brooks." And referring to the recent controversy over job postings that require applicants to have recent Ph.D.s, there is an ad "looking for soft, fresh faces. Stale Ph.D.s are requested to mist themselves prior to applying."

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

The owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain on Friday announced that they would give a 217-acre former high school campus in western Massachusetts to the foundation for Grand Canyon University, a for-profit Christian institution. Grand Canyon will open a second on-ground campus at the site, adding to its growing campus in Phoenix and a relatively large online presence. The company hopes to enroll 5,000 students at the new campus by 2018, investing an estimated $150 million in it over five years.

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 4:26am

OCAD University, an arts institution in Toronto, is reporting progress on dealing with the student uproar over a $180 customized art textbook that contains (due to inability to secure affordable reprint rights) no art. The university announced that Pearson Canada, which produced the custom text for OCAD, has agreed to buy the books back (at a price not yet determined) at the end of the semester. Further, Pearson has agreed to provide the students with free print copies of a text that includes the art referenced in the custom textbook.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, is calling for public colleges and universities to offer students a four-year freeze on tuition, such that each entering class would be assured of paying the same tuition rate for the next four years, The Austin American-Statesman reported. He said this would encourage students to graduate in four years, and would help students avoid high debt levels. "If you get out of the University of Texas with a $50,000 debt, I don’t know if we’ve served you well," he said. In fact, student debt load at UT is not close to that level. Only about half of bachelor's recipients at the University of Texas at Austin borrow, and the average total debt for those who do borrow is just over $25,000.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

A survey commissioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association found that despite rules changes and legislation, the frequency of concussions among football players in all three divisions has remained steady in the past seven years. The survey, which relied on accurate reporting from athletics programs (concussions are notoriously difficult to diagnose, and there has been concern athletes might be reluctant to report one and risk sitting out), found that such head injuries occurred 2.5 times per 1,000 "game-related exposures." Each game or practice counts as one exposure, regardless of the length. That figure is down from 3.4 per 1,000 in 2004-5, but the NCAA said the year-to-year difference is not statistically significant.

The NCAA has put in place a number of safety regulations designed to deter concussions since then, stiffening penalties for blows to the head and requiring players who are injured or show signs of a concussion to sit out a play and be cleared by medical staff before returning to the field. It has also stepped up its emphasis on concussion awareness; in 2010, it began requiring all programs to have a concussion management plan.

When factoring other fall sports of soccer, field hockey and volleyball, concussion frequency also stayed stable, at 1.9 for every 1,000 exposures. David Klossner, director of health and safety for the NCAA, said in a press release that the information is helpful in monitoring trends, “we do not yet have enough information to draw final conclusions.”

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Darryl de Ruiter of Texas A&M University reveals what we can lean about the diet of Australopithecus through a chemical analysis of their fossilized teeth. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 3:00am

A new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds a relationship between state appropriations cuts and tuition increases in public higher education. The report notes increased interest in the views espoused by critics of higher education that the availability of federal grants and loans has encouraged colleges to increase their charges. But the report looks at the tuition shifts since 2008, and finds that the greatest increases are in states that made the deepest cuts in spending on higher education.

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