Higher Education Quick Takes

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Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

Blackboard has made its name on selling Blackboard Learn, its industry-leading learning management system (LMS), to universities. But professors will soon be able to use the platform for free even if their institutions do not have a contract with Blackboard, the company plans to announce today. Blackboard CourseSites, a cloud-based version of the company's LMS product, will allow instructors to use most of the features available through the normal learning-management system, minus those that require full integration with campus information systems. The idea is to give faculty members at non-Blackboard colleges, as well as those that have not upgraded to the latest versions “more options for experimentation” with the platform’s newest capabilities. Blackboard tells Inside Higher Ed that it does not plan to sell advertising or otherwise make money from CourseSites, so presumably the company is betting that this experiment will inspire instructors to press their bosses to invest in the campus-wide version that institutions must purchase. Blackboard Learn remains the most popular learning-managment system among nonprofit colleges, but it has lost some market share in recent years to Moodle, the open-source platform that has evolved into a viable campus-wide solution after making early inroads at the level of individual instructors.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Duke University's Dan Ariely discusses the purely economic side of decisions about Valentine’s Day gifts. Find out more about the Academic Minute here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

The chair of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee has introduced a bill to force the University of Iowa to sell Jackson Pollock's "Mural" and to use the $140 million that the painting is worth to set up a trust for scholarships, The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported. The bill states that the terms of the sale would have to allow "Mural" to be back on campus for three months every four years, so students could continue to learn from it. In the past, when the idea of selling the famous painting has come up, university officials have noted that art museum ethics bar such sales, and that auctioning off the painting could endanger the reputation of the university and its art museum, while depriving students and faculty of an important work of modern art.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

Michigan is tightening the rules of Food Stamp eligibility to bar up to 20,000 college students from the program, The Detroit News reported. Students will be denied eligibility unless they meet specific federal criteria, such as caring for young children. About 2 percent of Food Stamp recipients in the state are college students.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

Colleges' “green revolving-funds” -- money set aside to provide up-front capital for investments that reduce environmental impact, such as light bulb replacement -- have quadrupled in number since 2008 and are generating considerable investment returns, a survey by the Sustainable Endowments Institute has found. The report, “Greening the Bottom Line,” is the first survey of green revolving-funds ever conducted. It included data from 52 universities from 25 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. It found a 32 percent median annual return on green revolving-fund investments, with median total project payback of four years. Funds surveyed ranged in size from $5,000 at the College of Wooster to $12 million at Harvard University, with an average size of $1.4 million. “The trend is clear both in terms of money saved and reduced energy consumption,” said Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

Eleven community colleges in Illinois are considering a plan to join forces on health insurance so that their larger pool creates savings, The Chicago Tribune reported. Institutions could end up saving 5 percent on health insurance costs.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

The predictive value of the tests that most community colleges use to decide which students should need developmental courses before doing college-level work is "not as strong as many would assume," and the institutions might be better off using multiple -- and different sorts of -- measures to assess which students need remediation, two researchers say in a new study. The study is one of several in the "Assessment of Evidence" series published by the Community College Research Center.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday proposed an overhaul of governance of higher education. He would create a single board to replace those that oversee the state's community colleges and the Connecticut State University System, as well as the coordinating board. The only free-standing board that would remain would be for the University of Connecticut. He said the new system would help the state educate a larger share of its citizens.

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 3:00am

When the University of Kentucky announced that its new basketball dormitory would be named, at the request of donors with ties to the coal industry, the Wildcat Coal Lodge, some of the campus objected to such an honor for an industry associated by many with environmentally harmful practices. The Lexington Herald-Leader obtained the full gift agreement and it turns out to not only have "coal" as part of the name, but to require the creation of "an exhibit in the primary entrance lobby which presents in print, photographic, sound, video, DVD and/or other format, a discussion of and tribute to the importance of the coal industry to the Commonwealth of Kentucky." Further, the exhibit "shall be reasonably acceptable" to Joseph W. Craft III, who heads Alliance Coal and who organized the contributions.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - 3:00am

The February 2011 edition of The Pulse, our monthly technology podcast by Rod Murray, features an interview with Brian Hughes, associate director of design, publishing and service at Teachers College's Library at Columbia University. He discusses the best ways to get faculty members comfortable with using social media in teaching. Find out more about The Pulse, and listen to selections from its archive, here.

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