Higher Education Quick Takes
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- which pioneered the idea of making course materials free online -- today announced a major expansion of the idea, with the creation of MITx, which will provide for interaction among students, assessment and the awarding of certificates of completion to students who have no connection to MIT.
MIT is also starting a major initiative -- led by Provost L. Rafael Reif -- to study online teaching and learning.
The first course through MITx is expected this spring. While the institute will not charge for the courses, it will charge what it calls "a modest fee" for the assessment that would lead to a credential. The credential will be awarded by MITx and will not constitute MIT credit. The university also plans to continue MIT OpenCourseWare, the program through which it makes course materials available online.
An FAQ from MIT offers more details on the new program.
While MIT has been widely praised for OpenCourseWare, much of the attention in the last year from the "open" educational movement has shifted to programs like the Khan Academy (through which there is direct instruction provided, if not yet assessment) and an initiative at Stanford University that makes courses available -- courses for which some German universities are providing academic credit. The new initiative would appear to provide some of the features (instruction such as offered by Khan, and certification that some are creating for the Stanford courses) that have been lacking in OpenCourseWare.
Tea Party organizers and others are gathering petitions for a statewide vote in California to repeal the state's Dream Act, which authorizes students who do not have the legal right to reside in the United States to receive state financial aid, The Los Angeles Times reported. It is unclear whether the organizers will be able to gather enough signatures to get their proposal on the ballot. Polls have shown that 55 percent of state residents oppose the law that gave the students aid eligibility, but the outcome of California ballot measures is difficult to predict.
The National Institutes of Health announced Thursday that it is accepting an Institute of Medicine panel's recommendations to cut back on most research involving chimpanzees. A statement by Francis S. Collins, director of the NIH, noted that scientists have valued research with chimpanzees as "the closest relatives" to humans. And he said key medical advances have been based in part on work with the animals. "However, new methods and technologies developed by the biomedical community have provided alternatives to the use of chimpanzees in several areas of research," he said. While further research with chimpanzees may still be needed in a few key areas, the NIH wants to move away from supporting work where the use of chimpanzees is not truly necessary, he said. While the NIH is developing procedures to to adopt this approach, the agency will not make new awards for research involving chimps.
It turns out that Tiger Mother may be almost a pushover compared to Wolf Dad, the nickname of Xiao Baiyou, who has written a book about how he managed to get three of his four children prepared for and admitted to Peking University, NPR reported. He told his story in a book originally titled Beat Them Into Peking University. He extols the values of discipline. "I have more than a thousand rules: specific detailed rules about how to hold your chopsticks and your bowl, how to pick up food, how to hold a cup, how to sleep, how to cover yourself with a quilt," Xiao said. "If you don't follow the rules, then I must beat you."
Governor Rick Scott on Thursday called for the board of Florida A&M University to suspend James Ammons as president, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The Florida A&M board reprimanded Ammons this week, but stopped short of suspending him, amid an investigation into a hazing-related death of a student from the university's marching band. The governor's announcement came shortly after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it was investigating "fraud and/or misconduct" in connection with its inquiry into the student's death. Ammons has said that he is working hard to prevent hazing.
A committee of the Pennsylvania Legislature has recommended expanding the reach of two-year colleges in rural counties, and has proposed a new state institution that would include multiple campuses or learning centers. The Pennsylvania Commission on Community Colleges isn't sold on the idea, arguing that its members already offer the services the proposed college would. The commission also questioned whether a new institution would be the "best use of the state's limited funds."
The Pentagon -- responding to criticism from Congress and higher education associations -- has agreed to delay by 90 days (until March 30) new rules on tuition benefits for service members. A letter to senators who opposed the new rules said that the additional time will be used to deal with concerns various groups have expressed. Many colleges say that the guidelines go too far in prescribing how programs must award academic credit and process student payments, among other issues. And many fear that the system -- if used for service members -- could be extended to veterans or other groups of students.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a student at Loyola University in New Orleans, charging that she threatened to blow up a building and to kill five professors -- all to avoid taking a test, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. The first of two e-mail threats said: "Mamba pistol with five bullets in it for five professors in Monroe Hall.... I have no sympathy for any accidental casualties!!!" The second e-mail said: "You are really trying my patience! I am on the verge of blowing that bitch up and you'll be renovating from the foundation!" The student, who is free on bail, denies intending to harm anyone and says that the messages were a joke.
Every four years, articles appear explaining Iowa to people elsewhere in the United States trying to understand the state that plays such a crucial role in selecting the president of the United States. This year one such article, "Observations From 20 Years of Iowa Life," ran in The Atlantic, written by Stephen G. Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa. He describes how parts of the state are quite liberal, but how other parts are quite conservative, and he notes the role of religion, guns and other powerful forces among some Iowans. The response has been intense -- not only comments on the magazine's website but phone calls that Bloom told The Des Moines Register made him fear for the safety of his family. University of Iowa officials are speaking out to say that Bloom does not represent their views of the state.
In Iowa City, the university's home (and generally considered a liberal stronghold), a custom T-shirt store is thrilled with the controversy, The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported. A new T-shirt responds to Bloom by saying: "Iowa: If you’re reading this congratulations! You’ve survived meth, Jesus, hunting accidents, crime-filled river slums, and old people. Unfortunately, you are going to die sad and alone soon."