Higher Education Quick Takes
A group of public and for-profit institutions has agreed to collaborate on a project aimed at finding a common way to use the data they collect about students' academic progress to better understand how and why students succeed or fail. The project will be led by WCET, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, and funded by a new $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is designed to bring student-level data (drawn from learning management and student information systems) from six institutions -- American Public University System, Colorado Community College System, Rio Salado College, University of Hawaii System, University of Illinois Springfield, and the University of Phoenix -- into a common format so they can be stripped of identifying information about students and merged into one dataset. The researchers say this will allow them to study the variables that affect student progress, and test the ability to merge student-level data from numerous and varied colleges in one place -- a goal that some policy makers have laid out as the holy grail of education research.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday opened the campus of Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University, which, with an enrollment of up to 50,000, is expected to be the nation's largest women's institution, AFP reported.
Thai authorities last week charged Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a prominent historian at Thammasat University in Bangkok, with lèse majesté, a serious crime in the country, punishable by up to 15 years in jail, AFP reported. Jeamteerasakul has openly called for reforms of the Thai monarchy, but he maintains that by calling for reform (as opposed to elimination), he is not violating the law.
The National Junior College Athletic Association's board has voted to limit the number of non-U.S. athletes to one-fourth of scholarship players, USA Today reported. In basketball and volleyball, for instance, that would be three per team. The move follows reports of growing numbers of foreign athletes -- some of them older than most American team members, some of whom it may be questionable to call amateurs -- on some teams.
The economic downturn of fall 2008 left many colleges -- even wealthy institutions -- with cash flow problems, as their suddenly sagging investments were anything but flexible in providing money in the short term. A new report from Moody's finds that most colleges have recovered and are in much healthier condition with regard to liquidity. "Liquidity risks have stabilized for most universities nearly two years after unexpected cash shortages caused fifteen highly rated private universities to borrow more than $7 billion in taxable debt to bolster their liquidity," says the report's summary. "The healthy liquidity position of most U.S. colleges and universities has also aided bank liquidity facility renewals for the sector thus far in 2011. Nevertheless, significant uncertainty remains for some universities that face potential liquidity risks from variable rate debt structures, weak tuition pricing power, investment volatility and cuts in government funding."
Carl Wieman, the Nobel laureate at the University of British Columbia, has released new findings to show that the right approaches to teaching can have a big impact on student understanding of science. The findings, published in Science, show that exercises in which students work through problems together are far more effective than lectures.
In the latest of a slew of higher-ed publishers to join forces with lecture capture companies, the e-learning giant Pearson this week announced a partnership with Panopto, a leading player in the growing market for technology aimed at recording and storing classroom lectures. Last October, the publisher McGraw-Hill bought the lecture-capture company Tegrity; Macmillan, another major publisher, formed a partnership with Panopto a week later. Lecture capture has emerged rather quickly as widely sought technology: The consulting firm Frost & Sullivan last year reported that lecture companies did $50 million in business last year, a figure that could triple in the next five years.
Publishers seem to regard lecture capture as both a sound investment and a natural fit. "The big publishers, (McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Reed Elsevier), all realize that unless they change, they will suffer a similar fate as the music publishers," wrote Joshua Kim, an instructional technologist at Dartmouth College and tech blogger for Inside Higher Ed, last fall. "...Lecture capture platforms will be one source in which faculty (and later student!) created content can be seamlessly folded into professionally produced (publisher) content."
Pearson not only sells course materials and learning-management platforms but also co-manages online curriculums for some big-ticket institutions. "With this partnership, Pearson will work directly with administrators and faculty to integrate Panopto into their program offerings and curriculum," the company said in a press release.
The U.S. Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in March sought applications for its "comprehensive" grant program, with the goal of making more than $20 million in awards. But FIPSE has now announced that there will be no grants awarded. "Congressional action on the FY 2011 budget substantially reduced funds available for grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, including new grants under the comprehensive program," said a notice on the agency's website.