The Online Search Party: A Way to Share the Load
by Anne Eisenberg
Nov. 22, 2008, New York Times
“Opportunities for social networking abound on the Internet, but not when it comes to one standard job: using a browser and search engine to comb the Web for information. That task is still typically done solo, because browser displays and search procedures have traditionally been designed for a single user. Now tools are being developed by Microsoft and other companies that let people at different computers search as a team, dividing responsibilities and pooling results and recommendations in a shared Web space on the browser display as they plan a family vacation, for instance, or research a medical problem.”
“Meredith Ringel Morris, a computer scientist at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Wash., has created one of these collaborative tools, SearchTogether, now available in a test version as a free download at http://research.microsoft.com/searchtogether. The program is designed to work within the Internet Explorer 7 browser.” …
Online Push in Minnesota
by Scott Jaschik
Nov. 21, 2008, Inside Higher Ed
“Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and leaders of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities on Thursday announced a goal of shifting 25 percent of credits to online courses by 2015. In the last academic year, just over 9 percent of credits were delivered online. But about 66,000 credit students – or 26 percent of all credit students – took at least one online course. The plan includes a mix of incentives for students (such as a scholarship bonus) and improvements in student services for online courses.” See http://www.mnscu.edu/media/newsreleases/current/article.php5?id=72
Europeana Goes Online and Is Then Overwhelmed
by Stephen Castle
Nov. 21, 2008, New York Times
“A new digital library of Europe’s cultural heritage crashed just hours after it went online and will be out of operation for several weeks, the European Commission said Friday, attributing the embarrassing failure to overwhelming public interest. Europeana, a Web site of two million documents, images, video and audio clips, opened on Thursday with international publicity and acclaim from researchers. But by Friday, those trying to log on were greeted with a message telling them that the service may not be running again until mid-December, while computer capacity is upgraded. The designers of Europeana had expected a maximum of five million hits an hour. But there was as much as three times the predicted traffic, a unusual phenomenon for any Web site associated with the European Union.”
Promoting Engagement for All Students: The Imperative to Look Within
Nov. 12, 2008, National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
“Though this result seems counterintuitive, the online setting may offer more opportunities for collaboration and faculty who teach online courses my be more intentional about fostering active learning experiences, such as asking questions or participating in discussions. For both first-year students and seniors, the percent of courses delivered primarily online was significantly related to level of academic challenge. Online courses seem to stimulate more intellectual challenge and educational gains. This suggests that integrating technology-enhanced courses into the curriculum for all students may have some salutary benefits. On the other hand, it is also possible that faculty who are incorporating new technologies are inherently more inclined to provide engaging experiences for their students, regardless of how the content is delivered.” – see pages 16-17
The second key finding in the press release for this 2008 report based on a survey of nearly 380,000 randomly selected first-year and senior students at 722 four year colleges and universities in the U.S. states, “Students taking most of their classes online report more deep approaches to learning in their classes, relative to classroom-based learners. Furthermore, a larger share of online learners reported very often participating in intellectually challenging course activities.”
With Students Flocking Online, Will Faculty Follow?
by Andy Guess
Nov. 18, 2008, Inside Higher Ed
“As online courses’ popularity continues to rise, many administrators are struggling with a steep learning curve, one whose ultimate end point is far from being determined. Questions such as how such courses should be taught (by adjuncts or full-time faculty?) often depend on institutions’ missions (expand access or generate extra revenue?) and can lead to clashes and tensions between proponents of online learning and those who remain wedded to the traditional classroom.”
“But it’s often the existing campus faculty that administrators rely on to develop and teach online courses, a reality that informs their approaches to determining who should teach the courses and how they should be compensated. In many cases, the models are relics of outdated distance programs that gradually became the basis for courses offered over the Internet. No two models are exactly alike, but as colleges experiment with ways to keep their faculty happy and their courses high in quality, evidence of some common practices is emerging.” . . .
“Until the past few years, when growth in online enrollments started skyrocketing, Loh said, the costs were relatively low and the compensation structure for courses taught via the Internet remained the same as for those once taught via snail mail. Those days are now past, due in part to the well-documented rise in the enrollment of non-traditional students, those older than the typical on-campus undergraduate, often working part time or looking for mid-career training.” . . .
Maelstrom Over Metadata
by Andy Guess
Nov. 14, 2008, Inside Higher Ed
“A debate is carrying on in the undercurrents of the academic Web, pitting those who defend libraries’ core mission of open access against the membership organization that collects and operates a massive online catalog on which many of them rely. Early this month, the OCLC (for Online Computer Library Center) announced the first significant change in its policies governing how libraries use and share bibliographic records since 1987 – years before the World Wide Web existed. Some of those rules were considered overly vague or out of touch, representing an era before Google searches and online catalogs transformed the way students and researchers use library databases. A major part of libraries’ evolution since then has been a demand for more openness and the ability to search for materials that might exist at any number of institutions worldwide, driven by the ubiquity of search engines and an increasing commitment to digitizing texts. But those trends place them on a collision course with OCLC, which was originally founded by libraries to collect and store records of their holdings so that they wouldn’t have to be created anew with each acquisition.” . . .
New Study Finds Time Spent Online Important for Teen Development
November 2008, MacArthur Foundation
“The most extensive U.S. study on teens and their use of digital media finds that America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills online – often in ways adults do not understand or value.”
” ‘Online spaces provide unprecedented opportunities for kids to expand their social worlds and engage in public life, whether that is connecting with peers over MySpace or Facebook, or publishing videos on YouTube,’ said Ito. ‘Kids learn on the Internet in a self-directed way, by looking around for information they are interested in, or connecting with others who can help them. This is a big departure from how they are asked to learn in most schools, where the teacher is the expert and there is a fixed set of content to master.
“The research demonstrates that, although many young people are developing a broad range of sophisticated new literacy and technical skills, they are also facing new challenges in how to manage their visibility and social relationships online. Online media, messages, and profiles that young people post can travel beyond expected audiences and are often difficult to eradicate after the fact. The research suggests that this rapid pace of change presents challenges for both adults and kids as they struggle to keep up with technology and related social changes.”
MGM to Post Full Films on YouTube
by Brad Stone and Brooks Barnes
Nov. 9, 2008, New York Times
“YouTube is by far the world’s biggest stage for online video. But in some ways Hulu is stealing the show. With critical plaudits and advertising dollars flowing to Hulu, the popular online hub for television shows and feature films, YouTube finds itself in the unanticipated position of playing catch-up.”
“On Monday, YouTube will move forward a little, announcing an agreement to show some full-length television shows and films from MGM, the financially troubled 84-year-old film studio. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios will kick off the partnership by posting episodes of its decade-old “American Gladiators” program to YouTube, along with full-length action films like “Bulletproof Monk” and “The Magnificent Seven” and clips from popular movies like “Legally Blonde.” These will be free to watch, with ads running alongside the video.”
Google Settles Suit Over Book-Scanning
by Miguel Helft and Motoko Rich
Oct. 28, 2008, New York Times
“Settling a legal battle, Google reached an agreement with book publishers and authors that clears the way for both sides to more easily profit from digital versions of printed books. The agreement, under which Google would pay $125 million to settle two copyright lawsuits over its book-scanning efforts, would allow it to make millions of out-of-print books available for reading and purchasing online.”
“It outlines the framework for a new system that will channel payments from book sales, advertising revenue and other fees to authors and publishers, with Google collecting a cut. The deal goes some way toward drawing a road map for a possible digital future for publishers and authors, who worried that they were losing control over how their works were used online, as the music industry has.”
“The settlement, which was announced Tuesday and was subject to court approval, would have the greatest impact on the millions of books that were still protected by copyright but were no longer being printed. Since 2004, Google has been working with university and research libraries to create digital scans of their collections. Of the approximately seven million books that Google has already scanned, four million to five million are out of print.”
“Google now makes the content of those books available in its book search service but shows only snippets of text, unless it has permission from the copyright holder to show more. Under the agreement, Google will now show up to 20 percent of the text at no charge to users. It will also make the entire book available online for a fee. Universities, libraries and other organizations will be able to buy subscriptions that make entire collections of those books available to their visitors.” . . .
Next Step for Blackboard and Open Source
by Andy Guess
Oct. 28, 2008, Inside Higher Ed
“While open source advocates tend to view Blackboard’s for-profit, license-based model with disdain, the company has responded with a public commitment to embrace free sharing of code when possible. Its first effort to that end, earlier this year, was a partnership with Syracuse University to develop a free software plug-in that would bridge the divide between the Blackboard interface and data from Sakai, one of the main open-source course management packages.”
“Today, at the annual conference of Educause, the higher education information technology group, Blackboard is announcing a similar project to integrate with Moodle, the other primary open source alternative. Although it was previously known that Moodle would be next, the announcement revealed that Iowa State University would develop the plug-in with support from Blackboard.” . . .
Taking Facebook Back to Campus
by Andy Guess
Oct. 24, 2008, Inside Higher Ed
“As colleges try to adapt their more traditional outreach methods to the successive waves of students who live much of their lives online, it’s inevitable that some will start to ask whether they can marshal the ubiquity of social networking to attract applicants, connect to enrolled students and, once they graduate, keep track of them as alumni. Companies are already offering up tools that connect key components of the student experience to their favored online playground, Facebook. While the social network originally focused on college students, complete with course listings, those functions have since been shed and third-party developers have picked up the slack.”
“But they’ve gone much further, in a way they hope could turn Facebook into a hub for the various tasks students perform on campus: Blackboard has an application for its course management software, for instance, and Inigral has a multipurpose app that will link directly to colleges’ student information databases, providing an added layer of features and privacy to the traditional Facebook experience for those institutions that buy it. Some colleges are even marketing to prospective students through the site. Meanwhile, colleges are also exploring the possibilities of social networking for rounding up donations from alumni, retaining students who are enrolled and other central tasks. Keeping in touch with alumni is always a daunting project, especially so for recent graduates who may be more mobile and less rooted to a permanent address or phone number.” . . .