by Steve Kolowich
Aug. 6, 2010, Inside Higher Ed
“Google Wave was supposed to make class discussions richer and more coherent. It was supposed to make research collaborations easier. It was supposed to break down walls between offices, disciplines, countries. It was even supposed to give learning-management systems such as Blackboard a run for their money. Instead, it is kaput. Just over a year after being rolled out, the much-hyped Wave has crashed on the shores of indifference and is now set to recede into obscurity. Google said Thursday that it will stop selling Wave as a product and close the host website by the end of the year, citing a dearth of users.”
“Google Wave was a Web-based platform where groups could have conversations (live and asynchronous), share media files and documents, and collaborate on projects. It was marketed as an antidote to e-mail threads, where information is more liable to get lost, discussions are fragmented, and people can get cut out of the loop by accident. As far as the breadth of what it could do, Wave stacked up favorably against the prevailing collaboration technologies — e-mail, Google Docs, wikis, and asynchronous discussion forums.” . . .
FCC Ends Talks for Deal on Net Neutrality
by Cecilia Kang
Aug. 6, 2010, Washington Post
“The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday called off its closed-door meetings with big Internet companies aimed at reaching agreement on protecting consumer access to the Web, after drawing criticism for attempting to broker a deal with limited public input. . . . Insiders lamented the end of the agency-led talks, saying that there had been progress among FCC officials and representatives of AT&T, Verizon, Skype, Google, a cable trade association and a coalition for firms such as Amazon and public-interest groups. The parties had been working out agreements on network neutrality, which would prohibit Internet service providers from dictating what subscribers are able to access on the Web.” . . .
“The series of meetings has been ‘productive on several fronts, but has not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet — one that drives innovation, investment, free speech, and consumer choice,’ said Eddie Lazarus, chief of staff to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a statement. ‘All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue.’ “ . . .
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Announces Over 120 Recovery Act Broadband Projects to Bring Jobs, Economic Opportunity to Rural Communities
Aug. 4, 2010, The White House
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the funding of 126 new Recovery Act broadband infrastructure projects that will create jobs and provide rural residents in 38 states and Native American tribal areas access to improved service. Broadband access plays a critical role in expanding economic, health care, educational and public safety services in underserved rural communities. Today’s announcement is part of the second round of USDA broadband funding through the Recovery Act. A complete list of projects receiving Recovery Act broadband grant awards today can be viewed in full at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/broadband_project_descriptions.pdf .
For-Profit Colleges: Undercover Testing Finds Colleges Encouraged Fraud and Engaged in Deceptive and Questionable Marketing Practices
Aug. 4, 2010, General Accounting Office
“Enrollment in for-profit colleges has grown from about 365,000 students to almost 1.8 million in the last several years. These colleges offer degrees and certifications in programs ranging from business administration to cosmetology. In 2009, students at for-profit colleges received more than $4 billion in Pell Grants and more than $20 billion in federal loans provided by the Department of Education (Education).”
“GAO was asked to 1) conduct undercover testing to determine if for-profit colleges’ representatives engaged in fraudulent, deceptive, or otherwise questionable marketing practices, and 2) compare the tuitions of the for-profit colleges tested with those of other colleges in the same geographic region.” . . .
“Undercover tests at 15 for-profit colleges found that 4 colleges encouraged fraudulent practices and that all 15 made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to GAO’s undercover applicants. Four undercover applicants were encouraged by college personnel to falsify their financial aid forms to qualify for federal aid–for example, one admissions representative told an applicant to fraudulently remove $250,000 in savings. Other college representatives exaggerated undercover applicants’ potential salary after graduation and failed to provide clear information about the college’s program duration, costs, or graduation rate despite federal regulations requiring them to do so.” . . .
by Steve Kolowich
Aug. 3, 2010, Inside Higher Ed
. . . “California is not the only state eyeing online education as a way to increase access and cut costs. But while many states are looking to use the popular medium to reach adult learners or save money at non-elite institutions, the University of California is a top-shelf research university that boasts one of the country’s most competitive undergraduate programs. If the system does end up offering an online bachelor’s degree, it would be a big step for online education.”
“[Christopher Edley Jr.’s] idea is still in its early stages and has not been adopted into any strategic plan. The University of California Board of Regents has offered only informal, preliminary support, and the systemwide Faculty Senate has approved only a pilot program for 25 to 40 low-level, high-volume courses — not a full-blown online degree program. Still, the rhetoric and sprawling, transformative vision Edley has been pushing have been received favorably by some while eliciting alarmed responses from others.”
“Members of a union representing graduate student-instructors at UC, finding Edley’s plan for “squadrons” of teaching assistants serving on ‘the frontline of online contact’ more than a little dystopic, showed up to a regents’ meeting in May wearing patches that read ‘Dean Edley = Class(room) Enemy.’ Edley’s goals for online education at UC were primarily profit-driven, they argued in a statement, and would ‘undoubtedly end in the complete implosion of public higher education in the embattled state of California.’ Some professors and media outlets have expressed similar concerns.” . . .
No Laughing Matter
by Steve Kolowich
Aug. 4, 2010
“Historically, cartoons are not a significant driver of communications and marketing strategy in higher education. But one cartoon — by Randall Munroe, whose popular Web comic is known as xkcd — has resonated so strongly in higher ed circles that it has some marketing officials taking a hard look at what experts still believe to be their strongest marketing asset: the institutional website’s home page.”
“The cartoon shows a Venn diagram with two overlapping circles — one labeled ‘Things On The Front Page Of a University Website,’ and the other labeled ‘Things People Go To The Site Looking For.’ “The first circle contains: campus slide shows, alumni in the news, promotions for campus events, press releases, a statement of the school’s philosophy, a letter from the president, and a virtual tour. The second circle contains a list of faculty phone numbers, application forms, the campus address, the academic calendar, the campus police phone number, department/course listings, parking information, and a usable campus map.”
“The only piece of information common to both circles is, ‘full name of school.’ “
A Blended Librarian Talks Information Literacy
by Jennifer Howard
Aug. 2, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education
. . . “Mr. McBride is a blended librarian at Buffalo State. ‘Blended librarian’ sounds like some kind of power smoothie. It’s actually a fairly new model of academic librarianship that took root about five years ago. It combines traditional reference skills with hardware and software know-how and an interest in applying them to curriculum development and teaching. (Read more about the movement’s history and goals at the Blended Librarian Web site http://blendedlibrarian.org/ , which features the slogan ‘Blending Instructional Design, Technology, and Librarianship.)”
“It’s a concept designed for a campus climate in which librarians are called on to do many things besides staff the reference desk. ‘What happens on a college campus is that our librarians are finding themselves exposed more. They’re not just inside libraries anymore,’ Mr. McBride says. ‘Things happen very quickly in our profession, and we have to be able to adjust very quickly to it.’ ”
Buying Local, Online
by Steve Kolowich
July 23, 2010, Inside Higher Ed
. . . “These days, those students are likely to enroll in an online program. And because online education knows no geographic bounds, the move to the Web could pose serious challenges for institutions that until now have been able to draw reliably from their local and regional populations.:
“These institutions do, however, have something working for them: Students like online learning, but they also like the tangibility of having a ‘real campus’ nearby. A 2008 study by the Sloan Consortium noted that 85 percent of online students were taking courses through universities located within 50 miles of their homes. ‘Institutions believe that online will open up their enrollments to more students from outside of their normal service area,’ the study said. ‘However, the reality is that this has not yet occurred in any large numbers.’ Richard Garrett, managing director of Eduventures, says that in routine surveys his firm has done over the last three years, roughly 65 percent of online learners have said they prefer an institution with a physical presence within 50 miles.” . . .
Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
Application Deadline: Oct. 5 2010
This program is designed to encourage innovations in the digital humanities. By awarding relatively small grants to support the planning stages, NEH aims to encourage the development of innovative projects that promise to benefit the humanities. Proposals should be for the planning or initial stages of digital initiatives in any area of the humanities. Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants may involve
— research that brings new approaches or documents best practices in the study of the digital humanities;
— planning and developing prototypes of new digital tools for preserving, analyzing, and making accessible digital resources, including libraries’ and museums’ digital assets;
— scholarship that examines the philosophical implications and impact of the use of emerging technologies;
— innovative uses of technology for public programming and education utilizing both traditional and new media; and
— new digital modes of publication that facilitate the dissemination of humanities scholarship in advanced academic as well as informal or formal educational settings at all academic levels.
Innovation is a hallmark of this grant category. All applicants must propose an innovative approach, method, tool, or idea that has not been used before in the humanities. These grants are modeled, in part, on the “high risk/high reward” paradigm often used by funding agencies in the sciences. NEH is requesting proposals for projects that take some risks in the pursuit of innovation and excellence.