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Obligatory MOOC News

Coursera, textbook publishers, and Chegg are teaming up to give students access to digital course materials for some Coursera classes. Those materials will be DRM’d, content can’t be copied, pasted, or printed, and access will go away at the end of the course. Viva la ed-tech revolution.

The union representing professors at San Jose State University (which has worked closely with both edX and Udacity) penned a letter regarding its administration’s MOOC embrace. The full letter is available on The Chronicle. Among the choice quotes: “While Anant Agarwal of edX and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom describe a stereotype of classroom teaching based on some hackneyed Hollywood script of a teacher writing on the blackboard while his students sleep in boredom…”

San Francisco State University’s Academic Senate also wrote a letter (PDF) stating their opposition to State Senator Darrel Steinberg’s SB 520 bill that would require credits be granted by online providers for “closed” classes. “First [and let me interject and editorialize here… FIRST] there is no access crisis at San Francisco State University.”

The administration at American University have issued a “moratorium on MOOCs,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. “American is purposely avoiding experimentation before it decides exactly how it wants to relate to the new breed of online courses. ‘I need a policy before we jump into something,’ said Scott A. Bass, the provost, in an interview.”

The University of Pennsylvania is working on language for policy that would restrict what faculty could do vis-a-vis online freelance teaching work (aka non-sanctioned MOOCs, I guess). More details via Inside Higher Ed.

Testing Testing Testing

The ACT will move towards computer-based testing, says The New York Times. “High school students will take the ACT college admissions exam by computer starting in the spring of 2015 — but at least for a while, the paper and pencil version will be available, too.”

There are still more errors on New York City’s Gifted and Talented screening test, report GothamSchools. Last month, the city’s Department of Education admitted that test-provider Pearson had made multiple errors, resulting in 5000-ish students getting lower scores than they deserved. Today’s news adds another 300-ish students to that pile. This is Pearson’s first year administering a $5.5 million contract for the screening program. Renewal will be a) unlikely b) ridiculous c) ludicrous d) all of the above.

Law and Politics

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) has proposed a bill that would set the interest rate for federally subsidized student loans to .75%, the same rate as the Federal Reserve gives to banks.

ProPublica details some of the fallout of the US government’s sequestration, including the loss of 70,000 Head Start slots, major budgets cuts at schools on Indian reservations, and thousands of fewer NSF grants.

A group of young boys at Driver Elementary School in Virginia were suspended by district officials for pointing pencils at each other and making shooting noises. The district has a “no tolerance” policy for violence and “there has to be a consequence,” said a district spokesperson.

The Louisiana State Supreme Court ruled this week that the state’s funding for its school voucher program is unconstitutional. The program was part of Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reforms.

Launches and Upgrades

The University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab released a new version of Prism this week, “a web-based tool for ‘crowdsourcing interpretation” and a good reminder, I’d add, for the school’s Board of Visitors that if you get your news about UVA from David Brooks and not Bethany Nowviskie, then you have no idea what innovation looks like.

Educator and entrepreneur Adam Bellow had officially launched his site Educlipper, which Free Technology for Teachers’ Richard Byrne aptly describes as ‘What Teachers Want Pinterest to Be.”

One of the very best learning tools available, Scratch, invoked the 2.0 postscript this week, moving the learn-to-code software onto the Web. Finally. There are lots of new features in the updated release, including better ways to credit other users, easier cloning, and much more. Good job, Scratch Team.

The learning management system Desire2Learn launched a new “Learning Suite” this week that includes the “power of predictive analytics.” The company acquired Austin Peay State University’s “Degree Compass” earlier this year, and it says that the course recommendation engine will be part of its new “Student Success System.” End press release speak.

USA Today reports that Xerox is getting into the grading papers business with a new product called Ignite “that turns the numerous copiers/scanners/printers it has in schools across the United States into paper-grading machines.” The article invokes the phrase “game changer” so there ya go.

PBS aired a one-hour special of TED Talks on education this week, featuring Bill Gates. The Gates Foundation’s list of grants awarded to PBS is here.

Downgrades and Closures

More pushback against the Gates Foundation-funded data infrastructure inBloom? Speaking at a Republican Party breakfast, Georgia Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge said that “while Georgia agreed to be part of the collaborative, it will not share the student data with InBloom. He also said while he’s heard that InBloom staff have asked individual school systems to share the student data, the state will not be part of that.”

And according to Reuters journalist Stephanie Simon, an inBloom spokesperson says that Phase II of the project is off; “there are no plans” to bring in Delaware, Georgia or Kentucky. And she cites Bob Swiggum, CIO for Georgia DOE, saying that “ furor over student privacy makes states wary of database: ‘I don’t know how inBloom will survive this.’” $100 million well spent, Mr. Gates. Good job, team.

Bloomberg reports that textbook publisher Cengage Learning might file for bankruptcy. “Cengage reported an operating loss of $2.77 billion for the three months ended March 3.” But hey, at least it’s partnered with Coursera to give MOOC students free textbooks, right?

Funding and Acquisitions

Okay, this isn’t VC money. It’s your tax dollars at work. But Deadspin asked a good question this week (and answered it in the headline too): “Is Your State’s Highest-Paid Employee a Coach? (Probably)” More details on salaries and funding of athletic versus instructional staff via Inside Higher Ed.

The organization that I was fairly convinced for most of the week had to be a joke, Black Mountain SOLE, announced that it’s raised $5 million (although the press release doesn’t say where the money actually came from.) So it's real. I guess. Black Mountain SOLE is responsible for MOOC Campus, a $15,000/year initiative that lets you live in a North Carolina YMCA while you take classes online. Because freedom. And disruptive innovation. And self directed learning. And rich white kids. And stuff.

Fidelis announced that it has raised $6 million in its Series A round. The startup, at launch, focused on military personnel’s transition into formal academic institutions, but the company has pivoted to a broader technology platform, still focused on mentorship.

JoyTunes, an app-based music education startup, has raised $1.5 million in Series A funding, according to Techcrunch.

Vator News reports that Logical Choice Technologies, a company founded in 1994, has raised $5 million in funding. Logical Choice Technologies is “a technology solutions company for K12 and college that offers a wide range of products and services, from leading brands of mobile devices, projectors, and interactive whiteboards, to installation services and classroom curriculum”— as well as augmented reality Common Core curriculum. Seriously.

Prague-based CourseDirector, which provides an LMS-like layer on top of Google Apps for Education, has been acquired by LingApps, a Danish ed-tech company (and maker of the assistive tech AppWriter.

Interactive whiteboard maker Promethean World announced its first quarter results this week — “in line with expectations” reads the headline, with revenues down 22.5% from £35.9 million last quarter to £27.8 million. “Market conditions will continue to be challenging throughout 2013,” said the company. Um, yeah.


Hispanic high school students are more likely than whites to enroll in college, according to the Pew Research Hispanic Center. 69% of Hispanic graduates from the class of 2012 and 67% of whites enrolled in college that fall. College graduation rates for Hispanics, however, remains lower.

Photo credits: Pete Toscano, the Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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