Remember in January when Udacity and San Jose State University announced a pilot program where the latter would offer college credit for classes offered by the former? Remember how Techcrunch said it would “end college as we know it?” Well, there’s MOOC-egg on some faces this week as SJSU plans to “pause” the effort, citing the poor performance of enrolled students. “74 percent or more of the students in traditional classes passed, while no more than 51 percent of Udacity students passed any of the three courses,” according to Inside Higher Ed. It’s worth noting that SJSU students taking edX classes, which are offered in a “blended” rather than “online-only” setting, seem to be doing better than those in traditional classes.

Inside Higher Ed’s Ry Rivard examines the deals signed between public universities and MOOC providers: “At least 21 universities and higher education systems in 16 states have signed agreements with Coursera, Udacity or edX without going through a competitive bidding process.”

But hey, Georgia Tech and Udacity have announced the classes to be offered as part of their joint Online Masters in Computer Science.

And it’s not too late to sign up for the philanthropy MOOC run by Warren Buffett’s sister, which culminates in helping Buffett decide how to give away $100,000. I guess they’re not using robot-assessments for this MOOC. Yay?

Another indication, perhaps, that Coursera is becoming an LMS: the IMS Global Learning Consortium announced the MOOC startup is the newest member of the Common Cartridge and LTI alliance (this alliance supports standards used by the LMS industry for data interoperability).

Speaking at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, Bill Gates said that MOOC providers should learn some lessons from the for-profit college sector in order to better support students’ success. “Because they are profit driven, the way they track students and see what’s going on” could be seen by MOOCs and public universities as a “best practice,” Gates argued, according to ECampusNews. LOLWUT.

DC Politics

The US House of Representatives has passed a revision to No Child Left Behind, the most recent and most infamous reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed into law by President George W. Bush. This week's newly-passed bill rolls back many of the accountability requirements of NCLB and transfers much oversight of the country’s public school system to the states. However, President Obama says he’ll veto it if it gets to his desk, so yeah... no ESEA reauthorization once again. More details in The New York Times.

Senators have reached a deal to address student loan interest rates, which doubled on July 1. According to The New York Times, “Undergraduates would pay the 10-year Treasury note rate, 2.49 percent on Wednesday, plus 2.05 percent, with a cap of 8.25 percent, to protect them from inflation. Graduate students would pay the 10-year Treasury rate plus 3.6 percent, with a cap of 9.5 percent.”

In related student indebtedness news, the outstanding debt on federal student loans on surpassed $1 trillion for this time this week.

Heartland reports that the Obama Administration might raise phone taxes (by $5/year), as the FCC looks to revise the E-rate program, in order to increase subsidies for K–12 broadband “because most schools cannot administer the computerized Common Core tests coming out in 2015.” Sounds like a winning rationale.

State Politics

According to emails obtained by the Associated Press, Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and now president of Purdue University, sought to purge Howard Zinn’s writings from the state’s classrooms. “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away,’ Daniels wrote in an email. ”Can someone assure me that is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?" Emails also show Daniels trying to cut funding to a program run by Charles Little, executive director of the Indiana Urban Schools Assocation, professor at the Indiana University School of Education, and a sharp critic of the then-governor.

Utah State Senator Aaron Osmond, nephew of Donnie and Marie, is calling for the end of “compulsory education” in the state.

Cooper Union Politics

The student occupation of Cooper Union has ended. The students have been occupying the university’s president’s office in protest of its plans to institute tuition fees for the first time in the institution's history. Students have reached a negotiated agreement with the school, and among the concessions that the students won, "A working group of students, faculty, alumni, administrators, and trustees is to be established to ’to explore ways in which Cooper Union may revert to providing full-tuition scholarships for all enrolled students.’” More details via Angus Johnston.

Universities and The Law

Earlier this year, Wired journalist Kevin Poulsen had his FOIA request for Secret Service files pertaining to the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz denied, and after he filed a lawsuit to appeal, a judge ruled that the government had to begin releasing the files. But now, reports Poulsen, lawyers representing MIT have filed a motion to block the release of relevant documents.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Penn State board of trustees has authorized $60 million to settle 25 personal injury claims by those who say they were sexually abused by former football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Launches and Upgrades

Jim Groom and Tim Owens have launched “Reclaim Hosting,” as part of a larger Reclaim Your Domain effort. Related to University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own initiative, Reclaim Hosting aims to help educators and students with their own hosting – “just one piece to the larger puzzle of how we allow people to easily feed their digital content back into a space they own and control.”

Coming soon from the video game maker Valve: Pipeline, a site run by teenagers for teenagers who are interested in joining the video game industry. “Pipeline is an experiment to see if we can take a group of high school students with minimal work experience and train them in the skills and methods necessary to be successful at a company like Valve,” reads the nascent website.

Ed-tech blog and listicle champ Edudemic is launching a video lesson site, which according to its partner Education Dive, will be a “Khan Academy for real-world skills."

Downgrades and Discounts

OK, I realize it’s a little catty to put this news item in the “downgrade” section. But whatever. See, the One Laptop Per Child XO Tablet is now on sale at Walmart for $149. No mention of constructionism, although the description does indicate that it offers “parental dashboards [that] track usage and learning styles, allowing parents to better understand their child’s development.” Ugh, “learning styles.” Kids, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Funding, Earnings, and Acquisitions

Digital textbook publisher Inkling announced that it’s raised $16 million in a Series C round (bringing its total investment to around $48 million). Investors included Sequoia Capital, Felicis Ventures, Tenaya Capital, and JAFCO Technology Partners. The company also says it’s struck an agreement with Elsevier and Pearson (the latter is also an investor in Inkling) with the two publishers using Inkling’s Habitat publishing platform.

Microsoft revealed its quarterly earnings this week for its fiscal Q4 of 2013. And on the heels of a price cut on its Surface RT tablets, Microsoft has posted a $900 million loss due to “inventory adjustments” with the tablets. Sorta puts the free giveaway of Surfaces at ISTE in a different light, no?

The Next Generation Learning Challenges project has announced eight new recipients of $450,000 “breakthrough school model launch” grants and 30 recipients of $100,000 planning grants. These grants (and schools) focus on “personalized, competency-based, blended learning.”

Grovo, an online education startup, has raised $5.5 million Series A funding. Investors include Greg Waldorf, former CEO of eHarmony. Greg Sands of Costanoa Venture Capital and Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC.

THE Journal reports that two education technology companies, Mimio and Headsprout, have been sold off by their parent company, Newell Rubbermaid, to the private equity firm Skyview Capital. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Khan Academy’s John Resig says that the organization will give its developers $5 a week to donate in turn to open source developers using the Gittip crowdfunding platform.

From the HR Department

Despite protests, the UC Board of Regents has approved Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano as the UC system’s new president. Napolitano will have a salary of $570K, along with a one-time relocation allowance of $142K.

With another scandal looking to sideline him, former CIA director General David Petraeus says he’ll skip the $200,000 salary for teaching one class as an adjunct at CUNY. Instead, he’ll just take a dollar for the gig.

Virginia Commonwealth University can boast two incredible educators in newly-appointed leadership positions: Gardner Campbell will become Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success. And Jon Becker will be Director of Online Academic Programs.

“Research” and Data

The Pew Internet and American Life Project have released more results from its survey of AP and National Writing Project teachers, this one on “The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools.” Many of the results aren’t terribly surprising: “96% agree that digital technologies ‘allow students to share their work with a wider and more varied audience.’” Um. Duh. “91% say that ‘writing effectively’ is an ‘essential’ skill students need for future success.” Um. Okay. Nonetheless, there’s still plenty of handwringing about what digital tools do to the quality of student writing, but this is what made me sigh: 94% make their students do some writing by hand “because students are required to write by hand on standardized tests, it is a critical skill for them to have.”

Yet another survey has found that students prefer to read academic-oriented material in print.

A study published in the April-June issue of IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies contends that students do not learn best when watching videos before coming to class to work on hands-on projects. But when the order was reversed – hands-on experimentation, then reading or watching videos – students performed better. Now “the researchers advocate the ‘flipped flipped classroom,’ in which videos come after exploration and not before,” says the Stanford News.

After 69 years, one of the longest running experiments found success this week, as Trinity College has managed to capture a “pitch drop” on video. “The Dublin pitch-drop experiment was set up in 1944 at Trinity College Dublin to demonstrate the high viscosity or low fluidity of pitch — also known as bitumen or asphalt — a material that appears to be solid at room temperature, but is in fact flowing, albeit extremely slowly.”

The Boston School District has refused to release teacher performance ratings to The Boston Globe, the newspaper writes, which says in turn that it plans to appeal the decision. In previous years, The LA Times and The New York Times have both published similar data.

Google has published some data about its 2013 Summer of Code, its summer program that pays CS students to work on open source projects. For the seventh year in a row, the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka has the most students participating in the program.

Recently, Forbes boasted that “it only takes about 42 minutes to learn algebra with video games,” and this week , another PR piece says that a “Former White House adviser’s educational app improves math scores by 11% in an hour.” So it sounds to me like we’ve pretty much fixed math education. Good job, team!

Non-MOOC’d Classes and Programs

The climate science blog DeSmogBlog has obtained a copy of General Petraeus’s syllabus for his upcoming class at CUNY, “The Coming North American Decade(s)?” DeSmogBlog describes the contents as “Frackademia,” that is, “shorthand for oil and gas industry-funded research costumed as independent economics or science.”

2U and the University of Berkeley have partnered for a new, online-only graduate program in Information and Data Science. More details via Information Week.


The NCAA announced this week that it would not renew its licensing contract with EA Games, which has used the likeness of college athletes to market its various video games. The action comes in the midst of a lawsuit by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon who’s leading a lawsuit against the NCAA for using college athletes’ likeness without properly compensating them. There’s some speculation that by dropping ties with EA Games, the NCAA is concerned about its chances in the lawsuit, says The LA Times.


Oakland city officials are moving forward with their plans to build a Domain Awareness Center, “a federally funded project to link surveillance cameras, license-plate readers, gunshot detectors, Twitter feeds, alarm notifications and other data into a unified ‘situational awareness’ tool for law enforcement.” Included in the project, data from the Oakland Unified School District.

Northside ISD, a San Antonio school district, says it will no longer require students to carry IDs with RFID chips implanted in them. Last year, a student unsuccessfully sued the district over the tracking, claiming it violated her religious views. The chips were meant to track attendance, but the district now says that the program didn’t increase attendance enough to justify costs.

The Campaign for Reader Privacy, a joint initiative of the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, and the PEN American Center, issued a call this week to revise the Patriot Act and restore privacy protections that were stripped from libraries and booksellers.

Image credits: Jezebel, The Noun Project

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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