education's digital future

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People now buy songs, not albums. They read articles, not newspapers. So why not mix and match learning “modules” rather than lock into 12-week university courses?

That question is a major theme of a 213-page report released on Monday by a committee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology exploring how the 153-year-old engineering powerhouse should innovate to adapt to new technologies and new student expectations.

One year has passed since Julie Spitzer, professor of mathematics education at San Jose State University, taught her last online course to thousands of students across the country through a partnership between SJSU and Udacity.

The SJSU Plus pilot program, launched to great fanfare in the spring 2013 term, was put on hiatus and then scrapped altogether after pass rates for spring and summer courses lagged behind rates for face-to-face equivalents.

After three years of experimenting with blended learning, leaders of the Associated Colleges of the South feel a movement is growing, but they aren't sure if the push will last.

Are fourth graders computer-savvy enough to have their writing skills measured in an online assessment? A new federal study suggests that they are, although it’s not clear whether old-fashioned paper and pencil exams might still yield useful results.

Carnegie Mellon University is partnering with Duolingo, one of its spinoffs, to see if a 20-minute, $20 test is sufficient to prove international students’ English proficiency. Duolingo, meanwhile, hopes its test can upend the market.

Duolingo, a crowdsourced web translation project created by researchers in Carnegie Mellon’s computer science department, spun off from the university in November 2011 to become a venture capital-backed startup. The company now offers language learning web and smartphone apps.

The innovative projects vary widely – from an art app to a trauma therapy kit - yet each provides a research-based solution to a learning problem.

For Rhoda Wang’s “Kibuni,” it was memories of building forts as a child. For Farah Weheba’s “Beity,” it was Syrian children refugees at risk of suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. For Kay Christensen’s “Make Me,” it was her music background along with people’s apparent lack of time to do creative things.

It’s 10:44 am on a Tuesday, and I’m lounging at home in my pajamas, sipping chamomile tea. I am, at the same time, taking a class at Harvard. Professor Gregory Nagy is rhapsodizing about the death of Roy, the cyborg from Blade Runner, and pointing out how certain tropes from his final soliloquy echo important themes from ancient Greek myth. The class is called “The Ancient Greek Hero,” and it’s one of many MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) created by HarvardX, the university’s online course production company.

Love is not blind, as it turns out. But opposites attract when people think they are similar.

These are two findings about the users of OKCupid, one of the web’s most popular dating sites, that provide a window into how we chase romantic partners in the digital age.

At the same time, the results offer yet another example of how websites like OKCupid are sometimes used as social science laboratories — often without telling their subjects.

SEATTLE -- It is ironic, says Bill Gates, that academic institutions are so good at studying the world around them but not themselves.

Gates, the Microsoft founder whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent roughly a half billion dollars on higher education, made his case to college business officers Monday that colleges must hold themselves more accountable -- or someone else will bring them to account.

The California State University System is replacing its distance education portal with a shared services model less than two years after its launch, as the system’s campuses decide they would rather do the work on their own.