All posts by Ellen Wexler

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Virtual-Reality Lab Explores New Kinds of Immersive Learning

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Photo by John T. Consoli, U. of Maryland

College Park, Md. — Standing in a virtual-reality lab at the University of Maryland here, Ramani Duraiswami passed around a standard pair of headphones.

Music played over them — but to the wearer, the source of the sound seemed to move around the room. As the music quieted down, it sounded as if it came from farther away. As it got louder on one side of the headset, it sounded as if it came from that side. “We’re able to perceive the world in all d…

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Public-University Group Expands ‘Personalized Learning’ Efforts

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities is expanding its support of “personalized learning” with the help of a new $4.6-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Personalized learning” means different things to different people. It’s a buzzword, and it can be difficult to get past the hype. Depending on whom you ask, it can mean such things as data analytics, video games, or artificial-intelligence research.

For the university association, it has to do with using tec…

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What Google’s New Open-Source Software Means for Artificial-Intelligence Research

Google wants the artificial-intelligence software that drives the company’s Internet searches to become the standard platform for computer-science scholars in their own experiments.

On Monday, Google announced it would turn its machine-learning software, called TensorFlow, into open-source code, so anyone can use it.

“We hope this will let the machine-learning community — everyone from academic researchers, to engineers, to hobbyists — exchange ideas much more quickly, through working code…

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Campus Tech Leaders Report More Support for Free Educational Materials

College technology leaders appear more optimistic these days about open-source textbooks and open educational resources — teaching and learning materials that can be used at no cost.

According to the latest Campus Computing Survey of top technology officers at colleges, released on Thursday, 81 percent believe that open educational resources will be an important source for instructional material in the next five years. And 38 percent report that their institutions encourage faculty members to us…

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MOOCs Are Still Rising, at Least in Numbers

When one of the first massive open online courses appeared at Stanford University, 160,000 students enrolled. It was 2011, and fewer than 10 MOOCs existed worldwide.

It has been four years since then, and according to a new report, the cumulative number of MOOCs has reached nearly 4,000.

Compiled earlier this month by Dhawal Shah, founder of the MOOC aggregator Class Central, the report summarizes data on MOOCs from the past four years. And the data show that even as the MOOC hype has started to…

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University-Run Boot Camps Offer Students Marketable Skills — but Not Course Credit

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Northeastern U. plans to offer a boot-camp-style program called Level at a space in downtown Boston. (Adam Glanzman, Northeastern U.)

Level, a venture that offers students courses in data analytics, has a motto of sorts. It’s written in large letters across the program’s website: “Real skills. Real experience. Two months.”

The motto sounds a lot like the boot-camp style of education offered by companies like General Assembly. But Level, a product of Northeastern University, is neither a private …

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Measuring Academic Skills and ‘Grit’ to Help Identify At-Risk Students

With the help of a grant of nearly $2 million, Excelsior College wants to use analytics to identify at-risk students.

The private nonprofit institution, in Albany, N.Y., was one of 17 recipients of a First in the World Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the college announced on Wednesday. It plans to use the grant money to fund an open-source assessment tool that colleges will eventually be able to use free of charge.

Called the Diagnostic Assessment and Achievement of College Skills,

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How Video Games Are Becoming University-Approved Sports

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Andrew Higley, U. of Cincinnati

When 800 video gamers arrived at the University of Cincinnati’s basketball arena on Saturday morning, 8,000 feet of extension cords and 11,000 feet of Ethernet cables awaited them. Check-in was at 9 a.m., and they had a lot to carry: laptops, desktops, TV monitors, GameCube controllers. They set up beneath the championship banners and retired jerseys hanging on the walls.

During the two-day tournament, held by the university’s League of Legends club, teams from …

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Can Online Education Help Refugees Earn Degrees?

When refugees want to enter higher education, they often lack the paperwork.

To enroll in conventional universities, students need to submit the kind of documentation — like passports and previous education records — that many refugees do not have. And even when refugees are able to provide the required documentation, tuition is often out of their price range.

But in the past few months, some online universities have been reaching out to those students, telling refugees that they don’t have to…

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What the Results of a Survey of Coursera Students Mean for Online Learning

When Coursera, Udacity, and edX started up within four months of one another, in 2012, The New York Times declared it the year of the MOOC. Now that the clamor is dying down, researchers are gauging what actually has developed in terms of massive open online courses.

A report released this week draws on a survey of Coursera students to look at their motivations and what kinds of educational and career results they are seeing. Published in the Harvard Business Review, it is the first study of Cou…