All posts by Marc Parry


QuickWire: Twitter Names Winners of Data Grants

In February, Twitter announced a new program offering researchers the chance to get free data for their studies. Apparently the idea has broad appeal: The company received 1,300 proposals from more than 60 countries, according to a blog post revealing the six institutions that have won the first round of grants.

The research projects will study “the diffusion and effectiveness of cancer early-detection campaigns” and the “happiness of cities,” among other things. The two American winners are the…


New Syllabus Archive Opens the ‘Curricular Black Box’

Course syllabi are a potentially valuable source of information for teaching and scholarship. Their contents could shed light on the evolution of fields (How has Foucault’s popularity changed over time?) or help professors develop new courses (What are best practices for teaching digital humanities?). But gathering and sharing syllabi can be a messy business. Privacy concerns, legal uncertainty, fragmented and inconsistent sharing practices—all present challenges.

A group of scholars is taking a…


What Sports Can Teach About the ‘Cautionary Side’ of Big Data


Steve Hirdt

New York — When college officials talk about using “Big Data” to improve higher education—the focus of a SUNY conference here this week—they often draw an analogy to Moneyball. The movie recounts how Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, revived his ailing baseball team by analyzing data in new ways.

So what might sports teach higher education about data mining? In academe the stakes are higher than in baseball, but progress toward making good use of data has been uneven. No…


‘Big Data’ Is Bunk, Obama Campaign’s Tech Guru Tells University Leaders


Harper Reed (Photo by Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)

New York — Lots of college leaders and technologists are gathered in Lower Manhattan this week for a State University of New York-sponsored conference about all the great things “Big Data” can do for higher education.

Harper Reed, who served as chief technology officer in President Obama’s 2012 campaign, offered those people what he jokingly called “an intervention.”

“Big Data is bullshit,” Mr. Reed said in a keynote speech on Tuesday.

Mr. R…


‘The Zuckerberg Files’: New Scholarly Archive Scrutinizes Facebook CEO


Mark Zuckerberg

In 2010 two privacy scholars published an op-ed criticizing the “Machiavellian” public-relations methods of tech companies like Facebook. They analyzed a PR script that may sound familiar to many of Facebook’s 1.2 billion users. A new feature, which shares more personal data with advertisers, is rolled out. A blowback ensues. Then comes the company’s response: minor changes that largely leave the new feature in place, plus reassuring noises like “we are listening to our users.”



QuickWire: Bruce Chaloux, Veteran Online-Learning Leader, Dies

Bruce N. Chaloux, a longtime online-learning leader who headed the Sloan Consortium, died suddenly over the weekend while visiting family members in Vermont, the consortium announced on Monday. Mr. Chaloux founded the Southern Regional Education Board’s 16-state Electronic Campus before becoming chief executive and executive director of the Sloan Consortium, a nonprofit organization devoted to the growth of online learning. (Read Sloan’s statement announcing Mr. Chaloux’s death here.)


The Professor Who Printed a Handgun

3d-gunPeople have often seen cyberspace as separate from the physical world. But technologies like the augmented reality of Google Glass or the desktop manufacturing of three-dimensional printing are blurring that line. As the digital and physical converge, the results will have “a transformational effect on the nature of human experience,” says Matt Ratto, a critical-information scholar at the University of Toronto.

For starters, people will be able to print gun parts.

Mr. Ratto drove home that reali…


Competency-Based Education Advances With U.S. Approval of Program

Last month the U.S. Education Department sent a message to colleges: Financial aid may be awarded based on students’ mastery of “competencies” rather than their accumulation of credits. That has major ramifications for institutions hoping to create new education models that don’t revolve around the amount of time that students spend in class.

Now one of those models has cleared a major hurdle. The Education Department has approved the eligibility of Southern New Hampshire University to receive f…


‘History Harvest’ Project May Spawn a New Kind of MOOC

During the New Deal of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration hired writers to document history across the United States. The best-known effort collected oral histories of former slaves. Those interviews became the bedrock of research for decades, contributing to a reinterpretation of slavery that took place from the 1950s to the 1980s, says William G. Thomas III, a historian at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Mr. Thomas sees something similar as possible today. He and others are tr…


Leading British Universities Join New MOOC Venture

Martin Bean, vice chancellor of the Open U., says the new venture will have a “distinctly British” twist.

Earlier this month, one of Britain’s top newspapers noticed a glaring absence on the British education scene: MOOC’s. “U.K. universities are wary of getting on board the MOOC train,” read The Guardian’s headline. Two institutions, the Universities of Edinburgh and London, have recently signed on to offer massive open online courses via the American company Coursera. Yet in Britain, said the …