All posts by Sara Grossman


A Virtual Cotton Club Rises, With an Open-Source Engine


The virtual-life company Utherverse is recreating the Harlem of the 1920s for Bryan Carter, a U. of Arizona professor.

Second Life, the virtual world many professors use for experiential learning, is no longer big enough for one University of Arizona professor.

Bryan Carter, an assistant professor of Africana studies, has been using the virtual world to teach students about the Harlem Renaissance since 2005. But as technology has advanced, Mr. Carter has been looking to evolve his virtual city a…


Google Begins Selling Textbooks Through Play Store

With little fanfare, Google began offering electronic textbooks for rent or purchase on its Google Play store on Friday. Included will be books from some of the largest academic-text publishers, including Pearson, Macmillan Higher Education, and Wiley, among others.

Google said the e-textbooks could save students “up to 80 percent” off print-textbook prices, and could also provide readers with features not available from traditional books. Among other things, readers can search within a text…


Howard U. Will Expand Its Online Offerings

Washington — A new partnership between Howard University and Pearson Education will allow the university to expand its online offerings started in the fall of 2014. The university will begin offering degree programs through the partnership, called Howard University Online, and hopes to reach up to 25 online programs in the following years.

“We are looking at the nontraditional student who might not come to our campus,” said Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard’s provost and chief academic officer….


How to Build a Digital-Humanities Tool in a Week

Twelve scholars convened at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University this week to build a Web application for the digital humanities as part of the One Week | One Tool challenge, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The participants, who included Web developers, faculty members, museum professionals, undergraduate and graduate students, and a high-school librarian, spent five days brainstorming, designing, and developing their tool, said B…


Web-Hosting Project Hopes to Help Students Reclaim Digital Destinies

Jim Groom and Tim Owens believe that college students are not being adequately prepared to be good “digital citizens” of the 21st century. Partly to blame, they say, is the prebuilt and prepackaged software that many use to create digital identities or to curate their interests online. Services like Facebook and Tumblr do not allow for online experimentation or for a true understanding of how the Web works, they argue.

Mr. Groom, director of teaching and learning technologies at the University o…


Students Prefer Print for Serious Academic Reading

E-reader use is on the rise, and the textbook market is shifting toward customizable digital products. Are students ditching print in favor of electronic alternatives for their academic reading? A forthcoming small study from the City University of New York asked that question and found that, like previous generations, at least some Millennials still prefer reading long texts and academic selections in print.

The study, “Student Reading Practices in Print and Electronic Media,” to be published i…


Bill Gates Discusses MOOCs at Microsoft Research’s Faculty Summit

Bill Gates says that this is the “golden era” of learning, thanks to massive open online courses and easy access to information. The chairman of Microsoft gave the keynote address on Monday at Microsoft Research’s Faculty Summit, an annual event that brings together Microsoft researchers and academics from more than 200 institutions for a two-day conference in Redmond, Wash., on current issues facing computer science.

At the summit, Mr. Gates told the audience that he sees enormous potential for…


West Virginia U. Provides ‘Super Wi-Fi’ Through Unused TV Channels

West Virginia University has announced that it is now providing broadband Internet access to its campus and the surrounding area via unlicensed and unused television channels. This move away from traditional wi-fi hotspots makes the university the first in the nation to use television channels to provide Internet connectivity, said Michael Calabrese, director of the New America Foundation’s Wireless Future Project, which assisted in the transition.

Julius Genachowski, a former chairman of the Fe…


American MOOC Providers Face International Competition

Although talk of providers of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, has centered mostly on American companies and nonprofit organizations like Coursera and edX, MOOC platforms in other countries have made it clear that they are also looking to stake a claim in this growing realm of higher education.

Japan’s answer to Coursera and edX, Schoo, announced this week that is had raised $1.5-million from venture-capital firms, including Itochu Technology Ventures, the Anri Fund, and the Incubate Fund….


Faster Outreach to Students, Through a Mobile App

The creators of a new mobile application are aiming to improve colleges’ engagement with students, using pop-up messages to survey students and aggregate data in real time.

The app, Student Engauge, is part of a larger trend toward mobile outreach, as colleges seek ways to engage with students who often don’t respond to e-mails or online pestering, says Justin Reich, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The app follows in the path of mobile warning messages t…