Posts Tagged ‘free’


Totally free Tuition in Chile

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Last fall, Michelle Bachelet was once more elected as President of Chile and 1 of her numerous campaign promises was to make higher education totally cost-free.

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Lastest Phd Importance News

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

Jamie Bartram, PhD, “Mr. Water”
phd importance
Image by mystuart
Bartram was the University Day distinguished speaker this year (2012) in honor of UNC’s Water Institute, which you can read about here:

The institute seeks to increase awareness of the critical importance of fresh water to human health in all parts of our world. Bartram was a wonderful and inspiring speaker.

Turn off that tap!!
Conserve, even if you "don’t have to pay for it". My water, for example, comes from a well and is "free". But no water is really free, and it behooves each of us to do our part to conserve that which exists on earth.

To my British friends: Dr. Bartram comes to us from good old England, Surrey, mainly. It was a big step, he says, but he’s happy in Chapel Hill!…


Totally free Thinking?

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

Lately, Blade Nzimande, South Africa’s Minister for Increased Education and Education, announced that the country’s 1st universities to be founded given that the ending of apartheid will open in 2014. Work on a university in Kimberley in the Northern Cape is set to begin in September, so that it can open in time for the starting of the academic year in January. The 2nd university will be primarily based in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, a considerable agricultural district about 340km northeast of Johannesburg.

Within Increased Ed | Blog U


And Now For Some thing Fully Different

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Mayan predictions for the end of the world aside, the years ahead are likely to be quite different for higher education than the past 100 years.  As our holiday gift to you, we have put together this anthem for the end of higher education as we know it.  Sing along!

Please sing to the tune of The End of the World As We Know It by R.E.M.  If you’re not familiar with it, you can see a video of R.E.M. singing it and/or read the original lyrics. 


The End of Higher Ed As We Know It

That’s great, it starts with a MOOC quake.

Talk and tape, cost defrayed, and Science Guy is not afraid.

Eye of a hurricane, it’s unclear who will reign.

We want it for free, budgets stretched wildly.

Go online faster now, get more know-how.

Ladder start to clatter with fear that adjuncts matter.

Fire in a wire, course gurus need to hire.

Creativity sparked, new funding earmarked.

Seems blurry and coming in a hurry

With the provost breathing down your neck.

School by school dive in now, edX, Udacity.

Liberal arts in the dark? Fine, then.

Uh, oh, overflow, class askew, TA new, but it’ll do.

Save yourself, education, improve the nation.

Present seems absurd, students with dreams deferred.

And the left and the right.  Right.

You technologic, patriotic, change, strange.

Bubble here?  Not quite so clear.


It’s the end of the world as we know it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

And I feel fine.


Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year!


All the best,

Margaret and Dayna

Dayna Catropa
Margaret Andrews

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


The Library as a Free Enterprise

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Library Babel Fish

Mita Williams, of the University of Windsor, recently posted her slides from an amazing talk that she gave last month. Anyone who follows me on Twitter might have noticed my ALL CAPS enthusiasm for what she had to say. It was a wide-ranging talk, but it projected the kind of future we can have if we pay attention to what’s going on and keep hold of one important idea: the future of the academic library is free.

Free as in freedom.  Free as in access to ideas without gatekeepers or tolls. Free as in enabling the creation of new things, of bringing the community to the world instead of the other way around. Free as in . . . well, libraries.

She points to our increasing dependence on corporations for both proprietary content and for access platforms. Library software providers are dwindling in number, being bought and sold like pork bellies by private equity firms, and in spite of all that market fermentation, the catalog still sucks. If academic libraries pooled their funds, instead of each being a customer individually negotiating with a limited number of vendors, we could do so much more. We have let the idea of libraries as nodes in a world of idea-sharing lapse in the face of license agreements and defining our hyper-local value propositions.

We’re also frantically trying to spend our way into making our websites look and act more like Google, which is really hard when we don’t have Google’s deep pockets for R&D investment or its enormous scale. Its stated mission, “;to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful,” is what libraries used to aim for. Now each library is more or less on its own, each one trying to recreate a Google experience by buying expensive discovery layer software that searches multiple databases and the catalog at once, spending countless hours making it work, then pleading with users to use it. From what I can gather, most libraries are marketing it to lower division undergraduates, even though we know students don’t want more results; they are already overwhelmed by choices. So why, exactly, are we doing this? 

So we license our content, we license tools to connect our databases, we license layers to hide all the messiness, and managing all that is messy, too, and while we talk about preserving the past and curation and enabling discovery, it turns out we’re really not doing much of that at all. But we could, and we should.

At about the same time that I read Mita’s post, I read about another talk given by the representative of a major publisher on how publisher and librarians can work together.  We both serve science, she said, publishers by getting reports of scientific research peer reviewed and organized for public consumption, libraries by helping scientists get their hands on it. As publishers’ revenue streams shift from subscriptions to author-side fees, librarians will still be useful because . . . well, we could license software to document our local scientists' productivity, which will help bring grant dollars to our institutions. Also, we can explain everything to students. 

Mita’s expansive vision of the future of academic libraries was exhilarating. In contrast, this felt like being told publishers will do the important work while we can try to make ourselves useful and take a seat at the children’s table because we’re so good with kids. 

No wonder non-librarians have trouble envisioning a future for us. We don’t really enable discovery; people turn to their local library to procure things they identified elsewhere. We don’t curate or organize knowledge; we license packages of it curated and organized by others. We do help students navigate it all, but it’s misleading to say we’re promoting information literacy. We’re teaching college literacy, helping students compete assignments by showing them how to find content that will become unavailable the minute they graduate. This is why Mita's alternative sounds so much more exciting. It's a return to what we originally cared about.

Around the same time I also read a piece by Cathy Davidson about technology and the thirst for education, and that led me to a Forbes article about MOOCs and the potential they have for new kinds of revenue generation by disaggregating education and selling it through giant global corporations, and I thought about Cory Doctorow’s warning about the war on general-purpose computing and all of these things seem strangely connected. We can let others take control of the things we value and hope we can afford to play, or we can do it ourselves, openly, and share it.

David Weinberger has written about the library as platform, as a real-and-virtual place where interactions happen and new things are made and shared. Yochai Benkler has written about the wealth of networks and the potential of "commons-based peer production.” We’ve seen endless hours of labor voluntarily contributed to Wikipedia, a project that hews to old values of providing sources, even-handedness, and the value of making knowledge accessible to all.

We have the capability of deciding for ourselves what we want out of libraries, or education, or technology, but we won’t be free to do that unless we are free to make our own choices. There isn’t an app for that.  


Barbara Fister

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Competing with “Free,” Component Two

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Confessions of a Community College Dean

If non-elite colleges and universities want to avoid the fate of travel agencies and film companies, what should they do in the age of free MOOCs?

I’d suggest focusing more clearly on what they can offer that MOOCs can’t.  That means having people around to help students get through the perplexing parts of courses; having advisors who can help students knit together disparate courses into coherent programs; organized tutoring; in-person collaboration and projects; ‘flipped’ classrooms; and specialized facilities.  It absolutely does NOT mean large lecture halls.

In fact, the flipped classroom -; in which the lecture is delivered online, and class time is devoted to doing the work, with a professor available as a resource -; could work beautifully with a MOOC.   Freed from the burden of having to explicate the basics over and over again, on-site faculty could use class time to shore up weak points, pursue deeper understandings of the material, and even have students apply it.  The professor could provide context.

Of course, some pushback is likely.  Faculty who were trained as t.a.’s in grad school might recoil at being put back into that role, with the sage on the stage replaced by the sage on the screen.   Some of that is to be expected, but if the job of the professor is to help the student succeed, then the results will settle the issue.  And to the extent they don’t, the marketplace of tuitions will.

If I’m anywhere close to right, then the role of the non-elite institution will be to level  the educational playing field.  Strong, well-prepared students will do just fine without much help, but most students coming out of the k-12 systems that actually exist don’t fit that mold.  They need structure, and support, and a fair amount of customized, human interaction to be successful.  I know humanists hate this phrase, but that would be the ‘’value-add” of colleges.

Community colleges are actually in a good position to get in front of this shift, if they’re willing.  They already focus on teaching, and they usually have smallish classes anyway.  (At Flagship State, where I got my doctorate, the undergrad Intro to My Discipline had 300 students.  Here it has 30.)  If community colleges are willing to accept the reality of change -; a major ‘if,’ but still -; they could recast themselves to take full advantage of the new, free resources.  Institutions that rely on 300 student lectures may have a harder time.

Colleges will also have to remember the non-academic side.  My brother recently forwarded me a wonderful description of it, from, of all places:

If even half of what you learn is in the classroom, you're not doing things right. College is also the ultimate self-discovery school, a Brownian personality-builder that bashes you off other people to help you all stop sucking. The most important part of education is learning who you are because no, shut up, you really don't know. Not a clue. And that's awesome! Imagine how terrible the world would be if every 17-year-old was actually right about what's important.

It’s funny because it’s true.  Some of the most important elements of college, for me, happened outside of class.  It’s hard to replicate that in a commuter college, obviously, but all the more important to try.  To the extent that college is reduced to the content of classes, something important is lost.  

Focusing on the student experience may require rethinking some of the more indefensible habits into which some places have fallen.  (Flagship State had 60-minute parking meters outside a building with 75-minute classes.  And yes, the students noticed.)  That’s probably for the best.  

The alternative, I think, is to fall into the well-worn habit of denying the validity of any external change at all, until a succession of Republican governors takes hatchets to higher ed funding, arguing, correctly, that people can get the content of higher education for free.  At which point, the folks who already have the economic and cultural capital to succeed will be fine, and everyone else will fall even farther behind than they already have.  If we take seriously the responsibility to educate people who don’t come from money, we have to take the appeal of MOOCs seriously.  If we don’t drive this train, it’ll run us over.

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A “Social,” Totally free and Openly-Licensed Intro to Sociology Textbook

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Hack (Higher) Education

I underline and highlight as I read and scribble copious notes in the margins of books (or sometimes, particularly in a book that I used for teaching, on a color-coded series of sticky notes that serve a dual purpose of bookmarking particular passages). But as I found myself reading more and more digital texts in recent years, I’ve struggled to adjust my note-taking habits to the new format. Sometimes it just wasn’t that easy technologically to take notes (I had to ditch my old-school Kindle for this very reason); sometimes it wasn’t that easy to find the notes I’d digitally jotted down; I worried that, much like ownership of digital texts is in question, my notes might just disappear if a platform owner decided to yank them (See: Amazon’s infamous 1984 incident).

But while The New York Times and others have worried that e-books spell the doom for marginalia, I’ve long felt like they offer an interesting opportunity, too. What if we can more easily share our notes? What if we could see the authors’ commentaries on their own works? What if we could easily read experts’ highlights? What if a class could work together on the pages of an assigned reading -; asking and answering questions, and in turn giving the professor a sense of what’s being read and what’s being understood?

Many of these things are problems that the education startup Highlighter has been tackling, initially offering a JavaScript plug-in enabling “;comments in the margins” on blogs and websites. (I chose Highlighter as one of my favorite startups of 2011). Since then, the startup has shifted its focus slightly to become an education publishing platform that lets textbooks be published for the Web (as well as in PDF, Word, PowerPoint, Excel and ePUB) -; all with built-in social marginalia features.

highlighter socialnotes

Today Highlighter announced that it’s partnering with the 20 Million Minds Foundation, a non-profit committed to finding ways to lower the cost of textbooks, to product a book for the upcoming Fall term -; Introduction to Sociology. The textbook, created by OpenStax College and Rice University is free and openly licensed.

Highlighter and 20MM describe it as “;the first student-faculty interactive textbook” insofar as it will offer these social highlighting, annotating, commenting and sharing features. The Highligher version of the textbook will also let professors place students into smaller study groups for easier social interaction and enables them to track students’ reading and note-taking progress within a topic or chapter.

highlighter comments

The app is built in HTML5, meaning it’s accessible across devices and platforms and via modern browsers.

Highlighter has also landed contracts with a handful of universities that will utilize the startup’s publishing platform for course material.

I recently wrote that the latest round of textbook-related news was banal at best. But the social components, along with the OER materials and the flexibility therein, do offer something a lot more interesting here, I think.

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