University posts info of 40K students

UH immediately removed the exposed files when the security breach was discovered.

The Social Security numbers, grades and other personal information of more than 40,000 former University of Hawaii students were posted online for nearly a year before being removed this week.

University officials told the Associated Press that a faculty member inadvertently uploaded files containing the information to an unprotected server on Nov. 30, 2009, exposing the names, academic performance, disabilities and other sensitive information of 40,101 students who attended the flagship Manoa campus from 1990 to 1998 and in 2001.

A handful of students from the West Oahu campus were included in the security breach.

UH-West Oahu spokesman Ryan Mielke said there was no evidence that the faculty member acted maliciously or that any of the information was used improperly.

The faculty member, who retired from the West Oahu campus in June, was conducting a study of the success rates of Manoa students, and believed he was uploading the material to a secure server.

The university apologized for the incident, saying it was investigating how it happened. It was notifying the former students by e-mail and letters, and has also alerted the FBI and Honolulu police.

“We are troubled (and) determined to notify everyone according to law and committed to do everything possible in the future to prevent this from happening,” UH system spokeswoman Tina Shelton said.

The incident is the third major information breach in the UH system since last year. Each time, university officials promised it was strengthening its network systems and working to identify other potential security risks.

In the latest breach, UH immediately removed the exposed files and disconnected the server from the network when it was notified of the information breach on Oct. 18 by Aaron Titus, information privacy director of Liberty Coalition, which is a Washington-based policy institute.

Google cleared its caches late Thursday, some 11 months after the information was first put online.


Omeka launches a hosted platform to move museum collections to the cloud

Open-source publishing platform Omeka announces today the launch of a hosted Web service, While similar in some ways to the content management system provided by WordPress, Omeka is geared towards the online exhibition of library, museum and archive collections, reports ReadWriteWeb. And much like WordPress and other services have simplified the publication of texts online, Omeka is aimed at helping bring academic scholarship and cultural heritage sites to the Internet. By using, scholars and archivists will be able to easily build digital exhibits and publish digital scholarship, while also taking advantage of Web 2.0 tools that foster collaboration and communication. Omeka handles a variety of content – images, audio, video, text – all of which can be marked with the standards-based Dublin Core metadata. The new hosted service offers five different plans for users (including a free option), with different features and pricing based on the number of sites, plugins, and storage, so that both individual and institutional users will be able to utilize Omeka…

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College CIO academy: Translate the ‘techno babble’

College CIOs could retire en mass over the next decade, creating a huge challenge for educational technology leadership.

The sometimes indefinable role of a college’s chief information officer has become clearer for six campus technology staffers after a week of eight-hour days learning, among other lessons, how to communicate with higher-ups and manage dwindling IT budgets.

The college staff-turned-students attended Excelsior College’s first Center for Technology Leadership (CTL) program at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md., where educational technology experts led classes on topics ranging from how to lead a campus technology department to understanding local, state, and federal rules and regulations.

This month’s program had nine attendees. Tuition for the week-long program was $2,500, and students stayed in the National Labor College’s dormitories.

A CIO academy designed specifically for higher education could be timely for campuses that might struggle to find a qualified IT director over the next decade.

Nationwide research conducted by Wayne Brown, vice president of IT at Excelsior, an online school, and executive director of CTL, shows that nearly half of college CIOs plan to retire in the next 10 years, and many campus technology staff who want that top role aren’t sure how to get there.

“For aspiring CIOs, we want to offer them a realistic look at the job and see, first of all, whether they want to do it or not,” said Brown, whose research showed the majority of people filling IT director spots in higher education are more than 51 years old. “If their answer is yes, then we want to help them build a network of like-minded people they can reach out to.”

The educational technology leadership program includes an entire day dedicated to communication, teaching aspiring college CIOs to “translate the techno babble” for presidents, provosts, and chief financial officers who control the campus purse strings.

A lack of communication, Brown said, “is the one thing that can really drive us into a ditch,” creating tension between the IT department and the rest of the university.

CTL student Kurt Ashley, systems and networking director at Albion College in Michigan, said the educational technology leadership program has clarified, among other points, what decision-making power a college IT director should have.


Chinese wrest supercomputer title from U.S.

A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower, reports the New York Times. The computer, known as Tianhe-1A, has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top computer, which is at a national laboratory in Tennessee, as measured by the standard test used to gauge how well the systems handle mathematical calculations, said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who maintains the official supercomputer rankings. Although the official list of the top 500 fastest machines, which comes out every six months, is not due to be completed by Mr. Dongarra until next week, he said the Chinese computer “blows away the existing No. 1 machine.” He added, “We don’t close the books until Nov. 1, but I would say it is unlikely we will see a system that is faster.”

Officials from the Chinese research center, the National University of Defense Technology, are expected to reveal the computer’s performance on Thursday at a conference in Beijing. The center says it is “under the dual supervision of the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Education.”

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As college fees climb, aid does too

As their state financing dwindled, four-year public universities increased their published tuition and fees almost 8 percent this year, to an average of $7,605, according to the College Board’s annual reports, says the New York Times. When room and board are included, the average in-state student at a public university now pays $16,140 a year. At private nonprofit colleges and universities, tuition rose 4.5 percent to an average of $27,293, or $36,993 with room and board. The good news in the 2010 “Trends in College Pricing” and “Trends in Student Aid” reports is that fast-rising tuition costs have been accompanied by a huge increase in financial aid, which helped keep down the actual amount students and families pay…

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FTC drops Google StreetView inquiry; other countries, not so much

The Federal Trade Commission has ended its inquiry of Google and the data it collected from unsecured wireless hotspots, citing the company’s improved privacy policies, reports ZDNet. Not only will the FTC not fine Google, but regulators “had received assurances from Google that it ‘has not used and will not use any of the payload data collected in any Google product or service, now or in the future.’” If only Google could get off so easily elsewhere in the world. In Italy, Google is facing tough new requirements for marking the StreetView cars and registering their itineraries, while the Czech Republic has banned the StreetView program entirely and Germany insisted upon a system by which homeowners could opt out of the service (244,000 households did, by the way)…

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Lawmaker calls for investigation of College tuition policy

A Republican Maryland lawmaker urged a criminal investigation of Montgomery College on Wednesday, challenging the school’s longtime practice of giving resident tuition discounts to illegal immigrants, reports the Washington Post. Montgomery College allows illegal immigrants to pay the lower tuition afforded to county residents, as long as they have graduated from the county’s public schools. It’s an unusual stance: Some public colleges in the region don’t admit illegal immigrants as students, and those that do typically charge them higher non-resident rates because they cannot prove legal residency. Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County) called Wednesday for state and federal prosecutors to investigate the community college’s tuition policy, which he said he believes violates federal law…

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Updated federal regulations target for-profit colleges

New regulations close some loopholes allowing poor practices.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) on Oct. 28 will release finalized regulations targeting for-profit colleges that give the government a stronger hand overseeing the fast-growing sector–including new rules reining in how recruiters are paid and a controversial attempt to define credit hours.

Still to come early next year is the most fought-over proposal: A rule that would cut off federal aid to college vocational programs with high student-debt levels and poor loan repayment rates.

ED put off finalizing those “gainful employment” regulations until early next year, although the updated package of rules includes one scaled-down gainful employment provision that has eased industry worries.

A full review will not be possible until the final regulations are published online Oct. 28 and in print Oct. 29 in the Federal Register. But ED officials are portraying themselves as good listeners, saying they made 82 changes in response to comments and criticisms of 13 new “program integrity” rules that will go into effect in July 2011.

“These new rules will help ensure that students are getting from schools what they pay for: Solid preparation for a good job,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement.

On recruiter pay, admissions officers at for-profit colleges have been barred since 1982 from receiving incentive pay based on securing enrollments. But since then, a dozen loopholes have been put in place allowing the practice, with limits.

The regulations to be released Oct. 28 will eliminate such “safe harbors.”

“It closes the loopholes that led to boiler room-style sales tactics at some colleges, with recruiters doing and saying whatever it took,” said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success, an advocacy group for tighter regulations.

Other new regulations strengthen ED’s authority to take action against schools engaging in deceptive advertising, marketing, and sales practice. Those are common complaints against for-profit colleges, which are facing intense scrutiny this year for their huge reliance on federal aid and high student-loan default rates, among other things.

Industry officials are eager to see specifics on ED’s attempts to define a credit hour, the metric used to determine a student’s eligibility to receive federal aid. ED said a standard definition is necessary because some schools are gaming the system, inflating student credits to get more federal money.


University website addresses gender gap in STEM fields

ASU's STEM site will include videos of women with successful STEM careers.

ASU's new web site will include videos of women with successful careers in the STEM fields.

Arizona State University officials aren’t just adding to the reams of research showing a gender gap in the science, technology, education, and math (STEM) fields. They’re confronting the persistent issue with a web site that encourages women to identify and rectify the “benevolent sexism” prevalent in these male-dominated fields.

The university will launch Nov. 4 after receiving a $3.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2006. The site, more than just another web resource with studies on how few women are entering STEM fields and finishing degree programs, will offer advice and encouragement from women who have succeeded in the four STEM professions in an effort to close this gender gap.

The web site, aimed at women pursuing their doctorate degrees in STEM fields, will have hundreds of “HerStory” video clips of women who have navigated the difficult STEM road and established careers.

Videos will be available in a wide variety of STEM fields, meaning women can find others from their particular profession, not just someone with a general STEM career, said Bianca Bernstein, an ASU counseling psychology professor and principal investigator of the CareerWISE research program grants.

“Our approach is a little different, because we’re actually trying to do something about it,” she said of the gender gap in the STEM fields.

Giving female Ph.D. candidates real-life examples of women who have been immersed in the same male-dominated fields, Bernstein said, could be key in motivating them to stay in school.

“One of the things we’re trying to address is that women and minorities don’t have role models to see what successful careers can look like in these fields,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine how you might succeed if you don’t see others like you succeed.”

Bernstein said women in STEM fields are often pegged as “lab mothers,” expected to clean up the laboratory after a day of work. And many women are not invited to present research, for example, at an overseas conference, because men assume women want to stay home with their children.