Online learning platform uses ‘Hollywood Squares’ model to boost engagement

Most MBA@UNC class sections have a dozen students.

The ever-present temptations of Facebook, Twitter, eMail, instant messaging, text messages, and online shopping are no match for face-to-face-to-face-to-face interaction.

The cure for the perpetual web-based distractions of class time in the online classroom might be webcams that put every face of every student on screen for everyone to see. Accountability might be the key to holding students’ attention.

Officials from the University of North Carolina’s online MBA program, known as MBA@UNC, said an online learning platform designed and operated by a Maryland-based company called 2tor has created a web-based classroom more engaged than any they have seen.

In 2tor’s online classroom, streaming video brings students—usually in small class sections—to each other in boxes posted across the computer screen. The instructor also appears in a box, speaking to each student face to face.

“Around here, we like to call it Hollywood Squares,” said Doug Shackelford, associate dean of UNC’s business school, referring to the old TV show featuring celebrities lined up in a cross section of windows. “The way we’re doing things, it’s much more intense than what happens in the traditional classroom. There’s no back row. Everyone sits in the front row.”

2tor, an education technology company founded in 2008, counts among its customers Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies and the University of Southern California’s School of Education and social work program.

Jeremy Johnson, cofounder of 2tor, said removing the option of hiding in a large online class—rarely participating in group discussions, for instance—ensures students will get their money’s worth.

“If you don’t have the ability to interact with professors and fellow students, then you’re taking away a large part of what matters about going to a great school,” he said. “We knew we had to find a way to leverage streaming video … to make sure that if someone isn’t paying attention, it’s obvious. That really encourages interaction that professors really appreciate.”

In May, 2tor was listed among Forbes’ “10 Startups Changing The World,” after making inroads at prestigious schools like UNC, USC, Georgetown, and Washington University in St. Louis. The company has raised almost $100 million in venture capital.

MBS@UNC’s business program has an asynchronous component in which, like in most online learning platforms, students watch recorded lectures posted to course websites in preparation for the live webcast with peers and instructors.

Shackelford said so far, faculty members teaching in the online MBA@UNC program have praised the live web-based classroom setup.


Indiana Gov. Daniels named next Purdue president

With Indiana hemorrhaging revenue during the Great Recession, Gov. Mitch Daniels targeted higher education to help fill the gap — including nearly $30 million in state cuts at Purdue University, the Associated Press reports. On Thursday, trustees there unanimously approved him as the school’s 12th president. Students, faculty members and legislators wondered how the governor would transition to a new job with such starkly different duties — particularly considering he still has six months left in his old one. Daniels said it will involve a lot of listening. The former White House budget director and Eli Lilly executive has a Princeton bachelor’s degree and Georgetown law degree but virtually no experience working in academia.

“I don’t even know what I don’t know yet. All I know is there’s a lot I don’t know,” he told about 100 students at an afternoon gathering on campus…

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Berkeley police department, Albany receive funding approval for armored vehicle amid concerns from citizens

An armored vehicle isn’t protecting the UCPD against public outrage, the Huffington Post reports. Critics of the University of California Police Department at Berkeley, Berkeley Police Department and Albany Police Department’s pact to seek government funding for a shared armored vehicle are wary that police forces are seeking to use the machine to stifle protests. Critics’ fears may stem from previous reports of procedural inconsistencies and excessive forcefulness from the UCPD in the aftermath of its responses to on-campus Occupy protests. According to the Los Angeles Times, a report written by the campus’ independent Police Review Board “found that officers appeared to have strayed from campus policies and norms in their use of batons against protesters and called on the university to better explain when the use of force is appropriate.” Additionally, The Daily Californian reports that an armored vehicle was brought by officers to a UC Davis Occupy protest…

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Okla. regents approve college tuition increases

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved tuition increases Thursday for 25 of Oklahoma’s 26 state colleges and universities, the Associated Press reports. The average increase is 5.2 percent, said regents Chancellor Glen Johnson, but they range from 2.8 percent at Oklahoma State University to 7.9 percent at the University of Central Oklahoma. The University of Oklahoma’s tuition will go up 3 percent. Johnson said the regents took into account the impact that rising tuition has on students and their parents.

“I think the action today reflects that and reflects the sensitivity to students and parents’ needs,” Johnson said, “but also provides a mechanism to continue to provide a great higher education opportunity at a very affordable cost,” said Johnson.

Annual tuition for full-time out-of-state students will rise by an average of 5.1 percent, or $501 per year. Connors State College in Warner did not seek to raise tuition, but was given approval to increase mandatory fees by $150 per year for full-time students…

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New Chemistry Studio Classroom at Harry S Truman College Receives National Attention

New Chemistry Studio Classroom at Harry S Truman College Receives National Attention
Dozens of technology leaders in higher education visit site to learn how to design engaging classroom environments

CHICAGO – Harry S Truman College hosted 40 chief information officers and directors of information technology from colleges across the country last week as part of HP’s Higher Education Academic Summit. The senior officials visited Truman College to see its newly-opened, state-of-the-art organic chemistry studio classroom.

Truman College’s studio classroom combines lectures and labs into one space, encouraging students to learn science through a continuous cycle of observation, reasoning and experiment. Students work both individually and in small groups, sharing a computer and lab equipment. The studio classroom makes it possible for students to perform experiments, work in teams, share data, participate in discussions, observe demonstrations, listen to mini-lectures and switch easily between all of these activities.

“Faculty members were instrumental in the design and construction process to ensure each piece of the studio fit the needs of the classes that would be taught in the room, from the tables to the SmartBoard,” explained Reagan Romali, president of Truman College. “Because of the involvement of faculty, the finished product is something that’s fully utilized in every class. Even more important, we’ve seen an increase in both student retention and success when we compared classes in studio classrooms to classes in non-studio classrooms.”

“Truman College and its studio classroom demonstrate how successful colleges can be in designing an engaging learning environment if faculty and IT partner together,” said Elliott Levine, education strategist, HP. “Not only does Truman’s studio classroom have the latest technology, but it is designed in a way that makes it easy for faculty members to use the technology in every class.”

The central technology in the room is the classroom management system that allows the instructor to display live demonstrations, handwritten formulas on the SmartBoard, DVDs, websites, photos or any other content on a computer to all the monitors in the room simultaneously. This provides every student with a front seat. The room also includes nine fume hoods to use for experiments when necessary.

“Every piece of technology in the studio classroom serves a pedagogical goal,” said Charles Abrams, chemistry faculty member at Truman College and a member of the design team. “Even the layout of the room was considered during the design process. We were able to work directly with the design and construction team to make sure that the studio was designed to provide the students with the best experience possible.”

Truman College has two chemistry studio classrooms – one for organic chemistry which opened in Spring 2012 and one for general chemistry which opened in Spring 2008. Truman College also has eight other studio classrooms for other disciplines like communications and mathematics.

About City Colleges of Chicago
City Colleges of Chicago is the largest community college system in Illinois and one of the largest in the nation, with 5,800 faculty and staff serving 120,000 students annually at seven colleges and six satellite sites city-wide. City Colleges of Chicago is in the midst of a Reinvention, a collaborative effort to review and revise City Colleges programs and practices to ensure students leave City Colleges college-ready, career-ready and prepared to pursue their life’s goals.

City Colleges of Chicago includes seven colleges: Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harry S Truman College, Harold Washington College and Wilbur Wright College. The system also oversees the Washburne Culinary Institute, the French Pastry School, two restaurants, five Child Development Centers, the Center for Distance Learning, the Workforce Institute, the public broadcast station WYCC-TV Channel 20 and radio station WKKC-FM 89.3. For more information about City Colleges of Chicago, call: (773) COLLEGE or visit



LiveText Announces 2012 Assessment & Collaboration Conference Schedule

LiveText, the leading provider of campus-wide solutions for strategic planning, assessment and institutional effectiveness, has announced its 2012 Collaboration and Assessment Conference schedule, July 23 & 24 in downtown Chicago. This year’s conference will provide higher education faculty and administrators an opportunity to explore leading-edge practices in assessment of high impact learning and collaborate with colleagues.

Featured speakers include:

Carol Geary-Schneider, President, AAC&U

Dr. Terry Rhodes, Vice President of the Office of Quality, Curriculum and Assessment, AAC&U

Linda Suskie, Assessment & Accreditation Consultant

Attendees will engage in hands-on training sessions in topics that are vital to institutions’ development of high-impact learning and high-impact assessment integration such as Quality Enhancement Planning and Curricular Redesign. They will also receive an interactive training session in LiveText’s new Field Experience Management module that enables learning assessment outside of the classroom.

Registration information and a complete conference schedule is available at .

About LiveText

LiveText is the leading provider of community-centered web tools, expert consulting services, and broad support services for colleges and universities facing the challenges of accreditation. For more than a decade, LiveText’s standards-based learning assessment and Accreditation Management System™ has provided the most advanced, flexible, and intuitive web-based tools for developing, assessing, and measuring student learning and program evaluation to assist educators in developing best practices and benchmarks. To this end, LiveText is committed to community collaboration for the development of the most effective generation of technology-based services meant to expand the student and faculty learning processes, facilitate program growth and effectiveness, and support continuous improvement of the overall higher educational experience for students, teachers, and entire institutions.
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Google pumps cash into university’s open source lab

Google's Summer of Code is drawing thousands of student proposals.

Google has propped up one of higher education’s leading open-source development programs with $1.9 million, including this month’s $300,000 gift, which will support the creation of free software for schools, hospitals, and government agencies nationwide.

The search giant on June 13 announced its latest gift to Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab, a program launched in 2003 that provides a hosting environment for developers of software and technologies made with an open-source license, which allows anyone to copy the source code and change it for free.

OSU’s Open Source Lab provides hosting for a range of well-known projects, including the BusyBox, CentOS, the Apache Software Foundation, and Eclipse.

The lab is powered by servers located across the country with more than six terabytes of storage, according to the university.

Read more about open source technology in higher education…

MIT brings video game battle to the public

Web developers unleash code in hope that students will take on bookstores

“Google’s global leadership in the open source community is unquestioned,” OSU President Ed Ray, adding that the university has “benefited from Google’s generous corporate philanthropy that allows our Open Source Lab to move forward its mission of supporting, through technology, many under-served populations around the world, while also creating new industries and products at home.”

OSU students, staff, and faculty have helped develop and maintain Oregon’s K-12 online program and the state’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. Students who work in the university’s Open Source Lab helped develop an online tool known as TriSano, which allows health reports submitted by hospital workers to be reviewed and edited by colleagues with clearance to use the web-based system.

Josh Schonstal, a senior at OSU and a developer at the school’s Open Source Lab, said TriSano is an open-source program that could help health workers share critical information more freely, perhaps helping the Centers for Disease Control better manage outbreaks.

“Ideally we want as many hospitals as possible to use this software,” Schonstal said.

The Open Source Lab worked closely with an organization called CrisisCommons – created after the 2010 Haiti earthquake to connect volunteers across the world – to host and support CrisisCommons’ website, online training sessions, and wikis.

The university’s open-source experts also helped CrisisCommons document and distribute lessons learned during the massive volunteer effort in the months after the Haiti earthquake.

Google’s involvement with open-source projects in higher education has deepened in recent years. The company will provide funding for hundreds of college students participating in Google’s Summer of Code.


Court: Facebook posts about student’s lab cadaver justified punishment

Tatro said her free speech rights were violated.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled June 20 that the University of Minnesota did not violate a mortuary student’s free speech rights by punishing her for Facebook posts about the school cadaver she was working on, which included “satirical commentary and violent fantasy.”

But the court, in what might be the nation’s first state high court decision addressing college students’ online free speech rights, said the sanctions imposed by the university on Amanda Tatro were justified by “narrowly tailored” rules directly related to “established professional conduct standards.”

Although Tatro lost her case, some free speech advocates said they were relieved by the ruling’s limits, which they said applied only to the online conduct of a student in a professional program.

University of Minnesota General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said he was “very pleased” by the court’s decision, which he said marks the first time either a state supreme court or a federal appellate court has decided whether a public university can discipline a student for an online posting.

“The university is not interested in restricting free speech in general,” Rotenberg said.

“This is a case about enforcing professional standards and norms” in professional disciplines that also could include law, medicine, or teaching, Rotenberg said.

In November and December 2009, while a junior in the university’s mortuary science program, Tatro referred to the cadaver on Facebook as “Bernie,” a reference to the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

She also wrote, “I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though,” and “Give me room, lots of aggression to be taken out with a trocar.”

A trocar is a long, hollow needle used during embalming to release gas and fluids from the body.

Tatro also wrote “Hmm, perhaps I will spend the evening updating my ‘Death List #5,’ ” and that she would soon stop seeing “my best friend, Bernie,” adding “Bye, bye Bernie. Lock of hair in my pocket.”

After learning about the Facebook postings, the university filed a formal complaint, alleging that Tatro engaged in “threatening, harassing, or assaultive conduct.”

In addition, the university said she violated the anatomy laboratory course rules, which included using respectful language when discussing cadavers and refraining from “blogging” about the anatomy lab or the cadaver dissection.

The postings caused university staff members to be concerned for their safety, according to officials, and faculty members suggested that Tatro should have been expelled from the mortuary science program.

But the university gave her an “F” for the anatomy class and required her to take a clinical ethics course and undergo a psychiatric exam. Tatro also was placed on academic probation for the rest of her undergraduate career.


The 10 colleges with the biggest tuition increase

The U.S. Department of Education is trying to give students a better idea of the cost of college, but they may be failing at it, the Huffington Post reports. The net price to attend college increased an average of 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010, according to figures the Ed Department put out last week. Included in the figures is the ranking of the schools with the highest percentile increases in average costs of attendance over the past couple of years — a so-called “shame list.”

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College president ‘prostitution’ site ruled legal

A website that authorities say two aging professors used to run a multistate prostitution ring is legal, a state judge has ruled, highlighting the difficulties that prosecutors face in using decades-old laws to combat a modern phenomenon, the Associated Press reports. The ruling comes as prosecutors were scheduled to present to a grand jury their case against former University of New Mexico President F. Chris Garcia, who is accused of helping a physics professor from New Jersey oversee a prostitution website called “Southwest Companions.” State District Judge Stan Whitaker ruled that the website, an online message board and Garcia’s computer account did not constitute a “house of prostitution,” the Albuquerque Journal reported. Whitaker also said the website wasn’t “a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed.”

The ruling means that prosecutors will now have to decide how to proceed with a case involving Garcia, retired Fairleigh Dickinson University physics professor David C. Flory and others…

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