Blindness groups, ASU settle lawsuit over Kindle

ASU will not pay any damages for using Amazon's Kindle DX in a pilot project.
ASU will not pay any damages for using Amazon's Kindle DX in a pilot project.

Two organizations representing the blind have settled a discrimination lawsuit against Arizona State University over its use of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader device.

Arizona State is among several universities testing the $489 Kindle DX, a large-screen model aimed at textbook and newspaper readers.

Last June, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind joined a blind ASU student in suing Arizona State, alleging that the Kindle’s inaccessibility to blind students constituted a violation of federal law.…Read More

Feds roll out simpler FAFSA form

Duncan helped introduce the newest online FAFSA form.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan helped introduce the newest online FAFSA form.

The new online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will allow college applicants to skip series of questions that don’t apply to them and includes help text and easily accessible instructions, federal officials announced Jan. 5.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife and a former community college educator, promoted the streamlined FAFSA form at Banneker Senior High School in Washington, D.C., where college hopefuls filled out online applications that gauge how much student aid they are eligible for.

About 20 million students submit the FAFSA every year.…Read More

Feds roll out simpler FAFSA form

Duncan helped introduce the newest online FAFSA form.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan helped introduce the newest online FAFSA form.

The new online version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will allow college applicants to skip series of questions that don’t apply to them and includes help text and easily accessible instructions, federal officials announced Jan. 5.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife and a former community college educator, promoted the streamlined FAFSA form at Banneker Senior High School in Washington, D.C., where college hopefuls filled out online applications that gauge how much student aid they are eligible for.

About 20 million students submit the FAFSA every year.…Read More

The top higher-ed tech stories of 2009: No. 2

Broadband access is essential for universities, advocates say.
Broadband access is essential for universities, advocates say.

The economic stimulus package approved by Congress in February included $7.2 billion to help bring broadband internet access to more citizens. It also required the Federal Communications Commission to create a national broadband plan–an undertaking with important implications for colleges and universities.

The stimulus authorized the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to implement the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which is a $4.7 billion, one-time competitive matching grants program. The funds are intended to expand broadband services to underserved areas, improve broadband access for public safety agencies, stimulate the economy, and create jobs. NTIA is implementing the program along side the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Services, which received $2.5 billion for broadband loans, loan guarantees, and grants.

The funding came on the heels of a report from the Benton Foundation calling for robust, affordable, and universal broadband access to the internet, because, according to what the foundation calls “persuasive research,” universal and affordable broadband is “the key to our nation’s citizens reaching for–and achieving–the American Dream.”…Read More

Comcast, NBC deal to test net neutrality

Analysts say Comcast Corp. likely will have to accept substantial conditions if the cable TV provider wants to win regulatory approval for control of NBC Universal’s broadcast network, cable channels, and movie studios in a $13.75 billion mega-deal that is sure to test "net neutrality," the idea that broadband providers should not be able to discriminate against certain types of internet traffic flowing over their lines.

Although federal regulators probably won’t block a deal outright on anticompetitive grounds, they could prohibit Comcast, for instance, from denying rival subscription-TV services access to NBC channels and other popular programming. And they could prohibit the cable giant from blocking or delaying the streaming of content from other networks over its broadband pipeline.

Under a deal expected to be announced Dec. 3, Comcast would control the Peacock network and about two dozen cable channels such as Bravo, CNBC, The Weather Channel, and SyFy, along with the cable lines to roughly a quarter of all U.S. households that pay for TV.…Read More

Student lending landscape in flux

College administrators face a student lending landscape in upheaval at a time when students are borrowing more money than ever to pay for college.

The Obama administration wants to end federal subsidies for private student loans, forcing colleges to shift to a direct-lending model from the government–and the House of Representatives passed legislation in September to make that happen. But the Senate has yet to take up the bill, and Capitol Hill staffers say that’s not likely to happen until after lawmakers resolve the health-care debate.

Now, the Education Department (ED) is trying to force the issue. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged colleges and universities last month to prepare to use the government’s Direct Loan Program for the next school year. But college financial aid directors are split in their support for the switch, which could require the use of new software and training.…Read More

Purdue professor’s blog post sparks debate

A Purdue University professor has landed in hot water with students protesting his personal blog in a flap that has sparked a free-speech debate on campus, reports the Indianapolis Star. The blog in question is a conservative web page on which library science professor Bert Chapman posted an "economic case against homosexuality." Some have called for Chapman to resign or be fired for his Oct. 27 posting, which laid out an argument that the cost for AIDS research and treatment should factor into the national debate over the acceptance of gays and lesbians. But Purdue says it’s not going to interfere with a free-speech issue, and Chapman himself defends his blog. "There are many things on the internet that would be offensive to a lot of people but protected by the First Amendment," said Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg. "The best response is to speak up, which is exactly what our students and some faculty are doing."

Click here for the full story

…Read More

Open-source tool to boost STEM graduates

State education officials have a new tool to help them predict which investments will pay dividends as they try to boost the number of college graduates who major in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Defense company Raytheon introduced an open-source program July 8 that will be customizable for the country’s largest school districts, colleges, and state education systems. The program, called the U.S. STEM Educational Model and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will help officials analyze how they should allocate budgets that have stagnated or shrunk during the economic recession as they seek to increase the number of STEM-related graduates. The program is available for download free of charge, according to the download site.

The computer-based model will simulate how schools can draw students to STEM fields most effectively–a trend that would bolster the science and engineering workforce.…Read More

Update: Online math program could boost learning

College officials nationwide are concerned about the number of recent high school graduates in need of remedial math courses, and some schools have turned to online programs that could preserve shrinking operating budgets.

The problem affects colleges of all types, but community colleges seem to be particularly hard hit. More than 60 percent of students in community colleges need some kind of remedial class—most often, math training—before they can take credit-bearing courses, according to recent studies. This comes with a price tag: A study published this summer shows that community colleges spend more than $1.4 billion on remedial courses every year.

The "Making the Grade, Version 3.0" study was conducted by Pearson, a company that specializes in digital curriculum for pre-kindergarteners through college-age students. Pearson also is the creator of MyMathLab, an online math program designed to help students in college math, including remedial courses.…Read More