Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reviewing Can Help You If You Want to Learn How to Publish

by Claire Aitchison, Doctoral Writing:

Further to my earlier discussions on publishing during the doctorate, I’d like to talk about reviewing as a stepping stone pedagogy for learning to write for publication.

Volunteering to review seems like a way to give oneself more work - true, but doing scholarly peer review can help develop publication skills, know-how, confidence and competence.

Anyone who has received reviewer feedback on their manuscript submissions is likely to have wondered about the reviewing process - and perhaps wondered about the value of doing some reviewing themselves.

At an intuitive level, it’s seductive to imagine that doing reviewing would give us some insider knowledge that might benefit our writing and publication skills. Luckily, there’s some research that points to the value of reviewing.

What’s to be gained from doing peer review?
  • Improve your writing. Critically focusing on someone else’s writing can sharpen your awareness of your own writing foibles, idiosyncrasies and strengths.
  • Develop self-editing skills. Taking a critical eye to other people’s writing helps you develop self-editing skills when you apply the same reviewing and editing processes to your own work.
  • Up-to-date knowledge. As a reviewer you get access to the latest research, trends and debates in your field months, even years, ahead of publication.
  • Publication know-how. There is no doubt that knowing the system from the inside, as a reviewer, provides valuable insights. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. If you are aware of what a reader reviewer is expected to do, what they might look for, and how they might make judgements about manuscripts, you are more likely to be able to avoid such pitfalls yourself. If you are using scholarly peer review as a strategy for learning, then seek out those journals that circulate the comments of each of the manuscript reviewers. I have certainly found this practice illuminating - I love to see how others have reviewed the same article. It can be confirming to see other reviewers identify the same issues, and informative when they attend to quite different aspects in the paper.
How to build competencies for scholarly reviewing

As an editor of a scholarly academic journal, and as an academic author, I have come across inept reviewers whose critiques have been unacceptable.

While many people learn by trial and error, my own view (particularly informed through my role as an editor) is that it’s preferable to develop some key skills and competencies before taking on peer reviewing for scholarly journals.

Here are some suggestions for building towards becoming a good reviewer.
  • Begin small. If you’ve been to a particular conference a couple of times, and especially if you have presented a paper at that conference, then volunteering to review conference abstracts can be a great way to learn the ropes. Most conference organizers are dead keen to find reviewers for the hundreds of conference abstracts they receive. Reviewing abstracts for conferences is generally a well-supported and manageable task whereby the reviewer is asked to judge a submitted abstract against criteria such as relevance to the conference theme, theoretical or methodological soundness, interest level and so on.
  • Begin local. One of the best ways to build reviewer skills is to join a writing group where members review each other’s work regularly. Writing group peer reviewing enables participants to hone skills for identifying strengths and weaknesses in a manuscript and for articulating those judgements in respectful ways. Furthermore, in a writing group, members can learn from doing reviewing (as regularly as fortnightly) AND can compare and discuss their feedback against that of other group members.
  • Mentoring. Supervisors and more experienced colleagues can be fantastic allies for learning reviewing practices. Having someone to talk over reviewing experiences, especially difficulties and challenges, can be invaluable. Obviously, high levels of trust and sensitivity need to be observed to maintain the levels of confidentiality required of blind reviewing.
Reviewing so often happens in a vacuum, in secret, and in isolation because of the requirements of blind review.

But the very secretive and occluded nature of peer review is exactly what accounts for some of its biggest failings - not the least of which is the limited opportunities to find out about, discuss, debate and practice scholarly review.

I hope some of the issues raised here provide at least some avenues for us to begin to debunk the unnecessary mystery that shrouds the practices of scholarly review - and, importantly, help us build good reviewing practices.

Survey of the Day: Younger Americans Want Great Library Programs and Spaces More Than E-Books

by Sara Johnson, The Atlantic Cities:

If there's one thing older generations like to complain about today's young people, it's their devotion to electronic devices.

What kind of world will we end up with if kids these days are all reading books on their smart phones?

Which leads to the question of the future of libraries, the public's brick-and-mortar meccas for the printed word, which despite increased usage post-recession are still struggling to keep their doors open.

A Pew Research Center report released today offers some insight into the minds of the very same younger Americans who will grow up to define what our libraries will become.

Among young people (which Pew here defines as 16-29 years old), 75 percent had read at least one print book in the last year, versus just 25 percent who had read at least one e-book.

And when it comes to libraries themselves, turns out Millennials are much more bullish on them than you might expect:

 The blue bars in the chart above represent the percentage of surveyed young people who say libraries "should definitely" implement a particular policy.

Over half favor increasing e-book choices, but are split on moving books out of public reach (23 percent say definitely yes, 29 percent say definitely no).

Notice that the four highest-ranked ideas have nothing to do with checking out books or electronic tools: they're about community programs and library spaces.
Sara Johnson is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

Teaching Drama: How to Begin Creating an Ensemble on Day 1

by Denver Casado

It can be tough producing a show with young actors. If your students aren't working together and respecting each other, your production will be that much tougher.

It's important from Day 1 to establish a positive ensemble that understands they're working together toward the same goal.

Often on the first day of rehearsal/class kids are coming from all different backgrounds, age groups and experience. It can be intimidating for a younger kid, or someone who has never acted before.

That's why the activity below is the perfect way to break down some barriers, allow the kids to get to know each other, and have some laughs along the way.

Drama Game Activity: Toe to Toe

  1. Create a standing circle with the kids in a large open space.
  2. Tell them that when you begin playing music, you want them to silently roam around the space, being cautious to not bump into anybody. When the music stops, they should freeze and listen for your command.
  3. Begin playing music (the music can be anything, but ideally each time you play a new track it will have a contrasting emotion. Consider playing the soundtrack to the musical you'll be rehearsing, or have your music director improvise, or just play your favorite songs from your iPod).
  4. Stop the music. The kids should be frozen. Tell them "Silently connect toe to toe with someone you don't know in this room. And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1" (if there's an odd number of students there can be a group of three).
  5. Tell the kids "Introduce yourself to your toe partner and tell them what your favorite food is and why."
  6. Give the kids about 30-60 seconds do this.
  7. Tell the kids "When I begin playing the music again continue roaming around the room. When it stops, freeze and listen for my command."
  8. Play the music. Encourage them as they roam to put the music in their body, stary dancing to it, let loose.
  9. Stop the music. The kids should be frozen. Tell them "Connect elbow to elbow with a different partner, someone you don't know. And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1."
  10. "Introduce yourself to your elbow partner and tell them your favorite movie and why."
  11. Give the kids 30-60 seconds do this.
  12. Begin playing the music again. By this time they should know what to do. Again encourage them to really bop along to the music as they roam around.
  13. Stop the music. "Hip to hip with a different partner. And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1."
  14. "Introduce yourself to your hip partner and tell them your favorite thing about acting and why."
  15. Give the kids 30-60 seconds do this.
  16. Begin playing the music again.
  17. Stop the music. "Connect high-fives with a different partner, someone you don't know. And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1."
  18. "Tell your high-five partner your favorite thing to do on the weekends and why."
  19. Give them 30-60 seconds do this.
  20. Begin playing the music again.
  21. Stop the music. Tell them "Reconnect with your original toe-to-toe partner! And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1."
  22. "Now, staying connected with your toe-to-toe partner, connect with your elbow partner!"
  23. "Now, staying connected with your partners, try to connect with your high-five partner!"
  24. By this time they should pretty much be in a messy human knot. If they can't completely connect with their high-five partner, tell them to just do the best they can.
  25. Finally, if they can handle it, tell them to try and connect with their hip-partner, staying connected. Usually this is impossible, but let them try.
  26. After the chaos has reached it's peak, tell the kids to relax and go back to a large standing circle. Take a couple deep breathes as a group to calm the energy.
  27. Ask for a volunteer to share one thing they learned about somebody in this group they didn't know before. Continue asking volunteers to share information they learned about their partners.
  28. Remind the students that over the next ___ weeks they will be working closely as an ensemble, and the better connected they are, the better they work together, the better the show will be.


The instructions you give after each "connection" that get the students to talk are completely up to you. If the show is already cast, here are some variations:

Introduce yourself and ...

  1. ... tell your partner about what your character is like in the show.
  2. ... tell your partner which scene you're most looking forward to rehearsing and why.
  3. ... tell your partner why you enjoy acting.
  4. ... tell your partner one thing you're a bit nervous about and why.

Allowing the kids to share with just one other person first allows them to build their confidence in a way that might be intimidating in front of a whole group. By starting small, it creates an easy way for even shy kids to begin feeling comfortable within the group.

About the Author

Denver Casado is the founder of Beat by Beat Press, a new publisher of musical plays for kids to perform based in New York City. Visit Beat by Beat to download a FREE ePerusal script of any musical at

Article Source:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Interview With Dr Victor Henning, Co-Founder of Mendeley

Dr Victor Henning, Co-Founder Mendeley & VP Strategy Elsevier
by Alex Katsomitros, The Observatory:

Victor Henning is a pioneer in social networking in academia. 

A researcher specialising in consumer behaviour, he founded Mendeley, a reference manager and academic social network, in 2007. 

The company grew to become a prominent social platform for finding, managing and sharing academic content, and was sold to education publisher Elsevier in April 2013 for between $69m and $100m

We recently spoke with Dr Henning about the open-access revolution and its impact on academic research and peer review, the UK government's open-access policy, Mendeley's purchase by Elsevier, MOOCs and the future of libraries. 

Dr Henning, as you know there is a heated debate in academic circles about open-access academic publishing. Some universities claim that they cannot afford to pay subscriptions to academic journals anymore. Academic publishers say that quality research, particularly when peer-reviewed, costs money and someone has to pay for it. Where do you stand in this debate?

I think all of these observations are true. Open access makes it possible not only for academics but also for a wider audience, including companies and private individuals who are interested in research, to access content and use it for free. So open access has broader societal benefits.

But on the other hand if you are a researcher and you want to publish in a journal you need to find the funds to cover the article processing fee.

Usually If you are affiliated with a large institution you will receive the money from your institution. But that is not always the case, and this is why you will hear some academics raising that issue.

From the perspective of Mendeley, if content is freely available, it makes our life easier because we can allow academics to access content without having to authenticate whether their universities have license to access a journal or not.

Your company is a pioneer in this emerging culture of sharing content online. But now it has become part of Elsevier, a big publishing company. Do you fear that there will be a backlash from your users?

As with any acquisition, users have questions about what is going to happen.  They have invested a lot of time in this tool by integrating it into their workflow and in many cases in their labs.

So people are naturally concerned whether we will stay independent, whether we will start charging them at some point and so on. They also worry about our collaboration functionalities and our open API [application programming interface], which gives free access to our data to 3,000 developers.

There is concern that with Elsevier there will be more pressure to monetise and shut down some of these functionalities.

In fact it is exactly the opposite.

As a start-up you always have this conflict: on the one hand you want to give away value and features for free so that you can grow your user base, but on the other hand you need to make money and charge for new features in order to break even and become independent more quickly.

In the past we had to charge for features which we would have liked to offer for free.

Now with Elsevier, we will have more resources, so we can take a long-term perspective and give away certain features that otherwise we would charge for.

We are part of a bigger company, so it is not just about Mendeley breaking even anymore, but about what makes sense in the context of Elsevier and Mendeley users combined.

For example, we will immediately double the available storage base for free. We are currently reviewing the sharing and collaboration limits and we are most likely to increase them in the next few weeks.

We are about to release new iPhone and iPad applications. We will also start developing an Android application, a top feature request by our users, but we never had the money to develop it.

In regard to open API, we remain committed to delivering data to the third-party developing ecosystem through Creative Commons license.

In fact I think that third-party developers will get more value because we can now use Elsevier data to clean up the data that we have and make it more complete and rich for use in areas such as citation analysis and user-generation profile.

What do you think of the UK government's open-access policy? As you know the UK government wishes to make all publicly funded research open access by 2014. Some academics and associations have warned that such a policy might undermine the freedom of academics to publish research in whichever publication they prefer. One of their arguments is that university leaders and bureaucrats will be the ones to decide what will be published and what not.

I used to be a researcher myself, so coming from the perspective of the academic I think that it is important that researchers are able to choose where they publish their research. As a researcher you always have a narrow choice of which journals are suitable for your work.

You, as an academic, are the best judge of where you want to publish your research for various reasons: which outlet is read by your peers, which is the best match for the type of your research, and which one you can afford if there is a processing fee.

I think that the government should enable researchers to have that choice.

Well, exactly: some academics are complaining that researchers will not have that freedom of choice anymore if open access becomes the norm. It will be the universities that will have the final say on who publishes what and where.

I can see that being an issue, because there are two sides in the market. On one end you have academics and on the other you have publishers. If academics are forced to publish open access, the choice of where to publish is taken away from them.

The only other option would be that the government forces publishers to go open access. As I said open access has societal benefits, but it is also important for companies to choose the best business model for them.

Ultimately, freedom of choice is important, so academics should be able to choose, but companies should also be able to choose their business model.

What is your view of the impact of open-access publishing on the peer review model? Some academics and publishers have argued that open access will undermine peer review, for example by making it unaffordable for publishers or encouraging universities to cancel subscriptions to peer-reviewed journals.

I would disagree with these views. Whether a journal runs a good peer-review process is not tied to its business model, whether that is an open access or a subscription-based model.

It is true that there are some 'predatory' open-access journals that pretend to do peer review and lure academics to submit their papers for a fee, but do not actually provide peer review. But that is a case of scamming rather than of being committed to open access.

I also think that open-access journals like PLOS ONE have made a tremendous contribution to the way peer review is done. Their approach relies on judging only the technical merits of a paper, rather than its so-called contribution or impact. Personally I think that this is a good move.

Of course people might have various goals when they publish research. If they want to submit to the most exclusive journals then they will not submit to PLOS but to magazines such as Nature or Science.

But on the other hand PLOS's approach does have an advantage, that it lets the community judge whether a paper truly has an impact or not. So I would disagree with those saying that open access harms peer review.

Do you think that open access will also affect content? For example, it has been argued that open access will incentivise researchers to make their work simpler and perhaps more attractive to a wider audience. Do you expect that to happen?

I do, but not necessarily because of the way the peer review model works. It is generally becoming more important for academics to convey the outcomes of their research, what they want to achieve with their research and why they are doing it in the first place.

I think that this is a good thing: that researchers should want to share knowledge and ideally avoid using language accessible only to experts. Sometimes it is inevitable that language is used that outsiders cannot understand, but it should not be deliberate.

To digress a bit to the philosophy of science, it was Karl Popper who reminded academics that they should try to be as easily understandable as possible.

Coming back to your question about peer review, I think that the potential benefits of changing peer review, particularly in the way PLOS is doing it by focusing on the technical merits of a paper rather than its impact, might mean a speedier publication process; instead of having to go through three or four round reviews, and then wait for a few months to go to print, you can have a very short period of time between discovery and dissemination of research.

Open access also removes another bottleneck. There is a quote by Paul Lauterbur, a Nobel laureate in medicine, that I am fond of: 'you could write the entire history of science in the last 50 years in terms of papers rejected by Science or Nature'.

So even the highest-quality work often gets rejected because it is too radical, novel or outrageous to contemplate. With the new model of peer review, where you are only judging technical merits, I think that we would see more of this radical research getting disseminated faster, and to my mind that is a good thing.

I can imagine philosophers such as Hegel and Habermas submitting work for peer review and having it rejected for being too radical or complicated ... but what do you think about that other item that has been making headlines lately: MOOCs?

The thing that has struck me about MOOCs is that most access to scientific literature is determined by affiliation with an academic institution. Most people outside universities still have a hard time accessing academic content.

That might change in ten or twenty years, when open access will possibly be a standard way of publishing. But until then there is an issue.

For example, if you are taking a Stanford course and you are not a Stanford student how will you access the research you need to have a first-class education? That question has not been answered yet.

Do you see a business opportunity there for Mendeley or other companies?

Absolutely. I have met many people outside academia who are interested in having access to academic content. So far the model is tied to institutional sales, selling to libraries and then giving access by affiliation.

I believe that there is potential for delivering academic content to a wider audience, whether that is through open access or through a new subscription model. Maybe something like an iTunes for research. So, yes, I think that there are a numbers of opportunities out there.

MOOCs are so far focused on teaching.  Do you think that they could also serve as platforms for research in the future?

I would say that Mendeley is the MOOC of research. This is our actual goal: to bring together academics from all over the world, match them based on their interests and help them collaborate. 

Looking for the MOOC equivalent of research, I would say that this is exactly what we are trying to build.

In the technology sector, data are valuable. Are data a potential source of revenue for MOOCs and social networks in a higher education? If so, are there privacy and security issues?

Data in research and higher education have the same value as in other industries. Companies can tailor their offering, improve the product and user experience they offer, and generate recommendations for personalised learning or research. So data have an intrinsic value that makes your product better.

Data also have a direct commercial value. Mendeley has a data product, Mendeley Institutional Edition, licensed by major academic institutions around the world.

This data product tells librarians what journals are most popular with their institution's faculty and students, so that they can optimise institutional subscriptions.

Regarding privacy, we do not release personal information, only aggregate, so that you cannot infer what an individual academic is doing.

So this is an example of a product that directly commercialises data, but in a way that protects privacy and enables libraries to  deliver a better service to their faculty and researchers by optimising their subscriptions.

How will open access affect the role of academic libraries? More broadly, do you think that we need libraries now that all content is digital?

Libraries serve several purposes. They provide access to information  by being the central point of purchase of content for publishers and then passing on that information to faculty and students.

If open access became the standard mode of accessing content, libraries would not need to fulfill that task anymore. We would rather rely on centralised databases and search engines, like Mendeley, Scopus, Google Scholar and others.

But libraries also serve another purpose, which is preserving and archiving information. Particularly at research institutions that produce their own output, libraries will be needed to preserve and disseminate that information.

So libraries should not be insular but partner with platforms like Mendeley and others. I do think that libraries have a role that goes beyond providing access to content.

The Impact of MOOCs on Smaller Universities: A Blessing or a MOOClear Disaster?

Inside the MOOC

Several pundits and think tanks, including the credit rating agency Moody's and Pearson, argue that MOOCs pose a threat to smaller higher education institutions, as the online revolution favours elite institutions over the rest. 

Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun claims - perhaps hopefully in his case? - that by 2060 there will be 10 universities left in the world. 

A more plausible approach is to suggest that MOOCs create opportunities for smaller institutions because of their potential to increase international visibility and create new streams of revenue.

A crisis

Top-ranking institutions appear to be in an advantageous position when it comes to online provision. The vast majority of students cannot access these institutions because of a selection process that admits only the brightest and the richest. 

MOOCs may gradually diminish the fee obstacle, thus depriving smaller universities of a big chunk of students. 

This makes more sense if you consider the power of the brand, which is important on the internet, particularly for students from the developing world, and you have a market that may come closer to an oligopoly.

These pressures will be all too evident if the status of a middle-ranking degree is questioned by the spread of e-learning, and if forms of certification are recognised by employers as legitimate alternatives to degrees. 

Some students may bypass traditional higher education, particularly in disciplines where the borderline between theory and practice is blurry and learning by doing is the norm: computer science, data analytics, marketing, accountancy, design and the arts. 

If young Indians or Brazilians are able to get a skilled job with an edX or Coursera certificate, those parts of the HE sectors in the US and the UK that base their business model on international student recruitment will be in trouble. 

Smaller universities that do not specialise in specific subject areas may suffer the most.

MOOCs were motivated at least in part by a mission to widen and increase access to higher education. 

But if the rise of alternative credentials lags behind an increase in provision, they may also give rise to two tiers of graduates: those with a degree from a brick-and-mortar university and those with an online or blended qualification. Such may be the price of the massification of higher education to new levels. 

Even so, an education system free of an obsession with degrees is not such a novelty. Eric Hobsbawm noted in The Age of Revolution that one remarkable thing about technical education during the Industrial Revolution was that there was so little of it. On-the-ground training for engineers was the order of the day.

And an opportunity

Is there hope for universities beyond the great research-led ones? The answer is yes, if they design their own MOOCs, focus on what they are good at and develop an entrepreneurial bent. A key factor for a successful MOOC platform is to focus on employability and connect students with employers.  

Udacity and Coursera both do this and charge fees to hiring companies. Enabling employers to contact graduates early and directly, rather than waiting for them to apply for jobs, is something for universities to consider.

This will be a global game. According to a study by the Accenture Institute of High Performance, there is no global shortage of STEM skills but location mismatches between employers and graduates. 

Engineers might be in short supply in the UK but in abundance in China. This is a gap that creates business opportunities for intermediaries who can connect employers with workers. Universities can be the intermediaries and build social recruiting platforms as a part of their MOOCs.

The medium is the message: Small can be big online

 Mid-tier universities should also try to harness the internet’s viral tendency. What would be the equivalent of the Harlem Shake meme in a higher education context? University leaders could use MOOCs to make particular strengths visible globally. 

Humanities departments could launch writing competitions in more than one language or turn MOOC meetups into literature festivals. 

Media departments could encourage their online students to create news websites, using the language skills of their international talent pool to cover current affairs all over the world. Every subject area can have its own innovative application online. 

Such a strategy would serve three purposes: equipping students with practical experience for employability, creating new streams of revenue through student start-ups, and building global reputations in niche areas. 

Towards the ‘university-entrepreneur’

In contrast with earlier online education platforms, Coursera and edX are interactive platforms, and thereby have the potential to create global communities of learning. 

They can fully exploit Web 2.0 revenue sources such as crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. These platforms include a social element, with tools such as peer grading to reduce costs.

As we know from the other industries that have faced similar challenges, the real added value on Web 2.0 is not necessarily the content but the social activity that emanates from content: the interaction and sharing between by users, who are just as much the product as the customer.

This is where big data might enter the equation. Data constitute an undeveloped source of revenue for higher education institutions. Student data generated on MOOCs can be used for various purposes, from HR and market research to advertising. 

Crowdsourcing can enable institutions to provide market research services to publishers, retailers or anyone willing to pay for them, through platforms such as Mechanical Turk.

Some may balk but they could also sell advertising space on online lectures, as YouTube does, or partner with publishers and charge for content. 

An example is Coursera's new partnership with Chegg, a website for textbook rental and purchase. Students taking Coursera courses will be able to access content for free through Chegg's e-reader during their course.

Crowdfunding could be a new revenue stream. MOOC platforms are virtual academic hubs where millions of people with similar interests meet; these can be engaged as small donors and study participants. 

Private companies may also make use of these platforms if they see that crowdfunded research can be viable as an R&D strategy. Mikroryza is a crowfunding platform for science research grants that enables researchers to post proposals online and solicit donations. 

And University World News reported in May that researchers at Deakin University are using Pozible, another crowdfunding website, to raise money from the Australian public. 

MOOCs can be platforms for student entrepreneurship. Students develop apps and can create startups. University leaders and administrators will have to develop new skills for this: they will have to learn how to run a ‘university-entrepreneur’ that can operate as an angel investor and be active in sectors other from education.

In order to make all that possible, MOOCs from smaller universities will have to reach as many people as possible around the world. This is not an impossible task: the big MOOCs platforms outsize every single brick-and-mortar university. 

But these are all separate considerations from those currently occupying most minds, most notably the integration of MOOCs into credit-bearing degree courses and, hence, revenue.

Avalanches and storms are coming, so we are told. Universities are all going to the wall. Outrageous predictions and measured suppositions are given equal consideration. 

But online education is here to stay. The bulk of middle-ranking institutions cannot avoid disruption but can do a lot to make it work for them.

Supporting Outward Mobility

All you need is a good suitcase ... and money
by Annie Burrows and William Lawton, The Observatory:

Studying abroad is not just an opportunity to experience a new city.

Students who spend a semester (or more) studying and/or working in a foreign country have the upper hand in language ability, cultural awareness and overall professional credentials.

They are more sought-after in the jobs market, and governments are well aware of the benefits of international experience to their economies and political leverage. But how much investment do governments think is necessary to support outward mobility?

The main HE exporting countries have low levels of student outward mobility. UNESCO data indicate that in 2010, China had some 563,000 students studying abroad, while the US had 51,500 and UK 23,000.

The US numbers hardly moved in the three years prior to these statistics. (OECD numbers are slightly higher for the UK.) Brazil is another stay-at-home nation, with only 27,000 outwardly mobile students in 2010.

That same year, the most common destination for US students was Canada, for Chinese students it was Australia and Japan, for UK students Ireland and for Brazilians it was France. 

‘100,000 Strong’ in the United States

In 2010, President Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton launched a 100,000 Strong Initiative as a way to expand and diversify the American student population studying abroad in China and ‘invest in US-China relations, one student at a time’.

100,000 was the cumulative target for Americans studying in China over a four-year period.

The initiative itself has no new US government funding but rather packages an existing collection of grants and scholarships, including scholarships offered by the Chinese government.

By 2012 it had received over $15m in pledges and the Chinese government had offered 20,000 scholarships. Among the private-sector supporters of the initiative are the Ford Foundation, Citi, Coca Cola, and Caterpillar.

An IIE progress report in January 2013 noted that the number of American students studying in China for academic credit from their home institutions had risen from 3,291 students in 2000 to 15,647 in 2010-11.

But more were also going to China for short, not-for-credit programmes such as study tours, internships, and volunteering. Because the precise numbers of those were not known, there was no way of knowing whether the 100,000 target was being reached.

A survey in 2011-12 revealed that there were more than 11,000 additional students engaged in these other education-related activities in China, beyond those normally counted in the IIE Open Doors surveys.

While the overall total therefore appears to be less than 30,000, the IIE felt that there were still many other independent travellers not counted and that the survey yielded an underestimate.

Its conclusion was that ‘Based on these findings, the 100,000 Strong Initiative is likely to meet the goal of sending 100,000 American students to China over a four year period, assuming a sustained or increased interest in studying in China’. This seems more hopeful than anything else.

In 2012, the 100,000 Strong Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental entity, housed at American University’s School of International Service in Washington DC, was launched to bolster the State Department’s efforts to ‘bridge the gap between our two cultures, strengthen bilateral ties and enhance global stability’. It has funding from the Ford Foundation and other sources.

The foundation’s mandate encompasses independent studies, a national campaign, annual conferences, an alumni network, and encouraging government support for study abroad in China. Whether it enables the US government to hit the target remains to be seen.

In March 2011, Obama also launched a ‘100,000 Strong in the Americas’ initiative for outward mobility to Latin America and the Caribbean. As with its predecessor, there does not appear to be dedicated funding.

Meanwhile, in the UK

Increasing the outward mobility of UK students has been a concern of the UK HE sector and at least the last four UK government ministers responsible for higher education, but a coherent strategy has now emerged.

A Joint Steering Group on Outward Student Mobility was formed in October 2011 at the request of the current Universities minister. Led by Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University and Chair of the UK HE International Unit’s Advisory Board, it recommended that the UK should implement a national strategy for outward student mobility, with support from a dedicated body.

The International Unit (IU) has been designated to take this forward on behalf of the sector.

The UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills will inject a one-off £200k to establish the programme and the Higher Education Funding Council for England is committed to further funding of £150k per year until 2016.

These are not astronomical sums but remarkable enough when money is tight. It is up and running with formal launch to come in July.

The IU indicates that it will consult with stakeholders on implementing the strategy, including the British Council and devolved administrations. One such liaison will be with the new Generation UK initiative from the British Council, launched two weeks ago.

Generation UK is an outward mobility programme with echoes of the 100,000 Strong Initiative. Its purpose is to offer support and guidance to encourage UK students to study, intern, and work in China.

The link between international experience and keeping the UK competitive during economic uncertainty was emphasised by the British Council at the launch.

Generation UK appears to have more funding than the other new programme, above. It was reported that DBIS will put in £400,000 over two years, another £250,000 will come from the British Council itself, and that businesses will be approached for support.

The money will fund scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate study at mainland Chinese universities (for courses of different durations), two-month internships, and liaison with university career advisors to build links between industries in China and the UK.

The IU is already managing the big Science without Borders scholarship programme of the Brazilian government, which should see 10,000 Brazilians studying in the UK over the next few years.

Although Brazil’s main concern is to boost outward mobility, the programme also offers ‘Inbound Fellowships’ at Brazilian universities.

Barriers to outward mobility

There is no shortage of studies on the barriers to outward mobility and what can be done about them. A recent offering is from the British Council’s Education Intelligence unit in Hong Kong: ‘Broadening Horizons’ published in March of this year.

Its student survey showed that only 20% of UK respondents were even considering studying overseas and that only 24% felt they had sufficient information to make an informed decision. US students were more inclined to think about it (56%) but only 22% had the information needed.

Barriers identified were cost (53% of UK respondents and 72% of US respondents), obtaining a visa (35% for UK), the difficulty of leaving family and friends (35% for UK, 38% for US) and language ability (42% of US respondents). The IIE identifies cost and language barriers as the two main problems.

China, of course, looks at this the other way round. It has had a programme for inward mobility since 2010 - part of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development 2010-2020.

The target is 500,000 international students by 2020, 150,000 of which in higher education. Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore also have international recruitment targets.

The US and the UK should be pushing at an open door when it comes to China as a study destination. The problem is not with the host country but rather overcoming the obstacles at home - which include costs.

The sectors and governments in both the US and UK recognise the problems. But the responses reflect the American preference for a non-governmental solution.

No doubt the UK government would prefer that too but it accepts that at least some tax money will be needed to make a difference.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Communicating With New Online Learners Means the Difference Between Passing and Failing

by Tim Herrera

Online course instructors face many challenges when working with distance learning students. Instructors must be familiar with the material they are teaching and be comfortable with their content delivery models.

However, one of the biggest challenges comes in working with online students who are struggling, not only with the course work but with their own confidence as well.

Students who are new to online courses face a learning curve regarding class content and technology. In many cases, these students have not been inside a classroom for years, perhaps decades. They are not used to studying, taking tests, writing papers and receiving constructive criticism.

In the June 2012 issue of The Chronicles of Higher Education, Jan Philipp Schmidt, Executive Director and Co-founder of the nonprofit university Peer 2 Peer U, said students can be easily intimidated in their new learning environment and need instructor support to foster success.

"It's totally threatening to beginners or people who aren't doing super well. They don't want to ask questions, because they don't want to look stupid," said Schmidt.

The challenge for online instructors is to guide students, offer constructive criticism, work with them and bolster the confidence of students without the luxury of meeting face-to-face.

This means instructors must write frequent email exchanges and make personal phone calls in order to help and reassure students needing both constructive criticism and confidence.

For online instructors, the challenge is to understand the emotional experiences of online learners suffering anxiety and lack of confidence. Online students need a steady flow of instructor feedback to alleviate feelings of frustration which, in turn, can help build confidence.

Instructors also must stay heavily involved in discussion threads to develop a sense of community and increase student confidence. If students feel comfortable with their instructors, they are more willing to accept constructive criticism.

Because verbal cues are not available in asynchronous courses, instructors must interpret what their students need through nonverbal cues, what students write in messages and posts. When students reach out their instructors have to respond to keep students engaged.

That is especially true in the online environment which is void of personal, face to face contact, and where written feedback meant to be helpful to students can be mistakenly interpreted as negative.

As an adjunct online instructor, I find each student has different needs. On one occasion, I had a communication studies student who also was an English Learner. He struggled to express himself in discussion threads, but contributed.

However, the more extensive writing assignments stifled him. He went several weeks without submitting papers and risked failing and not graduating.

After several email exchanges, he confided in me that he did not understand the writing prompts due to his lack of expertise with English. He had anxiety, lacked confidence and believed the feedback he received was negative when it was meant to be constructive.

So, we worked out a system. For each writing assignment, I wrote specific prompts using simpler words. We exchanged several messages before he began writing papers. I gave him the opportunity to submit missed assignments.

On the day he received his grades and found he earned a 70.50%, he wrote me an email which read:
"... Mr. Herrera: I really appreciate that opportunity to show my self (sic) that I can do more and you are right if I showed this from the beginning the situation would be different! Thank you for all, you give that push to not decline in this goal I had! Without that push I wouldn't be able to say I graduate from college. Thank you, Jorge ...".

His message was, by far, the most gratifying I ever received as an online adjunct instructor. I learned from this struggling student that instructors can instill confidence in any student through constructive criticism coupled with communication and understanding.

Tim Herrera is the author of the e-book "What the Online Student MUST Know." It is available as a Kindle on

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Continuing Education: The Benefits of Taking Night Classes

by Ehab M El Shamy

Are you considering night classes at a local college, because this is the only free time you have? Another option to consider is online night classes, which can be done from the comfort of your own home.

Regardless, here are some of the top benefits of taking night classes for higher education:

  • Night classes may have a smaller pool of students, according to Career Lifestyle Journal, which means a better ratio of student to teachers.
  • According to the same report, a large percent of nighttime students are working adults, which give them the opportunity to socialize and network in their own age group.
  • Students can still make a living while completing higher education and securing a competitive advantage.

Some of the disadvantages of taking night classes include sleep debt, which could directly affects one's health. This is especially true if the student works a full time job during the daytime.

Nevertheless, it's imperative that students reserve 6-8 hours of sleep daily and go for annual checkups with their physician. This is feasible through discipline and a set routine.

As an example, college students can follow these strategies:

Remove Distractions - such as social media and the constant beeps of technology. You may still want to stay in touch with family and friends, and this can be narrowed down to a few minutes that are set each day. This can improve your job performance as well. Remember, the better you perform, the more likely you will be to be recognized by employers.

Set a Schedule - and stick to this. Do you get off at 5 pm and reach home by 6? This is a random example, however dinner, shower and then bed can be scheduled until 6 hours later. Getting up in the middle of the night to take night classes may seem infeasible at first, but students with a goal to make a better life will find this to be more of a routine in the long run.

Remember Goals - if you're feeling weary about nighttime classes, remember the long-term benefits of these short term sacrifices.

Forbes magazine and Career Builder both have studies agreeing that college graduates earn an estimated $1 million dollars more than high school graduates over their lifetime.

In addition, college graduates are most likely to be chosen over those with a high school diploma alone. This is because online business degree holders are regarded as owning more skillsets and critical thinking skills, which are essential in the workplace.

Earn Your Degree During The Evenings at Breyer State University. Visit to learn more.

Ehab M. El Shamy Ceo

Breyer State University 6080 Center Drive 6th Floor Los Angeles, CA 90045 hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am to 5 pm EST phone: 310-242-5964 • fax: 310-242-5968

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Unhappy Anniversary: NAPLAN

by Phil Cullen, Online Opinion:

The Senate Inquiry into NAPLAN is due to produce its report this Friday 27 June. That makes it a neat 5 years since NAPLAN started on its willfully destructive path.

It was on that fateful day, 27 June 2008, that Julia Gillard, then the Federal Minister for Education and Deputy Prime Minister, was visiting Washington with a representative of the Department of Education to attend the 16th annual Australian-American Leadership Dialogue (AALD), attending a Carnegie Corporation function where they met the redoubtable Joel Klein, then Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education.

He sold Julia a pup. He invited her to adopt his educational theories and to follow carefully the pedagogical strategies of his New York School District, where billionaire Mayor Bloomberg had given him carte blanche powers to run its large school system because he had been a successful lawyer.

The essential element of his theoretical underpinnings was that fear is the greatest of human motivators and the more forcefully you use it on children, teachers and school administrators, the more successful the outcomes.

Fear is the DNA of Australia’s NAPLAN. At the time, his SBT [Standardised Blanket Testing] system was already failing New York, where academic gains were proving meagre and creative enthusiasm for learning and scholastic achievement was being crushed.

“Parents were shut out. The annual budget nearly doubled, low-scoring students shuffled from school to school, discipline problems hidden, teachers demoralized, and principals scared of every twitch in the data, as incompetents ruled the administrative roost. What is there to celebrate?” Marc Epstein asks.

Never mind. Julia copied it, holus bolus. Klein’s self-congratulatory narrative and narrow-minded view of teachers has become legendary; and his spin machine was such that the rhetoric appealed to those who mattered: the greedy, the gullible and the media. 
His friend Rupert Murdoch bought it. There was money in it. Klein tried hard to believe it himself. His self-promoted fame spread, and Julia, following this ‘chance’ meeting at a Washington knees-up, became a devotee.

Klein’s style suited Rupert Murdoch, a master peddler of testing materials as a school administrator, down to the ground.

Murdoch was already running a cutthroat business on the pretense of a ‘reform’ agenda that was worth billions of dollars through the publication of tests and associated materials, with the promise that online testing was soon to control everyone’s schooling.

When Murdoch’s newspaper sales later began to sag, his testing companies were able to subsidise their recovery from the huge income from Standardised Blanket Testing.

Our befuddled Julia was conned into believing that the testing industry, now feeding off the profits offered by the Joel Klein system of schooling, had something to do with learning in the classroom. Joel Klein is now a Senior Executive at News Limited. Australia lives with his legacy.

How did this happen to us? Julia was so impressed by his spin that she invited him to Australia. She then joined a long line of Federal Education Ministers who could not tell a learning-based classroom from a flung sandwich … Kemp, Bishop, and Nelson amongst them.

They all suffered from the same malady that infects the world every now and then. When peculiar memes spread around the globe as fast as torn jeans and tattoos, we teachers know that creative, purposeful learning suffers.

There are some people who just love bashing schools about without even evidence of any substantial nature. Politicians are usually amongst the most critical and lead the assault. Do you vote for any such mischief-makers?

In early 2007, Julie Bishop, the Federal Education Minister, lamented declining education standards at the same time as a book called Dumbing Down by a Dr. Donnelly, the self-described “thinking man’s Andrew Bolt”, was launched.

Donnelly had been chief of staff to Kevin Andrews. Fascinating how memes spread, isn’t it? This time, in Australia, a one-man black paper. Last time, some English academic malcontents’ ‘Black Papers’!

Julie Bishop followed the best whinging traditions of Messrs. Brendan Nelson and David Kemp. The tradition has been maintained and it looks like being maintained by Chris Pyne. He’s part of the redneck testucating brigade, hiding his cards ready for a ‘robust’ attack on schools.

When will it stop? Our children’s cognitive development will have to maintain a stet position and suffer more, unless something is done real soon. Who is thinking of the kids?

Gillard was true to her leader of course, who upon his appointment as PM had become forthright about the need for accountability with regard to standards.

His ‘revolution’ was based upon comparison of scores between schools and if children did not score well at one school, they could “... walk with their feet to a better performing school.”

Whatever! Gillard knew what her friend and leader meant.

Back to Mr. Klein. Gillard’s invitation led to a weeklong trip Down Under, sponsored by the investment bank UBS. Klein spoke in Melbourne about “Enacting Transformational Change” and in Canberra “Report-Card Grading Systems”. 
If he had visited Brisbane or Perth he may have ended up in Moreton Bay or Fremantle Harbour, but The New York Times reported him as flying “flack free”. 
At the same time, his Melbourne talk was described as “rubbish” and Save Our Schools (SOS) reminded him that Australia knew where its problems were, without his suggesting schemes that were known to have failed. 
He told The New York Times that “... Australian education officials seemed ‘quite excited’ by the New York model, and he was hopeful the accountability movement would gain traction.” “It won’t be without noise,” he conceded, “I wish I knew a way to do transitional change without making a noisy process, but I just haven’t figured how to do that yet.”

He left that to Julia. She’s good at it.

That’s how Australia got lumbered with the Klein system.When Julia took over the Prime Ministership from Kevin, it was a done deal. She had decided. No reference to anyone who knows how classrooms work.

Her Klein-based fear system, described as a joke by the normless and supported by the gormless, needs to become a ‘dead, buried and cremated’ monument to stupidity, if democracy in Australia is to be regained. NOW!

To read further, go to:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Teaching Mathematics In The 21st Century

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements.
Woman teaching geometry from Euclid's Elements (Wikipedia)
by Richard D Boyce

Mathematics and learning your native language are seen as the cornerstones of education in our schools.

They are the starting points.

However, for many students, Maths becomes a burden and something to be avoided if possible.

Often this occurs because of the way we teach Maths.

Added to this is the fact that students are staying longer in school and Maths continues to be part of their curriculum.

Many students would rather 'drop' Maths in their later school years.

This article advises on how we can make Maths more appealing to our students.

Below are thirteen strategies to use to help students want to be totally involved in their Maths development.

1. Mathematics should be fun, relevant, life related. Use such strategies as a fun quiz, real-life questions, easy to difficult challenges, unfamiliar contexts and speed tests to name just a few.

2. Teach Mathematics the way you would like to have been taught, not as you were taught, i.e. remember that you were often bored and you could not see the relevance of Maths to your life. Don't allow your class to feel that way.

3. Maths is NOT chalk and talk and practice of multiple exercises. Use a variety of teaching strategies that fit the topics you are teaching. Assess each topic in a way that reflects your teaching approach. Use technology, cooperative learning techniques, hands-on material, practical lessons, the quiz and any strategies that take into account the different learning styles of your students.

4. Teach Maths through Stealth. The quiz is a way to create learning by stealth. It seems to be more like fun than learning Maths for many students.

5. Use your students as assistant teachers. More able students are better at some aspects of Maths than others. Use them as mentors in their areas of expertise. You may need to give them some training but you will find that the students react well to their help and progress faster. What is important about the mentor's words is that it is in the language of the student. This enables the less able student to understand more quickly.

6. Teaching Maths should be challenging, exciting and fun to you, the teacher. Look for real life examples to use in your teaching and assessment. Include a short problem solving/critical thinking exercise in every lesson. It does not need to be difficult every time; for difficult ones, give clues slowly.

7. Experiment, evaluate, review, plan and try again. Introduce new teaching strategies into your program and perfect them with a review process. These different strategies will better cater for your students' different learning styles as well as adding new, interesting, teaching challenges for you, as the teacher.

8. Lower and middle school years allow you flexibility in the teaching approaches and assessment that you use. This is because the results of assessment are used to rate students internally rather than externally. If a new type of assessment task doesn't work the first time, then change it and try again. You may well produce a great learning experience instead of an assessment task for your students.

9. Share successes and disasters with your colleagues. This process will become an informal professional development for you and your colleagues. You may, in fact, have an experienced colleague who can show you where you went wrong and how to overcome the error.

10. Develop every skill you can in all your students, irrespective of their Maths talent. The greater the range of skills you can teach your students, the greater is their chance of success in the long term.

11. Help students develop their own understanding of Maths, not adopt yours. In other words, introduce the ideal of 'Constructivism' into your teaching.

12. Model aloud how you actually think about a problem/exercise. Don't be the 'perfect' Mathematician. Include in your modeling any ideas that come to mind that you reject. Explain why you rejected those ideas. Model as many different solutions or approaches as time permits. If a student comes up with a different but mathematically correct solution, then have them convey it to the class.

13. Challenge yourself to help students want to come to Mathematics lessons. On the other hand, create a personal mindset that helps you develop lessons that you enjoy providing for your students. This means that you would want to be there.

Late in my career, I became a Head of a Mathematics Department in a large school. I found that many of my teachers were bored teaching Mathematics. During the next fifteen years, we had to introduce several new syllabuses with new teaching pedagogues and assessment techniques mandated.

That forced us to look at what we did in the class room. The ideas suggested above came out of that review. What occurred as a result of this process was twofold. Firstly, our students became more committed to their Maths and the behaviour problems reduced dramatically. Secondly, teachers began to enjoy their teaching again.

This article is part of an eBook titled, "Maths in the 21st Century" soon to be published on the website It is one of several eBooks on topics in Mathematics. The website contains many other eBooks on other classroom topics designed to help the new teacher begin a successful career.

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The Cost and Benefits of Social Inclusion in Education: Should Failure Still Be an Option?

English: Looking southeast at Special educatio...
Special education PS 721 in Brooklyn (Wikipedia)
by Pamela Smit

When social inclusion is discussed in education, it means an amalgamation of students from diverse backgrounds with a wide range of abilities located in mainstream education.

Slow learners are grouped together with high achievers, and teacher assistants are employed to work with students who are physically or mentally challenged to the point where they qualify for this assistance.

In public education there are seldom enough support staff employed do this work effectively and over the years the criteria for qualifying have become more restrictive.

As a result, students who could benefit are often overlooked or the onus is thrown onto the teacher to provide individual learning plans which are meant to provide educational opportunities at the particular student's level of academic progress.

'Social inclusion' has now resulted in many if not all, special schools closing their doors and their students attending mainstream institutions. The promise of 'social inclusion' sadly, is an illusion.

Students, who previously would have attended schools with teachers trained to help them, are not included in the peer groups of so called 'normal' students just because they attend a mainstream school.

In many cases, teachers are not trained to deal with their specific needs and simply do not have the capacity to cater for the very broad spectrum of students in their classes.

At the same time, the academic progress of the other students in the class is held back, whilst the teacher attempts to ensure that the disadvantaged students do not fall too far behind.

At both ends of the spectrum of students, this situation is a recipe for boredom and behavioural issues to surface, which further reduces the learning that should take place.

Social inclusion was first introduced with a government commitment to provide the necessary Aide time for those students in need.

However, over time the bar has been set so high to receive Aide funding for a student that it is almost impossible to qualify, unless the student is severely mentally or physically impaired and is unlikely to be ever able to function independently, even into adulthood.

This then begs the question, 'what does social inclusion achieve in those instances'? Such individuals are seldom accepted by their peers as equals and if not directly bullied will always 'stand apart from the herd'.

Meanwhile, those who have some potential to become independent and self-sufficient adults, but who are still somewhat disadvantaged, compared with the 'norm' are left to struggle on or fall further behind, deprived of any support.

Yet, this group with a little 'seed funding' should not become a burden on the tax payer in later years.

Previously, special schools were available for students unable to cope in mainstream education. Special needs students gained confidence and coped well in an institution predominantly tailored to suit their needs, whilst under the direction of trained staff to help them reach their full potential.

Such schools were also able to offer a better student to teacher ratio, than is feasible in mainstream schools.

The decline of special schools has been further complicated with the abandonment of what is now considered the politically incorrect practice of 'streaming'.

Students used to be allocated to classes based on ability groupings which saw students with similar academic abilities sharing the same class. This is now a practice that cannot be condoned openly as it seen to label a student.

However, students label each other very effectively within grade years and mixed ability classes anyway, they do not act as a homogenous group; they clump together based on a number of criteria that also includes academic ability.

Streaming of classes simply identifies students of similar academic ability in a particular subject and would greatly improve their progress as a group precisely because the teacher can pitch their learning to the group's ability levels, rather than deliver a programme aimed at some intermediate level in the hope that those in the class at the bottom end of the spectrum can keep up, whilst those at the top, do not become bored.

Good in theory but very difficult to put into practice effectively day in, day out, throughout the year. The closure of special schools for the educationally disadvantaged has only exacerbated this by further widening the academic gap between students in the classroom.

Meanwhile, the possibility of failure was always a component of normal education until recent times. Progress in education presumed that the individual had learnt sufficiently in the present academic year to be able to cope with the next.

In the last twenty or so years this presumption has largely been abandoned in primary and secondary education. Students progress from one year to the next irrespective of what they have learned. There are arguments for and against this trend.

In favour is the fact that the student progresses with his peer group and thereby avoids the social stigma attached to being 'held back'. Their self esteem is thereby not undermined.

Unfortunately, this trend also means that the student hardly experiences failure until after they leave school, at which point the real world teaches them a very hard lesson, namely that they cannot be protected from failure and that contrary to what we may wish for, the adult world is competitive and there are winners and losers in all aspects of life.

Experiencing failure in school hardens a student to cope with challenges in adulthood; it builds resilience and is an intrinsic motivator.

If there is no chance of failure and its unwished for consequences, then there is little in the way of a driving force to succeed and only those students who can somehow develop motivation from within or who are driven by external forces, such as their parents, will succeed.

The present system also drags down those who would otherwise have risen to the challenge of education because those who do not have the motivation will target those who do and seek to reduce their ambitions.

It is 'not cool' as a teenager to be labelled as a 'nerd' because you actually want to learn; many otherwise capable students succumb to this sort of peer pressure.

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Why the Campus is Still King in the Age of the MOOC

Queen's College, University of Melbourne
Queen's College, Uni of Melbourne (Wikipedia)
by Tom Kvan, University of Melbourne

With higher education increasingly going online and the recent arrival of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), many have predicted the death of the university campus.

It’s said that the student no longer needs to go anywhere, class will come to them.

But these predictions are unfounded. The campus will survive the age of online learning, but not without change.

Online buzz

MOOCs might be novel right now, but the truth is teaching materials, such as lectures, have been available for little or no cost to students for longer than most can remember.

For more than 50 years, the UK’s Open University (OU) has used radio, then television and now the internet to deliver course materials to students.

Yet even OU still engages with students on campuses - not only their own, but also on underused campuses of other institutions.

Before MOOCs were even thought of, many institutions had also done away with campuses all together.

The University of Phoenix, for example, offers classes in office buildings across the United States, reaching into neighbourhoods that would never normally have a university campus - a kind of on demand pop-up classroom.

It’s also true that some forms of learning do not require the campus; for example, Melbourne University students use online instructions to master the use of software packages.

But other forms of learning, however need a physical space - whether it be labs or just areas to learn and talk with peers.

Learning progresses through the encounter with, and testing of, ideas. While there are exceptions - the wonder child who invents a new bit of tech or industry superheros lionised for their lack of formal learning - the vast majority of humankind benefits from learning with others.

Likewise, those who teach benefit from structured engagement and support to deliver their teaching, not least from periodic contacts with students.

Teaching machines?

The arguments pointing to the demise of the campus also do not consider the fact that most universities are not simply teaching machines.

Universities in the Group of Eight, for example, consist of significant numbers of researchers. The teaching on these campuses is research-led, meaning that those who research also teach.

Some of the best ways to learn is through emulation and by observing others who have succeeded, such as alumni or leading figures in the field. Ideas need to be tested by transmission, articulating them into words or trying it out on peers.

While attendance at timetabled subject lectures is largely declining, it is striking too that our special public lectures regularly fill the lecture hall with close to 500 people.

Almost all the material we cover in these lectures is available online, but the power of collective participation means that presence is desired.

After all, most campuses play several roles. They help individuals develop and deliver good teaching materials. Not many MOOCs are developed and delivered by individuals sitting in their log cabins.

All the MOOCs I know of are developed by people who work in social contexts where the enquiry of knowledge is the core business. By far the majority work on campuses.

It is on a campus that ideas are tested and socialised effectively, with bodies of knowledge accessible in unstructured ways.

The campus experience also plays a role in cohort progression from adolescence to adulthood. From sports clubs to tribal initiations, all societies and cultures develop mechanisms to guide and develop young people.

Campuses provide alternatives to regimented combative training which has and does dominate in some cultures.

The future campus

The future campus will emphasise social spaces above formal spaces but large lecture halls will not disappear. Large lectures will be special events with special speakers.

The places beyond lecture halls too, such as study areas or service places (such as coffee shops) will be significant places for learning.

Even the places we just pass through now will be important. Spaces will be configured to support chance encounters and small group discussion.

Additional facilities will appear in these places; for example, screens on which you can project your material to share it with a group. These changes will lead to places better designed for casual encounters.

Campuses are not necessary for all forms of learning.

Access online or in pop-up locations may suffice for some and isolated log cabins may work for others, but for the foreseeable future, the physical and synchronous experience of the campus will be an irreplaceable experience - one supplemented but not replaced by online.

While you might argue that the classroom or lecture hall can be replaced by a MOOC experience, it is often the spaces between the classrooms that are the most powerful for learning and research.

Tom Kvan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Some UK Universities May Close, Academics Fear

U is for University
U is for University (Photo credit: Swiv)
Schools Improvement Net:

Some universities may close as a result of political and financial change in the sector, suggests a survey of senior university leaders.

This is from the BBC …

The study by a management consulting firm predicts further cuts in public funding to universities.

Some 60 senior university leaders from across the UK responded to the survey, around a third of the total.

“It is clear that we are witnessing a sea-change in the dynamics of higher education”, said co-author Mike Boxall.

Declining government grants, limits on undergraduate numbers, higher student fees and cuts to research funding have resulted in a dramatic shift in priorities for university leaders, argues the report by PA Consulting.

The authors detect signs of a switch among university leaders away from “their historical obsession with outlook for government policy and funding”.

Instead the focus is increasingly “the competitive battle for fee-paying students”, with a “new imperative” to offer “attractive and rewarding learning experiences”, including better student access to academic staff.

The report notes that the past year has seen a “marked softening and increased discrimination” in demand for higher education from school-leavers in response to higher fees and patchy graduate employment prospects.

Demographic changes and visa restrictions on international students also limit the pool of would-be students. Some 58% of the university leaders surveyed said they were worried by falling demand for undergraduate courses from UK and EU-based students.

Some 90% expressed concerns over declining numbers of postgraduate students from the UK and EU, with more than 80% worried by falling international numbers.

More at: Some universities may close, academics fear
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Learn How To Concentrate Better While Studying

advanced-mind-mapping-study-skills-mind-map (Photo credit: jean-louis zimmermann)
by Cumba Gowri

Not all people are blessed with the ability to focus for long hours on a single task like studying. Most of us get distracted by trivial things.

If it is important for you to do well in your exams then it is time you learn how to concentrate on studies and we share some tips to help you with this task.

Prepare a Timetable

Make a study plan about how you are going to tackle your subject. If you just pick a random textbook and start your exam preparation it is never going to work. Allot time for each subject and chapter.

Assign extra hours for those topics that you find difficult to understand or follow. With a reasonable work plan you will have an idea about how much you have accomplished and how much more is left to do.

Create Passion for the Subject

It is not easy to study subjects you have no interest in. To key to "how to concentrate on studies" is to develop passion and interest for a subject. The more interest in a subject you develop the more concentration you develop for the subject.

Start with the topics that are most interesting to you and proceed to the more difficult ones after you get a proper feel for the easier topics in the subject.

Another tip is to study the harder topics when you are alert and easier ones when you are tired. Pick interesting topics to study after meal times as people find hard to concentrate on a full stomach.

Pick a Suitable External Environment

Pick a comfortable and relatively quiet place to study. If you study at home then ensure that the TV, Internet and music system are switched off. Put the mobile phone on vibration mode.

Let the people at home know that you should not be disturbed during your study time. If there are too many distractions at home then head to the library and select a spot away from main traffic area.

In a library you will find students who are keen to study hard and this will be a good motivation for you to concentrate. Colleges also provide study rooms to help students have a distraction free environment. Make use of these spaces.

Get Rid of Internal Distractions

How to concentrate on studies when you have serious internal distractions? This is one of the biggest obstacles to learning and focusing.

If you are under some stress or have left tasks undone that is needs your attention then go ahead and deal with those first before you sit down to study or make a time allotment for that task in your schedule and concentrate on the subject at hand.

If you are under stress then try relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing for a few minutes before you start your study session.

Clear the Clutter

Cluttered rooms, messy tables and other loose items are distractions that keep you from concentrating. Spend a few minutes clearing up everything on your desk and you will spend a productive hour on studies.

Sleep and Eat Well

It is important to get a good nights rest for concentration on studies. Get sufficient rest and you will find that you are able a lot of time to your subject without feeling tired or bored. Eat well as no one concentrate on an empty stomach.

With these above tips you now know how to concentrate on studies and make a success of it.

For more information and tips on how to concentrate, check out "How To Concentrate" at

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