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Are Students Interested in Online Classes? Of Course(ra)!

One Million and Counting Sign Up for Free Virtual Courses

August 13, 2012

Are Students Interested in Online Classes? Of Course(ra)!

by Alexis Mattera

Since its launch earlier this year, Coursera has attracted its fair share of attention in the higher ed sector: Not only has the company formed partnerships with high-profile schools such as Stanford, Michigan, Princeton and UPenn, roughly one million students in 196 countries have registered for the startup’s free online courses.

Though the numbers reported by Coursera (and also its competitor Udacity, which has more than 739,000 registered users in 203 countries) are impressive, they don’t represent the amount of learning actually taking place. Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng explained in an email interview that the number of active students is significantly lower because many registrations are for courses that have not yet begun and many sign up but don’t end up following through with the coursework. So are students interested in free online classes? Yes, but time will tell whether or not the registered students actually stick with the program.

Have you considered enrolling in the online classes offered by Coursera, Udacity and others or do you prefer the traditional classroom experience?


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College to Offer Course Credit to Gap Year Takers

by Alexis Mattera

Though taking a gap year has yet to win mass societal approval, it is getting a pretty big endorsement from one NYC school: Admitted students who opt to take time off between high school and college will now earn a full year of academic credit.

Eugene Lang College for Liberal Arts and Global Citizen Year have partnered to offer incoming students who have been admitted to both programs the opportunity to earn 30 college credits as they support development projects in other countries. Participating students will spend their seven-month "bridge year" living with local families and bettering their host communities by teaching English and working as peer mentors; instead of being one year behind students who started traditional classes the previous fall, they’ll enter Lang as full-fledged sophomores. "There are a lot of worthy learning experiences in life but we don’t give academic credit for them," said Stephanie Browner, the Lang dean overseeing participating students. "I think this is the right way to launch yourself into college."

Lang is the first school to join forces with Global Citizen Year but founder Abby Falik is eagerly anticipating the impact her program will have on college campuses across the country. Would you take advantage of this opportunity at your school? Why or why not?


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Your Group Project Survival Guide

by Alexis Mattera

So you're in a group for a class project and not liking it one bit? Welcome to college.

The key to group projects is not about only about dividing the work - a successful group project has its members communicate well, often and without hassle...but what if you get unlucky and end up with a group member you can't deal with?

When dealing with a group member you don't connect with, put all feelings aside and just listen to them. Hear out every suggestion, question and even decode what they aren't saying. When replying, stick to the grandma rule: Would you give your grandma attitude, be sarcastic or complete ignore what she has to say? Of course not, so don't do that to a fellow student.

What if the situation is opposite and you have a group member who is not respecting you? Sit them down, look them in the eye and tell them what you think should been done with this project. (The grandma rule applies here as well.) If you get all worked up, the other person is most likely going to take the same route and that hardly ever turns out well.

If you’ve tried all of these tips and problems within the group persist, talk to your professor. If he/she can let you work by yourself, do it. It's better than getting a bad grade and having to work even harder for the rest of the class. Plus, you'll probably do a great job anyway!

Samuel “Samwell” Favela is a journalism major at Long Beach City College. He’s interested in all things media – he enjoys blogging, Instagramming and hosting his own campus radio show – and is always excited to meet new people. Samwell’s educational journey has already taken him from Pomona to Long Beach and shows no sign of slowing down...which is exactly the way he likes it!


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UVA Med Student Saves Man’s Life During Training Exam

by Suada Kolovic

A University of Virginia medical student who thought he was taking part in a routine training exam is now being credited with potentially saving a man’s life!

According to the University of Virginia Health System, student Ryan Jones was participating in the standardized patient program where actors are assigned a specific condition so that medical students can attempt to diagnose them and found that his “patient” actually had real life-threatening symptoms. Pretend patient Jim Malloy was instructed to portray the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a condition common in men between the ages of 65 and 75 years old in which a section of the lower part of the aorta starts to bulge. Left untreated, the bursting of such an aneurysm can be fatal. During his practice exam, Jones noticed that Malloy actually had symptoms of AAA and the physician overseeing the training session told Malloy to see a cardiologist. After a few months, he did and the doctor found an AAA...just as Jones had predicted.

Malloy had stent surgery at the University of Virginia Medical Center last year and has since recovered. “Don’t ever think you can’t affect a life,” said his wife, Louise Malloy, in a press release this week. “My husband, Jim, is living proof that you can.” (For more on this story, click here.)


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Shh...Harvard’s Elite Are Sleeping

This Ivy League School Considers Adding a Nap Room for Students

February 26, 2013

Shh...Harvard’s Elite Are Sleeping

by Suada Kolovic

We’ve all been there: Going about our day as if we don’t have a care in the world when it dawns on us that (go figure) that term paper on the pros and cons of procrastination in the creative process is due tomorrow. Panicked, we consider emailing our professor an excuse about a death in the family but given we killed off Nana (who’s actually alive and well back home) last semester during finals week, we decide it’s best to pull an all-nighter. The next day, we’re irritable, unmotivated and just plain sluggish and while the simple solution is to overcome procrastination and not leave an assignment until the last minute, a Harvard student has suggested a different approach: a nap room on campus.

The Harvard administration is considering creating a designated nap room after sophomore Yugi Hou started an online petition. “Most students operate daily on a sleep deficit, to the detriment of their health and productivity,” said Hou. “For those getting insufficient sleep at night, naps can provide alertness and help students take a break from their hectic schedules.” Hou started the online petition through the Harvard Undergraduate Council’s “We the Crimson” initiative, which is meant to foster direct dialogue between students and school administrators. Each month, the three petitions with the most votes are sent to the Dean of Harvard College for review. Harvard administrators have yet to make a decision on the initiative but Hou has said that until a siesta center is set up on campus, she plans on creating a “nap map” to help plot the best spots for students to nod off on campus.

If you’re a fan of napping between classes, do you think it’s your university’s responsibility to provide nap rooms for students? Let us know what you think in the comments section.


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UChicago’s New Financial Aid Initiative Targets Local Students

by Suada Kolovic

The University of Chicago has recently announced the launch of UChicago Promise, an initiative aimed at helping high school students in the city of Chicago gain admission, pay for and succeed in college. The cornerstone of the program is the commitment from the university to eliminate loans from financial aid packages of students from Chicago who are admitted.

“Chicago, from our pre-schools to our world-renowned universities, is committed to ensuring that every child has access to a high-quality education,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The step taken today by the University of Chicago is a creative step that will help many of Chicago’s own achieve their goals and graduate without a financial burden.”

In addition to replacing loans with grants and other nonrepayable student aid, UChicago Promise includes an automatic waiver of the University’s application fee and offers a wide array of support and mentoring programs for aspiring college students. The initiative will take effect for those applying this year and will not be available to students with existing loans or who have already matriculated.


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Newberry College to Offer Social Media Major

by Suada Kolovic

For some students, opting for what one might consider a safe major like business or accounting just doesn’t have the allure as something as unique as puppetry, packaging (which boasts a 90-percent job placement rate, by the way) or tweeting. No need to adjust your screen folks, you read that right: Newberry College now offers both a major and minor in social media. Social media gurus rejoice!

Designed by Tania Sosiak, an associate professor of graphic design and social media at Newberry, the program blends existing classes from other disciplines such as graphic design, communications, business administration, psychology and statistics. Newberry President Dr. Maurice Scherrens said in a statement that they decided to start the new program due to a “long-term demand for college graduates in a rapidly expanding field.” Through these courses, students will explore the techniques of social media in addition to the development and direction of social media as a creative industry. Students will work to develop marketing and branding strategies for projects including corporate, non-profit, entertainment, sports, news and politics. Not everyone is a fan, though: Skeptics like Amora McDaniel at the Upstart Business Journal wrote, “This could be just another ploy to entice students to enroll in your schools without giving back anything of substance in return for their tuition money.”

What side of the fence are you on? Do you think that offering a social media major is progressive or do you think that schools are catering to students’ wants verses needs?


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Montreal Student Expelled After Finding Software Oversight

by Suada Kolovic

Being expelled from school after discovering a flaw in the computer system – one that compromised the personal information of more than 250,000 students – seems highly unlikely. In fact, one would assume that the student who sought to notify the school in order to amend the vulnerability in the college’s data security system would be commended and touted as the school genius...but that wasn’t the case for Ahmed Al-Khabaz.

The 20-year-old Dawson College student and his computer science colleague Ovidiu Mija discovered an oversight in the Omnivox software while working on a mobile app that would simplify student access to their college accounts. Al-Khabaz took the findings to the director of information services and technology Francois Paradis on October 24th, where Paradis congratulated him and Mija on their work and promised the he and Skytech (the maker of Omnivox) would fix the problem immediately. Two days later, Al-Khabaz decided to take it upon himself to confirm just that by running a software program designed to test for website vulnerabilities but within minutes, he received a phone call from Skytech president Edouard Taza, who declared his actions a cyberattack. He was then called before the computer science department, where 14 of the 15 professors present voted in favor of Al-Khabaz’s expulsion.

Following the decision to reject his appeal, Al-Khabaz said, “My academic career is completely ruined. In the wrong hands, this breach could have caused a disaster. Students could have been stalked, had their identities stolen, their lockers opened and who knows what else. I found a serious problem, and tried to help fix it. For that I was expelled.” How do you think Dawson College handled the situation? Let us know in the comments section.


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Student Punished for Creating Class Registration Website

by Suada Kolovic

Registering for college classes takes time, patience and, above all else, persistence. If you’re a college student, then you’re familiar with the frustrating process: It’s officially your last year and the only obstacle standing in your way from victoriously crossing that graduation stage is COM: 101 – a required course you’ve been putting off since your freshman year and as luck would have it, it’s full. Now what? An extra semester? Shouldn’t schools be obligated to offer an easier, better way to register for classes? Well, a student at the University of Central Florida came up with a solution...and now he’s on academic probation.

Tim Arnold, a senior at UCF, created U Could Finish, a website that notified students when a seat was available in a given class. While the site was helpful, officials argue that it violated portions of the tech policy that prohibited students from using university tools to make money (Arnold had been charging for use of his site, taking in a total of just $7.78, he revealed) and disrupted normal technology use. Arnold plans to appeal his sanctions, which also require him to write two papers and prevent him from holding student office. “I just feel that the actions they did were very extreme, considering my intent was to help students and not to intentionally subvert the rules,” he said.

What do you think of UCF’s handling of the situation? Was it fair to put a proactive student on academic probation for trying to solve a real-world problem?


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Graduate Early, Get Sued in Germany

German University Sues Student for Graduating Too Fast

July 10, 2012

Graduate Early, Get Sued in Germany

by Suada Kolovic

For most students, graduating college in just four years is the ideal and not the norm. So when a student comes along and graduates with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in only three semesters, one would assume a parade of some sort would be in order. The Essen, Germany-based School of Economics and Management went a different route: they sued the student who accomplished this feat.

Earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree should take a typical student about 11 semesters and 60 exams to complete, yet Marcel Pohl did it in just 20 months. How’d he do it? With the help of two friends, Pohl divvied up lectures and swapped notes. Did we mention that in that time, he also completed an apprenticeship in a bank? Well, he managed to fit that in, too! Now, the school is crying foul and claiming “income loss” and suing for $3,772 – a fraction of the tuition and fees Pohl would have paid had he completed the degrees in the customary amount of time. "When I got the lawsuit, I thought it couldn't be true," Pohl recently told the German tabloid, Bild. "Performance is supposed to be worth something."

With a college education as expensive as it is, can you ever really graduate too early? Let us know what you think in the comments section.


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