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Could This Be the Future of Higher Ed?

Tenured Prof Leaves Stanford to Offer Low-Cost Online Courses

January 24, 2012

Could This Be the Future of Higher Ed?

by Alexis Mattera

Schools like MIT, Berkeley, Tufts and Michigan have been in the news recently for their support of online certificate programs. These courses are often low-cost or free alternatives to traditional college courses and one professor is so confident in this method of education that he has left a prominent position at a prestigious university to provide just that to the masses.

As reported by Reuters, The Chronicle and other outlets, Sebastian Thrun has left his post as a tenured computer science professor at Stanford to found Udacity, a start-up offering low-cost online classes. Thrun is no stranger to this kind of education – he taught an artificial intelligence course to more than 160,000 students around the world that had students taking the in-person lecture at Stanford flocking to its online counterpart – and will now focus on crafting online courses that recreate the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring through Udacity. One of the start-up’s first offerings will be a course called “Building a Search Engine” that will teach students with no prior programming experience how to build a search engine like Google.

What do you think of Thrun’s new operation? Is this the direction higher education is headed in or will traditional classes still have a place in the future?


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Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

by Jessica Seals

Although the spring semester is just barely here, it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you want to do during spring break. Just the thought of spending an entire week at a sunny beach with your friends is enough to make anyone start planning but the reality is that many of us might not be able to afford to squeeze some fun in the sun into our busy schedules. For those of us who will remain at home or school, there are several options to make spring break just as fulfilling as it will be for those students hitting the beaches.

Get some rest. It might sound boring but once the semester begins, you will find yourself wishing that you had time to catch up on your sleep. Doing so during spring break allows you to recharge your body so that you can make it through the rest of the semester.

Work ahead. By now, we all know how most professors like to set deadlines for big projects and papers for the end of the semester. Doing schoolwork over spring break may not necessarily be fun but you can save yourself a great deal of stress by working ahead. When the end-of-semester chaos hits in the form of finals and papers, you will be more relaxed knowing that you are ahead of the game.

Participate in an alternative spring break. Many schools offer alternative spring breaks to students so that they can spend the week volunteering for a good cause. Not only do you give back to a community in need but future employers will be impressed to see that you spent your spring break helping others. Even if your school does not have this option, you can still go out and volunteer on your own.

It’s never too early to start planning for spring break. If you plan wisely, you may have the chance to get some rest, work ahead on your homework, catch up with friends and volunteer at the same time while still managing to go back to school energized and ready to conquer the rest of the semester.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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How to Network Like a Professional

by Jacquelene Bennett

One of the nice things about growing older and getting further along in your college career is that you start to network and make connections that will help outside of college. Throughout the academic year, universities hold networking events that allow current students to connect with alumni and professionals in different career fields but remember, these events are a privilege to attend and there is a proper way to act and present yourself.

Dress appropriately. You don’t want to show up to these functions in jeans and a t-shirt – dress in a business casual fashion instead. It’s not necessary to wear a suit or anything but you want to dress to impress so some nice slacks (or a skirt for women) with a button-down shirt or blouse will do the trick.

Don’t get drunk. A lot of these events serve alcohol, which can be nice and fun (if you are over 21!) but you shouldn’t take it too far. This is a business event with professors and professionals, not a Saturday night party with your friends; if you do decide to imbibe, limit yourself to just one or two glasses of wine.

Talk to everyone. The point of these functions is to network and meet people. Don’t stand in a corner or only talk with the people you came with – interact with everyone there! People expect you to come up to them at these events so don’t feel embarrassed or rude doing so. Universities organize these events for people to make connections and if you don’t do that by talking to every person you can, it will be a waste of time.

Like I said at the beginning, these events are a privilege to attend so follow these simple guidelines and you will take full advantage of these experiences...and maybe even a job!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Obama Grants NCLB Waivers to 10 States

by Alexis Mattera

When the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect 10 years ago, public schools across the country were tasked with developing assessments for students in certain grades in order to receive federal funding. A decade later, President Obama has waived these requirements for 10 states in exchange for new programs that will benefit both students and educators.

Though public schools in the states of Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee will no longer have to meet the NCLB achievement standards, they will now be required to adhere to three specific reform criteria: standardizing curricula for specific classes, holding individual schools accountable for improving student performance (particularly for minority and disabled students) and establishing a system to evaluate teachers. The plans will vary from state to state based on individual needs – New Jersey, for example, must improve high schools with low graduation rates or face state action while Oklahoma will be monitoring school culture and attendance rates – something both Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan view as vital to future success; less than enthusiastic, however is Republican chairman of the House Committee on Education John Kline, who would have rather continued working within Congress until bipartisan support was achieved.

What do you think of the NCLB waivers? Was change necessary now or do you feel the administration could have taken more time to formulate a decision?


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SOPA, College and the Future of Online Content

by Kara Coleman

The Web was abuzz last month with talk of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. Most people were probably aware that sites like Wikipedia and Reddit blacked out in protest on January 18th but what is SOPA and why should it matter to the average American? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stop online piracy, right? It depends.

U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) authored SOPA and introduced it to the House in October 2011. (The bill’s complete title is “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes” -H.R. 3261.) While protecting ideas that belong to the States from plagiarism by people outside the U.S. jurisdiction certainly sounds like a noble cause, dealing with the Web is a tricky demographic: If SOPA comes into effect, the U.S. Department of Justice will be able to seek court orders against sites generated in foreign countries that they believe are violating copyright laws and American sites would no longer even be allowed to conduct business with or be linked to these sites.

The Motion Picture Association of America is a proponent of the bill, citing protection of creative ideas. Other supporters of SOPA say that it will help the pharmaceutical industry in America by preventing counterfeit drugs from being shipped in inexpensively from other countries. Opponents of the bill fear that their First Amendment rights are being encroached upon, as user-generated sites would likely feel the biggest sting. If a small minority of users violated copyright laws, would sites like YouTube or Flickr be shut down for everyone?

Two days after the online blackout/protest, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) announced that the decision to consider SOPA was being postponed due to the negative response from the sites who protested and the citizens who supported them for doing so. Is this the last we will hear of SOPA or is it set to be an ongoing battle? And finally, how would SOPA affect college students? While most professors don’t consider Wikipedia to be a valid source of information to cite on a research paper, it does give students a good overview of a topic and provide valuable links to scholarly websites that would be good resources. Social networking sites could be affected, too...need I say more? SOPA is not just talk that will stay on Capitol Hill – it could potentially change the way Americans use (or don’t use) the Internet forever.

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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The RESPECT Program: Will Its Selectivity Increase Teacher Effectiveness?

by Alexis Mattera

We’ve all had at least one teacher that has impacted our lives in a positive way. Whether their passion for the subject they were teaching led you down a new educational path or the skills they imparted are still ones you use today, more educators like that are needed and a newly-funded program may make that possible.

The Obama administration showed its support in increasing teacher effectiveness with a budget proposal for a $5 billion grant competition to reward states and districts in a variety of ways including making teacher education programs as selective as their law, medical and business counterparts. While the Department of Education has not revealed full details about the endeavor known as the RESPECT Program, some colleges fear some of the requirements may actually negate the anticipated outcome: The feeling is that exemplary high school grades and standardized test scores are not the only traits that make great teachers and increased selectivity could exclude many studentsadult students looking for career changes or students from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example – who could excel at teaching. “We’re in education because we believe that education matters, and that people can grow and learn given the right experiences,” Virginia McLaughlin, dean of the School of Education at the College of William and Mary, told Inside Higher Ed. She continued to explain that future teachers should be evaluated regularly and judged on their progress, including how well they master both knowledge of the subjects they will teach and the techniques they will use in the classroom.

Do you think the RESPECT Program will produce better teachers or could it keep some of the most capable would-be educators out of the classroom?


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British School vs. American School

by Darci Miller

Upon arriving in London for study abroad, I was initially amazed by how normal everything felt. I mean, everyone speaks the same language – how different could things possibly be? But two days later, as I was standing in an endless line and waiting to register for classes, I realized that some things here might not be quite the same.

While the lack of a language barrier definitely helps (we all know what a “lift” is, right?), the British school system does its own thing. Most British universities are three years rather than four and get this: the first year doesn’t even count. That’s right! If Brits want to slack off their entire first year of “uni,” they absolutely can. Of course, it’ll affect their ability to get work placement but it won’t mean anything when it comes to their degrees. This means a whole ton of drinking and skipped lectures followed by two years of mountains of work.

In America, handing in an assignment means printing it out and giving it to your professor. Not across the pond: Each assignment needs some sort of cover sheet that’s provided to you on Blackboard (or the “Virtual Learning Environment”) and needs to be handed into the department office. Not the lecturer or seminar tutor, but the department office. Does this make sense?

The grading system is different as well. One hundreds are completely unheard of: Eighty is basically the equivalent of a perfect score so don’t freak out about getting a 60 – that’s a decent grade here! There are all sorts of different labels assigned to seemingly arbitrary numbers and not even the educators have any idea why it’s done like this. Trust me, I’ve asked.

And then, of course, there’s registering for classes. British students only take classes in their “course,” or major so when associate students attempt to take classes in multiple courses, the online system isn’t equipped to handle it. You may be able to take out books from the school library using a touch screen and a scanner, but you have to run around to the different departments and have them physically sign you up for classes. I never thought I’d miss waking up early for my registration time back in the states!

Bottom line: No matter where you study abroad, you’re going to have culture shock, even if it means writing papers with footnotes instead of in-text citations. Just smile and chalk it all up to experience!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all '80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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BARC Can Give Your Career Some Bite!

Bay Area Retail Leadership Center Helps Students Learn from, Network with Professionals

February 28, 2012

BARC Can Give Your Career Some Bite!

by Radha Jhatakia

One of the best resources that college can offer you (besides an education, of course) is the opportunity to find employment after graduation. There are programs dedicated to helping students in different career fields and at SJSU, one of these opportunities comes with the Bay Area Retail Leadership Center, or BARC.

BARC consists of SJSU students and faculty who have partnered up with those in the retail industry. Currently, the list of partners includes Target, Walgreens, Kohl's, Verizon Wireless, Ross, Nike and Walmart and students are able to interact with professionals at these companies and gain insight to what working for a retail corporation will be like while networking and getting potential job offers.

BARC offers a study tour during which students travel to different headquarters and main offices of these companies – an advantageous experience that happens only twice a year. Apart from this, BARC hosts conferences in which speakers present on different aspects of how to make it to the retail industry; internships are also offered. Just like with any networking opportunity, though, it is up to the student to make the most of these prospects in the end.

If there is a program like BARC at your college, take advantage of it – there are so many unexplored opportunities! – but if a program like this doesn’t exist, speak with advisers and faculty to start one! It will be a great chance for you to launch a program that will not only help many individuals but will allow you to gain work experience and contacts in the professional world as well.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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From Hollywood to Harvard: Celebrities and College

by Angela Andaloro

When we think of celebrities, we think of polished perfection on the red carpet, wild escapades and overall lives of luxury. What we don’t really think of are celebrities sitting in lecture halls, doing lab work or writing research papers but the mentions of celebrities enrolling in college have increased greatly within the last 10 years. While it’s always positive for someone to continue their education and improve themselves, are celebrities really doing that?

Recently, many young actors and actresses have begun attending college. It seems, however, that their college careers aren’t being taken very seriously – by themselves or others. One such celebrity is Emma Roberts. Roberts began attending Sarah Lawrence College this past fall but after just one semester, she has deferred her studies due to work commitments. Even while she was in school, Roberts was known to miss class, once admitting at a fashion show, “I ditched class to come to this show, and that's probably bad.” How easy would withdrawing from school mid-semester be for a regular college student? What would the limitations be? It’s unlikely these factors existed for Roberts.

Do the Hollywood elite get special treatment in the world of higher education? It certainly seems like it. Perhaps the most interesting case of celebrity favoritism is that involving James Franco and his NYU attendance. A professor at the university claims he was fired, in part because he gave Franco a D in his class after missing 12 of the 14 sessions. The professor’s accusations were shocking, with claims including Franco bribing professors by hiring them to write, direct and even appear in his films. He told the New York Post that “The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco” despite his ridiculous superstar behavior.

Not all celebrities treat their college careers as cavalierly. Natalie Portman is one celebrity who put has always put her education first, not attending the premiere of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" to study for her high school finals and, later, pausing her career to attend Harvard. She once said, “I don’t care if it ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Perhaps young Hollywood should follow her example and do the same: She has a college degree AND an Oscar, after all.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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IL Professors' Children Could Lose Tuition Benefit

by Alexis Mattera

There have been strides taken to ease the financial burden of higher education but for every state that limits college credits to keep degree costs down or entire college system freezing its tuition, there’s another school increasing its fees and cutting benefits. The latter could soon happen in Illinois, as lawmakers are weighing whether to eliminate tuition discounts for the children of professors and other university employees.

The legislation would get rid of this prized benefit, which allows faculty and staff members who have been employed at public universities for at least seven years to receive half-price tuition for their children. More than 2,000 college students take advantage of this perk each year and advocates of the bill say the state cannot afford to continue to offer the discount because it costs the Land of Lincoln about $8 million annually. Bill sponsor State Rep. Luis Arroyo also questioned the lack of income cap on who can use the waivers (for example, a college president earning a six-figure salary could pay far less for their child to attend college than a lower-income family would) but university officials say the discount is an important tool for recruiting and retaining top faculty members.

Does the possible end to this tuition benefit impact you in any way? How are you covering the costs of your own college education?


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