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Revolution Hits the Universities

New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman foresees a day when students will create their own college degrees “by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world…paying only the nominal fee for the certificates of completion.” MOOCs, he believes, have more potential than any other technology to remake higher education and “unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems.” Friedman relays the highlights of his recent communications with Coursera team members, noting the exponential growth of Coursera over the past nine months – from 300,000 student users and 38 courses last May to 2.4 million students, 214 courses, and 33 partner universities. Friedman also quotes some of the players behind edX, including M.I.T. president Rafael Reif, who has predicted that in the coming years, universities will increasingly leverage technology and the Internet to enhance traditional on-campus experiences at the same time that they offer online courses to students around the world. Friedman, Thomas. “Revolution Hits the Universities,” The New York Times Op-Ed, 26 Jan. 2013. Read article »

London College Steps Up to University Level

In hopes of expanding its programs and global reach, a British college is seeking university status. Regent’s College in London has the look and feel of “a small liberal arts college somewhere in the wilds of New England” but expects to become a university in name sometime next month. Regent’s is made up of a liberal arts college and seven specialty schools. With ties to Webster University and Rockford College in the United States, it offers both American and British degrees. Regent’s charges more than a typical British university (£14,000 a year) but justifies its higher tuition with its strong international focus and low student-faculty ratio (14:1). One of the school’s long-term goals is to become need-blind. Guttenplan, D.D. “London College Steps Up to University Level.” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Predictors of Civic Values in College: Student-Level and Institutional-Level Effects

"A 2013 study published in the Journal of College Student Development, 'Predictors of Civic Values: Understanding Student-Level and Institutional-Level Effects” (PDF), sought to better understand the factors that influence the “importance that students assign to their involvement in activities that promote a social and civic community.'" "The study’s findings include: -Colleges with high standardized test scores did not necessarily perform very well. -Women and students with higher high school GPAs were found to have lower civic value scores. Being of higher socioeconomic status and being a student of color was associated with higher civic values. -As for women’s lower scores, the researcher notes that this data represents a “new finding when comparing results to prior studies examining civic values.” -'Political orientation in students’ senior year significantly impacted civic values; as students’ political orientation moves from right (conservative) to left (liberal), civic values increases.' -A number of student characteristics in college were also found to impact civic value scores. Students who took an ethnic or women’s studies course typically had a significantly higher civic value score than students who took neither. Study abroad and majoring in a social science were also positively correlated with civic value. Involvement in student government, participation in leadership training, and engaging in protest also were associated with higher civic value scores. Whether or not a student volunteers — in particular, the amount of time spent volunteering — had the second strongest association with greater civic values. -The most powerful predictor of students’ civic values in 2004 was their score four years earlier, suggesting that the formation of values prior to college remained extremely important." Lott, II, Joe L. "Predictors of Civic Values..." Journal of College Student Development, Vol 54, No 1. Read article »

At U. of Maryland, an Effort to Make Introductory Courses Extraordinary

The University of Maryland at College Park is experimenting with newly retooled introductory courses for its undergraduate students. The university’s “I-Series” draws its name from the buzzwords of higher education that start with the letter “I”: “imagination,” “inspiration,” “innovation,” etc. After a two-year pilot, the new intro courses are now campus-wide at U. Maryland, with all incoming freshmen taking at least two I-Series courses this fall. The courses, while still offering much of the same content as standard intro courses in the same type of large lecture setting, are “organized around provocative questions or propositions” like “Is America Destined to Fall by 2076?" and "Rise of the Machines: Artificial Intelligence Comes of Age.” Berrett, Dan. “At U. of Maryland, an Effort to Make Introductory Courses Extraordinary.” Chronicle of Higher Ed, 17 Dec. 2012. Read article »

Humanities degree provides excellent investment returns

Though the value of a bachelor’s degree in the humanities is often questioned, it turns out that, at least for those attending Canadian universities, a humanities degree can be a sound investment. The average private return on investment, or the difference between income made during working years and the sum of tuition and income foregone while at school, is over 10% for people with social sciences and humanities degrees. That figure is only slightly lower than the average returns for those with STEM degrees. Copley, Brent Herbert. “Humanities degree provides excellent investment returns.” The Globe and Mail, 16 Dec. 2012. Read article »

Eugene Lang ‘38 Donates Largest Gift Ever to Swarthmore

To support the recommendations of their 2011 strategic plan, Swarthmore College will enhance their engineering and science facilities with a $50 million donation. Eugene Lang, a self-made businessman who graduated from Swarthmore in 1938, provided the largest financial gift the school has ever received in part to “inspire others to participate in ensuring the purpose and future of Swarthmore as articulated in the strategic plan.” Swarthmore’s strategic plan calls for a “reinterpretation of the liberal arts” that will include extending connections between the College’s engineering program and its other liberal arts disciplines. Nicely, Nancy. “Eugene Lang '38 Donates Largest Gift Ever to Swarthmore,” Swarthmore College News & Events, 8 Dec. 2012. Read article »

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We want to scour the world to try to find those things that strike us as truly forward-looking. President Jim Yong Kim

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