Friday, September 07, 2007

New York Times Online Education Initiative

As noted in Inside Higher Ed, the New York Times has launched an online initiative that will merge NYTimes content with course management software to enable faculty and scholars to build course content. From the press release:
Educators will now have the opportunity to select Times articles, archival content, graphics and multimedia content, including videos and Webcasts, gathered around specific subjects, and make them available to students online, along with other course materials. Students will benefit from access to thematic content that is drawn from the vast array of Times reporting on a countless number of issues.
This is an interesting initiative for NYTimes which has no doubt realized the extent to which their content is used in existing course management solutions such as Blackboard and via online sources from the likes of Proquest. The education market has always been an important one for NYT and the thrust to become a direct provider to this market is significant. (No word whether they will add content from other news sources but this would be an interesting natural extension of their platform).

The expansion will be implemented with
Epsilen which is marketing a newly developed web based tool that supports a variety of scholar services such as:
ePortfolios, Global Learning System (courseware), group collaboration, object sharing, blogs, messaging, and social and professional networking. Users receive a lifelong identity on the Epsilen(TM) system, enabling them to maintain their academic and professional ePortfolios throughout their careers, regardless of their affiliation with individual institutions.
That last bit is especially interesting (assuming the platform is open) because it will enable a scholar to create an online library of material they have sourced, read, annotated, referenced and written about together with their own intellectual work. The utility that results from this could be fundamental for the development of the 'continuing education' of students as they graduate from universities and are [today] lost to both the universities and the publishers of educational material. (I have written a little about this before here and here).

From the press release:

"The Epsilen(TM) Environment is a new concept and technology framework allowing faculty and students continued access to their work after switching schools, entering the job market or retiring," said Dr. Jafari. "It is a prototype of the Web 2.0 concept built on the ePortfolio foundation and the power of social networking. The Epsilen(TM) concept suggests that every student and professional should own a lifelong ePortfolio enabling them to collaborate and exchange intellect in a global community."
The New York Times operates a business unit named The Knowledge Network where this initiative resides. They hope the collaboration between The Knowledge Network and Epsilen will bring about the development of a large social network of students, facility and administrators.
Knowledge Network will serve as a global networking and professional and academic development resource for faculty, students and alumnae. Users will be able to share work with colleagues, create their own academic or professional ePortfolios (digital repositories of a person's work), invite peer review and establish professional contact with people around the globe based on common academic pursuits and research.
If this develops as a real platform, as NYT hopes they could become a gatekeeper to students and faculty. Interestingly, the HighEd article notes that this tool could also take some of the burden away from faculty in the development of their course material. This is a vital point because course development can be a time consuming task and inertia sets in because of that difficulty. If tools free this process then it is conceivable that instructors will vary their content more frequently, provide better more resonant content and as a direct result rely heavily on the tool. As a data or information provider inserting yourself into the work flow is the nirvana because it makes it that much harder to cancel.

There are a lot of themes here and it will be interesting to keep a watch on the Knowledge Network.

(It is curious that there is no mention of this on the NY Times. com site).

1 comment:

nick said...

This is great information – its encouraging to see online education is becoming more widely accepted and the benefits are backed up by a range of studies.