Sunday, December 11, 2011

MediaWeek (Vol 4, No 50): Khan Academy, Academic Libraries, Harvard Business School, Consumer Reports + More

An interesting profile of The Khan Academy and its founder Salman Khan from Inside Higher Ed and what is most interesting is less the videos than the opportunity to provide assessment tools that monitor and measure comprehension. (IHEd):
One root of the problem is the fact that the college degree is issued by the same institution that is in charge of setting, and enforcing, the standards of that credential, says Khan, who holds four degrees himself. This is tantamount to investment banks rating their own securities, he says. Meanwhile, the accrediting agencies that are in charge of making sure those “ratings” are legitimate do not currently focus on what students coming out of those institutions measurably know.

That is why, when an audience member at Khan’s Future of State Universities talk asked whether Khan Academy was interested in credentialing, its tutor-in-chief answered with an enthusiastic yes-but. Khan told Inside Higher Ed that he does not want to turn his free, online trove -- whose 2,700 videos could theoretically be organized into course-length sequences -- into a credential-granting institution. What he does want to do is advocate for the creation and mainstreaming of credential-granting institutions that exist wholly separate (“decoupled,” in Khan-speak) from the institutions (including his) that do the teaching.

In Khan’s ideal world, this would mean an independent third party that tests specific competencies and awards credentials corresponding to knowledge areas in which a student can demonstrate mastery -- like the MCAT or standardized tests like a bar exam for calculus, physics, or computer science. “It would be much more useful, speaking as employer, if they show they’re just at the top of the charts on a certain skill set that we really want,” he said.
Barbara Fister writing in Inside Higher Ed questions whether more public space in academic libraries is what students really want ( IHEd)
Though the conventional wisdom these days about library spaces is that students want to be social, that group work and collaboration are how kids learn today, and that digital texts and digital tools will get used but printed collections won’t, students often disagree.I’ve heard more librarians talk about student demands for quiet and solitary spaces for study in the past year, perhaps because the information commons idea has become so standard it’s no longer an innovation. Recently a small group of students at the University of New Brunswick protested because their spiffy new library was too noisy, too public, and the books were squirreled away at the periphery. It wasn’t clear from the article that students wanted to read the books, but they wanted a quiet, serious place to study, and books were part of their idea of such a place.

A recent Project Information Literacy study found that students minimize technology use and try to unplug from their overly distracting social networks when working on projects or studying for exams. Last month, a couple of student speakers at a symposium on the future of the academic library went even further. They yearned to be disconnected at times, and speculated that if a section of the library was purposefully taken off the grid, with no wifi and no computers, it would be the most popular site on campus for stressed students who needed to focus and get things done. I just noticed that the most recent issue of American Libraries has an essay proposing that libraries consider having gadget-free zones. Ironically, the print copy comes with a QR code you can use to retrieve the essay online.
From The Economist, Harvard Business School is experimenting with a different model for teaching students (Economist):

Long before he became dean, Mr Nohria lamented the failure of business schools to fulfil their mission of turning management into a profession similar to law or medicine. Asked what should be expected from someone with an MBA, he replies that “obviously, they should master a body of knowledge. But we should also expect them to apply that knowledge with some measure of judgment.” MBA students have long been sent on summer internships with prospective employers, but HBS, like most business schools, did little else to help them with the practical application of management studies.

What happens in the second year of the new course is still being worked out. But the first year has three elements. First, team-building exercises. Students take turns to lead a group engaged in a project such as designing an “eco-friendly sculpture”. They learn to collaborate and to give and take feedback. These exercises are loosely based on ones used in the US army.

Second, students will be sent to work for a week with one of more than 140 firms in 11 countries. Already the new intake have had conference calls with these companies, ranging from the Brazilian soapmaker to a Chinese property firm, and gone off-campus to conduct product-development “dashes” like the one in Copley Mall. This sort of structured learning-by-doing is a world away from HBS’s traditional encouragement of students to “go on an adventure” outside of classes.
The NYT takes a look at how Consumer Reports is doing on the web. Not particularly insightful the numbers are interesting however ( NYT):
Consumer Reports started its Web site in 1997; by 2001, it had 557,000 subscribers. That number has grown to 3.3 million this year, an increase of nearly 500 percent in 10 years. It has more than six times as many digital subscribers as The Wall Street Journal, the leader among newspapers.

And in August, Consumer Reports started generating more revenue from digital subscriptions than from print — a feat that must make it the envy of the print world struggling to make that transition. Even more amazingly, Consumer Reports has enjoyed success on the Web without losing print subscribers — those have held steady since 2001 at around four million.

“Five years ago, the Web site was just the magazine put online, word for word,” says Kevin McKean, Consumer Reports’ editorial director. Formerly, products were tested in batches, but today testing occurs whenever a new model is released. Results are quickly available online, instead of being held up for the once-a-year roundup of reviews of a particular product category in the magazine. 
From the Twitter:

OCLC WorldShare Platform: OCLC Brands and Strengthens Its Webscale Strategy (Link)

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