Sunday, December 16, 2012

Media Week (V6, N51): StraighterLine, Education, Bond + More

Set your price online courses. Straighterline gives credit and cash. (Chronicle)
The new service is run by StraighterLine, a company that offers online, self-paced introductory courses. Unlike massive open online courses, or MOOC's, StraighterLine's courses aren't free. But tuition is lower than what traditional colleges typically charge—the company calls its pricing "ultra-affordable." A handful of colleges accept StraighterLine courses for transfer credit.

Instructors who offer courses on Professor Direct will be able to essentially set their own sticker prices, as long as they are higher than the company's base price. One professor teaching an online mathematics course with a base price of $49, for example, plans to charge $99. For each student who signs up, the company will pocket the $49 base price, and the professor gets the remaining $50.

The instructor in that math course is Dan Gryboski, who has previously taught as an adjunct at the University of Colorado but is taking the year off from traditional teaching so he can stay home and take care of his three young children. He views Professor Direct as a way to keep up his teaching within the time windows he now has for professional work.

It's also up to each professor using Professor Direct to decide what services to offer students in addition to a core set of materials prepared by the company. Mr. Gryboski says he is promising students who sign up for his two math courses that he will quickly respond to any e-mail questions they have about the material, that he will be available for online office hours for two hours a week, and that he will create additional tutorial videos to supplement the existing materials for the courses.
Job Posting at the Dalkey Archive called the worlds worst job listing (IHEd):
The largest publisher of translated literature in the US, Dalkey has also opened offices in London and Ireland. Their name comes from a novel of the same name by Flann O’Brien (a pseudonym, so no relation), an Irish satirist and one of my favorite writers. The Press’s founder and Chief Everything Officer, John O’Brien, can be a bit…prickly, so satire might be an expected vehicle for the job posting he seems to have written himself.

“Any of the following will be grounds for immediate dismissal during the probationary period: coming in late or leaving early without prior permission; being unavailable at night or on the weekends; failing to meet any goals; giving unsolicited advice about how to run things; taking personal phone calls during work hours; gossiping; misusing company property, including surfing the internet while at work; submission of poorly written materials; creating an atmosphere of complaint or argument; failing to respond to emails in a timely way; not showing an interest in other aspects of publishing beyond editorial; making repeated mistakes; violating company policies. DO NOT APPLY if you have a work history containing any of the above.”
If you read the whole posting you'll realize that applicants are unlikely to have any work history at all.

Digital Education in Kenya and the Use of Tablets (Economist)
A for-profit venture, eLimu (“education” in Swahili) is one of several local publishers which are looking to disrupt the business of traditional textbook vendors, which are often slow and expensive. It aims to show that digital content can be cheaper and better.

Safaricom, the Kenyan mobile operator that pioneered the M-Pesa service, hopes to repeat its success in digital education. It is developing classroom content, from videotaped lessons to learning applications, that any of Kenya’s 7,000 state secondary schools will be able to access online.

The prospect of many of Africa’s 300m pupils learning digitally has not escaped the attention of global technology giants either. Amazon has seen sales of its Kindle e-readers in Africa increase tenfold in the past year. The firm’s developers are adding features to its devices with the African consumer in mind: talking books, new languages and a longer battery life.

Intel, a chipmaker, hopes that education will generate much of the double-digit growth it expects in Africa. The firm has been advising African governments and helping them buy entry-level computers. In Nigeria Intel brought together MTN, a telecom carrier, and Cinfores, a local publisher, to provide exam-preparation tools over mobile phones, a service that has become hugely popular.
William Boyd who will be writing a new Bond book is interviewed in the Independent:
The "troubled, complex" James Bond is the one we will read about when Boyd's book is published next autumn. Era-wise, Boyd has dived back into Fleming's world, setting his story in 1969, five years after Fleming released his last work, The Man with the Golden Gun. Forced to jump to my own conclusions, I'm betting the action takes our hero to Africa, scene of both Boyd's formative years and his early books such as An Ice-Cream War; A Good Man in Africa; and Brazzaville Beach.

For the record, I'm basing my assumption on the wry smile Boyd gives when I ask if he's planning to set another novel in Africa. "I may well do, I may well do," the 60-year-old says in his softly Scottish accent. It's been years, decades even, since Boyd journeyed there, literarily and literally. He says Africa – he was born in Ghana and lived in Nigeria until his late teens – yields the "pure source of memories" he uses as a writer, and another reason that I'm guessing he might draw on that continent for Bond's adventures.
Making money from the stuff you make is easier than you think (Techcrunch)
Loccit‘s latest product — launched last Friday — is a personalised diary populated with photos and updates from the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The startup says it sold 8,000 of these diaries in the first 48 hours of the product going on sale, which indicates there is an appetite for repackaging people’s digital footprint and selling it back to them in a more permanent form (in this case: paper — with a choice of hard or soft cover).

Loccit’s system is pretty rough round the edges — currently displaying a big warning to users that non-English characters won’t print correctly yet, and requesting they “please drop back in a week”. It can also be very slow to pull in content from social networks, if indeed it pulls it in at all — so it’s even more impressive they managed to flog 8,000 of the books in two days.
From twitter this week:

Earliest pocket-size country pursuits manual to be shown at British Library Telegraph Squiring for Dummies

Leading British Universities Join New MOOC Venture. Chronicle

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Libraries, Discovery, and the Catalog: Scale, Workflow, Attention Educause

A School Where Courses Are Designed by Business NYTimes

Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university? Guardian

Developers to break ground on massive Hoboken waterfront office and retail space.

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