Monday, January 21, 2013

MediaWeek (V6, N3): MOOCs Invade CSU, Moby Lives & B&N, Pearson Warns +More

California is testing the adoption of some MOOC into the 'traditional' carriculem (IHEd):
Gov. Jerry Brown wants California’s public institutions to take a hard look at MOOCs. Along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he is encouraging experimentation with MOOC platforms for introductory and remedial courses.

Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford University computer science professor who co-founded Udacity, said that Brown e-mailed and called him in June to kick off discussions about a partnership with public universities in the state. “We need your help,” Thrun said Brown told him.

While the state’s public institutions have plenty of experience in online education, their emphasis in digital learning may be shifting. The governor’s budget proposal, released last week, puts a priority on popular, often overbooked courses, while most previous online efforts in the state have been housed in extension programs, which are relatively expensive and often don’t lead to credit.

Both the California State University and University of California systems would receive $10 million under the budget proposal to expand online courses. California’s community college system would receive $16.9 million.
Dennis Johnson from Moby Lives published this longish blog post on the slow demise of B&N bricks and mortar stores:
For a couple of years I’ve been predicting in column after column that B&N was going to get out of the brick-and-mortar business of selling books, but seeing it finally kick into high gear was no fun. If you include the company’s college stores, this is going to mean 1362 bookstores disappearing from the American landscape — less than two years after 686 Borders stores disappeared.

The big chains deserve opprobrium for their vicious tactics against America’s independent booksellers, certainly. Back in the last century, I wrote a column attacking B&N for putting indie booksellers in Melville House’s birthplace, Hoboken, New Jersey, out of business with under-pricing, as if selling books was like selling widgets. Can you guess the rest of that story? Having poisoned the well, the Hoboken B&N itself went out of business, leaving the town — a big Manhattan bedroom with lots of well-educated, well-off residents — without a bookshop, probably forever.

And yet, and yet … that development gave me no pleasure, nor does the fact that this scenario is playing out across the country with increasing frequency. And my brother and sister indie fanatics shouldn’t get too righteous about it either. Two thousand fewer places for people to be exposed to books is pretty obviously not good for our culture.
(As as side note, before the B&N in Hoboken opened there were at least four or five small bookstores on the main drag - predictably named, Washington Street - and then they all closed. Now we have no except a small second hand store).

Mendelay which has had a pretty incredible run and an interesting business model gained the attention of the FT possibly because the company is to be acquired by Elsevier. (FT):
But as they continued their PhDs, they realised they were struggling with the same problem: managing information efficiently.

“We were finding it difficult to keep track of the hundreds of PDF documents that we had to manage,” says Dr Henning. “We were doing collaborative work too with researchers in Germany and the UK and found that discussions and emails often got lost as documents were emailed back and forth. That’s what brought us to the idea of Mendeley.”

The first question was whether they could extract meaningful information from documents. Dr Reichelt, who was supervising masters thesis students at Cologne, commissioned two students who proved it was possible to turn a PDF into plain text, then use algorithms to extract information from it. “It reinforced our belief that it would work and convinced us we could build a prototype without funding,” says Dr Henning.

The reason for their optimism – and their decision to jump full-time into developing Mendeley – was a hunch that researchers would find the service valuable once their individual research libraries were crowdsourced into one large searchable database.
Also from the FT,  E-Books lift Bloomsbury (FT)
The strong growth in ebooks before Christmas came in spite of traditional trends, which tend to see ebook purchases spike in the months after Christmas as customers try out their new ereading devices. The company said it expected to know more about crucial post-Christmas ebook sales over the next six weeks.

Sales in the run-up to Christmas were helped by cookbooks such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Three Good Things and How to Bake by Paul Hollywood of the BBC’s hit TV show The Great British Bake Off. The company also revealed that it is publishing And the Mountains Echoed, the next novel by Khaled Hosseini, the best-selling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
And, Pearson warns of sluggish full year growth (FT)
The publishing group attributed the year-on-year earnings per share slip to the £450m sale of its 50 per cent stake in the FTSE International index business, which in 2011 contributed £20m to Pearson’s operating profit, equivalent to 2.2p of EPS.

“Market conditions remained weak, as expected, in the key fourth-quarter selling season for higher education, consumer publishing and corporate advertising,” said Pearson.

“Pearson’s businesses continue to face tough market conditions and structural industry change that we see continuing into 2013.”

Pearson’s core North American education business was held back in 2012 by cash-strapped US schools paring back spending on books, educational software and other teaching materials.

However, the publishing group said that its services and digital learning revenues continued to grow strongly and it benefited from a strong performance from recent acquisitions and tight cost control.

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