Sunday, July 28, 2013

MediaWeek (V7, N30): Colbert Mocks MOOCs, Private Eye, Barnes & Noble + More

Steven Colbert interviewed Anant Agarwal the President of edX, who explains the reason for offering free university courses online. Steven proclaimed ignorance of the free MOOC model and compared the model to a shoe store.

And at the Chronicle of Higher Education a more serious opinion piece about who's driving the MOOC locomotive:
I understand that politicians have a duty to be good stewards of public money, as do college administrators; and I certainly don't have any objection to cutting costs where we can. But when our primary objective becomes making degrees as cheap as possible, rather than providing the best education possible, we're missing the mark as educators and doing no good for the future of our students or our nation.

That's why it's so important for us as faculty members to realize who's driving the online locomotive. It's not students, only about a third of whom take any online classes. It's not our colleagues, the vast majority of whom still aren't fully on board with online learning in general, much less with MOOCs. And it's certainly not employers, who over all seem to prefer that students take most of their coursework in traditional classrooms. It's the administrators and the politicians, whose priorities—let's be honest—are not the same as ours.

I sometimes wonder if the train is so big, and moving so fast, that it's just going to derail itself due to basic physics. But unless that happens, and until it does, the only way to slow it down is for enough of us to refuse to get on board and instead line the tracks, signaling "proceed with caution" with all our might.
From BusinessWeek; Barnes & Noble, the obituary.
Barnes & Noble is a $6.8 billion company with 675 carefully selected locations in every state in the country. It also operates 686 college bookstores, which with the e-reader operations make up the company’s Nook Media unit. Sales at its regular stores declined almost 6 percent in the company’s 2013 fiscal year, to $4.6 billion. But because their margins are getting higher and their expenses lower, the bookstores still make money: Ninety-five percent are profitable. Lynch may not have been reading real books, but Barnes & Noble’s customers still do.

The company hasn’t announced its plans yet, but it will probably sell the e-reader business or shut it down. Barnes & Noble’s Nook misadventure may look like one of those inexplicable unforced errors businesses make from time to time, like New Coke or the Edsel. But it’s hard to blame Lynch for trying to transform the company. The digital revolution is changing the dynamics of the business. The company had to respond, and it still does. The problem was that Lynch tried to transform the wrong thing.

Barnes & Noble has a history of ill-timed technological decisions. In the 1990s it was focused on beating Borders and didn’t set up its website until 1997, a full two years after went live. It introduced a primitive e-reader too early, in 2001 (on Sept. 11, to make things worse). After Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007, Barnes & Noble needed someone to take control of its destiny and hired Lynch to do just that.
Eye Full: Ian Hislop explains why Private Eye’s blend of humor and investigative journalism wouldn’t work in the US (CJR)
Britain’s bestselling current-affairs magazine, Private Eye, has been producing its biweekly and decidedly English mix of satire, industry gossip, cartoons, and investigative journalism since 1961. Despite its print-focused operation (there is no digital version, and its website offers just tidbits of what’s available in the print edition), the magazine’s 200,000-plus circulation is the highest it’s been in recent years, buoyed by its recent 50th-anniversary issue and various government and media scandals. Much of the success is due to editor Ian Hislop, 52, who’s been at the helm since 1986. A self-professed workaholic, Hislop also writes for and appears on television, most famously as a panelist on the BBC’s long-running comedic news panel show, Have I Got News For You. As his profile has risen over the years, Hislop has become a regular on various power and influence lists, from The Guardian to GQ, and has been called “the king of British satire” and even a “national treasure.” CJR’s Sara Morrison spoke to Hislop about mixing satire and seriousness, and why American publications and TV shows either don’t or can’t.
Remember Suzi Quatro? (Telegraph):
And she made a pretty big impression on us teenage boys too. I tell her, slightly guiltily, about a rumour that spread around the school that if Devil Gate Drive hit No 1 in 1974, she would strip off on Top of the Pops. She’s laughing so much she can hardly speak. “Rock ’n’ roll! It’s the music of puberty,” she splutters. “I’ve always maintained that you can be sexy with your clothes on. Sexier maybe.” In 2007, Quatro published a candid and entertaining autobiography, Unzipped, in which she told stories about throwing a drunken Iggy Pop offstage, shooting an amorous Alice Cooper with an arrow, and turning down advances from Elvis Presley. Last year, she developed it into a one-woman, multi-media show for a brief run at London’s Hippodrome. This September, she brings a revised version to the Play Misty Club in Hackney for six nights.
From Twitter:
What is a publisher now? New interview with Victor Henning on scholarly
Springer Science buyout loan revised to attract investors
Here’s how Amazon self-destructs
Previously unseen Joseph Heller story out this week  

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