Universities unveil distance-learning program in nuclear engineering

To help meet a growing demand for nuclear engineers, a group of universities has teamed up to sponsor online courses and swap information about the students taking them. One goal is to eliminate the hassle for students to transfer credits among the participating institutions.

Other universities have used distance learning to teach nuclear engineering, but the new effort is probably the largest such program, said John P. Gutteridge, director of university programs in nuclear energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Big 12 Nuclear Engineering Consortium will start the distance-education effort this spring using an information-sharing system, called ExpanSIS, developed by Kansas State University. The secure, Web-based system allows universities to jointly track information about course schedules, grades, student billing, and textbooks. Students can pay at their home institutions for the nuclear-engineering courses, which were developed by Kansas State, Texas A&M University at College Station, and the Universities of Missouri at Columbia and Texas at Austin.

ExpanSIS is already used by some of the Big 12 universities in a separate effort, the Great Plains Interactive Distance Educational Alliance, which offers graduate courses online in nonengineering fields.

Universities are working to expand education in nuclear engineering in response to a revival of interest in nuclear power as a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

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No more study hall?

College students on welfare won’t have to attend supervised study halls to fulfill weekly work requirements and can pursue baccalaureate, advanced degrees, or distance education under new, soon-to-be-released federal regulations for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. (The regulations, obtained by Inside Higher Ed, were briefly available to the public last week before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rescinded them because of clerical errors. A spokesman said the content will remain consistent, and a new version will likely be available on the Federal Register within a week).

The final rule updates — and in many respects, relaxes — an interim final rule released in June 2006 after Congress tightened the welfare program as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Some of the changes could reflect a return to pre-2006 policies in some states. However, advocates stress that real limitations, including onerous reporting requirements established in the 2006 regulations, remain unchanged and that problems persist.

“They’re a slight loosening of the clamping down that happened 18 months ago,” Liz Schott, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank focused on policies and programs benefiting low- and moderate-income individuals, said of the new regulations.

“These are significant positive changes,” added Amy-Ellen Duke, a senior policy analyst at the Washington-based Center for Law and Social Policy, which also focuses on issues affecting low-income individuals. “But it’s hard to see how this is going to play out necessarily in the long run.”

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Cal State Fullerton selects software suite for web collaboration

iLinc Communications, a developer of Web conferencing software and audio conferencing solutions, announced that California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) has selected the iLinc software suite as the backbone for a host of projects that will connect students and faculty across multiple campuses.

The university will use iLinc for everything from training and distance learning to offering online science labs and virtual faculty office hours.

Cal State Fullerton has a student enrollment of 37,000 who are spread across the university s 236 acre main campus in Fullerton and satellites in Irvine, Santa Ana and Garden Grove. The university is part of the 23 campus California State University System, the largest university system in the United States.

iLinc offered us the scalability we needed, an open application programming interface and an easy to implement licensing model designed specifically for the university environment, said Amir Dabirian, Chief Information Technology Officer for CSUF. We also had some unique requirements such as the need to integrate with the Cal State learning management system and the capability to host science labs across our multiple sites and iLinc met those needs as well.

iLinc offers universities specialized toolsets for distance learning, online meetings, conferences and more through its comprehensive suite of software products. The applications work on both PCs and Apple computers and are easily managed via iLinc s intuitive user interface.

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At 75, a West Virginia university turns increasingly to online learning

During the Great Depression era, the condition of the West Virginia economy and its mountainous terrain with inadequate roads made attending college an overwhelming burden for southern West Virginia high school graduates.

During that time, fewer than 10 percent of high school graduates in the area were attending college. The Beckley community had a great desire to offer a quality and affordable education to its youth at the height of the Great Depression. The answer was Beckley College.

The private, nonprofit institution began as a junior college and opened with 97 students and classrooms rented from a local church.

During the first half-century, the college experienced slow growth, but had steady increases in enrollment, staff, facilities and programs.

“They didn’t have the ability at that time to grow like we have over the past several years,” Mountain State University President Charles Polk said. “Considering the time period, they did extremely well with the college.”

In 1990, five presidents and 57 years later, Polk took on the challenges of leading the college into a new and exciting era.

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College’s online Spanish courses to continue–from Spain

Maysville Community and Technical College is pleased to announce that they will be continuing their on-line Spanish Education courses — from Spain.

Currently MCTC’s Spanish I and II are being taught by Gertrudis Siguenza on-line. Siguenza has taught students throughout the duration of her three year residency in America. This will change and also remain as Siguenza will be returning to her hometown in Spain this the fall.

Russ Ward, Division Chairperson for the Liberal Arts and Education Division at MCTC said, “I am excited about the prospect of offering a language course from the country of origin and this is a great opportunity to expand the relationship of MCTC and its commitment to quality of educational offerings and the flexibility of its on-line programs and courses. We are pleased to have Gertrudis as a adjunct faculty member teaching Spanish at MCTC and for the chance to have her teach from Spain is exciting and it will be for the students.”

A native of Elche, Spain, a tourism-based Mediterranean Sea community in the Valencian region of southeast Spain, Siguenza taught English to Spanish-speaking students for more than a year before coming to Kentucky. She has a Master’s Degree in English Studies and is in the second year of her PhD studies in Linguistics and Didactics.

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U. of Phoenix helps British Columbia retain professionals

In the next ten years, one million new job opportunities will be created in British Columbia. Unfortunately, the province is only going to graduate 700,000 students, leaving a shortfall of 300,000 or close to one third of the future workforce vacant.

Equipping its workforce with the skills for tomorrow’s jobs and leadership roles is critical to B.C.’s economic success. In a world where time is precious, several Universities are entering the online learning sector realizing that flexible options are key to better serve students and retain working professionals. University of Phoenix is leading the way with what it knows is the solution to this growing problem: providing working professionals flexible study options which allow them to maintain their employed status. This means moving away from conventional study and pioneering new standards in online learning.

At its main Canadian campus, located in Burnaby, University of Phoenix is one of the only universities in B.C. to specifically service working adults. By focusing on online learning, University of Phoenix is giving working professionals the opportunity to advance their education without having to give up their full-time paying jobs. This makes higher education a real possibility for many and a huge bonus for B.C.’s expanding job market.

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Will online learning make campuses obsolete?

I hope in this coming year to share some ideas and insights regarding the manner in which societal change demands intelligent responses from our universities. I believe it is imperative for our nation’s citizens to understand the role that our leading universities play — as founts of new ideas, engines of innovation and agents of widespread prosperity and social mobility — and how to ensure that they can play such roles most effectively in the coming decade.

The concept of the university is only a millennium old, hardly a sizable portion of history. But once universities were created, they have served as humanities most enduring institutions, as Clark Kerr and others have observed.

Yet societal and technological forces have rearranged our assumptions about much in life: classrooms, libraries, campuses, lifelong learning, even the very nature of literacy itself. Many ask, in 2008, what is an education? And when and where does it happen? Will campuses become obsolete due to online learning and other developments?

Higher education enrollment swelled from three million students to 17 million over the past half-century. Even factoring in the United States’ population increase from 170 million to 300 million over that time, the rise is still extraordinary. And whereas 750,000 students annually received master’s degrees fifty years ago, that number has increased more than sevenfold. The grand and historic traditions of higher education have undergone shocking change in the span of a heartbeat.

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UMassOnline launches three additional online programs

Coming less than 90 days after separate announcements last November that saw the launch of the nation’s first fully-online Master of Public Health in Nutrition program as well as ten new programs featuring blended learning innovations pioneered by University of Massachusetts faculty and program developers, UMassOnline CEO David Gray today announced the formal launch of three more new, online study concentrations. These new programs include a collaborative concentration in Arts Administration – the first and only program of its kind in the nation – as well as concentrations in the rapidly changing fields of Journalism Studies and Health and Human Services.

“These new program developments,” said Gray, “are a result of our ongoing commitment to remain in the forefront of innovative online offerings in step with extremely high-growth fields. In emerging disciplines where sweeping changes are happening rapidly and the demand for highly educated professionals continues to grow, the most rewarding career opportunities favor those with the most advanced knowledge and best contemporary understanding of the requirements for success.”

“Today’s leading colleges and universities with a genuine interest in providing quality online programs have an obligation to go well beyond the mere packaging of long-established traditional courses with baseline delivery technology. In addition to the requirement that the technology significantly enhance and enrich the learning experience, the program offerings themselves must remain contemporary, reflective of the real world, and ever-evolving to meet and exceed growing demands for leading professionals to have the contemporary knowledge demanded of the new career opportunities.”

All three of the new offerings were developed by UMass Amherst’s University Without Walls (UWW) program which, for 37 years, has been at the forefront of groundbreaking degree completion programs for adult learners. Applications for the new concentrations are currently being accepted for fall 2008 with individual courses available now.

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OAS, open campus in West Indies sign distance pact

The Organization of American States (OAS) and the University of the West Indies Open Campus (UWIOC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to help educators in the English-speaking Caribbean to promote democratic values and practices in their classrooms, schools and communities.

Under the agreement — signed concurrently at the OAS in Washington DC and at the UWI Mona Campus in Jamaica — a sustainable distance education course will be developed to implement the programme. Course content will be informed by the principles embodied in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to which Caribbean Member States are signatories.

Initial seed funding for this three-year pilot project has been provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and participating member states are expected to identify supplemental funding and provide modest counterpart resources.

In July 2007, a number of Caribbean stakeholders, including representatives from Ministries of Education, educational institutions and affiliated organizations, civil society and international organizations, met in Barbados to provide feedback on the project and to discuss the proposed content of the distance course and the key considerations that should inform its development.

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Empowered Education Awards

Having the chance to give talented young people a rich learning experience that expands their horizons with technology while deepening their understanding of how America works is a satisfaction perhaps unique to those in the education field. When that learning experience can advance the cause of education at the same time, the opportunity becomes sweeter still. Educators can participate in just such an experience by introducing budding videographers in their schools to the Empowered Education awards, a video program of the eSchool News Network, produced with support from the Pearson Foundation. To qualify, students make a three-to-five minute original video on the theme of "How Technology Helps Me Learn." Winning entries will be those produced by students in the best journalistic style illustrating how their schools or colleges are employing technology to advance learning. Each nomination must be endorsed by an education sponsor representing the institution the students attend. Permission to travel must be obtained from a parent or guardian for student winners under 18 years of age. A panel of nationally recognized experts will select 12 finalists (three from each education level) and four Top Winners. The works of these finalists will be posted at eSchool News Online, where they may be viewed by the site’s 350,000 unique monthly visitors, including 188,000 registered members. The finalists and their video productions also will be covered in the print, PDF, and online editions of eSchool News, which is read and visited by more than 600,000 education leaders, with bonus distribution at major ed-tech conferences.