Hack Education Weekly News: Coursera Career Services, OLPC Cancellations, and More

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I’ve been out of the country all week and so if I’ve missed some of the big educational news, don’t be surprised. My apologies.

Tragedy

My thoughts are with all the faculty, staff, and students at Casper College (where I completed a lot of my undergraduate degree through what we once called “distance education” and where I have so many friends who work and study). Last week, a young man entered a classroom where his father, Jim Krumm, was teaching computer science. He killed his father in front of the class, then killed himself. Earlier in the day, he’d also killed his father’s girlfriend, Casper College math instructor Heidi Arnold.

Launches, Updates, and Upgrades

Coursera announced this week that it will begin selling student data to recruiters and employers, pointing to a revenue stream for the MOOC startup. Coursera Career Services (which is opt-in) will help match students — and the skills they can demonstrate from their Coursera classes — with employers. Jeffrey Young has more details in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Wellesley College is joining edX. In doing so, it joins Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley and the University of Texas system.

Amazon launched “Kindle FreeTime Unlimited” this week, a service associated with the Amazon Prime membership aimed at kids ages 3–8 (or, well, their parents) that offers books, games, educational apps, movies and TV shows in one service. In other Amazon news, the National Federation for the Blind plans to protest outside of Amazon HQ next week. Amazon has started pushing its services into schools, but as the NFB points out, Kindles are not fully accessible to the blind.

Award-winning early education app developer Duck Duck Moose has released its latest iOS app, Kindergarten Reading. (iTunes)

The New York Public Library is partnering with online education company Lynda.com to offer its patrons access to the latter’s trove of instructional videos.

Downgrades and Cancellations

One Laptop per Child has cancelled plans to release the XO–3 tablet, reports IDG News Service. OLPC had announced the tablet in 2009 and showed it off at CES earlier this year. The OLPC has designed a tablet-laptop hybrid, the XO–4 Touch, which it says will ship early next year. But at this stage, gee, don’t hold your breath.

Educational Data

The Hechinger Report takes closer look at last week’s release of state-by-state high school graduation rates. The new calculations mean that this year’s rates can’t be compared to previous years, but states can be compared to each other. The new rates also highlight some of the huge discrepancies within states between whites, Blacks, Hispanics, low income and disabled students. “The lowest graduation rate was in Washington, D.C., where 59 percent of all students, and only 39 percent of students with disabilities, graduate high school on time. But D.C. does a better job of graduating black students than Minnesota and Oregon, and graduates a larger percentage of low-income students than Nevada and Alaska, all states with higher overall graduation rates.”

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (PDF) reports that 5% of public school children — over 2 million students in 41 states and the District of Columbia were enrolled in the 2011–12 school year.

Funding

Udemy, an online platform and course marketplace, has raised $12 million in Series B funding, reports The Next Web.

The Gates Foundation has awarded some $25 million in grants to charter schools in seven cities “in an effort to encourage collaboration between charter schools and traditional neighborhood schools,” says The New York Times.

Hires, Fires, and HR

Textbook provider Flat World Knowledge has a new CEO. Founder Jeff Shelstad has stepped down (although he’ll remain with the company). The new CEO is Christopher Etesse, formerly of Blackboard. (The news follows a shake-up last month, marking the end of the “free and open” adjectives I’d normally have used to describe Flat World Knowledge.)

A month after being voted out of the office of the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett is applying for the same position in the state of Florida. Unlike Indiana, the Florida position is a governor appointment. Bennett has been a superstar-education-reformer and is close with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, so he’s in a good position to continue his (“his” being Bennett’s or Bush’s) reforms in the state.

The Gates Foundation’s “advocacy” lead Stefanie Sanford has left one non-profit to join another, the College Board, where she will be the “head of policy, advocacy, and government relations.”

Last Friday was the last day at the Department of Education for press secretary Justin Hamilton who’s left the administration but will continue to work “for students,” he says.

Philip Hanlon becomes the new President of Dartmouth College next summer. (He also sits on the advisory board of Coursera.)

Classes and Tests

Five states announced this week that they’re extending the school year by some 300 hours, starting in 2013. Happy happy joy joy for kids in the public schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee.

The American Federation of Teachers has proposed what’s being described as a “bar exam” for the profession. In a new report, Raising the Bar (PDF), the AFT outlines its proposal for raising the entry standards for teacher preparation programs, including an exam that would measure content, pedagogy, and practice.

Sports

Grand Canyon University is joining the Western Athletic Conference, making it the first for-profit university to play Division 1 college sports. How will this change the already problematic recruitment practices of for-profits?

Photo credits: Audrey Watters



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