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Sunday, April 21, 2019

The downside of online learning | The Week Magazine

This story originally appeared as Online courses are cost effective but detrimental to learning, researchers find on Pacific Standard.

For more and more of today's university students, screen time is competing with seat time, says James McWilliams, professor at Texas State University.
Photo: Patrick Lux / Getty Images

According to the most recent statistics (from 2016–17), 33 percent of college students take at least one online class, 17.6 percent mix online and in-class coursework, and 15.4 percent exclusively take online classes. Each statistic represents an increase over the year prior, a trend that has continued since 2011. Advocates of online education are quick to celebrate this increase, but the rise of screen time in higher education may harbor some detrimental consequences.

Online courses have obvious benefits: They cut costs and are popular with working students seeking scheduling flexibility. At a number of campuses they also increase educational access. The Orlando Sentinel reports, for example, that the University of Central Florida, a school with an extensive online catalog, can serve 66,000 students due to that catalog, as opposed to the 40,000 its physical campus can accommodate. Thomas Cavanagh, UCF vice provost for digital learning, explains that demand for online offerings is at an ever-increasing level. "Students," he says, "are clearly voting with their behaviors."

But the educational benefits of online courses are less clear. A Brookings Institution report found that students taking online courses "perform substantially worse than students in traditional in-person courses and that experience in these online courses impacts performance in future classes and likelihood of dropping out of college as well."...

Furthering the bad news for online education is the fact that the drawbacks of online coursework disproportionately harm lower-income students and community colleges. A University of California–Davis study found that community college students were 11 percent less likely to pass a class if they took it online, rather than in a face-to-face setting. Shanna Jaggers, an assistant director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, has indicated that community colleges promote online classes for enrollment rather than educational purposes. "They need enrollments," she says, "and this [online class work] is one way to pull enrollments up."

Source: The Week Magazine

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Coming Untethered: The Unintended Consequences of Hyper Digitalization | USC Viterbi School of Engineering

In her new book, Dr. Julie Albright, currently a lecturer in the departments of Applied Psychology and Systems Architecting and Engineering at USC, explores the impact of a digital society on our relationships and behaviors.

Julie Albright.
Photo: Kris Krug
A leading researcher on the social impacts of technology, Dr. Julie Albright, lecturer in Systems Architecting and Engineering at USC Viterbi School of Engineering, believes we’ve come to a point of imbalance. After centuries of connecting with each other face-to-face and with nature, we’ve come to rely on digital connections in every aspect of our lives. In just a few years, we’ve completely moved away from these offline relationships, creating a new paradigm that we must grapple with to rebalance ourselves and restabilize our society.

What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
We’re in a transitional period between analog and digital. Socially, people are pulling away from traditional social processes and structures, like getting married or buying a home, which are some of the traditional markers of adulthood. Now they’re hyper attaching to digital technologies. It’s creating a wave of unintended social consequences that people are still grappling with...

How do we address these unintended consequences?
The challenge is, how can we create new anchoring points, particularly for young digital natives unhooked from the things that were keeping them stabilized—things like church or, again, marriages. So, how do we create these? One opportunity is the workplace. Maybe that’s the place that has to somehow create community or support in a new way, even though that’s not its traditional role or job.
Read more... 

Recommended Reading

Left to Their Own Devices:
How Digital Natives Are Reshaping
the American Dream
Source: USC Viterbi School of Engineering

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Snapchat's new Scan AR platform can solve math problems with your camera | Apps - Pocket-lint

Maggie Tillman, Contributing editor summarizes, Snapchat’s camera has officially morphed into an augmented reality platform - and it has so much potential for both Snap and its users.

Lenses: Scan Your World | Snap Partner Summit 2019 

If you're thinking, "Wait, didn't Snapchat already do AR stuff?" You're right; it did. Snapchat's lenses can change your face into a puking rainbow, or they can overlay your Bitmoji avatar onto your surroundings. But, going forward, the app's camera will be able to do a lot more than that.

Snap is unveiling a new initiative called Scan, and it's expected to roll out to all users soon. It's an augmented reality platform that allows companies to create new augmented reality experiences that utilise Snapchat’s camera. Upon launch, Scan will feature a partnership with Photomath, helping users solve math problems just by pointing their camera at the problem.

It will also have a Giphy integration that works by detecting objects and surfacing GIFs on users' screens in order to help them find the perfect GIF to match the moment. Any interested developers can contact Snap to find out more about working with the platform...

This isn’t exactly new territory for Snapchat. The app’s camera could already use Shazam to identify songs or work with Amazon to help you purchase things you’ve found in the world. Scan represents an ambitious step forward in that kind of thinking. It’s also another avenue Snap is exploring to make its app generate revenue. It's throwing everything at the wall, at this point.

Source: Pocket-lint and Snapchat Channel (YouTube)

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Letter: Students need more math to compete in 21st century | Letters To The Editor - The Mercury News

Students need more math to compete in 21st century.

Is society cheating our students by not providing the education needed for them to compete in the 21st century?
Photo: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group archives
Re: “Does more math in high school add up?” (Page B1, April 15):

Most people agree that our children are falling behind the rest of the world, especially in the STEM subject areas. How can anyone disagree with adding a fourth year of math?

We need more math education, not less. The article notes: “The extra year-long course could be the traditional calculus or more practical alternatives such as statistics, computer science or personal finance, administrators say.” We need calculus, not personal finance.
Read more... 

Source: The Mercury News

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Panel focuses on careers for PhD students outside of academia | Student Life - The Hub at Johns Hopkins

Philosophy PhD graduates discuss the paths they took to develop their careers and share tips on navigating the job market, writes Saralyn Cruickshank, Web Producer at Johns Hopkins University.

Photo: courtesy of IndypendenZ at
A PhD carries significant gravitas, signaling academic achievement and intellectual prestige.

But as a group of former philosophy PhD graduates attested during a panel discussion Thursday, a variety of additional activities and skills can be essential in pursuing jobs after graduation.

The Non-academic Career Panel Discussion—held in the Mattin Center and hosted by the Department of Philosophy and Nancy Kass, vice provost for graduate and professional education—brought together PhD students in humanities fields to discuss career paths outside of academia, and how a background in the humanities can help these students excel in other fields.

"PhD programs have always prepared students to be critical thinkers and to break new ground in their fields of study," said Kass. "But they've also traditionally trained students to enter the academy. In the 21st century, we must adapt to make sure our students learn about, and are prepared for, a range of career paths and are provided the opportunities they need to be able to thrive. We're thrilled to collaborate with the Department of Philosophy to put this panel together."

Speaking on the panel were four philosophy PhD graduates who hold fulfilling professional positions outside of the university setting...

The students in the audience—who were in various stages of their graduate studies, including several who had already begun writing their dissertations—said they were glad to have such a candid discussion about their future careers.

Source: The Hub at Johns Hopkins

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BYU actuarial science program named Center of Excellence | Campus -

Madison Everett, Author at The Daily Universe reports, BYU has been recognized as a Center of Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries, and is the first western program to receive this honor.

Students in the BYU actuarial club.
The Society of Actuaries has recognized BYU as a Center of Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries, making the university the first western program to receive the honor and 17th to receive the title out of the country’s 185 actuarial programs.

“I’m excited about the additional opportunities that this will provide for the students and the fact that we will now be better known,” BYU actuarial science program director Brian Hartman said.

Actuarial science major Cason Wight said he feels proud to be from a school with such a strong actuarial program...

Actuaries need a deep understanding of risk to use analytical skills to protect organizations against loss from accidents. Hartman said it is largely a mix of finance and statistics.

According to Hartman, the prestigious designation goes to programs that meet demanding standards, including having a high graduate placement and a robust curriculum that prepares students to succeed in the industry and pass the rigorous actuarial exams...

The program has expanded its research and will continue to expand in the years to come.


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Statisticians want to abandon science’s standard measure of ‘significance’ | Science & Society - Science News

Here’s why “statistically significant” shouldn’t be a stamp of scientific approval, according to Bethany Brookshire, science writer with Science News magazine and Science News for Students.

The concept of “statistical significance” has become scientific shorthand for a finding’s worth. What might science look like without it?
Photo: nicolas_/iStock /Getty Images Plus
In science, the success of an experiment is often determined by a measure called “statistical significance.” A result is considered to be “significant” if the difference observed in the experiment between groups (of people, plants, animals and so on) would be very unlikely if no difference actually exists. The common cutoff for “very unlikely” is that you’d see a difference as big or bigger only 5 percent of the time if it wasn’t really there — a cutoff that might seem, at first blush, very strict.

It sounds esoteric, but statistical significance has been used to draw a bright line between experimental success and failure. Achieving an experimental result with statistical significance often determines if a scientist’s paper gets published or if further research gets funded. That makes the measure far too important in deciding research priorities, statisticians say, and so it’s time to throw it in the trash.

More than 800 statisticians and scientists are calling for an end to judging studies by statistical significance in a March 20 comment published in Nature. An accompanying March 20 special issue of the American Statistician makes the manifesto crystal clear in its introduction: “‘statistically significant’ — don’t say it and don’t use it.”...
What’s the problem with statistical significance? 
But science and statistics have never been so simple as to cater to convenient cutoffs. A P value, no matter how small, is just a probability. It doesn’t mean an experiment worked. And it doesn’t tell you if the difference in results between experimental groups is big or small. In fact, it doesn’t even say whether the difference is meaningful.

The 0.05 cutoff has become shorthand for scientific quality, says Blake McShane, one of the authors on the Nature commentary and a statistician at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “First you show me your P less than 0.05, and then I will go and think about the data quality and study design,” he says. “But you better have that [P less than 0.05] first.”

Source: Science News

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The 88th annual Waa-Mu Show ‘For the Record’ will feature the untold stories of history-making women | Arts & Humanities - Northwestern University NewsCenter

Stephanie Kulke, fine arts editor suggest, A Chicago journalist embarks on a project to chronicle the lives of history’s most incredible women, including groundbreaking mathematician Gene Grabeel, French swordswoman and opera singer Julie D’Aubigny and early civil rights leader Ida B. Wells in the 88th annual Waa-Mu Show.

The 88th annual Waa-Mu Show 'For the Record' runs May 3 to 12.
Photo: Sean Su
Presented by the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University, the entirely student-written and orchestrated musical “For The Record” will run May 3 to 12 in the Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, on the Evanston campus.

Amisha (Amy) Padnani, editor at The New York Times and creator of “Overlooked,” the Times’ series chronicling the lives of forgotten women, will attend the May 9 performance and participate in a post-show discussion. Padnani inspired the themes of “For the Record.”

Though Grabeel, D’Aubigny and Wells dedicated their careers to changing the world, their stories have been largely overlooked in historical records. Now one woman’s quest to reveal their lives will end up shaping her own. Inspired by incredible true stories, “For The Record”asks how we can learn from our past in order to create a more enlightened future...

“With Waa-Mu, I get to watch young professionals hone their craft and skills in a supportive, positive and diverse environment,” Schellhardt said. “I believe this year’s show will reflect the passion and talent of our enormously talented student body, and that makes me beyond excited to bring this show to life.”

The historical women in “For The Record” are:...

Waa-Mu tickets are $25 (tier two) and $30 (tier one) general admission, $22 for seniors and educators, $20 for NU faculty and staff and $10 for full-time students with valid ID.

Tickets are available on the Wirtz Center website, by phone at 847-491-7282 or in-person at the Wirtz Center box office, located in the lobby of the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive.

Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays. The box office is closed Sundays and Mondays.  

Source: Northwestern University NewsCenter

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A new alphabet for Europe: Algorithms, big data, and the computer chip | Future Development - Brookings Institution

If the biggest disrupter of the last few decades was Deng Xiaoping—the father of modern China—the big disrupter of the next few decades may well be John McCarthy, explains Wolfgang Fengler, World Bank’s Lead Economist in Trade and Competitiveness for Eastern Europe and Central Asia and Indermit Gill, nonresident senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution.

Photo: Brookings Institution (Blog)
McCarthy, an American professor of Computer Science, is believed by many to be the father of artificial intelligence. Interestingly, the two have an epiphany in common. In 1979, Deng, a lifelong communist, visited the United States and came back a believer in market capitalism. In 1968, after a two-day visit to Czechoslovakia, McCarthy, who was raised as a communist by his immigrant parents, became a free-market Republican.

The ideas of computer scientists and mathematicians like McCarthy are radically transforming the way we communicate, and the way we make, buy, and sell goods and services. The changes will likely be so great that societies will have to reorganize government policy—rethinking how to regulate, what to subsidize, and whom to tax.

Change comes to Europe, again
Nowhere are these changes being considered more seriously than in Europe, where the technological transformations collectively called “Industry 4.0” are not unprecedented. At the end of the 19th century, as the Second Industrial Revolution unfolded in Western Europe, it brought mass unemployment in the countryside and squalor in the cities. Machines replaced peasants, who fled to cities and became the new urban poor. As they found new employment, mostly in the urban industrial sector, they joined a growing middle class. They would eventually transform Europe into a continent with the highest standards of living in the world...

Europe 4.0 organizes these technologies into three types (Figure 1):
  • Informational technologies that exploit the exponential growth of data. Examples include the internet of things, big data analytics, and cloud computing. The fundamental driver is the falling cost of computing. The main effect is to lower coordination costs.
  • Transactional technologies that digitize business models. Examples include the sharing economy, gig economy, digital platforms, and blockchain. The fundamental driver is the falling cost of matching demand and supply. The main effect is to reduce information asymmetries.
  • Operational technologies that combine data with automation. Examples include robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The fundamental driver is the falling cost of routine functions. The main effect is to reduce labor costs by automating activities.
Figure 1: Industry 4.0 technologies
It is not clear whether these technologies will lead to greater concentration of production in leading regions or countries, or in larger enterprises that use more capital-intensive forms of production. For Europe, it matters a lot whether they do.
Read more... 

Source: Brookings Institution

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

New PhD program in Quantitative Life Sciences approved | Newsroom - McGill University

An innovative interdisciplinary PhD program will bridge the gap between the quantitative and biological domains to improve life sciences research, continues News releases.

Photo: McGill University
Quantitative Life Sciences (QLS), a joint venture initiated by the Faculties of Medicine and Science at McGill University and now involving many other faculties, has been given the green light by the Ministère de l’Éducation et l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES). The new program is one of three offered through McGill’s Interfaculty Studies (Biological and Biomedical Engineering and the Integrated Program in Neuroscience are the others) and is currently accepting applicants for September 2019.

“We need researchers who can develop and apply powerful mathematical and computational methods to life sciences research, and thereby help to solve pressing biological and medical challenges,” says inaugural Graduate Program Director for the PhD program, Dr. Celia Greenwood, Professor in the departments of Oncology, Human Genetics and Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health, in the Faculty of Medicine. “The current timelines for translational bioscience research can be slow and costly. Often this is because we lack quantitative tools and approaches to work with the enormous datasets currently being generated.”

The new program will equip students to create, improve and apply quantitative methods originating in the fields of mathematics, physics, statistics and computer science to the broad study of biological systems, from single molecules to entire ecosystems.

Source: McGill University

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