Education

Poor Grades Tied To Class Times That Don't Match Our Biological Clocks (berkeley.edu) 294

An anonymous reader shares a report: It may be time to tailor students' class schedules to their natural biological rhythms, according to a new study from UC Berkeley and Northeastern Illinois University. Researchers tracked the personal daily online activity profiles of nearly 15,000 college students as they logged into campus servers. After sorting the students into "night owls," "daytime finches" and "morning larks" -- based on their activities on days they were not in class -- researchers compared their class times to their academic outcomes. Their findings, published today in the journal Scientific Reports, show that students whose circadian rhythms were out of sync with their class schedules -- say, night owls taking early morning courses -- received lower grades due to "social jet lag," a condition in which peak alertness times are at odds with work, school or other demands. "We found that the majority of students were being jet-lagged by their class times, which correlated very strongly with decreased academic performance," said study co-lead author Benjamin Smarr, a postdoctoral fellow who studies circadian rhythm disruptions in the lab of UC Berkeley psychology professor Lance Kriegsfeld.
Businesses

Mapping Apps Like Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps May Make Traffic Conditions Worse in Some Areas, New Research Suggests (theatlantic.com) 283

From an Atlantic story, originally titled "The Perfect Selfishness of Mapping Apps": In the pre-mobile-app days, drivers' selfishness was limited by their knowledge of the road network. In those conditions, both simulation and real-world experience showed that most people stuck to the freeways and arterial roads. Sure, there were always people who knew the crazy, back-road route, but the bulk of people just stuck to the routes that transportation planners had designated as the preferred way to get from A to B. Now, however, a new information layer is destroying the nudging infrastructure that traffic planners built into cities. Commuters armed with mobile mapping apps, route-following Lyft and Uber drivers, and software-optimized truckers can all act with a more perfect selfishness.

In some happy universe, this would lead to socially optimal outcomes, too. But a new body of research at the University of California's Institute of Transportation Studies suggests that the reality is far more complicated. In some scenarios, traffic-beating apps might work for an individual, but make congestion worse overall. And autonomous vehicles, touted as an answer to traffic-y streets, could deepen the problem. "This problem has been vastly overlooked," Alexandre Bayen, the director of UC Berkeley's Institute of Transportation Studies, told me. "It is just the beginning of something that is gonna be much worse." Bayen and a team of researchers presented their work earlier this year at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting and at the Cal Future conference at Berkeley in May 2017. They've also published work examining the negative externalities of high levels of automatic routing.

Facebook

Facebook Quietly Hid Webpages Bragging of Ability to Influence Elections (theintercept.com) 83

Sam Biddle, reporting for The Intercept: When Mark Zuckerberg was asked if Facebook had influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the founder and CEO dismissed the notion that the site even had such power as "crazy." It was a disingenuous remark. Facebook's website had an entire section devoted to touting the "success stories" of political campaigns that used the social network to influence electoral outcomes. That page, however, is now gone, even as the 2018 congressional primaries get underway.

In the wake of a public reckoning with Facebook's unparalleled ability to distribute information and global anxiety over election meddling, bragging about the company's ability to run highly effective influence campaigns probably doesn't look so great. Facebook's "success stories" page is a monument to the company's dominance of online advertising, providing examples from almost every imaginable industry of how use of the social network gave certain players an advantage. "Case studies like these inspire and motivate us," the page crows.

Businesses

Amazon's Push Into Healthcare Just Cost the Industry $30 Billion In Market Cap (qz.com) 412

Today, Amazon, along with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan, announced a plan to launch an independent company that will offer healthcare services to the companies' employees at a lower cost. The venture, which will be managed by executives from the firms, will be run more like a non-profit, than a for-profit entity. Even though the plans are vague, the news caused the market value of 10 large, listed health insurance and pharmacy stocks to drop by a combined $30 billion in the first two hours of trading. Quartz reports: "The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty," said Amazon's Jeff Bezos in a statement. "Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare's burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner's mind, and a long-term orientation." Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, likened America's mushrooming healthcare costs to "a hungry tapeworm on the American economy." How the venture will provide less pricy healthcare to the 1.2 million employees of the participating companies isn't yet clear. The new company will leverage "technology solutions" that provide "simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost." Not much else, including the name of the company, is known.
Intel

Intel Responds To Alleged Chip Flaw, Claims Effects Won't Significantly Impact Average Users (hothardware.com) 375

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hot Hardware: The tech blogosphere lit up yesterday afternoon after reports of a critical bug in modern Intel processors has the potential to seriously impact systems running Windows, Linux and macOS. The alleged bug is so severe that it cannot be corrected with a microcode update, and instead, OS manufacturers are being forced to address the issue with software updates, which in some instances requires a redesign of the kernel software. Some early performance benchmarks have even suggested that patches to fix the bug could result in a performance hit of as much as 30 percent. Since reports on the issues of exploded over the past 24 hours, Intel is looking to cut through the noise and tell its side of the story. The details of the exploit and software/firmware updates to address the matter at hand were scheduled to go live next week. However, Intel says that it is speaking out early to combat "inaccurate media reports."

Intel acknowledges that the exploit has "the potential to improperly gather sensitive data from computing devices that are operating as designed." The company further goes on state that "these exploits do not have the potential to corrupt, modify or delete data." The company goes on to state that the "average computer user" will be negligibly affected by any software fixes, and that any negative performance outcomes "will be mitigated over time." In a classic case of trying to point fingers at everyone else, Intel says that "many different vendors' processors" are vulnerable to these exploits.
You can read the full statement here.
Democrats

New Bill Could Finally Get Rid of Paperless Voting Machines (arstechnica.com) 391

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A bipartisan group of six senators has introduced legislation that would take a huge step toward securing elections in the United States. Called the Secure Elections Act, the bill aims to eliminate insecure paperless voting machines from American elections while promoting routine audits that would dramatically reduce the danger of interference from foreign governments. "With the 2018 elections just around the corner, Russia will be back to interfere again," said co-sponsor Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). So a group of senators led by James Lankford (R-Okla.) wants to shore up the security of American voting systems ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. And the senators have focused on two major changes that have broad support from voting security experts.

The first objective is to get rid of paperless electronic voting machines. Computer scientists have been warning for more than a decade that these machines are vulnerable to hacking and can't be meaningfully audited. States have begun moving away from paperless systems, but budget constraints have forced some to continue relying on insecure paperless equipment. The Secure Elections Act would give states grants specifically earmarked for replacing these systems with more secure systems that use voter-verified paper ballots. The legislation's second big idea is to encourage states to perform routine post-election audits based on modern statistical techniques. Many states today only conduct recounts in the event of very close election outcomes. And these recounts involve counting a fixed percentage of ballots. That often leads to either counting way too many ballots (wasting taxpayer money) or too few (failing to fully verify the election outcome). The Lankford bill would encourage states to adopt more statistically sophisticated procedures to count as many ballots as needed to verify an election result was correct -- and no more.

AI

CMU Researchers Reveal How Their AI Beat The World's Top Poker Players (triblive.com) 36

2017 began with an AI named "Libratus" defeating four of the world's best poker players. Now the AI's creators reveal how exactly they did it. An anonymous reader quotes the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: First, the AI made the game easier to understand. There are 10**161 potential outcomes in the game of poker -- that's a one followed by 161 zeros, potential outcomes in a game of poker. Libratus grouped similar hands, like a King-high flush and a Queen-high flush, and similar bet sizes to cut down that number. Libratus then created a detailed strategy for how it would play the early rounds of the game and a less-refined strategy for the final rounds. As the game nears the end, Libratus refined the second strategy based on how the game had gone.

A third strategy was at work as well. In real-time, Libratus created another model based on how its play stacked up against the play of the humans. If the humans did something unexpected to Libratus, the AI accounted for it and built it into the strategy. Instead of trying to exploit weaknesses in the play of the human, Libratus focused on improving its play.

The AI was created by a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University and his Ph.D. student, who argue in a new paper that "The techniques that we developed are largely domain independent and can thus be applied to other strategic imperfect-information interactions, including non-recreational applications."

"Due to the ubiquity of hidden information in real-world strategic interactions, we believe the paradigm introduced in Libratus will be critical to the future growth and widespread application of AI."
Biotech

Days Before Christmas, Theranos Secures $100 Million in New Funding (fortune.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Call it a Christmas miracle -- albeit of a rather perverse sort. Theranos, the digraced medical-technology startup that infamously inflated the capabilities of its devices, has secured $100 million in new funding in the form of a loan. The loan, reported by the Wall Street Journal, will come from Fortress Investment Group. Fortress, whose other underdog bets include a private passenger rail line under construction in Florida, is set to be acquired by Japan's SoftBank. Theranos was reportedly on the verge of bankrutpcy...

By the end of 2016, the company reportedly still had $200 million in cash on hand, but had sharply limited prospects for attracting more capital. It has since settled a major lawsuit with Walgreens, a former client, for an undisclosed but likely substantial sum. According to the Journal, the Fortress loan is expected to keep Theranos solvent through 2018. That will give the company more time for its ongoing effort to reboot as a medical device manufacturer, rather than a testing service.

The loan is conditional on "achieving certain product and operational milestones," notes Fortune, adding "It's unclear whether those might include positive outcomes for the multiple investigations and lawsuits still facing the company."
Medicine

Study of 500,000 Teens Suggests Association Between Excessive Screen Time and Depression (vice.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Depression and suicide rates in teenagers have jumped in the last decade -- doubling between 2007 and 2015 for girls -- and the trend suspiciously coincides with when smartphones became their constant companions. A recent study places their screen time around nine hours per day. Another study, published on Tuesday, suggests that suicide and depression could be connected to the rise of smartphones, and increased screen time. Around 58 percent more girls reported depression symptoms in 2015 than in 2009, and suicide rates rose 65 percent. Smack in the middle of that window of time, smartphones gained market saturation.

In Twenge's new study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the researchers looked at two samples: a nationally representative survey by ongoing study "Monitoring the Future" out of the University of Michigan, which is administered annually to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, and the Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a sample of high school students administered by the CDC every other year. (Both surveys began in 1991.) Altogether, over 500,000 young people were included. The study authors examined trends in how teens used social media, the internet, electronic devices (including gaming systems and tablets), and smartphones, as well as how much time they spent doing non-screen activities like homework, playing sports, or socializing. Comparing these to publicly available data on mental health and suicide for these ages between 2010 and 2017 showed "a clear pattern linking screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes and non-screen activities with lower levels," the researchers wrote in the study. All activities involving screens were associated with higher levels of depression or suicide and suicidal thinking, and activities done away from a screen were not.

AI

Without Humans, Artificial Intelligence Is Still Pretty Stupid (wsj.com) 96

Christopher Mims, writing for WSJ: The internet giants that tout their AI bona fides have tried to make their algorithms as human-free as possible, and that's been a problem. It has become increasingly apparent over the past year that building systems without humans "in the loop" -- especially in the case of Facebook and the ads it linked to 470 "inauthentic" Russian-backed accounts -- can lead to disastrous outcomes, as actual human brains figure out how to exploit them. Whether it's winning at games like Go or keeping watch for Russian influence operations, the best AI-powered systems require humans to play an active role in their creation, tending and operation (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Facebook, of course, is now a prime example of this trend. The company recently announced it would add 10,000 content moderators to the 10,000 it already employs -- a hiring surge that will impact its future profitability, said Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.
AI

Study Finds Robot Surgeons Are Actually Slower and More Expensive (theregister.co.uk) 44

"Robot-assisted surgery costs more time and money than traditional methods, but isn't more effective, for certain types of operations," reports the Register, in an article shared by schwit1: In a study of almost 24,000 laparoscopic surgeries just published in The Journal of American Medicine, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed data from 416 hospitals around the U.S. from 2003 to 2015. Robotic assistance provides 3D-visualization, a broader range of motion for instruments, and better ergonomics for physicians, according to the study. While it has advantages in scenarios where a high-degree of precision is required or where improved outcomes have been demonstrated (like radical prostatectomy), it appears to be a waste of resources for the two operations examined... But the patient outcomes were more or less the same.

A thematically-related economic study presented by the National Bureau for Economic Research on Monday suggests that while AI and machine learning have received substantial investment over the past five years and have been widely touted as a transformative technologies, "there is little sign that they have yet affected aggregate productivity statistics... The simplest possibility is that the optimism about the potential technologies is misplaced and unfounded," muse Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock (MIT), Chad Syverson (University of Chicago) in the paper.

But instead the paper's author suggest that fully realizing the benefits of AI "will require effort and entrepreneurship to develop the needed complements, and adaptability at the individual, organizational, and societal levels to undertake the associated restructuring."
Medicine

Anti-Aging Stem Cell Treatment Proves Successful In Early Human Trials (newatlas.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: The results of two human clinical trials into a stem cell therapy that can reverse symptoms of age-associated frailty have been published, and the indications are that this landmark treatment is both safe and strikingly effective in tackling key factors in aging. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a particular type of adult stem cell generating a great deal of interest in the world of science. This new MSC treatment is targeted at reducing the effects of frailty on senior citizens. This is the first anti-aging stem cell treatment directed specifically at the problem of age-associated frailty to move close to a final FDA approval stage. The treatment derives human mesenchymal stem cells from adult donor bone marrow and in these clinical trials involves a single infusion in patients with an average age of 76. Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 human trials have demonstrated the treatment to have no adverse health effects.

Although the two human trials were ostensibly designed to just demonstrate safety they do offer remarkable results in efficacy as well, paving the way for larger, Phase 3 clinical trials. In the first trial 15 frail patients received a single MSC infusion collected from bone marrow donors aged between 20 and 45 years old. Six months later all patients demonstrated improved fitness outcomes, tumor necrosis factor levels and overall quality of life. The second trial was a randomized, double blind study with placebo group. Again no adverse affects were reported and physical improvements were noted by the researchers as "remarkable." The next stage for the research is to move into an expanded Phase 2b clinical trial involving 120 subjects across 10 locations. After that a final, large randomized Phase 3 clinical trial will be the only thing holding the treatment back from final public approval.
The results of the Phase 1 clinical trial were recently published in The Journals of Gerontology. The results of the Phase 2 clinical trial were recently published in The Journals of Gerontology. Further reading available via University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.
Medicine

High-Nicotine E-Cigarettes May Make Teens Vape More, Study Warns (philly.com) 173

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Philly.com: Teens who vape e-cigarettes with higher nicotine levels are more likely to start smoking conventional cigarettes soon after, new research shows. E-cigarettes are sold with nicotine levels ranging from zero to more than 25 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter (mg/mL). In this study, a high-nicotine device was defined as having levels at or above 18 mg/mL. Leventhal's team tracked outcomes for 181 grade-10 students from high schools in the Los Angeles area. All of the teens said they had used e-cigarettes within the past month, and they provided data on nicotine levels in the devices they used. Six months later, those who used higher nicotine levels in their e-cigarettes were more likely to report use of both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes within the past month. These teens also reported vaping and/or smoking more intensely. While 43 percent of the students who'd used high-nicotine e-cigarettes said they were "frequent smokers" of traditional cigarettes six months later, that was true for only 10 percent of those who'd vaped using lower-nicotine devices, Leventhal's group found. And teens who vaped using high-nicotine e-cigarettes smoked an average of 14 times as many "regular" cigarettes per day six months later compared to those who'd tried nicotine-free versions of the devices, the findings showed. The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.
Education

Code Bootcamp Fined $375K Over Employment Claims and Licensing Issues (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: [O]ne of the most prominent institutions, New York's Flatiron School, will be shelling out $375,000 to settle charges brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office. The AG said the school operated for a period without the proper educational license, and it improperly marketed both its job placement rates and the salaries of its graduates. New York regulators didn't find any inaccuracies in Flatiron's "outcomes report," a document the company is proud of. However, the Attorney General's office found that certain statements made on Flatiron's website didn't constitute "clear and conspicuous" disclosure.

For instance, Flatiron claimed that 98.5 percent of graduates were employed within 180 days of graduation. However, only by carefully reading the outcomes report would one find that the rate included not just full-time employees, but apprentices, contract workers, and freelancers. Some of the freelancers worked for less than 12 weeks. The school also reported an average salary of $74,447 but didn't mention on its website that the average salary claim only applied to graduates who achieved full-time employment. That group comprised only 58 percent of classroom graduates and 39 percent of those who took online courses.

The school's courses last 12 to 16 weeks, and cost between $12,000 and $15,000, according to a statement from the attorney general's office [PDF]. (Or $1,500 a month for an onine coding class). Eligible graduate can claim their share of the $375,000 by filing a complaint within the next thee months.
Earth

Heavier Rainfall Will Increase Water Pollution In the Future (nationalgeographic.com) 233

An anonymous reader shares a report from National Geographic: If climate change continues to progress, increased precipitation could mean detrimental outcomes for water quality in the United States, a major new study warns. An intensifying water cycle can substantially overload waterways with excess nitrogen runoff -- which could near 20 percent by 2100 -- and increase the likelihood of events that severely impair water quality, according to a new study published by Science. When rainfall washes nitrogen and phosphorus from human activities like agriculture and fossil fuel combustion into rivers and lakes, those waterways are overloaded with nutrients, and a phenomenon called "eutrophication" occurs. This can be dangerous for both people and animals. Toxic algal blooms can develop, as well as harmful low-oxygen dead zones known as hypoxia, which can cause negative impacts on human health, aquatic ecosystems, and the economy. In the new study, researchers predict how climate change might increase eutrophication and threats to water resources by using projections from 21 different climate models, each of which was run for three climate scenarios and two different time periods (near future, 2031-2060, and far-future, 2071-2100).
Communications

Why Your Call Center is Only Getting Noisier (mckinsey.com) 105

From a report by research firm McKinsey & Company: Organizations have been investing in all manner of customer-facing technology solutions to replace live calls. Of all operational call-center technologies, digital solutions were ranked as one of the most important over the next five years by four out of five executives. Only agent desktop tools ranked higher. These technologies begin with websites, chat bots, and apps and extend to artificial-intelligence robots that simulate human conversations -- redefining the way organizations interact with customers -- as well as more tried-and-tested functionalities such as improved web, app, or self-service capabilities in interactive voice-response (IVR) systems. And yet, despite this plethora of technology solutions, we see that calls are not going away and instead are catching call-center executives off guard in their efforts to reduce volumes. It's not that a spike in call volumes is necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, the proliferation of digital tools can awaken previously dormant customers, sparking new inquiries from an engaged customer base. But in many instances, we've also observed that the volumes of unwanted calls exceed what would be expected during a learning period, or remain constant or rise over time, defeating strategic goals and leaving managers bewildered and unable to tie tech investments to improved operational outcomes. Why are so many organizations struggling with reaping the full benefits from these investments? In our experience, the answer often lies in two core areas. First, as companies turn to technology to address call-center volumes, they allow customer experience to take a back seat to digital technology in their operations, creating dissonance in direct customer interaction, where the objective is harmony and efficiency. Second, by counting on technology to solve their call-center issues, executives lose focus on core operations and upset the balance between human interaction and automation in an era of evolved customer service.
AI

Artificial Intelligence Has Race, Gender Biases (axios.com) 465

An anonymous reader shares a report: The ACLU has begun to worry that artificial intelligence is discriminatory based on race, gender and age. So it teamed up with computer science researchers to launch a program to promote applications of AI that protect rights and lead to equitable outcomes. MIT Technology Review reports that the initiative is the latest to illustrate general concern that the increasing reliance on algorithms to make decisions in the areas of hiring, criminal justice, and financial services will reinforce racial and gender biases. A computer program used by jurisdictions to help with paroling prisoners that ProPublica found would go easy on white offenders while being unduly harsh to black ones.
Education

Students Are Better Off Without a Laptop In the Classroom (scientificamerican.com) 247

Cindi May writes via Scientific American about new research that "suggests that laptops do not enhance classroom learning, and in fact students would be better off leaving their laptops in the dorm during class." From the report: Although computer use during class may create the illusion of enhanced engagement with course content, it more often reflects engagement with social media, YouTube videos, instant messaging, and other nonacademic content. This self-inflicted distraction comes at a cost, as students are spending up to one-third of valuable (and costly) class time zoned out, and the longer they are online the more their grades tend to suffer. To understand how students are using computers during class and the impact it has on learning, Susan Ravizza and colleagues took the unique approach of asking students to voluntarily login to a proxy server at the start of each class, with the understanding that their internet use (including the sites they visited) would be tracked. Participants were required to login for at least half of the 15 class periods, though they were not required to use the internet in any way once they logged in to the server. Researchers were able to track the internet use and academic performance of 84 students across the semester.

participants spent almost 40 minutes out of every 100-minute class period using the internet for nonacademic purposes, including social media, checking email, shopping, reading the news, chatting, watching videos, and playing games. This nonacademic use was negatively associated with final exam scores, such that students with higher use tended to score lower on the exam. Social media sites were the most-frequently visited sites during class, and importantly these sites, along with online video sites, proved to be the most disruptive with respect to academic outcomes. In contrast with their heavy nonacademic internet use, students spent less than 5 minutes on average using the internet for class-related purposes (e.g., accessing the syllabus, reviewing course-related slides or supplemental materials, searching for content related to the lecture). Given the relatively small amount of time students spent on academic internet use, it is not surprising that academic internet use was unrelated to course performance. Thus students who brought their laptops to class to view online course-related materials did not actually spend much time doing so, and furthermore showed no benefit of having access to those materials in class.

Education

Researchers Find Dozens of Genes Associated With Measures of Intelligence (arstechnica.com) 267

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We don't know a lot about the biological basis of our mental abilities -- we can't even consistently agree on how best to test them -- but a few things seem clear. One is that performance on a number of standardized tests that purport to measure intelligence tends to correlate with outcomes we'd associate with intelligence, like educational achievement. A second is that this performance seems to have a large genetic component. But initial studies clearly indicated that the effect of any individual gene on intelligence is small. As a result, the first genetics studies found very little, since you needed to look at a large number of people in order to see these small effects. Now, a new study has combined much of the previous work and has turned up 40 new genetic regions associated with intelligence test scores. But again, the effect of any individual gene is pretty minor. The team behind the new work took advantage of open data to pull together information from 13 different studies, which cumulatively looked through the genomes of over 78,000 individuals. While those individuals had been given a variety of tests, the authors focused on measures of general intelligence or fluid intelligence (the two seem to measure similar things). The genomes of these individuals had been scanned for single base pair differences, allowing the authors to look for correlations between regions of the genome and test scores. Two separate analyses were done. The first simply looked at each base difference individually. That turned up 336 individual bases, which clustered into 22 different genes. Half of these had not been associated with intelligence previously. To provide a separate validation of these results, the authors did a similar analysis with educational achievement. They found that nearly all of the sites they identified also correlated with that. In a second analysis, the authors tracked base differences that cluster in a single gene. Since there are more markers for each gene, this tends to be a more sensitive way of looking for effects. And in fact, it produced 47 genes associated with the intelligence test scores. Seventeen of those had been identified in the earlier analysis, which brought the total genes identified to 52, only 12 of which had been previously associated with intelligence test scores.
Education

Maryland Awards 21 Grants To Prepare 'Open Source' Textbooks (usmd.edu) 98

"The University System of Maryland has awarded 21 "mini grants" to university faculty to "help them expand open education resources," reports OpenSource.com. Recipients of the grants are also given time off to prepare courses that use open textbooks, and will receive personalized support and training on effective course design. An anonymous reader writes: "Although our faculty view textbooks as essential, some of our students see them as a luxury they cannot afford," said Community College of Baltimore County President Sandra Kurtinitis. "Having access to open educational resources will provide some financial relief for our students as well as contribute to their academic success." The cost of textbooks has risen 812% since 1978, the school system said in an announcement, "outpacing even the cost of medical services and new housing. Nationally, students spend an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks."

The Maryland Open Source Textbook initiative started in 2013 "to provide a state-wide opportunity for faculty to explore the promise of open education resources to reduce students' cost of attendance while maintaining, or perhaps even improving, learning outcomes." Since then it's helped replace traditional textbooks in over 60 different courses at 14 public institutions across the state, resulting in a cumulative cost savings of over $1 million for 3,500 students. "In addition to saving students money, faculty have gained the ability to adapt and customize their instructional materials to ensure they are aligned with their pedagogical methods to best meet their students' needs," the school system reports. "In follow up surveys with students participating in the MOST initiative, 93% reported that the open educational resource content they used was the same or better quality than traditional textbooks."

Slashdot Top Deals