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University of Helsinki To Lay Off a Thousand People (yle.fi) 308

jones_supa writes: University of Helsinki, the place where Linus Torvalds got his degree as well, will reduce staff by 980 people, with 570 being laid off by the end of 2017. In addition, the university will reorganize and incorporate certain divisions including continuing education. Professors, teachers and researchers are criticizing the cuts, which coincide with the university's administrative and educational overhaul. The staff cuts reflect the government's drastic funding cuts to education, which plays one part in the effort of trying to help the difficult economic situation of today's Finland. The university estimates that of the 980 positions, terminations during this coming spring will account for 570 positions. Of the employees to be made redundant, 75 are teaching and research staff and 495 other staff. The rest of the cuts will be spread over the coming years.

Interview: Ask CEO Anant Agarwal About edX and the Future of Online Education 55

Anant Agarwal is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and the CEO of edX. A massive open online course platform founded by MIT and Harvard, edX offers numerous courses on a wide variety of subjects. As of 2014 edX had more than 4 million students taking more than 500 courses online. The organization has developed open-source software called Open edX that powers edX courses and is freely available online. Mr. Agarwal has agreed to take some time out of his schedule and answer your questions about edX and the future of learning. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

Marvin Minsky, Pioneer In Artificial Intelligence, Dies at 88 (nytimes.com) 76

An anonymous reader sends word that Marvin Lee Minsky, co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AI laboratory, has died. The Times reports: "Marvin Minsky, who combined a scientist’s thirst for knowledge with a philosopher’s quest for truth as a pioneering explorer of artificial intelligence, work that helped inspire the creation of the personal computer and the Internet, died on Sunday night in Boston. He was 88. Well before the advent of the microprocessor and the supercomputer, Professor Minsky, a revered computer science educator at M.I.T., laid the foundation for the field of artificial intelligence by demonstrating the possibilities of imparting common-sense reasoning to computers."

MIT To Offer Internet of Things Training For Professionals (computerworld.com) 63

dcblogs writes: MIT is offering an online course about the Internet of Things, and this is what you need to know up front: It's going to require, perhaps, six to eight hours of study time a week, which includes watching videos of lectures, engaging with faculty and fellow students in forums and taking tests. It begins April 12 and continues through May 24. It costs $495, and unlike some online courses, there is no free option. Students who complete the program and pass the tests earn a certificate of completion and 1.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in MIT's professional education program. In exchange for their time and money, students will get an introduction, a roadmap, into the IoT and hear from some of the university's top professors, including Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web. This professional program is a relatively new effort for the university.
United Kingdom

Big Brother Is Coming To UK Universities (theguardian.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: An upcoming report by the Higher Education Commission, a UK group of MPs, business and academic professionals, will paint a picture of a higher education system that, thanks to the increasing use of data, may undergo radical change, sometimes with painful ethical considerations. Among their visions: an Amazon-style recommendation service on courses and work experience based on individuals' backgrounds, and similar profiles. Or a system in which students at risk of failure can be identified from their first day so that they receive instant feedback and performance measuring. It is envisioned that the system will include knowing whether they are in lectures, at the gym or in the bar, and in an effort to boost their results, students may also want to share data on their fitness, sleeping patterns, and their academic and semi-academic interactions online.

Why Sharing Ransomware Code For Educational Purposes Is Asking For Trouble (betanews.com) 67

Mark Wilson writes: Trend Micro may still be smarting from the revelation that there was a serious vulnerability in its Password Manager tool, but today the security company warns of the dangers of sharing ransomware source code. The company says that those who discover vulnerabilities need to think carefully about sharing details of their findings with the wider public as there is great potential for this information to be misused, even if it is released for educational purposes. It says that 'even with the best intentions, improper disclosure of sensitive information can lead to complicated, and sometimes even troublesome scenarios'. The warning may seem like an exercise in stating the bleeding obvious, but it does serve as an important reminder of how the vulnerability disclosure process should work.

Federal Law Now Says Kids Can Walk To School Alone (fastcoexist.com) 545

An anonymous reader writes: There's some good news for "free-range" parents and fans of children being allowed to walk places on their own. A recently approved federal education law will allow students to take alternative forms of transportation to and from school with parental permission. Fastcoexist reports: "Relax, parents. Now you can allow your kids to walk, ride a bike, or take a bus to school, without you or your children getting arrested. The recently-signed Every Student Succeeds Act contains a section (858) that protects the rights of kids to walk or go out alone. The act was sponsored by Utah senator Mike Lee, who is a supporter of the Free Range Kids movement, and provides some hope for parents who feel that their kids should be allowed some autonomy to get by own their own." One can only hope that children will be allowed to go to the park on their own soon as well.

The Promise and Limits of 'Learning Analytics' (shar.es) 57

jyosim writes: College students always pay attention in class and do all the readings, right? Ok, they probably never did, but today's professors can actually find out how much each student pays attention in a lecture and how much time they spent on readings, thanks to so-called "learning analytics." Some colleges are experimenting with using the data to re-engineer courses hoping students will learn more and retention will improve. Professors get "dashboards" and sophisticated charts, changing their role in the classroom. MIT is an early adopter, assigning post-docs to help professors interpret this new data. As the article on the new Re:Learning project notes, though, "How much can big data actually reveal about something as personal and subjective as learning?"

Turning Around a School District By Fighting Poverty (npr.org) 413

New submitter gomezedward40 writes: Through her unconventional focus on addressing poverty, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson has been credited with rapidly improving the school district of Jennings, Mo. NPR reports: "The school district of 3,000 students has taken unprecedented steps, like opening a food pantry to give away food, a shelter for homeless students and a health clinic, among other efforts. 'My purpose is to remove the challenges that poverty creates,' she says. 'You can not expect children to learn at a high level if they come in hungry and tired.' That unconventional approach has had big results. When Anderson took over in 2012, the school district was close to losing accreditation. Jennings had a score of 57 percent on state educational standards. A district loses accreditation if that score goes below 50 percent. Two years later, that score was up to 78 percent, and in the past year rose again to 81 percent, Anderson says. She points to a 92 percent 4-year graduation rate, and a 100 percent college and career placement rate."
United States

US Dept. of Ed: English, History, and Civics Teachers Good Enough For CS Class 242

theodp writes: In A New Chapter for Computer Science Education, the U.S. Department of Education explained earlier this month that the federal STEM Education Act of 2015 'provides an unprecedented opportunity to fully leverage federal resources' to address large gaps in students' participation in Advanced Placement (AP) computer science classes based on gender and race. "In three states," lamented the DOE, "not a single female student took the AP computer science exam" (that only 8 boys took the AP CS exam in those same 3 states was apparently not a concern). And the DOE has good news for those hoping to tap Title I and II funds for CS, but don't have any computer science teachers. "A background in math or science isn't necessarily a requirement to teach CS," explains the Dept. of Ed, "as disciplines like English, history and civics can also provide a solid foundation for teaching CS concepts."

Ask Slashdot: How To Get Into Machine Learning? 123

An anonymous reader writes: I know this is a vague question, but hoping to get some useful feedback anyway. I'm an experienced SW Engineer/Developer who is looking to get into the Machine Learning arena. I have an MS in CS and a solid 15 years of experience in a variety of areas, but no experience in Machine Learning.With that as background, my question is: What is the most time-efficient (and reasonable cost) way to:
(1) Decide whether Machine Learning is for me and
(2) Make myself employable in the field.
An additional constraint is that I can't afford to quit my full-time day job. Thanks.

New Scientific Journal To Publish "Discrete Observations Rather Than Complete Stories" (sciencemag.org) 45

sciencehabit writes: Is the pressure to publish tempting scientists to improperly tweak their findings in order to create more cohesive stories? If researchers could report just the one finding they felt comfortable with, perhaps there would be no need to be dishonest. That thinking has spurred the creation of a new scientific journal, Matters. The open-access publication aims to boost integrity and speed the communication of science by allowing researchers to publish discrete observations rather than complete stories. "Observations, not stories, are the pillars of good science," the journal's editors write on Matters' website. "Today's journals however, favor story-telling over observations, and congruency over complexity Moreover, incentives associated with publishing in high-impact journals lead to loss of scientifically and ethically sound observations that do not fit the storyline, and in some unfortunate cases also to fraudulence."

Why the Raspberry Pi Zero Isn't a Practical Tool For Teaching Students (hackaday.com) 190

An anonymous reader writes: This article criticizes the Raspberry PI Foundation's new computer the Zero. It points out that the Foundation says the purpose of the new Pi is to reach students but with all the needed equipment and experience it is ill suited for students. From the Hackaday story: "For development you need to set up the Zero with a power supply, mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter, HDMI cable, the USB OTG cable, USB hub, a keyboard, and possibly a mouse. After some hours of work you’re ready to try the software in your device. The cables are all disconnected and the board connected to the device. Tests are run. You pull the Zero out and plug everything back together for further software work. That’s going to get old really fast so you get a second Zero so one can stay in the device. Now all you need to do is swap the SD card. If you’re going to do that, you don’t need a second Zero since you can use a Pi 2 and get the advantages of its higher speed in development. Alternatively, you can use the USB OTG with a WiFi dongle, copy files to the Zero’s SD, and restart or reboot the device. Over WiFi you can also use SSH or a remote console to monitor the device’s activities. How long did it take you to figure out all the cable connections in the second paragraph above? Do you think a student without a hacker friend will understand that? Remember, the goal is to reach students who don’t know computers."

Texas Narrowly Rejects Allowing Academics To Fact-Check Public School Textbooks (csmonitor.com) 337

jriding writes with news that in a 8-7 vote the Texas State Board of Education rejected a plan to create a group of state university professors to fact-check textbooks approved for the state's 5.2 million public-school students. The CS Monitor reports: "The Board of Education approves textbooks in the nation's second-largest state and stood by its vetting process — despite a Houston-area mother recently complaining that a world geography book used by her son's ninth grade class referred to African slaves as 'workers.' The publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, apologized and moved to make immediate edits."

The War On Campus Sexual Assault Goes Digital 399

HughPickens.com writes: According to a recent study of 27 schools, about one-quarter of female undergraduates said they had experienced nonconsensual sex or touching since entering college, but most of the students said they did not report it to school officials or support services. Now Natasha Singer reports at the NYT that in an effort to give students additional options — and to provide schools with more concrete data — a nonprofit software start-up in San Francisco called Sexual Health Innovations has developed an online reporting system for campus sexual violence. One of the most interesting features of Callisto is a matching system — in which a student can ask the site to store information about an assault in escrow and forward it to the school only if someone else reports another attack identifying the same assailant. The point is not just to discover possible repeat offenders. In college communities, where many survivors of sexual assault know their assailants, the idea of the information escrow is to reduce students' fears that the first person to make an accusation could face undue repercussions.

"It's this last option that makes Callisto unique," writes Olga Khazan. "Most rapes are committed by repeat offenders, yet most victims know their attackers. Some victims are reluctant to report assaults because they aren't sure whether a crime occurred, or they write it off as a one-time incident. Knowing about other victims might be the final straw that puts an end to their hesitation—or their benefit of the doubt. Callisto's creators claim that if they could stop perpetrators after their second victim, 60 percent of campus rapes could be prevented." This kind of system is based partly on a Michigan Law Review article about "information escrows," or systems that allow for the transmitting of sensitive information in ways that reduce "first-mover disadvantage" also known to economists as the "hungry penguin problem". As game theorist Michael Chwe points out, the fact that each person creates her report independently makes it less likely they'll later be accused of submitting copycat reports, if there are similarities between the incidents.

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