ATG Caught My Eye 8/3/15

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  • India Loves MOOCs is a recent post in the MIT Review by George Anders that offers a different perspective on MOOCs.   Mr. Anders points out that MOOCs are not having the major impact on the US and European educational landscape anticipated by their proponents. However, it’s another story in an emerging economy like India where intense competition for university slots, hidebound teaching styles, and systemic cultural disparities have many students seeing MOOCs as viable way to gain online credentials that will enable them to “stand out from the crowd.”  For many of these students MOOCS have a grwoing cachet as “a career accelerator, particularly in technical fields.”
    Mr. Anders goes on to document the efforts of professors like Anant Agarwal, who has taught at MIT since 1988.  Professor Agarwal has developed online MOOCs using creative techniques to keep the focus primarily on content while “sidestepping the long lectures, rote learning, and heavy emphasis on foundational principles that typify many Indian college courses.” And he is not the only one. Instructors at other universities, including the pioneering Indian computer science professor Deepak Phatak are doing the same. And to balance things out, Mr Anders also offers the impressions of actual students as they take high tech classes in subjects like electrical engineering and computer science and even some electives like sports management and Western music. 

  • There’s a library-shaped hole in the Internet is an opinion piece by David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Writing in the Boston Globe, Mr. Weinberger insists that “libraries are much more than traditional content — each one also includes librarians, information systems, and the communities they serve.”  But he argues that the knowledge that librarians can bring to the table, not to mention what anonymous library usage records say about community values is in danger of being lost. His remedy; libraries should open up their information to any developer who has a good idea so they can create APIs that can “address needs that are local to geographies, cultures, or interests.” He notes that there is some evidence of this actually happening in the efforts of the Digital Public Library of America and the Linked Data for Libraries project led by Cornell, Harvard, and Stanford. (LC’s BIBFRAME and the LibHub initiative seem to be similar efforts toward the same goal.)

  • Ebook Vendors Anticipate Big Five Licensing Terms Becoming More Flexible  recently appeared in Library Journal and suggests that the times they are a-changin’ for eBook pricing. The argument simply stated is that with the flatlining of eBook retail sales, publishers will be looking for growth in institutional markets – like the library market.  In turn, this will lead to more publisher experimentation with alternative models from “the now-traditional one-book, one-user model, with terms that typically involve significant price increases versus retail.” The resulting upside for libraries in having other models to choose from should be more price competition.  But this is the short version. In order to get the full story, you’ll need to read the whole article.

  • Sculptural Stacks discusses Cornell University’s new Ho Fine Arts Library, which according to this article in Metropolis Magazine “balances the legacy of stacks with the technological imperatives of today’s educational environment.”  But what is unique about the library’s design is its attempt to “reaffirm the centrality of the printed word” by making the books stacks the focal point. “Books on subjects ranging from architecture to fiber science—will stretch across four levels, undulating through Rand Hall’s upper two floors. Staircases, ramps, and catwalks wind between the shelves, admitting light from above while recalling the labyrinthine feeling of traditional stacks.
    The artist renditions of what the library will look like by themselves make the article worth looking at.


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