MIT

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Authorities say a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has died from injuries in a shooting on the campus outside Boston.

Cambridge police and the Middlesex District Attorney's office says the officer was responding to a report of a disturbance when he was shot multiple times. He later died at a hospital. His name was not immediately released.

State police spokesman Dave Procopio says the shooting took place about 10:30 p.m. outside an MIT building.

Procopio says authorities are searching for a suspect or suspects. There are no other victims.

About 11,000 people attend the prestigious school. The campus website said police were sweeping the campus and urged people to stay indoors.

For university students, October means midterm anxiety and Halloween mischief. For the UT System Board of Regents, however, it’s again time to invest in an unproven, festively punctuated online platform claiming to radically change the 21st-century university experience. Nearly a year to the day after the Board’s Oct. 2011 announcement that it had invested $10 million in myEdu — the online schedule and professor review site formerly known as Pick-A-Prof.com — the Board of Regents announced last Monday that it will now invest $5 million in edX, an open-source online educational platform established by MIT and Harvard.

By becoming the fourth “X University,” the UT System — or UTx, as it is known at edX.org — will join the ranks of MIT, Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley by offering online courses through the site. According to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, edX will be used in a variety of instructional settings, including traditional “face-to-face” courses, “hybrid classes” and courses taught entirely online.

For most UT students, online classes are what you take when you want to cross a difficult or pointless lower-division course requirement off of your degree plan. Taking introductory history or beginner physics online from a Texas community college while wearing pajamas in your apartment or sipping a latte at a coffee shop allows students to avoid the rigor and cost of classes taught in person on the Forty Acres. The classes offered by edX are not those classes.

The site offers eight free courses for the fall 2012 semester, including CS188.1x Artificial Intelligence from Berkeley and 6.002x Circuits and Electronics from MIT. These courses are not offered for credit. Next fall, UT is scheduled to offer four courses on the site. While these courses will also be free, the announcements by the Board of Regents and edX allude to the possibility of charging fees in the future if students want to earn credit from the courses they take through the site.

Currently, students receive a certificate of completion upon successfully finishing one of edX courses. In the future, the organization says that this certificate may come at a cost. Additionally, Cigarroa has said that while UT’s initial online course offerings will be “open to the world for free,” the System is considering a tiered content model where certain for-credit courses would cost tuition. His proposal begs the question, what are college students paying for — the knowledge learned in class, or the piece of paper we get afterwards that says we know the material?

EdX says that the rigor of its courses is consistent with its member universities, but the recent addition of the UT System to edX challenges that claim. UT-Austin is not Harvard, and UT-Pan-American is not UT-Austin. Cigarroa indicated that all of the UT System courses offered next summer and fall on the edX website are likely to come from UT-Austin.  So while the entire UT System will benefit from membership in edX, it’s the System’s flagship campus that will be doing the heavy lifting.

UT President William Powers Jr. praises edX’s potential to augment the University’s course transformation initiative, wherein course curricula are redesigned to take advantage of up-to-date learning and teaching technology. “Hybrid” or “blended” university courses, in which some education happens in the classroom and some happens online, leverage the benefits of both learning models to students’ benefit. Fully online courses, like those that will be offered through edX, are as yet unproven substitutes for in-person learning — the kind of learning that has made UT and the other edX consortium schools some of the best in the world.

Like it has done in the music and publishing industries, Internet technology promises to transform standard operating procedure at institutions of higher education. UT administrators and regents would be wise to come out ahead of the technology curve by developing a clear vision for what a technology-based university degree will look like. The UT System’s investment in edX has the potential to lead the way in transformative learning, but so far System leadership has provided no vision for what this might look like. Without one, the partnership appears to be less about leading than about hitching a ride aboard higher education’s flavor of the month.

The British Petroleum oil spill in April 2010 inspired a new partnership between UT and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create a set of guidelines that will allow scientists to avoid future crises.

The Energy Institute at UT, MIT’s Energy Initiative and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute formed the Research Center for Environmental Protection at Hydrocarbon Energy Production Frontiers, REEF. Several UT colleges and schools will be involved, including the Cockrell School of Engineering, School of Law, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, McCombs School of Business and Jackson School of Geosciences. The team hopes to outline a set of realistic rules and steps to avoid major human-caused disasters, representatives said.

Director of the Energy Institute, Raymond Orbach is taking on a personal role with MIT faculty making sure programs from both schools are complimentary. Legal and regulatory aspects, environmental concerns and the risk of human error will be the main factors in REEF’s assessments, Orbach said.

Tadeusz Patzek, Chairman of UT’s Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering, is part of the advisory board of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement which deals with issues relating to the REEF proposal.

“If we decide to drill, and most governments including U.S. government are of the opinion that we should, we should do it in a way as to minimize or eliminate damage to the environment,” Patzek said.

An option for extracting natural gas and oil is the process of fracking, a fairly recent method used since the ‘90s. It was first used extensively in the Barnett Shale in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said energy and earth resources graduate student, Jenifer Wehner.

“People in the oil and gas industry commonly say ‘fracking’ to describe just one part of the whole gas exploration and production process,” according to a May 13 article from The New York Times. “Purists would say it is not really even part of ‘drilling’ but actually the ‘completion’ phase.”

Shale is a porous rock and because of its properties it holds on to gas molecules, and although there is gas in the rock, there is no way to extract it easily.

“Part of the concern regarding hydraulic fracking is putting water with chemicals down into the ground,” Wehner said. A concern is that water will seep out of the well where the oil was drilled and get into ground water.

The UT-MIT partnership is looking at areas where it’s tough to extract resources. The Arctic has a huge amount of oil and gas which is why it’s the next frontier, Orbach said, even though it’s a very sensitive environmental area. Further areas to explore include Alaska, Canada, Russia and Norway.

“We need to work with energy companies to ensure their practices are consistent with what we find best. We will bring to the government, awareness of what we’re doing but the government will decide whether to use our results or not,” Orbach said. “What we hope is that they will find them so attractive that they will help them formulate policy.”

According to an article from the Houston Chronicle on July 17, 2011, the center could require commitments of up to $100 million over five years, coming from multiple sponsors. 

We live in Austin. Michael Dell went to school here. Both Facebook and Google have offices here. So then why is it that, in an era of obscene technological innovation, the interfaces we use to connect with our University look like they were designed in 1995?

Registration for the summer and fall semesters will begin this week and so will student frustration with UT Direct. It’s a system so shockingly bad that the only hope I have of properly navigating it is through its search function. It does, however, provide a handy “Pic o’ the Click” near the very top of the page that generates random photos of the University. That way, when I can’t figure out how to register for classes next semester, I’ll at least be able to look at pictures of the college I won’t be attending.

UT Direct is, of course, not the only antiquated system students are forced to use. Blackboard, which I’ve written about in the past for its ability to allow our classmates to spam us, is dreadful. Meanwhile, UT Webmail was finally and mercifully disposed of last week, when ITS announced new UT Mail powered by Google.

The tech problem this University faces is not unique. According to The Campus Computing Project, 57 percent of all colleges and 68 percent of public universities use Blackboard as their learning management system (LMS). It’s a statistic that’s down from previous years despite every attempt of the industry leader to stop it.

Blackboard is the Microsoft of the LMS world, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Since its inception, Blackboard has either outfought or bought its competitors. Most notable is Angel Learning, which was bought by Blackboard in 2009 after achieving 7 percent market share. And when that hasn’t worked, Blackboard has sued its rivals to retain a patent over use of its closed source software. Unfortunately for Blackboard, Desire2Learn, which has a 10 percent market share, won that legal battle this past November.

Most Blackboard competitors are championing open-source systems, meaning the source code is freely available for developers to innovate. One of those is Instructure, a Utah-based startup that announced Friday that it’s raised $8 million to fund its LMS called Canvas. One of those investors just happens to be Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Canvas, unlike Blackboard, has the functionality to connect with other online services such as Google Docs, Facebook and Twitter. “When a teacher changes the date of a quiz, for example, students could automatically receive text messages to their cellphones, a message on Facebook or conventional email,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

It’s a revolutionary change that’s long overdue. Instructure even released a highly entertaining video on YouTube called “Change is Good,” which parodies Apple’s famous 1984 ad. But instead of Big Brother, it’s a blackboard that addresses rows of brainwashed students. It’s funny because it’s true.

Beyond Instructure, entrepreneurial students at universities across the country are creating their own alternatives. At Stanford, there’s ClassOwl. At Penn, they have Coursekit. And at MIT there’s iMobileU.

Then there’s Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, which has developed new course-picking software. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called it the “Netflix Effect”; the software analyzes a student’s major, previous academic performance and data on similar students to provide a recommendation in the way Netflix suggests movies you might like based on previous rentals. It even predicts what grade you’ll get. So far, the software has resulted in a half-point GPA increase for students who chose courses suggested by the program.

So why can’t Texas be next? Fortunately, ITS is trying to help. Beginning Wednesday and continuing into next week, Texas has opened up demonstrations from five LMS vendors to faculty, staff and students. All the big dogs will be there, including Instructure, Desire2Learn, Moodle, rSmart and, of course, Blackboard. They’ve also made surveys available online through which you can and should trash Blackboard.

The University is finally seeking our input on this, so make sure your voice is heard. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you’re asked to dig up your old AIM screen name to login to a course chat room.

<em>Curl is an advertising graduate student.<em>We live in Austin. Michael Dell went to school here. Both Facebook and Google have offices here. So then why is it that, in an era of obscene technological innovation, the interfaces we use to connect with our University look like they were designed in 1995?

Registration for the summer and fall semesters will begin this week and so will student frustration with UT Direct. It’s a system so shockingly bad that the only hope I have of properly navigating it is through its search function. It does, however, provide a handy “Pic o’ the Click” near the very top of the page that generates random photos of the University. That way, when I can’t figure out how to register for classes next semester, I’ll at least be able to look at pictures of the college I won’t be attending.

UT Direct is, of course, not the only antiquated system students are forced to use. Blackboard, which I’ve written about in the past for its ability to allow our classmates to spam us, is dreadful. Meanwhile, UT Webmail was finally and mercifully disposed of last week, when ITS announced new UT Mail powered by Google.

The tech problem this University faces is not unique. According to The Campus Computing Project, 57 percent of all colleges and 68 percent of public universities use Blackboard as their learning management system (LMS). It’s a statistic that’s down from previous years despite every attempt of the industry leader to stop it.

Blackboard is the Microsoft of the LMS world, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Since its inception, Blackboard has either outfought or bought its competitors. Most notable is Angel Learning, which was bought by Blackboard in 2009 after achieving 7 percent market share. And when that hasn’t worked, Blackboard has sued its rivals to retain a patent over use of its closed source software. Unfortunately for Blackboard, Desire2Learn, which has a 10 percent market share, won that legal battle this past November.

Most Blackboard competitors are championing open-source systems, meaning the source code is freely available for developers to innovate. One of those is Instructure, a Utah-based startup that announced Friday that it’s raised $8 million to fund its LMS called Canvas. One of those investors just happens to be Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Canvas, unlike Blackboard, has the functionality to connect with other online services such as Google Docs, Facebook and Twitter. “When a teacher changes the date of a quiz, for example, students could automatically receive text messages to their cellphones, a message on Facebook or conventional email,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

It’s a revolutionary change that’s long overdue. Instructure even released a highly entertaining video on YouTube called “Change is Good,” which parodies Apple’s famous 1984 ad. But instead of Big Brother, it’s a blackboard that addresses rows of brainwashed students. It’s funny because it’s true.

Beyond Instructure, entrepreneurial students at universities across the country are creating their own alternatives. At Stanford, there’s ClassOwl. At Penn, they have Coursekit. And at MIT there’s iMobileU.

Then there’s Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, which has developed new course-picking software. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called it the “Netflix Effect”; the software analyzes a student’s major, previous academic performance and data on similar students to provide a recommendation in the way Netflix suggests movies you might like based on previous rentals. It even predicts what grade you’ll get. So far, the software has resulted in a half-point GPA increase for students who chose courses suggested by the program.

So why can’t Texas be next? Fortunately, ITS is trying to help. Beginning Wednesday and continuing into next week, Texas has opened up demonstrations from five LMS vendors to faculty, staff and students. All the big dogs will be there, including Instructure, Desire2Learn, Moodle, rSmart and, of course, Blackboard. They’ve also made surveys available online through which you can and should trash Blackboard.

The University is finally seeking our input on this, so make sure your voice is heard. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when you’re asked to dig up your old AIM screen name to login to a course chat room.