DOE Guidelines for e-readers

The U.S. Department of Education has released a new guide to laws and rules colleges must follow to ensure e-reading devices and other emerging technologies are accessible to all students.

It focuses on students with vision problems, a group whose access issues have triggered official complaints against colleges. If colleges use e-readers, or other emerging technologies, blind students “must be afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students,” according to the department.

The department doesn’t discourage the use of emerging technologies but indicates that colleges should assess whether a new technology is
accessible, or could be modified to be accessible, before using it.

The document, in the form of “Frequently Asked Questions,” was published in response to the department’s “Dear Colleague” letter to college presidents on the subject last June.



Ed tech developer Cengage Learning has launched a new online learning platform for higher education called MindTap. It's a crowded area of ed tech, so what's new with it?

It's a platform designed to work across devices - traditional computers, smart phones, and tablets - and deliver coursework, learning management, and a range of educational materials.

Some of that is delivered via "MindApps" which are apps from Cengage and third-party sources. Besides the usual syllabus-aligned instructional activities, they include also lecture capture, remediation tools, social networking, tutoring, and plagiarism prevention.

Like many social media tools, MindTap also provides a dashboard for students and tools for teachers and administrators to assess and track student learning.

Einstein University

In the last twenty years, open source technology has revolutionized our digital lives. You may even recognize that open web servers (Apache), open web browsers (Firefox), open office suites (, open course management systems (Moodle), open mobile applications (Android), open encyclopedias (Wikipedia), and open textbooks (Flat World Knowledge) are part of this revolution. Did you know that Google Maps is updated by volunteer cartographers?

I truly believe that the university we know will change radically in the next 10 years and will not exist in a form we are familiar with in 50 years. I'm not sure how long it will take for free and open online universities to not only exist but to be accepted by employers, but it's coming.

From the blog at College Open Textbooks, I learned about Einstein University. It may not be what University 2.0 or 3.0 will look like, but it is part of the change. It has no set schedule and volunteer professors who are not assigned to particular courses. All they have to do to maintain volunteer faculty status is to earn a certain number of points each quarter. They can earn these points by editing an open textbook, answering a student’s question, uploading a seminar or lecture, or submitting a test question. When and how volunteer professors decide to earn their points is totally up to them.

Instead of charging students tuition, Einstein University funds itself through ad revenue. If that seems impractical, look at Wikipedia (which is built on the same software) is one of the most visited websites and has only 35 employees. That is a 1:8,000,000 employee:user ratio - but it does have 90,000 volunteers.

Einstein University’s mission is to take OER to the next level by allowing individuals an opportunity to use these resources to earn college credit. The idea behind Einstein University is simple: instead of a company creating the course material, all of its content is created collaboratively, and instead of paid professors facilitating the courses, all of its faculty members are volunteers.

Einstein University is also a way for professors to volunteer and offers a place to create their open content.

Its interactive approach to open textbooks with each textbook having its own section for a chat room, discussion board, news, journals, seminars, lectures, papers, research groups, data and web resources.

The university also doubles as an academic social network where students and professors can share ideas, collaborate on research, and read each other’s papers.

Einstein University does have a plan for accreditation and hopes to eventually offer undergraduate and graduate degrees online for free. The immediate plan is to offer a 2-year Associate Arts degree in 25 different languages and apply for accreditation in some of the main countries that speak those languages. If successful, this would make higher education free for millions of people in the developing world who lack access to it. At the moment the university has minimal content, but over the next year it hopes volunteer professors will begin to add it.

Next Generation Learning Challenges Winners Twitter Chat

Next Generation Learning Challenges is a collaborative, multi-year initiative created to address the barriers to educational innovation and tap the potential of technology to dramatically improve college readiness and completion in the United States. On Tuesday, June 14, they will announce the winners of the second wave of NGLC grants. This wave of funding focuses on expanding innovative programs and applications that help teens succeed in math and reading and build the core competencies that are critical to college and career readiness. The grant recipients represent a range of approaches that push the boundaries of education by leveraging technology in new ways.

NGLC is also focused on sparking dialogue and building community to catalyze new ideas, foster solutions and form unique collaborations. In support of this mission, NGLC is collaborating with #edchat to host two real-time Twitter chats Tuesday on innovation and technology in education.

Formed in 2009, #edchat has organically grown into a vibrant online community of teachers, administrators and education professionals. During weekly discussions, they share their perspectives and provide resources on a variety of important and timely education topics. Join NGLC, the grant winners and partners for the chats at 12 pm ET/9 am PT and 7 pm ET/4 pm PT on Tuesday at!/search/edchat


$100,000 To Drop Out of College

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel was also the first investor in Facebook. It is said that he both predicted the dotcom crash and the housing bubble. Now he has turned some of his attention to higher education.

His plan, simply stated, is to take $2 million to fund a few dozen college students (under 20 years old) to drop out and start a business with $100,000 each.

The people chosen are not slacker "dropouts" but people with specific projects that they want to pursue right now.

Does Thiel dislike the way colleges educate? Well, that's not his main reason for funding the plan. What he seems to be more opposed to is the debt that students incur getting that education. 65% of Americans have student loan debt (typically $24,000) and it is expected that by the end of the year the total will pass the trillion-dollar mark. That would make it greater than the country's credit card debt.

But he is also not a believer in the perceived and widely accepted value of the credentialing that a degree confers. (See earlier post on the education bubble) Thiel himself went the college route (law degree from Stanford), but he's not convinced its the way for many students.

He doesn't endorse all students passing on college. But a number of studies have shown that the students who benefit most from college are those who have the least - the first one in a family or from a lower socio-economic class, not the privileged class.

He points to Facebook which was started in 2004 by Harvard students who didn't finish their degrees. He says that if they had waited to graduate in 2006 to launch the company, it would have been too late. Thiel's $500,000 investment in Facebook is now worth about $2 billion.

PayPal, which he co-founded in 1998 was to him "a very basic idea: take dollars and email and try to combine them."

So, Thiel is funding College students who dropped out of Princeton to work on new solar panels, and a student developing a fully electric car instead of finishing at Purdue.

Watch an overview ABC news video on Thiel's project