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Big Data Companies Come to Universities


Candace M. Thille was one of the first people that helped kick-off the move to bring big data to college teaching. She founded the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, won millions of dollars in grants, and has been one of the biggest fixtures on the lecture circuit that deals with data-powered algorithms that serve content keyed to what a student is ready to learn next. Many publishers, venture-capital investors, and foundations have followed her head. These companies are gaining big contracts with colleges and promising a “robot tutor” for students that are struggling with their coursework.

Although this might seem like a dream come true, Ms. Thille has started to have darker thoughts about the industry that she helped spark.  Specifically, she doesn’t believe that professors and higher-education leaders should be letting these companies take the lead in shaping the learning-analytics market. She wants more involvement from educators instead of taking a backseat in the matter. Educators have a better understanding of predicting when a student needs to be delivered new material or when their just not ready yet. By allowing companies to have this power, it allows them to dictate when a student is ready when they might not be.

Universities are the ideal living laboratories for these teaching systems and should be tested with quick feedback after. Some of the decisions when developing the learning software will be hidden from professors and colleges. They won’t truly understand how and where the software believes a student should move on to the next topic. This is essential part of algorithm-based software that is both concerning and unnerving. It’s important for universities to work with companies that they hire so the software created has the students and their education in mind.

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Students Spending Money on Online Tutoring


One of the biggest parts about going to college is balancing studying, going to class, working, personal health, and possibly a social life. This in turn makes online tutoring and study guides much more enticing compared to on-campus tutoring centers. Students are spending money on online tutoring in order to spend less time studying but get the best possible grade they can.

Schools such as Pennsylvania State University has taken notice to this growing trend. To the point that their own student government voted to “beef up” its own free tutoring options. They hope to sway students from spending money for online tutoring and take advantage of the tutoring centers that are already allocated on their campus.

Most tutoring centers, such as the University of Washington Bothell, is run by students that have already taken a course and gotten an adequate grade. Although our campus heavily advertises these resources, most campuses have tutoring centers that tend to be small and hidden.

At Penn State, the two hottest companies, LionTutors and PSUKnowHow, offer group tutoring sessions for the more popular campus courses. Which most would describe as live-active versions of CliffsNotes for the classes.

These companies are capitalizing on just reusing information that they’ve gathered from these popular classes and are enticing students to pay their way through school.

Students that use these services tend to be those that might have had to miss class or don’t completely understand the material in class. That being said, more schools need to invest more into their free tutoring centers as companies are now capitalizing on the pressure that students feel to academically succeed.

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Cybersecurity Update: Phishing Becoming More Frequent, Effective


As other forms of online security grow stronger, online criminals are looking more and more towards the end user as an attack vector as well as a victim. Phishing attacks, which trick the user into voluntarily giving up their personal information to a source that they think they can trust, are increasing dramatically. At the same time, these attacks are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to confuse their victims and earn their trust. For example, phishing attacks frequently take the form of fraudulent emails that tell users that their account has been compromised and that they need to reset their passwords. They then direct users to a fake website that resembles the one they expect to see and ask users to enter their credentials. Once the victim enters their username and password, attackers are free to use those to impersonate the victim. Attackers are quickly learning to trick their victims by including the victim’s name in the subject of the email, among other things. Other forms of phishing attacks could include email attachments that, when downloaded, can infect the victim’s computer.

UW has an excellent system for telling students about ongoing security issues, including emails being sent to the entire system when attacks are being reported against UW students. However, the best way to fight phishing attacks is learning the ability to tell the difference between a trustworthy and untrustworthy email. Paying close attention to spelling and grammar in a given email and looking for consistency in information given can be an effective tool to keep oneself from being tricked.

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6 Blended Learning Models

Research has shown the blended learning, the combination of face-to-face and online instruction, increases flexibility, individualization and chance of student success. It is a great way to meet the diverse needs of several students at once. Here are 6 models of blended learning that has a unique system for teachers to choose from.


  • Face to Face Driver Model: Best when students function at varying levels. More skilled students will be able to move a faster pace so that they would not be bored and be given appropriate challenges.
  • Rotation Model: Teachers set schedules for face to face and online meetings. This model is popular in elementary classrooms where math and reading could be divided, so that students can be scheduled face to face meetings with reading and study math via learning stations
  • Flex Model: This model is heavily online, where instructors act as facilitators instead of primary delivers. This works best in school settings where students are in work-study programs, have attendance problems or are part time students
  • Online Lab Model: There are no certified teachers, but there are supervisors for these classes. This will be most suitable for students who: have other responsibilities; want to progress at a faster rate; want to slow down the pace; and schools with budget constraints
  • Self-Blend Model: Students take traditional face to face classes but enroll for separate online courses as supplements. This would be beneficial if: the school didn’t offer the course; students want to gain college credit and take advance placement classes; students are motivated and independent learners
  • Online Driver Model: This is completely online and students would be working from their home. There would be opportunities to check in with the teacher as well. This would be suitable for students: with chronic illnesses or disabilities; who have other jobs and obligations; want to progress faster than a traditional school setting


Schools and institutions will be able to refer to these models when planning out their class setup as it has a lot of potential and success. It will save schools a lot of money, and it is appropriately adapting to the way students learn nowadays. For more info, click here.

Face to Face: a New Way of Blending Digital and Physical Classrooms

Georgetown University has recently experimented with turning one of its digital-only courses into a hybrid course. Usually, this process occurs in the other direction: a physical class slowly spins off portions into online sections. This means a lot of the class can occur online, but it is still constrained by scheduled, physical meetings instead of fully taking advantage of the digital format.

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By moving from a conventional online class, more helpful, innovative ways of addressing online learning can be addressed. Georgetown’s system is based on holding the same class twice a week at scheduled times- students only need to tune into one of the two. Attendance is done entirely remotely. Students teleconference in and participate in a live discussion just as they would in a traditional setting. Their webcams and microphones are utilized to give the illusion of physically being present. In this way, the digital classroom experience is raised beyond the typical list of tasks and readings and becomes a personally engaging system. Interactivity even includes a method of virtually raising one’s hand, and splitscreen conversations between professor and pupil. Perhaps UW Bothell could adapt this system to let more students participate in each class while preserving the same small-class feel that has become its trademark.

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