That study on note-taking with laptops doesn’t mean what you think

October 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Student taking notes on laptop during a classroom lecture

My latest post at

What Mueller and Oppenheimer discovered in their experiments is that laptop use correlates strongly with taking verbatim notes, and, as was already known, verbatim note-taking is well-known to be less effective than note-taking that synthesizes and summarizes content. However, both the authors of the study and media reports argue that these results are somehow determined by the use of laptops.

To support this claim, some media reports latched on to the second study, where laptop note-takers were warned about the danger of verbatim note-taking but tended to take verbatim notes anyway. As Meyer stated, “you can’t successfully warn someone to keep them from taking verbatim notes if they’re using a laptop.”

This is nonsense.

Image via Tulane Publications

Update: New DMLCentral Post: Are MOOCs An Extension of Academic Publishing into Teaching?

May 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

detail from MOOC infographic
image credit: The Chronicle of Higher Education

My latest DMLCentral post is on for-profit MOOCs and how they profit from unpaid university labor:

academic publishing traditionally works in this way: a researcher is paid by a (frequently public) university to create research. The researcher then publishes this research as an article in a academic journal, some of which charge the researcher for this privilege, a bill which some universities help to pay. If that journal is published by a for-profit publisher, the article — bundled together with others — is then sold back to the university library for the university community to access. To recap: the university pays a researcher to produce research, then, after that research is given away to a for-profit publisher for free, buys that research back from the publisher. This seems like a silly practice for universities to subsidize, but it is good business for the publishers, who make profits in the range of hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. My concern with for-profit MOOCs is that they will adopt a similar plan. Universities will pay their teachers to develop and teach courses — sometimes paying them extra to turn those courses into MOOCs — and that labor will be given freely, or at a reduced cost, to MOOC for-profits who will, in turn, sell it back to the university or sell it directly to college students.

This morning, I learned that West Virginia University, where I work, has signed a deal with Coursera that seems to justify my concerns. Here’s the update I added to the post:

Update, 5/30/2013: My employer, West Virginia University—along with nine other universities or university systems—just announced a partnership with Coursera to develop MOOCs and offer them to students.

According to the press release, WVU will initially offer Coursera courses for free and without credit. However, the Chronicle of Higher Educations has published more details about the contracts involved, which it reports are “pretty much identical.” Here is the relevant bit about what Coursera will be charging universities

In a typical case, the company would charge the university a flat fee of $3,000 for “course development.” After that, Coursera would charge a per-student fee that would decrease as more students registered for the course. The first 500 students would cost the university $25 per student; the next 500 would cost $15 per student; the university would pay the company $8 for each student beyond that.

Apparently, these deals are structured to incentivize universities to make these courses more “massive”: as the university adds more students, its cost will go down, but tuition charges to those students will stay the same.

It also appears that this structure largely mirrors the one I have described above: universities will pay their employees to create courses, give those courses to Coursera, and then Coursera will, in turn, charge the university for the privilege of allowing it to offer those courses—for which the university has shouldered the costs—to their students. The only difference from academic publishing seems to be that the university keeps some of the revenue, in this case the extra tuition money it charges students.

New post: “Online Learning and Teaching Writing”

September 24th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Online Learning Bus

My latest blog post at, “Online Learning and Teaching Writing”, is up.

… when teaching writing, neither an audience of teachers nor an audience of peers can be the solution to good writing. Rather, the solution is to teach students writing that is situated in real (or simulated) contexts with real audiences and feedback. The future of projects like Coursera, if they are to be successful educational alternatives to the traditional college classroom, is to harness the collective intelligence of the Web to connect students with these audiences. What the Internet has proven with resounding success is that it can connect writers with real audiences.

image via: James Bridle

“eBooks, Writing, and Ownership” at

February 9th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I have a new post up at on Apple’s iBooks Author and the trend of web services—and now, design companies—placing heavy restrictions on the media that we create with their tools.

First, Apple’s actions are a major bummer. I’ve started playing with iBooks Author a little to get a feel for it, and it seems like an excellent tool. Well designed, easy to use, and with a lot of neat features for creating digital books. It’s just too bad that the company crippled the software by not allowing users to export books as .epub files and restricted sales to the iBookstore.

Second, what strikes me whenever Facebook changes their users’ privacy policies without warning or when Apple tries to lock down all of the books made with their software to their store is the predictable way in which these companies are following the guidelines of O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 manifesto: they want to own the network, whether that network is social media users or exclusive iBooks. As O’Reilly points out, if you own—or have exclusive access to—the most data, you gain a competitive advantage by having the best network. But it’s one thing to build a network on user-reviews, as Amazon does, and quite another to assert control over the complex and demanding work that goes into creating a book, as Apple is doing. The only benefit to this move is that as more and more of our digital work is siloed like this, the ethical implications will come increasingly to the forefront, and, hopefully, affect some positive change for users.

image credit: margot.trudell