Well Done! University of Iowa to Include Optional Question about LGBTQ Affiliation on Admissions Applications

Iowa_HawkeyesEric Hoover writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Last week the University of Iowa added an optional question to its application for undergraduate admission: “Do you identify with the LGBTQ Community?” The university has also given applicants a third gender option, allowing prospective undergrads and graduate students to identify themselves as “transgender” instead of “male” or “female.”

This is good move on the part of my university, and I foresee optional questions like this one – that are NOT used in evaluating admissions, but DO allow students to self-identify as a part of a minority group – becoming commonplace on other national universities’ applications.

It will allow the University’s various social services to better identify and assist those students who want to be recognized as LGBTQ students to receive desired social services.

Likewise, it affirms that there are, in fact, gay, transgender, and intersexual students in America, and recognizes them (again, should they desire to self-identify and be recognized) as equals along with their peers, all of whom possess diverse, personal characteristics including race, color, age, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, pregnancy, disability, or status as a U.S. veteran.

I am very proud of my university for, among other things, leading the way with regard to issues of equality and student psychological health.

On Iowa!

For more:

question for the ‘yes on prop 8′ supporters: who can caster semenya marry?

i am very, very proud of the fact i am moving to iowa

Full Text of Dr. Cargill’s Remarks at the Pepperdine GSEP Panel Discussion on Racism and Homophobia

It Is OK for Christians to Vote No on Prop 8

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Matthew Kalman on the James Ossuary Verdict

The so-called James Ossuary.

Matthew Kalman at the Chronicle of Higher Education has the scoop on the verdict in the trial of Oded Golan, accused of forging the inscription on the James Ossuary:

In a case that has roiled scholars around the world in a broad range of disciplines, the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday acquitted an Israeli antiquities collector, Oded Golan, of forging dozens of priceless archaeological artifacts, including an inscription on the burial box, or ossuary, of James, brother of Jesus.

Give it a read.

HT: Jim West – The Chronicle of Higher Education: On the Verdict.

On Using Digital Course Material to Publish Textbooks

Chronicle of Higher EducationThere’s an article in the October 8, 2010 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Ed by Jeffrey R. Young entitled, “As Textbooks Go Digital, Will Professors Build Their Own Books?,” that discusses using digital courses to build textbooks.

Young states:

McGraw-Hill Higher Education plans to announce its revamped custom-publishing system, called Create, with an emphasis on electronic versions of mix-and-match books. Macmillan Publishers this year announced a similar custom-textbook platform, called DynamicBooks. And upstart Flat World Knowledge touts the customization features of its textbooks, which it gives away online, charging only for printed copies and study guides. Other publishers have long offered custom-textbook services in print as well, though they have always represented just a sliver of sales.

It is only a matter of time before someone develops a system that takes course content rich with media that many instructors have developed via PowerPoint, Google Earth, videos, sounds, and turns it into a book. The problem is, of course, that in doing so, we are actually going backward with regard to technological development. It’s the equivalent of the instructor who asks a tech in the media lab to make a 35-mm slide from a digital image, or a vinyl record from a CD. Publishing digital content in a printed, “analog” book is backward. The only problem is that many tenure-granting universities still only acknowledge print-published volumes as “legitimate,” and thumb their noses at “digital” or “online” publications.

I discussed the problem in my book:

Thus, a problem of scribal technology persists. While technology for gathering and processing information has advanced almost exponentially, the accepted means of communicating this new information is stuck in a scribal format that is literally thousands of years old: the written word. Scholars have yet to adopt alternative means by which to receive and redistribute information developed and communicated in three-dimensional format. Far too many scholars are insisting that technologically minded scholars communicate digital information by analog means. Digital journals and online publications are a step in the right direction, but even these new digital publications are made to look like the traditional written pages of journals in many instances, rather than harness and utilize the interactive connectivity and visual capabilities available on the Internet.

While the three-dimensional modeling of archaeological reconstructions is an improvement upon its hand-drawn predecessor, the full power of three-dimensional modeling cannot be realized because three-dimensional models are rendered into static illustrations of what was an otherwise dynamic environment. While three-dimensional modeling is a vast improvement over two-dimensional representations, the lack of a means by which to fully experience the three-dimensional model leaves the interactive power of the three-dimensional model untapped. In order to fully harness the power of the three-dimensional model, a virtual reality environment must be adopted. Only when an effective means of communicating three-dimensional data is accepted by the academy will the potential of this new technology be fully realized.

Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 69-70

This research also realizes the overt incompatibility of publishing a book involving digital reconstructions in three-dimensional space in the traditional paper and ink format. It is, of course, highly ironic that this three-dimensional research is looked down upon by many, who prefer the time-honored, traditional medium of the printed book, which cannot fully convey the technological approach described within its pages. It is as incomplete as literally trying to describe a picture with a thousand words! Thus, the present research calls on scholars, publishers, dissertation committees, and departments of archaeology, architecture, and other related programs to make themselves more accommodating to newer digital forms of publication. As the word processor has replaced the typewriter, so too will digital and three-dimensional formats soon replace analog and two-dimensional formats for publishing archaeological materials. These new digital formats should not be seen as “alternative” or lesser means of publication, but as “progressive” media that are on the cutting edge of modern archaeological research.

Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 217-18.

(Yes, I recognize the irony of complaining about having to publish digital media in a print-published volume from the pages of a print-published volume. ;-)

The reason faculty still publish their classroom content as print-published books (and the reason publishers still offer published books) is because the money and academic prestige still lies in the print-published textbook, not in digital, online course.

Until a solution is discovered that makes money for “publishing” the digital material online, and offers the same tenure-improving prospects of a textbook, printed books will be favored in university settings. Until then, instructors will continue to take rich instructional and research media and print it on paper for placement on bookshelves.

Print on demand is a step in the right direction, but it will only be when university administrators, deans, and department chairs (that is, tenure-granting authorities) accept digital research as equally prestigious as the traditional print-published volume, and when nominal profit is available to the instructor providing the content that we will truly see an explosion in digital course materials available online. Until then, enjoy publishing your work with that prestigious publisher charging $150 per volume for your work, that only those who visit libraries will read.

chronicle of higher ed asks what’s best done with the dead sea scrolls

An infrared image of a fragment of Deuteronomy 27, part of Azusa Pacific U.'s Dead Sea Scrolls acquisition.

An infrared image of a fragment of Deuteronomy 27, part of Azusa Pacific U.'s Dead Sea Scrolls acquisition.

a new article by jennifer howard of the chronicle of higher education asks an important question: ‘what’s best done with the dead sea scrolls?’ in the article, howard examines the pros and cons of religiously-affiliated universities acquiring fragments of the dead sea scrolls for the sake of publicity.

But for some scholars, the purchases are more a cause for concern than for celebration. Will such acquisitions by academic institutions, even though they are made legally, help drive up the market for looted antiquities and rare artifacts? And is the boost to scholarship really worth the large sums of money those fragments cost?

she also makes note of my recent satirical blog post announcing the acquisition of some dss fragments by other previously unknown dead sea scrolls-centered institutions.

Some scholars feel queasy at the thought that universities will shell out that kind of money in these hard-pressed times, even for objects as symbolically and historically important as pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls. On his blog, Robert R. Cargill, a Biblical archaeologist, imagined “a race of archaeological one-upmanship,” in which institutions compete to scoop up high-profile objects in order to boost their academic reputations.

Mr. Cargill is the institutional technology coordinator of the Center for Digital Humanities at the University of California at Los Angeles, and the chief architect and designer of UCLA’s Qumran Visualization Project. “Universities are charged with educating people, not acquiring cool artifacts,” he said in an interview. “If someone gives a university something, OK. But universities should spend the bulk of their money on educating students and not on cheap public-relations ploys in an attempt to increase credibility overnight with the purchase of an antiquity.” Mr. Cargill also worries that high-profile acquisitions will encourage would-be looters to see what else they can dig up and put on the market.

jennifer did an excellent job with the article and it is certainly worth the read.

why online universities will never take the place of real ones

GetEducated.com mascot and pet, Chester Ludlow, received an online MBA from by Rochville University—an online college that offers distance learning degrees based on life and career experience.

GetEducated.com mascot and pet, Chester Ludlow, received an online MBA from Rochville University—an online college that offers distance learning degrees based on 'life and career experience.'

according to a recent chronicle of higher education report by marc parry entitled, ‘unmuzzling diploma mills: dog earns m.b.a. online,’ a dog successfully received an m.b.a. degree from an online university.

GetEducated.com, an online-learning consumer group, managed to purchase an online M.B.A. for its mascot, a dog named Chester Ludlow.

The Vermont pug earned his tassles by pawing over $499 to Rochville University, which offers “distance learning degrees based on life and career experience,” according to a news release from GetEducated. He got back a package from a post-office box in Dubai that contained a diploma and transcripts, plus a certificate of distinction in finance and another purporting to show membership in the student council.

there are several issues here worthy of comment. for one, there is the problem of simply being able to purchase a degree from an online ‘university.’ while these ‘institutions of higher education’ have no credibility, prestige, or even accreditation, it does not stop someone with little-to-no integrity from paying $499 to obtain an m.b.a., bachelor’s degree, ph.d., or in some cases, a seminary degree and ordination from an online paper mill (‘paper mill’ defined as a so-called ‘educational institution’ that issues little more than a piece of paper). people who pay this money and enroll in these ‘courses’ are doing the same thing that more than likely caused them to avoid or drop out of regular colleges in the first place: they seek the easy way out and purchase a degree from an online paper mill. while these ‘degrees’ are utterly worthless to any and all members of the academy and most employers, it does not stop those who have purchased their degrees online from a bogus institution from listing ‘ph.d.’ or ‘m.b.a.’ after their names.

(excursus: here is a quick note to all of you complaining about the sbl affiliation with bibliobloggers. this is perhaps the most appropriate comparison to the straw man argument made by those who believe this affiliation to be a bad thing. it is true that even nutballs can theoretically claim to be a ‘biblioblogger’ by typing the word ‘biblioblog’ on their blog or creating a badge and affixing it to their site, just as it is possible for someone to ‘achieve’ a ph.d from an unaccredited paper mill (online or otherwise). but, possession of an online degree doesn’t make the degree worthwhile, the recipient legitimate, or one’s subsequent claims respectable. all it means is that one is claiming to be something, even if they are actually not what they claim to be. it is not the job of the government to tell people that their ‘degree’ is worthless (they have a right to buy a piece of paper with the words ‘ph.d.’ on it), just as it is not the job of the sbl or any biblioblogger steering committee to regulate, control, or otherwise sanction who is and who is not claiming to be a biblioblogger. this is the job of accrediting agencies. universities are governed by accrediting agencies. the government list of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs lists national, regional, and state accrediting agencies like the western association for schools and colleges, the new england association of schools and colleges, the north central association of colleges and schools, etc.  likewise, within the academy, ‘accreditation’ (i.e., worthiness) of individual scholars is usually based upon their academic affiliation (where they work/teach), their role within the academy (committees, contributions to higher education, etc.), or their record of publication (contribution of original research to society). at the intersection of blogging and academic biblical studies, this ‘accreditation’ may include one’s affiliation (with a university, church, or an organization of professionals like sbl, aar, asor, etc.), one’s role within the biblioblogging community (reputation, commitment to online resources and research, etc.) and one’s record and consistency of publication online (contribution to the online community). the same factors that weigh into decisions of accreditation or legitimacy of a university should weigh into the ‘accreditation’ or legitimacy of a biblioblogger, no more, no less. so, while anyone may claim to be a degree-granting university or a thought-dispensing biblioblogger, those that do so are judged by their peers on credible measures of reputation, publication, and contribution to the field, regardless of whether they have the word ‘university’ or ‘biblioblogger’ on their websites. but i digress…)

the MBA degree from Rochville University for Chester Ludlow, a pug dog.

The online MBA degree from Rochville University for 'Chester Ludlow,' a pug dog.

there is another serious issue for institutions of higher education that deserves comment. the fact is, many legitimate universities are now using various new technologies to offer more classes online, especially through extension programs. these courses are taught by vetted university faculty and are offered by fully accredited, brand name institutions. many of these online courses are being offered in response to the ever changing worlds of students. as more and more students use the internet for more and more aspects of their daily lives, and as more teachers are utilizing technology within the classroom, it is only natural for these very lectures to be recorded and uploaded to the web along with required readings, assignments, and assessments. with recent advances in technology, even interactive discussions can be facilitated online using message boards, forums, instant messaging, wimba, elluminate, second life, and live video conferencing.

these online courses are most effective at the undergraduate level for foundational courses that provide the bulk of raw data and facts upon which advanced ideas are developed via critical thinking and writing exercises. likewise, some courses like art history, religion, archaeology, and mathematics, which traditionally disseminate raw data via printed text books are more predisposed to being successfully conveyed digitally than other abstract disciplines such as philosophy, and rhetoric. however, advances in technology are allowing even these courses to be digitized so that exercises in logic, mathematics, and composition can be practiced online.

that is to say, there is a legitimate way to present online courses that maintain the integrity, responsibility, and accountability that is worthy of the tuition paid to an accredited institution. but established brick-and-mortar universities have been slow to adopt the technology used for online course offerings. just as many brick-and-mortar businesses reacted slowly and suspiciously to the rise of online retailers, many universities rejected online learning, maintaining that distance learning was the realm of smaller, less prestigious colleges. but with the rise of technology within brick-and-mortar university courses, distance learning has become a more acceptable means of disseminating information to students.

new, online universities now compete with smaller, lower-tier universities for courses in general education and vocational training. this is the market where students can pay less for an equivalent amount of online training and still receive good value. and this is where online educational firms will have the most success. however, while many online universities offer upper division courses and even graduate courses, online universities will most likely never capture any significant market share of these students because these online graduate degrees simply do not provide the desired gravitas for the tuition paid by students. that is, it is a better value to pay a little more to a name-brand institution and put in the hard work for a m.b.a. from a reputable institution than it is to pay a discount, online institution for a worthless piece of paper degree that no employer will respect.

online colleges will never replace traditional, brick-and-mortar, four-year universities. there is simply far too much experience to be gained by packing up the car, moving into a dorm, meeting new people from around the world, experiencing new thoughts, ideas, and cultures in person, meeting (and missing) real deadlines, making excuses, crying over lost girlfriends and boyfriends, protesting, cheering, staying up too late, drinking too much (root beer for those of you at dry campuses), and experiencing the real-life preparation for the real world. however, where they are done properly, with credibility and with accreditation, online courses can be an effective way to take in vast quantities of foundational information on a student’s own schedule. the critical thinking, writing, and public interaction is still better suited for a real classroom environment with a real instructor. but as real instructors at accredited universities begin to implement online tools for use in their real classes, the online universities will fade, their brief bubble will burst, and the hard work, preparation, blood, sweat, tears, and all-nighters of a real, technologically-infused university will triumph in the end.

like everything else in life, institutions of higher education are about credibility and reputation. respect must be earned and cannot be bought. and ultimately, one’s true education will manifest itself through one’s words and deeds, not simply through the letters at the end of one’s name.

meeting students where they are: using twitter to teach

one of my many hats is that of instructional technologist at ucla. part of my job is to seek out new technologies and new uses of existing technologies for use in improving university instruction. a recent article by simmi aujla entitled, ‘professor gets religion about twitter in class,’ caught my eye.

the article reported on a digital humanities effort by mount royal university professor steven engler to get students interested in his religious studies course. the article states:

Hoping to get students engaged in his introductory course on Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Steven Engler, a professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, will test students on news stories posted to the class’s Twitter account.

i am a twitter user, but am not its biggest fan. to me, twitter is facebook without most of the functionality. twitter is facebook’s status updates and nothing more. that said, twitter is where many of the students are and for that reason, anyone who can effectively find an instructional application for twitter should be commended. curriculum should never be modified just to make room for technology; rather, technology should be used to improve instruction when and where it can.

professor engler’s twitter tests are one example of using twitter in a manner congruent with its design. twitter is essentially a series of headlines limited to 140-characters. in that sense, it is like the drudge report, but with only one headline at a time. using twitter as a current events headlines rss feed allows a professor to slip a little instruction into a student’s otherwise narcissistic daily exchange of comedy, drama, and global positioning declarations. and, by making the quizzes simple and not count for too much of the student’s grade, it is important enough to demand worthwhile attention, yet not so overblown that it looks gimmicky. it is a great way to get the students thinking about something besides what some girl they will never date is watching on tv.

academic publishers should make digital copies of their books available online for free

The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education

attention academic publishers. a new article by david wiley in the chronicle of higher education‘s ‘wired campus’ section entitled ‘giving away academic books online can actually help print sales‘ makes a lot of sense, and there is data to back it up.

The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago has been digitally distributing free copies of its books, but print sales have not declined. “After the complimentary distribution of 21 titles in 2008 that had for many years only been available in print, sales of these titles increased by 7 percent compared with the previous two years,” institute officials reported on their Web site.

i was particularly struck by a comment by james boyle, co-founder of the center for the study of the public domain at duke university school of law. he explains why it is beneficial for academic publishers to make digital volumes available for free:

First, most people hate reading a book on a screen, but like finding out if it is worth buying. I am sure I have lost some sales, but my guess is that I have gained more new readers who otherwise would be unaware of my work, and who treat the digital version as a ‘sampler,’ to which they then introduce others.

this actually makes a lot of sense. a scholar can flood the market with his or her ideas, which increases the visibility of the book and its arguments. those arguments then become a more talked about part of the public and academic debate because of increased familiarity with the subject matter. if the argument withstands scholarly scrutiny, it will become a ‘must have’ volume. because scholars take pride in their libraries (much like popular music listeners *have* to have the new cd of their favorite artists), they will order the book. thus, the free distribution of academic books in a digital form allows readers a preview of a book they might not otherwise have purchased. (and does this strategy sound familiar??)

this won’t necessarily work with popular books, because popular readers aren’t concerned with building up their libraries. but for academics, this is a marketing strategy that makes a lot of sense because it appeals to a scholar’s fundamental desire: the ability to say, ‘i’ve read that. in fact, i have a copy if you want to borrow it.’

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