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Dept. of Bad Ideas

History Repeats Itself as U of I's Global Campus Goes Belly Up

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 5/21/09 (10:19pm)

NYUonline (2001):

New York University is closing down its for-profit electronic learning operation, NYUonline, and moving some of its curriculum and staff into its School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

U of I Global Campus (2009):

[University of Illinois] trustees meeting in Chicago voted to follow a faculty task force plan to scrap much of the current version of Global Campus.

NYUonline (2002):

In two and a half years of operation, NYUonline received nearly $25 million from the university, but enrollment remained anemic at best: just 500 students at its peak.

U of I Global Campus (2009):

The $10 million program had only attracted about 360 students as of last month.

NYUOnline (2001):

The university blames last month's closure of the distance-learning company, called NYUonline, on the economy.

U of I Global Campus (2009):

...[Prof. Nick Burbules] said, a global recession has changed conditions under which the older initiative was established.

NYUonline (2001):

"I believe that the value of our work -- some of which will continue to be carried on by the university, and some non-academic portions of which may be acquired by third parties -- will become even clearer with time," [NYUonline CEO Gordon] Macomber said in the release.

U of I Global Campus (2009):

Burbules said the 2.0 model draws from the UI's experience with the initiative. "I think what is driving this process is the belief that the mission of expanding the online offerings is important," he said. "I give [U of I President White] full credit for inspiring this work, and I personally believe it is the future of higher education."

Note, there were significant differences between the programs, though stated goals tended to shift over time. Nevertheless, what the two shared was an inability by the people in charge to truly understand what the technology was capable of and what it wasn't. Decision-makers themselves had no strong background in online content development for higher education. This lack of background made it hard to evaluate alternative strategies. Instead of identifying successful initiatives already in place and extending those, they chose to concoct their schemes out of whole cloth.

The outcome should come as no surprise.

Location: 

MLA Issues New Handbook, Still Insists 'Website' is Two Words

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 3/10/09 (5:00pm)

mla_handbook.jpgThe seventh edition of the MLA Handbook has just come out. The Chronicle of Higher Education points to the considerable effort the publishers have made to give this "bible of the undergraduate paper-writing process" a substantial web component. They have a password-protected website that contains the full text of the manual along with a whole ton of support material.

Good for them! It's great they're making such an effort. But what I want to know is why they still refuse to acknowledge that 'website' consists of only one word. Doing so would be a sign of true progress.

AT&T is the Death Star (HTC Fuze Edition)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 11/29/08 (12:34pm)

Just got my new HTC Fuze from AT&T. Going through the always helpful forums at XDA-Developers, I came across the following cry of pain:

Why did AT&T (and others like Verizon) have to make changes to it?

Why can't they just leave it as it is as the Touch Pro? I can't stand the fact that they had to change the keyboard to be different!

No tab and Ctl key.....come on!!!!!

The guy has a point.

Institution: 

eBook Readers Suck as eBook Readers

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 8/8/08 (10:53am)

First people, please don't mention the Kindle and the future-of-print in the same breath. That would imply that one has something to do with the other and why do Amazon's marketing for them?

But ignoring that for a moment, I think the whole concept of a dedicated "ebook" reader is somewhat dodgy. I mean, if that's all they do, why bother?

You can't copy out bits and pieces of the text, import them into something you're working on, share them with friends, blog about them -- or do any of the million other things you're used to doing on electronic devices that are increasingly just as small and inexpensive.

In other words, an 'eBook' reader completely sucks as an 'eBook' reader because it treats what you're reading as a complete digital dead-end.

More Ugly Money from the U.S. Treasury

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 4/6/08 (12:26am)

new_5_dollar_bill.jpg

I really think the US Mint (coins) and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (dollar bills) have lost the art of designing money. The fine detail and overall sense of composition that used to distinguish our currency is now no more.

Case in point is the new $5 dollar bill with that big ugly purple '5'. It looks like they just got out a huge rubber stamp and banged away.

Cart before Horse with Aquabrowser in Columbus

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 1/24/08 (9:17am)

They recently installed the Aquabrowser at the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML). This is how the head of IT over there explained it to the Columbus Dispatch:

"We're accommodating what people are used to seeing -- people who just want to plug in a search term and get their list." [h/t Lorcan Dempsey]

What people are "used to seeing"? That animated tag-cloud doohickey?

Unless they really do things differently in Columbus, I can't imagine anyone (other than library staff) ever seeing one of these things or knowing the least what to do with it.

I mean, you can almost predict that the color-coding of the whirlin', spinnin' topics will be totally lost on the average user. Equally as bewildering is why they bothered to include what suspiciously looks like instructions (instructions?) on the main search page that attempt to explain enigmatic terms such as "Search", "Discover" and "Refine".

Confused yet? The newspaper article quotes one user as calling it "distracting" while another thinks it may not be "as intuitive as they think it is".

Touchée. Like Second Life and the Kindle, we have the implementation of a technology that has yet to receive the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" from the public. In other words, there's no indication of widespread acceptance or adoption on the part of our users. This is precisely the wrong approach to take.

Lastly, it doesn't help that a keyword search on "Treasure Island" only turns up the book by Robert Louis Stevenson on Page 2 of the search results.

Maybe they were focusing on the wrong thing?

P.S. In contrast, check out the results for Google and Amazon.

New Sony eReader Ad: 'Smarter than a Doofus'

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 1/10/08 (6:44am)
sony_ereader_verticle_2_384x511.jpg

Advertisement near the escalator at the Clark & Lake El Stop in Chicago:

'Smarter than a doofus who bought one of these things (your doofus may vary).'

Larger image here...

Kindle Swindle

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 11/21/07 (12:34pm)

Please stop talking about the demise of the traditional book! To do so in the same breath as the Amazon Kindle gives this contraption way more credibility than it’s due.

The defenders of this device say we shouldn’t rush to judgment while at the same time they make such extraordinary associations.

It’s marketing. That’s all.

UPDATE: Ultimately, we're going to describe all the hype surrounding the Amazon Kindle as "The Little Bandwagon Effect That Couldn't".

I mean, Amazon said to the media, 'jump', and the media responded, 'how high'? (Here's a particularly embarrassing example from Businessweek.)

But the public won't have any of this. The level of resistance is due in large part to how far the claims for this device simply defy common sense.

Kindle Schmindle

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 11/18/07 (9:15pm)

amazon_kindle.jpg

So every time some new 'ebook' device is announced, we're 'sposed to drop everything and proclaim it a paradigm shift? At least that's the routine.

This week's candidate is the Amazon Kindle -- at least as presented in an article in Newsweek extolling its virtues titled "The Future of Reading" by Steven Levy.

Institution: 

Innovation Good and Bad

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 9/13/07 (11:11pm)

Aaron Schmidt rightfully quotes himself with pride from an article in the Chicago Tribune:

"There's a lot of dead wood in libraries, and I think there's a lot of administrations that are kind of just biding their time for retirement and don’t feel like putting forth a lot of effort," he said. "I think there’s a general culture of resistance to change. That needs to go away."

He's right of course but I think the problem is a bit more complicated.

(more after the jump...)

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