OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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by Stephen Downes
Apr 30, 2015

Game of Fear
Zachary Jason, Boston Magazine, 2015/04/30


At some point in the past advertisers decided computers and video games were only for boys, and women have been paying the price ever since. This article describes what one writer called "the nauseating pathology behind Gamergate." I can't read this without getting angry. And every time someone dismisses opposition to media content as mere 'political correctness' I want to wave this in their face, and show them the real cost of what people are doing (except, of course, I can't, because it doesn't impact me directly, and I can barely comprehend it). "Quinn also wants to change the vocabulary we use to describe online abuse. 'These aren’t trolls,' she says. 'And it’s not online bullying. Bullying is something that gets you a pink slip in high school. These are people stalking, sending death threats, trying to get the cops to raid homes. These are criminals.'"

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Can Behavioral Tools Improve Online Student Outcomes? Experimental Evidence from a Massive Open Online Course
Richard W. Patterson, Cornell University, 2015/04/30


As Jon Dron says, this is an interesting and well-argued paper. The author tests the use of behavioural aides to increase course completion and argues "the commitment device increases course completion by 40% (11 percentage points), improves overall course performance by 0.29 standard deviations, and increases the amount of time students spend on the course website by 24% (5.5 hours) relative to the control." The commitment device enabled them to "set a limit on distracting Internet time each day" (my limit would have to be eight hours or something like that). Of course, they could just use standing desks instead.

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Turnitin Announces Availability of Turnitin Scoring Engine for Automated Writing Assessment
Press Release, Turnitin, 2015/04/30


So what can you do if you have a large database of essays that schools have forced students to contribute in order to prevent plagiarism? Well if you're TurnItIn you can use the database to create an automated essay grading system (one which presumably also detects plagiarism). But I find the news release odd. It states: "Turnitin Scoring Engine analyzes the lexical, syntactic, and stylistic features of writing, such as word choice and genre conventions, unlike other automated essay scoring programs that rely on simple metrics like word count." For one thing, it has been very clear for some time that other essay graders do not simply rely on word count. For another thing, Turnitin's description does sound like a word count system. So don't wax too enthusiastic - automated grading is a very competitive field, and Turnitin needs to do much more to establish itself. Image: Tuomo Kakkonen. Via Campus Technology.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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