Daily Debriefing

While enrollment at American universities dropped for the first time in 15 years, the number of college students taking online classes continues to rise, Inside Higher Ed reported. One-third of all students took an accredited online course in fall 2011, according to an annual study performed by Babson Survey Research Group. The study also assessed public opinion about much buzzed about MOOCs massive open online courses for the first time, and found that they are still viewed with skepticism and uncertainty. MOOCs are free, open courses available to both students and non-students, according to Insider Higher Ed. Although online enrollment in 2011 increased at a lower rate than in previous years, the percentage of students taking online classes rose dramatically in the past decade up from only 10 percent of students in 2002. One reason for the continued growth is that 70 percent of public and for-profit colleges offer online courses.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Rob Miller has developed a computer system named Caesar to make it easier to review and provide feedback for his computer science course, Inside Higher Ed reported. Caesar, aptly named because it "divides and conquers," electronically receives completed problem sets from students, breaks long strings of code into easily reviewable chunks and sends each portion to multiple reviewers for comments. Though the program does not review code itself, breaking down code from 200 student projects allows for a quick, effective way for each student to get productive feedback on their work. Unlike any other program today, Caesar does not choose reviewers randomly. Instead, each grader is given a reputation score, based on an algorithm which takes into account the quality of his or her comments, and Caesar sends chunks of code accordingly, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The Internal Revenue Service issued new rules stipulating that universities should be "reasonable" when monitoring the work hours of adjunct professors in order to determine employee health benefits, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Although the rules do not specify exactly how colleges should calculate the number of hours worked, they stipulate that universities should use a method for crediting hours that would not only consider instruction time, but also the number of hours spent on class preparation and other responsibilities. When all provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are fully phased in, employers will be required to give health benefits to all employees who work at least 30 hours a week. Most adjuncts currently do not receive benefits, and the proposed IRS rules would, if enacted, increase the number of adjuncts with health benefits dramatically, The Chronicle reported.

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