May 302013


Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal

MacArthur Fellowship recipient Daphne Koller, left, and Andrew Ng, co-founders of Coursera, at their Mountain View, Calif., office on Wednesday.

May 30, 2013, 12:07 a.m. ET

Online Firm Opens Way for More Educators to Create Their Own Internet


Technology companies trying to reinvent higher education through online instruction are looking to win over the group with the most to lose from the effort: professors.

Coursera, one of the biggest providers of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, plans to announce Thursday it will open its doors to professors at 10 major university systems to create their own online courses.

Until now, Coursera content has come almost exclusively from professors at the world’s most prestigious institutions, making it vulnerable to charges that it was helping to create a system where elite professors would produce the content and eventually cost faculty at less selective schools their jobs.

The contracts broaden Coursera’s audience, currently 3.68 million people, by giving it access to more than 1.25 million students enrolled in the combined university systems. Professors will be able to incorporate MOOCs into their campus-based classes, creating a blended model designed to free up time for more classroom discussions as students watch lectures on their own.

“I think that what we’re looking at here is not a job loss but rather a change in a job description to something that I consider to actually be more challenging and more intellectually stimulating than just delivering the lecture,” said Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera.

Still, many critics within academia remain concerned that MOOCs will eventually limit live lectures to the wealthiest schools. Meanwhile, faculty at cash-strapped public or midtier colleges might be displaced by low-paid staff who lead discussions after students have watched lectures from other schools’ star professors online.

“Higher education is being disrupted just like the steel industry or the newspaper industry,” said Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois Springfield. “From that shakeout, a lot of people will become unemployed.”

The popularity of MOOCs, which have been accessed by millions of students and adopted by scores of schools around the globe, is fueled by soaring college tuition and student debt. But as administrators ask professors to forgo their traditional lectures and incorporate MOOCs into their curricula, faculties have begun pushing back.

At Amherst College, faculty voted in April against joining edX, a nonprofit initiative led by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The philosophy department at San Jose State University in California this month wrote an open letter decrying MOOCs as harbingers of the dismantling of departments and a diminished quality of education.

Last week, 58 Harvard faculty members signed a letter calling for faculty oversight of edX. If MOOCs proliferate and replace professors at public schools, that could eventually mean fewer jobs for Harvard’s graduate students and ultimately fewer Harvard professors to teach them, said Peter Burgard, a Harvard German professor who signed the letter.

“We’ve been told that [MOOCs are] not a doomsday machine, but that sort of doomsday scenario is not unreasonable to expect,” Mr. Burgard said.

Sebastian Thrun, chief executive and co-founder of Udacity, another Silicon Valley-based MOOC, said jobs wouldn’t be lost because making school less expensive would encourage more students to pursue a degree.

We should “not assume that the market size is fixed,” he said. “You take something that is expensive and make it less expensive—why would it be bad?”

EdX is supporting teachers at partner school San Jose State by opening the Center for Excellence in Adaptive and Blended Learning this summer. Initially, the center will serve faculty at the 11 California public universities that now use edX courses.

Despite these overtures, some faculty remain wary. “I’m a tenured professor, but I do have anxiety on some level of being replaced,” said Maria Gonzalez, an associate professor of English at the University of Houston, one of the schools that just entered into a contract with Coursera. “It’s hard to see how it would happen in the humanities, but there are those of us who are trying to push back against that.”

Coursera will open up its platform to professors in public university systems from West Virginia, New York, Tennessee and Kentucky, among others.

Initially, some schools may just import existing MOOCs, while others are expected to create new ones for use within their own institutions. Some university systems also have expressed an interest in reaching out to adult learners wishing to take university classes for credit at reduced cost.

“Each system is looking at where they can make the biggest impact on the students in their state,” Ms. Koller said.

Kathleen Bollard, vice president for academic affairs at the University of Colorado—one of Coursera’s new partners—said the contract aims to “give faculty options, without creating concerns about losing jobs.”

Lorenzo Anaya, a 20-year-old junior studying mechanical engineering at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, one of the schools with which Coursera signed a contract, said the prospect of MOOCs at his school sounded “like an incredible idea if it’s going to make college more affordable.” But he also has some reservations. “It’s hard enough for one professor to connect with 200 students in their own classroom. I’d be worried that one professor trying to connect with 100,000 students would be impossible,” he said.

Even if individual faculty jobs remain safe, some say there is still cause for concern about how secure entire universities might be amid the tumult.

“People often ask me which institutions are going to disappear as a consequence of this massive change,” Ms. Koller said. “It’s the ones that take the ostrich strategy. If you stuck your head in the sand and hope that all this will just go away, you’re going to be in serious trouble.”

—Geoffrey Fowler contributed to this article.

Write to Douglas Belkin at and Melissa Korn at

via Online Course Providers Reach Out to Wary Professors –

May 302013





Tampa Bay Times/Zuma Press

A nurse in Largo, Fla., helps a patient use chlorhexidine wipes, which have been found to protect against MRSA.

Germ-Killing Soap-Ointment Treatment for all ICU Patients Shown to Be More Effective Than Isolating Some After Screening

Updated May 29, 2013, 7:36 p.m. ET


To prevent deadly infections in intensive-care units, hospitals often screen all patients for the drug-resistant bacteria MRSA, then isolate or treat those found to carry it with germ-killing soap and ointment.

But the largest prevention study of its kind has shown it is far more effective to treat every patient in the ICU with the regimen, without any prior testing.

In the study of nearly 75,000 patients at 74 adult ICUs in 43 Hospital Corp. of America HCA -0.73% facilities, the protocol, known as universal decolonization, reduced all bloodstream infections, including those caused by other germs, by 44%, and reduced the incidence of MRSA-positive cultures in the ICU by 37%. Patients were washed with cloths containing antimicrobial soap chlorhexidine and received a nasal antibiotic ointment, mupirocin.

In contrast, there was no significant decrease in infections in a group of patients who were first screened and then isolated if they were found to carry MRSA. And in a third group in which all patients were tested and then isolated and treated with the soap-ointment combination if they tested positive for MRSA, there was only a 22% reduction in infections.

“This will save lives, and sets a new standard for preventing bloodstream infections in the intensive-care unit,” says Jonathan Perlin, president, clinical and physician services group and chief medical officer at HCA. HCA is now implementing the protocol in all of its hospital ICUs. The study was published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

MRSA, for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, has become resistant to a host of drugs used to treat infection. About 1% to 2% of people carry MRSA on their skin or in their nose, but they have no symptoms or signs of infection. Once they are hospitalized, however, it can enter their bloodstream during invasive procedures or spread to other patients on health workers’ hands.

Though health-care-associated infections from MRSA have declined in recent years, thanks to precautions such as hand-washing and infection-prevention programs in hospitals, they still struck 62,500 patients in 2011 and killed more than 9,000.

John Jernigan, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office of Prevention Research and Evaluation and a co-author of the new study, says it fills important gaps in the science of prevention, which has been “murky to date.” Most important, he adds, universal decolonization “reduces all bloodstream infections, not just MRSA.” The CDC is in the process of determining how the findings of the study might be used in its infection-prevention recommendations. The agency doesn’t now recommend screening all ICU patients but does recommend screening and isolation in certain circumstances when the incidence of MRSA in a facility isn’t decreasing with more basic infection-control measures.

The cost effectiveness of the different approaches and questions about whether universal decolonization might increase resistance to the germ-killing agents are being investigated in a second phase of the study. HCA’s experience is that universal decolonization is less-expensive than the other two approaches, Dr. Perlin says, and the cost of treating hospital infections is of far greater concern.

Several states now require screening all ICU patients for MRSA. But the cultures used to detect MRSA can be costly, and in the time it takes for them to come back from the lab, carriers can infect others or themselves, Dr. Perlin says. Isolating MRSA carriers also is difficult for patients and families.

The study included investigators from Harvard University and other academic institutions, as well as the CDC and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Carolyn Clancy, director of AHRQ, says because MRSA screening has been adopted by many hospitals, “it may take some time for the medical community to assess the degree to which the study findings should eliminate this practice.” The state laws requiring screening also are a complicating factor, Dr. Clancy says, as are questions of cost and resistance.

The study noted that widespread use of chlorhexidine and mupirocin could possibly engender resistance, and the CDC’s Dr. Jernigan acknowledges that “any health-care organization that chooses to use this approach will need to be very vigilant.” At present, however, there is no strong evidence of resistance, Dr. Perlin says, “and right now we have a real-world concern about infections that can be catastrophic for patients.”

via Study Shows Gains in Preventing Hospital Infections –

May 292013


The Sylva Herald

Posted: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 1:45 pm

Recent Smoky Mountain High School graduate Tori Chapman is among 19 incoming freshmen selected for the EC Scholars program at East Carolina University.

The merit scholarship recognizes outstanding academic performance, commitment to community engagement and strong leadership skills. Recipients receive a scholarship for four years, along with a stipend for study abroad, for a total value of approximately $61,000.

EC Scholar recipients have completed a rigorous three-tier selection process that includes: meeting the Honors College admissions criteria, having an additional faculty review and completing an on-campus interview. The incoming Class of 2017 EC Scholars has an average combined math/verbal SAT score of 1,344 and an average unweighted GPA of 3.92. While at ECU, the scholars must maintain a 3.5 cumulative GPA, complete research and leadership internships, participate in a study abroad experience and conduct a senior honors project.

Chapman intends to major in nutrition and sports pathology at ECU and has an interest in attending medical school one day.

via Chapman receives EC Scholars award to attend East Carolina – The Sylva Herald: News.

May 292013




Kaveh Darafsheh and another East Carolina University graduate, Lisbeth Soria, will participate in NASA’s LARSS summer internship program.

Read more here:

By Crystal O’Gorman

Friday, May. 24, 2013

Kaveh Darafsheh and another East Carolina University graduate, Lisbeth Soria, will participate in NASA’s LARSS summer internship program.

Kaveh Darafsheh, a south Charlotte resident who lives off Providence Road, will work as an intern this summer for NASA through the Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars program.

Also known as LARSS, the paid internship program is offered through NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math are given the opportunity to work with scientists and engineers who do research and development to advance space exploration.

According to the LARSS website, the program receives approximately 1,000 applicants per year, accepting only 200. In 2011, Vault Career Intelligence – a professional career resource – named LARSS one of the top 10 internship programs in the U.S.

The LARSS program consists of three internship sessions; Darafsheh has been accepted into the summer session, a 10-week program beginning June 3. Darafsheh, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Computer Science at East Carolina University, said he knew about the program because his brother, Arash, who graduated from UNC Charlotte with a doctorate in optics, participated last summer.

Darafsheh also said he has been interested in NASA since 2009, when he saw the Discovery Science Channel’s documentary “Moon Machines,” detailing the development of the command module during the Apollo program.

“What people see is one person dangling on the moon, but it was the collaborative effort of 400,000 people,” he said.

It was a culmination of that collaborative effort, the precision of those involved and the technological advancements that sparked Darafsheh’s interest. Darafsheh will be working in the internship under mentor and Langley engineer Mahyar Malekpour implementing an application for distributed network synchronization.

Darafsheh said he believes his work as a graduate research assistant under East Carolina University Professor of Software Engineering and Computer Science Dr. Junhua Ding where he tested remote medical-grade hearing applications and devices – helped him get accepted into the position.

Jennifer Jacobs, an administrative support assistant in the Department of Computer Science at ECU, said, “Kaveh Darafsheh is truly one of our rising stars. He has not only maintained a straight-A 4.0 average but he has been inquisitive, hardworking, and has made a point to become involved in team projects and work as a graduate research assistant and graduate teaching assistant. He loves to conduct research, read and improve his and others’ situations in academia and beyond.”

Darafsheh is originally from Tehran, Iran. His family moved to Charlotte when he was 16. He graduated from Myers Park High School in 2003, where he was a part of the honor society and took his first IT class: computer programming.

Darafsheh received a bachelor of science degree in computer engineering from UNC Charlotte in May 2009. While at UNCC, he also was involved in the Charlotte Area Robotics Club and the Charlotte Programming Union. He also interned at Hand Held Products Inc. – now a division of Honeywell – for three months, working on the automation and performance of wireless devices.

In summer 2011, Darafsheh taught a free computer basics course at his church, Providence United Methodist. He then attended East Carolina University in fall 2012. At ECU, he is a part of the school President’s Student Leadership Advisory Council and expects to graduate with a master’s in computer science in spring 2014.

As for his future, 27-year-old Darafsheh said he is keeping his options open. He believes the NASA internship will provide “a valuable hands-on experience and a great networking opportunity.”

He also admits that, after graduating, he would love to work for a large IT company like Google or Intel Corp. He also hopes to receive his doctorate in computer science and become a professor.

Crystal O’Gorman is a freelance writer. Got a story idea for Crystal? Email her at

via Charlotte student earns prestigious NASA internship.

May 292013
National Weather Service meteorologist Hal Austin discusses new weather models that will be used during this year's hurricane season during a Severe Weather Town Hall meeting at the Willis Building on Tuesday morning. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)

National Weather Service meteorologist Hal Austin discusses new weather models that will be used during this year’s hurricane season during a Severe Weather Town Hall meeting at the Willis Building on Tuesday morning. (Rhett Butler/The Daily Reflector)

By Kristin Zachary

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Violent storms that uprooted trees and killed three Pitt County residents in July are a reminder even smaller weather events can wreak havoc, experts said on Tuesday.

Stressing preparation for an active storm season, John Cole, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport, told about a dozen people at a town hall meeting on severe weather hosted by East Carolina University that residents should remember lessons from past events.

A sudden burst of storms on July 1, spawned by three days of extreme heat and humidity, produced 80 mph winds, caused power outages for more than 15,000 people and caught residents unaware.

Pitt, Beaufort and surrounding counties were hammered by what is known as a derecho, Cole said. The name comes from the Spanish term for “straight,” as the storms generally blow in one direction.

“We lost three people with this severe thunderstorm event, one in Pitt County and two in Beaufort,” he said. “People were making last-minute preparations — putting their ATVs away, getting off the golf course.”

In Grimesland, 77-year-old William Henry Adams was killed about 4:30 p.m. when strong winds caused a farm building he was in to collapse as he was parking a four-wheeler to protect it from the storm.

Ten minutes later, two Greenville-area residents were killed in Beaufort County when a tree fell on the golf cart they were driving. James Harris, 61, and Carol Harris, 58, had been on a pontoon boat with friends and returned to the dock to drive back when the storm approached.

“The structural damage from a storm like that, it’s like a tornado,” Cole said. It was one of the strongest, most widespread weather events locally since the Newport/Morehead City office opened in 1995.

Residents had about a 30-minute warning, but winds that uproot trees and collapse structures “can occur well in advance of those rains and thunderstorms,” he said.

The weather service hopes to be more proactive, even with low-probability events and to continue improvements to the warning system, he said.

Weather service forecasts are “one of the biggest assets” for ECU, according to Tom Pohlman, environmental and emergency manager for the university.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designates ECU as one of 133 StormReady universities in the country, Pohlman said, because it disseminates warnings using several methods, maintains weather radios in high-risk buildings and has formal weather preparations.

In the event of sudden, severe weather, it is key “to issue the proper warning very quickly, and we’ve made some changes here at ECU to do that,” he said. The university issues alerts by email, text, indoor and outdoor speakers, as well as its website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

More preparation can be made in the event of forecasted weather, such as winter storms and hurricanes, Pohlman said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday released predictions for the June 1 to November hurricane season, calling for 13 to 20 named Atlantic storms, seven to 11 that strengthen into hurricanes and three to six that become major hurricanes.

“Everything is coming into play this year for an active hurricane season,” Cole said. “We’ve been very lucky this year. We haven’t had a lot of severe weather, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed, but we still have a lot of time to go.

“June tends to be very active for severe weather, and right into the summer months as well, especially for straight-line wind events,” he said. “… We can definitely get the big storms, and this year is projected to be very active out in the Atlantic hurricane basin.

“We have to be ready every year,” Cole said. “You can’t let your guard down any time.”

Contact Kristin Zachary at and 252-329-9566. Follow her on Twitter @kzacharygdr.

via The Daily Reflector.

May 292013


By Abbie Bennett

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A city committee met privately on Tuesday with outside officials to discuss a request from a potential developer, one apparently interested in the city’s investment grant program.

The meeting of the City Council Economic Development Committee, held in closed session at City Hall, continues a recent spate of local development activity in the city. The session arose from a request from what city Economic Development Officer Carl Rees called a “local developer.”

Also attending Tuesday’s meeting was Michael Lemanski, director of the Development Finance Initiative at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government, who served as a consultant at the meeting.

“We have received a request from a local developer related to our capital investment grant program,” Rees said. “After talking to the city’s executive management, we thought it would be prudent to bring the Institute of Government in, DFI specifically, to help us go through and sort through that particular request and then offer us any advice they might have on our response on the request.”

After introductions, the committee moved to go into closed session to discuss the request.

“This would be to discuss matters relating to location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the Greenville City Council,” Rees said.

Rees said he could not reveal any more details about the developer other than the request for a capital investment grant.

Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas said there are a “number of projects” coming down the line based on recent collaborative efforts in the city and county. Tuesday’s meeting was about specific details on some of those projects that will be released later, he said.

In recent weeks, two major announcements have promised to change the face of downtown Greenville, one a student housing complex under construction by local developers Tom Taft and Jim Ward; and an East Fifth Street renovation project involving several downtown buildings proposed by CommunitySmith, a Raleigh developer.

All this activity comes amid recent City of Greenville and Greenville-Pitt Chamber of Commerce economic assessments that have pointed to strengths and weaknesses in the area’s ongoing efforts to attract new business and industry. The assessments said that in order to leap frog its competitors, Greenville has to be “transformational” and take advantage of its assets, instead of merely keeping pace.

For Thomas, the assessments have presented more opportunities for collaboration.

“Until a year ago, there was no professional economic development component to the City of Greenville,” Thomas said. “We’re taking a much more collaborative approach now. This is a very important focus for the chamber of commerce, the city and also the county. We felt Greenville needed to be much less passive in economic development … Over the past year we’ve been working very diligently to create opportunities for the community.”

The assessments have given city staff a starting line, Thomas said.

“What this gives us is an up-to-the-minute snapshot of how we compare and what our strengths and weaknesses may be,” he said. “The next big step will be a process of synthesizing those different analyses into a cohesive plan for the city and the county.”

“But the backbone of the 2013 economy are startup companies, which are often the spin-offs of the university environment,” Thomas said. “It’s about retention and expansion because the small businesses have a proven track record. We need to go to them and say: ‘How can we help you innovate and expand and put more people to work in quality jobs?’”

The next scheduled meeting for the economic development committee is on June 25.

“We’ll talk a little bit about where we plan to head,” Rees said. “Most everything we do will be coming out of recommendations from the assessments.”

Contact Abbie Bennett at or 252-329-9579.

via The Daily Reflector.

May 292013


Published: May 28, 2013 Updated 2 hours ago

The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — A gun-rights advocacy group is running radio commercials criticizing University of North Carolina system leaders for opposing a bill that would allow students and staff to bring a concealed pistol on campus.

Grass Roots North Carolina said ads starting Tuesday in three markets urge listeners to call Senate leader Phil Berger to move ahead legislation that passed the House this month. A provision would allow legally concealed weapons to be stored in locked cars on public college campuses.

UNC system President Tom Ross and campus police say the weapons would raise the risk of violence on campus. The ad points to recent sexual assaults on UNC system schools and uses the voice of what sounds like a female student lamenting being unable to bring her legal weapon on campus.

via RALEIGH, N.C.: NC gun-rights group runs radio ads critical of UNC system | State Politics |

May 292013


Evelynn M. Hammonds will remain on the Harvard faculty after leaving her job as dean.


Published: May 28, 2013

Evelynn M. Hammonds, the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position of dean of Harvard College, will leave that post on July 1 after five years, but she will remain on the faculty, the university said in a statement posted online. She will lead a new program on race and gender in science and medicine, topics that have been at the core of her scholarly work for decades.

“I was never asked to step down,” Dr. Hammonds said. “I have been in discussions to return to academia and my research for some time.”

Harvard disclosed last summer that well over 100 students were suspected of cheating on a take-home exam, the largest such scandal in memory. As the Administrative Board looked into the cases and the students’ guilt or innocence — dozens of them were forced to take a leave from the college — elements of the investigation, which was supposed to be confidential, were reported by The Harvard Crimson.

In March, it was revealed that university administrators, hunting for the sources of those leaks, had searched through Harvard e-mail accounts of 16 resident deans, who are junior faculty members, live in the student houses and act as student advisers. Most of the resident deans were not told of the searches until months later. Dr. Hammonds and Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, who had approved the search, said that only the messages’ subject lines were examined, not their contents, and that no other e-mail search was conducted.

But a few weeks later, Dr. Hammonds acknowledged that she had ordered another search, without consulting Dr. Smith, that also looked for specific e-mail recipients.

Faculty members described a loss of trust after the searches became public, and The Crimson called on Dr. Hammonds to resign. Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, conceded that the university’s e-mail privacy policy was contradictory, and commissioned an outside lawyer to investigate the affair.

Dr. Hammonds said, “The e-mail controversy was difficult, but it was not a motivating factor in my decision to step down as dean.”

via Harvard Dean in E-Mail Controversy to Step Down –