links for 2007-10-23

What the Heck Is a Hot Fix?

At the BbWorld Developers’ Conference (Thursday afternoon and Friday morning after BbWorld), there was a session by John Fontaine called What the Heck is a Hotfix? (PPT,audio recording). I’d been meaning to go look for this at the Bb Connections web site where the conference presentations were uploaded. However, I found this through a Bb knowledge base link to eduGarage which apparently is the new home of the Blackboard Developers Network.

  • Ad Hoc Patch – fixes a single issue
  • Hot Fix – Multiple usually related code changes (5-6 issues)
  • Service Pack – Many code changes (50-60 issues)
  • New Release (either Application Pack or new version number)- New features and Large scale code changes

Vista’s Third Life?

Scott Schamp is teaching at UGA using Second Life. This is from his blog.

But last Friday, I found myself saying things I never thought I would have to say. “Please don’t sit on the fountain during class. Don’t forget that everyone needs to wear clothes the next time we meet. And, please, try and remember not to fly during class time.”
I Can’t Believe I Just Said That!

Its funny. Years ago, some enterprising faculty members latched onto email for use in conducting class without an actual classroom. Then the web sites become the new online classroom platform. Gee, if that had not happened, then I would have a different career.

Schamp has thoughts along the same lines for use of the web.

SL is a place for minds. It is going to take a while to figure out how we should use it. Frankly, now virtual worlds seem like a powerful creative solution. We just need to find the right problems for virtual worlds to solve. Back in 1994 I felt the same way about the web. It is going to take a lot of patient experimentation to find the best way to harness its potential.

Maybe it will take less than 5 years to see where this technology will take us.

Graduation Rates

Systemwide, only 48 percent of the students in Georgia’s four-year public institutions earn a degree within six years of enrollment, compared to a national average of 54 percent. Even allowing eight to 10 years, the percentage of students earning degrees climbs only slightly. In contrast, the Georgia high school graduation rate is between 56 and 60 percent.
–AJC, Degrees are a critical goal

I kept reading this article to find some insight about the problem. All I got was Maureen’s opinions about the thoughts and opinions of universities without even so much as a quote to at least confirm them. For example: “Often times, colleges blame the lack of degree completion on students’ academic shortcomings….” Such a bold accusation has to deserve a report, a quote, something!

I realize the AJC focuses on paper sales, but would it kill you to put a link to the 2005-2006 University System of Georgia Annual Report Card you cited since it is on a web site? As the only documented source, it would be good for others to eyeball the same information. I want too much information not too little. 🙂

The annual report cited has several sections. It covers three measures of the Regents’ Exam, three different kinds of graduation rates, and the freshman retention rates.

I know while I was working at Valdosta State University, freshman retention (report) was huge. A great effort was put towards making sure students learned as much as they could to be successful. Across the system, the freshman retention numbers look pretty good compared to the graduation rates. However, they are for the 2004 cohort and not the 1999! In such a report, I’d like to see the data on a single cohort to be able to compare.

So, what are some of the nuances in all this? It seems a simple Google search led me to an piece in 2005 titled, “Missing the Mark: Graduation Rates and University Performance“. It points out:

  • Students may transfer between schools. In Georgia, this is usually thought of as from the smaller schools to the flagships: UGA and GT.
  • Students who take classes part-time while working full-time may take much longer than even 6 years to graduate.

From the same article:

When we use graduation rates to compare campuses and infer from these comparisons that one campus is doing a better job of educating students than another, we exceed the value of the data point. It may be that the campus with a high grad rate is simply giving away its degrees (after all, a diploma mill has a 100 percent graduation rate). It may be that the campus with a low rate is working with high risk students. Or, it may be that the high rate campus is doing a superb job of advising and the low rate campus is ignoring its students.

The grad rate doesn’t tell which answer is right. The right answer requires a detailed analysis of what happened to the students who dropped out, and that takes more than one data point. If the campus improves its own graduation rate, that is probably a good thing, but comparisons of grad rates among campuses usually produce more distortion and misunderstanding than progress.

If we overemphasize graduation rates, colleges may suffer the temptation to do whatever it takes to get the high percentages celebrated by rating agencies and trustees. One way to help improve the rate, after all, is to inflate grades so that all students are above average, and water down the curriculum so everyone can get a degree — not outcomes of much interest to the policy makers, board members, or politicians who tout graduation rates as the touchstone of college performance.

My brother is hurting his school’s graduation rate. His university doesn’t have the degree he seeks. Where he intends to transfer and get that degree doesn’t have the degree his fiancee seeks. Rather than they spend time apart at separate schools, the plan is for her to finish where they are both going to school while he part-times out his degree. After they get married, they will go live where he can finish his degree at the other school.

UPDATE: I like this College Results Online tool to make comparisons.

links for 2007-07-05

What is a Super Speeder?

There is a bill in the GA legislature to additionally fine people for excessive speeding. Fine. Good even. However, it disturbs me that people quote the wrong statistics as rationale and tie it to emotional cues.

Slowing down ‘super speeders’ on Georgia highways is a super idea –

Last year in Georgia, 1,700 people lost their lives in traffic accidents; that averages to about one person every five hours. These aren’t benign statistics, folks. These are real people — mommas and daddies and sons and daughters, friends and neighbors — people who could and should still be with us.

People losing their lives in traffic accidents is quite serious. However, this isn’t 1,700 people who lost their lives because of excessive speeding. According to Weitz & Luxenberg (for 2003), speed was a factor in only about 20% of these traffic accident deaths. This is at the same level as deaths associated with alcohol (MADD for 2005 claims it higher: 35% and 30% in 2005). W&L also claim people were not wearing a seatbelt in half of these deaths? If that is true, then let’s raise the fine on not wearing a seat belt by $100 a year until this goes down to less than 5%.

Airbags are associated with an increase in deaths?

This map of crash deaths in GA is scary: 1) the map is unreadable unless you take the picture and look at the original JPG, 2) the lack of understanding of greater than vs less than. Plus, I’d rather it be deaths by percentage of amount of traffic than just deaths. More cars = more opprtunities for people to do stupid things. For example, I am impressed by the low numbers of deaths in certain counties along I-75 and I-85.