Voting In Brookline: Polls Open | Brookline, MA Patch - Brookline, MA Patch

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Voting In Brookline: Polls Open | Brookline, MA Patch - Brookline, MA Patch Voting In Brookline: Polls Open | Brookline, MA Patch - Brookline, MA Patch Posted: 03 Nov 2020 12:00 AM PST BROOKLINE, MA —It's Election Day in Brookline, Tuesday, Nov. 3. It's also the final day of voting after weeks of early voting and mail in voting for the 2020 general election. In addition to the presidential and congressional races, there are several key races at the state and local level, as well as five ballot questions. Voting was different this year thanks to rules approved to expand early and mail-in voting in light of the coronavirus pandemic. If you haven't voted already, we've got you. First: head to the Secretary of State's website to check your voter status and find your polling place . Voting on Election Day Polls in Massachusetts are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. You can also use the Secretary of State's w

A rapping professor. A cat in class. Pornography on Zoom. How online classes work at colleges during coronavirus - USA TODAY

A rapping professor. A cat in class. Pornography on Zoom. How online classes work at colleges during coronavirus - USA TODAY


A rapping professor. A cat in class. Pornography on Zoom. How online classes work at colleges during coronavirus - USA TODAY

Posted: 30 Mar 2020 03:03 AM PDT

CLOSE

College teachers and students discuss some of the challenges they face as their classes move online for the foreseeable future. USA TODAY

Mark Naison, 73, had just days to move online his decades-old class, a history of music from rock 'n' roll to hip-hop. He wasn't sure how to preserve the raucous spirit of the course, but he had an answer that had worked for him in the past. 

"I can make a fool of myself," he said. 

The technology, mainly the video-streaming software Zoom, was unfamiliar to him. Without a physical presence in the classroom, the professor at Fordham University wondered how he would keep his students' attention. He wasn't sure how to use the music videos he had played live in class. He knew it was important to keep students' spirits up as they struggled to adjust from in-person courses on a campus of friends to the isolation of distance learning. 

So he filmed himself rapping. His material included odes to social distancing, hand-washing and self-quarantining.

He is not the fastest rapper, but his rhymes mostly work. And his students seem to appreciate the lengths he is willing to get a laugh. 

Imani Del Valle, a senior at the university in the Bronx in New York City, said Naison was one of few among her professors who acknowledged the anxiety students face.

As for the rapping videos, "they actually make you laugh, and I think that's what we kind of all need right now with everything going on," she said.

That "everything" for students such as Del Valle includes transitioning to a new class format they hadn't anticipated at the semester's beginning, as well as dealing with the general distress caused by the spread of the coronavirus. She lives in New York City, one of the areas hit hardest by the outbreak. 

The USA counted more than 144,000 cases of coronavirus by Monday afternoon, the world's highest total, and there were more than 2,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

In early March, colleges across the country canceled in-person classes en masse, mostly switching to digital courses.  

For many of those colleges, the first week was anything but smooth. Along with the transition to digital classes, universities told students to clear the dorms. Many scrapped traditional grades in favor of some form of pass-fail. Graduation ceremonies are canceled or postponed. 

Instructors may deal with new technologies and ways of teaching that leave them uncomfortable. Their students are very likely spread across multiple time zones, which can make scheduling a challenge. Some students lack decent internet connections or up-to-date technology.

The result is not necessarily the best example of online learning – distance courses, like in-person classes, take months to plan effectively. Perfect or not, it's the reality of pursuing a college degree for millions of students. 

The future of college: Colleges scrambled to react to the pandemic. Now, their very existence is in jeopardy

In one online class, a yellow cat

Friday morning, five College of William and Mary students – some of them in focus, others a bit blurry – followed along via Zoom as Professor David Feldman drew economic models on a whiteboard. He asked periodically if the class could see the board. They nodded yes as he continued drawing. 

Watching Feldman alone was like being in any college classroom in America. Then, on one of the students' screens, a door slowly swung open. A furry yellow cat popped into the student's lap. 

Hardly anyone noticed, and the rest of Feldman's lecture went off without a hitch. Students were even able to break off into digital groups to talk about local and national economies. 

Zoom has an option to ping the instructor, a digital raising of the hand. Most of the students opted instead to raise their hands in real life. Feldman could spot them easily.

After an hour, their cameras snapped off. For Feldman, digital lectures allow him to provide almost all the information he would have been able to share in person. That's not representative of higher education as a whole, he acknowledged.A dance or auto mechanic class, for example, wouldn't translate in the same way. 

Some have suggested, he said, this may be a time to determine how effective higher education is at teaching students online, but that would be a mistake. The circumstances are extreme, and most professors have had only days or a couple of weeks to prepare for the change. What's more, any suggestion that switching to online classes will save universities money is incorrect.

For one, they still have to pay tenured professors such as Feldman toteach the classes. It also costs universities money to afford the infrastructure to roll out the classes. 

"The quality is going to go down, and the cost is going to go up," he said. 

Pornography on a class screen

If Feldman's class is the best-case example, then the worst might be student Ian Castle's experience during an online class from the State University of New York at Albany.

He was unsure of what to expect for his course, "Information in the 21st Century," but it quickly became clear putting the course online would be a problem. 

Within Zoom, he said, someone had posted pornography on a shared screen. Racial slurs followed shortly after. The person responsible remained disruptive, Castle said, by swearing and harassing students in the chat channel. Eventually, the professor gave up. About 15 minutes in, she apologized and canceled the class. 

"I'm really frustrated because it kind of seemed like we're back in middle school," Castle  said. "It was just frustrating that one to two students, or however many were doing it, were ruining it for a whole class." 

Experiences such as Castle's have been reported at universities nationally. Zoom published a guide to stave off bad behavior. Castle's class meets only once a week. He said his mother taught him to view every class as a portion of the tuition paid, so he feels cheated out of both instructional time and money. (The professor later sent out a recording of the lecture.)

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, a spokesman for the university, said it was aware of a class disrupted by racial slurs, and its IT department was working to identify the person responsible. The university changed the default settings on Zoom sessions and instructed faculty to make sure only students have access to the classes. 

"For context, we have about 1,000 scheduled classes on Tuesdays this semester, Carleo-Evangelist said. "Given the short turnaround, we are incredibly proud of how well our faculty have risen to the unprecedented challenge of so quickly converting their classes to remote instruction." 

Castle, like many students, said he learns more from in-person instruction. He misses being with his friends and taking advantage of campus amenities. He and his girlfriend had just started attending the gym regularly, and now they're trying workarounds at home such as pushups. For weights, he turns to his textbooks. 

Though he is frustrated, Castle said he realizes his situation may be one of the easier ones to handle.

"I imagine there's a lot of students who, although they can afford going to college, cannot afford things such as WiFi, a laptop, a nice pair of headphones, or who don't even have access to a quiet place to study," he said.

Juggling child care, missing graduations

Beyond technical challenges are the disruptions to a person's life caused by the coronavirus.

Vanessa Fonseca-Chávez, an English professor at Arizona State University, said many of the institution's students work in the service industry and are out of work as a result of the virus.

One of her students said her child was suddenly trying to learn at home. The student joked she didn't know who would pass their classes, her or her 6-year-old. 

Part of making things more bearable for students is altering the expectations for what they need to do. Fonseca-Chávez was teaching a graduate-level course this semester that met only once a week for three hours. She knew that was not going to work online. 

"That seems awful to put it very bluntly," she said. "Both for the students and for myself." 

She shifted some of their discussions of literary texts to online message boards. Presentations that were meant to be in front of the class have been shortened significantly. 

For the most part, the students seem to grasp the tweaks to the class, she said. One emailed her to ask if she was using the course's message boards correctly. 

"I said, 'Really, I'm just looking for the best that you can give right now.' We can't have the same expectations of them," Fonseca-Chávez said. "You know, our world is a little bit turned upside down right now." 

Del Valle, the Fordham senior, is also adjusting. She lives with her father, mother and three siblings, which can be hectic. Her mother is also in college, and she hasn't handled the transition to digital classes as well. 

"I'm like a tech expert for her," Del Valle said. 

She assumed the transition to digital classes would be simple for her and her peers, since they grew up familiar with video chat technology. The challenge, she said, is relying on the programs to work or finding a decent internet connection. 

This is Del Valle's last year of undergraduate studies, and it's unclear whether the university will host its commencement ceremony.

Normally, Del Valle, 21, would be on campus enjoying the last few weeks of the semester. Instead, she is at home. Amid stay-at-home orders and a tanking economy, her plans for the future, possibly graduate school and moving to Virginia with her fiance, are on hold. She lamented that she can't attend events such as job fairs on campus that might have offered her a sense of what she could do next. 

"You can't relive your last semester of your senior year," she said. "I've just been sitting here in my room thinking of all the times I took for granted." 

Will small colleges make it? They were already on the brink. Now, they're threatened by coronavirus

Education coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation does not provide editorial input.

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Here Are Some Of The Best Online Learning Platforms Right Now - Forbes

Posted: 02 Apr 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Online learning used to be considered somewhat inferior, but the quality of online courses have come a long way since then. And now, in addition to traditional universities adding online courses to their offerings, tons of online platforms offer different takes on the new style of learning. The trick is finding the one that suits you and your educational needs.

To help get started, here are three of the best online learning platforms to check out, whether you're looking for one-off college courses or creative-specific options, or you want to earn a degree.

Best for the Average Learner: Udemy

Price: Varies and is priced per course

Advantage: Access over 150,000 courses (taught in over 65 languages) in a wide range of subjects

Udemy is a massive repository of online courses, with topics ranging widely on topics like development, business, finance, IT, office productivity, personal development, design, marketing, photography, health, music and teaching and academics.

The look and feel of Udemy's courses may vary, as lectures can include audio, video and text elements, as well as quizzes (though not all of those elements are required.) And each one is created and managed by the instructor. Students can, however, preview courses to make sure that those are in line with their expectations. You'd also be able to request a full refund within the first 30 days of purchase if you aren't satisfied. Once you pay, you'd get lifetime access to the course, and the platform gives students certificates of completion at the end.

The cost of each class can vary widely, with some in the $15 to $20 range and others costing upwards of $200. Due to Udemy's course-based pricing model, it may prove a better option for those who are interested in learning specific skills, rather than dipping their toe in many diverse fields.

Udemy is also available in app form, for both iPhones and Androids.

Best for Creatives: Skillshare

Price: $19 per month (or $99 if you go for the annual subscription)

Advantage: Quick hits of creativity from experts on a mobile-friendly platform

Skillshare offers video-based courses in areas like animation, design, illustration, lifestyle, photography, film, business and writing.

Skillshare courses are designed and taught by prominent artists, writers and other creatives. These typically consist of a series of short video lessons, with many of the courses themselves taking an hour or less to complete. That said, there are also "assigned" exercises and prompts that you can do to enhance the experience and practice what you've learned. You can even share projects based on the lessons with others who have taken the course. And since it's a membership-based platform, you'd be able to access all of the courses on the site.

If you go with annual billing, the cost of accessing this platform works out to $8.25 per month. The company also has pricing options for businesses, though there's no group discount if you were to opt for the "starter" plan, which costs $99 per user, per year. The best deal actually comes from the gift card option, which can shave $3 off the annual cost. Or, if you opt for a three-month gift card, you'd save $21, as compared to the monthly billing option. Or, if you're a student, you could save 50% off the cost of a premium membership by registering with a valid .edu address.

Skillshare also offers many free courses, if you're interested in seeing what their courses look like for yourself.

Best for Academics: Coursera

Price: Varies depending on the course and track, but starts at about $39 per course

Advantage: Access university courses at a discount and get industry-recognized credentials

Coursera is an online learning platform that can give students access to academic courses and can even lead to a University degree, for less than the typical cost of attending such courses or programs in person. Topics range widely, including subjects like arts and humanities, math and logic, I.T., languages and beyond.

The classes you'd find over 4,000 courses on this platform, from over 200 universities and companies, including Yale, Google and the University of Pennsylvania. There are several types of courses and programs offered: Regular courses, specializations (which focus on skills mastery), professional certificates (aimed at helping job-seekers rise above the rest), master track certificates (which include modules from masters programs) and online degrees from universities. The cost and time required to complete each type of course or program varies widely.

For example, a regular course may cost $39 and take four to six weeks to finish, while an online degree starts at $9,000 and can take one to four years to complete. Regardless, you'd get some sort of certificate at the end of your course or program, which can help you do things like find a job or earn a raise. The experience of the courses themselves might vary slightly as well, but in general, students can anticipate things like video lectures, self-paced quizzes, group forums and hands-on projects on the docket. And, like the other platforms on this list, Coursera is mobile-friendly, so you can learn from anywhere.

It's also worth noting that Coursera offers hundreds of free courses, which can also help prospective students get a feel for the platform.

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