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Click to see the courses!(Click on the thumbnail to see the courses!) A few times in the past I've written about Distance Education. As you may know, I've been teaching via Distance Ed for over 15 years now for free, and have even developed my own DE software. This week I came across a fascinating story on the Web: at http://www.udacity.com/ you can take several university-level courses for free. As their Facebook page says, "Udacity is a digital university on a mission to democratize education." They believe higher education should be free, or almost so. It may cost something to issue certificates of course completion and a diploma, but they estimate a master's degree should cost about $100.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. - Albert Einstein

The "Featured Courses" are Intro to Statistics - Making Decisions Based on Data (beginner level), Software Testing - How to Make Software Fail (intermediate level), and Artificial Intelligence - Programming a Robotic Car (advanced level). In all they offer three beginner level, five intermediate level, and three advanced level courses. Students can study at their own pace, as well as in a group. Udacity was founded by three roboticists from Stanford University who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in their first class, "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence." One of the instructors, Sebastian Thrun, taught 200 students per class at Stanford, but through Udacity he aims to teach 200,000 students per class. Instructors use digital video and other software to teach thousands of students per class.

Interactions such as multiple-choice single-answer, multiple-choice multiple-answers, matching, true-false and yes-no can be graded automatically, but not all types of courses can be "ramped up" to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students per class - called MOOCs for "Massive Online Open Classrooms." Courses that are writing-intensive still require an instructor to manually evaluate students' written responses. But even writing-intensive courses can include some computer-graded interactions, and such online courses could reduce the costs of higher education by about 80% since they drastically reduce the "bricks-and-mortar" expenses of traditional in-house classes. Both "MOOCs" and "WICs" (Writing-Intensive Courses) should include forums where students can answer discussion questions and help each other. The article Bricks vs. Clicks? lists the benefits and drawbacks of Distance Learning.

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Udacity is just one of the participants shown at www.Class-Central.com, which lists 72 free courses offered by instructors from Stanford, Princeton and Harvard Universities as well as Massachusets Institute of Technology (MIT). Each course has a short intro video on YouTube that anyone can watch. After teaching online for about ten years using DE software that I developed with "wizards" for discussion forums, multiple-choice single-answer, multiple-choice multiple-answers, matching, true-false and yes-no questions, the institution I now teach at caused me to convert my six courses to Moodle, a free open-source Course Management System (CMS) that's used in over 66,000 educational institutions all over the world. One of the leading institutions using Moodle is MyLinE in Indonesia, teaching English for free to over 450,000 students.

Also, as the name implies, www.free-ed.net offers dozens of freee courses. Of course, Google is involved too: Google in Education offers almost-free software and other services for students, teachers, and institutions. And as I mentioned in my Feb. 25, 2012 issue, you can study over 2,700 quality online high school-level courses for free at Khan Academy, study over 2,000 university-level courses from MIT at MIT OpenCourseWare and even collaborate together with other students at MIT OpenStudy. Hundreds of accredited institutions offer Associate, Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate degrees: see www.OnlineCollegeDegrees.net.

The Security Blurb:
The secret's out for secure chip design. It appears that some computer chips that are used for secure computing may not be so secure after all: circuitry built in to the chips can be used to steal secrets. Ever since that big wooden horse was left at the gates of Troy, "secret ways in have been built into security systems for as long as such systems have existed," states this article. I'm convinced that even 256-bit SSL encryption must have a backdoor built in, or else intelligence agencies around the world wouldn't let it be used.

Some spy agencies are doing it: Meet 'Flame,' The Massive Spy Malware Infiltrating Iranian Computers. Much larger and more sophisticated than Stuxnet, Flame has infected computers all over the Middle East, mainly in Iran. As the article explains, "Among Flame's many modules is one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer's near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and e-mail communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers? command-and-control servers." A New York Times investigator has attributed Flame to U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Why was it not discovered earlier, if it has been spreading for two to five years? - Because its modules were digitally signed with a Microsoft security certificate! This week Microsoft released an emergency update cancelling that security certificate.

The goal of our CN.Net-News is to share information that we think you'll find helpful as you wrestle with that little monster on your desk or at your side, your computer. And we aim to present this information from a Christian worldview. Thanks for your time!

Best regards,

"Dr. Bob the CompuNerd"

Robert D hoskEN
See the "nerd" in my name? (It helps if you're a little dyslexic!)
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