Online undergrads learn equally well without class bond

College students participating in a new study on online courses said they felt less connected and had a smaller sense of classroom community than those who took the same classes in person – but that didn’t keep online students from performing just as well as their in-person counterparts.

The UNL study gauged students’ perception and performance in three undergraduate science courses that had both online and face-to-face class versions. It found that online students did not feel a sense of cohesion, community spirit, trust or interaction, elements that have been shown to foster effective classroom learning.

At the same time, in the portion of the survey about students’ perception of their own learning, online students reported levels equal to those reported by face-to-face students. And at the end of the day, their grades were equivalent to their in-person peers…

Though the results may suggest that face-to-face courses are no more effective for student learning than online courses, Robert Vavala said they also show that online courses could be even more effective if they could foster a culture of class cohesion, spirit, trust and interaction among students…

“Because online classes lack actual face-to-face contact, instructors face many challenges in creating classroom community. One of those challenges is that community might not be as important to the online student as it is to their in-person peers,” Vavala said.

You get to cheer for the football team on television and stay warm. If you are up for dating classmates, there are always electronic means for meeting and bonding. Email and IM sort out suggestions, criticism and teacher-student dialectics.

Or you can learn and earn just like the rest of us hermits.

Facebook ban preacher used to get off on 4-ways!

A pastor who said Facebook was a “portal to infidelity” – and told married church leaders to delete their accounts or resign – once testified that he took part in group sex with his wife and a male church assistant.

Rev Cedric Miller confirmed the information reported yesterday by the Asbury Park Press of Neptune, New Jersey, which cited testimony he gave in court in 2003. The activities had ended by that time…

The 48-year-old leader of the Living Word Christian Fellowship church in Neptune claimed Facebook ignites old passions, and ordered about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts or resign from their leadership positions…

In court testimony he gave in April 2003, Miller said his wife had an extramarital affair with an assistant at the church. Miller said he participated in many of the sexual encounters and the assistant’s wife was sometimes present, too.

Miller said the activities – which occurred in the Millers’ home – sometimes took place during Thursday Bible study meetings and on Sundays after church.

All of this, uh, before Facebook became enough of a big deal to cop the holy rolling preacher some extra headline space.

Just another hypocrite and hustler.

U.S. deploys Abrams tanks to Afghanistan


Soviet tank graveyard outside Kabul, Afghanistan

The U.S. military is sending a contingent of heavily armored battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, defense officials said, a shift that signals a further escalation in the aggressive tactics that have been employed by American forces this fall to attack the Taliban.

The deployment of a company of M1 Abrams tanks, which will be fielded by the Marines in the country’s southwest, will allow ground forces to target insurgents from a greater distance – and with more of a lethal punch – than is possible from any other U.S. military vehicle. The 68-ton tanks are propelled by a jet engine and equipped with a 120mm main gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away…

The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October – 1,000 total – than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges – a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past – to blast through minefields…

The tanks bring awe, shock and firepower,” the officer said. “It’s pretty significant…” [Sound familiar?]

The Marines had wanted to take tanks into Afghanistan when they began deploying in large numbers in spring 2009, but the top coalition commander then, Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, rejected the request, in part because of concern it could remind Afghans of the tank-heavy Soviet occupation in the 1980s… [And we all know how well that worked out.]

“Petraeus believes counterinsurgency does not mean just handing out sacks of wheat seed,” said a senior officer in Afghanistan. Counterinsurgency”doesn’t mean you don’t blow up stuff or kill people who need to be killed.”

RTFA. Counterinsurgency also sounds like it’s beginning to mean protecting a defensive perimeter, enclaves for Americans and the lip-service NATO detachments to hide in.

Tanks are useless in high-angle approaches to guerilla bases in the mountains which are a significant part of Afghanistan. The same tactics used to trash Abrams tanks in the cities and towns of Iraq will be used against them in Afghanistan. They will be used to provide mobile defensive armament for regional Green Zones.

California Condors facing threat from DDT

Four years ago, in a musky, leaf-lined cavity halfway up a 200-foot redwood tree here, two California condors made the region’s first known nesting attempt in more than a century.

Joe Burnett, a senior wildlife biologist with the Ventana Wildlife Society and the lead biologist for the Central California condor recovery program, who had been monitoring the condor pair, was delighted with this promising development in the continuing effort to save the nation’s largest bird from extinction. When this first breeding attempt proved unsuccessful, Mr. Burnett attributed it to the young birds’ inexperience. But when he climbed the giant tree to examine the abandoned nest, he was stunned at what he uncovered: the first evidence of a potentially significant new hurdle for the condor program.

“The eggshell fragments we found appeared abnormally thin,” Mr. Burnett said. “They were so thin that we had to run tests to confirm that it was a condor egg.” The fragments reminded him of the thin-shelled eggs from birds like brown pelicans and peregrine falcons, which had been devastated by DDT but are now on the rebound.

The discovery raised a disturbing question: could DDT — the deadly pesticide that has been banned in the United States since 1972 — produce condor reproductive problems nearly four decades later?

RTFA. Finding a potential source for DDT poisoning of the condors wasn’t difficult. The world’s biggest producer used to crank it out by the ton – and dispose of their waste by dumping it into the Los Angeles County sewer system.

We have a wonderful tradition of poisoning the land and water where we live.

You think you’re safe – as inspectors falsify subway records

Safety workers at New York City Transit falsified thousands of inspections of the track signals that direct trains in the subway system, deeming the signals safe even though those inspections had never taken place, according to an investigation by the inspector general of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The signals, which keep appropriate distances between trains to prevent accidents, have since been reinspected and found to be safe, transit officials said Friday. The officials said there was no imminent danger to riders.

But the reports, which encompassed signals found on subway lines across the city, caused enough concern that the inspector general, Barry L. Kluger, shared his findings with subway management before finishing his own report.

The falsified reports have been a problem for years and may have stemmed from pressure from managers trying to meet in-house inspection quotas, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation. It is possible the investigation could lead to criminal charges, said the officials, who asked to be anonymous because of the continuing inquiry…

It is not the first time that safety workers in the subway have been found to have falsified such inspections. A nearly identical situation was revealed by the inspector general in 2000…

The inquiry was said to be nearly done, and transit officials said they were working with the inspector general on the findings.

The hilarious bit, of course, is that million$ are being spent to assure safety from terrorist activities when the greatest likelihood of danger apparently comes from sleazy inspections from lower level civil servants and technicians who simply aren’t doing their job.

Snowmass fossil site discovery in Colorado


Mammoth fossils turned up by earthmover

An Ice Age fossil site recently discovered in Snowmass Village, Colorado, is providing a trio of U.S. Geological Survey scientists with a laboratory to study more than 100,000 years of vegetation and climate records in Colorado.

The USGS team is studying about 22 feet of fossil-bearing sediments from the…excavation, which appear to encompass more than 100,000 years of prehistoric time…

“A vegetation and climate record that covers this much time at such a high altitude—about 8800 feet—is unprecedented in Colorado to our knowledge,” said Jeff Pigati, a USGS geologist on the team.

Sediments that contain the fossils appear to have been deposited in a small lake or marsh that formed when a stream was dammed by a glacial moraine, or accumulation of glacier debris, at least 130,000 years ago…

The Ziegler Reservoir megafauna site was discovered while crews were enlarging the reservoir, which provides water to Snowmass Village and, to some extent, the nearby ski area for making snow…

Thanks to a bulldozer operator who knew enough to apply the brakes, notify folks what he’d unearthed.