Charlottesville Breaking News

Spooked by MOOCs: UVA tip-toes into online education

Online education is a touchy subject at UVA. As the university prepares to offer 11 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) this fall, the "unpleasantness" of last summer looms over the enterprise.

Indeed, when former Rector Helen Dragas and Vice-Rector Mark Kington made the decision last summer to oust UVA President Teresa Sullivan, sending the University community into turmoil and creating one of the worst PR disasters in UVA history, it, in part, was over Sullivan's alleged failure to move ahead fast enough with online education. As emails revealed, Dragas believed the University "couldn't afford to wait" on implementing an online education program, citing Harvard and MIT's $60-million investment in online course platform company edX, and that administrators and academics like Sullivan were dragging their feet.

Ironically, Sullivan had already signed off on a partnership between UVA and a company called Coursera that summer to begin offering online classes. The attempted coup was a failure. Sullivan was reinstated, and the plan to enter into the world of online education moved forward. In January 2013, UVA offered three experimental MOOCs.

Still, the traumatic events of last summer reverberate at the University, and some professors are moving ahead with the new technology with caution.

"The University of Virginia went through a horrific leadership crisis in part because of disagreements about the value and pace of online education," say...

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Name game: Call me "Grandma" or else

Dear Carolyn:
When my grandson was born, I thought it was the greatest thing, and it probably is. However, he is 8 and his parents told him it is OK to call me by my first name. I do not agree. He has, but for a few times, not called me Grandma. Also, they combined their two last names, my son and daughter-in-law, not hyphenated, as his last name.

I am a very warm person but so hurt that I have lost my closeness to my grandson. It is very hard, and I feel myself distancing my feelings toward him. My son does not feel their way is wrong. What is in a name or a title that makes it so important?
– A Lost Grandma

To be sure I'm reading you correctly: You feel distant from your grandson because of these two naming issues, and not because anyone prevents you from seeing this child?

Carolyn: He comes to my home usually on the weekends to visit and spend some time with me. I feel so distant and hurt because of the last-name issue and because he calls me by my first name.
– Lost Grandma again

It's as if someone journeyed barefoot from the corners of the earth to deliver you a sapphire, and you're (peeved) it's not a ruby. If I agree to call you Grandma, will you stop being so blockheaded about one of the most precious things life has to offer? That might be the best deal I have for you, because...

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Solar flare paranoia? Go with a '70s car and tinfoil

Dear Tom and Ray:    
With talk about the potential (though unlikely) event of a large solar flare directly hitting Earth, some high-tech engineering types are discussing the merits of using homemade Faraday cages to protect electronics and power-generating equipment and vehicle computers. Rather than place in the garage a large, galvanized steel container that's large enough to park a car in after the container has been lined with insulation and add a conductive layer around the car, I'm thinking it would be more practical to just buy a spare car and maintain it, albeit one that does not have any electronic controls. I'm thinking a carbureted vehicle built before the '80s would do the trick.

The question I have is, would a car with a carburetor built prior to 1980 continue to run (assuming that it can run OK prior to this potential event) after Earth has been hit with a large solar flare, similar to the Carrington Event of 1859, which was strong enough to cause electrical shocks to telegraph operators? Also, what would be a suggested vehicle to keep for such an event? – Larry  

RAY: Well, we all remember what chaos the world was cast into after the 1859 Carrington Event, Larry. Life, as we knew it, was extinguished. I mean, try finding a telegraph operator today! Where are they? You think it's a coincidence that you can't find a telegraph operator anymore? &...

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The week in review

Biggest box: The Albemarle Board of Supervisors okays a 155,000-square-foot Costco at Stonefield in a 4-2 vote, with Ken Boyd and Petie Craddock voting against. Costco threatened to ditch Charlottesville if it couldn't be at Stonefield.

Biggest swing: The supes approve a resolution September 11 recognizing August 26 as Women's Equality Day and the 93rd anniversary of women's right to vote. The board shot down an earlier version last month.

Most tainted? Attorneys for Taybronne White, who's charged with first-degree murder in a 2011 triple slaying, ask that his charges be dismissed or evidence barred after Greene County evidence custodian James Shifflett is convicted of felony embezzlement, including pilfering money from sealed evidence bags in White's case. White is accused of killing Charlottesville residents Brian Robert Daniels, 26, Dustin Tyler Knighton, 25, and Lisa Hwang, 26, who were found dead along a Greene road. K. Burnell Evans has the story in the DP.

Worst: Thirteen-year-old Alexandra Babaevadies of Richmond dies September 15 after falling off a cliff near Humpback Rocks at the Greenstone Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where she was picnicking wit...

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Risk assessment: After 'Molly' deaths, former UVA students consider danger

A young patient lies recovering at the University of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Poison Control Center after being treated for a severe drug overdose.

The drug in question is thought to be ecstasy, the common name for the far less sexy-sounding "Methylenedioxymethamphetamine," or MDMA, a psychoactive stimulant and popular recreational drug that burst onto the college party and club scene back in the early '80s and was criminalized by the FDA in 1986.  

“I don’t know what happened,” the patient says, awaking in the hospital after being treated for some of the potentially devastating side effects that can include drug-induced dehydration, overhydration and seizures.

It’s something that Dr. Chris Holstege, the Center's director of medical toxicology, says he has heard many times from young adults who took the drug for the euphoria it produces. In fact, from the late '70s to the mid-80s an estimated half million doses were administered by psychiatric professionals studying the drug's effect on trauma survivors, according to a 1994 article in Psychology Today. Multiple recent studies published in peer reviewed journals including Addiction and the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggest MDMA can be a powerful tool in treating the psychological effects of trauma.

Other studies, however, offer a grimme...

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