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Monday, June 25, 2012

TCU eLearning: Mapping Tools

Mapping Tools

Where in the world are we? A handful of great digital mapping resources have come to my attention lately. In addition to geography courses, these websites would fit nicely in history, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, foreign language, and even literature courses; maps are also a wonderful addition to digital storytelling projects.

First, a few specific resources:

If the ancient world is your thing, ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World would be a wonderful classroom addition. Like a travel site for ancient world, users can select their departure point and destination, the time of year travel is to take place, their method of travel, and their goal (speed or cost savings). The site then maps a route. No better way to bring home how ideas, people, and commerce might - and might not - spread. (Thanks to Chris Clark at Notre Dame's Kaneb Center for tipping me off to this resource.)

There are two great interactive projects related to slavery in the United States. First, National Geographic has a great digital branching story about the Underground Railroad. In this simulation, users make choices and receive feedback as they attempt to journey from Maryland to Canada. Though plenty of historical images and rich descriptions accompany each step, there are no useable map images.

The above site, however, would pair nicely with Visualizing Emancipation, a project from the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond (funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities). Visualizing Emancipation specifically focuses on the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War; data was gathered from a detailed study of primary documents including runaway slave notices, articles about returned slaves, troop locations, seasonal patterns, and instances of African-Americans helping the Union. For another review, you can consult the article in Chronicle of Higher Education about the project.

And now some more general digital mapping resources:

The United Nations Cartographic Section has a great list of regional political maps (all in an easy to use and re-use PDF format), maps about current peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions, and a small selection of institutional, historical, and regional maps. If you'd like a map of the Okavango River basin, they've got it. For more extensive geopolitical maps and facts,the CIA World Factbook is a great resource; this site even supports country-to-country comparisons, audio files of national anthems, and includes detailed information about each country.

I'd be remiss not to direct to you one of the finest digital map archives online, the Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas. Like the UN site, they have maps related to current events, but their collection also includes general interest maps, historical maps, and fully digitized versions of several historical atlases.

For a more interactive map experience, check out the University of Oregon's Mapping History Project. Broken down by region and time period, these maps allow you to move a slider along the bottom of the map to illustrate the chronological progression of political, social, economic, and intellectual events. Sadly, they seem to be missing a section on Asia.

Last, to round out this survey of mapping resources, here's a great little animation reviewing how astronomers learned to measure celestial distances.


Tomorrow's Professor: University Governance and Common Pool Resources

University Governance and Common Pool Resources

Aligning faculty incentives to desired institutional outcomes is a challenge to university governance. One reason for this difficulty is that academic departments jointly produce and use common pool resources (CPRs). Faculty members share the costs and benefits of building and maintaining the quality of a department. Because a department?s benefits and costs are shared, there is a tendency for some faculty to minimize the time and effort devoted to improving the common pool while claiming a large a share of the pool for themselves. They may seek to freeload on the efforts of others. Department chairs will gain insights into governance by considering the resemblance between university departments and CPRs.

Most analyses of CPR management focus on solving the classic ?tragedy of the commons.? In this exemplification, herders share grazing land. They all have incentives to overgraze the shared land because the individual herder will not bear the full cost of feeding his or her herd; the cost will be largely born by other grazers whose cattle will have less grass. The common grazing land will be overused. Recognizing that analogous situations are present in academic departments will help explain why some practices exist and also help guide departmental governance.

An Academic Department as a CPR System

The shared resources in an academic department are difficult to identify because they are more abstract than natural resources. Consider the CPR nature of a department: Quality students, a vibrant intellectual environment, a support budget, and a good reputation are among the resources that faculty members share. Each individual benefits from a quality department that is jointly built. For instance, a good crop of students represents a jointly produced resource and provides joint benefits.

No single faculty member can claim total responsibility. Cohorts of good students help ensure that faculty members will be able to teach their specialty courses or perhaps have opportunities to teach in the summer or intercessions. Certainly, teaching can be more fun with a classroom of students willing and able to grasp and advance traditional course content. Better prepared students make better student workers. Similarly, a lively intellectual environment contributes to the research goals of individual faculty members and enables fruitful discussions on academic topics. A department?s reputation helps generate consulting opportunities for individual members and even contributes to promotions and external job searches. The list could go on. Within a department, faculty contribute to the web of jointly produced CPRs.

An incentive problem can arise when some faculty members attempt to use the CPRs while minimizing their efforts to produce those same resources. Faculty who extract resources from the common pool may believe they can maintain those benefits without extending their own efforts. Lags between the production of departmental resources and their visible dissipation reinforce the idea that lower effort may not reduce the CPRs. Accordingly, there are incentives for individuals to contribute little or nothing to their department?s CPRs while sharing in the benefits of ample students, intellectual energy, good reputation, and so forth. The caricature of the faculty member ignoring important duties to pursue a hobby having nothing to do with the job is well known and may be rational behavior.

Principles for Governing an Academic CPR System

Traditionally, only two solutions to inefficiencies created by CPR were considered: (1) reward individuals for the full costs and benefits of their actions (privatization), or (2) give government authority to set the rules. In a university setting both approaches imply micromanagement in the form of either developing very specific performance criteria and compensating faculty members according to their performance under those rules, or administratively dictating work duties. Both approaches are often associated with the corporate governance model. When applied to a department, these approaches are likely to be inefficient because faculty jobs are neither standardized nor routine. Attempts to make them so risk resulting in ?work to the rule? behavior, uncovered tasks, and missed opportunities.

Elinor Ostrom received the 2009 Noble Prize in economics for her analysis of successful CPR governance systems that were biologically based (such as fisheries and irrigation systems). She concluded that institutions can successfully govern CPR systems without either detailing a reward structure or centralized task assignments. She identified eight design principles that characterize successful CPR systems. To the extent that academic departments have CPR characteristics, Ostrom?s design principles

may be recognized in departmental policies and provide guidance for departmental administration. A caveat, however, is that the design principles cannot be implemented in a mechanical manner. They should be customized to fit the characteristics of individual departments.

1. Defined beneficiary of success.

In academic contexts, this principle implies that individuals who benefit from the accomplishments of a strong department must be limited. The restrictions prevent other claimants in the university from totally dissipating the rewards earned by another department?s efforts. This design principle does not negate the possibility that some benefits from one department spill over to other units, but it ensures that a certain portion remains with the department. Clear boundaries are necessary to make certain that departments can be effective units from which to launch the efforts needed.

2. Convergence between rules and environmental conditions is necessary.

In the case of academic departments, this principle implies that governance rules should conform to the characteristics of the discipline and the university. For instance, the rules governing student performance, external service, or publications should differ among departments because they function in different environments.

3. Individuals affected by the rules should have a voice in modifying the rules.

This principle is satisfied in most departments, although the degree of ?voice? does vary between strong and weak chair systems. Within university contexts this principle is important because of the variety of specialized tasks that faculty perform. When departmental standards are modified, faculty members probably know the consequences as well as or better than higher level administrators.

4. Contributions necessary to develop and use common resources should be monitored by individuals who developed and use the CPRs.

This rule puts the responsibility for monitoring activities closest to the individuals who have knowledge of those who are shirking activity and the incentive to avoid it. For instance, faculty members are likely to know the value of their colleagues? scholarship, teaching, and service better than anyone else. The principle is manifest in peer review evaluation processes.

5. Sanctions for inadequate performance should be graduated.

Suppose a faculty member is cutting office hours in order to consult?a relatively minor infraction at most universities. If no sanction occurred, the violator may decide that no one?s behavior is monitored and so others are freeriding. Thus, he or she will too. Graduated sanctions may curtail the nonconforming behavior, inform violators that others who disregard the rule will also be sanctioned, and increase the expected costs of future violations. An initial sanction might be as small as

?I noticed you missed office hours. Is anything wrong??

6. Conflict resolution mechanisms should be available.

Good administrators know there are at least two sides to every story. Yet some management models implicitly assume the existence

of an omnipotent judge. Faculty members violate rules for a variety of reasons including willful, honest mistakes, or the vagaries of circumstance. Lacking a conflict resolution mechanism, all violations would be treated the same.

7. Individuals producing CPRs should have the ability to devise their own ways of achieving ends.

This principle implies that departments should have a degree of rule-setting authority and the chair should support individual faculty members? decisions of authority. If a central administration assumed that only they have rule-setting authority, it is likely the department members will refrain from introducing new, more efficient ways of doing things.

8. Governance systems are organized in nested enterprises and each organization must conform to larger systems.

This design principle clearly applies to biological systems where interdependence is the touchstone of ecological perspective. Departments are nested within colleges, which are in turn nested within universities, which are nested in statewide systems. Establishing rules at one level that are inconsistent with rules at another level will create inefficiencies or a systems breakdown. For instance, if a department has a travel policy that differs from the university?s, faculty could build plans around a conference, only to find that their plans will not be funded.

Ostrom?s design principles reflect features common to many long-lasting CPR governance systems. Like other CPR systems, academic departments rely on resources that are jointly produced and shared; thus, departments must address efficiency problems common to other organizations that use CPRs. The recognition of the CPR nature of academic departments helps explain the reasons many departments are governed as they are. Chairs can also use the design principles to create and modify concrete rules and processes tailored to their unique and changing contexts.


Emily A. Wickelgren is associate professor and vice chair of psychology at Sacramento State University. Nathaniel J. Blair is lecturer in psychology at Sacramento State University. John P. Blair is professor of economics at Wright State University.

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.


13 Websites That Offer Free eBooks for Teachers

13 Websites That Offer Free eBooks for Teachers

Are you looking for a way to save you and your students some money? If you’re not against going digital, try perusing these 13 websites for FREE electronic versions of the books you teach in class. On average, using one free eBook instead of a printed copy can save your class around $450!

Bartleby publishes digital versions of thousands of free classics including literature and nonfiction.

2. E-Books Directory
E-Books Directory is home to around 1,700 free electronic textbooks, documents and lecture notes.

3. eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide in Australia offers a very user-friendly eBook search experience. You can browse the books it offers by author, title or by using the Google-powered search function.

4. Flat World Knowledge
Flat World Knowledge is the world's largest publisher of free college textbooks.

5. Free eBook-s
A free eBook search engine that allows you to search the internet for already-known eBook listings.

6. Google Books
With Google Books, you can search (shocking, I know) and preview millions of books from libraries and publishers around the world.

7. Many Books
Many Books is an index of over 29,000 free works that can be searched by author or title.

8. NeoTake
NeoTake is neat for a couple of reasons. First, this website has indexed over 5.4 million eBooks and ePrints (not all of which are free). Second, it allows you to read reviews so that you can select the best version for your class.

9. Open Culture
Open Culture provides links to 300 free eBooks including Don Quixote, Heart of Darkness, The Red Badge of Courage, Les Miserables, Animal Farm, MacBeth and The War of the Worlds.

10. Open Library
The headline on the Open Library website is, “The World's classic literature at your fingertips. Over 1,000,000 free eBook titles available.” ‘Nuff said?

11. Planet eBook
All of the electronic novels and books that are available on Planet eBook are free for you to download and share with your students and colleagues.

12. Project Gutenburg
Project Gutenberg offers 39,000 free eBooks. Some of the top downloads are The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Frankenstein, Dracula and Jane Eyre.

13. Science Books Online
I’m guessing that you already have an idea of the kind of eBooks that Science Books Online offers, but in case you’re not feeling very imaginative today, this website lists free science eBooks, textbooks, lecture notes, monographs and other science-related documents.