The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Month: July 2014

Standing At The Mean

Sam Halperin  is currently a Programming Instructor at Thinkful. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Science in Software Engineering. He is working on a doctorate in Computer Science, and also blogs at www.samhalperin.com

Experimentation enabled by advances in low-cost consumer virtual reality hardware and software.

A few months ago, after a long hacking session with a genetic algorithm (an algorithm that evolves a solution from “chromosomes” over time),Pic1 Unity Game Engine (a 3D video game engine) and an Oculus Rift immersive display, I had what I think is a unique experience:   Creating a data set with the GA, writing a renderer that transformed the data into geometry, hues and color values, and piping the output to a head mounted display, I was able to don the goggles and somewhat literally walk around and stand at the mean of the data set and look around.  For me, this view into the data was a transformative personal experience, if not a scientifically valid approach to understanding data.

Weeks later a second experiment emerged, this time using sensor data attached to a stationary bicycle to drive the view-camera in a virtual environment.   This apparatus had been part of a somewhat Quixotic quest for a virtual reality based active gaming Sampost2experience.  Once implemented, it represented the faintest surface scratch into the vast requirements of art, engineering, sound, theatre and animation that actually make up a production game, but a uniquely satisfying experiment.

The most recent experiment in this set leveraged design training and demonstrated the architectural visualization pipeline from consumer-grade modeller (SketchUp) to virtual reality experience.  This product, like the other two, was also the “first 20%” of effort, (see The Pareto Principle), but uniquely satisfying. The video from the work has been retweeted many times and had over 1800 views since it has been up, and I have received numerous requests for collaboration on similar projects. (http://youtu.be/mJLK_t0bTYA)

Clearly there is a growing mass movement representing a desire for this type of virtual reality technology.  The defining factor in my experience thougsampic3h, as differs from virtual reality experimentation in the past, was that this work didn’t require access to a university
lab, defense contractor or space agency. This access is possible due to a sea change in VR technology driven by the release of the Oculus Rift Head Mounted Display.

Beginning with the release of the Oculus Rift, and followed closely by other projects, VR technology is beginning to permeate as a consumer level technology.  My bike-vr project is actually one of a few similar experiments documented in the various online communities surrounding the technology.  There is a growing community of VR hackers (perhaps a better term is maker) throughout the world, and the level of experimentation has grown exponentially.

My involvement in this work is only beginning, but I am tremendously optimistic that the technology itself represents a positive force for our ability to visualize problems, to communicate with each other, and to be present in environments that we wouldn’t normally be able to experience — across history, geography, scale and any other limits.

Question: What is the value of “being present” and experiencing virtual environments in this way?  What is the value of “standing at the mean”, and how does it differ from viewing a place, a time or a dataset on a traditional computer monitor?  What are the drawbacks?

Answer: The experience of presence with this type of display is so powerful that it can actually make the viewer nauseous, experiencing a sort of simulator sickness approaching seasickness.   At the same time, intelligently engineered virtual environments, built with this in mind can fool the brain in a more positive direction, producing joy, fright, sadness, even the perception of temperature changes.  This is not an experience that is common to interaction with a smartphone or tablet.

Current VR work of interest is quite vibrant and diverse, spanning topics such as “redirected walking” techniques for navigating large virtual environments by walking around small laboratories[1], the study of “oculesics”, where eye movements are tracked and communicated across networks to enhance communication[2], and the exploration of very large datasets using large laboratory installations ringed by huge arrays of displays[3].

See Also

  • [1] Suma, E. A., Bruder, G., Steinicke, F., Krum, D. M., & Bolas, M. (2012). A taxonomy for deploying redirection techniques in immersive virtual environments. Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW), 2012 IEEE, 43–46. doi:10.1109/VR.2012.6180877
  • [2] Steptoe, W., Wolff, R., Murgia, A., Guimaraes, E., Rae, J., Sharkey, P., … & Steed, A. (2008, November). Eye-tracking for avatar eye-gaze and interactional analysis in immersive collaborative virtual environments. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work (pp. 197-200). ACM.
  • [3] Petkov, K., Papadopoulos, C., & Kaufman, A. E. (2013). Visual exploration of the infinite canvas. Virtual Reality (VR), 2013 IEEE, 11–14. doi:10.1109/VR.2013.6549349

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Inside Boston’s Ed-Tech Ecosystem: 8 Players to Watch

written by: Caroline Lyle, BostInno

To learn about our brand new Masters of Science in Online Instructional Design and Technology degree program, register for the next Virtual Open House this Wednesday, July 23rd at 7pm.  

The world doesn’t function as it did a decade ago. Everything from how we communicate, read articles, watch television, even how how we date, has been transformed by technology. It shouldn’t shock, then, that in this hyperconnected world where we walk around with encyclopedias in our pocket, how we learn is also evolving.

In recent years, online education has exploded, not only for the convenience it provides, but for the tremendous potential it presents. As a global source of knowledge and hub of connections, the web opens numerous opportunities to enhance learning. Emerging online programs and platforms have introduced new models for connecting teachers, students, and other stakeholders to optimize the learning experience.

The innovation is only beginning. Educational technology presents a goldmine of opportunity for both academics and entrepreneurs. For telltale evidence of ed-tech’s promising future, one need look no further than the astounding amount of capital being poured into the space. In just the last three months alone, investors have contributed more than $559 million into the ed-tech industry, and this past quarter, investments reached a record-breaking high.

“Investments exceeded $1.25 billion, marking the second straight year the ed-tech sector crossed the billion-dollar line,” BostInno reported.

Leading the ed-tech revolution is Boston. The city’s booming tech scene and renowned institutions of higher education have made Boston an incubator for ed-tech startups, many of which have expanded to reach students and teachers around the globe.

Go inside Boston’s ed-tech ecosystem and meet some of the most influential disruptors born here in the Hub. Some are fledgling startups; others established companies, but all are agents of change, leveraging technology to transform education as we know it.

1. edX

edX

Founded by Harvard and MIT ,edX is a massive online learning platform striving to increase access to education for everyone, everywhere. EdX makes Ivy League learning available to all by partnering with 32 higher education institutions including Stanford, Wellesley, UC Berkeley, and several schools outside the United States. Most recently, the company partnered with Facebook for the new initiative SocialEDU, bringing online education to the unconnected world starting with Rwanda. EdX also expanded the platform to Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

2. Boundless

Boundless

Most students are all too familiar with the exorbitant price of textbooks. Quite often, it’s an expense many simply can’t afford. Boundless believes the materials needed to learn should never be a luxury. In 2011, Boundless launched to democratize education by making textbooks affordable for all. Originally offering online textbooks, Boundless has expanded to offer a vast suite of cloud-powered educational resources for both teachers and students. A recent partnership will integrate Boundless’ content library into Top Hat’s cutting-edge, collaborative teaching platform, allowing teachers to edit and curate content in real-time. The company has raised a total of $10 million in venture funding and reaches more than 3 million students and educators.

3. LearnLaunch

LearnLaunch

LearnLaunch is a key catalyst driving Boston’s booming ed-tech scene. The nonprofit strives to support local ed-tech startups in New England, mostly through their accelerator program,LearnLaunchX, which graduated a fresh class of ed-tech startups in May. When visiting LearnLaunchX, Mayor Marty Walsh commented,”the future really is here in this room.”

4. Lexia Learning

While Boston’s edLexia Learning-tech boom is only a couple years old, one company was a pioneer in educational technology decades before the recent wave of startups. Headquartered in Concord, Massachusetts,Lexia Learning is a globally renowned reading technology company focused on improving students’ literacy. Since it was founded 29 years ago with private funding and grants obtained from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Lexia Learning has continually evolved, innovating the most cutting-edge ways to use technology to build students’ reading skills. In 2008, Lexia earned the EdNet Impact Award for outstanding contributions in education industry. In 2013, it was acquired by Rosetta Stone.

5. Panorama Education

Panorama Education leverages the power of Big Data to help schPanorama Educationools address pressing problems. Panorama provides a survey and analytics platform to conduct surveys either online or on paper and collect constructive feedback. Over 4,000 school districts, charter networks, and state governments use the platform to solve such issues as parent involvement, bullying prevention, school safety and student engagement. Last October, Panorama received $4 million from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s organization Startup:Education and is using the funds to grow their team.

6. EverTrueEverTrue

EverTrue provides a better way for the educational community to connect. Their mobile platform not only serves as an alumni networking hub, but also enables institutions to tap into donor databases and easily fundraise. Following EverTrue’s graduation from Boston Techstars, the company raised $1.3 million, plus an additional $5.25 million in March of 2013. The growing company set up shop in a new office in the Seaport at the end of last year, and continues to show promising growth.

7. peerTransfer

peerTransfer is one of the fastest-growing companies in the Hub. The company saw 400 percent growth last year, expects 200 percent growth in 2014, and has raised a total of $21.2 million.

peerTransfer is on a mission topeerTransfer fix the unfair and broken international tuition payments system. Using peerTransfer, students can simply and securely pay for tuition and fees using their home currency. With so many students getting ripped off, peerTransfer fulfills an urgent need for both students and schools. The company now works with over 350 schools and is on track to process $1 billion this year.

8. Flashnotes

Flashnotes is an online peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling class study materials. After raising $1.5 million last year, Flashnotes has Flashnotesexpanded to include live video tutorials, offering another medium for students to improve their grades and/or make money. In the past year, the company has acquired Moolguides, NoteUtopia, and raised an additional $3.6 million. Over 200 schools are on Flashnotes platform and the company continues to experience high growth month after month

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How Predictive Analytics Can Improve Healthcare

The below is the winning essay for a Brandeis GPS’ contest written by Health and Medical Informatics student, Davis Graham. Join Brandeis GPS is a free webinar 7/17 at 7pm: Long Term CareThe Last EMRFrontier

 

“My specific interest in predictive analytics is the ability to merge the once vacant silos of health information into a model which engages a person into the maintenance of a healthier lifestyle.[1]  Genomics and health information technology has the potential to help predict disease before it becomes chronic.  Predictive analytics will allow us to change from a treatment oriented to a preventive oriented healthcare system contributing to the efficiency of healthcare.

Predictive analytics gives the foundation for an individual to step onto a healthier path in life when substantial knowledge supports the first step.  There is a survival instinct which takes place in every individual when faced with the loss of health or life, giving them a fearlessness to assume responsibility to preserve their health and life.

The key element of a healthier population is engagement and implementation of a program which improves health.  For example, if a person has knowledge from predictive analytics showing they would have a 98% probability of being a candidate for colorectal cancer, then the barriers of fear currently existing in our current health care system would program-hero-strategic-analyticsinspire the patient to seek preventive care.  No one should die of colorectal cancer in this country or in the world.  Getting the patient to have a CT Colonography (CTC) would decrease the mortality rate for colorectal cancer substantially.  The cost of a CTC due to just the volume would decrease into the $250 range.  The current cost at our facility is $495; it costs us $200 to have the CTC read through teleradiology by a radiologist who reads these studies frequently.  Predictive analytics could change the whole landscape of CTC cost by pure volume.  Radiologists who are not reading CT Colonography (CTC) now would learn how to read them and would become experienced because of the increase in volume.

It is my hope that predictive analytics is steering healthcare back to the “doctor-patient relationship” of a patient driven healthcare.[2]  It is my belief that patient driven healthcare is the most efficient and effective way of providing health to a population.  With the aid of predictive analytics, the robust information gained from predictive analytics data will enable a society to engage in healthcare, which would educate the population with Stethoscopeknowledge as to how to predict their health outcomes.  Thus, the future patient population would embrace preventive health.  With patients engaged in their health, predictive analytics could reverse the current wasteful trend of 80% of healthcare expenditures being spent on 20% of the population, to one that is healthier for the economics of a country and a population.[3]  I could see in the future where 70% of the healthcare dollars is spent on 100% of the population with the remaining 30% going to research and development in healthcare and predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics would reverse the 20 to 30% of profits now going to health insurance companies into increased health dollars invested into healthcare.  A great example is William McGuire from United Health Care who earned $1.2 billion in one year.  This should be a light to the world that the $1.2 billion which William McGuire made did not go back into the healthcare system;[4]  it went into his pocket to spend and donate where his personal interests lay.  To put it in perspective, $1.2 billion could open 925 doctors’ offices each being 7,000 square foot for a cost of $1,297,400 each[5] or 4.8 million CTCs reimbursed at $250 each.

A key component to predictive analytics is the unbridled sharing of information. With quantum cryptography and the recent efforts of quantum computer (such as D-Wave), we are on the edge for sharing and processing healthcare’s “big data.” Predictive analytics in how-predictive-analytics-can-make-money-for-social-networks-46ce73d0c0the United States will be a new frontier for all health information which is electronically collected around the world. With predictive analytics, a combination of pharmaceuticals used to cure a chronic disease in one area of the world will enable population health to take steps in preventive care in advance of the chronic disease in other parts of the world.

In essence, we are embarking on a voyage into a new land of opportunity to process big data to predict solutions into the future. Healthcare is a team effort and aligns with Ernest Shackleton and his eclectic team, all of whom survived the harshest environment of being beset in the Antarctica.  Our healthcare system needs such a team to drive through the storms of economic pressure and the current healthcare system into one which perseveres.  Predictive analytics is the system which will not only benefit the United States, but predictive analytics in healthcare also has the potential to benefit the health of the world in a way healthcare has yet to be seen.”

About the Author: 

photoDavis Graham is currently earning his M.S. in Health and Medical Informatics with Brandeis University, Graduate Professional Studies. Davis is the Executive Director & CFO at the Manatee Diagnostic Center in Florida.  This essay won a contest for free entry into Eric Siegel’s Predictive Analytics World Conference.

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The Balance of Life and Learning

Tom Burt is a recent graduate of our Master of Science in Project and Program Management Program. He is currently the Administrative Contracting Officer for GSA/FAS/Supplier Management. Below is his story about his journey through e-learning at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies.

“I always knew I would have to go back to school.  My father presource-schedulingresented a perfect example of that—nearing the end of his career, he had been unable to advance any further in his field because he lacked a four-year degree.  For my generation, I equate that to not
having a graduate degree.  Not wanting to be held back from a promotion, going back to school seemed a necessary evil; however, it was a terrifying thought.  Travelling to classes, giving up nights and weekends, simply finding the time to work on assignments—there was no way I would be able to do all that.  Then a co-worker told me about Brandeis GPS, and all my fears went away.

Online Learning made it all possible for me.  I bought my first home about the same time I started my Program and Project Management degree; due to the nature of the program, I was able to balance the challenges of purchasing a home while keeping up with studies.  Also thanks to online learning, I was able to take vacations during semesters!  On ski trips Slimmedto the western US with friends each year, I started every day with a couple hours of school work (and gallons of coffee) before hitting the slopes.  I also remember a trip to Italy for a family wedding that coincided with Professional Communication.  Had I been enrolled in a traditional classroom-based program, I may not have been able to make the trip; instead, I was posting discussion responses while riding the Rome to Florence train, using the onboard wireless, all while traveling at 250 kilometers per hour!  Grazie Brandeis!  Finally, in the last couple semesters, I was able to attend classes while training for an Ironman triathlon (as much as twenty hours of training per week) while also managing to not get fired from my job!

Graduate school does not have to be a life-consuming event, nor should it be.  There is much to be enjoyeBurtofficeslimmedd in life, such as home-ownership, vacations, and the pursuit of personal goals.  These opportunities absolutely can occur, even while maintaining a career and a family.  Not having to sacrifice other opportunities meant everything to me (and also meant the courses flew by in no time!).  Brandeis GPS was and is the key to this ever-important balance of life and learning.  Having achieved this milestone, I can now start
looking forward in my career, confident that I have the educational qualifications to support my endeavors. ”

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So What Is the Risk of Mobile Malware?

By: Derek Brink

Originally from: https://blogs.rsa.com/risk-mobile-malware/

Obvious, or oblivious? Short-term predictions eventually tend to make us look like one or the other—as Art Coviello astutely noted in making his own predictions for the security industry in 2014—depending on how they actually turn out. (Long-term predictions, however, which require an entirely different level of thinking, are evaluated against a different scale. For example, check out the many uncannily accurate predictions Isaac Asimov made for the 2014 World’s Fair, from his reflections on the just-concluded 1964 World’s Fair.)

Art’s short-term prediction about mobile malware:

Chapa NO MALWARE2014 is the tipping point year of mobile malware: As businesses provide greater mobile access to critical business applications and sensitive data, and consumers increasingly adopt mobile banking, it is easy to see that mobile malware will rapidly grow in sophistication and ubiquity in 2014. We’ve already seen a strong uptick in both over the past few months and expect that this is just the beginning of a huge wave. We will see some high-profile mobile breaches before companies and consumers realize the risk and take appropriate steps to mitigate it. Interestingly, the Economist recently featured an article suggesting such fears were overblown. It is probably a good idea to be ready just the same.

The Economist article Art references (which is based on an earlier blog) asserts that “surprisingly little malware has found its way into handsets. . . smartphones have turned out to be much tougher to infect than laptops and desktop PCs.” (Ironically, the Economist also publishes vendor-sponsored content such as How Mobile Risks Are Pushing Companies Towards Better Security. I suppose that’s one way to beat the obvious or oblivious game: Place a bet on both sides.)

RSA’s Online Fraud Resource Center provides some terrific fact-based insights on the matter, including Behind the Scenes of a Fake Token Mobile App Operation.

But the legitimate question remains: What is the risk of malware on mobile? Let’s focus here on enterprise risks, and set aside the consumer risks that Art also raised as a topic for another blog.

Keep in mind the proper definition of “risk”—one of the root causes of miscommunication internet-security1among security professionals today, as I have noted in a previous blog—which is “the likelihood that a vulnerability will be exploited, and the corresponding business impact.” If we’re not talking about probabilities and magnitudes, we’re not talking about risk.

Regarding the probability of malware infecting mobile devices:

  • The Economist‘s article builds on findings from an academic paper published by researchers from Georgia Tech, along with a recent PhD student who is now the Chief Scientist at spin-off security vendor Damballa. Their core hypothesis is that the activities of such malware—including propagation and update of malicious code, command and control communications with infected devices, and transmission of stolen data—will be discernible in network traffic.
  • From three months of analysis, they found that about 3,500 mobile devices (out of a population of 380 million) were infected—roughly 0.001%, or 1 in 100,000.
  • Compare this to the computers cleaned per mille (CCM) metric regularly reported by Microsoft: For every 1,000 computers scanned by the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool, CCM is the number of computers that needed to be cleaned after they were scanned. For 1H2012, the infection rates per 1,000 computers with no endpoint protection was between 11.6 and 13.6 per month.

All of this nets out to say that currently, mobile endpoints are three orders of magnitude less likely to be infected by malware than traditional endpoints.

But doesn’t this conflict with other published research about mobile malware? For example, I’ve previously blogged about an analysis of 13,500 free applications for Android devices, published in October 2012 by university researchers in Germany:

  • Of 100 apps selected for manual audit and analysis, 41 were vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks due to various forms of SSL misuse.
  • Of these 41 apps, the researchers captured credentials for American Express, Diners Club, PayPal, bank accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Live ID, Box, WordPress, remote control servers, arbitrary email accounts, and IBM Sametime, among others.
  • Among the apps with confirmed vulnerabilities against MITM attacks, the cumulative installed base is up to 185 million users.

In another blog, I’ve noted that mobile applications have a more complex attack surface mobile-appthan traditional web applications—in addition to server-side code, they also deal with client-side code and (multiple) network channels. The impact of these threats is often multiplied, as in the common case of support for functions that were previously server-only (e.g., offline access). This makes security for mobile apps even more difficult for developers to address—mobile technology is not as well known, development teams are not as well educated, and testing teams are harder to keep current.

Meanwhile, malware on mobile is indeed becoming more prevalent: Currently over 350,000 instances from 300 malware families. It is also becoming more sophisticated—e.g., by obfuscating code to evade static and dynamic analysis, establishing device administration privileges to install additional code, and spreading code using Bluetooth, according to the IBM X-Force 2013 Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report.

But threats, vulnerabilities, and exploits are not risks. What would be obvious to predict is this: The likelihood of exploits based on mobile malware will increase dramatically in 2014—point Art.

The other half of the risk equation is the business impact of mobile exploits. From the enterprise perspective, we would have to estimate the cost of exploits such as compromise of sensitive corporate datasurveillance of key employees, and impersonation of key corporate identities—e.g., as part of attacks aimed at social networks or cloud platforms, where the mobile exploits are the means to a much bigger and more lucrative end. It seems quite reasonable to predict that we’ll see some high-profile, high-impact breaches along these lines in 2014—again, point Art.

Obvious or oblivious, you can put me down squarely with Art’s prediction for this one, with the exception that I would say the risk of mobile malware is much more concentrated and targeted than the all users/all devices scenario he seems to suggest.

About the Author:

BA8D94F2924E634831C8CA3D8E7179C7477BBC1Derek E. Brink, CISSP is a Vice President and Research Fellow covering topics in IT Security and IT GRC for Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks Company. He is also a adjunct faculty with Brandeis University, Graduate Professional Studies teaching courses in our Information Security Program. For more blog posts by Derek, please see http://blogs.aberdeen.com/category/it-security/  and http://aberdeen.com/_aberdeen/it-security/ITSA/practice.aspx

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Helping Your Teams Grow Through Coaching

By: Phil Holberton, Adjunct faculty at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies

Originally from: http://holberton.com/helping-your-teams-grow-through-coaching/

As team leaders, we evaluate our team members and expect them to do the job up to our standards. Sometimes our standards are out of sync with their ability or training. After all, coachingthese individuals have not traveled in the same shoes as we have and may not have the skills or cognitive preparation to achieve what we expect. Therefore coaching becomes an integral part of helping teams grow to the next level.

In my experience, the most effective leaders shine when they are helping others day in and day out. This is where coaching enters the picture. Those team leaders who are really performing up to their capability (in a leadership capacity) are consistently coaching their colleagues (and not trying to micro-manage their activities). Individuals don’t appreciate being managed. But, they are more open to coaching if the coach immediately establishes his or her desire to help the individual meet their established goals.

The first and most important coaching skill is to be in the moment, not distracted by six different things on your mind. Coaching is about How-To-Minimize-Distractionsrespect for each other. There is no more predictable way to show lack of respect as not being “present” or “engaged” during a conversation. I once had a boss whose eyes would become “fish eyes” during our conversations. Do you think I was being heard? Do you think I respected him?

Secondly, a good coach (team leader) will seek to understand by asking open-ended, empowering questions. It is very difficult to understand what is going on in someone else’s head if we ask simple yes/no questions. Questions need to be open-ended so we fully understand the complexity of an individual’s state of mind.

A third critical skill is the need for the coach to suspend judgment and remain reflective and objective. Being contemplative shows that you understand the thoughts or feelings in the conversation. These first three skills will help develop understanding, balance, and respect—all very important ingredients in a successful coaching relationship.

0x600-636x310The fourth critical skill is affirming the conversation. This action brings into focus the individual’s desire to move ahead, whether it’s an improvement in performance or learning new skills and growing as a professional or human being.
These skills, when practiced and used daily, will help you become the most effective leader imaginable.

Help your team grow. Be a coach not a just a team leader or boss.

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