Getting Hooked on Free Online Education

How important is motivation in education? As the nation's top universities begin to offer free online courses, will developers need to make them more like video games to retain students?

What's the Latest Development?


Yale, Stanford and MIT now have free online education platforms where certain undergraduate courses are offered to anyone, anywhere. When Stanford offered one of its courses through the iPhone, Anthony Kosner was one of over a million people who signed up. But Kosner, presumably like many others, never finished the course. "Just making the coursework available for free, of course, doesn’t make people use it, no matter how good it is," says Kosner. How much can entirely self-motivated learning really achieve?

What's the Big Idea?

Absent textbooks, professors, diplomas and lecture halls, will the masses form good enough study habits to tackle the curricula of the nation's most elite universities? Would universities be wise to design their courses like video games so that students become 'addicted' to high performance? "Good games know how to be addictive and developers...know how to use the habitual spaces created by them in people's brains to facilitate learning." Kosner says habit formation will be necessary for free online education to succeed. 

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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