2020 LWMOOCs Conference: How MOOCs Are Reshaping the 4th Industrial Revolution

IBL News | New York

What is the role of MOOCs shaping the 4th Industrial Revolution, especially during pandemic times? How learning communities are expanding through MOOCs? What’s the impact of Machine Learning and AI on MOOC delivery?

A panel of experts will elaborate on these and other topics on the 2020 7th edition of the LWMOOCs (Learning with MOOCs) Conference that will take place virtually from September 30 to October 2, 2020. The 2020 LWMOOCs conference was initially scheduled to be held face to face in Antigua, Guatemala.

There will be poster sessions, full-length paper presentations, shorter lightning-round presentations, active-learning workshops, and keynote presentations from leading academic and industry professionals.

The list of topics to be discussed include:

  • The role of MOOCs shaping the 4th Industrial Revolution
  • Expanding the learner community through MOOCs
  • Social implications of MOOCs
  • Assistive and inclusive MOOC techniques
  • Open content, open licensing, and MOOC delivery
  • International cooperation in MOOC projects
  • Using MOOCs in employee training
  • Scaffolding courses and planning MOOC curricula
  • Online MOOC degree programs
  • Learning analytics in MOOC courses
  • Learning science and educational research models
  • Learning engineers applying sound science with MOOC platforms
  • Machine Learning, AI, and MOOC delivery

This year’s theme is “The 4th Industrial Revolution: Challenges and Opportunities”. Panelists and participants will explore the latest developments in MOOC technologies and practical ways to create and offer MOOCs to a broader audience.

The main two keynotes will be delivered by David Joyner, Executive Director of Online Education & OMSCS, Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, and Dan Garcia, Teaching Professor, at UC Berkeley.

David Joyner will elaborate on lessons learned developing an affordable degree program (OMSCS), with over 9,000 enrolled students and 2,000 graduates.

Among the Lighting Speakers will be Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, Professor Barbara Oakley, the instructor behind the hit Learning how to Learn–who will highlight ways of creating an engaging online course–and Justin Reich, Director, MIT Teaching System Labs.

IBL News, the media branch of IBL Education, will participate as a media partner in the 2020 LWMOOCS VII Conference, along with Class Central.

Lockdown effect: Indian Start-Up Byju Company Valued at $10.8 after Raising $21 Billion

IBL News | New York

An ed-tech startup company valued at $10.8 billion after raising $2.1 billion?

The massive growth of online demand in India, due to a nationwide lockdown on traditional education, has made it possible.

Byju, the leading Indian learning platform, announced yesterday it raised $500 million in a new financing round that values the company at $10.8 billion, Bloomberg reported. According to Crunchbase, Byju’s has raised $2.1 billion to date.

The round was led by Menlo Park-headquartered Silver Lake. Existing investors Tiger Global, General Atlantic, and Owl Ventures also participated in it.

“Our classrooms in India are changing possibly for the first time in 100 years and I’m really excited about the opportunities that we have to redefine the future of learning,” Byju’s said in a statement, although declined to reveal the size of the round and its valuation.

Byju prepares students to pursue undergraduate and graduate-level courses. It claims over 64 million registered students and 4.2 million annual paid subscriptions. Since the shutdown, Byju’s has added 20 million new students on its platform and doubled its revenue–after it reached $373 million for the year ended March 2020.

Silver Lake also invested about $1.35 billion in India’s Jio Platforms earlier this year.

NVIDIA Issues New Courses on Deep Learning and Recommender Systems

IBL News | New York

NVIDIA announced this week three new courses on fundamentals of deep learning, recommender systems, and Transformer-based applications—which will include access to a configured, GPU-accelerated server in the cloud.

Currently, NVIDIA has over 2 million registered developers.

These courses will be first offered at the GPU Technology Conference on October 5-9, 2020. They will be developed by NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Institute (DLI) and will follow an instructor-led workshop format.

NVIDIA-certified experts in virtual classrooms will participate in a hands-on remote experience, interacting with learners, and tackling coding challenges.

Users will be able to earn certificates of subject competency to support their professional growth.

Some of the courses will be available in Korean, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese for attendees in their respective time zones.

Workshops launched at GTC will include:

  • Fundamentals of Deep Learning — How to train a model, work with common data types and model architectures, use transfer learning between models, etc.
  • Building Intelligent Recommender Systems — Create different types of recommender systems: content-based, collaborative filtering, etc.
  • Building Transformer-Based Natural Language Processing Applications — Word2Vec and recurrent neural network-based embeddings, as well as Transformer architecture features and how to improve them.

Other DLI offerings at GTC will include:

  • Fundamentals of Accelerated Computing with CUDA Python.
  • Applications of AI for Predictive Maintenance.
  • Fundamentals of Accelerated Data Science with RAPIDS.
  • Fundamentals of Accelerated Computing with CUDA C/C++.
  • Fundamentals of Deep Learning for Multi-GPUs.
  • Applications of AI for Anomaly Detection.


Coursera.org Will Allow Its Employees to Work from Home until January 2022

IBL News | New York

Coursera.org announced that it will allow employees to continue working remotely until January 1, 2022, “when we anticipate bringing our offices back to full service”. 

The learning company–with 1,800 employees and a valuation of $2.5 billion–presented the decision as a new vision for work-lifeand part of its “unique and innovative culture out of the typical office mold.” 

Rich Jacquet, Chief People Officer, explained that “even after our offices safely reopen, Courserians will have the flexibility to work remotely for the long term, work from a nearby office, or split their time between the two arrangements.”

Due to the pandemic, “remote is here to stay,” he added.

The Mountain View, California-based firm also will offer to each employee $1,000 for home-office equipment, in order to “create a productive home environment.”

An additional financial saving for the company will come from recruiting candidates who live beyond a commuting distance from their office. 

Eleven Public Universities Featured in the Top 20, According to the ‘Washington Monthly” Alternative Ranking

IBL News | New York

Despite the pandemic outbreak, college ranking tradition goes on.

Last week, Washington Monthly released its 2020 rankings, promoted by its editors as “the socially conscious alternative to U.S. News & World Report,” measuring “how well they serve the country as a whole”.

“This issue of the magazine gives students metrics they can use to hold their own schools accountable, and ideas we can all use to turn the system around,” explained Paul GlastrisWashington Monthly’s Editor-In-Chief. “Today’s college students are the most socially active in decades, and keenly aware of how the higher education system is screwing them.”

While 19 of U.S. News and World Report’s top 20 national universities are elite private institutions, more than half of the Washington Monthly’s top 20 are public institutions.

An example is Texas A&M, that ranked 70th by U.S. News, and 12th on the Washington Monthly list because it enrolls and graduates enormous numbers of first-generation and Pell Grant students as well as science and engineering PhDs. Last year, Texas A&M graduated more Pell Grant recipients than Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton combined.

Other elite private national universities that score in U.SNews’s top 20 do less well on Washington Monthly—including Northwestern, Brown, and Johns Hopkins.

In the liberal arts category, Berea College in Kentucky, is 3rd on the Washington Monthly list for its extraordinary record of recruiting and graduating lower-income students, while it is 46th on U.SNews’s.

The top 10 of National Universities are the following:

  • Stanford
  • Harvard
  • MIT
  • Yale
  • Princeton
  • Duke
  • U. of Pennsylvania
  • Georgetown
  • U. of California (San Diego)
  • Utah State

This is the top 10 of Liberal Arts Colleges–baccalaureate colleges that focus on arts and sciences rather than professional programs.

  • Amherst
  • Wesleyan
  • Berea
  • Washington and Lee
  • Harvey Mudd
  • Pomona
  • Vassar
  • Middlebury
  • Claremont McKenna
  • Williams

The top five Master’s Universities–institutions that award a significant number of master’s degrees but few or no doctoral degrees–are Goddard, Evergreen State College, California State University – San Bernardino, State University of New York – Geneseo, and Cedar Crest College.

Bachelor’s Colleges–institutions that award almost exclusively bachelor’s degrees–are College of the Ozarks, Cooper Union, Hiram College, Ohio Northern University, and Goshen College

The list of “Colleges Where Majors Popular with Black Students Pay Best” was led by the University of Alabama. In criminal justice, the leader was Texas Christian University. In sociology, Columbia University topped the list.

The complete 2020 Washington Monthly rankings are here.


Online Learning Boom in India: Start-Ups Raising Huge Amounts of Capital

IBL News | New York

Bangalore-based online learning platform Unacademy reached a $1.45 billion post-money valuation after it raised another $150 million in a Series F round.

As classrooms shut during the pandemic, demand has soared for startups dedicated to virtual learning companies in India.

Unacademy’s round was backed by Facebook and Sequoia, while SoftBank Group–trough its Vision Fund 2–led the financing round. Also, Blume Ventures, Nexus Partners, and General Atlantic participated.

So far, Unacademy–which has attracted 30 million registered users and 350,000 paying subscribers on its large educational repository–has raised $348.5 million.

Unacademy’s rival Byju’s–also backed by Sequoia Capital–is the most valued startup in the world, at $10.5 billion.

In addition, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative backed Mumbai-based Eruditus raised $113 million earlier this week.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a nationwide lockdown of schools in India, boosting the valuation of its digital learning start-ups. Indian families tend to spend heavily on their children’s education in the hope of building a better future for them.

Unacademy has distinguished itself in test preparation classes by recruiting star teachers. It features live-class sessions, where students can query teachers or exchange notes with each other. Courses range from $20 a month for exam preparation for government-owned banks jobs or Indian railways to $150 a month for the tests to enter civil service jobs or elite engineering schools.

UT Austin Launches a Master’s Degree in Computer Science that It Doesn’t Require GRE

IBL News | New York

The University of Texas at Austin announced this week an online Master’s Degree in Computer at $10,000 that doesn’t require the GRE examination for applying. “It’s one big step to increase education access,” said Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX.org.

The degree will be hosted at the edX platform. The program start date was August 26th, 2020.

“The GRE requirement for all applicants has officially been waived for Spring 2021, Fall 2021, and Spring 2022 semesters,” the university explained.

The institution revealed that GRE requirement was “temporarily waived” due to the “challenges that many students were facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Master’s Degree in Computer Science includes 10 courses fully developed online. Its tuition is $10,000 (30 credits at $333 each).

Coursera Expands Its Learning Products, Including Guided Projects, Paths, and Live Meetings

IBL News | New York

Coursera.org announced that its Guided Projects product attracted over a million enrollments since launching in April.

Currently, there are 380 Guided Projects, which offers skills-based hands-on learning experiences based on Ryme.com, an underlying platform acquired last year. In a split-screen video, the workspace appears on the left side of the screen while an instructor provides step-by-step guidance on the right.

The learning company plans to reach 1,000 by the end of the year. Organizations can create their own projects using Coursera’s authoring tools. [See an example below].

The second announcement of Coursera last week was the launch of Career Learning Paths, a free online resource that shows learners curated content, along with progression and details on the skills.

To date, Coursera has added six fields on Career Learning Paths: Digital MarketingAgile Project ManagementNetwork EngineeringData EngineeringDesign, and Data Science.

The last announcement was Live2Coursera, which enables instructors to teach live classes and integrate Zoom recordings into their courses.

Coursera has 68 million learners and over 200 university partners.

SUNY Oneonta Closed After Many Students Were Infected at Large Parties

IBL News | New York

The SUNY’s campus in New York’s upstate Oneonta will be closed for at least two weeks after more than 100 people tested positive for COVID-19.

The Oneonta site, 165 miles north of New York City, is one of 64 campuses run by the State University of New York (SUNY).

After several large parties at Oneonta, many showed symptoms and local officials pushed to test the 3,000 students and teachers. An alarming 3%, 103 in total, tested positive. Five students were suspended, along with three student organizations, which were not identified.

SUNY Chancellor, Jim Malatras, told reporters on Sunday: “We’re going to be tough on those students not because we want to ruin their fun, but this is a different time.”

On August 27th, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo had announced that he would close public and private colleges for two weeks if 100 kids or more were found infected. “But if the students act irresponsibly, or the precautions are not in place, then the virus will spread, and then more dramatic action is going to have to be taken,” he warned.

As of Sunday, 429 were hospitalized with the virus across New York state, the lowest figure since March.

COVID-19 cases rose in other colleges across the country, too.

Over 1,000 students tested positive at the University of Alabama, while 500 cases were reported among students at the University of IowaMissouri State University has seen 383 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days. The universities of Northern Iowa and Iowa State also reported tons of positives.

Inside Higher Ed released yesterday a map and database tracking changes in colleges’ plans for reopening this fall.

The University of Cambridge Offers a 30-Credit Program on ‘Writing for Performance’ on edX

IBL News | New York

The University of Cambridge will offer a MicroMasters program of 30 credits on Writing for Performance on edX.org. The program, priced at $1,432, will start in October 2020 and will comprise of 8 courses instructed over a period of 8-months.

Learners who complete this micro-degree will be able to apply to the Master of Studies (MSt) in Writing for Performance (180 credits) at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

The program is designed for professional dramatists, writers, and those involved in related creative industries or interested to engage with the film, TV, and digital entertainment industries. Johannes Heinlein, VP of Partnerships at edX explained that“creativity is the most sought after soft skill for 2020.”

The University of Cambridge–with renowned 800-year history– is partnering with the MIT and Harvard’s non-profit edX Inc through its Institute of Continuing Education. This MicroMasters is its first offering on edX.org

“This collaboration is a critical step to further scale the University’s strategy for online education, whilst at the same time complementing the University’s traditional offer,” said Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor, Graham Virgo.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the societal importance of high-quality film, television, and radio; they’ve entertained, educated, and lifted our spirits,” said Dr. James Gazzard, Director at The University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education (ICE). “We hope this new course will engage and inspire future writers, some of whom may aspire to study for a Master’s degree at Cambridge.”


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