Research: Platforms At Scale Will Radically Transform Learning and Teaching

IBL News | New York

Researchers from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Cornell have conducted an extensive study that shows the power and potential of at-scale educational platforms – edX, among others – to accelerate learning and radically transform the way we learn and teach around the world.

The research investigated at ways to help learners to complete online courses. Helpful tools for completion include the following:

  • Plan-making, creating detailed approaches to how coursework will be completed and when it will happen
  • Social accountability, choosing a ‘buddy’ to hold you accountable for completion
  • Value-relevance, reflecting on the value you hold in completing the course

“Our present study confirms a principle that is central to social psychology and the learning sciences: Context matters,” researchers say.

As Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, wrote in a blog post, the researches advocate for continued experimentation, especially regarding the role of AI and Machine Learning on completion at scale.

All analysis code, output, and study materials are available on this website.

Apple Will Shut Down iTunes U at the End of 2021

IBL News | New York

Apple announced this month that it will shut down its iTunes U app at the end of 2021.

This app, launched in 2007, it had worked well in terms of audience, with universities such as Stanford, Berkeley, Duke, and MIT by sharing thousands of their videos, ebooks, and audio for free. For example, Stanford’s Programming course reached over one million downloads.

However, Apple hasn’t updated the app over the last few years.

To continue publishing content, the company suggests using Apple Podcast –bringing content through selected hosting partners– and Apple Books for Authors with Pages.

Apple is now concentrating its efforts on other apps, such as Classroom, Apple School Manager, and Schoolwork.

edX MicroBachelors Will Include Consultants to Help Learners Complete Their Programs

IBL News | New York

Learners enrolled in edX MicroBachelors Programs will receive professional coaching through InsideTrack, an educational non-profit organization based in Portland, Oregon, specialized in the student-success segment. No further details regarding the pricing and functioning were provided by the two organizations.

According to a blog post from edX, InsideTrack’s coaches will work with learners via email, text messaging, and other digital formats. In addition, these consultants will help students to develop time management and self-reflection skills, along with improving resumes and job site profiles.

edX currently offers five MicroBachelors programs: Professional Writing from Arizona State University, Marketing Essentials from Doane University, Elements of Data Science from Rice University, IT Career Framework from Western Governors University (WGU), and Computer Science Fundamentals from New York University (NYU). All programs are approved, or pending approval, for credit by Thomas Edison State University (TESU). They are priced between $500 and $1,500 (roughly $166 per credit) and can be completed fully online.

InsideTrack claims that it has directly coached more than two million students while supporting online programs in the Penn State World Campus, BYU-Pathway Worldwide, and the University of Washington Continuum College.

“By working with InsideTrack, we can provide the robust support that adults need to advance their education during uncertain times and help them stay on track to earn a valuable MicroBachelors program credential,” said Anant Agarwal, CEO and founder of edX.

Open edX Juniper Platform: Changes on LMS Instructor Dashboard and Studio Tool

IBL News | New York

After a week of the Open edX Juniper platform release, initial features have started to emerge.

Technically speaking, the main change is the upgrade into Python 3, after Python 2.7 became unsupported and unmaintained on January 1, 2020.

Other upgrades affect Django, MongoDB, and Ruby, as explained on the official Confluence forum of Open edX.

Regarding features related to usability, the LMS’ Instructor Dashboard now includes Extensions and Open Responses data, as shown below.

On Studio – Open edX’s authoring tool – the main visible change points to the possibility of adding a Unit through the new prominent toolbar on top.

The 10th Open edX release Juniper – now on its version Juniper.1 – was based on the code of the master software from May 27th, 2020.

edX hasn’t yet announced the new platform, nor released notes.

IBL News (June 11)edX Releases Juniper, Its Tenth Version of the Open edX Platform

Canvas LMS Picks a New CEO From Outside the Educational Industry

IBL News | New York

The new owner of Instructure Inc–the private equity firm Thoma Bravo–named a local software manager as its new CEO. The announcement was done yesterday through a press release.

Steve Daly –in the picture above– spent 25 years in software and technology, including 13 years as CEO of Landesk/Ivanti, an IT management and security software company headquartered in Salt Lake City. In 2010, he led the sale of Landesk to Thoma Bravo and then later to Clearlake Capital.

The new CEO appointment–effective as of July 1st– followed the departure of Dan Goldsmith in March. The search was led by Charles Goodman, who has been interim CEO and will remain with the company as Chair of the Board of Managers, according to the company.

Daly announced that it will refocus Instructure – which commercializes the Canvas LMS platform – “around its core mission of innovating in education technology.”

Reuters‘ View: Instructure Names Steve Daly as New CEO
• More News About Instructure at IBL News

Coursera Users Complain About Cheating and Plagiarism on Peer Assignments

IBL News | New York

Cheating and plagiarism on peer assignments prompted complaints among Coursera’s students, who blamed the learning company for not addressing the problem.

“People either copy from their classmates or from the Internet. Submitting blanks give them the ability to see other assignments. Flagging has no effect,” said a user named “Moocer” at the Coursera Community forum.

A learner called “Chee Yang Ng” wondered why Coursera is not taking any action. “ They know academic misconduct is the major obstacle to the credibility of their courses, but why aren’t they doing anything about it,” he said.

The same frustration was shared by Luke Lau, who asked Coursera to handle “this case of academic dishonesty.”

The discussion at Coursera started a week ago when a user opened a thread titled “How do we make certificate more creditable when there is a serious violation of intellectual property on Coursera?” claiming that his work was plagiarized. Chee Yang Ng said: “I cannot express how disappointed I am, not only on the violation of my intellectual property but also on the system failure of the platform that makes me question the quality of the education provided by the platform.”

“Keep in mind that Coursera is a for-profit business, not an educational institution,” concluded Moocer.

No one from Coursera answered, including the community manager of the forum.

The discussion generated twelve replies.

Plagiarism and cheating have been constant on MOOC platforms, although the problem has been kept inside doors.

An edX Survey Finds that a Majority Is Interested in Pursuing Additional Education

IBL News | New York

As a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 56% of Americans are interested in pursuing additional education but are unable to due to the cost (29%) or other factors such as limited time (23%). In contrast, just over a quarter (26%) of Americans are more likely to pursue additional education because they are in search of a recession-proof job.

These are the main conclusions of a survey conducted by edX in determining the impact of the pandemic on education.

“Education has always been linked to improved job and earning potential, and with the pandemic leading us into a likely economic downturn, the cost is clearly top of mind,” concluded Adam Medros, Co-CEO at edX.

The survey shows that 45% are looking for a course that will help advance their career, while another 30% who are interested in taking a course to explore a new interest. offers stackable, modular credentials, such as MicroMasters Programs, Professional Certificate Programs, and MicroBachelors Programs.

John Katzman Raises Another $16 Million to Expand Noodle Partners OPM Firm

IBL News | New York

Noodle Partners, Jonh Katzman’s created and managed OPM (Online Program Manager), announced this week it raised $16 million in Series B funding. The round was led by ValueAct Spring Fund and joined by the Lumina Foundation and existing investors.

The New York City-based company –which has now raised more than $60 million–explained that it intends to use the funds to accelerate its growth.

Noodle Partners claim that it has built 50 certificate or degree online programs for two dozen universities. The University of Tennessee, University of Virginia, The University of Michigan, Howard University, Tufts University, and Tulane University are among their customers.

The controversial business area of OPM includes over 60 providers, although with different approaches. Noodle Partners’ offer is based on providing some of the services to universities, outsourcing others to third-party firms.

John Katzman himself –in the picture above– created the OPM space when he founded the currently leading traded company 2U, back in 2008.

As reporter Tony Wan explained in this Tuesday, Noodle charges colleges $22,000 per month in management fees alone for the first program and $12,000 per month for each additional program. It also charges a per-credit-hour fee for each student who enrolls in an online program. These costs do not include fees paid for services from other providers in Noodle’s network.

“Even according to Katzman’s optimistic cost estimates, it can take two years and $3 million to launch a new program from scratch—and another two years for that program to generate positive revenue. Noodle also offers to borrow money on behalf of the institution from MassMutual, the life insurance and financial service company, to cover the upfront cost of launching new programs.”


edX Releases Juniper, Its Tenth Version of the Open edX Platform

IBL News | New York

The edX organization quietly released yesterday its new Open edX version named Juniper.1. There have been no announcements nor release notes.

This release was based on the code of the master software from May 27th, 2020.

“Juniper” is the tenth Open edX version of the platform.

Its name follows the adopted practice of picking botanical tree words and classifying them alphabetically.

The next version will be named Koa. The past versions were:

  • Juniper
  • Ironwood
  • Hawthorn
  • Ginkgo
  • Ficus
  • Eucalyptus
  • Dogwood
  • Cypress
  • Birch
  • Aspen

DeVry University Releases a Complimentary Video Library to Build In-Demand Tech Skills

IBL News | New York

DeVry University announced the free release of a nine skills-building video series on programming with Python, data analytics, IoT fundamentals, machine learning, and Excel, along with many other in-demand subjects.

DeVry University said that this self-paced video library is unique for three reasons: “Topics reflect LinkedIn’s list of most in-demand skills; are taught by all women professors, and provide an on-ramp to understand the technology of the future for everyone.”

The initial set of videos in DeVry’s Skill-Building Video Library include:

“There is an opportunity for millions of Americans to upskill and reskill to meet the gap in in-demand jobs while securing themselves durable careers,” said Natalie Waksmanski-Krynski, Ph.D., Professor and Faculty Chair in the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University.

“We are seeing a shift in the market, particularly as America emerges from the impact of COVID-19. Students and employers are seeking educational opportunities that provide a skills-based pathway to advancing their career trajectories,” said Shantanu Bose, Ph.D., Provost and Chief Academic Officer at DeVry University.

“This complementary video series is just one of many initiatives on the horizon for DeVry University in affording America’s workforce access to the skills they need to keep pace with changes in the market and to help remain durable throughout their careers,” he added.

DeVry said that new videos will be added in the coming weeks.

It is estimated that 36 million jobs are at high risk from automation by 2030, with an additional 52 million jobs at medium risk.

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