edX Releases Its Latest Open Platform Named Koa

IBL News | New York

edX announced on December 9th its eleventh release of the Open edX platform, Koa.

The Koa version has been released six months after Juniper, which was issued on June 9th, 2020. It includes several improvements, such as personalized learner schedules, progress milestones, LTI 1.3 grading, and installable micro-frontends.

The underlying operating system has been upgraded to Ubuntu 20.04 to ensure security fixes.

Ned Batchelder, edX Architect said, “with this release, the previous Open edX release (Juniper) is no longer supported. Operators are encouraged to upgrade to Koa to continue receiving security fixes.”

On December 17, another edX engineer, Marco Morales will walk through what’s new in Koa during an online community meetup.

On November 9th, the open-release/koa.master branch and the open-release/koa.alpha1 tag was created.

The next Open edX release will take place in 2021, and its name will be Lilac.

Installing and configuring Koa

Video Management Company Panopto Adds Webex Integration

IBL News | New York

Integrations of Zoom, Webex, other video conferencing into LMSs and learning platforms are gaining ground in higher education, accelerated by the COVID pandemic.

Panopto is one of the last announced integrations. Panopto video management application now allows users to transfer their Cisco Webex video recordings to the media library.

Once posted at Panopto’s on-demand video library, clips become searchable and shareable. Archived recordings can be edited through an online video editor. In terms of search, an AI-powered search capability allows finding any word or phrase.

The integration includes Single Sign-On (SSO) between the two systems.

In April, the video company released its integration with Zoom. It mostly uses the LTI tool to tie Zoom sessions to enrollment data. The machine-generated captioning with automatic transcription was introduced then, too.

Innovators Shared Ideas to Improve Zoom and Design Blended New Learning Environments

IBL News | New York

Educators and IT professionals presented last month new approaches for using Zoom beyond its limitations as a way to increase engagement in the classroom. Companies such as Class for Zoom also shared their view.

The Zoomtopia 2020 conference hosted some of those innovations, along with new features available. A blog post on the Zoom website elaborated on those takeaways. This is a summary:

  • Immersive scenes: Faces of students and other participants are embedded within a classroom, staff meeting, or social gathering.
  • Meeting reactions can be livened up with animation and sound.
  • Video of who’s in the Waiting Room before admitting them into the Zoom classroom or group session.
  • High-fidelity audio for music classes, lessons, and performances, by eliminating audio compression and raising the codec quality.
  • Breakout rooms for webinars, with attendees being able to connect in smaller groups.

David J. Malan, professor of Computer Science at Harvard University and leading instructor at the Cs50 MOOC, shared a multiple gallery view setup by using Zoom Rooms for enhanced remote and blended learning sessions.

Mr. Malan also showed how Harvard recreated the look, feel, and interactivity for 150 students at a time in a theater on campus. The institution used a setup with a series of TVs and cameras running two interconnected Zoom Rooms setup.

Instructure Acquires K12 Assessment and Analytics Company Certica Solutions

IBL News | New York

Instructure, the parent company of Canvas LMS, announced yesterday the acquisition of Certica Solutions—a U.S. software company specialized in K12 assessment and data analytics, and a longtime partner of Canvas and MasteryConnect. The purchase amount was not disclosed.

Wakefield, Massachusetts-based Certica brings the assessments that are both pre-built for teachers or that the teacher can build themselves with a ‘bank’ of assessment content.

A part of the acquired company is the analytics piece of Videri, the jewel of the crown of the acquired company. Videri integrates district data from multiple sources into one place. This data allows visualizing individual student needs, district trends, and at-risk students.

Over 1,500 districts use Certica’s solutions in the U.S., serving 12 million students.

“Joining the Instructure family will open doors to helping more students and educators find the value of a rigorous standards-aligned assessment program with rich analytics,” said Mark Rankovic, CEO of Certica Solutions.


Rensselaer Develops a Web App that Shows How COVID Will Spread in the Spring Semester

IBL News | New York

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) developed a free web app called “COVID BACK-TO-SCHOOL”, that calculates the number of students likely to be infected.

This publicly available tool can be used by schools to analyze re-opening strategies from a data perspective.

Malik Magdon-Ismail, Rensselaer Computer Science Professor and Developer of the COVID Back-to-School Algorithm, explained that “schools can use it, at least, to evaluate how their current strategy will play out and try out various strategies before actually implementing them”.

The user selects the category that represents the school type (Primary, Secondary, Boarding School, or College/University) and fills out a profile with info prior to the COVID outbreak. These questions must be answered to obtain a simulated outcome:

  • What was the average number of people that a student would interact within a single day of their residential life?
  • What was the average number of people a student would interact with during a single meal in the school dining facilities?
  • What was the average number of meals a student would have in campus dining facilities?
  • On average, how many interactions did a student have in a single class that could lead to the virus being transmitted?
  • What was the average number of in-person classes that a student has in a day?
  • What percentage of the population is infected if no protocols are in place (If you’re unsure, keep it at default)
  • How many students did your school have?
  • How long do you want the simulation to run? (Fall Semester 2020, Spring Semester 2021, Custom Data Range)

The algorithmic simulation shows:

  • The Proportion of Student Body Infected Over Time,
  • New Infections Over Previous 14 Days, and
  • Impact of Testing Frequency of Infection

The user can adjust the variables on the fly.

Rensselaer ensured that this tool and other strategies have enabled them to maintain control over the virus.

“We encourage other institutions to learn from and use these tools, like COVID Back-to-School, in hopes that they have similar success in the spring,” said Rensselaer President, Shirley Ann Jackson.

Open LMS/Moodlerooms Acquires Competitor eThink Education for $20 Million in Cash

IBL News | New York

Learning Technologies Group (LTG)—the parent company of Open LMS, formerly called Moodlerooms—announced yesterday the acquisition and integration of eThink Education, a large Moodle provider and Platinum Totara Partner with 325 clients and two million users in 22 countries. eThink will be paid $20 million in cash, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

eThink’s founders, Brian Carlson and Cheryl Patsavos will join the Open LMS management team as the new Head of Sales and Head of Customer Success. Founded in 2008 and headquartered in Baltimore, eThink has a workforce of 39 people.

Open LMS—which bills itself as the largest commercial Moodle provider—said that since its purchase and separation from Blackboard in March 2020, has added 23 additional resellers. In September 2020, it bought Australian Moodle leader eCreators. Today, it claims to serve over 1.460 clients and eight million users across 100 countries.

The Indianapolis-based Open LMS platform explained to IBL News that it plans “to consolidate and innovate the commercial Moodle offering for educational institutions and corporations worldwide.” “We can further support those who need a fully-functional, open-source solution to manage courses and deliver engaging content experiences at any time and anywhere,” said in a statement Phillip Miller, Managing Director for Open LMS.

Coursera Weighs an IPO in 2021 at a Valuation of $5 Billion, Bloomberg Says

IBL News | New York

Coursera.org is considering its IPO in 2021 at a valuation of around $5 billion, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

The Mountain View, California-based company is talking now to potential IPO (initial public offering) underwriters.

However, no final decision has been made, and the learning company could opt to remain private. Coursera declined to comment.

Coursera announced in July that it raised an additional $130 million, as part of a Series F round. At that time, investors valued the company at a reported $2.5 billion. To date, Coursera has raised $464 million.

Coursera’s investors include NEA (New Enterprise Associates), Kleiner Perkins, SEEK Group, Learn Capital, SuRo Capital Corp, and G Squared.

Another edtech startup that might consider an IPO in 2021 is Udemy Inc., a company valued at $3.25 billion.


A StartUp Brings Together Online Students in a COVID-Safe Campus Resort in Texas

IBL News | New York

Three Princeton University grads–in the picture below–have created a university-like environment at a resort in Texas. Students will take online classes with the colleges they are enrolled in while staying in a COVID-safe environment. It costs a $10,000 minimum for housing and meal packages.

So far, it has received over 1,500 applications, enough to fill the 150 available slots, the startup company said.

The U Experience plans to bring students for the spring 2021 semester, from January 28 to April 18 at Tanglewood Resort near Lake Texoma, Texas. It accepts students from traditional four-year universities as well as virtual programs.

The resort includes rec sports, weekly “TEDx-style” guest lectures, nightlife, and a private room for each student. “No masks. No social distancing. A real college experience. Spring 2021,” advertises the company. However, people chatting on social media are skeptical about keeping the premises virus-free and a possible outbreak.

Students will be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival and regularly examined thereafter. They won’t even be allowed out to buy groceries, but they’ll have access to all the resort’s amenities.

“We see online learning as the future of higher education. It has the potential to make college cheap and accessible to all,” said its CEO and Co-Founder, Lane Rusell. “The impediment is it’s not very attractive to think of being stuck at your parents’ house taking lessons on a computer and never going outside.”

The application process will be nontraditional. Students can view each others’ online profiles and “like” those of their friends or students they want to meet. The student feedback won’t determine admission but will play a role. The founders have almost 150,000 followers on Instagram.

College kids at a resort or just a lavish online learning experience?

Inside of Higher Ed wrote a critical piece about it, titled “Bursting Their Buble”.


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A post shared by The U Experience (@theexperienceu)


Learning Platforms Run Discount Codes on Courses and Membership This Cyber Week

IBL News | New York

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Cyber Week, and deals pertaining to the shopping season after Thanksgiving Day are running all over the online learning platforms.

For learners planning their career advancement through education now is a good time to engage at a discounted pricing.

  • Coursera.org has activated a season promotion until December 31, 2020, with a 50% discount on any course. On some of the courses, the offer finishes on December 4. This online platform is using the promotional explanation of “while supplies last”.
  • edX.org featured a modest saving of 20% on most of its courses.
  • Udacity.com wasn’t shy and advertised on its home page the following: “Our Biggest Discount Ever: 75% off all online courses.” Visitors found, along with a coupon code, a claim saying “Sale extended”, without any indication of the timeframe.
  • Udemy.com opted with its classic discount on the pricing of the courses, adding this year, a free webinar. “Courses as low as $9.99 through Dec. 4. Plus, get free access to a live webinar!”
  • Pluralsight.com prominently highlighted on its home website, and invested in Google Ads as well, its “Cyber Monday Extended” with a “40% off an annual subscription with our best Cyber Monday deal ever!” An indication at the bottom of the page indicated that the deal was ending this Friday.
  • Skillshare.com ran discount coupons up to 40% on third party websites for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, although “Valid until further notice”. Also, it had a 40% off a Skillshare Premium on Cyber Monday.
  • CodeAcademy.com featured a “Cyber Week Sale”, with 25% off on its membership.

Kindle, Audible, Babble, and other platforms run promotional offers, too.

CIOs and CTOs Accelerate AI, Machine Learning, 5G and IoT Due to the Pandemic

IBL News | New York

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) in the U.S., U.K., ChinaIndia, and Brazil say that the most important technologies in 2021 will be AI and machine learning, followed by 5G and IoT, according to a recent survey done the IEEE organization.

Other industries impacted by the technology in the year ahead will be Manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, and education, according to 350 CIOs and CTOS surveyed.

Challenges facing CIOs and CTOs in this COVID year include a permanent hybrid remote and office work structure, office and facilities reopenings and return, and managing permanent remote working.

CIOs and CTOs surveyed have sped up adopting some technologies due to the pandemic:

  • More than half (55%) of respondents have accelerated adoption of cloud computing
  • 52% have accelerated 5G adoption
  • 51% have accelerated AI and machine learning

The adoption of IoT, augmented and virtual reality and video conferencing technologies have also been accelerated due to the global pandemic.

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