A Super Student Who Completed 350 Online Courses within Three Months During the Pandemic

IBL News | New York

A woman from Kerala, India, achieved a world record of completing 350 online courses in 90 days, The New Indian Express reported.

Arathi Reghunath, on her second-year at MSc Biochemistry in the MES College, spent her free time during the COVID-19 lockdown studying and bagged a world record from Universal Record Forum (URF) by completing 350 courses listed on the Coursera.org platform.

“It was my faculty at college who introduced me to the world of online courses. With the support of my college principal Ajims P Muhammed, Coursera coordinator Haneefa KG, and class tutor Neelima T K, I managed to finish the courses I signed up for within a few weeks,” she explained.

Arathi has completed the courses offered by John Hawkins University, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), University of Virginia, State University of New York, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Copenhagen, University of Rochester, Emory University, and Coursera Project Network.


ZipRecruiter Partners with Training Platform to Create a Catalog of 250 Skill-Oriented Courses

IBL News | New York

ZipRecruiter.com created a web catalog of 250 job-skills oriented courses from edX, Coursera, Skillshare, SkillSuccess, Udacity, and GoSkills, after partnering with these learning platforms.

The initiative responds to the need for job seekers to find opportunities in the COVID-19 economy through better education and training.

These courses can be found by ZipRecruiter’s U.S. users when they create or update their job profile.

In recent years, ZipRecruiter developed other employment-discovery-related features like a scoring system that informs whether anyone is a good match for a given job, and an “Am I Qualified?” button which helps job seekers identify key skills they would need to qualify.

“There are hundreds of thousands of currently open jobs that require expertise in only one key skill or software tool,” said ZipRecruiter CEO, Ian Siegel.

“edX is excited to work with ZipRecruiter to help job seekers gain the relevant skills they need to remain competitive in today’s workplace,” explained edX CEO and MIT Professor, Anant Agarwal.

A UNESCO/United Nations Report Introduces a Methodology to Connect Schools to the Internet

IBL News | New York

The COVID-19 healthcare crisis has re-surfaced the digital divide problem in education. Some 3.6 billion people still have no access to the Internet and 250 million children are still out of school.

A new report by UNESCO’s Broadband Commission introduces a methodology and framework to map and connect primary and secondary schools to the Internet and use digital technologies for teaching and learning.

The research aims to help governments and organizations to develop more holistic school connectivity plans.

“We hope that this report will motivate the private sector, non-profit and international organizations as well as the world at large to engage and support the cause of school connectivity,” said Borhene Chakroun, Director of Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems Division at UNESCO.




Salesforce Will Invest Another $100 Million in Education and Social Companies

IBL News | New York

Salesforce announced this month a second $100 million fund to invest in companies of education, environment, and social diversity while providing tech for nonprofits and foundations.

Investments of the Impact Fund will be channeled through Salesforce Ventures, CRM’s leading company global strategic investment arm.

“Through this new fund, Salesforce will invest in companies solving the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges,” said Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer and EVP of Corporate Relations at Salesforce.

“We want to support next-gen entrepreneurs developing solutions that drive digital transformation and customer success, and also improve the state of the world, ” added John Somorjai, EVP of Corporate Development and Salesforce Ventures.

Regarding education and workforce training, the new fund will focus on “workforce development and companies enabling equal access to high-quality education, reskilling, and preparing workers for jobs of the future.”

Salesforce Ventures introduced its first $50 million Impact Fund in 2017. To date, it invested in 25 companies, including AdmitHub, Andela, FutureFuel, Guild Education, Securly, and RaiseMe.


Another Zoom Challenger: Engageli Capitalizes on Video Conferencing Limitations

IBL News | New York

Coursera’s Co-Founder and CEO of Insitro Daphne Koller and her husband, computer scientist Dan Avida launched this month Engageli, an online learning platform that tries to give an answer to Zoom video conferencing limitation for higher ed.

This Silicon Valley startup company started a few months ago, raised $14.5 million in seed funding. In addition to Koller and Avida, investors include RM, Emerge Education, Alex Balkanski–general partner at Benchmark Capital–Lip-Bu Tan–CEO of Cadence Design Systems–and Rob Cohen–former president of 2U.

The story is similar to ClassEDU, recently started by the co-founders of Blackboard with $16 million in funding. The two companies want to replicate the social feeling of being in a classroom while adding live data about student engagement on a browser-based tool. However, Engageli is designed from the ground up to work on any browser, and ClassEDU is built on top of Zoom. Engageli’s users won’t have to download an app to access class.

Engageli features students seated at different virtual tables, in groups of up to 10, assigned by instructors. Students can see, hear, and chat with one another, along with the teacher. But they cannot do so with students at other tables. Students raise their hands and are given permission to speak. A color-coded circle overlaid on each student indicates how engaged he or she is.

Instructors can add questions to any presentation slide and stream videos directly on the platform.

“For anyone who’s used Zoom or Google Meet or Microsoft Teams, Engageli doesn’t take long to learn,” said Dan Avida, CEO of Engageli.

Engageli–which currently has 20 full-time staff–is now introducing the platform through a pilot program with a small set of universities considered to be early adopters. Pricing has not been disclosed yet.

Press Release of the launch 

Adobe Participated in Skillshare’s Last Funding of $66 Million in Series D

IBL News | New York

Skillshare.com announced this month it raised funding from Adobe in Series D, although it didn’t specify the exact amount. The learning company only disclosed that the raise was part of the funding of $66 million led by OMERS Growth Equity, reported this summer.

Skillshare – which claims to have 12 million registered members, 8,000 teachers, and over 30,000 video-based classes – said that raised over $108 million to date.

“Adobe is a natural partner,” said Matt Cooper, CEO at Skillshare. According to the company, around 75 percent of Americans participate in a creative hobby, an industry valued at $2.25 trillion.

Over 30% of Skillshare classes feature Adobe products. In 2019, Adobe partnered with Skillshare to provide tutorials in connection with the launch of Fresco, Adobe’s painting and drawing app.

The funding from Adobe comes in a booming year for the online learning industry, which is expected to grow into a $375 billion dollar marketplace by 2026, according to Global Market Insights. 


Coursera Extends Its Free Access to Universities Worldwide

IBL News | New York

Coursera.org announced this week that it is continuing in the long-term its Coursera for Campus offer of free courses for universities, along with other functionalities.

This offer – part of the Campus Response Initiative – started in March in the midst of the pandemic closure. Since then, Coursera has attracted 3,700 universities, serving more than 2.4 million students who have enrolled in 21.4 million courses.

The learning company has set three offerings:

  • The Student plan gives every university student free access to unlimited Guided Projects for hands-on learning and one course annually. They will also have access to the online help center.
  • The Basic plan provides up to 20,000 free student licenses to every university. Every license includes access to unlimited Guided Projects and one course annually. This long-term free offering includes basic plagiarism deterrence features and access to the online help center.
  • The Institution plan provides unlimited Guided Projects and unlimited course enrollments for each student license. It also enables universities to author, grade, and manage for-credit online learning programs with enhanced academic integrity.

Upgraded features of Coursera for Campus will enable universities to deliver credit-bearing online learning with academic integrity features.

The Mountain View, California-based company, with a catalog of 4,200 courses, explained: “Faculty can now administer secure, high-stakes exams and detect plagiarism in assignments on Coursera for Campus. It supports online proctoring with integrations like ProctorU and allows exams to be timed and scheduled. Over the next few months, Coursera will enhance exam security with third-party ID verification tools. For assignments, integrations with tools like Turnitin auto-detect plagiarism for both students and graders. Students can check their Similarity Score before submitting an assignment. Faculty can view all suspected and confirmed plagiarism incidents in Gradebooks. The platform also supports plagiarism deterrence by disabling URL sharing and copying of peer reviews.”

“Question Banks make it easy to author rigorous, custom assessments at scale. Faculty can create assessments with any combination of auto-graded multiple choice and manually-graded essay questions. They can privately author questions and randomize them based on learning objective and difficulty level. This feature will roll out widely by the end of the year.”

In addition, Coursera for Campus offered universities authoring and administrative tools and LMS integrations. They can build custom courses, hands-on projects, assessments, and even embed Zoom recordings with Live2Coursera. Strategies and resources for effective online teaching are also available on the Coursera Teaching Center.


Live2Coursera Launched as a Zoom App

On the other hand, Coursera announced this week its Live2Coursera app availability at the Zoom marketplace. Instructors can enable the Live2Coursera Zapp to record, share, and upload their Zoom lectures to Coursera.

Dropbox Becomes a Virtual First Company Making Remote Work Permanent

IBL News | New York

Dropbox – with 2,800 employees – is the latest tech company to make remote work permanent due to the pandemic. “Starting today, Dropbox is becoming a Virtual First company,” said the firm in a blog post.

In May, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted that 50% of employees will be working remotely within the next decade.

This week, San Francisco-based Dropbox announced that will stop asking employees to come into its offices, making remote work “the primary experience for all employees and the day-to-day default for individual work.” “It’s clear that distributed work is here to stay.” This outside the office work will endure even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, the mandatory work-from-home policy is set through June 2021.

For employees who need to meet in person, the tech company is setting up “Dropbox Studios” in San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and Dublin, or leasing on-demand spaces in other geographies.

Today, Twitter and Square are letting employees work from home “forever,” while Microsoft allows workers to have more flexibility to work from home.

“We believe the data shows the shift to remote work, though abrupt, has been successful overall. A new study from The Economist Intelligence Unit commissioned by Dropbox finds that knowledge workers are more focused at home and just as engaged as before. In our internal surveys, most employees say they’re able to be productive at home (nearly 90%) and don’t want to return to a rigid five-day in-office workweek.”


Microsoft Teams Will Become a Default Conferencing Tool Inside Canvas LMS

IBL News | New York

The Canvas LMS leading platform will use Microsoft Teams as a default conferencing tool rather than the dominant Zoom – company’s managers said to IBL News yesterday.

“Both Canvas and Microsoft teams have worked together developing a more tight integration of Teams,” explained Ryan Lufkin, Senior Director of Global Higher Education Product Marketing at Instructure, the company behind Canvas LMS.

This integration – announced at the CanvasCon Online annual conference yesterday – goes beyond the regular LTI app. For now, Canvas LMS users will be able to create meetings, change meeting settings, and access recordings from within the platform. The integration will be offered to Canvas users free, with unlimited usage. In the near future, even a prominent icon of Microsoft Teams might appear on the left menu.

Now the two companies are working together to bring Canvas assignments and quizzes directly into Teams meetings. When an educator wants their students to work on assignments together during class time, students are interacting with the Canvas content while the educator is controlling instruction and the flow of the meeting. [See below the screenshots obtained by IBL News ahead of the official presentation at CanvasCon today].

Microsoft and Canvas LMS partnership will go even further. Microsoft’s OneDrive storage tool will go next. OneDrive will manage Teams’ files within Canvas LMS. This will enable educators and students to create, share, co-author, and collaborate on lessons, assignments, and other instructional materials.

Moreover, in 2021, Microsoft’s Immersive Reader will be further integrated. This tool implements techniques to have text read aloud — sped up or slowed down to their preference — and played back in more than 40 languages. A picture dictionary helps recognize words, gets help with pronunciation through syllabified words, and identifies parts of speech including verbs, nouns. Students can also translate text into 70 languages.

“Working together, we can continue to develop equitable and powerful tools that help every learner reach their potential,” said Eran Megiddo, Corporate Vice President of Education and Modern Life Experiences at Microsoft. “These solutions are designed to support diverse learning styles and bring together everything teachers and students need for full classroom collaboration in remote, hybrid, and in-person learning environments.”

The extensive collaboration of Instructure with Microsoft is happening just at a technical level to date.

SPAC Churchill Capital Will Merge with Skillsoft in $1.3B Deal and Acquire Global Knowledge for $233M

IBL News | New York

Churchill Capital Corp, a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC), announced yesterday that it agreed to merge with Skillsoft (Software Luxembourg Holding S.A.) digital learning company, in a deal with a transaction value of about $1.3 billion.

The combined entity will then acquire Global Knowledge Training LLC for $233 million, putting the total cost of the transactions at $1.5 billion. The two deals are expected to close in January. The new entity will be called Skillsoft and trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

“The combination of Skillsoft and Global Knowledge will create a leading digital learning company with a comprehensive suite of content; customized learning journeys; accessible modalities, and an expanded course portfolio of next-generation, on-demand, and virtual content for enterprise learning,” the companies said in a statement.

A SPAC, or blank-check company, is one that has no business until it acquires one or more. They have become a popular way to go public during the pandemic and set a record in the third quarter when they raised $28 billion in 75 deals, more than triple the previous quarterly record. Churchill shares rose 0.8% premarket.

The combined company’s client base will include more than 70% of Fortune 1000 companies and more than 45 million users across content platforms, according to the company’s data.

Jeffrey Tarr will be the CEO of the combined company. He previously served as CEO of DigitalGlobe and President & Chief Operating Officer of IHS.


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