Two Stanford Lecturers and Comedians Create a Course About Bringing Humor into the Workplace

IBL News | New York

Two lecturers from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and comediants have created on the “Remotely Humorous” course in collaboration with comedians who have written for The Onion, Comedy Central, and Funny or Die.

The instructors, Naomi Bagdonas —a media and strategy consultant, and author of Humor, Seriously— and Connor Diemand-Yauman, co-CEO of the nonprofit Merit America– explore the importance of workplace humor through a behavioral science lens.

The three skill-building course includes a highly entertaining series of video lectures and assessments that elaborate on the importance of bringing laughter into the workplace and the right ways to deploy it. The duration of the class is for two months, and it costs $200.

Diemand-Yauman explained: “Humor can make teams more bonded and effective, and help leaders are more authentic and trustworthy. And it’s especially relevant now. The shift to remote work, he points out, have left many people feeling particularly isolated and lonely.”

On her hand, Naomi Bagdonas added: “Unlike most other online courses, it’s heavily based on activities; so you can take it with your team and do the activities together. It’s almost like an intensive culture boot camp—just with slightly fewer trust falls.”  

The first course in the program focuses on reigniting your sense of humor at work and learning comedy techniques from the pros.  The second course is about understanding the cultural enablers of humor in an organization. The third course focuses on making a fundamental shift in your teams and organizations to get humor to stick.


edX Launches a $10M Scholarship Campaign for Learners Impacted by COVID

IBL News | New York

Online learning platform edX launched this month a campaign program named Access for All, in order to financially support low-income learners impacted by COVID-19 in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and India.

The edX organization set the goal of raising $10 million for this program over the next three years.

The first scholarship of the Access for All campaign has been funded with $1 million by the Macquarie Group. It covers 100% of the cost of an edX course, including the newly MicroBachelors Programs.

Over 15,000 learners showed their interest in this scholarship in the first 24 hours of launch.

“We will feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and higher education reverberate for years to come, and this scholarship campaign will be instrumental in empowering learners everywhere to reach their full potential and change the world,” explained edX representatives in a blog-post.

Microsoft Follows the Shift of Tech Giants and Offers Its Staff to Permanently Work at Home

IBL News | New York

The working remotely option will be permanent at Microsoft due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Yesterday, the company announced that it told staff the option of working from home permanently with manager approval.

The shift follows the decision of tech giants rivals like Facebook and Twitter.

“Our goal is to evolve the way we work overtime with intention—guided by employee input, data, and our commitment to support individual work styles and business needs while living our culture,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

In April, nearly 2,000 Microsoft Store employees pivoted to remote work.

Only some roles, such as those needing access to hardware, will continue to require an in-person presence.

As of May, 42% of those employed were doing some work from home, according to Stanford University. Before the pandemic, just 2% of workers were remote full time.

The shift into remote work has reduced demand for office and residential properties in city centers. In New York and San Francisco the pricing is going back to where it was in 2005, experts say.

IBM Will Focus More on Cloud and AI, while Placing Its Low-Margin, Legacy Tech into a New Public Company

IBL News | New York

IBM (International Business Machines) announced yesterday it will split into two public companies, in a bid to focus more on higher-margin businesses like cloud computing and AI. Currently, AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Microsoft dominate the market for cloud services.

The 109-year old company shifted into the cloud with the acquisition of Red Hat for $34 billion in July 2019.

IBM –which currently has more than 352,000 workers – said it expects the separation to cost $5 billion.

The tech giant will list its legacy IT infrastructure services unit as a separate entity named NewCo by the end of 2021. Software sales and demand for mainframe servers have been in decline in recent years.

NewCo will have 90,000 employees and $19 billion in annual revenue. It will serve 75% of Fortune 100 companies when it makes its share market debut, according to IBM.

The market received well IBM’s announcement, and investors praised the move by CEO Arvind Krishna, with shares closing nearly 6% higher.

“We divested networking back in the 1990s, we divested PCs back in the 2000s, we divested semiconductors about five years ago because all of them didn’t necessarily play into the integrated value proposition,” Arvind Krishna – who took over as CEO in April –wrote in a blog post. “To drive growth, our strategy must be rooted in the reality of the world we live in and the future our clients strive to build. Today, hybrid cloud and AI are swiftly becoming the locus of commerce, transactions, and over time, of computing itself.”

Wedbush Securities analyst Moshe Katri said, “IBM is essentially getting rid of a shrinking, low-margin operation given the cannibalizing impact of automation and cloud, masking stronger growth for the rest of the operation.”


Skillsoft and Global Knowledge in Talks to Merge and Go Public

IBL News | New York

U.S. learning companies Global Knowledge Training LLC and Skillsoft Ltd. are in talks to merge and simultaneously go public, according to Bloomberg.

Finance firm Michael Klein’s Churchill Capital Corp. II will handle the operation if the deal goes through.

According to Bloomberg News, both Cary, North Carolina-based Global Knowledge, and Nashua, New Hampshire-based Skillsoft have faced financial distress in recent months. Global Knowledge’s first-lien loan due in 2021 is trading at about 55 cents on the dollar, while Skillsoft filed for bankruptcy in June, citing a decline in customers.

Skillsoft’s restructuring plan cut its debt by around $1.5 billion and left it with $50 million of liquidity. Lenders took control of Skillsoft through the court-supervised process, exchanging their holdings for the company’s reorganized equity. The company’s previous equity holders, including majority owner Charterhouse Capital Partners, didn’t recover anything under the plan, which was approved in August.

The reorganization also left open the option for the company to explore a potential sale or “alternative transaction,” according to court papers. Skillsoft sought court permission to hold exclusive talks with an unnamed “interested party” and perform due diligence. The potential deal would need approval from all consenting parties including Skillsoft’s board and creditors, filings show.

Backed by Rhone Group, Global Knowledge provides training for International Business Machines Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., and other tech giants.

Udacity Expands Its Partnership with AT&T by Issuing a Scholarship Program for 1,000 Students

IBL News | New York

Udacity extended its partnership with AT&T formed in 2014 with the launch of Georgia Tech’s OMSCS, the Online Master of Science in Computer Science that was a fundamental shift in higher education.

Mountain View, California-based Udacity and giant AT&T extended agreement – announced this week – points out to provide support to underserved communities by offering 1,000 Nanodegree licenses, a $1 million investment.

This scholarship aims to increase education, skill-building, and career readiness opportunities in these communities.

Around 5,400 of AT&T’s employees have completed Udacity Nanodegree programs to date.

“This initiative demonstrates our commitment to driving social equality in underserved communities by addressing an educational opportunity that provides families a path to economic stability,” said Mylayna Albright, AVP Corporate Social Responsibility, AT&T.

Earlier this year, AT&T pledged to invest an additional $10 million in 2020 to create economic opportunities and foster upward mobility for Black communities and communities who face social inequities and higher unemployment rates.

Currently, Udacity has launched 10 scholarship programs, awarding 22,000 students. At least six sponsors have participated in the program: Google, AT&T, Lyft, Microsoft, Bertelsman, and Accenture.

Moodle Reports 165,000 Using Its Software, and Announces Improvements on Usability

IBL News | New York

Moodle has reported that there are over 165,000 learning websites around the world built using its open-source software. The platform was launched 18 years ago.

Sander, the Manager of the Product team at Moodle HQ, explained in a blog-post interview that “Moodle is now a leader in privacy compliance for open source projects and even amongst other commercial competitors”.

In her view, beyond compliance, improvements on the code also extend into the look and feel, accessibility, LTI implementation, and standards, such as Open Badges.

Moodle HQ teams are preparing the next product release, Moodle 4.0, scheduled for November 2021. It will include the enhancement of overall student and teacher experience.

In addition, engineers in Australia headquarters are working on Moodle Workplace, the corporate version of the platform launched in 2019. The upcoming release will add a multi-tenancy feature.

Currently, Moodle offers three MOOCs with certificates: Learn Moodle 3.9 Basic, Moodle Teaching Basic, and Moodle Admin Basics.


The Catholic Polytechnic University Issues Its First Course, Cybersecurity Fundamentals

IBL News | New York

The recently created Catholic Polytechnic University (CPU) announced its first pilot course, Cybersecurity Fundamentals.

It will be an 8-week, online, certificate course –not for college credit –, at a cost of $300. The class will take place from October 14, 2020, to December 9, 2020, on Wednesdays at 5:00-6:30 pm PST.

The instructor will be Cornell Ruston, a cybersecurity expert with 25 years of experience.

The interactive course will provide learners with the principles of data and technology that frame and define cybersecurity. Students will be able to explore foundational cybersecurity principles, security architecture, risk management, attacks, incidents, and emerging IT and IS technologies.

“The course is open to anyone high school age or older, and you don’t have to be Catholic to participate,” explained Dr. Jennifer Nolan, President at CPU to IBL News.

Past News Stories about CPU

Thinkific Reports a 200% Increase in People Making Courses and Raises $22M

IBL News | New York

Course-creation platform Thinkfic announced that it raised $22 million in new funding led by Rhino Ventures, which was already an investor. Previously, the Canadian startup raised $3 million.

Vancouver–based Thinkific claims that over 50,000 users have earned over $650 million by building and selling online courses through its platform. The startup company also reported a 200% increase in people making courses since March.

“We have been profitable for many years [since 2018], but we chose to raise this additional funding to accelerate innovation, and scale our team,” wrote Greg Smith, CEO & Co-Founder at Thinkific in a blog-post. The plan is to grow from a current team of 180 employees to 500 people within a year or so. “We want to help one million knowledge entrepreneurs grow successful businesses in 5 or 10 years.”

The company – which competes with Udemy, Teachable, and Skillshare, among others – highlights stories like those of John Michaloudis, who was able to grow an Excel course to $20,000/month in just 6 months, or Tim Vipond, co-founder and CEO of Corporate Finance Institute (CFI), who’s been able to train 600,000 financial advisors.”

“Our users want control over their brand, own customer relationship, and build their own sustainable businesses,” explained Greg Smith. The firm doesn’t take a cut of the revenue from creators nor charges transaction fees, contrary to its competitors.

“Thinkific’s business model, user numbers, and ~ 150% year-over-year revenue growth tracks, by stage, very closely to Shopify which is now Canada’s most valuable public company,” stated Rhino Managing Partner, Fraser Hall.

The company was built out of a need of Greg Smith when he wanted to offer an LSAT class online as an instructor. Along with three more co-founders [in the picture below], he created Thinkific to enable entrepreneurs to build and commercialize courses of their own.


The ‘Introduction to Linux’ Course on Surpasses One Million Enrollments

IBL News | New York

The Introduction to Linux training course on, currently in its sixth edition, has surpassed a milestone of one million enrollments, according to The Linux Foundation.

This 14-week, introductory course helps students develop a working knowledge of Linux using both the graphical interface and command line across the major Linux distribution families.

The course is free, but to obtain a verified certificate learners must pay $199. This online class remains open for new enrollments.

The Linux Foundation offers at two dozen free training courses on open source projects including Linux, Kubernetes, Hyperledger.

“One of our primary goals is to bring more talent into the open source community, and offering free, high quality training that is accessible to anyone who wants it is essential to achieving that goal,” said Linux Foundation Executive Director, Jim Zemlin.

“Introduction to Linux has been a true blockbuster – it’s one of our top 10 most popular courses of all time,” said Anant Agarwal, edX Founder and CEO.

The Linux Foundation has been member of the edX Consortium since 2014.


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