Not Captioning Your MOOCs? MIT And Harvard Are Sued For Discriminating Against Deaf Students

Wake-up call for schools who are not offering captions for their MOOC content.

MIT and Harvard University are facing two federal class action lawsuits filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and four deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, claiming the universities failed to caption a vast array of online content, including MOOCs.

The cases, filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, assert that MIT and Harvard violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by denying deaf and hard of hearing people access to thousands of videos and audio tracks that each university makes publicly available for free.

“This lawsuit is part of our battle for full access to online media content,” explained Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD’s Chief Executive Officer. (Watch above’s video).

The non-captioned content includes campus talks by President Barack Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, educational videos made by MIT students for use by K-12 students, “self-help” talks, entire semesters’-worth of courses and regular podcasts such as the “HBR IdeaCast” by the Harvard Business Review.

With this lawsuit the message to large universities is loud and clear: you should make accommodations for people with disabilities and online course material should be accessible. Entire groups of people cannot be excluded.


EdX Sets a Date for the Release of the "Birch" Version: February 24

EdX has set a target date for Birch’s official release: Tuesday, February 24.

David Baumgold, the edX engineer in charge, noted that “if a significant number of changes are added to the release candidate branch, a new release candidate will be created and the release date will be pushed back, to give people time to test the new release candidate”.

The “Birch” version is now on its RC3 (Release Candidate) phase. Bugs will continue to be fixed until the target date.


Get A Solid Understanding of Blended Learning With This edX Course

For an educator who wants to enhance his classroom experience with educational technology, the Open edX technology is a great solution.

Blended Learning with edX  is an online course created by the edX team that includes examples of course teams from around the world as well as research articles. It also contains numerous discussion threads that invite users to share resources and ideas with each other.

“Our hope is that this course not only provides you with a solid foundational understanding of blended learning, but that it continues to serve as a resource to you throughout your own course design process,” say the creators.

The course’s intro video, above, showcases TEAL, MIT’s Technology Enabled Active Learning classroom.

EdX Launches the "Birch" Release – A Sneak Peak of Its Features


The Open edX “Birch” release –the second version after “Aspen”– is almost here. It is scheduled to be released in February.

For now, this version is a release candidate.

“Birch” will include many new features, capabilities and APIs, as well as many small changes and bug fixes. edX’s Release Notes provide a cumulative list of changes listed after the release of Aspen, which was based on the version from September 4, 2014.

Here is a summary:

  • Prerequisite courses. You can require that students pass specific edX courses before enrolling into your course.
  • Entrance Exams. You can require that students pass an entrance exam before they access your course materials.
  • Student Notes. Learners can highlight text and take notes while progressing through a course. They can then review their notes either in the body of the course or on a separate “Notes” tab.
  • Course Reruns. You can create a new course easily by re-running an existing course. When you re-run a course, most –but not all– of the original course content will be duplicated onto the new course.
  • Google Calendar and Google Drive Components. You can embed Google calendars and Google Drive files into your course. Learners may see the calendar or file directly in the courseware. Learners can also interact with Google Forms files, and complete forms or surveys in the courseware.
  • Support for “Graded Problems” in “Content Experiments”. You can now use graded problems in content experiments.
  • Split Mongo Modulestore. This refers to the separation of identity, structure and content, and it enables you to use more advanced capabilities while developing and managing courses.
  • Cohorts for Discussions and Content. You can now define smaller communities of students within the larger, course-wide community. Learners in a given cohort may have private discussions.
  • Content libraries and randomized content. You can create a content library that contains a pool of components that can be used in randomized assignments.

A New Proposal: Spend Just Two Years on Campus

Why should college only last for four years? Why stop learning after that period of time?

Some days ago we mentioned a bold initiative based on taking one year of college for free by using MOOCs.

Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, says in an interview that a continuous education system will allow people to get just-in-time education on topics that are on cutting edge of technology and learn as they need to learn”.

“Imagine that a student comes into college having done their first year of college as MOOCs and online — possibly even for free. And they come in and they get credit for those first year of courses. They spend two years on campus, and then rather than spending the fourth year on campus, they go outside, get a job and become continuous learners for the rest of their lives.”




How Education Will Look Like in 2020 – Ten Trends

How will  the next five-to-ten years look like in online learning?

Anant Agarwal, president of, made these predictions in the Financial Times –that we have classified and summarized into ten trends:

1. The blended model will become the new norm. By 2020, 50 percent of college courses will combine in-person and online learning; a shift driven by student demand for the convenience and effectiveness of online learning. MIT’s recent report on the future of MIT education was unequivocal in its support of the blended model.

Chip Paucek, chief executive of 2U, says that “universities that do not provide online degrees will be hard-pressed to remain competitive as their peers scale dramatically through the ability to serve students regardless of location. “The lack of an online offering will be unacceptable. “At every school, there will no longer be online or on-campus students. Just students,” Paucek states.

2. MOOCs will help close the skills-gap for employers. Employees will be encouraged to take online courses with self-assessment preparedness tests pertaining to specific skill-sets when hired; or even later to keep up with emerging trends and technologies.

3. Students will become continuous learners, cultivating new skill-sets throughout their careers. There will be several models. For example, year one may be online with two years then spent on-campus. Instead of the traditional final year, students will enter the workforce to gain real-world skills and continue to learn through an annual subscription to their university.

4. Many universities will use MOOCs as a new kind of textbook; including videos, game-like simulations and interactive exercises. For classes, professors will augment public MOOC content with private, in-person experiences. In other words, MOOCs will be the “new age” textbooks.

 5. MOOCs will help prepare students for college. Just as many schools mandate required summer reading prior to freshman year, specific MOOCs with self-assessment preparedness tests may be required from accepted students, thereby ensuring they are prepared when they arrive on campus.

 6. There will be tens of thousands of free MOOCs offering everything, from fine arts to engineering. Students worldwide will have access to virtually any course subject in any language. [Today, and Open edx partners offer more than 1,000 free MOOCs.]

 7. MOOCs will get personal. Learning will offer multiple pathways to navigate courses that fit specific learning styles and speeds. MOOCs will continue tailoring the learning experience to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students, universities and employers.

 8. We will see more badges, such as Mozilla’s Open Badges. Employers increasingly accept certificates for MOOC courses. MOOC platforms are headed in this direction. [IBL has developed, along with GW, Indiana University and, the first badge system for Open edX. This course at GW is the first one issuing badges].

 9. MOOC certificates will transfer into course credits.

 10. Growing institutions, especially in developing nations, will aggregate existing MOOC courses into synthesized degree programs. [Anant refers to this phenomenon as “digital dormitories”.]



An Investor Donates $1 Million to To Support the Creation of 20 AP-Oriented MOOCs and Allow Students Start College For Free


Steven B. Klinsky, 58 a New York professional investor who founded the private equity firm New Mountain Capital, is proposing a way for high school students to take one year of college online for free.

To carry out his vision, he has donated $1 million to edX –the MIT and Harvard University overseen online venture– and has formed a nonprofit group group, the Modern States Education Alliance.

His idea, announced last week through the Washington Post, is to have 20 new edX courses, in addition to an existing 10, that would prepare students to pass Advanced Placement (AP) or College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests so they can be able to take freshman year for free and start in college as sophomores.

Mr. Kinsky’s “Freshman Year for Free” initiative occurs while President Obama is proposing that community college should be free.

By using this funding, edX will add these additional courses to its current suite of AP and introductory college-level courses currently offered on its platform.

  • “These additional courses will ensure that every major subject covered by a College Board Advanced Placement* or CLEP* exam will be offered on Students completing the courses will have an opportunity to pass exams and gain credit from traditional colleges and universities. All courses are planned to launch and be open for registration on within the next 18 months,” edX explains.
  • “These courses will cover important freshman college subjects, ranging from math, science and history courses, to economics, anthropology, philosophy, foreign languages, and English.”
  • “Each course will be developed by edX university partners, and will include quizzes, tests, assessments, online discussion groups and other features.  Texts and materials will also be provided to students free of charge, online.”

For decades, many colleges have offered credit to students for high scores on AP tests. Credits are also available through the College-Level Examination Program, known as CLEP.

Modern States intends to add tutoring, counseling, mentoring and college guidance to its portal over time, and to continuously update and expand the course offerings.

“No one should be shut out of education after high school because of tuition cost or lack of access,” said Steven Klinsky, Modern States’ founder and chairman.  “Modern States’ goal is to create at least one universally available and tuition free path toward high quality education for anyone who seeks it.

Another initiative to make college free came from Shai Reshef, founder of University of the People. His TED talk last summer has been viewed by more than a million people.

First Open edX Meetup Will Take Place in New York on January 22


The first U.S. Open edX meetup will take place in New York on Thursday, January 22, 2015.

IBL Studios Education, along with McKinsey Academy and Johnson and Johnson, is organizing the event.

Six speakers representing the most active organizations in Open edX in the New York area will share their insights.

McKinsey Academy is the sponsor venue.

Sessions will be filmed by IBL and shared online with the whole edX community.

Access is free, although the number of seats is limited. Top academics from several colleges in New York, including NYU, Cooper Union and Columbia, will attend the event.

To join, just RSVP to this Open edX meetup.

This is the list of presenters:

  • Vishal Gandhi – McKinsey Academy
    “Hyperextending edX”
  • Tim Mauri – Johnson and Johnson (J&J)
    “How J&J decided on edX”
  • Ruben Savizky, PhD – Cooper Union
    “Lessons learned from creating a MOOC on”
  • Michael Amigot – IBL Studios Education
    “Digital badges and other innovative features”
  • Yoav Bergner, PhD – Educational Testing Service
    “Collaborative assessment research with Open edX”
  • Bruno Kavanagh – Interactive media consultant, McKinsey Academy
    “Instructional design is dead: Long live learning media!”

Daphe Koller: MOOCs Prove to Be an Effective Way to Close the Skills Gap

Did MOOCs undermined or even replaced the traditional college education?

On the contrary: they have offered an effective way to close the skills gap.

Daphne Koller, cofounder and president of Coursera, shares her view in the MIT Technology Review magazine:

  • Only 15 percent of Coursera’s learners [this company has 10 million enrolled students] are college age. The other 85 percent are adults looking to expand their horizons and working adults working to build critical jobs skills for a better career. Many the skills they seek –data science, mobile apps, digital marketing– didn’t event exist a decade ago.
  •  To complete a MOOC is a measure that brings tangible benefits, including new jobs, new responsibilities, and promotions.
  • A four-year degree is no longer sufficient for a lifelong career. MOOCs can be an important component to better suit the learning needs of the 21st century.

Open edX Becomes The 'De Facto' Platform To Host MOOCs

Our friend Dhawal Shah, founder of, has written a detailed analyses about MOOC growth in 2014. Dhawal concludes that “the number of universities offering MOOCs has doubled to cross 400 universities, with a doubling of the number of cumulative courses offered, to 2400.” “22 of the top 25 US universities in US News World Report rankings are now offering courses online for free.”

What is interesting, too, is that Open edX has been the preferred platform to host MOOCs.

This is what the article says:

“Institutions choose Open edX for DIY: Open edX quickly seems to have become the de facto platform for organizations and groups who are looking to host their own MOOCs. It has been adopted by several organizations in diverse regions of the world, including Jordan, Japan,France, China, India and the US.”

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