EdX Prepares the Release of Hawthorn for March

The edX organization is preparing the release of the new version of the Open edX platform called Hawthorn for this March, three months later than scheduled.

Before the launch, a major upgrade from Django 1.8 to Django 1.11 is needed. This task will be completed during February. After this, edX will start the packaging of Hawthorn, a process that will last 4 to 6 weeks.

Technically speaking, edX won’t support Vagrant; Devstack will be based on Docker.

Hawthorn will be the eight release of the Open edX platform, replacing the existing Ginkgo version.

IBL Newsletter 1/31/2018: NYU, Stanford, Candace Thille…


• Distance ed is saving higher ed: college enrollment online has steadily climbed its way up to 31.6 percent of the student population, as face-to-face continues to plummet and despite faculty resistance to digital education, has explained Robert Ubell, vice dean emeritus of online learning at NYU and author of the Going Online book.

• Stanford University has named its first CIO, Stephen Gallagher, currently occupying the same position at Harvard Business School. He will oversee an IT organization with 550 staff members and a budget of $150 million, and determine which technology, systems, and data should be moved to the cloud.

• Chicago plans to teach 500,000 young people in K-12 and community colleges how to code, starting with Swift, the iOS app creator language. It will follow Apple’s “Everyone Can Code” program.

• Highly innovative CIOs are redefining how IT works. They’re ditching legacy systems, developing innovation-focused processes, reimagining work, leveraging their positions, and building the right talent and culture.

• The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has built a three-story production studio that can accommodate multiple camera views and presenters, green screen operations and teleprompting when producing iMBA and other courses.

• Candace Thille, a pioneer in the science of learning and open education, has taken a leave from Stanford and joined Amazon to help the retailer better train its corporate workforce (half million employees). Amazon has a history of investing heavily to produce its own top-notch internal technologies.

• The use of analytics in the classroom helps to make more effective the learning experience for the student. edX’s “Analytics for the Classroom Teacher” course offers many insights in terms of using descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics. This post elaborates on this.

The IBL newsletter is a topic-curated email report compiled by Michael Amigot, Founder at IBL Education, a company specialized in Open edX technology and video course production. If you enjoy what you read please consider forwarding it. Click here to subscribe.

IBL Newsletter #5 – January 15, 2018
IBL Newsletter #4 – December 2017
IBL Newsletter #3 – November 2017
IBL Newsletter #2 – October 2017
IBL Newsletter #1 – September 2017

New Profesional Certificate Programs at edX

edX has announced 23 new Professional Certificate programs tailored for specific jobs and career paths.

These skill-based courses, intended for employers who are seeking talent, have been designed by top universities and companies such as Berkeley or Microsoft.

The program was launched in April 2017, and now includes 49 series from 23 edX partner institutions.

Part of this program is also six new Spanish-language programs.

The 2018 Open edX Conference Calls for Proposals

edX launched the 2018 Open edX conference website, which will be celebrated on May 30 and 31 in Montréal, Canada.

The event will take place at the HEC Montreal, Pavillon Decelles, and will be hosted by Université de Montréal, HEC Montréal, and Polytechnique Montréal, the three founding institutions behind EDUlib.

It will discuss: innovative uses across higher education, training, and lifelong learning, instructional design and course production techniques, and methods for operating, extending and enhancing the Open edX platform.

Similar to previous years, the Open edX conference is expected to attract around 300 developers, educators, and decision-makers.

In addition to Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, a featured speaker will be Zvi Galil, Dean at Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing.

Tickets, from $220 to $470, can be purchased now at a discount.

Also, the call for proposals has been already opened. Submission deadline is March 2nd.

How the Freshman Year for Free Program Produced 34 Major Online Courses in a Year




During times of unease about the affordability and accessibility of American higher education, philanthropic programs have stepped in to qualm some aspects of the plethora of student debt anxieties. Most notably, as reported in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, Steve Klinsky founded Modern States Education Alliance and introduced the “Freshman Year for Free” initiative.

The United States is dealing with a major student loan debt issue—over 44 million Americans have accumulated 1.48 trillion in student loan debt. With little action from the federal government, both states and the private sector have attempted to tackle this issue. With the aspiration of offering high-quality education to anyone—and anywhere— The Freshman Year for Free initiative has garnered praise from many big names.

Partnering with the College Board, Modern States funded the development of 30+ courses taught by professors at top institutions, along with an advanced educational platform, based on Open edX software. These courses prepare students to take the Advanced Placement (AP) or College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests, which allows the students who pass to gain college credit—therefore, to obtain a degree from an institution, that potential student would have to take less courses which translates to paying a lower total tuition. Although Modern States only launched last year, there are roughly 50,000 students already on their way to earning college credit.

IBL Studios was hired to produce the courses from scratch in their New York-based studios, with a requirement to produce one major MOOC per month. During the pre-production phase, top-tier educational consultants worked in partnership with professors to produce curricula that would ensure learners mastery of the many CLEP and AP topics, documented by The City Journal in their Winter 2018 edition.

IBL Studios functions on the premise that high-quality educational videos need not be time consuming nor expensive. Using the live-production technique, IBL Studios produces real-time educational videos that do not necessitate any post-production stress. Not only does this technique engage learners to a higher degree, since the professors can speak naturally and directly to their students, but it also saves months’ worth of post-production time needed in traditional forms of filming. As a testament to their time-saving techniques, IBL Studios has produced over 40 high-quality courses in the last year alone.

While real-time production is ideal in itself, IBL offers other reasons. Not only is there a three-sided white cyclorama where professors can lecture next to their pre-designed course slides, but there are many other options: a light board, best for writing or drawing complex examples, an audio recording room, green screen, and a 4k control room.



* ZOE MACKAY is the Lead Learning Strategist at IBL

Top Providers of Online Courses Made $65M Revenues in 2017

In 2017, the MOOC landscape has grown into 9,400 courses (6,850 in 2016) and 78 million learners, according to data gathered by Class Central.

  • Around 20 million new learners signed up for their first MOOC in 2017. Over 800 universities around the world have launched at least one MOOC.


  • This is the list of the top five providers:
    Coursera — 30 million users.
    edX — 14 million users.
    XuetangX — 9.3 million users.
    FutureLearn — 7.1 million users.
    Udacity — 5 million users (50,000 of them are paying students).


  • In the Netherlands, TU Delft ran a pilot to let their students earn credit from MOOCs offered on edX by other universities, via a Virtual Exchange program. In 2017, TU Delft signed an agreement with eight other universities. Now, students from this entire group of universities can earn credit for each others’ MOOCs.

“The narrative in the early days of the MOOC space was 
around the disruption to universities. Six years later, we know that MOOCs are not going to lead to the demise of universities. However, according to the previous CEO of Coursera, Rick Levin, while MOOCs may not have disrupted the higher education market, they are disrupting the labor market. The real audience for these courses is not the traditional university student but what Levin calls the “lifelong career learner”: someone who might be well beyond their college years, but takes online courses with the goal of achieving professional and career growth,” writes Dhawal Shah.

The total potential revenue collected by these platforms now exceeds $65 million, which comes from 7,000 students enrolled, estimates Class Central.

Revenue comes from certificates, micro-credentials, university credit, online degrees, and corporate training.
Free courses –which are increasingly shringking– acted as a marketing channel that feeds customers into other
higher priced products.

edX.org remains the only platform that still offers most of its courses for free.

On the corporate training side, the Coursera for Business service attracted over 500 companies in 2017, up
from  30 last year. EdX for Business is now working with 40 companies.




edX Starts MicroBachelors, a New Credential for an Undergraduate Degree

The edX organization has started to quietly develop a “MicroBachelors” degree, designed to break the undergraduate credential into modular components, according to edSurge. The project, now in the early stages, has received a $700,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation. It is part of edX long-term vision that began with its MicroMaster program.

“Education in five to ten years will become modular, omnichannel, and lifelong. We are going to make it so,” said Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, during a higher-education innovation summit hosted by the U.S. Department of Education.

“We will launch MicroBachelors within the next year or two and do the same modularization with the bachelor’s degree,” he said. “We’ve already launched Global Freshman Academy with ASU, that is a precursor to the MicroBachelors.”

Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning at MIT, said to edSurge.com that while his institution is not working on a MicroBachelors degree, he thinks the concept is a natural extension of MicroMasters. “It’s more for folks who couldn’t attend college.” 

The big idea is offering online a low-cost, low-risk way for students to start an undergraduate education even if they can’t get to a campus.


Call to Develop Lighter and Cheaper Analytics for Open edX

A growing number of players in the Open edX community continues to look for a solution in learning analytics given the malfunctioning of the native Insights Analytics platform for non-edX.org deployments.

Last week the European provider Opencraft posted a call to developers and supporters encouraging them to participate in a joint effort to create “lighter, faster and cheaper” solution on analytics, in order to respond clients’ use cases and requests.

“Can we enhance the Analytics API offerings to create custom, community-used analytics applications, tailored to specific use cases?” was asking Jill Vogel.

Features required were the following:

  • Real-time, or near real-time, updates. Some simple data processing tasks end up taking 30-90 minutes to update and rack up big AWS bills, because of all the overhead added by Hadoop and Map Reduce.
  • Lightweight deployment, suitable for small instances.
  • Flexible reporting, small analytics reporting application.


IBL Newsletter 1/15/2018: Oracle, Thinkful, Revature, Coursera


Oracle opened its newly-built Design Tech High School Video, a free public charter school, located on company’s corporate campus in Redwood City, Calif. The school serves 550 students, described by Oracle’s CEO as “ambassadors for the future of education”.

The New York-based Thinkful has raised $9.6M in funding to grow in-person hubs for its online coding boot camp.

• Complaining that higher-ed is producing too few graduates with skills they need, many employers are taking matters into their own hands by designing courses themselves. A good example is Microsoft and Linux Foundation, who have teamed up with edX.

edSurge has put on a calendar the key 50 edtech conferences happening this year. However, its events page is more exhaustive.

Coursera is shifting towards B2B. In 2017, it went from 30 to 500 companies. Each year corporations spent $150 billion spent on training.

Revature talent development company has doubled the number of engineers trained in 2017, following its model of training college graduates and placing them as consultants with their Fortune 500 client base.

Chip Paucek, CEO at 2U, said that we are now in the “third wave” of ed tech innovation with top-tier universities offering full courses online. With a $3bn valuation, in 2017, 2U saw its stock increased 114% and bought the course specialist GetSmarter for $103 million.

• Having a data-driven management strategy has become a necessity at higher ed. This is one of the key trends for 2018, along with immersive learning, digital course management, enterprise-wide video, mobile tech, Internet of things and learning space design.

The IBL newsletter is a topic-curated email report compiled by Michael Amigot, Founder at IBL EDUCATION, a company specialized in Open edX technology and video course production. If you enjoy what you read please consider forwarding it. Click here to subscribe.

IBL Newsletter #4 – December 2017
IBL Newsletter #3 – November 2017
IBL Newsletter #2 – October 2017
IBL Newsletter #1 – September 2017

Tech Mahindra Indian Powerhouse Will Train their 117K Employees Through EdX.org

Tech Mahindra, a large Indian outsourcing company, will reskill their 117,000 employees through edX courses.

The company has reached an agreement with edX.org to enhance their employee’s development program in areas such as Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Business Analytics, amongst others, Tech Mahindra announced that they will fund certifications.

“This groundbreaking partnership with Tech Mahindra furthers our mission and underscores our commitment to edX learners in India and around the globe,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO.

“Training and Reskilling are more imperative and relevant to reinvent and tap into new market opportunities arising out of technological change and new customer requirements,” said CP Gurnani, CEO, and MD at Tech Mahindra.