Why Open edX (a Reminder)

Open edX is the open source educational software that powers MIT’s and Harvard’s edx.org platform and its 5M+ users. It is scalable, well-tested and fully featured in terms of its web application, iOS and Android platforms and learning analytics software.

new-ibl-web-mainOpen edX is used by the world’s top ten universities, either as a course publishing tool through edX or fully personalized instances such as Stanford’s and MIT’s. It is supported by a strong community of corporate, academic and government partners.

Moreover, since it is open source, users of the platform are able to fully control it, customize it and benefit from edX’s major upgrades and feature releases, which occur several times per year. This is very powerful for at least a couple of reasons:

Open edX allows organizations who are looking for custom-built solutions to literally stand on the shoulders of giants when building their education programs’ software. How much “shoulders of giants” are we talking about? Well, essentially, the software that runs edx.org and includes mobile apps, learning analytics and ecommerce. We can customize its user interface and backend-integrations as much as we need but, in 99% of the cases, we’re talking about days or weeks of development efforts, not months or years.

Another reason is that, when an organization deploys Open edX, it fully owns it. This includes full ownership of its learners’ data and analytics (proprietary datasets will only become more valuable) as well as an ability to scale without prohibitive costs.

Sure, at $5 to $20 per student per month, traditional cloud-based LMS’s are cheap for a small number of students, but costs can quickly skyrocket — a Fortune 500 company in the US recently disclosed to IBL that it is paying close to $1.5m for 60k learners every year (“but only $2.08 per student per month!”). It may have been necessary to pay sums like this a few years ago when Open edX did not exist and the existing open source solutions were neither appealing nor fully-featured, but that is fortunately no longer the case.

For more information, visit Open edX’s official website or read our founder’s article on its official blog, “What Makes Open edX Unique”And, of course, please reach out to our team if you’d like to see how your organization can implement Open edX.

Video: Are Universities Willing to Collaborate with Open Education Start-Ups?


Are traditional institutions willing to put their brands on the line to collaborate with start-ups and launch new educational pathways?

On the first anniversary of the Global Freshman Academy, three panelists and one moderator recently explored at the 2016 ASU GSV Summit the evolution of collaborations and ecosystems in open education.

Stephen Laster, Chief Digital Officer, McGraw-Hill Education
Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX; Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT
Adrian Sannier, Chief Academic Technology Officer, Arizona State University

Richard DeMillo, Professor of Computing and Professor of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology; Author of Revolution in Higher Education: How a Small Band of Innovators Will Make College Accessible and Affordable

Udacity's Successful MOOC Business Model Strategy

Udacity’s corporate-oriented strategy, based on its vision of bridging the gap between real-world skills, education and employment using MOOCs, has proven to be effective. Now it has 4 million registered users and 11,000 paying students. Its nanodegree program shows a completion rate of 60%, while the academic courses on Coursera or edX.org have only 2%.

Although Udacity does not disclose its financials, its annual revenue is believed to be $24 million. The company has only said that it is growing at rate of 30% per month and is profitable.

Until now, Udacity has raised $160 million in funding from investors and its valuation is $1 billion. This educational start-up, funded by the German computer scientist Sebastian Thrun, plans to use the funds from this latest round to expand into China, the Middle East, and India.

> Read: Billion Dollar Unicorn: Udacity Leans on Industry Giants for Monetization

A MIT Online Education Report Suggests to Create "Learning Engineers"


MIT has just released a report worth reading titled Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reformsthat considers how advances in learning science and online technology might shape its future.

The report was presented in a forum on April 1 at the National Academy of Sciences in DC.

This analysis, that covers edX, stresses the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, integration between online and traditional learning, a skilled workforce specializing in digital learning design, and high-level institutional and organizational change.

  • The report suggests viewing online capabilities as a scaffold and support rather than a replacement for in-person interactions between teachers and students.
  • Online learning environments can be used to space learning across longer time periods and improve retention; provide learning opportunities remotely and through games or other media; and give teachers valuable data on students’ areas of challenge and success.
  • We need to think of online learning as something that enables us to provide richer experiences toward differentiated or personalized instruction.
  • We believe that there is a new category of professionals emerging from all this. We use the term ‘learning engineer.’ These “learning engineers” would have expertise in a discipline as well as in learning science and educational technologies, and would integrate knowledge across fields to design and optimize learning experiences.
  • It’s important that this cadre of professionals get recognized as a valuable profession and provided with opportunities for advancement. Without people like this, we’re not going to make a transformation in education.

“We hope that this work will help to give our point of view on how university professors, policy makers, and government officials can think about technology and online education in the context of education at large,”
says Sanjay Sarma, professor of mechanical engineering and dean of digital learning.





"Letting Learning Companies Control Analytics Is a Mistake", Says a Known Researcher

candace edx

Candace M. Thille, a known researcher at Stanford University, has issued a warning about the use of big data and learning analytics by education companies, specially since adaptive learning is becoming an increasingly important tool in teaching.

“Letting the market alone shape the future of learning analytics would be a mistake. Colleges should be investing in learning analytics in the same way that they invest in maintaining their buildings,” she said in an interview in The Chronicle.

Candace M. Thille argues that colleges should have more control as a way to use data to predict students needs and deliver the right material at the right time. “You don’t outsource your core business process,” she noted. “When companies lead the development of learning software, the decisions those systems make are hidden from professors and colleges.”

Dr. Lorena A Barba, a professor at George Washington University, has invited data scientists to work with learning scientists to contribute to the field of data-driven education.


Open Software Ecosystems Will Improve Learning Outcomes

Road sign to education and future

The solution to improve learning outcomes is mostly based on launching open software ecosystems. And Open edX is a step in that direction.

Stephen Laster, Chief Digital Officer at McGraw-Hill Education, has written a revealing analysis on EdSurge, highlighting the idea that technologies that live within closed systems create roadblocks in students’ learning pathways.

“Building digital content and learning technology around open standards ensures that educators and students can determine what’s most effective without worrying about whether different technologies will work together,” he states.

“The simple solution to accelerate open edtech for everyone is to support technology standards set forth by organizations like the IMS Global Learning Consortium.” 




Video: Top 10 Technologies of 2016

These are Educause’s top 10 IT technologies of 2016 to focus on:

  1. Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning
  2. Software as a Service (SaaS)
  3. Administrative or business performance analytics
  4. App development (responsive design, hybrid, etc.)
  5. Accessing online components of blended/hybrid courses from mobile devices
  6. Mobile apps for enterprise applications
  7. Service desk tool and management strategy
  8. Learning analytics
  9. Data collection and sophisticated analytics methodologies for information security
  10. Application performance monitoring.

Educause Review: Top 10 IT Issues, 2016: Divest, Reinvest, and Differentiate

Stanford University Shows Its Disappointment with MOOCs

Mitchell Stevens, left, Candace Thille and John Mitchell, spoke about Online Education at the Faculty Senate.

Definitely, MOOCs have not fixed education and the promise of a big change has not been accomplished.

Back in 2012, Stanford University proclaimed the MOOC revolution and now in 2015 declares its disappointment.

Stanford’s professors and co-directors of the Lytics Lab John Mitchell, Candace Thile and Mitchell Stevens (in the picture) have shared what they learned on a revealing article on Inside of Higher Ed online magazine.

We summarized their main ideas:

  • Back in 2012, massive open online courses entered public consciousness accompanied by grand promises of revolution. MOOC mania brought lots of hype. By 2013 a new campus operation was created at Stanford to support online instruction. It helped our faculty produce 171 online offerings, including 51 free public MOOCs offered repeatedly, reaching nearly two million learners. 
  • MOOCs are not college courses. They are a new instructional genre — somewhere between a digital textbook and a successful college course. Although they can provide much richer learning experiences than a printed book alone, current MOOCs pale in any comparison with face-to-face instruction by a thoughtfully invested human instructor.
  • No education policy that has current MOOCs replacing quality classroom instruction should be taken seriously. That said, most MOOCs provide free or low-cost learning opportunities, so it makes good sense to view them as positive enhancements to the overall education ecosystem. 
  • MOOCs are no panacea for educational inequality. Ample research now makes clear that the preponderance of MOOC users worldwide are college-educated men in highly industrialized countries. Recorded video instruction based on classes at highly selective colleges cannot easily serve broader audiences of less prepared learners.
  • Simply transferring lectures online will not provide effective learning on a massive scale. MOOCs are not Socratic wonders. The learning process is much more complicated than merely sitting in front of a computer screen. Successful online resources have been developed and rigorously evaluated, but they require careful learning design and engineering to engage students in meaningful activity.
  • MOOCs have raised awareness about how online learning technology might be used to support the science of learning. Every keystroke people make when they interact with an online instructional offering leaves a data trace that can be gleaned to support learning research. 
  • What no technology can solve is a failing business model for U.S. higher education. MOOCs have not fixed higher education, but they are poignant reminders of the urgent problems of college cost and access.


Inside Higher Ed: What We’ve Learned From MOOCs

Learning Analytics Is a Must-Have Feature 



“Analytics are no longer a nice-to-have feature”, stated Dr. Linda Baer during the first Open edX Universities Symposium, celebrated last month at The George Washington University in DC.

Baer presented a graphic forecasting the evolution of the analytics technology, from descriptive and diagnostic to predictive and prescriptive analytics, where educators will be able to advance what will happen and how can they make it happen.

Currently, learning analytics technology is just on the first stage of the graphic.


The edX organization offers the Insights Analytics server to their paid partners –all of the universities and known brands that belong to the xConsortium.

Last week, IBL was able to complete the first installation of the last version of Insights Analytics –including Video Insights– on the Open edX community. GW Engineering’s Open edX platform is currently taking advantage of this service.


Coursera's, edX's and Udacity's New Business Models: Marketable Knowledge and For-Credit Pathway Programs


The main three MOOC providers are putting together specific business models to evolve from a money-losing activity, become sustainable and even thrive. Coursera and Udacity are designing corporate courses, while edX is convincing universities to offer credits through their courses.

Udacity attracted in November $105M from venture capitalists showing that students are ready to pay and complete courses that might land them top jobs. Corporations such as AT&T, Google, Facebook, Cloudera and MongoDB partner with Udacity and design market-oriented courses that support much-needed skills.

edX has incorporated 27 edX new members in the past year –generating around $15 million. But it now faces a new challenge: to convince its university partners to renew their three-year contracts, as Allison Dulin explains in a article at edSurge.

“Learners want credit, and to provide credit we must create quality learning environments that meet the needs of diverse learners, and are recognized by institutions and employers. And it’s no secret that credit is a bridge to financial sustainability for edX and its partner universities”, Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX says.