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.

AdelaideX Open Learning Initiative in Australia Attracts 300K Enrollments


AdelaideX, the University of Adelaide in Australia’s initiative on edX.org, announced that it surpassed the milestone of 300,000 students since the program was launched two years ago. Students from 200 countries have enrolled in seven introductory-level MOOCs produced by the University.

“MOOCs are also leading us in new ways of using digital technologies to enhance our on-campus courses. In Australia, MOOCs have proven popular with hundreds of high school students and pre-university students, who are looking for ways to gauge whether a program is right for them,” said Dr Katy McDevitt, AdelaideX Program Manager.

Microsoft Surpasses One Million Enrollments on edX.org

ms openedx


Microsoft’s partnership with edX is working very well: over one million enrollments in one year in Microsoft courses.

This seems to be the most successful corporate example on edX.org, with the largest lead-generation deal in the MOOC universe.

“We were their first corporate member to offer MOOCs on their open, global platform and today, in a little more than one year, I am thrilled to announce that Microsoft just passed the threshold of 1 million enrollments in Microsoft courses on edX,” explained a Microsoft manager. “Reaching this milestone signals both significant interest from students and demonstrates the viability of using online channels to broaden the reach of quality education.”

So far Microsoft has created 75 courses on edX.org and they plan to produce more courses in the areas of cloud services,  mobile development and data science. The goal is “to meet  the demands of the device-centric, data-driven world we live in, where technology skills are becoming increasingly imperative across all careers and vocations,” explains Alison Cunard, from Microsoft Learning.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million new computer science jobs, with only 400,000 computer science students to fill them.

Microsoft partners with ISTE to provide new school planning and professional learning resources

Not Free MOOCs Anymore! Welcome to the For-Credit, Professional or Just Revenue-Generating OCs


By Michael Amigot

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are about to lose the M and O of their name and just be OCs or Online Courses.

Courses intended for academic credit are the new trend, and in the edX universe we will see an explosion of offers, especially around the “MIT’s Micro-Masters” idea. Those who successfully complete the MOOCs –or the OCs– with a verified certificate ($50 to $150 per course), will earn a Micro-Masters credential and be able to apply to master’s programs on campus. The Micro-Masters credential will count as a semester’s worth of work.

An advantage of taking a for-credit course is that students will not need to have SAT scores or survive the admissions process. They will be able to just pass and purchase the credit. Or, in the case of the CLEP courses that Modern States Education Alliance– a non-profit in New York City committed to providing “freshman year at college for free”– will launch in the fall, learners will just pay a fee of $80 per exam at approved College Board centers.

Another turn is online courses as a professional development tool. Coursera has registered over 7.5 million enrollments in their sixty professional development-oriented courses.

Overseas, FutureLearn has recently announced that students taking some of its MOOCs will be able to earn course credits toward degrees, MBAs and professional certifications. In this way, higher education will begin the unbundling process.

All of it, in the U.S. and overseas, signals the end of the free MOOC model and the beginning of the freemium model, following the goal of bringing revenues to non-profit and for-profit educational organizations alike.

As MIT’s Prof. Dave Pritchard said last month on the MOOC Maker Workshop in Cambridge, MA, educational organizations consider that “it’s time to recover some cash, by charging for certificates and developing branded degrees” (see his explanatory slide above).


Harvard's CS50 Course Will Incorporate Virtual Reality

The CS50x course from Harvard University –the most popular course on edX with over one million enrollments– will incorporate virtual reality this Fall 2016 in order to improve the student experience.

See a sample above, click and drag to look around, or watch it with Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear.

Experts say that virtual reality will transform online learning. The director of the VR lab at Stanford University, Professor Jeremy Bailenson explained it during a recent talk.

"Introduction to Programming with Java", from UC3M University, Reaches 200,000 Students

“Introduction to Programming with Java”, developed by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) on edX.org under a Creative Commons license, has achieved the milestone of 200,000 learners –as his coordinator, Prof. Carlos Delgado Kloos, disclosed to IBL.

This course, one of the ten most successful on edX.org, is divided into three five-week parts; the estimated time that learners need to dedicate is eight-to-twelve hours per week. It is designed to prepare learners for the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science A exam.

Java is one of the most-in-demand programming languages designed to work across multiple software platforms.


Engaging MOOCs Must Be Modular, Audience-Sensitive and Shorter


MOOCS need to be more flexible, audience-sensitive, not focused on institutional learning, modular and shorter.

Author and EdTech entrepreneur Donald Clark recently blogged about “7 ways to design sticky MOOCs”.

Here is a summary of his revealing ideas:

  • “It is unfortunate that many MOOC designers treat learners as they were physically (and psychologically) at a university” (…) “MOOC designers have to get out of their institutional thinking and realize that their audience often has a different set of intentions and needs. The new MOOCs need to be sensitive to learner needs.”
  • “Having all the material available from day one allows learners to start later than others, proceed at their own rate and, importantly, catch up when they choose.”
  • “A more modular approach, where modules are self-contained and can be taken in any order, is one tactic. Adaptive MOOCs, using AI software that guides learners through content on the basis of their needs, is another.” (…) Data show that some learners complete the whole course in one day, others do a couple of modules per day, many do the modules in a different order, and some go through in a linear and measured fashion. Some even go backwards.
  • “MOOC learners don’t need the ten week semester structure. Some want much shorter and faster experiences, others want medium length, and some want longer courses. Higher education is based on an agricultural calendar, with set semesters that fit harvest and holiday patterns. The rest of the world does not work to this pre-industrial timetable.” (…)
    “We have to understand that learning for MOOC audiences is taken erratically and is not always in line with the campus model. We need to design for this.”
  • “There is a considerable thirst for doing things at your own pace and convenience, rather than at the pace mandated by synchronous, supported courses.”
  • “Take a dual approach that appeals to an entire range of learners with different needs and motivations.

You can see that the learners who experienced the structured approach —which contained a live Monday announcement by the lead academic, a Friday wrap-up with a live webinar, and a help forum and email query service — was a sizeable group in any one week. Yet the other learners, those who learned without support, were also substantial in every week.”

  • “One of the great MOOC myths is that social participation is a necessary condition for learning and/or success.” (…) However, “many have little interest in social chat and being part of a consistent group of cohort”. “Social component is desirable but not essential“. “To rely on this as the essential pedagogic technique, is, in my opinion, a mistake, and is to impose an ideology on learners that they do not want.”
  • “MOOC learners have not chosen to come to your university: they’ve chosen to study a topic.” “I’m less interested in what your department is doing and far more interested in the important developments and findings at an international level in your field.”
  • “Partial rewards for partial completion with badges prove valuable. It moves us away from the idea that certificates of completion are the way we should judge MOOC participation.”
  • “Too many MOOCs are over-structured, too linear, and too like traditional university courses. They need to loosen up and deliver what these newer, more diverse audiences want.”

Udacity Promotes its Machine Learning Nanodegree with an Award of $100k Offered by the Uber of China



Udacity.com has partnered with Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing –Uber’s China rival that has secured a one billion dollar investment from Apple– for a Machine Learning Competition. As a result of it, Didi Chuxing will award a $100k prize and an interview for a role with the company to the winner who improves its supply-demand forecasting algorithm and capability to predict. The second and third place teams in the competition will be awarded prices of RMB 50K and RMB 20K, respectively.

 Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity and an expert of Machine Learning, will be one of the judges.

The Machine Learning Engineering Nanodegree is one of the most successful programs at Udacity –a MOOC platform that competes to Coursera and edX.org. It is also a signature program that teaches how to become a machine learning engineer and apply predictive models to massive datasets in field like finance, healthcare and education.



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

Four New Credit-Eligible Courses at edX.org

Arizona State University (ASU) and Global Freshman Academy are launching four new, credit-eligible courses this June. These courses will allow students to earn up to 15 credit hours –at a cost of $600 per earned credit– that will be applied toward an ASU degree or transferred to another institution that accepts this credit.