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.

The University System of Maryland Will Offer For-Credit Courses on edX

The University System of Maryland (USM), which comprises 12 institutions, has joined edX as a Contributing Charter Member.

As a result of this partnership, USM will offer for-credit courses. The first course, offered by UMUC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore,  will be Global Health – The Lessons of Ebola, starting on September 20. It will explore how multidisciplinary teams can work more effectively together to address global health needs and examine why local health issues affect us globally.

USM’s investment on edX has been 2 million dollars.

EdX Starts to Implement Cloud-Based Proctored Exams to Prevent Cheating

cohorts edx ibl

A new proctoring SaaS solution developed by a Newton, Mass, startup, Software Secure, has become part of the Open edX platform.

This technology to prevent cheating on remote exams has been implemented by MIT’s micro-masters program as well as the Global Freshman Academy (GFA) project. Consequently, a few students have been caught cheating on the GFA program, as Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, revealed during the Open edX conference.

Software Secure started as an edX partner in 2013 through the verified certificate program, intended to ensure the identity of each student.

In addition to a proctoring solution, Mr. Agarwal defended the idea of using cohorts with different, timed and hand-graded exams as well as randomized questions for certificated learners who want to take for-credit courses, as shown in the slide above.


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).


Several Universities Will Launch "Micro-Master" Programs at edX.org in the Fall

Several universities who partnered with edX will announce “micro-master programs” in the fall, has revealed Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, in “The Chronicle of Higher Education”.

Created last year by MIT and edX, micro-master’s degrees are considered a career focused minor, intended to attract employers interested in hiring students. This program has no admission process. “Exams in the course are a self-fulfilling admission process, and students don’t pay a dime unless they want the credential”, explained Mr. Agarwal.

This idea has been successfully tested with the Supply Chain Management course, which allows elegible students to cut their time on campus to only a semester. Credits from the micro-master’s count as half of the overall necessary courses required for the full degree. For $1,000, learners get between three to six courses that make up the micro-masters.

These type of “stackable” degrees, designed as entries to graduate programs, are perceived by experts as more-convenient way of learning, specially given the skyrocketing costs of higher-education.

“Think Lego blocks of college education, letting students start with a MOOC, then add a few more MOOCs to get an online certificate, then add yet more courses to get a traditional master’s degree,” wrote Corinne Ruff in “The Chronicle”.

> Will Micro-Masters Be a New Unit of Currency in Higher Education? (October 2015, IBL).

> MIT Launches Its First Blended Master’s Degree Course, along with a New Credential Called “MITx Micro-Master’s” (October 2015, IBL)

MOOCs Turn into Job-Building Skills Courses… at a Price!


Online students increasingly look to MOOCs to build job-specific skills that can boost their careers. And the three major providers –Coursera, edX and Udacity– are shifting to business models wherein students have options to pay for credentials, verified certificates (at $30 to $150, and that might come with course credit) and multi-course specializations or course series, in some cases enabling them access to additional instructor feedback, supplemental materials, readings and assessments and other services.

“In the beginning, the return to universities came in generally marketing and publicity and giving examples of quality lectures, and showcasing certain faculty members who work for certain departments to prospective students,” Ray Schroeder, an expert from the University of Illinois – Springfield, says on a U.S. News Report article.

Now MOOCs offer a less expensive alternative for students, compared to paying for credit-bearing courses offered by colleges or universities in degree programs.


edX Removes Free Certificates and Adds Verified and XSeries Credentials – Udacity Leads the Way

edX has discontinued the free honor code certificates, although the old ones will remain valid. Instead, learners will be able to audit courses without a fee and have the option to apply for financial assistance to help cover 90% of  the cost of verified certificates.

New courses on edx.org now offer two types of certificates: Verified and XSeries.

“It seems that the top two MOOC providers in the world, Coursera and edX, are going along a similar path as they too strive to achieve sustainability. Both have made announcements to the effect that they will remove a key component of the MOOC experience,writes Dhawal Shah in Class-Central.com this week.

Before edX and Coursera, Udacity pioneered this formula by stopping free certificates, making graded assignments a paid feature and creating their own type of credential (Nanodegree). This way Udacity reached profitability.

In this fight to generate revenue, some universities are doing well.



CharterOak State Online College Offers a Pathway to Earn College Credit through edX's Courses


Another cost-effective option for students to earn affordable college credit on edX. This is the fourth initiative on university credit related to edX released this year, after the Global Freshman Academy with Arizona State University, MIT’s MicroMaster’s credential and ACE Alternative Credit Project. Currently, there are eight credit-eligible courses on edX.org.

CharterOak State College, a Connecticut-based public online college offering bachelor’s and associate’s degree programs, will now award college credit for select edX courses –two of them for now:  MITx Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python and UC BerkeleyX Engineering Software as a Service (SaaS) Part 2. Additional courses will be included in the program in the coming weeks.

This credit will follow a “pay-when-you-pass model”. Students enroll in an edX course, successfully complete and pass the course (with an 80% grade of higher), and then decide to pay for Charter Oak credit ($100 per credit hour). This credit can be applied to credentials, continuing ed credits and completion of a college degree.

“EdX learners around the world will now be able to earn credit for their hard work and success in MOOCs, offering an opportunity to many learners who would otherwise never have access to high-quality education and credit,” explained Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX.

“A variety of edX partners are enthusiastic about working with us on innovative credit offerings. We look forward to announcing more credit opportunities and pathways for our learners in the coming months,” he added.


Will MIT's Online MicroMaster's Be a New Unit of Currency in Higher Education?


MIT has started to talk to other universities regarding its new online credential called “MicroMaster’s“, according to MIT News.

The first universities that will choose to adopt this concept might be members of the edX consortium that are already producing courses on edX.org.

MIT anticipates that several other universities will use the MicroMaster’s as a new unit of currency in higher education in the future.

MicroMaster’s credentials will be convertible to course credit of existing master’s programs. Anyone who successfully masters the online material and receives a high grade –higher than the existing XSeries certificate– on a demanding, proctored exam will earn the credential.

In addition, MIT expects that this new credential will be valued by companies, and will foster career advancement for its holders.

Supply Chain Management (SCM), taught on edX.org, will be the first MicroMaster’s course to be offered –in February, 2016.



MIT Launches Its First Blended Master's Degree Course, along with a New Credential Called "MITx Micro-Master's"

Welcome to the “try before you buy” model in higher education. In other words, you first try the course through a low-cost series of edX MOOCs and then apply.

MIT has decided to disrupt itself, according to its president Rafael Reif, and stay in the vanguard of innovation (“I’d rather we disrupt ourselves than be disrupted by somebody else”, he recently said).

The first pilot of this blended model will be launched in February 2016. It will be related to the one year Supply Chain Management (SCM) program, which allows to earn a Master’s of Engineering in Logistics degree.

Learners who complete the open series of SCM edX MOOCs –see the introductory video above– will receive a new credential called an MITx MicroMaster’s and will have chances of being accepted to the full master’s program, spending a single semester on campus and paying half of the $65,000 tuition.  If they are admitted, their MicroMaster’s will count toward a semester’s worth of MIT credit.

This residential program enrolls 36 to 40 students every year. This blended experiment can triple the annual output of master’s degrees in that field. It seems that MIT won’t lose money –on the contrary.

And, if the pilot goes well, MIT will expand this model to other programs.

MIT’s idea comes as universities and digital entrepreneurs are racing to integrate MOOCs into higher education.

  • Earlier this year, edX and Arizona State University launched Global Freshman Academy: students enroll in MOOCs, complete them and pay the university to receive credit.
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign created its iMBA program. Students complete much of their curriculum before deciding whether or not to apply to the university’s College of Business and pursue the full MBA degree.
  • George Tech is already underway with its own MOOC-powered degree program.


> FAQs on MIT’s new path to master’s degree