Instructure Will Continue Reducing Spending but Won’t Lay Off More Employees

IBL News | New York

Instructure (NYSE: INST) quietly continues reducing its spending on marketing, software, travel, and office space, before the planned acquisition of Thoma Bravo will take effect on February 14.

However, Instructure doesn’t plan any additional layoffs following the closure of the transaction, sources told IBL News.

Last week, Instructure, home of Canvas LMS, went through a restructuring process which resulted in 100 full-time employees losing their jobs. They were primarily working on the money-losing Bridge corporate platform.

Despite the fact that private equity firms usually lay off lots of people, Thoma Bravo, the new expected owner, has promised that it won’t reduce Instructure’s staff on the new path to profitability.

The company’s path forward –reflected on the agreement and plan of the merger of December 4, 2019– will be voted by shareholders on February 13, during a special meeting at Salt Lake City headquarters.

If the sale is approved and completed, shareholders will receive $47.60 in cash per share. (See above the three questions the stockholders will vote).

According to a presentation filed with the SEC, Instructure expects to see 17% year-over year-organic growth in 2020. This is followed by 15 percent growth predicted for 2021, 12 percent in 2022 and 10 percent in 2023.

For the third quarter ended December 31, the company reported subscription revenue of $63.9 million, an increase of 25 percent over the previous quarter in 2018, as well as a net cash balance of $116.8 million.

 

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The AACU Conference in DC Says that Liberal Education Is Key for Employability [Video]

IBL News | Washington DC

Over 2,100 educators and academic leaders attended this week the AAC&U annual meeting in Washington DC, networking and exploring ways to shape the future of higher education.

Lynn Pasquerella, President at national association AAC&U, highlighted, “liberal education is essential for students’ future employability and democratic vitality.

The conference hosted more than 200 talks, forums, and sessions, including an opening plenary on “the Enduring Value of Liberal Education”, exclusively featured at IBL News –watch below.

In addition, AAC&U, Washington DC-based Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced the winner of its Frederic W. Ness Book Award, Jim Crow Campus: Higher Education and the Struggle for a New Southern Social Order (Teachers College Press). The 2020 Ness Award was formally presented to the author, Joy Ann Williamson-Lott, Dean of the Graduate School, and Professor at the University of Washington College. The book illustrates the power of student and faculty activists in the black freedom struggle and the anti-Vietnam War movement to advance social justice.

In a room full of attendees, Mary Dana Hinton, President, College of Saint Benedict, said during the main plenary session, “the power to embrace liberal education and change institutions is within this room”. Lynn Pasquerella elaborated on the need of finding” a compelling narrative.”

Andrew Delbanco, President, The Teagle Foundation and Professor at Columbia University, provided perspectives regarding the direction that institutions should take. Among other ideas, he mentioned the success of the online degrees at Georgia Tech.

Scott Jaschik, Editor at Inside Higher Ed, agreed on the value of liberal education and mentioned the case of the exploitation of adjunct professors.

 

Coursera Introduces Its First Fully Online Bachelor’s from an American University

IBL News | New York

The University of North Texas (UNT) will offer the first bachelor’s degree from a U.S. university on Coursera.

The Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (B.A.A.S.) program creates an affordable and attractive degree pathway for community college students, military veterans, international learners, and non-traditional students.

For example, students who successfully complete the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, hosted on Coursera, will be able to earn credit toward the degree.

“The program will offer students the same engaging support, personal interaction, and career services as our on-campus B.A.A.S. program to ensure they are set up for success post-graduation,” said Dr. Jennifer Cowley, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at UNT.

This four-year degree will cost $330 per credit hour. Students who complete 45 credit hours will see a total tuition cost of $14,850.

The university announced that it will provide each applicant with a pre-advisor to help create a customized degree plan. Once admitted to the program, the student will receive guidance through a permanent advising team.

The B.A.A.S. will begin in fall 2020, while applications will open this February.

“An estimated 35% of jobs in the U.S. require at least a bachelor’s degree, yet 36 million Americans have attended some college, but never completed their degree,” commented in a blog post Dil Sidhu, Chief Content Officer at Coursera.

Harvard and Amgen Announce LabXchange.org, an Open Platform with Scientific Content

IBL News | New York

Harvard University and the Amgen Foundation announced this week the launch of the LabXchange.org platform, intended to promote science education, mainly among high school and college students.

The free online tool provides access to a library of educational content, including videos, interactive simulations, and assessments. It also offers the ability to mix and match materials, empowering teachers to create flexible learning pathways for classes or personalized instruction for students.

The platform includes a global networking functionality, enabling teachers to collaborate across the scientific community.

Dr. Robert Lue, principal investigator of LabXchange and professor of the Practice of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard, said, “too many high school and college students lack the opportunity to directly explore the scientific process – where you build a hypothesis, understand a method, and determine how to apply it to an appropriate experimental problem.”

LabXchange builds upon other Amgen Foundation programs, such as the Amgen Biotech Experience and Amgen Scholars, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard Unversity (Harvard FAS).

The platform itself contains content from multiple partners and sources, including Khan Academy –so far the most active contributor:

The platform is built upon the open-source Open edX platform. Last year, Harvard committed to releasing the whole code on GitHub, although no mention was made on the last public announcement.

 

Dr. Chuck’s ‘Python for Everybody’ Full Class on YouTube and Other Formats

IBL News | New York

Over 40,000 users have taken FreeCodeCamp.org open courses, including Dr. Chuck’s ‘Python for Everybody’ full online class.

This course teaches the basics of programming computers using Python 3. It has no pre-requisites and is aimed at anyone with moderate computer experience.

Created by University of Michigan’s Professor Charles Severance (a.k.a. Dr. Chuck), the course is offered for free in several formats:

These are the topics covered:

  • Installing Python
  • Why Program?
  • Variables, expressions, and statements
  • Conditional Execution
  • Functions
  • Loops and Iterations
  • Strings
  • Files
  • Lists
  • Dictionaries
  • Tuples
  • Regular Expressions
  • Network Programming
  • Using Web Services
  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • Databases
  • Data Visualization

 

JavaScript, HTML5, C# and CSS, the Most Benchmarked Skills of 2019, According to Pluralsight

IBL News | New York

Pluralsight.com released yesterday its 2019 Year in Tech report, which displays trending data.

The report aggregates 23 billion data points in order to rank the popularity of languages, tools, and frameworks within software development, IT ops, data and security.

The most popular courses at Pluralsight.com include the following:

On Security:

  • Getting started with Kubernetes
  • Angular: Getting Started
  • Introduction to SQL
  • Ethical Hacking: Understanding Ethical Hacking
  • AWS Fundamentals for System Administrators

In terms of trending technologies, the skills most demanded in 2019 were:

On Software Dev:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Java
  3. HTML
  4. Python
  5. C++

 

On IT OPS:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Java
  3. HTML
  4. Python
  5. C++

 

On Data:

  1. R
  2. Microsoft SQL
  3. MATLAB
  4. Google Analytics
  5. Tensorflow

 

On Security:

  1. Kali Linux
  2. Cloudflare
  3. CISSP
  4. Certified Ethical Hacker
  5. CompTIA Security+

 

The most benchmarked skills of 2019 were:

  1. JavaScript
  2. HTML5
  3. C#
  4. CSS
  5. Python
  6. Java
  7. Angular
  8. Networking Fundamentals
  9. Google: Associate Android Developer
  10. React

XuetangX Raises Another $15 Million to Add AI Technology and Expand Its Catalog

IBL News | New York

XuetangX, the largest MOOC platform in China, announced on December the completion of Series B funding, raising over 100 million yuan (or $15 million), according to Jiemodui.com.

The funding will be mostly used to strengthen the research on artificial intelligence and other technologies as well as the development of new courses –revealed Fan Xin, Vice President of Tsinghua Holdings and Chairman of Xuetang Online.

The round was led by Mu Hua Capital, Gao Rong Capital, Red Dot China, and other old shareholders. In the years 2014 and 2015, XuetangX raised $15 million and $17.6 million.

Launched by Tsinghua University in 2013, XuetangX currently runs over 2,500 courses and hosts over 20 million learners. Additionally, XuetangX hosts innovative initiatives, including AI Xuetang–a personalized learning platform for K-12 education–Micro-Degrees, Rain Classroom, XuetangX Cloud, and AI-based teacher Xiaomu, as reported by IBL News.

The Chinese platform is built on the Open edX software, with a heavily modified code.

However, according to Class Central, in the past few months, XuetangX has been testing a new platform no longer based on Open edX, which can be found at next.xuetangx.com.

Therefore, a different pedagogy and technology would soon be implemented, featuring new functionalities, such as a progress bar and a score that reflects student’s performance, a content menu on the left, a comment sidebar on the bottom right corner, and the removal of the “self-paced mode”. [See the look and feel below, in an image captured by Class Central]

Google Expands Its IT Support Offering on Coursera.org by Adding Python and Automation

IBL News | New York

Google introduced last week on Coursera a new beginner-level, six-course certificate program to provide IT professionals with skills on Python, Git, GitHub, and IT automation:

  1. Crash Course on Python;
  2. Using Python to interact with the Operating System;
  3. Introduction to Git and GitHub;
  4. Troubleshooting and Debugging Techniques;
  5. Configuration Management and the Cloud; and
  6. Automating Real-World Tasks with Python, including a final project designed to simulate problem-solving in an actual job environment.

This career-oriented, 3-month certificate ($49 per month) is designed to teach how to program with Python and how to use this language –the most in-demand by employers today– to automate common system administration tasks. The goal is to prepare workers for positions such as IT Support Specialist and Junior Systems Administrator.

Upon completing the Google IT Automation with Python Professional Certificate, learners will have the option to share their information with potential employers, including Walmart, Sprint, Hulu, Bank of America, and Google.

Released under a Creative Commons license, the program is part of the company’s Grow with Google initiative – which launched two years ago its first certificate program, the successful Google IT Support Professional Certificate, with over 120K enrolled, and among them, a 84%  reporting a career impact like getting a raise, finding a new job, or starting a business.

 

 

 

The U.S. Shows as the Number 1 in Education Across the World, According to the 2020 Best Countries Report

IBL News | New York

The United States stays on top, as number one, in the Education Ranking in The 2020 Best Countries Report, a ranking and analysis project by U.S. News & World Report, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This report evaluated the perceptions of 73 nations across a range of categories, from economic influence to education, to determine which countries wield the most influence.

The U.S. is followed by, in this order, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Sweeden, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

To determine the ranking, the authors considered mostly if countries provide top-quality education, have a well-developed public education system, and whether or not people consider attending a university or higher-level educational degree program.

“The United States of America is a North American nation that is the world’s most dominant economic and military power. Likewise, its cultural imprint spans the world, led in large part by its popular culture expressed in music, movies and television,” says the report.

Despite its improvement in the ranking, from second to the first place, the authors question the country’s direction due to President Trump‘s policies. “Trump’s rhetoric and stances on issues including immigration and foreign trade have raised questions around the world, including from the country’s closest allies, about the nation’s future course on the global stage.”

Beyond education, The 2020 Best Countries Report highlights the following:

  • Switzerland stays on top overall as the best country in terms of global performance after measuring a variety of metricsCanada moves up to No. 2, and Japan is No. 3. Rounding out the top 5 are Germany and Australia. The U.K. comes in at No. 6, and the U.S. rose one spot to No. 7.
  • In terms of trustworthiness, while the U.S. is perceived as the most powerful country in the world, it suffers the greatest decline in trust. The U.K. also fell in this attribute, while GreeceSouth Korea, and Spain improved.
  • Global anxiety about technology persists. Nearly three out of four people think large technology companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon should be limited, and about the same number agree that technology is displacing jobs.

2U Hires Advisers to Explore a Sale While an Activist Investor Continues to Push

IBL News | New York

2U (Nasdaq: TWOU) shares jumped $4.92% to $22.84 on Friday after a Bloomberg report stating that the Lanham, Maryland-based educational software company hired strategic advisers to explore ways to improve its performance, including a sale.

In November, it emerged the story that activist investor Sachem Head Capital Management, which owns a 2% stake in 2U, was pushing 2U to explore a sale.

The New York-based activist hedge fund believes 2U –with a market value of $1.38 billion– would be an attractive takeover target for private-equity firms or other education technology companies.

Sachem argues that 2U has seen its share price fall due to troubles related to communications and a failure to meet its earnings forecast rather than problems with the underlying business.

If 2U finds a buyer, the deal would follow the take-private transaction model set by Instructure, which agreed to sell itself to equity firm Thoma Bravo for $2 billion.

2U didn’t immediately return IBL News’ request for comment.

 

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