Udacity Issues Two Programs to Prepare Developers in Blockchain Technologies and C+++

IBL News | New York

Udacity is starting this Monday two Nanodegree Programs for developers: Blockchain Developer and C++.

These programs cost $999 each and take four months to complete, at 10 hours/week.

“Being fully decentralized and free from censorship, Blockchain has become an adaptable business tool across industries,”
said Neha Garg, product manager at Google.

“We have seen massive growth in public knowledge of crypto-currency and business in the last few years, and because of that, there has been an explosion in career options in the blockchain field,” she added.

In addition to developers, some of the most demanded jobs related to Blockchain are quality engineers, technical project managers and community managers.

Regarding the new version of the C++ Nanodegree Program, the creators of the course highlight that this programming language is used to code self-driving cars, robots, servers, media platforms, video games, and other artificial intelligence software systems. It is one of the top five most important computer languages and employers pay a yearly average salary of $95,000.

The program teaches real-world tools and best practices, including Bjarne Stroustrup’s C++ Core Guidelines, the Microsoft Visual Studio Code development environment, and several testing frameworks.

Throughout the course, students will build a portfolio of projects that they will be able to showcase to hiring managers and recruiters, including a Chatbot.

MIT to Examine Engagement Practices on Gifts and Grants After Epstein’s Donations

IBL News | New York

MIT’s Chair of Faculty Rick Danheiser and Provost Martin Schmidt announced this week the creation of two committees to examine institute’s external engagements on gifts, grants, and collaborations.

The committees will also set new guidelines for the relationship with funding sources, MIT News reported.

Their work continues a process begun last month with the launch of outside fact-finding, by Boston-based law firm Goodwin Procter, on MIT’s engagements with sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

The first of the two new committees, to be chaired by Tavneet Suri, an associate professor of applied economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management, will include faculty members, such as:

  • Daron Acemoglu: Institute Professor, Department of Economics
  • W. Craig Carter: POSCO Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Arup Chakraborty: Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, and Biological Engineering
  • Fotini Christia: Professor of Political Science
  • Robert Desimone: Doris and Don Berkey Professor of Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Director, McGovern Institute for Brain Research
  • Amy Glasmeier: Professor of Economic Geography and Regional Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
  • Paula Hammond: David H. Koch Professor; Head, Department of Chemical Engineering
  • Daniel Hastings: Cecil and Ida Green Professor; Head, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Diana Henderson: Professor of Literature
  • J. Chappell Lawson: Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Jacqueline Lees: Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor; Associate Head, Department of Biology; Associate Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
  • Tamar Schapiro: Associate Professor of Philosophy
  • Susan Silbey: Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, Sociology, and Anthropology; Professor of Behavioral and Policy Sciences, MIT Sloan School
  • Yogesh Surendranath: Paul M. Cook Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • Bruce Tidor: Professor of Biological Engineering and Computer Science
  • Robert van der Hilst: Schlumberger Professor; Head, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
  • Bilge Yildiz: Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering

The second new committee will be chaired by Peter Fisher, professor of physics and head of the Department of Physics, and will include members from across MIT.

Regarding the Epstein’s donations cover-up, MIT President L. Rafael Reif completed last week his forum participation with faculty, alumni, alumni and staff. The last of these public discussions was with postdocs and research from MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

[In the picture, Peter Fisher, left, and Tavneet Suri, right. Image: Mimi Phan and Donna Coveney, MIT News]

Canvas Integrates into Its LMS a Tool to Show Evidence of Students’ Achievements

IBL News | Chicago

Canvas LMS, the flagship product of Instructure (NYSE: INST), announced this week, during the 2019 Educause conference, Portfolium’s integration into its learning platform.

The Portfolio tool, acquired earlier in the year by Instructure, allows students to showcase their badges, achievements, projects, competencies and skills, serving as an expanded resume.

Canvas LMS’ clients will access Portfolium at no extra cost, as the company’s staff told IBL News.

“Too often, students do not recognize or even fully appreciate the skills and competencies they’re acquiring along their academic paths,” Adam Markowitz, General Manager of Instructure Portfolium, explained to IBL News. “This skills awareness gap is being solved by our integration.”

In addition to Portfolium’, Ryan Lufkin, Senior Director of Global Education Product Marketing, highlighted Instructure’s partnership with Badgr to automatically issue digital credentials at set milestones.

Canvas LMS is used by 30 million people, according to the company. Last year, it surpassed Blackboard as a leading organization in the paid learning management system market.

[A Portfolium snapshot below. David Lyons, Sr. Solutions Engineer at Instructure, at Educause, in the picture above] 

What’s Ahead? Unbundled Degrees, Micro-Bachelors, and Stackable, Employer-Endorsed Credentials

IBL News | New York

Where online learning will be in three to five years? How it will be scaled?

In an article at Evollution.com, Holly Zanville, Strategy Director for the Future of Learning and Work at the Lumina Foundation, provided a glimpse of how edX.org is building the structure of tomorrow’s learning system.

Nina Huntemann, edX’s Senior Director of Academics and Research at edX, offered her thoughts on upward trends. This is a summary:

  • Students will move among programs and learning blocks within an institution and among universities.
  • Degrees will be broken into smaller components of competencies and skills. This will better meet industry needs and will result in smaller and more affordable credentials.
  • More hybrid paths –those that couple in-person, classroom learning with online instruction– will emerge. The challenge to move noncredit courses and micro-credentials into credit pathways.
  • A new class of instructors —learning engineers— will emerge. They will use the latest technologies, develop new instructional paths, help faculty members teach in new ways, and work closely with employers.
  • It will be a more performance-based admission system.
  • Institutions will continue to be unable to serve the growing number of applicants to programs in specialty areas such as data, programming and health.

Recently, the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation gave a grant of $900,000 to nonprofit edX Inc to create a new credentialing system. Among those credentials, edX is developing a series of micro-bachelors programs for undergraduate college education.


The 10 IT Issues Higher Ed Leaders Are Focusing on, According to Educause

Mikel Amigot, IBL News (Chicago)


The 2019 Educause Annual Conference today recognized four prominent educators, highlighting their achievement during the opening talk in Chicago’s convention center. [See the picture below]

  • Leadership Award: Linda Jorn, Assoc Vice Provost for Learning Technologies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Community Leadership Award: Mark Askren, Senior Advisor to the President, University of Nebraska
  • DEI Leadership Award: Melissa Woo, President for Information Technology and Enterprise Chief Information Officer, Stony Brook University
  • Rising Star: Tina Pappas, Associate Director, Innovation and Technology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

In addition, the Educause staff announced the 2020 Top 10 IT Issues index,  stressing what’s important and where to focus on in terms of higher education:

  1. Information Security Strategy
  2. Privacy
  3. Sustainable Funding
  4. Digital Integrations
  5. Student Retention and Completion
  6. Student-Centric Higher Education
  7. Improved Enrollment
  8. Higher Education Affordability
  9. Administrative Simplification
  10. The Integrative CIO

“The 2020 IT Issues reveal where the integrative CIO must simplify, sustain, and innovate as higher education drives to digital transformation,” said Susan Grajek, Vice President, Communities and Research at Educause.

“Institutions know they need to innovate to achieve a competitive advantage in today’s complex marketplace, and almost none of today’s innovation can happen without data and technology,” she added.

On this edition, the gathering attracted over 8,000 attendees. “This year’s attendance has been a record-setting,” said John O’Brien, CEO at Educause, said without further data. “Every year there is something new in the air that captures imagination,” he said. “We know innovation is everywhere.”




[Promotional Video]



Coursera Will Pay the Tuition Cost for Degree Programs to their Full-Time Employees

IBL News | New York

Coursera’s full-time employees who are accepted into degree and MasterTrack programs on the platform will not pay their tuition.

This benefit will allow them to earn credentials and better understand Coursera’s product.

Stephanie Hale, Coursera’s head of brand and creative, said, “This is beyond generous and a beautiful reflection of Coursera standing by its mission and putting the betterment of all people first.”

Programs that Courserians –as the company calls employees– can apply are the following:

In September, LinkedIn named Coursera one of the 50 hottest working companies now.




99% of MIT Undergrads Have Taken an MITx Class – Impressive Numbers After Two Decades

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

In May 2012, Susan Hockfield, from MIT, made a statement that turned into a belief at the institution: “Online education is not an enemy of residential education but rather an inspiring and liberating ally.”

The idea caught fire, and MIT increased its commitment to online education.

The same year, MIT teamed up with Harvard University to launch edX, the free open-source platform for digital learning. It also increased the number of online classes.

Today, MIT’s OpenCourseWare website hosts 2,450 classes and receives 2 million monthly visitors, while edX contains 90 MIT courses.

MITx, the online learning unit of the institution, reports an average number of people who register for an MITx MOOC every day of 3,307. So far 176 MOOCs have been produced.

More interestingly, 99% of MIT undergrads have taken a class that uses MITx tools. Also, 15% of undergrads took an MITx MOOC before being admitted.

The most popular MITx class on edX.org, Introduction to Computer Science using Python has achieved a total of 1.3 million enrollments to date.

This number shows that the impact is global. In fact, 75% of learners live outside the U.S. In total, 3.8 million unique learners from 200 countries have earned 195,000 certificates. Only 1,805 learners earned MicroMasters credentials, and 76 went on to complete MIT master’s degrees on campus.

In 1999, President Charles Vest asked a faculty committee how to best use the Internet to further MIT’s mission. He got risky advice: put all of MIT’s course materials online for free. MIT’s Open Learning initiative has served amazingly well both its students and learners around the world. It is one of the breakthroughs in education in the last two decades.

Coursera’s Latest Low-Priced Online Master’s: A Russian Degree on Data Science

IBL News | New York

A new low-priced Master’s degree in Data Science was announced yesterday by Coursera. It will be developed fully online, in English by a Russian school, HSE University, and will cost the equivalent to $8,250 to $16,500, depending on grant eligibility.

The 18-24 months Master’s, open to students from any country, will consist of 21 courses, with 120 ECTS credits in total. The first cohort will begin in February 2020. As admission requirements, students must have a bachelor’s degree and pass an online exam on mathematics.

On the other hand, Coursera’s CEO, Jeff Magggioncalda, said on Fortune India said the company is seeking to more than double the numbers of its learners in the next 2-3 years up: from the existing 44 million to 100 million.

Magggioncalda also disclosed that Coursera’s biggest source of revenue is Coursera for Business, which is growing at a rate of 100% a year. Degrees from universities are the smallest source, “but are growing faster than anything else.” “In three years, they will all probably be equal.”

Udacity Will Fund 100,000 Scholarships

On the other hand, Udacity announced yesterday his Pledge to America’s Workers. As a result of it, over the next five years, it will fund 100,000 Udacity tech and analytics scholarships for workers in the U.S.

“Udacity’s scholarships will equip America’s workers with the skills they need to succeed in high-paying, future-proof careers in fields such as front-end web development, mobile app development, and data analytics,” said a representative from Udacity.

With this move, Udacity is joining more than 350 companies and organizations, including Google, Apple, and IBM in signing the White House’s Pledge to America’s workers.


Microsoft Launches a Series of 44 Short Videos to Learn Python on YouTube

IBL News | New York

Microsoft has launched a video series to learn Python for beginners on YouTube.

It consists of 44 videos of three-to-four minutes taught by two developers at Microsoft: Christopher Harrison, a senior program manager at Microsoft, and Susan Ibach, a business development manager from Microsoft’s AI Gaming unit.

The course focuses on Python version 3.x, but Microsoft says the lessons should still be valuable to users on Python 2.x.

A page on GitHub titled “Getting started with Python” contains additional resources.

There are many reasons why Microsoft is investing in Python courses. First, it is an opportunity to expand the population of Python developers using Azure for building AI applications. Second, Microsoft’s own Python extension for Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is its most popular extension in the company’s marketplace for developers.

More Python Courses

In the newest annual ranking of popular programming language by IEEE Spectrum, Python is seating in top place, just ahead of Java, C and R.

Last month edX.org announced new editions of Python courses: Introduction to Python Programming with Georgia Tech and Analytics in Python with Columbia University.


Students at MIT Extend their Protest to Koch and Demand More Resignations

IBL News | New York

Groups of MIT students and faculty continue to speak out against MIT’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein and David Koch, despite President Reif and leadership efforts to engage protesters and promises to turn toward accountability.

The Tech, MIT’s largest newspaper, published by the students of the institute, is reporting about those protests, which now go beyond Epstein’s coverup of donations.

In the last demonstration, protesters called for the removal of Koch’s name from all buildings on campus. Ryan Aasen G, an organizer, said that the ongoing funding investigation and environmental violations committed by the Open Agriculture Initiative “exemplifies the disconnect this administration has to the seriousness of the reforms needed at MIT.”

In addition, Aasen elaborated that Koch was responsible for spending “billions of dollars lobbying for the roll back environmental protections, funding climate change denial, and fighting against Americans’ right to affordable healthcare.”

“Radio Silence”

On the associated Facebook event page, MIT Students Against War wrote that the MIT Corporation “cares more about taking money from billionaires than about harms done to women, children, immigrants, poor people, and the environment,” citing the acceptance of funds from “a child sex trafficker (Jeffrey Epstein), a murderous prince (Mohammad bin Salman), destroyers of the environment (the Kochs), and dubious corporations.” 

“I’m very concerned about MIT’s leadership ethics in taking money from Epstein and the way that they have been dismissive of student concerns,” said Edmund Bertschinger, a physics professor at MIT who protested at the rally.

Along with demanding Reif’s resignation, protesters called for the resignation of Professor of Mechanical Engineering Seth Lloyd and several members of the MIT Corporation. Others led chants to “democratize MIT” and called for the creation of a faculty-led senate who would have a final say in donations accepted by MIT.

Organizers said MIT has not responded to their protests, a point of concern for them – The Huntington News reported.

“It’s mostly been radio silence, and that’s concerning because a lot of people really want to hear a response,” said Nathan Foster, an organizer with UnKoch My Campus from Tufts University.