Researchers Discover a Cheating Technique to Acquire MITx and HarvardX Certificates


Researchers at MIT and Harvard have identified, through a new algorithm they developed, a new method of cheating with edX’s certifications. This technique allowed cheaters to acquire a certification for a course in an hour. It was used in 69 MOOCs offered by HarvardX and MITx from the fall of 2012 through the spring of 2015. This falsification was detected in 1,237 earned certificates, or 1.3 percent, and among less-educated males outside the United States. In the U.S. the rate was 0.4 percent.

Their working paper, “Detecting and Preventing ‘Multiple-Account’ Cheating in Massive Online Courses”, has been published on an online repository.

The paper’s co-author Isaac Chuang, an MIT professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics, said he noticed that some users answered questions “faster than is humanly possible”. The cheating strategy was based on “copying answers using multiple existences online”. A user gathers solutions to assessment questions using a “harvester” account and then submits correct answers using a separate “master” account.

Isaac Chuang said in MIT News that “this is a well-known issue in academics, and it’s happening in new ways in online settings”“This could seriously devalue MOOC certification”.

The authors suggest, as preventions techniques, to restrict solutions to assessments until after they are due, as well as randomize questions so that each learner receives a customized set of problems.

An edX Course on Knowledge Management and Big Data Attracts a Record Number of Learners

The Knowledge Management and Big Data for Business‘ MOOC, that covers the areas of Management, Big Data and Cloud Computing, attracted during the last week of July the highest number of enrollments among all MOOCs offered by edX: nearly 20,000 learners from 187 countries.

Designed and delivered by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), this free, 6-week course starts tomorrow, August 25.

Their creators explained their experience in an edX’s blog post.



Display edX Content in Canvas Over LTI – Harvard Explains How

Harvard University has explained how content hosted on any Open edX instance –including grades– can be automatically deployed to the Canvas platform using LTI technology.

Phil McGachey, a Harvard engineer who leads this content embedding tool, has posted an overview on GitHub, “Using edX as an LTI Provider”.

To handle edX’s course content and usage id parsing to Canvas, Harvard has built an open-source, custom tool (still alpha): .

To integrate grading data into Canvas’ gradebook, the LTI launch must be made from the Assignments section in Canvas (or from a module item that points to an assignment) and the edX content must be of a single problem component.

Learning Analytics, LMSs, Knewton and edX, Reviewed in a Conference by Prof. A. Barba

Ed Tech is a big business and learning analytics initiatives are attracting millions of dollars, but scholars are suspicious.

Professor Lorena A. Barba gave a courageous conference talk in PyData Seattle 2015 where she reviewed the newer trend of learning analytics.

Among other conclusions, Professor Barba said that “adaptive learning has still a long way to go” and “most analytics based on log data in the Learning Management System (LMS) are inadequate”.

“The poster child of “adaptive learning” is a company called Knewton. (…) There is little evidence that this technology actually improves learning”. 

Regarding edX’s Insights analytics technology used on (but not on independent Open edX platforms), Professor Barba said that “edX is putting analytics into the service of user experience rather than education, perhaps influenced by web developers, who maybe didn’t interact with learning scientists and educators to find what information might be useful”.


> Watch the whole conference and read the notes






The First Open edX Platform Built on the Latest Cypress Software


University 4 Industry
is the first Open edX platform built on the latest Cypress software.

Developed by IBL Studios Education, University 4 Industry is an Open edX platform, created by German entrepreneurs, that intends to close capability and skills gaps in the workplace by educating industry practitioners and students.

The first course, “Internet of Things – Opportunities and challenges for the semiconductor industry”, will become available to the general public within a few days.

EdX Releases "Cypress" (with 188,500 new lines of code) and Announces that it Won't Support "Birch"

“After a lot of work hammering out the last few issues, Cypress is ready to go!”

With this revealing announcement on the General Open edX discussion forum on Google Groups, David Baumgold, edX’s engineer in charge of the release, broke the news.

An official blog post on the Open edX portal, written by Sarina Canelake, explained that this third release of Open edX is “absolutely jam packed with new features and improvements” (see below) and “strongly encouraged everyone in the Open edX community to begin their upgrade to Cypress immediately, revealing that “Cypress is now the only supported Open edX release” and “security patches will no longer be released for Birch”.

This Cypress-named release added around 188,500 lines of code and removed around 46,000 lines, touching nearly 2,500 files in the process. Seventy individuals, along with many other contributors, have been involved in writing the code of the edX platform since the release of Birch in February 2015. In total, over 3,150 commits.

Among the new features:

A full list of features has been posted here, along with instructions to migrate to Cypress.

The next Open edX release, Dogwood, is expected for the end of November 2015.

Cypress' Open edX Will Be Released Next Week – The Fourth Version, "Dogwood", Will Come in November

EdX’s engineers added today another release candidate to Open edX’s Cypress version, the RC4, given the need of more fixes.

The final Cypress release is expected to be released “early next week”, as long as more issues are not found, according to edX.

  • Cypress will be the third named version of the Open edX platform. So far, we’ve seen “Aspen” and “Birch”.
  • The fourth release has been named “Dogwood“, continuing with the tree-naming traditionIt will include the “Student Notes” feature as well as a Django upgrade from 1.4 to 1.8. It is expected for November 2015.
  • The fifth one, “Eucalyptus, will come in March, 2016.


Open edX's Cypress Release Will Include At Least 21 New Features, From Learner Profiles to Badges

Open edX’s Cypress release has been unexpectedly delayed because of a security vulnerability and problems with the update script, according to David Baumbold, the edX engineer in charge of the launch. “We don’t want to release Cypress in a state where some people would be unable to update their software,” he explained.

So far there is no release date, although the expectation is that it will happen soon, within days, considering that Cypress Release Candidate 3 is being run with positive feedback from the community. In this regard, Mr. Baumbold advised: “when the final Cypress release does come out, upgrading from RC3 to the final version should be pretty easy.”

The Cypress version will contain at least 21 new features:

The whole documentation, for now as a draft, has been posted at this URL:

On the other hand, a couple of patches have been released for the Birch version.


The Open edX Universities Symposium (Nov 11, DC) Will Feature Top Speakers and Panelists in Analytics and Web Learning

The first Open edX Universities Symposium will take place on November 11 in Washington DC, organized by The George Washington University (GW) under the direction of Prof. Lorena Barba, and with technical support from IBL. Prominent speakers and panelists from top universities across the world will participate in the reunion.

This one-day conference –from 8:30AM to 6:00PM, at the School of Public Health of GW and hosted by GW Online Programs– will discuss three themes: learning analytics, web-enhanced learning and inter-institutional collaboration.

An evening reception will be hosted on November 10. The edX Global Forum –for edX’s institutional partners only– will take place during the previous days (November 8-10) in Georgetown University. Many participants are expected to stay for the extra day and attend the Open edX Universities Symposium. Several staff members from edX will attend as well.

The confirmed speakers/panelists include:

Learning Analytics
— Linda Baer (featured speaker)
— Isaac Chuang, MIT
— Andreas Paepcke, Stanford University
— Carolyn Penstein Rosé, Carnegie Mellon University
— Taylor Martin, Utah State University
— Alfred Essa, VP, R&D and Analytics, McGraw-Hill Education

Web-Enhanced Learning and Pedagogy
— George Siemens, University of Texas Arlington (featured speaker)
— Carlos Delgado-Kloos, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
— Armando Fox, Berkeley
— Toni Marsh, George Washington University
— Beth Porter, edX

Inter-Institutional Collaboration
— Paul-Olivier Dehaye, University of Zurich (featured speaker)
— Donna Kidwell, Webstudent International AS
— John Zornig, Director UQx
— Lorena A. Barba, George Washington University
— Timo Kos, TU Delft
— John Mitchell, Stanford University

Registration is now open via EventBrite. The $75 attendance fee includes lunch and refreshments. Space is limited. Organizers have announced that sponsorship opportunities are available.

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