2U Will Release More Data As The OPM Industry Will Face Growing Scrutiny

Mikel Amigot | New York

2U, the most visible company in the OPM (Online Program Management) industry, announced on September 11 what it called “an unprecedented new Framework for Transparency”, which “will offer students, universities, and policymakers data on outcomes, quality, institutional independence, and more for the degree and non-degree offerings.”

“2U becomes the first OPM to openly call for, and embrace, greater transparency,” the Lanham, Maryland-based company said in a statement.

“We call upon other OPMs across the industry to join us in committing to greater transparency,” 2U Co-Founder and CEO Christopher “Chip” Paucek added.

The new framework is grounded in six pillars: University Oversight & Accountability; Marketplace Openness; Access; Affordability; Quality; and Outcomes.

Facing growing scrutiny, 2U’s move isn’t as big as it looks, because the company is publicly traded (NASDAQ: TWOU) and it needs to recover investors’ confidence, after losing over half of its market value in the last seven weeks.

Secondly, the controversial company needs to self-regulate, getting ahead of potential regulatory changes.

In addition, it would be an attempt to put pressure on competitors such as Pearson, Wiley, Academic Partnerships, Noodle and Bisk to do the same.

“Paucek believes that releasing more information about the company and its operations will help prove just how ‘excellent’ it is,” wrote Doug Lederman in Inside Higher Ed.

A Public Database of Online Program Contracts

In relation to the OPM industry, the Century Foundation yesterday published a report titled “Dear Colleges: Take Control of Your Online Courses.” It elaborated on the relationships between 79 public colleges and OPM companies and included a database of scores of contracts outlining the terms of the arrangements.

“Our hope is that this action-focused report will assist schools and those who care about them to jumpstart a paradigm shift in how online education in the United States is done,” the Foundation said.



EdX Appoints New Managers; JP Beaudry Will Lead the Open Source Operations

IBL News | New York

The edX organization announced September 10 the hiring of a new CMO and VP of Engineering, as well as the promotion of two officers.

“These appointments come at an exciting time for edX, as the company continues to grow, expanding its global learner base to over 20 million learners and offering new, innovative programs and credentials designed to help learners advance their careers,” edX explained in a statement.

  • Johannes Heinlein, former Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at edX, has been promoted to Chief Commercial Officer and Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships;
  • Lauren Holliday, former Senior Director of Product, has been promoted to Vice President of Product;
  • Stephanie Brocoum has been hired as Chief Marketing Officer;
  • JP Beaudry has been hired as Vice President of Engineering.

Stephanie Brocoum, former CMO at Yaymaker and vice president of marketing and member of the founding team at Rue La La, will lead marketing activity for edX by “developing and implementing strategies to further build the edX brand and to drive continued awareness of edX’s innovative offerings”.

JP Beaudry, former senior director of technology at Vistaprint, will lead software engineering initiatives across all of edX including product development, cloud infrastructure, data warehouse, and the open-source project, Open edX.

In 2014, edX hired another Vistaprint executive, Wendy Cebula, as CCO and President.

MIT Top Officials Were Aware of Epstein’s Ties to the Media Lab and Accepted Those Donations, Says Peter Cohen

IBL News | New York

Peter Cohen, a former Media Lab fund-raiser and currently a central figure in the MIT/Epstein unfolding scandal, said on Tuesday that he was following university’s practices on accepting donations.

Through a written statement to The Boston Globe, Peter Cohen, former MIT Media Lab director of development and strategy and now director of development for computer science at Brown University, said that when he joined the Media Lab in 2014, it already had established procedures for handling Epstein’s contributions (despite the disgraced financier was convicted in 2008 to a 13-month jail term for soliciting sex from a minor.)

Those policies regarding donations were “authorized by and implemented with the full knowledge of MIT central administration.”

According to e-mails released by a whistleblower on The New Yorker and The New York Times, Cohen acted as an intermediary between the Media Lab and its former director Joi Ito and MIT’s central administration on donor issues. Cohen also worked with Ito on Epstein-related matters, such as developing a written proposal for funding from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, that Epstein said he could arrange.

“Notwithstanding my personal discomfort regarding Mr. Epstein and his involvement with MIT, I did not believe I was in a position to change MIT’s policies and practices,” Cohen said in an e-mailed statement. “I did not witness anything I understood to be illegal, and I never solicited gifts from Mr. Epstein.”

MIT president L. Rafael Reif said on Monday that the university had retained a law firm [Goodwin Procter] to investigate Epstein’s interactions with MIT.  Despite that criminal history, Ito said he wooed Epstein as a donor for the lab when he met him in 2013.

MIT’s funding practices have attracted media attention in the last months.

In July The New York Times Magazine published a thorough article about it.

On Friday, The New Yorker mentioned that corporate donors—called “members”—who pay at least $250,000 a year make up the majority of the Media Lab’s annual budget.

Yesterday, two columnists wrote on Fortune, “while these institutions project the appearance of being focused on academic pursuits—finding the truth, asking tough questions, pursuing independent lines of exploration, and so on—in reality, they are corporate lap dogs fetching the balls their masters throw.”

An MIT Professor Will Temporarily Lead the Media Lab In the Midst of the Crisis

IBL News | New York

MIT announced on September 10 that it appointed a transitional executive committee of faculty and senior staff to lead the MIT Media Lab, after the resignation of its director Joi Ito over his financial ties to sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation by “a prominent law firm”, announced by MIT’s President Rafael Reif on Saturday, is still ongoing.

Pattie Maes, professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, will serve as chair of the committee, managing the future lab governance model and search for new director.

Four more members, along with their areas of responsibility, will be the following:

  • Deb Roy, professor of media arts and sciences: executive director of operations and communications;
  • Tod Machover, professor and head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences: community engagement and culture change;
  • Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research: policies, practices, and culture of research; and
  • Ramona Allen, the School of Architecture and Planning’s assistant dean for human resources and, as of Oct. 1, MIT’s vice president of human resources: administrative organization.

“These have been exceptionally difficult times for the Media Lab, and I want to thank the members of the community for their dedication to the lab and for their commitment to real change,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

A Whistleblower Revealed the Ties of MIT to Epstein

In an internal meeting at the lab, on September 4, Ito admitted to having taken $525,000 from Epstein for the Media Lab and an additional $1.2 million for his private ventures.

According to an article at MIT Technology Review, emails provided to the New Yorker and the New York Times by whistleblower Signe Swenson, a former development associate at the Media Lab, showed Ito, along along with Peter Cohen, a former development official at the lab, acknowledging that Epstein’s money needed to remain anonymous.

The hidden ties with Epstein –who died in jail on August 10– were so widely known at the Media Lab that staff in Ito’s office began to call him “he who must not be named” or “Voldemort,” according to the New Yorker. Questions also remain about how the donations evaded detection by MIT.

The lack of transparency around the close relationships between academic institutions and an elite network of donors is a constant in the higher education industry, according to observers.

MIT and Harvard Professors and Thinkers Supported Joi Ito

Epstein had a reputation for cultivating relationships with scientists. He also funded many scientific projects, including some at MIT. He was linked to deceased MIT professor and AI pioneer Marvin Minsky, who was recently accused of having sex with one of Epstein’s underage victims.

Now Epstein’s support has become a source of public shame for the Media Lab. Mainly, because documents showed that the MIT Media Lab was aware of Epstein’s status as a convicted sex offender. Additionally, Epstein’s directed contributions to the lab far exceeded the amounts M.I.T. has publicly admitted.

Another angle of the controversy refers to the group of prominent professors and thinkers involved with MIT and Harvard who signed a letter in support of MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito in mid-August. The letter sought to gather support for Ito, who apologized for accepting funds from the now-deceased sexual criminal.

This list includes as signers Harvard Law professor and Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte, Harvard law professor and EFF board member Jonathan Zittrain, and synthetic biology pioneer George Church.



The MIT Media Lab’s Scandal: Its Director Resigns Over His Ties to Epstein

IBL News | New York 

Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, resigned Saturday over his ties to convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

“After giving the matter a great deal of thought over the past several days and weeks, I think that it is best that I resign as director of the media lab and as a professor and employee of the Institute, effective immediately,” Ito wrote in an internal e-mail.

In a message to the M.I.T. community, L. Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T., wrote, “Because the accusations in the story are extremely serious, they demand an immediate, thorough and independent investigation,” and announced that M.I.T.’s general counsel would engage an outside law firm to oversee that investigation.

According to a The New Yorker investigation, the prestigious MIT Media Lab received at least $7.5 million from Jeffrey Epstein and Ito would allegedly ask that the donations were counted as anonymous. “New documents show that the M.I.T. Media Lab was aware of Epstein’s status as a convicted sex offender, and that Epstein directed contributions to the lab far exceeding the amounts M.I.T. has publicly admitted,” explained The New Yorker.

“Like its parent university, the famed research center became far too comfortable selling its prestige. Even to Jeffrey Epstein,” writes Justin Peters in an article on Slate titled The Moral Rot the MIT Media Lab”.


A MOOC that Teaches How to Create Viral Content Gets 86,000 Enrollees

IBL News | New York

Over 86,000 learners have enrolled in the “Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content” MOOC at Coursera.org.

This free, 6-hour course, developed by the University of Pennsylvania, explains how to apply viral marketing ideas and be more effective when developing brand and product campaigns.

Drawing on principles from his best-selling book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”, Professor at Wharton School Jonah Berger [in the picture] illustrates successful strategies and explains how to craft stickier content, generate more word of mouth and create viral campaigns.

IBM Releases a Video Tutorial Series and Textbook to Educate on Quantum Computing

IBL News | New York

IBM announced last week the release of a video tutorial series, an open-source textbook, and a university hackathon program, in an effort to massively educate on quantum computing. This set of features are available on IBM’s Qiskit learning platform.

A part of this education push is also the new 5-qubit systems for educational use, as well as a new feature to reserve uninterrupted time on one of IBM’s quantum computers for running experiments.

“Our team is committed to making quantum sciences more approachable by investing heavily in the education to support this growing community and establishing the emerging technology as the next generation of computing,” Jay Gambetta, Vice President of quantum at IBM, said in a blog post.

“We need more students, educators, developers, and domain experts with ‘quantum ready’ skills. This is why our team is proud to release educational resources and tools, while also increasing the capacity and capability of our IBM Q systems,” he added.

Quantum computers use qubits, not bits, and programming them is quite different than traditional computers. However, IBM’s Q System can be programmed using Python.

IBM launched the IBM Q Experience quantum cloud platform in 2016, making 5-qubit quantum processors and a simulator available online to the public.

Since then, IBM has released the Qiskit framework to enable users to more easily write and run code for quantum devices as well as providing a more advanced 16-qubit processor.

Over 28 million of experiments and simulations have been conducted to date, IBM says.

Aiming at Self-Learners and Educators

The ‘Learn Quantum Computation Using Qiskit’ open-source textbook allows students to learn quantum computation through practical problem sets run on real systems. It is aimed at both self-learners and educators.

The co-author of the book said that a strong background in quantum mechanics is not required.

IBM is also offering a ‘Coding With Qiskit’ video series.

Lastly, IBM is featuring a series of events:

  • The IBM Q Award Challenges are semester-long competitions on various topics, open to everyone.
  • The University Hackathon Partnership Program lets universities partner with IBM’s global teams to host a hands-on Qiskit experience, where students get to collaborate with IBM Q experts for developing quantum software programs.
  • International Qiskit Camps in Asia, Africa, and Europe for competing in teams.
Early this year, IBM showed the IBM Q System One at CES, in Las Vegas. It also announced plans to commercialize a 58-qubit quantum computer within the next several years.

Building Digital Programs Step-By-Step To Generate a Revenue Stream

Marie I. Rose | IBL News

The reality is that any college can introduce online programs step-by-step and build digital degrees in an unbundled way.

And while online numbers skyrocket, dozens of American colleges are at risk of going under due to insufficient physical enrollment and revenue,

Should schools then avoid this financial hole and aggressively invest in the new market of online education?

Expert Robert Ubell notes in an article on EdSurge that there is “a major sabotaging myth that digital instruction is far too expensive.”

“Start by corralling a few daring faculty members to work together with a couple of new hires, especially an experienced instructional designer,” Ubell says.

As a software infrastructure, there are excellent choices of learning platforms that allow creating replicas of Coursera.org or edX.org starting at $10K.

“Tactically, it’s wise to build only the one or two needed to deliver for the first semester. Tuition generated from those initial courses is likely to subsidize the next ones. And so on. By the time a college is ready to launch its next round of online degrees, tuition revenue from those delivered in the initial semesters will help drive the next few,” advices Robert Ubell, who successfully followed this approach at Stevens and NYU.

“A full program, say, of six courses, should cost $150,000 to $200,000,” states John Vivolo, director of Online Education at Katz School of Science and Health at Yeshiva University.

Curtin University and Universidad Anáhuac Contribute to the edX Consortium

IBL News | New York

The edX Consortium continues to expand by adding new members and expanding its reach.

This week, Curtin University joined the edX University Advisory Board (UAB) as a contributing charter member.

“Joining edX in 2015 has opened up many opportunities for Curtin University to collaborate with leading global universities to deliver innovative learning and teaching options,” said Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry.

Curtin University currently hosts on edX a Master’s Degree in Marketing on edX, and three MicroMasters: Marketing in a Digital World, Internet of Things (IoT) and Human Rights.

Another recent incorporation into the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based nonprofit consortium, was Universidad Anáhuac, in Mexico.

The institution will start offering three professional certificate program in Spanish, starting in September and October:



Bertelsmann Will Fund 15,000 Scholarships to Learn Data, AI and Cloud Computing on Udacity

IBL News | New York

Bertelsmann, the German media and services multinational corporation, announced on September 5 that it will fund 15,000 scholarships in Data Science, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Cloud-Computing-related courses hosted at Udacity.

“We invite any learner, whether beginners with basic computer skills or an experienced programmer, to apply for a scholarship,” wrote Lalit Singh, Chief Operating Officer at Udacity. Applications due November 6, 2019.

The initiative is part of the Bertelsmann Technology Scholarship Program, structured in two phases. First, 15,000 scholarship recipients will participate in self-paced 3.5-month courses, from November 2019 to March 2020. Second, the top 1,600 performers will receive full Nanodegree scholarships beginning in March 2020.

The scholarship program is part of a three-year commitment by Bertelsmann to fund 50,000 scholarships at Udacity.com. “Bertelsmann is investing several million euros in funding as many as 50,000 tech scholarships on the online education platform Udacity,” the company stated.