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.

 

U.S. Education Technology Companies Raised $1.6 Billion in VC Funding in 2019

IBL News | New York

It has been a record year for venture capital in the U.S. edtech industry.

Investment in education technology companies reached over $1.66 billion across 105 deals throughout 2019—a 16% increase from the previous year and a 5-year high in value—according to a report by EdSurge.

Overall, the U.S. venture capital investments in 2019 were $108 billion across 5,906 deals, the third-biggest year ever by value. Venture capitalists invested more money during 2018 and 2000.

In education, eight of the top deals went to companies that offer educational services mostly in workforce training and development, which accounted for 39 percent of edtech investing in 2019. These were Guild Education, BetterUp, Coursera, Andela, Degreed, MindTickle, EdCast and A Cloud Guru.

The four mega-rounds exceeding $100 million went to Andela, BetterUp, Coursera and Guild Education.

On the other hand, investors poured $919 million on companies raising Series C and subsequent rounds in 2019.

Investment trends are showing that lines between higher education and workforce beginning to blur.

 

 

 

WGU Provides Details on Its MicroBachelor: Successful Completion Does Not Mean Automatic Accreditation

IBL News | New York

New details emerged today on Western Governors University (WGU)’s first MicroBachelors program developed in partnership with edX.

In a press release, WGU announced that its Information Technology (IT) program will be available to students around the world through edX.org and will stack into seven bachelor’s degree programs at the university.

These bachelor’s degree programs include: B.S. Computer Science, B.S. Software Development, B.S. Cloud and Systems Administration, B.S. Data Management/Data Analytics, B.S. Information Technology, B.S. Cybersecurity, and Information Assurance, and B.S. Network Operations and Security.

However, the completion of this series of low-cost, certificate-granting courses –they cost $1,347 and grant 10 competency units (CUs)– does not mean automatic admission to Western Governors University. While the MicroBachelors does fulfill many of the requirements for bachelor’s programs in IT at WGU, students will still need to apply to WGU and be accepted; admission is not automatic,” warns the first FAQ at the website.

In addition, the program comes with a time limit of three months. “If the coursework is completed within the quarter, the learner will receive credit for the course and passing of the assessment. If the work is completed outside of the quarter, the learner will not receive any credit for the task or assessment completed toward a certification.” 

ProctorU Merges With Canadian Yardstick; the New Company Raises $30 Million

IBL News | New York

ProctorU, a leader in online exam security and identity management company, and Yardstick Assessment Strategies, a prominent firm in psychometrics and computer-based exam administration, announced yesterday a deal to merge the two companies and form a new parent brand, Meazure Learning.

Scott McFarland, who was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the newly formed Meazure Learning and will continue to serve as CEO of ProctorU, said, “now, by integrating both companies’ unique offerings and strengths together, we’re poised to truly transform those markets.”

Yardstick and ProctorU will each continue to operate under their respective brands. Yardstick will serve as Meazure’s market-leading professional testing business unit, while ProctorU will continue its leadership and focus in higher education.

Yardstick’s management team and headquarters will continue to be based in Canada, with planned expansions for its locations in Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton. ProctorU will maintain its headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, and offices throughout the U.S. 

In conjunction with the merger, Meazure Learning raised more than $30 million in growth capital led by Eastside Partners, which will allow both ProctorU and Yardstick to make additional investments in technology and services, according to the merged company.

ProctorU proctors about two million exams over a year, and its tools are used in more than 600 higher-ed institutions, and 200 professional organizations and companies including Google, CompTIA and Chartered Accountants of Ireland, according to the company.

In recent years, both ProctorU and Yardstick have seen increasing demand for online testing solutions in the professional testing and credentialing markets, a market that is valued at US$3 billion. Last year, another online proctoring provider, Examity, raised $90 million.

The online professional testing market is likely to grow rapidly in the next five to 10 years, as professional training and credentialing leaders continue to implement remote proctoring’s systems for test-takers.

 

MIT Suspends Professor Seth Lloyd Over a Detailed Report About His Ties to Epstein

IBL News | New York

Jeffrey Epstein sex criminal visited MIT nine times between 2013 and 2017 and these visits and all post-conviction gifts were driven by either former Media Lab director Joi Ito or professor of mechanical engineering Seth Lloyd, and not by the MIT administration or the Office of Resource Development.

In addition, Lloyd was also found to have received a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006, which he acknowledged was deposited into a personal bank account and not reported to MIT.

These are two of the key findings of the review conducted by the Boston law firm Goodwin Procter pertaining to 10 Epstein donations, totaling $850,000, that MIT received between 2002 and 2017.

In keeping with a call for action from the Executive Committee today, President Reif placed Lloyd, a tenured professor, on paid administrative leave on Friday. In the last months, many students demanded the resignation of Professor Lloyd, without any positive answer.

The report concludes that President L. Rafael Reif was not aware that the Institute was accepting donations from a convicted sex offender and accused pedophile, and had no role in approving MIT’s acceptance of the donations.

The review finds that three MIT vice presidents learned of Epstein’s donations to the MIT Media Lab, and his status as a convicted sex offender, in 2013. In the absence of any MIT policy regarding controversial gifts, Epstein’s subsequent gifts to the Institute were approved under an informal framework developed by the three administrators, R. Gregory Morgan, Jeffrey Newton, and Israel Ruiz. Israel Ruiz was forced to step down a month ago.

“Since MIT had no policy or processes for handling controversial donors in place at the time, the decision to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations cannot be judged to be a policy violation,” the report says. “But it is clear that the decision was the result of collective and significant errors in judgment that resulted in serious damage to the MIT community.”

The 61-page Goodwin Procter report draws upon 73 interviews with 59 individuals, as well as a review during four months of more than 610,000 emails and documents provided by current and former MIT employees.


Resources

• MIT News: MIT releases results of fact-finding on engagements with Jeffrey Epstein

• MIT and Jeffrey Epstein: Materials

Boston Globe: After Epstein affair, president Rafael Reif should not be running MIT

• Breaking! USA Today: Harvard law professor sues New York Times over Jeffrey Epstein story

Instructure Accuses Dissident Investor Praesidium of “Opportunistic Tactics” to Derail the Transaction

IBL News | New York

Jeffrey Epstein sex criminal visited MIT nine times between 2013 and 2017 and these visits and all post-conviction gifts were driven by either former Media Lab director Joi Ito or professor of mechanical engineering Seth Lloyd, and not by the MIT administration or the Office of Resource Development.

In addition, Lloyd was also found to have received a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006, which he acknowledged was deposited into a personal bank account and not reported to MIT.

These are two key findings of the review conducted by the Boston law firm Goodwin Procter pertaining to 10 Epstein donations, totaling $850,000, that MIT received between 2002 and 2017.

Following through, with a call for action from the Executive Committee, President Reif placed Lloyd, a tenured professor, on paid administrative leave on Friday. In the past months, many students demanded the resignation of Professor Lloyd, without any positive answer.

The report concludes that President L. Rafael Reif was not aware that the Institute was accepting donations from a convicted sex offender and accused pedophile, neither did he play a role in approving MIT’s acceptance of the donations.

The review found that three MIT vice presidents learned of Epstein’s donations to the MIT Media Lab, and his status as a convicted sex offender, in 2013. In the absence of any MIT policy regarding controversial gifts, Epstein’s subsequent gifts to the Institute were approved under an informal framework developed by the three administrators, R. Gregory Morgan, Jeffrey Newton, and Israel Ruiz. Israel Ruiz was forced to step down a month ago.

“Since MIT had no policy or processes for handling controversial donors in place at the time, the decision to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations cannot be judged to be a policy violation,” the report says. “But it is clear that the decision was the result of collective and significant errors in judgment that resulted in serious damage to the MIT community.”

The 61-page Goodwin Procter report draws upon 73 interviews with 59 individuals, as well as a review during four months with more than 610,000 emails and documents provided by current and former MIT employees.


Resources

• MIT News: MIT releases results of fact-finding on engagements with Jeffrey Epstein

• MIT and Jeffrey Epstein: Materials

Boston Globe: After Epstein affair, president Rafael Reif should not be running MIT

• Breaking! USA Today: Harvard law professor sues New York Times over Jeffrey Epstein story

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Includes the “Freshman Year for Free” Program in His Agenda

IBL News | New York

SUNY Empire State College will offer the full library of free online college courses and materials of ModernStates.org at no cost to students of the state of New York and as an opportunity to earn up to full year of college credit tuition-free.

This initiative was announced this Thursday by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo as part of his 2020 Making Progress Happen‘s agenda and a result of a partnership between SUNY and ModernStates.org, creator of the so-called “Freshman Year for Free” program.

In addition to the unlimited free use of courses, Modern States Education Alliance– New York-based nonprofit organization, that manages the ModernStates.org educational portal–announced that it will also cover the cost for up to 1,000 credit-bearing exams for all students, especially New York veterans, and active-duty military families.

Students who complete one or more Modern States online college courses and pass a CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exam will earn credit through SUNY Empire State College. The credits earned will be transferable to other SUNY schools. SUNY Empire students will be able to access the Modern States program through a cobranded web portal.

“This partnership offers real savings — for every free course and exam passed, students and their families can save $1,000 to $2,000 in college costs,” said SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras.

Launched in August 2017, the ModernStates.org program has more than 180,000 registered users to date and has paid for approximately 30,000 exams for New Yorkers and students around the world.

The organization uses a highly customized learning ecosystem built on Open edX by IBL Education –the parent company of the IBL News nonprofit media service.

Available courses –also designed by IBL Education– include American Government, American Literature, Chemistry, Physics, College Algebra, Accounting, Spanish and many others. These online classes are taught by college professors in all 33 subjects for which there is a credit-bearing CLEP exam from the College Board, the same organization that offers the SAT and AP tests.

Students can take one course or many. The pass rate of students who use ModernStates.org to prepare for a CLEP exam is 73 percent, well above the national average, according to data provided by the organization.

In addition to paying the $89 CLEP exam fee, ModernStates.org reimburses students for test center fees, typically $25.

More than 2,900 colleges and universities accept CLEP for credit, including major universities such as Ohio State, University of Wisconsin, Penn State, Texas State, Morehouse, and others.

SUNY Empire currently offers more than 800 online courses, supported by more than 30 campuses and learning hubs across New York state and the world.

Analysis: Is Instructure’s Transaction Rigged? SEC’s Statements Show a Transparent Process

Mikel Amigot | IBL News, New York

When in mid-November the first activist investor put its eyes on Instructure/Canvas LMS, the edtech startup entered a phase of uncertainty.

It happens. When Wall Street smells serious money on a potential buyout, soulless executives emerge, trying to control the narrative.

No surprise that quiet workers at Canvas in Salt Lake City are still in shock.

Now, they see how their company is publically portrayed as a rigged machine, riddled with conflicts of interest, and setting a dishonest process to avoid superior offers.

On February 13, 2020, at the special meeting of stockholders in Salt Lake City, Utah, shareholders will vote on the proposed transaction with Thoma Bravo. At that moment we will discover what the play of many opposing shareholders is and what’s real vs. distracting smoke.

In the meantime, an attentive reading of the filings to the SEC can provide us with an immediate clue.

Indeed, the December 23, 210-pages proxy statement about the proposed acquisition is a gold mine. It allows anyone to understand what’s going on beyond the negative public messages towards Instructure’s management team.

Investors and analysts who said the process is unfair and obscure will find on pages 26 to 43 plenty of details showing that the Board ran a rigorous and transparent process, evaluating dozens of proposals. The transaction took into account the evolution of the industry and possible alternatives. There were 55 contacted parties; early 20 went under NDA. And Thoma Bravo’s $2 billion all-cash bid was superior in value.

The speculation that the deal is pierced with conflicts of interests and CEO Dan Goldsmith was hired to primarily sell the company and benefit Thoma Bravo doesn’t seem accurate. In fact, Goldsmith [in the picture above] wasn’t part of the transaction committee and did not have a role there, according to the proxy. The statement also shows that he regularly talked to many bidders over the course of many months, reporting such interests to the Board.

Inevitably, the CEO of an NYSE or Nasdaq traded company is always under suspicion when high compensations are on the table. However, in this case, the decision to proceed with the transaction with Thoma Bravo came unanimously from the Board.

Dealing with the SEC is no joke and Instructure reflects on their documents (pages 27, 42-46) that to avoid the appearance of impropriety, on multiple occasions Dan Goldsmith left the room, being excused from the Board’s deliberations or debates where conflicts existed. The Company’s secretary kept track of inbound logs to ensure that the process was overseen by the board.

In the end, the market dictates the price and the SEC regulates and protects investors.

We will see soon if Instructure is finally taken private and whether Thoma Bravo decides to grow the company or break it into multiple pieces, extracting value from the Bridge corporate platform, the leading position of Canvas and especially the hidden wealth of users’ data.

The reality detailed by the SEC filings doesn’t show any deceptive or misleading tactics played by Instructure Inc.

It looks like that some high-profile investors do not accept the price of $47.60 in cash per share.  They might believe that winning the public perception battle enhances their negotiating position to obtain a higher price.