MOOCs Will Evolve Into Online Degrees

Low student retention and enrollment decline showed that MOOCs didn’t work in the way they were conceived.

“MOOCs will not transform higher education and probably will not disappear entirely either,” said researchers Justin Reich and José Ruipérez-Valiente after analyzing data provided by HarvardX and MITx—edX’s founding partners—from their courses offered from 2012 to May 2018.

The best use of MOOCs may be in providing instruction that leads to online master’s degrees for professionals, researchers stated in a forum titled “The MOOC Pivot” published on the January 11 issue of Science.

Their prediction seems to strike a blow at the heart of edX’s mission: to ensure access to quality education for learners around the world.

Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, argued that the study misses the continuing growth in the edX platform overall, with 2,400 courses and 20 million learners. Today, edX addresses the professional degrees, and offers programs directly to businesses.

HBX Removes its “X” and Rebrands as Harvard Business School

The letter “X” became synonymous with online learning in the last eight years, with edX, MITx, HarvardX, MichiganX, IsraelX, and many more universities and initiatives.

Founded in 1908, Harvard Business School launched its digital initiative HBX in 2014. Since then, its online course offerings have significantly expanded.

Last week, HBX announced that it has rebranded as “Harvard Business School Online”. Its goal is to “raise awareness of its online courses.”

“Harvard Business School Online has allowed us to extend the reach of the School to people wherever they are in the world,” said Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School.

“We were founded five years ago by Harvard Business School to bring the HBS case method experience to the online world,” explained Patrick Mullane, executive director of Harvard Business School Online. “Today, nearly 40,000 students from around the world have completed a course with us. What’s most exciting is our participants say we have helped them achieve greater career success and, perhaps more importantly, greater satisfaction in life.”

In an interview with Inside Higher Education, Mr. Mullane noted that the name X was no longer working, and, additionally, some prospective students assumed HBX was connected to edX.

EdX Starts the Process to Release “Ironwood”, the Next Version of its Open Source Platform

After the existing Hawthorn release, the upcoming version of the Open edX platform will be Ironwood. The release date is scheduled for March, by the 2019 Open edX Conference (March 26-29, San Diego).

The first step will be to create the master branches in the appropriate repos – edX Architect, Ned Batchelder announced. This task is expected for January 18th.

“Anything merged by that date will be part of Ironwood; anything merged after that date will have to wait for the next release. A week or two after the branches are created, we will have a beta for everyone to test.  Then after a few weeks of community testing, Ironwood will be officially released,” Mr. Batchelder explained.

Ironwood will be the ninth release of the Open edX platform, and will include improvements over the current Hawthorn.2 version.

edX’s Tax Returns Form Shows an Increase in Directors’ Salaries

edX’s recently implanted paywall continues to be controversial. This time, because of the compensation of some directors.

Elearning Inside news service took a look at edX’s expenses, publicly available, and “wondered how necessary these measures may be”, given that some officers and directors “went from a volunteer position to making six figures”“edX has also been spending more and more on their less-essential employees as well,” writes the magazine.

In 2017, the total expenses at edX were $57,073,054, with a loss of $2,980,397, signaling an improvement from the prior year ($46,072,385 and $3,264,279, respectively). This data corresponds to edX’s tax returns for the fiscal year ending June 2017.

In terms of salaries, six officers who belong to the Board of Directors but are not involved in the day-to-day operations at edX, made over $700,000 in salary, when in the previous year they hadn’t received any compensation, according to data displayed by ProPublica.

Top 2018 HarvardX Courses: CS, Data Science, Buddhism, Pyramids and Architecture

Computer science, data science, architecture, and religion were the trending subjects on HarvardX’s courses (which function similarly to edX but focus solely on the Harvard community).

“People want technological skills today,” said Bharat Anand, Vice Provost for Advances in Learning at Harvard University. The rest of the most popular online courses, he added, “reflect the intrinsic interest and curiosity about the world we live in.”

This is the top 2018 HarvardX courses list, according to the institution, and published by The Boston Globe:

CS50 Computer Science courses. Since its creation in 2012, this collection has had over one million users. Two modules, understanding technology and computer science for business professionals, were added this year.

Data Science. Courses taught by Prof. Rafael Irizarry in R, visualization, probability, inference and modeling, productivity, wrangling, linear regression, machine learning.

• Buddhism through its scriptures. A four-week course about the beliefs and practices of Buddhists, including teachings from their scriptures.

• Pyramids of Giza: ancient Egyptian art and archaeology. An 8-week course to explore the archaeology, history, art, and hieroglyphs surrounding the famous Egyptian Pyramids at Giza, and how new technology is unlocking their secrets.

The architectural imagination. A 10-week course that analyzes the designs of historic buildings around the globe to assess the social impact of architecture.

Overall, HarvardX offers over 100 free online courses.





MOOC-Based Degrees: +10K Learners and $80M in Revenues

More than 10,000 students have enrolled in over 45 MOOC-based degrees on Coursera, edX, and Udacity, with combined potential revenue of more than $80 million, according to the Class-Central founder and MOOC expert, Dhawal Shah.

Most of the income has been generated by two universities and three degrees: the Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science (Georgia Tech with Udacity), the Online Master’s of Science in Analytics (Georgia Tech with edX), and the iMBA (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with Coursera).

“It is the second wave of MOOC hype,” says Mr. Shah. “I remain hopeful that these new business models will act as a safeguard of free content, ensuring its continued availability for those who need it, regardless of their ability to pay. However, one thing is abundantly clear: free users are no longer a focus, despite the fact that that was the stated reason so many traditional universities started exploring MOOCs in the first place.”


• EdSurgeYear of MOOC-based Degrees: A Review of MOOC Stats and Trends in 2018

• Class Central on MOOC-based Degrees: ListDistinctive Features | Second Wave of MOOC Hype

• IBL NewsMOOCs Are Dead, Welcome MOOC-Based Degrees


MOOC-Based Degrees:

XuetangX, China’s Open edX Platform, Reaches 16M Learners

XuetangX, China’s first MOOC-platform, has reached 16 million users –sources told IBL News. The exact number is 16.3 millionlearners. Last year XuetangX, which is based on the Open edX codebase, reported an audience of 14 million.

This number puts this platform in the third position, right after Coursera (37 million) and (18 million).

Founded in October 2013 by Tsinghua University, XuetangX has over 1900 quality courses from Tsinghua University, Peking University, Fudan University, MIT, Stanford University, Berkeley and other first-class universities, covering 13 subjects.

Additionally, XuetangX hosts innovative initiatives, such as:

  • AI Xuetang, a personalized learning platform for K-12 education. It works as a channel, research exchange, and application of the Ministry of Education’s Online Research Center.It includes online assessments, micro-degrees, and question banks. “It helps local primary schools to complete continuous innovation inside and outside the classroom, and give children the best learning experience,” explains the organization.
  • AP courses at and XuetangX, with over 300 high school members, and over 400,000 enrolled learners. Intended for middle school students, there are 10 free, four-week courses, mostly covering STEM subjects (Calculus, Linear Algebra, Probability Theory, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and others). Their credit is accepted by many universities and colleges, including Tsinghua University, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Renmin University of China and Central China Normal University.
  • Micro-Degrees. Jointly developed by XuetangX and Chinese universities. Main courses are IBA, AI, IoT, Network security, Big Data, Accounting, UI design, Radio and Television Editor, Internet Education, Internet Finance, and Cross-Border e-commerce.
  • Rain Classroom, an app designed to be used in a blended learning model, with 7 million users. This free tool allows students to interact with their teachers in class and out of class using their smartphones.
  • XuetangX Cloud, a teaching platform to use on campus, and connected to Rain Classroom.
  • AI virtual teacher Xiaomu. “As soon as students start a course, Xiaomu predicts where they each have problems and answers their questions in the form of text, pictures, videos, etc. Students can always ask him more until they fully understand the concept. In talking to Xiaomu, they avoid occupying the teacher’s time.” (…) “When users are watching videos, Xiaomu actively asks students related knowledge questions to help them learn how to deal with error-prone and confusing content.” (…) “He will constantly monitor students’ progress and provide advice and encouragement at different stages. Even after a user finishes a course, Xiaomu will design and recommend other courses according to the user’s preferences in order to help individual students to learn effectively.”
  • SIELE Test, a system that allows to electronically certify the degree of mastery of the Spanish language.

News about XuetangX in English

edX Will Invest Another $1.8M in Fostering Digital Bachelors’ Degrees

Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, decided to channel the funding received with Yidan Prize of $1.8 million to “reimagine undergraduate online education” and foster stackable credentials in this area.

That amount corresponds to 50% of the prize, which was granted at an award ceremony in Hong Kong, last December 10. Half of the $3.9M was in the form of a cash prize to the laureate (Mr. Agarwal), while the other was a project fund.

“In the next three to five years, we want to utilize the proceeds to truly reimagine the undergraduate degree. We want to see anybody anywhere in the world to get undergraduate plus education,” said Anant Agarwal during a conversation with Professor Larry Hedges, laureated also with the Yidan Prize, and Tom Blackwell, CEO at EM. [In the picture; also, see the video below].

Early this year, the edX organization started to analyze the viability of launching customizable digital bachelors’ degrees, as IBL News reported.

These credentials, registered with the name of “MicroBachelors”, could be priced at $10,000.

The MicroBachelors project, which started with a grant of $700,000 from the Lumina Foundation, mirrors MicroMasters’ successful initiative. The idea follows Anant Agarwal’s view of “education as a Lego.”

However, edX won’t be the first MOOC platform to launch a Bachelor’s degree. Coursera scored this achievement by releasing the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of London earlier this year.

Newsletter about Open edX | December 2018: HarvardX, MIT,, Anant Agarwal…

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DECEMBER 2018 – NEWSLETTER #12  |  More stories at IBL News



MIT’s Private Open edX Platform Used by 99% of Students on Campus

• Harvard University Enhances its DART Tool to Reuse edX Content on Campus

• EdCast Open edX Provider Raises $33.6 Million


• EdX Begins to Charge for Access to Graded Assessments

Anant Agarwal and Larry Hedge Each Receive $1.8M in a Prize Set by a Chinese Philanthropist


• Insights on Georgia Tech’s Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity on

• A How-To Course on edX About Amazon SageMaker and Machine Learning

edX MicroMasters Program Wins Employability Award


• MOOCs Are Dead, Welcome MOOC-Based Degrees

Reinventing the College Degree: A Future with Modular Credentials

O’Reilly Media Won’t Organize the 2019 JupyterCon Event


Education Calendar  –  JAN  |  FEB  |  MARCH  |  APRIL

This newsletter about Open edX is a monthly report compiled by the IBL News staff, in collaboration with IBL Education, a New York City-based company that builds AI analytics-driven, revenue-oriented learning ecosystems, and courses with Open edX. 

Read the latest IBL Newsletter on Learning Innovation  |  Archive of Open edX Newsletters

Learning Innovation | December 2018: OPM, MOOC, Coursera, edX, Udacity, Datacamp…

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The OPM market, which stands at $2.3 billion, can grow 12 % by 2020, said Eduventures.

Grand Canyon Education picked up 17 partner institutions after acquiring Orbis Education Services for $362 million.

“The next-generation model for MOOCs in higher education is to become a form of OPM providers, including the near-term focus on master’s degrees,” wrote expert Phil Hill, from e-Literate.


Artificial intelligence in U.S. education will grow by 47.5% from 2017-2021. An expert takes a peek into examples of how AI is used in education.

AI developed by Chinese companies will rock our world, and reshape teaching, said Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, best-selling author, and former Google’s China chief.


MOOCs should be understood as just as digital content rather than college educational experiences, writes Amy Ahearn, manager at +Acumen.

MOOC top platforms grew their businesses by over 20% in 2018

A 22-story tower in Beijing named the “MOOC Times Building” houses government supported incubator for edtech companies. It includes two tricked-out production studios to film and edit video for courses.


Google has created an IT Support Professional Certificate program, designed to train anyone without any prior training or degree a Support Specialist in 8 to 12 months.

Coursera added 675 courses, doubled down on the number of degrees, launched the first Bachelor’s degree, and reached 37 million learners in 2018.


Coursera launched a forum space for its global community of learners to ask questions and help each other out.

EdSurge is redefining its mission on writing, research and events, after closing a $2.5 million fundraise and signing with new partners in China (JMD and TAL Education)


DataCamp, a New York-based provider of online data science and analytics courses that claims 3.3 million users, raised another $25 million.

• Kahoot, an Oslo-based developer of a digital quiz tool popular with teachers, received investment support from Disney, and brought its valuation until $374 million.

India’s Byju raised $540 million to expand globally with English classes.


• Education Calendar by IBL News

This newsletter about learning innovation is a monthly report compiled by the IBL News journalist staff, in collaboration with IBL Education, a New York City-based company that builds data-driven learning ecosystems and courses with Open edX. If you enjoy what you read please consider forwarding it to spread the word. Click here to subscribe. 

IBL Newsletter #17 – November 2018
IBL Newsletter #16 – October 2018
IBL Newsletter #15 – September 2018