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

AWS has just launched an intermediate-level course on edX.org about how to use Amazon SageMaker to simplify the integration of Machine Learning into your applications.

Built by AWS experts, Amazon SageMaker: Simplifying Machine Learning Application Development is intended for application developers with no data science expertise who are upskilling in machine learning and AI.

The course is part of the AWS Developer Professional Series.

Machine Learning engineer is the #1 emerging job, with an annual growth of 10%, beating data scientists, sales development and customer success managers.  

TechRepublic is ranking machine learning as the top Artificial Intelligence skill. Meanwhile, Gartner said that AI is expected to create 2.3 million jobs by 2020, replacing the 1.8 millions it will eliminate.


Coursera, edX, Udacity Grew Their Businesses by Over 20% in 2018

Top MOOC platforms significantly increased their revenues in 2018, after adding new paid models and experiencing an increase in users.

According to Forbes, Coursera’s revenue for 2018 is $140, up from $100 million in 2017.  Udacity’s revenue will grow by 25 % to $90 million, and edX will be at around $60 million — a smaller increase.

In terms of users, Coursera leads with 37 million, followed by edX (18 million), XuetangX (14 million), Udacity (10 million) and FutureLearn (8.7 million).

Class-Central estimated that 900 universities launched 2000 new courses to the list this year. [See the graphic above] The total number of online degrees is 47, up from around 15 in 2017.

One of the most successful cases has been Coursera for Business, which grew 300% and increased its portfolio to over 1,500 customers globally.


EdCast Open edX Provider Raises $33.6 Million

EdCast, a learning platform whose corporate LMS is powered with Open edX technology, announced last week that it closed an additional $33.6 million of funding.

“Investors include Softbank, REV Venture Partners, The London Fund, Crescent Enterprises,  and Mistletoe, among others, with participation from previous investors, including SSGA, Stanford University, and Cervin Ventures,” said EdCast in a press release.

This Mountain View-based educational provider also claimed that “it has surpassed two million paid users across hundreds of enterprise and public-sector customers, including HPE, Dell EMC, Schneider Electric, ANZ Bank, Jefferson Health, Mars, Anglo American, PVH, Genpact, ICICI Securities, India’s NASSCOM and the World Economic Forum.”

[In the picture above: Karl Mehta, CEO at EdCast]




EdX Begins to Charge for Access to Graded Assessments

The edX organization has implemented a new revenue model on its catalog, based on charging to access graded problems. Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, made the announcement today on the official edX blog.

Audit learners (free learners) will continue to access the core course content, including videos, resources, discussion forum, and practice problems, but they will need to upgrade to the “verified learner status” and pay a fee (usually $50 to $100) to unlock graded assessments.

Additionally, after the free course ends, users won’t be able to access content unless they upgrade into the paid option. This time limit feature will be set on most of the existing courses.  “Existing audit track enrollments will not be affected. Learners will be able to access all content in any course(s) they enrolled in prior to December 17, 2018,” edX explained.

With this model, edX expects to generate a 30% increase in its overall revenue, which will be split with partners, as sources told IBL News.

This change, aligned with the business practices of Coursera, Udacity and other competitors, comes after several months of exploring different revenue models and is part of edX’s strategy to become sustainable. Particularly, edX’s paywall will be similar to FutureLearn’s upgrading feature. Coursera was the first to charge for graded assignments three years ago.

During the testing time prior to the implementation, edX claimed that it didn’t receive negative feedback from learners, although some university partners complained about it during the last Global Forum conference in Boston last month.

“We have decided on a model that we feel will best drive edX forward while staying true to our mission,” explained Anant Agarwal. “We wanted to strike a balance of moving edX towards financial sustainability while maintaining a robust level of free access.”

Also, MITx shared his view. “We support edX in its mission and path. We are working to ensure we maintain the integrity of the learning experience for all learners under this updated model. Materials for over 2,600 MIT courses will continue to be available for free to all learners on MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW).”

Dhawal Shah, founder of Class Central, said “that edX’s paywall will now be higher than Coursera’s, especially since Coursera has born the brunt of criticism about restricting access to MOOCs, which many attributed to pressure from Coursera’s VC investors.”  “Strangely enough, with this change to edX, Coursera is now the MOOC platform that allows free users to go furthest before hitting a paywall.”


• edX Blog: Updates To Our Platform: Achieving Long-Term Sustainability


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

O’Reilly Media will no longer organize the JupyterCon conferences. Therefore, the projected 2019 JupyterCon conference won’t take place, and the next annual conference may be deferred until 2020.

Project Jupyter reported today on its blog about this sudden breaking off, although it didn’t disclose the cause. “We would like to thank the team at O’Reilly Media for partnering with us to offer JupyterCon 2017 and 2018. Their expertise in creating and managing complex events with hundreds of attendees was invaluable, and we learned a great deal from working with them,” wrote.

Project Jupyter management team is now organizing a committee to re-evaluate the situation and investigate different conference formats, including a lower-cost one, and explore new venues and locations.

In addition to the annual conference, Jupyter has other local gatherings which will continue to proceed, such as Jupyter Days, Jupyter Community Workshops, and local code sprints and open studios.

Insights on Georgia Tech’s Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity on edX.org

Nelson Baker, Dean of Professional Education at Georgia Tech, in conversation with Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, shared his view on the Master of Science in Cybersecurity online degree (OMS Cybersecurity), which was announced in the fall on edX and whose first cohort of students will start this January.

Intended for thousands of working professionals with full-time jobs and family commitments who are unable to attend on-campus classes, this degree, offered at a tuition of less than $10,000, follows the groundbreaking online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS), and Online Master of Science in Analytics (OMS Analytics). Diploma, curriculum, content, rigor, and requirements are the same as the residential program.

  • “It includes collaborative tools to enable learners to interact with each other, with their instructors, and with their course content, which is crucial to the online learner experience. The students build powerful learner communities and professional networks by collaborating on the official forum, as well as by using unofficial tools such as Slack or Google Forums.” 
  • “These degrees offer more than content at-scale. They also offer networks at-scale that allow learners to build worldwide professional networks that they would not be able to build if they were in a traditional on-campus master’s program.”
  • “Our online degrees-at-scale can also open doors for new graduates that may normally be closed to them.”
  • Students in the on-campus M.S. in Cybersecurity are traditional graduate students, who recently completed an undergraduate degree, while the learners taking the OMS Cybersecurity are mainly working professionals. Ninety-seven percent of the applicants admitted to the OMS Cybersecurity program are already employed, and a third of them already have graduate degrees. They range from 20 years old to 72 years old and represent 27 countries. The majority of applicants come from the U.S. with a third of them coming from Georgia.”
  • “The main reason we’re able to offer this program at this price point is the massive online delivery technology that enables us to serve large numbers of qualified students from all over the world. Also, while there is no difference in the degree requirements or academic rigor between the on-campus and online degrees, we offer fewer elective choices in the OMS Cybersecurity to keep costs down. Another reason for the significantly reduced cost of the online degree is that online students don’t require the physical infrastructure and amenities needed by on-campus students.”


Forbes: How Is Higher Ed Helping To Close The Global Knowledge Gap?
Georgia Tech: Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
edX‘s Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity





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

Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, and Larry Hedges, Chair of the Department of Statistics at Northwestern University, were honored this week in Hong Kong and respectively received the 2018 Yidan Prize for Education Development and 2018 Yidan Prize for Education Research, which comes with a gold medal and a whopping amount of $3.87 million (HK$30 million) for each.

Dr. Charles Chen Yidan, Founder of the Yidan Prize, along with Mrs. Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, witnessed by 350 guests, presented the 2018 Yidan Prize for Education Development and Yidan Prize for Education Research, during a ceremony which took place on December 10.

Anant Agarwal said: “We’re really honored and fortunate to have won the Yidan Prize. We want to use the prize money to launch radical new efforts that would enable much younger learners, both at the late high school and college level, to get radically increased access and quality for their learning. edX today has 18 million students from every single country in the world, and I would love to see in the fullness of time, billions of students routinely accessing a quality education like this and education being affordable for everybody everywhere with a will to learn.” 

Larry Hedges, renowned for his development of the statistical methods for meta-analysis (SMMS), said: “I am honored to be the Yidan Prize laureate and I’m going to use whatever I gain from this prize to try and increase the profile of evidence in education for the purposes of improving education. It’s important that we avoid any mistakes that can be used to discredit education, to discredit evidence in education science, because there are people who would prefer to make policy decisions on the basis of preferences and superstitions and prejudices rather than on the basis of evidence.”

The Yidan Prize, the world’s largest award in education, was established in 2016 by Chinese philanthropist and entrepreneur Charles Chen Yidan, a co-founder of Shenzhen-based giant Tencent. This year the prize saw around 1,000 nominations from over 92 countries.

The Yidan Prize consists of two awards: the Yidan Prize for Education Research and the Yidan Prize for Education Development. The Yidan Prize Laureate receives a gold medal and a total sum of HK$30 million (around US$3.9 million).

Half of this amount is in the form of a cash prize to the laureate, while the other half is a project fund, according to the official press release. To ensure transparency and sustainability, the prize is managed by Yidan Prize Foundation and governed by an independent trust with an endowment of HK$2.5 billion (around US$323 million).

Corporate Announcements:
• Asia One: Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Honors Two Outstanding Scholars for Their Contributions to Education Reform at Yidan Prize Award Presentation Ceremony

• Asia Corporate News Network – ACN Newswire: Second Yidan Prize Summit Sets Forth Ideas for Future


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

Open edX is the platform of choice for residential learning at MIT. This institution finds it convenient for flipping the classroom and providing assessments and exams.

Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the Board of Directors at the edX Consortium [in the picture], talks about it on an interview at edSurge.

“Ninety-nine percent of our students will have seen the edX platform on campus regardless of whether they ever take it on edX because we have a private instance of edX on campus for our students. And what do professors do with it? They flip the classroom. They give instant feedback on exams. A lot of exams are going online.”

Mr. Sarma also talks about the need to smartly deal with data by doing intentional experiments.

“So for example, I could be in a video and change my background to blue, and see if people like it more. That’s an intentional experiment. But if I just take all the logs of this video, it’s very hard for me to figure out whether people want blue.”

“When we started using edX, there was enthusiasm that somehow magic would fall out of the data. We did learn a lot. We learned, for example, the demographics. We learned about our users. We learned about their career choices. But it started plateauing some time ago. We stopped getting a lot of insights out of the data.”


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

Harvard University – with 100 MOOCs featuring 26,000 videos, problems and text pages on edX.org – continues to experiment with technology to allow for the broad reuse of edX content for its on-campus Canvas platform.

Its new technical solution is called DART: Digital Assets for Reuse in Teaching, a system that allows any Harvard instructor to utilize HarvardX edX content on their on-campus courses via the Canvas LMS using the LTI standard interoperability tool. [See a screenshot above].

“Content is discoverable through search and recommendation interfaces, and the embed process is reduced to a few clicks. The initiative is well aligned with the envisioned NGDLE (next-generation digital learning environment), focusing on platform interoperability (edX to Canvas) and microservices (small isolated coding blocks) that appropriately isolate development to allow for quick iteration,” explained Daniel Seaton, a product owner for the DART project at Harvard University, in an article on Inside The Higher Education.

Mr. Seaton recommends that the edX Consortium – which hosts 2,200 courses – explore the possibility of extending these interoperability technologies to other members, creating a sharing economy for MOOC content. “When so many institutions have committed to open online courses, it’s natural to ask how these materials can be used to explore new pathways in both existing and nascent learning settings,” he says.



Reinventing the College Degree: A Future with Modular Credentials

Rapidly changing technology is impacting the workforce and the economy, highlighting the need to be continually learning and refreshing skills in order to stay relevant. Additionally, the jobs of the future will require a set of skills from a variety of subject areas. “We have to rethink our education system,” writes Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, on a column in Quartz.

A summary of Mr. Agarwal’s ideas:

  • Lego-like modular education will allow students to personalize their career, combining humanities with tech skills. “In this future, imagine that instead of graduating with a single degree from one university, you will design your own personalized degree from many online or residential programs. Smaller, modular chunks of education will reign, and our learning experience will become incredibly flexible and customizable.”

  • MOOCs at scale, with personalized pacing and open admissions, will be part of these modular degrees. “We envision a global credit-exchange network that will enable students to create their own customizable degrees, comprised of several credentials from a variety of higher education institutions. This is already starting to happen as MOOC providers and their institutional partners offer more programs and credentials that are valuable as standalone certificates, and that are credit-eligible at participating colleges.”

  • Modular credentials will be ideal for working professionals who want to update their skillset to suit the shifting job market, better preparing students and adults alike for an excitingly unpredictable future.”