Blackboard Introduces Its First Data and Analytics Platform

IBL News | New York

Blackboard announced this week, during its BbWorld 2019 annual users conference in Austin, Texas, a release of its data and analytics platform for the end of August.

It will bring together data from Blackboard SaaS products and store it in a cloud warehouse.

Clients will be able to use open standards like LTI Advantage and Caliper.

Blackboard Data will provide institutions with a single data set with a common structure, as well as the ability to export data for ingestion into existing institutional workflows,” said Rachel Scherer, Senior Director of Analytics at Blackboard, in a statement.

The first release on the Blackboard Data platform, known as the Blackboard Reporting Stack Developer Tier, will provide clients with direct access to data sets through a Snowflake data warehouse integration.

Blackboard Inc said that it worked with over 130 client developers at over 75 institutions to co-develop that platform.

To introduce clients to Blackboard Data, this company has launched the 21 Days of Blackboard Data challenge, encouraging clients to join. Participants will have access to a demo data set with the same user interface as the Developer Tier.

Blackboard’s vision was outlined last year during its BbWorld 2018 conference:


EdX Offers Its First Online MBA, from BU Questrom School of Business

IBL News | New York will host its first online MBA, offered at a reduced price of $24,000, from Boston University (BU) Questrom School of Business. Applications will open on August 16 of this year, and classes will begin in fall 2020.

Coursera, edX’s competitor, already offers two MBAs: from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Macquarie University in Australia.

The BU Questrom MBA program is ranked number 28 in the Top 50 MBA programs according to U.S. News and World Report rankings.

This new Master’s degree is the latest degree program on It is also a stacked degree with a MicroMasters component.

“The program is designed specifically for online learners who seek to advance their management careers in today’s global economy, providing a comprehensive, engaging, and integrated experience centered on the themes that drive business in the 21st century,” explained Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX on a blog post.

“We’ve recognized the transformative potential of edX for some time,” said Boston University President Robert A. Brown. “With the online MBA, we’re seizing the initiative to offer a major degree for which we believe there is global demand. Higher education must evolve in a fast-changing world. We aim to lead in this evolution.”

Boston University (BU) has been an edX partner since 2013.

UT Austin Joins Colleges that Offer Tuition-Free Programs

IBL News | New York

The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) will offer a tuition-free college program for low and middle-income students –students from families that earn up to $65,000 a year.

The institution joins this way the list of 75 colleges that offer free tuition, reduced tuition or “no students loans” financial aid policies for undergraduates.

This tuition-free program, to be started in Fall 2020, comes after the University of Texas System Board of Regents voted unanimously to create a $160 million endowment.

It is expected to benefit 8,600 undergraduates per year with full tuition and 5,700 students with assured tuition support.

The endowment will cover tuition only (which is about $11,000 per year), but will not include additional living expenses such as room and board.

“There is no greater engine of social and economic mobility than a college degree, and this initiative ensures that more Texans will benefit from a high-quality UT Austin education,” Chancellor James B. Milliken said.

IBM Offers Employees Four Programs in AI and Data Science in Partnership with a Web Training Firm

IBL News | New York

IBM started to offer its employees a set of four programs on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Dafa Science with the web-based learning company Simplilearn.

These programs will cost $1,299 each and will take around a year to complete. They include live virtual classrooms, access to teaching assistants, self-paced video instruction and assessments.

Upon completion, participants will earn non-accredited certificates from Simplilearn and IBM, despite being billed as “master’s programs.”

This collaboration is based on pairing Simplilearn’s training and instructors with course content from IBM.

Simplilearn works with individual learners as well as with companies and about a dozen universities on co-branded technology education, according to its chief marketing officer, Mark Moran.

Udacity Creates a 4-Month Program to Train Developers on Java Programming

IBL News | New York

Udacity announced the Java Developer Nanodegree program last week. It will be a four-month (5-10 hours/week) online class and will cost $1,436 or $399 per month. As a prerequisite, intermediate programming is required.

After twenty years, Java skills remain in demand by top employers for their back-end development.

“Java remains the de-facto language for building enterprise-scale applications,” noted Aravindan Ramkumar, a Java Developer Nanodegree program instructor and Software Engineer at Netflix.

Taught by practitioners from the industry, this program will cover the full range of skills to build, test, and deploy web applications using Java. It will also include real-world projects, such as:

  • Project 1: Create a web-based chat room app using Spring Boot and WebSocket components.
  • Project 2: Develop the back-end system for a car website. Use Java APIs and frameworks to integrate different services using different communication styles.
  • Project 3: Build a data store for customer reviews. Build the polyglot persistence layer for a REST API that will support the customer reviews section of a product page in an e-commerce application.
  • Project 4: Implement authorization for an e-commerce application. Use Jenkins to build a CI/CD pipeline to deploy code to production.
Students will be assigned a personal mentor, will be able to get a custom learning plan and access to career coaching sessions and interview prep advice.

Analysis: Pearson’s Bold Move Into Digital Will Allow Them to Re-Establish Control of the Market

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

Moving into a “digital-first” publishing house is, certainly, a bold move.

Pearson –the biggest education company in the world, with 24,000 employees operating in 70 countries– announced this week that all of its 1,500 U.S. titles will become digital, going further than any other textbook company.

Some analysts say that this shift can entirely change the textbook market, mostly because it is an attempt to control the distribution channels.

Pearson justified its big move away from print calling the new approach a “product as a service model and a generational business shift to be much more like apps, professional software or the gaming industry.”

This new development format will allow Pearson to update textbooks on an ongoing basis, taking into account new developments in the field of study, new technologies, data analytics, and efficacy research, the company said in a news announcement.

The switch to digital —which will go into effect next year— will also lower the cost for students:

“We will effectively have three price points. They will vary by discipline, but broadly speaking, the average ebook will be $40. You can still rent a physical textbook for $60. And a fully integrated digital product, like Revel, MyLab or Mastering, will be $65 to $80,” said John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, in a statement.

Many of their print textbooks are priced at $200 or $300 today. College students on average spend more than $1,200 on books and materials, according to The College Board.

“We’ve changed our business model to deliver affordable, convenient and personalized digital materials to students. Our digital-first model lowers prices for students and, over time, increases our revenues. By providing better value to students, they have less reason to turn to the secondary market. This will create a more predictable, visible revenue stream with a better quality of earnings that enables us to serve the needs of learners and customers more effectively,” added John Fallon.

With the print versions, Pearson is trying to discourage the second-hand rental market mostly through Amazon, Chegg, and college bookstores.

Additionally, Pearson will save on printing, packaging and other costs associated with making physical textbooks.

Phil Hill, an expert blogger, and partner at MindWires Consulting said that going digital-first “makes plenty of sense on paper for textbook publishers, as it enables them to “re-establish control” over the distribution of their products and cut off the secondhand rental market.”

Pearson’s major announcement comes at a time when the textbook industry is seeing a number of deals and transactions on digital courseware. A year ago, Cengage launched a subscription with unlimited access to its digital materials. In addition, Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education announced a merger, and Wiley acquired two startups —Zyante and Knewton— to bolster its courseware offerings.

edX Starts Looking For a New Community Lead After John Mark Walker Departs

IBL News | New York 

John Mark Walker, Open edX Community Lead, has stepped down from his role, departing the edX organization. “I have decided to move on from edX for another opportunity,” he said in an email, without being specific about the reason.

“I have a hunch that I will continue to be involved in the Open edX community,” he wrote on a blog post.

“You’re probably wondering what this means for the Open edX Community. For starters, edX is actively seeking my replacement as the Open edX community lead. If you have ideas for that role, preferably in the Boston/Cambridge area, please send them to for now,”
he added.

John Mark Walker, an expert in open source programs and a former executive at Dell EMC, has stayed at edX Inc for eighteen months.

He said with a recent interview at IBL News that Open edX was “moving towards a more inclusive, comprehensive community, where we hope to be the home for learning practitioners in an open-source collaborative way.

Dan Goldsmith (Instructure): “My Job Is Resisting Short Cuts In Our Educational Business”

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

No one would believe that Dan Goldsmith, who runs Instructure, the maker of Canvas LMS and Bridge, is a Wall Street CEO.

His lack of arrogance, along with an understanding of the nuances of the educational industry, makes him unusual. “I know it sounds odd to have a good conversation with the CEOs of a competing business but at the end, we have a common mission and we all serve a similar space,” Goldsmith said in a conversation with IBL News.

He translates the same philosophy to his management style. “We want to be a mission-minded company”. “There is always pressure to take short backs in business. A part of my job is resisting those practices. Following the right path takes 20 % more effort, but that is all right,” he explains.

Another temptation he avoided during our conversation was talking about the preeminence of Canvas in the LMS market space. “We just want to make sure we inspire innovation and change.”

Given Blackboard, D2L and Moodle’s stagnant numbers regarding users and financials, as journalists, we pushed Goldsmith to reveal if he would take advantage of the situation and turn the calm path of Instructure into more aggressive behavior. While he did not disclose this information, he made clear that he is absolutely in charge. “We have strength and conviction in our mission and business plan.”

“I’m not afraid to take the direction and ask for patience with the investment community.” “I exhibited this in my last company, Veeva Systems, a cloud-based SaaS company.”

Goldsmith was one of the first 50 employees at Veeva. He helped lead the company through a successful IPO and a growth path to a $10 billion market cap. Prior to Veeva, he worked in various executive positions at companies such as Accenture, PwC and IBM.

At Instructure, Goldsmith took the lead on January 2019 after 10 years of Josh Coates’ role as co-founder and CEO. His initial focus is on market growth, with the sales leaders reporting directly to him. Currently, Instructure has over 4,000 corporations and educational institutions in higher ed and K12 as customers and serves 30 million learners.

Opening a new phase of growth and achieving the company’s profitability is the most impending challenge today.

Watch the full interview of Dan Goldsmith in the video below.


AWS and Udacity Launch a Scholarship to Participate in the World’s First Autonomous Racing League

IBL News | New York

Udacity announced yesterday the DeepRacer Scholarship Challenge from Amazon Web Services (AWS), a new program that will enable students to expand and test their skills in machine learning by participating in the world’s first autonomous racing league.

The 200 top-performing students in the DeepRacer League will also have the opportunity to earn their way to a full scholarship to Udacity’s Machine Learning Nanodegree program.

A part of the program, students learn to create, train, and fine-tune a Reinforcement Learning model in the AWS DeepRacer 3D racing simulator.

The AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale race car which gives students a hands-on way to get started with Reinforcement Learning (RL). RL is an advanced machine learning (ML) technique and is broadly useful when the reward function of the desired outcome is known but the path to achieving it is not and requires a lot of iteration to discover. Applications open on August 1.

The Scholarship program incorporates a brand-new free course, AWS DeepRacer: Driven by Reinforcement Learning.

“There simply aren’t enough people, who are equipped with machine learning skills. That’s why AWS and Udacity share a commitment to train machine learning talent. I’m confident that the DeepRacer Scholarship Challenge from AWS will empower learners to master Reinforcement Learning and land some of the most exciting and in-demand jobs in the field,” said Sebastian Thrun, CEO at Udacity.


Code with Google, a New Computer Science Resource for Educators

IBL News | New York

Google has launched an initiative called “Code with Google” to train teachers in Computer Science (CS). It brings together Google’s free curriculum and programs that build coding skills.

Educators can integrate CS First into their classroom, guide their high school students through the learning app Grasshopper to learn JavaScript, and share CS scholarship, summer programs, and internships opportunities.

Alongside these resources, also announced a grant of $1 million to the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) to expand the CS learning.

Currently, many schools don’t offer CS courses that include programming.

“Code with Google is the next step in our ongoing commitment to closing equity gaps in CS education,” wrote Google VP of Education and University Relations, Maggie Johnson, in a blog post.

With this initiative, Google continues its education strategy for schools. Affordable Chromebooks, free resources and cloud-based software is is how the giant company is trying to solidify its position among educators and students.