Classical Investors Jump Into the Educational Technology Business

investorsEducation technology businesses attracted more VC funding in 2014 than ever before: nearly $1.87 billion, up 55 percent from 2013, according to the New York Times which cites a CB Insights report. Classical investors, such as Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia and Andreessen Horowitz, are jumping into this scenario.

Notable financing deals include:

  • Pluralsight, a company that provides online training to technology professionals seeking to stay current with programming languages, which raised $135 million.
  • Remind, a free messaging service for teachers to communicate with students and parents, with 23 million users, which raised $40 million from venture capital firms including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
  • Edmodo, an online social network customized for use in the classroom that is free for individual teachers, which raised $30 million.


On the other hand, online personal and professional continuing education company –with a library of 5,700 classes and 255,000 video tutorials– has raised $186 million. The company, valued at $1 billion, will use the funding to hire between 150 and 250 employees and buy education technology companies. Thinkful and Treehouse may be two of them.

This is the second round of financing for Lynda, following a $100 million initial investment from Accel Partners, Spectrum Equity and Meritech.

Continuing and adult education in the U.S. is a $55 billion market.


How Education Will Look Like in 2020 – Ten Trends

How will  the next five-to-ten years look like in online learning?

Anant Agarwal, president of, made these predictions in the Financial Times –that we have classified and summarized into ten trends:

1. The blended model will become the new norm. By 2020, 50 percent of college courses will combine in-person and online learning; a shift driven by student demand for the convenience and effectiveness of online learning. MIT’s recent report on the future of MIT education was unequivocal in its support of the blended model.

Chip Paucek, chief executive of 2U, says that “universities that do not provide online degrees will be hard-pressed to remain competitive as their peers scale dramatically through the ability to serve students regardless of location. “The lack of an online offering will be unacceptable. “At every school, there will no longer be online or on-campus students. Just students,” Paucek states.

2. MOOCs will help close the skills-gap for employers. Employees will be encouraged to take online courses with self-assessment preparedness tests pertaining to specific skill-sets when hired; or even later to keep up with emerging trends and technologies.

3. Students will become continuous learners, cultivating new skill-sets throughout their careers. There will be several models. For example, year one may be online with two years then spent on-campus. Instead of the traditional final year, students will enter the workforce to gain real-world skills and continue to learn through an annual subscription to their university.

4. Many universities will use MOOCs as a new kind of textbook; including videos, game-like simulations and interactive exercises. For classes, professors will augment public MOOC content with private, in-person experiences. In other words, MOOCs will be the “new age” textbooks.

 5. MOOCs will help prepare students for college. Just as many schools mandate required summer reading prior to freshman year, specific MOOCs with self-assessment preparedness tests may be required from accepted students, thereby ensuring they are prepared when they arrive on campus.

 6. There will be tens of thousands of free MOOCs offering everything, from fine arts to engineering. Students worldwide will have access to virtually any course subject in any language. [Today, and Open edx partners offer more than 1,000 free MOOCs.]

 7. MOOCs will get personal. Learning will offer multiple pathways to navigate courses that fit specific learning styles and speeds. MOOCs will continue tailoring the learning experience to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students, universities and employers.

 8. We will see more badges, such as Mozilla’s Open Badges. Employers increasingly accept certificates for MOOC courses. MOOC platforms are headed in this direction. [IBL has developed, along with GW, Indiana University and, the first badge system for Open edX. This course at GW is the first one issuing badges].

 9. MOOC certificates will transfer into course credits.

 10. Growing institutions, especially in developing nations, will aggregate existing MOOC courses into synthesized degree programs. [Anant refers to this phenomenon as “digital dormitories”.]



The EdX iPhone App Has Been Released! A Great Tool To Watch Course Videos


EdX has finally released its app for iPhone, although no announcement has been made so far.

This app, available for free in the iTunes store, is a clone of the Android version, except for one detail: video speed can be changed in the iOS version.

The available version is 1.0.00. It is downloadable under the name “edx”.

The edX iPhone app works as a companion tool to watch videos, announcements and handouts. But it does not allow users to take courses entirely on their smartphones. In order to complete readings, homework problems, and exams, the user is redirected to the website. The same applies to forum discussions and assignments, which must be completed through computers or tablets.

Right now only 79 courses are mobile-friendly. This means that only videos coming from these courses are downloadable. Within these 79 courses, however, many videos cannot be downloaded.

Still, some courses like “Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer?”, “Entrepreneurship 102: What can you do for your customer” and “The Science of Happiness” offer a good user experience.

Despite some bugs and crashes, the app is well-built and straightforward.

It is great to be able to download and watch videos without consuming cellular data. Definitely, a must-have app for edx-ers.


EdX Launches a Program for Middle School Students


This scholarship challenge aimed at middle school students (7th grade) is a great idea.

Students who complete one of five edX courses designed for advanced high school or college-level students will become finalists in Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s prestigious Young Scholars Program, aimed at high-performing middle school students with financial need.

The courses, with start dates ranging from January 20 to February 10, include:

The foundation usually receives 1,000-2,000 applications for the program each year; about 500 typically qualify as semifinalists.

An Investor Donates $1 Million to To Support the Creation of 20 AP-Oriented MOOCs and Allow Students Start College For Free


Steven B. Klinsky, 58 a New York professional investor who founded the private equity firm New Mountain Capital, is proposing a way for high school students to take one year of college online for free.

To carry out his vision, he has donated $1 million to edX –the MIT and Harvard University overseen online venture– and has formed a nonprofit group group, the Modern States Education Alliance.

His idea, announced last week through the Washington Post, is to have 20 new edX courses, in addition to an existing 10, that would prepare students to pass Advanced Placement (AP) or College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests so they can be able to take freshman year for free and start in college as sophomores.

Mr. Kinsky’s “Freshman Year for Free” initiative occurs while President Obama is proposing that community college should be free.

By using this funding, edX will add these additional courses to its current suite of AP and introductory college-level courses currently offered on its platform.

  • “These additional courses will ensure that every major subject covered by a College Board Advanced Placement* or CLEP* exam will be offered on Students completing the courses will have an opportunity to pass exams and gain credit from traditional colleges and universities. All courses are planned to launch and be open for registration on within the next 18 months,” edX explains.
  • “These courses will cover important freshman college subjects, ranging from math, science and history courses, to economics, anthropology, philosophy, foreign languages, and English.”
  • “Each course will be developed by edX university partners, and will include quizzes, tests, assessments, online discussion groups and other features.  Texts and materials will also be provided to students free of charge, online.”

For decades, many colleges have offered credit to students for high scores on AP tests. Credits are also available through the College-Level Examination Program, known as CLEP.

Modern States intends to add tutoring, counseling, mentoring and college guidance to its portal over time, and to continuously update and expand the course offerings.

“No one should be shut out of education after high school because of tuition cost or lack of access,” said Steven Klinsky, Modern States’ founder and chairman.  “Modern States’ goal is to create at least one universally available and tuition free path toward high quality education for anyone who seeks it.

Another initiative to make college free came from Shai Reshef, founder of University of the People. His TED talk last summer has been viewed by more than a million people.

A Leading Publishing House Launches Online Courses


Simon & Schuster will sell online courses taught by popular authors specialized on health, finance and self-help. Pricing will range from $25 to $85. The company will share revenues from the courses with authors.

Courses will be available on the authors’ websites and on the company’s new site,, and will include workbooks, videos by entertainers and experts and access to live question-and-answer sessions.

Initially, there will be three authors with established, dedicated fan bases: Dr. David B. Agus, the best-selling author of “The End of Illness” (this is the course on his site); Zhena Muzyka, who wrote the self-help book “Life by the Cup” (course page); and Tosha Silver, the author of the spiritual advice book “Outrageous Openness” (course page). The publishing company will release 12 to 15 courses this year. These are the first ones:


The NYT reports about this initiative.

First Open edX Meetup Will Take Place in New York on January 22


The first U.S. Open edX meetup will take place in New York on Thursday, January 22, 2015.

IBL Studios Education, along with McKinsey Academy and Johnson and Johnson, is organizing the event.

Six speakers representing the most active organizations in Open edX in the New York area will share their insights.

McKinsey Academy is the sponsor venue.

Sessions will be filmed by IBL and shared online with the whole edX community.

Access is free, although the number of seats is limited. Top academics from several colleges in New York, including NYU, Cooper Union and Columbia, will attend the event.

To join, just RSVP to this Open edX meetup.

This is the list of presenters:

  • Vishal Gandhi – McKinsey Academy
    “Hyperextending edX”
  • Tim Mauri – Johnson and Johnson (J&J)
    “How J&J decided on edX”
  • Ruben Savizky, PhD – Cooper Union
    “Lessons learned from creating a MOOC on”
  • Michael Amigot – IBL Studios Education
    “Digital badges and other innovative features”
  • Yoav Bergner, PhD – Educational Testing Service
    “Collaborative assessment research with Open edX”
  • Bruno Kavanagh – Interactive media consultant, McKinsey Academy
    “Instructional design is dead: Long live learning media!”

Daphe Koller: MOOCs Prove to Be an Effective Way to Close the Skills Gap

Did MOOCs undermined or even replaced the traditional college education?

On the contrary: they have offered an effective way to close the skills gap.

Daphne Koller, cofounder and president of Coursera, shares her view in the MIT Technology Review magazine:

  • Only 15 percent of Coursera’s learners [this company has 10 million enrolled students] are college age. The other 85 percent are adults looking to expand their horizons and working adults working to build critical jobs skills for a better career. Many the skills they seek –data science, mobile apps, digital marketing– didn’t event exist a decade ago.
  •  To complete a MOOC is a measure that brings tangible benefits, including new jobs, new responsibilities, and promotions.
  • A four-year degree is no longer sufficient for a lifelong career. MOOCs can be an important component to better suit the learning needs of the 21st century.

Open edX Becomes The 'De Facto' Platform To Host MOOCs

Our friend Dhawal Shah, founder of, has written a detailed analyses about MOOC growth in 2014. Dhawal concludes that “the number of universities offering MOOCs has doubled to cross 400 universities, with a doubling of the number of cumulative courses offered, to 2400.” “22 of the top 25 US universities in US News World Report rankings are now offering courses online for free.”

What is interesting, too, is that Open edX has been the preferred platform to host MOOCs.

This is what the article says:

“Institutions choose Open edX for DIY: Open edX quickly seems to have become the de facto platform for organizations and groups who are looking to host their own MOOCs. It has been adopted by several organizations in diverse regions of the world, including Jordan, Japan,France, China, India and the US.”

EdX Is A Major Disruption In An Industry With Almost No Change In Two Thousand Years, Says Eric Grimson (MIT)


(By Michael Amigot)

No doubt, a revolution is happening is higher education thanks to the edX technology and pedagogy.

I recently attended a conference in Madrid, Spain, by Eric Grimson, former MIT Chancellor and one of edX’s top pedagogy experts in the world –he has created three successful MOOCs on edX.

He explained how a 2,000 year-old industry is being disrupted today. There have been two major disruptions: the printing press in 1568 and the blackboard in 1801. And we are living the third one: the one that comes from digital tools and particularly from edX.

The conference is magnificent to understand why the edX technology is so unique.

Professor Andrés Pedreño, a leading pedagogist and entrepreneur in Spain, followed Grimson’s speech with a keynote address worth watching.

All is in this video.