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…

Newsletter format  |  Click here to subscribe ]

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

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

AWS has just launched an intermediate-level course on 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