MOOCS Not Following a Revenue Model: GW Is Satisfied with Its Online Massive Courses

IBL News | New York

Not all schools have turned into the all-for-business MOOC-model. The George Washington University (GW), which hosts four MOOCs, still holds the belief that self-paced classes help disseminate knowledge at no cost.

In addition, officials at GW said the courses help their schools reach out to thousands of people from around the globe and make learning accessible beyond the GW community for students who can not attend classes full or part-time on-campus or online.

Ken Schappelle, Director of Marketing and Communications for the School of Nursing, said at GW’s The Hatchet“by the belief that all people deserve quality health care, we aspire to be trusted advocates for the advancement of societal well-being in the clinic, community, and statehouse.”

The School of Nursing offers two MOOCs, one on healthcare safety launched in May 2016 and one on clinical simulations launched in June.

These courses have attracted more than 10,000 enrollees from around the world, with especially “strong” representation from Europe and Asia.

MOOCs at The George Washington University started in 2014, with Dr. Lorena Barba, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

She established two semester-long MOOCs in computing and aerodynamics in 2014 and 2017.

More than 10,000 users have enrolled in her Practical Numerical Methods with Python course since its inception in 2014.

The course teaches users how to work with Python, an online programming language.

Barba has taken on the responsibility for creating, running and updating the existing courses, which are fully open at

“These are all a ‘one-woman show,’” she explained.

The Open edX Platform Prepares Its Upgrade into Python 3

IBL News | New York

The Open edX platform is immersed in a race against the clock to upgrade to Python 3, as Python 2 will be non-supported and deprecated at the end of 2019. Meaning, if someone finds a security problem in Python 2, it will not have the ability to be easily fixed.

The Python Software Foundation decided that January 1st of 2020 will be the day that it will sunset Python 2. Python 2 was released in 2000 and today there are improvements that Python 2 can’t handle.

A part of the upgrade of the Open edX platform corresponds to course authors. In this regard, the edX managing team has urged instructors who use Python Evaluated Input problems to immediately upgrade into Python 3.

Recently, edX outlined in this document how it plans to scope the problem, migrate the code and work with the Open edX community to “ensure that the process is as painless as possible, and meets the needs of our stakeholders.”

The Open edX software is considered a large project, spanning many applications and GitHub repositories, with even more dependencies on third-party libraries,

There are several libraries that will be upgraded, like lxml, matplotlib, networkx, numpy, pyparsing, scipy, sympy.

“Thanks to helping from the community, we’re making good progress,” Ned Batchelder, Open edX Software Architect said. “The Python test suite for our main repository now runs under both Python 2 and Python 3.”

Another porting effort ahead points to Django, the framework extensively used on Open edX web applications. The current version 1.11 of Django is coming to its end soon and there is a need to move to Django 2.2.

Once the platform runs on Python 3 and Django 2.2, the next Open edX release, called Juniper, will get started.


• OEP-7: Migrating to Python 3

An Amazon Marketplace for K-12 Educators Who Want to Sell Their Teaching Materials

IBL News | New York

Amazon launched this week a marketplace for K-12 teachers who usually teaches via lesson plans, printables, classroom games, and other classroom materials to colleagues and parents online.

This service, called Amazon Ignite, plans to connect educational content creators with Amazon customers.

The tech giant will take 30% of the sales, plus a transaction fee of 30 cents for products under $2.99.

To avoid the posting of copyrighted materials, Amazon has made the service accessible with Invitation Only by the instructor creators who own the resources.

All of the materials in the Ignite program will be in a new Amazon’s Digital Educational Resources store.

Ignite’s initiative follows similar existing ventures such as Teachers Pay Teachers, founded in 2006.

Instructure Announces It Is Exploring to Sell the Company – Estimated to be Worth $2.5B

IBL News | New York

Instructure (NYSE: INST), the company behind Canvas LMS, publicly announced that it has begun to explore a number of strategic alternatives “to maximize shareholder value”, including a possible sale. Canvas owns about 38% of the LMS market.

“These alternatives may include continuing as a standalone public company, going private, or being purchased by a strategic partner,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

Instructure’s board retained J.P. Morgan as its financial advisor and Cooley LLP as its legal advisor.

The move of the board took place in response to the pressure by activist investors Sachem Head, Praesidium Investment Management and more recently, Jana Partners, who disclosed it had a 1% stake. They called for Instructure to explore a sale, reportedly identifying multiple potential private equity buyers.

Kevin Oram, Praesidium’s Co-Founder and Managing Partner, said last week that selling Bridge –Instructure’s unprofitable employee development platform– would unlock the value of Canvas, which he estimated to be worth $2.5 billion.

Phil Hill, consultant and author of Phil on Ed Tech blog, wrote that competitor Blackboard went through a similar process a few years ago, going private in 2011. Blackboard considered a sale in 2015 but didn’t go through with it.

Instructure’s previously scheduled financial analyst day on December 3 was canceled “to allow management and the board to explore these strategic alternatives for the company,” said the Salt Lake City-based corporation.

The stock has gained significant value since activists hedge funds started to call for a sale, especially this week, when it moved from $47.91 on November 13 to $52.98 on November 15.



IBL News: News about Canvas LMS and Instructure

Cybrary Training Platform on Cybersecurity Gets a New Round of Funding

IBL News | New York

Cybrary, a web training platform used by nearly 3 million cybersecurity and IT professionals, closed this Wednesday on a $15 million Series B funding round.

Austin, Texas-based BuildGroup led the funding. Existing investors including Arthur Ventures and Gula Tech Adventures also participated in the round. The round brings the Cybrary’s total capital raised to $23 million.

Investor BuildGroup highlighted that Cybrary “is solving critical business problems with modern business models powered by network effects”.

Founded in 2015, and currently, with a staff of the 60-person, the College Park, Maryland-based company hosts cybersecurity training content, allowing individuals and enterprises to close cybersecurity skills gaps and follow career paths. The Cybrary platform provides mostly video-based training and hands-on technical assessments.

“We have assembled the world’s largest cybersecurity career development network, powered by the industry’s largest network of industry subject matter expert creators,” Ryan Corey, Co-Founder at Cybrary, said. He plans to use the new round toward hiring content creators, subject matter experts, and more employees (including doubling the number of engineers on staff to 24).

The free version of Cybrary comes with introductory courses, syllabi, assessments, and a live chat to help users. A premium license, which costs $99 per month, gives access to the entire course catalog, live online training, practice exams, scenario-based virtual labs, and a mentor network.

With a network of 1,700 mentors, the company offers a service to train teams of employees for businesses. Cybrary is not currently profitable.

With a Unique Business Model, Guild Hits $1 Billion Valuation After Raising $157 M

IBL News | New York 

Denver-based, female-led startup Guild Education announced yesterday the close of a $157 million Series D round, becoming the newest edtech unicorn, with a post-money valuation north of $1 billion.

The funding round was led by former American Express CEO Ken Chenault through the VC firm General Catalyst and was joined by Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, Iconiq Capital and Lead Edge Capital.

Founded in 2015 by Stanford University graduates Rachel Carlson and Brittany Stitch [in the picture above], Guild connects Fortune 1000 companies to 1,6000 online programs offered by nearly a dozen universities—among them, the University of Arizona, Purdue Global, Southern New Hampshire University and the University of Central Florida.

Universities typically spend –mostly on buying ads on Google and Facebook– between $4,000-$6,000 to acquire a Bachelor’s student and up to $14,000 for a Masters’s degree student. Guild Education gets paid out of the savings universities make on student recruitment service.

The company also has a team of advisors and support specialists to help students plan, apply for and finish their programs.

One of Guild’s major deals was with Chiplote, which now covers the college tuition for employees. Discover Financial, Taco Bell, Walmart, Lowe’s and Walt Disney Co. are customers, too.

Guild competes with InStride and Pearson is this space.

With Intel, Udacity Offers a Scholarship Program for Edge AI Development

IBL News | New York

Udacity announced yesterday in San Francisco the Intel Edge AI Scholarship Program and the Intel Edge AI for IoT Developers Nanodegree Program.

The pedagogical goal is to teach developers to accelerate the development and deployment of high-performance computer vision and deep learning solutions using Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit (which allows deploying pre-trained deep learning models.)

In the first phase of the scholarship program, students will get access to the Intel Edge AI Fundamentals course, the first class of the Intel Edge AI for IoT Developers Nanodegree program.

Students who successfully complete this course will earn a full scholarship to the Intel Edge AI for IoT Developers Nanodegree program. The number of seats is limited to 750 students.

“With Udacity, we are training the next generation of AI developers to go where the data is generated in the physical world: at the Edge,” said Jonathan Ballon Intel Vice President and General Manager, Internet of Things Group. “Optimizing the direct deployment of models on edge devices requires knowledge of unique constraints like power, network bandwidth & latency, varying compute architectures and more.”

The deadline to apply is December 1o.



2U Exceeds Wall Street Expectations With Its Third-Quarter Results

IBL News | New York

2U (TWOU) reported its third-quarter results yesterday exceeding Wall Street expectations.

The Lanham, Maryland-based OPM controversial company said it had a loss of $141.1 million in the period.

The loss per share was $0.41 when the average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for a loss of $0.51.

The posted revenue was $153.8 million, which also beat Wall Street forecasts. Five analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $149.6 million.

2U expects a full-year loss of $3.89 to $3.79 per share, with revenue in the range of $570 million to $575 million.

In the final minutes of trading on Tuesday, shares hit $22.69, an increase of 3.94% in the day, and a drop of 56% since the beginning of the year (versus the S&P 500’s gain of 23.1%.)

What’s next for the educational firm?

There are no easy answers, and the estimate revision trend is mixed. Only one thing is clear: market expectations have changed lately.

It is unclear, however, how the stock fluctuation and notorious hedge fund’s push encouraging 2U to sell the company is impacting on its customer recruitment strategy and overall financial stability.


“Faculty Buy-In Is By Far the Reason Why Georgia Tech’s OMSCS Has Worked So Well”

IBL News | New York

“The reason why OMSCS –Georgia Tech’s signature Computer Science Master’s degree– has worked so well is because faculty bought into the idea and embraced its experimental nature,” explained Professor David Joyner in a revealing interview with IBL News. [Watch it below].

David Joyner, Associate Director of Senior Experience at the Online Master’s Science Computer Science and instructor in the program, said that “instructors have the ability to experiment, invent and build things useful for the class”.

Joyner teaches online versions of CS6460: Educational Technology, CS6750: Human-Computer Interaction, and CS1301: Introduction to Computing.

This semester, the OMSCS program had 9,000 students; and 2,300 graduates through summer. Another interesting data point is the fact that 75% of students remained in the program.

In the interview, Joyner also commented on the new role of Georgia Tech’s AI-agent –formerly known as Jill and now named ATA– based on connecting students to other learners in the same class.  “It’s a social TA (Teacher Assistant).”

As a researcher, David Joyner has focused his studies on online education and learning at scale, especially as they intersect with for-credit offerings at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Udacity’s Achievement with its Nanodegree Program: Over 100,000 Graduates

IBL News | New York

Udacity’s Nanodegree has revealed as the most promising credential in higher education at scale. Today, there are over 100,000 graduates in the Nanodegree program, sources told IBL News.

The Nanodegree online program currently includes five schools: Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, Programming, Autonomous Systems, and Cloud Computing.

Conceived as an industry-oriented credential for career-seeking and job-ready students, Nanodegree was described by Udacity’s founder Sebastian Thrun as the new fourth degree, beyond the three common university degrees — the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD.”

Sebastian Thrun claims that his company, which has achieved the status of a unicorn of $1 billion, is on the way to becoming the “University of Silicon Valley” –although it’d be an unaccredited university.

“The Nanodegree program is well on its way to becoming a de-facto standard for hiring and corporate training in the tech industry,” he recently wrote.

However, Udacity’s newly appointed CEO, Gabriel Dalporto, a former manager at LendingTree, apparently contradicted the founder’s view, talking about the need to “get more clarity on our long-term vision and strategy” and more upcoming partnerships with other universities.

“I do believe that we will be partnering with universities because we can provide the specialization in a lot of areas that universities just aren’t prepared to teach,” he said in an interview at EdSurge last week.

“We’re a company that is going to help universities and governments around the world retrain the world’s workforce in an extremely cost-effective way.”