MIT Issues 2,000 Blockchain-Based Certificates

MIT has issued over 2,000 blockchain-based credentials so far, becoming the first top U.S. university to extensively use these type of virtual credentials, IBL News learnt.

With the blockchain technology, students have ownership of their records and are able to share them in a secure manner.

“Ed credentialing on blockchain allows students to share their diplomas with employees easily and instantly,” explained Mary Callahan, Registrar and Senior Associate Dean at MIT, at the Learn Launch conference last week in Boston. “It is a valid way to authenticate their diplomas,” she added.

At a global scale, there is an issue with massive circulation of fake degrees. This affects prestigious universities and corporations. For example, IBM has detected that 20% of certificates with their name are fake. David Leaser, Senior Executive at IBM, mentioned this data during a talk at the same conference.

MIT’s initiative with blockchain certificates started in the summer of 2017, as part of a pilot program promoted by its Registrar’s Office and Learning Machine.

A cohort of 111 graduates became the first to have the option to receive their diplomas on their smartphones via an app, in addition to the traditional format.

The institute developed Blockcerts, an open-source standard for creating, issuing, viewing, and verifying blockchain-based certificates. The code is available in GitHub.

• IBL News (Oct 2017): MIT Successfully Starts to Use Blockchain Technology to Issue Digital Certificates

View: Master’s Degrees At Scale Must Follow a Stackable Approach

By Mikel Amigot

The new MOOC-based professional master’s degrees usually include fewer or no synchronous sessions, limited contact with leading instructors and more auto-graded assignments.

But more important than those features is stackability, as we are experiencing on Coursera’s MasterTrack or edX’s MicroMasters. This means that learners earn a credential and then apply for an on-campus or an online master’s degree program.

However, the crucial innovation is stackability.

Stackability is also a learning strategy, as James DeVaney (University at Michigan) and Matthew Rascoff (Duke University) innovation experts rightly explain on Inside Higher Ed. “Educational providers meet learners where they are, and provide the right level and amount of learning, and an appropriate credential, for their needs.”

At the same time, a stackable strategy can reduce the cost of the program without compromising quality, and can be the basis for admissions instead of the existing flawed tests.

 

MITx Granted 1,277 Credentials on its Supply Chain MicroMasters

The flagship MIT’s Supply Chain Management MicroMasters on edX.org released new numbers:

  • 279,310 learners enrolled
  • 18,789 learners verified
  • 28,231 certificates issued
  • 1,277 credentials granted

This program, priced at $1,080, includes five online courses and a final comprehensive exam: Analytics, Fundamentals, Design, Dynamics, and Technology and Systems. These courses offer the same rigor and relevance as the material taught on the MIT campus. It represents the equivalent of one semester of coursework at MIT, from January through June.

The data above, disclosed during a talk at the Learn Launch conference last week in Boston, and exclusively reported by IBL News, reflects the success of this blended initiative.

The first class on the Supply Chain Management five-course MicroMaster program on edX.org was finalized by 1,900 students in 2018, according to data released in July 2018. A total of 622 students successfully completed the final exam, and 42 started the residential semester at MIT’s Cambridge campus in January 2018 to earn a full master’s degree.

This year another 40 students have been accepted to complete the full MIT Master’s degree on-campus.

Edraak Launches its School Learning for K-12 Children in the Arab World

Edraak.org, the leading Arabic MOOC platform for adult learners, has expanded into K-12 by launching School Learning. This new vertical portal offers educational resources for school-aged children across the Arab world. These materials can be used in and out of the classroom, reinforcing the role teachers play.

Developed by Queen Rania Foundation and headquartered in Jordan, Edraak, a well-designed open education platform built on Open edX, has reached over 1.5 million learners across the Arab world since its launch in 2014, according to its CEO Shireen Yacoub.

Queen Rania Al Abdullah officially announced School Learning on January 24 during an event hosted by Google in Davos, Switzerland. King Abdullah II and Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, were also present. [Above in the picture]

The project was developed with the support of a $3 million grant from Google.org, and complemented with engagement from Google employees who provide product design expertise. School Learning was launched with Mathematics materials for grades 7 and 9, including more than 1,200 educational minutes of bite-sized video lectures. 

The e-curricula and learning resources for the rest of the grades will be released over two phases by the end of this year, and other major subjects will be gradually introduced by 2020. The platform will also offer tools and resources for parents and educators, empowering them to guide children’s learning journeys.

The new platform offers sequential learning material as well as student-centred inquiry-based learning, making it possible for students to search for specific concepts without having to enroll in a predefined learning sequence. Given the growing need to support remedial education due to conflict and unrest that have disrupted formal education in the region, the platform adopts a competency-based approach to learning, while also providing material that can be used in a blended learning setting.

“A child denied an education isn’t just a tragedy for that child; it leaves the rest of us vulnerable, Queen Rania Al Abdullah said.” “Education is a solution capable of bringing hope and opportunity to the Middle East.”

 

• IBL News (Feb 2018): Edraak.org Expands its Open edX Platform into K-12 with a Grant from Google
• IBL News (May 2014): Edraak.org, an Open edX platform aimed at Arab-speaking people

 

Open edX Conference’s Schedule: 10 Key Sessions

The edX organization announced yesterday the speaker and session schedule for its 2019 Open edX developers and educators conference, which will take place on March 26-29 in San Diego.

This is a selection of the ten must-attended sessions in our view:

Wednesday 27

Thursday 28

Ironwood, The Latest Open edX Version, To Be Released This February

Big news for Open edX’s developers: Ironwood, the 2019 version of this learning platform, will be released in February.

The first release candidate, Ironwood.1rc1, was just made available this week.

“Our goal is to release Ironwood in two weeks.  In order to do that, I need to hear back from you about how testing is going,” Ned Batchelder, Software Architect at edX announced on Google Groups.

This engineer also noted that the platform installation instructions have changed slightly.

Ironwood, the ninth release of the Open edX platform, includes improvements over the current Hawthorn.2 version.

The release comes prior to the Open edX developers’ conference, scheduled for March 26-29 in San Diego.

Looking for the Right Name for the MOOC-based Degrees

By Mikel Amigot

Is “MOOC-based degrees” the right name? Shouldn’t we call this phenomenon “low-priced degrees”, “online degrees at scale” or “self-paced degrees”?

It’s time to ask the experts.

The pioneer of these programs, Zvi Galil, who disrupted the industry with the OMSCS, kindly explains to IBL News.

“Our degrees are not exactly massive and not open. But they have the same pedagogy as MOOCs –they are broken into small pieces with quizzes to make sure students understand concepts before moving on. Also, they are much better pedagogically than the old fashioned, videotaped courses, and they include an extensive support system.”

Understood.

Additionally, we could say that MOOCs sounds like a failed experiment. They didn’t democratize education, nor thrill learners –who were eager to enroll but never to complete the courses. Moreover, MOOCs have drained financial resources and never resulted in a sustainable business model (ask universities on Coursera and edX).

What about referring to them just as Online Master’s Degrees?

This denomination may remind us of the incredibly expensive programs from U2 and other OPMs providers that attract a two digit number of students at most.

We need to reflect on Zvi’s motto of “accessibility through affordability and technology”.

Another friend of ours, James Acevedo, Associate Director of Distance Learning at The New School, concludes: “I think a good name is still to come.”

“I prefer MOOC-based degrees, since not all self-paced degrees are necessarily MOOCs, and degrees at scale seems purely like a marketing term.”

Zvi, the genius behind the concept, admits: “I don’t have an idea as to how to replace the MOOC-based denomination”.

All right, MOOC-based degrees it is. For now.

Five Top U.S. Universities Will Launch Five More Low-Priced Master’s

At least five more American research universities will launch a low-priced master’s degree during 2019, following the success of Georgia Tech’s OMSCS (Online Master’s Science in Computer Science), with over 8,000 students. This will be an increase of 50%, from the existing ten institutions offering MOOC-based degrees.

The author of this prediction is Richard Garret, Encoura’s Eduventures Chief Research Officer: “The trend is clear: top brand, low price”. “Low-priced programs beyond data science, cybersecurity, and MBAs—perhaps accounting or healthcare management—will feature in this new class.”

“Georgia Tech is the leader here, launching its prototype $7,000 online master’s in computer science back in 2012, and going on to enroll over 8,000 students to date. Indiana University, University of California, San Diego, and University of Texas, Austin have followed suit on the edX platform, along with two more offerings from Georgia Tech. Coursera is flying the flag with University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and Arizona State.”

Richard Garret highlights the fact that universities jumping into theses MOOC-based degrees must be R1 (or research; there are 130), due to the “same admission standards, same rigor, same faculty, but mass enrollment at a low price.” “I also predict that at least one of the five will be private—all pioneers have been public so far.”

While flagship universities reimagine their brand with these initiatives, “for less prestigious institutions, low price may be mistaken for low quality or desperation”.

As of today, there are ten research universities managing MOOC-degree programs, according to the data compiled by IBL News. These are: Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Arizona State University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Indiana University,  University of California, San Diego, University of Texas at Austin, University of Notre Dame.

Another prediction for 2019 made by Garret says that a group of colleges or universities will announce an innovative co-development and licensing model, and top-notch courses could be licensed across the system.

 

Encoura: Higher Education Predictions for 2019: Low-Priced Master’s, Course Licensing, and CLIMB

IBL News: 44 MOOC-Based Master’s Degrees Worldwide

 

Dr. Chuck’s MOOC on Python Is Now Also on edX.org

Is your course hosted on Coursera or edX? Well, it can be on both platforms.

Take Charles Severance (Dr. Chuck)’s Python for Everybody. This course has been a hit in Coursera for years, with over a million enrollments. Last week, it was posted on edX.

In both cases, it is a paid course. In Coursera it is part of a Specialization, and the free trial goes for seven days. In edX.org, an upgrade to the verified certificate level, at a price of $49, is needed to access graded exercises and to keep it open after two months.

The creator of the course offers some free options on his page, although these seem mostly oriented to computer science instructors who want to use the materials after setting a learning environment. This course content, including a free textbook and support materials, is also available on GitHub.

The Python for Everybody course was one of the first successful MOOCs in this computing language. Almost ten years ago, Charles Severance, who teaches at the University of Michigan, created the course aimed at beginners with no technical training or math knowledge.

“I created a course that does not try to teach Computer Science using Python but instead teaches a subset of Python that represented the essentials of programming. When I was originally building the course (in Python 2.0 at the time), I would not have predicted the exciting growth of Python and the success of the MOOC movement. Ten years later, PY4E [Python for Everybody] has reached more than 2 million learners to become the largest Python course in the world, graduating thousands of new Python programmers every week,” wrote Professor Severance on edX.org’s blog site.

• Course on edXProgramming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) and Python Data Structures
• Course on Coursera: Python for Everybody Specialization

View: Master’s Degrees, a Cash Cow and Vehicle for Advancement

By Mikel Amigot

Around 800,000 master’s degrees were awarded by U.S. universities in 2018, becoming an essential credential.

A baccalaureate degree doesn’t suffice for an increasing number of jobs in education, healthcare, business and STEM. A master’s is now the educational minimum for many occupations and professions. This new entry credential conveys more salary: $12K more than a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Between 1990 and 2010, public universities increased the number of programs in business from 266 to 321, in public administration from 153 to 220 and in communications from 90 to 141, according to Michael T. Nietzel, President Emeritus of Missouri State University and contributor of Forbes.

For employees, it’s a vehicle for career advancement, and it helps to build a personal brand (Ph.D. programs are dramatically more expensive and difficult to achieve). For universities, it’s a cash cow, mostly because scholarships are seldom used to discount tuition and can reach a large number of students.

Students’ and institutional interests are aligned and, as result of it, master’s programs continue to thrive.

        Mikel Amigot is CEO at IBL Education         

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