Virginia Will Invest $1 Billion to Graduate 31,000 Computer Scientists Over the Next 20 Years

IBL News | New York

The commonwealth of Virginia will produce an additional 31,000 technology graduates over 20 years through funding programs with universities across the state.

Governor Ralph Northam, who made this announcement last Friday, said, “We are educating a workforce that will fill jobs at hundreds of tech companies, including at Amazon, helping boost our economy and quality of life in Virginia.

Funding for the program, called the Tech Talent Investment, was approved earlier this year. As a result of it, eleven universities will share a total of $961.5 million over the next two decades for the expansion of their degree programs and construction of new facilities.

Currently, Virginia’s public universities award approximately 1,300 bachelor’s degrees and 400 master’s degrees in computer science per year.

The initiative was driven by the imminent arrival of the Amazon’s second headquarters in Arlington County, Va., a move that is expected to create thousands of jobs for cloud computing specialists and other tech skills workers.

The 11 colleges that received funds in this round, and the degrees over their baseline that they have committed to producing, are:

  • Virginia Tech: 5,911 bachelor’s degrees, 10,324 master’s degrees;

Mid-Wage Jobs Will Be Squeezed by AI, Unless They Adapt by Honing Skills

IBL News | New York

After analyzing 170 million job posts over seven years, MIT and IBM Watson researchers found that all of the jobs will eventually change slowly due to Artificial Intelligence and new technologies. What will fundamentally change is the way we work. However, few jobs will actually disappear.

The research, The Future of Work: How New Technologies Are Transforming Tasks, shows that people in the middle of the wage scale will get squeezed the most in the short-term as tasks shift to both lower and higher-paid workers.

“Understanding the impact of automation will help governments, companies, and workers prepare, said Martin Fleming, chief economist at IBM and lead author of the report.

The consensus points to the fact that workers will need to adapt by learning or honing skills that require innovation, creative thinking, or deep insight and experience. Meanwhile, employers across all industries should begin to focus on reskilling their workforces, redesigning job roles and supporting career advancement.

When looking at the impact of AI and machine learning, another key finding shows that soft skills will be increasingly required.

“As technology reduces the cost of some tasks, the value of the remaining tasks that make up an occupation increases,” said MIT-IBM Watson AIl Lab researchers. “Tasks that are grounded in intellectual skill and insight as well as require, to some degree, physical flexibility, common sense, judgment, intuition, creativity, and spoken language have tended to increase in value.”

These findings align with the recent IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, The Enterprise Guide to Closing the Skills Gap, which reported the two top skills sought in 2018 were behavioral skills – time management and willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change.

Along with the research, IBM announced several education initiatives to help students, workers, and life-long learners and address the skills gap problem:

  • P-TECH: A public-private partnership among high schools involving more than 75 community college partners and 600 industry partners. Over twenty-three countries — including France, Australia, and Taiwan – have announced the intent to open P-TECHs or have already opened P-TECHs. The goal is to prepare students for “new collar” jobs –such as cloud computing or cybersecurity analysts–which are skilled, technology positions that don’t necessarily require a traditional, four-year college degree;
  • Apprenticeships: In partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, the 12-24 month program pairs apprentices with an IBM mentor to work on IBM projects, along with traditional classroom learning, in technology’s fastest-growing fields;
  • Returnships: A six-month program created to make rejoining the technology industry easier for people who have been out of the workforce for at least 24 months;
  • SkillsBuild: A new digital learning and education platform that provides job seekers – including those seeking employment, returning to work after leave, veterans, refugees, or those changing professions – with accredited digital learning content, personalized coaching, and practical learning experience to help them re-enter the workforce successfully; and
  • STEM Career Training for Women: Programs around the globe to help girls earn a strong STEM foundation, and initiatives to help women enter the technology sector.

Small Business Academy, Amazon’s Latest Ed Initiative to Educate Entrepreneurs

IBL News | New York

Amazon’s latest educational project is a combination of in-person classes and seminars, community college courses, and online webinars. It includes several programs intended to help small businesses to reach more customers, build their brand, and grow sales. The initiative, announced last week, is called Small Business Academy.

“Small businesses make up 99.9% of U.S. businesses, employ almost 60 million people, and are the backbone of our economy,”  Nicholas Denissen, Amazon Vice President of Small Business said.

“We’ve heard from many of them that they want help and guidance to take advantage of the power of the internet and digital business, particularly in rural areas,” he added.

The first Amazon Small Business Academy’s event, featuring guest speaker U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker, took place last Friday in Southaven, Mississippi near Memphis, Tenn.

The free seminar provided 100 attendees with insights, best practices, and how-to skills to start and grow a business online or expand an existing business on the internet.

The company’s next Small Business Academy seminar will be held in December, with more events planned for 2020.

The Amazon Small Business Academy program also includes a grant to the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) to help fund curriculum development and instruction of digital business courses in community college classrooms around the country.

The classes will cover the fundamentals of online business strategies, marketing, merchandising, and inventory management.

The curriculum will provide sixteen hours of beginner, intermediate and advanced content, created in collaboration with NACCE and the program’s lead schools: Lorain County Community College in Elyria near Cleveland, Ohio and North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Classes will begin in February 2020 at the lead schools, as well as Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Mass.; State Center Community College District in partnership with Fresno City College, in Fresno, Calif.; Houston Community College in Houston, Texas; and Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colo.

The Amazon Small Business Academy program also offers webinars to help current and aspiring small business owners throughout the country gain digital skills. The online seminars will provide best practices for successful selling in Amazon stores and include live Q&A with experts. [Registration]

ISTE Conference Organizer Absorbs EdSurge Media – Investors Won’t Be Rewarded

Mikel Amigot | IBL News, New York


ISTE, a 40-year-old nonprofit that annually produces one of the most influential edtech conferences, acquired EdSurge for an undisclosed amount, in a transaction expected to be finalized by the end of the year. The announcement came today by surprise, after months of negotiations.

Burlingame, California-based EdSurge, which provides journalism, research, job offerings, events, and other edtech services, will become a nonprofit media organization by joining ISTE. Its shareholders – including investors such as Reach Capital, GSV Capital, and TAL Education – will not receive any return on their investment, according to Richard Culatta, ISTE’s CEO since 2017.

EdSurge will keep its brand on news stories, newsletters, and research, and most of EdSurge’s 30 employees will be hired as staff members, although headcount reductions were announced. “Any time when you look at combining teams and roles, there’s always the chance that there are redundancies,” Culatta said.

“Core to this acquisition, however, is maintaining EdSurge’s journalistic independence,” Betsy Corcoran, CEO at EdSurge, said on an email to readers. “What this arrangement gives us is an opportunity to focus on the work—not just focus on paying the bills, not just focus on survivability,” she said.

Founded in 2011 as a venture-backed, for-profit news organization, EdSurge raised more than $8 million from a mix of investors and received millions in grants from nonprofits and foundations, such as Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, NewSchools Venture Fund, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

With a revenue stream over $16 million, a staff of 60 employees and a membership of 25,000 educators, the Arlington, Virginia-based ISTE, publishes books and research journals. However, two-thirds of the income came from the annual conference.

In 2017, its CEO started talks to buy a news-media outlet. He ended up buying EdSurge, although he didn’t write “a big check”, he said. Betsy Corcoran confirmed that the acquisition did not come with a huge price tag.

Jeffrey R. Young, senior editor at EdSurge, and Stephen Noonoo, K-12 editor in the news site, today posted a detailed story about the antecedents of the transaction.

The New Face of MOOCs: Modular Credentials Stackable Into Degrees from Multiple Universities

IBL News | New York

“In the past, MOOCs were individual courses; today are sequences of courses that converge into micro-credentials like certificate or MicroMaster programs,” Anant Agarwal, Co-CEO at edX, said in an interview with IBL News during the Learning With MOOCs 2019 Conference, which took place last week in Milwaukee. [Watch the interview below]

Modular credentials that stack up into new degrees, offered by different higher education institutions, are an upcoming trend, according to Anant Agarwal. “This is the new face of MOOCs“.

“Multiple universities will supply modular credentials, and learners will be able to stack them up into full degrees; I see this as the next step“.

One early example is MicroMasters from MIT that is combined with courses from Arizona State University to become a Master’s degree.

Prior to the interview, Anant Agarwal highlighted on a keynote the importance of understanding that learners are the new stakeholders. He elaborated on the different types of learners. IBL exclusively recorded his talk:


Sachem Head Becomes One of the Top Shareholders of 2U and Advocates for a Sale

Mikel Amigot | IBL News, New York


Yesterday, Sachem Head set its sight on 2U Inc., pushing the company to explore a sale. As a result of it, the stock registered its biggest gain since 2016, almost 14% to $21.18.

With a market value of about $1.3 billion, 2U saw its shares fall more than 70% over the past 12 months and faced numerous class-action lawsuits for allegedly false or misleading statements during the second quarter. The stock dropped 65% on July 31st after a controversial earnings call wherein its CEO and former CFO drastically tempered short-term growth plans.

The New York-based activist hedge fund has been building a position in OPM 2U (Nasdaq: TWOU), apparently becoming one of the top shareholders, and now saying it’s time to sell. The exact size of its stake is unclear.

Sachem Head Capital Management LP, founded by Scott Ferguson in 2012, believes that 2U would be an attractive takeover target for private equity firms and other education technology companies, sources told Bloomberg.

Sachem Head’s positions and views tend to move the stock market. For example, the influential fund, that invests $3.2 billion on behalf of clients, recently called on Whitbread PLC to sell its Costa Coffee business before it was spun off to Coca-Cola Co. It also pushed Eagle Materials Inc to split its core businesses, before the company’s board agreed to spin off its heavy and light materials businesses into two publicly traded entities.

Last week, Sachem Head announced that it wanted Instructure Inc –whose main product is the leading Canvas LMS platform– to pursue a full sale process, as IBL News reported quoting Reuters.

Instructure (NYSE: INST), with a similar market cap to 2U, was the second education company that Sachem Head targeted, although that move was not apparently related.

2U has been making some changes in management lately in an attempt to calm down investors and arrive in better shape to the crucial earnings call on November 12th. Last month it appointed a new CFO –Paul Lalljie, a former Neustar Inc executive– and new CMO –Jennifer Ogden-Reese, a former SeatGeek Inc. executive.

•  Past reports about 2U at IBL News


The Open Education Conference Falls Apart, Leaving a Community of Passionate OER Supporters

IBL News | New York

The OpenEd Conference’s future is unclear. Last week, during this year’s edition (Phoenix, AZ, Oct 30 – Nov 1), their current organizers, David Wiley and Lumen Learning, announced that they will step away.

“This year’s conference is the last I plan to organize,” said David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning and Education Fellow at Creative Commons, said in a statement.

“As currently constituted, the conference does not leverage all the energy, enthusiasm, passion, and leadership ability in our increasingly large and increasingly diverse community,” Wiley explained.

The Open Education Conference, the primary OER-related gathering in the U.S., reached its sixteenth year.

This year’s edition attracted a record attendance of 850 people interested in open educational resources and practices. [Picture above]

Since its creation, the event generated a sense of community; participants met, shared ideas and fostered collaborations.

Analyst and consultant, Michael Feldstein, explained, “OpenEd was always at least partly an exercise in coalition politics. The attendees were a mix of people coming with different primary and secondary goals that overlapped enough for them to make common cause. That coalition has crumbled. In fact, it has been crumbling for some time.”

Researcher and professor George Siemens tweeted adjourning a central community will damage, at least in the short term, the overall movement. Groups will spin-off, driven by individual’s identity (we saw this in the lead up to the social media conversation). Fragmentation. Antagonism.”

Whether new organizers will handle the conference is unknown at the moment. “This is not a call for another person or organization to come forward to keep the same conference running the same way into the future,” said Wiley.

“It is not the end of OER or open education. But there are multiple paths leading forward from here,” wrote Michael Feldstein.

Community input is being already shared on Google Doc.

Another Letter from President Reif to the MIT Community

IBL News | New York

MIT president, L. Rafael Reif, wrote another letter to the institution’s community dealing with the troubling atmosphere at the university after Epstein’s payments and cover-up.

Addressing the fury ignition on campus, Reif said, “it is clear we still have a long way to go to achieve our ideal of ‘One MIT.”

“I will never forget the voices of students, staff and faculty who spoke about the painful impact on our community of MIT’s engagement with Epstein, including the intense effects on survivors of sexual assault,” he wrote.

In his letter issued this Thursday, Reif mentioned the AAU campus climate survey, which indicates that at MIT, out of the 2,035 female students who completed the survey, 189 experienced sexual harassment severe enough that it “interfered with [their] academic or professional performance.” And 211 female MIT graduate students responding to the survey reported experiencing harassing behavior from a member of our faculty or other instructional staff. For 65 of them, the harassment came from their advisor.

Out of 4,602 MIT undergraduates for 2018-19, 46 percent are female, according to the admissions department, and women make up 35 percent of this year’s 6,972 grad students.

In addition to disrespecting women, he admitted that minorities, staff, and other groups at MIT “confront similar obstacles and harms that also demand our empathy and attention.”

“Let’s not rest until we create an MIT where every member of our community is treated with dignity and respect,” Reif concluded.

An Influential Hedge Fund Pushes Instructure’s Canvas LMS to Sell Its Business

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

What’s next for Instructure (INST)?

That’s the question that comes to investors’ minds, especially after the third quarter performance report, which represented an earnings surprise of 42.11%.

Since the beginning of the year, Instructure shares have added about 15.8% versus the S&P 500’s gain of 20.6%, while the estimated revision trend for the company is mixed.

In this context, New York-based Sachem Head, which has been buying Instructure’s shares over time, announced yesterday that it wants Instructure to pursue a full sale processReuters disclosed. Now, the notorious hedge fund plans to push the Salt Lake City-based company in this direction.

The activist fund, that invests $3.2 billion on behalf of clients, recently called on Whitbread PLC to sell its Costa Coffee business before it was spun off to Coca-Cola Co. It also pushed Eagle Materials Inc to split its core businesses, before the company’s board agreed to spin off its heavy materials and light materials businesses into two publicly traded entities.

On the news of Sachem Head’s stake, Instructure’s stock prices jumped as much as 6% this week, ending at $46.52.

With a market capitalization of $1.8 billion, Instructure’s Canvas is the market leader in the LMS segment –and according to its own data continues to add customers.

However, its employee development platform Bridge is not working that well, failing to generate considerable market share, analysts think –and that’d be the reason why Instructure has underperformed the market so far this year.

In this regard, Instructure’s CEO Dan Goldsmith didn’t reject the idea of a sale or spinoff of Bridge, which launched in 2015.  “Nothing is off the table,” he told investors on the mentioned Q3 2019 earnings call on October 28. “But the focus for us is really making Bridge successful, making Bridge financially beneficial and accretive and healthy and then continuing to grow over time.”

Dan Goldsmith promised to provide more details at an analyst day on Dec. 3.



The EdX Organization Adopts a More Commercial Structure Appointing a New Co-CEO

Mikel Amigot | New York

The edX nonprofit organization, created by MIT and Harvard University, decided to adopt a more business and less academic-focused structure with two running CEOs.

According to the unexpected announcement made yesterday, Adam Medros, currently the COO and President, has been promoted to co-CEO, joining Anant Agarwal in this position.

In a way, the move follows Coursera’s aggressive commercial direction when it replaced Rick Levin, former President at Yale, for Jeff Maggioncalca as CEO. Maggioncalca was mainly hired to find a successful business model and IPO-ing the company.

Adam Medros, a business manager who moved from TripAdvisor to edX two years ago, with no previous experience in higher education, “will partner with Agarwal to drive the company’s continued growth and innovation, in service of its non-profit mission to increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere,” edX said.

Anant Agarwal, an MIT professor who has been teaching for 31 years said, “Adam’s dedication to the edX mission and his partnership have been invaluable to me in my role as Founder and CEO of edX and I look forward to further deepening our collaboration.”

The official announcement highlighted the new business orientation that the learning organization is following, “Agarwal and Medros will continue to work with the edX partner network, made up of the majority of top-ranked universities in the world and industry-leading companies, to deliver stackable learning experiences that help learners and employers alike address the future of work.”

In the last months, Adam Medros –who he stayed in TripAdvisor for 13 years– has been working in new business strategies to make edX a financially sustainable organization.

He provided his views in an interview with IBL News recorded in March.