Chatbots and Other Artificial Intelligent Cases Are on the Rise, Despite High Expectations

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

“In education, AI is still a sleeping giant,” researcher Dr. Tony Bates wrote in a must-read article.

Today, one of the most extended cases of AI in teaching and learning lies in chatbots. These intelligent tutoring systems, that guide conversations or “chat” through text or voice interactions, are on the rise.

In a recent interview with IBL News, David Joyner, Associate Director of Senior Experience at the Online Master of Science Computer Science and instructor of the program, commented on the new role of Georgia Tech’s AI-agent –formerly known as Jill, and now named ATA– on how it is connecting students to other learners in the same class.  “It’s a social TA (Teacher Assistant),” he explained.

Chatbots have become a common tool for banks and large finance and marketing companies as a way to reduce costs and response times. Now, a growing number of colleges and universities use this technology.

Two examples:

  • Australia’s University of Adelaide announced that students received responses 13 times faster, and learners’ approval of the quality of service increased by 60 percent, after deploying a chatbot to deal with admissions questions in 2018.
  • Western Governors University, or WGU, in 2018 received a $750,000 award from the National Science Foundation to use machine learning in order to improve interactions with students and help them with the decision-making process, i.e., to find programs.

Among many others, companies like Oracle, AdmitHub, and, also provide this type of solution.

As AI-based adaptive technology advances, systems will deal with several tasks, as Tony Bates reminds.

At least, they will:

  • Provide teaching content to students and simultaneously provide support by giving adaptive feedback and hints to solve questions related to the content, as well as to detect students’ difficulties/errors with content or exercises.
  • Curate learning materials based on students’ needs, such as providing specific recommendations regarding types of reading materials and exercises, along with personalized courses of action to aid in the students’ learning experience.
  • Facilitate collaboration between learners by providing automated feedback, generating automatic questions for discussion, and an analysis of the process.

It is undeniable that there are inflated expectations for AI –a term that is often incorrectly used to describe any computational activity.

Beyond the extreme hype, there are clear areas of application. AI enables adaptive learning by recommending personalized content, predictive analytics, automated feedback and support in many conversations.

Artificial Intelligence is not a panacea for education. However, by having access to massive amounts of information and analyzing these data sets through algorithms and computational power, innovative software organizations can develop worthwhile applications.

Microsoft Retires Its Professional Program and Opens a Role-Based Certification Site

IBL News | New York

Microsoft will end its Professional Program (MPP) on December 31, 2019, due to its lack of technical certification.

Created in 2016 and hosted at, the program didn’t recognize the importance of certifying learners as a way to enjoy more opportunities for career advancement and succeed in emerging jobs.

“Certified employees earn 15% more and are 20% more productive than those without certification,” stated the software giant.

Enrollments to MPP ended in mid-September, and students will need to save and print certificates by December 31. Some individual courses, such as Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, will remain on through June 30, 2020.

Once the Professional Program is retired, learners will be redirected to the new destination Microsoft Learn, located at

Microsoft Learn will combine short step-by-step tutorials, browser-based interactive coding/scripting environments, and task-based achievements. The new technical training will be based on role-based certifications.

Three examples of courses are Azure AI Engineer Associate, Azure Data Scientist Associate, and Azure Data Engineer Associate.

A Cloud Guru Acquires The Linux Academy and Claims 1.5 M Learners

IBL News | New York

Training company A Cloud Guru announced this month its acquisition of The Linux Academy for an undisclosed amount.

Venture capital firms Bain Capital Tech Opportunities, Elephant, Summit Partners, and AirTree Ventures provided the funding.

“The combined content library will represent the world’s largest catalog of hands-on training for cloud computing (AWS, Azure & Google Cloud), DevOps, containers, security, big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence,” Katie Bullard, from A Cloud Guru, said in a press release.

Sam Kroonenburg, CEO at A Cloud Guru CEO, will lead the combined organization, which has claimed a client base of 1.5 million users and ran annual growth in revenues of 100%.

Founded in 2015 by brothers Sam and Ryan KroonenburgA Cloud Guru (or ACG) begun as a single cloud certification course. Later it expanded into a rich content library and hands-on labs covering Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure cloud platforms. Now, ACG helps businesses and individuals rapidly develop cloud skills, prepare for certification exams, and progress through learning paths “to become gurus in specialized disciplines.”

A Cloud Guru, with less than 50 employees, has raised over $40 million in funding over three rounds from four investors.

Linux Academy has been around since 2012, providing over 200 self-paced courses, 1,000 Hands-On Labs, and Learning Paths to guide training.

Learning At Scale | December 2019: MIT, Harvard, Moody’s, Pearson, Instructure, Hugging Face, EdCast…

Newsletter format  |  Click here to subscribe ]

DECEMBER 2019  –  NEWSLETTER #29  |  Breaking news at IBL News  |  Noticias en Español


Higher Ed

• Only 9% of Faculty Prefers to Teach an Online Class; 73 % Chooses a Face-to-Face Environment

• A New Catholic Polytechnic University Will Focus on the Integration of Science and Faith

• Moody’s Forecasts Moderate Growth Revenue at Public and Private Universities

IMS Releases Its New QTI Interoperability Standard For Online Assessments

• Analysis: Over 30M Adults With College Education But No Degree: Certificate Programs to the Rescue


MIT, Harvard

• MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Steps Down, Reif Announces by Surprise

• Harvard Changes Its Caption System to Settle Deaf Association’s Suit



• Pearson Pushes Out His CEO After a Dramatic Tenure Full of Sales and Job Cuts

• Pearson’s AI-Enabled Calculus App Provides Real-Time Feedback and Suggests Pathways



• Hugging Face Raises $15 Million to Expand its Open Source Software on Conversational AI

• EdCast Raises $35 Million in Funding to Expand Its Platform

• With 30 Million Users and $1.5 Billion Valuation, Doulingo Plans to Go Public in 2021


Instructure’s Sale

• Instructure Says to the SEC that Thoma Bravo Is Offering the Highest Price

• A Third Shareholder of Instructure Says the Board Didn’t Act in the Company’s Best Interest

• A Second Shareholder Announces It Will Vote Against Instructure’s Proposed Deal

• A Large Investor Opposes Instructure’s Plan to Sell for $2 Billion

• An Equity Investment Firm Buys Instructure for $2 Billion, Taking It Private


2019 Upcoming Events

• Education Calendar  –  DECEMBER  | JAN – JUNE 2020


This newsletter is created in collaboration with IBL Education, a New York City-based company that has built the IBL Platform. Read the latest IBL Newsletter   |  Archive of Open edX Newsletters


edX & Platforms | December 2019: edX, Open edX, Coursera, Duke U, Andreessen Horowitz, IBM, WordPress, Stanford…

Newsletter format  |  Click here to subscribe ]


DECEMBER 2019 – NEWSLETTER #23  |  Breaking news at IBL News  |  Noticias en Español


edX | Open edX

• edX’s View for 2020: MicroBachelors Programs and Stackable Modular Credentials for Full Degrees

• Two Professors from Dartmouth and IMT of France Awarded After their ‘C Programming with Linux’ Course

• Black Friday and Cyber Monday: edX, Pluralsight, Udemy and Skillshare Join the Marketing Season



• Coursera’s Blockbuster Classes of 2019: Preeminence of AI, with 2M Enrollments

• Coursera for Business Claims 100% Year-Over-Year Customer Growth

• Coursera for Governments: Colombia Will Fund Scholarships for 25,000 Learners

• Novartis Will Grant Employees Free Tuition to Earn Two Master’s Degrees on Coursera


Open Source, OER

• Duke University Introduces an Open Source Tool as an Alternative to a Monolithic LMS

• OER, Rental and Subscriptions Push College Textbooks’ Business to a Further Decline

• WordPress: Jetpack Vulnerability and Recurring Payments Button with Stripe


New Platforms

• IBM Launches a Blockchain Credentials Network – A Community College At The Forefront

• Andreessen Horowitz’s Crypto Startup School Will Start with a Seven-Week Program

• Khan Academy Launches a Personalized Teaching Tool for Math in K-12


MOOCs, Courses

Stanford GSB Launches the Most Sophisticated Online Certificate Program Ever… At a Price!

• Today, MOOCS Are Focused on Online Degrees and Corporate Training, Says Dhawal Shah

• FBI Opens Its Cyber Safety Educational Program for Young Students After Attracting 1M+ Last Year


2019 Upcoming Events

• Education Calendar  –  DECEMBER  |  JAN – JUNE 2020


This newsletter is created in collaboration with IBL Education, a New York City-based company that has built the IBL Platform. Read the latest IBL Newsletter   |  Archive of Open edX Newsletters

Instructure Says to the SEC that Thoma Bravo Is Offering the Highest Price

IBL News | New York

Responding to criticism from three top shareholders – Praesidium Investment Management (7.5%), Rivulet Capital (5%) and Obendorf Enterprises (6%) –, Instructure Inc (NYSE: INST) said on Monday that equity firm Thoma Bravo offered the highest price, $2 billion on a $47.60 per share deal.

In a new regulatory filing, Instructure ensured that it met with dozens of potential buyers over months before agreeing on a sale with Thoma Bravo, dismissing they rushed on a transaction.

Additionally, Instructure revealed it didn’t receive any rival bids during its “go-shop” period, which is due to expire on January 8.

In its statement to SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), Instructure provided details about meetings, discussions and deal attempts regarding the merger (or sale) to Thoma Bravo.

Since the “go-shop” period started, J.P. Morgan contacted nine of the parties regarding a potential strategic transaction, and five of those parties declined to continue discussions. In addition, representatives of J.P. Morgan communicated with fifteen additional parties to gauge their interest, and it executed a confidentiality agreement with one party. To date, no party has made an alternative acquisition proposal.

The lengthy background of the merger section shows that Instructure’s Board of Directors “evaluated carefully, with the assistance of financial advisors, the risks and potential benefits associated with other strategic or financial alternatives and the potential for stockholder value creation associated with those alternatives.”

“The Board undertook a methodical, thoughtful and deliberate process in reaching an agreement with Thoma Bravo,” Instructure said to IBL News.

•  More news about Instructure and the sale of Canvas LMS

Hugging Face Raises $15 million to Expand its Open Source Software on Conversational AI

IBL News | New York

New York-based Hugging Face, a startup known by an app launched in 2017 that allows you to chat with an artificial digital friend, recently open-sourced its library for natural language processing (NLP) framework, called Transformers. It had massive success as there are over a million downloads and 1,000 companies using it, including Microsoft’s Bing.

Transformers can be leveraged for text classification, information extraction, summarization, text generation, and conversational artificial intelligence.

On Tuesday, Hugging Face, with just 15 employees, announced the close of a $15 million series, a funding round that adds to a previous amount of $5 million.

The round, intended to triple Hugging Face’s headcount in New York and Paris and the release of new software libraries, was led by Lux Capital, with participation from Salesforce chief scientist, Richard Socher, and OpenAI CTO Greg Brockman, as well as Betaworks and A.Capital.

“Tech giants are not taking a truly open-source approach on NLP, and their research and engineering teams are totally disconnected,” Hugging Face CEO, Clément Delangue, said on VentureBeat.

“On one hand, they provide black-box NLP APIs — like Amazon Comprehend or Google APIs — that are neither state-of-the-art nor flexible enough. On the other hand, they release science open source repositories that are extremely hard to use and not maintained (BERT’s last release is from May and only counts 27 contributors).” 

Coursera for Governments: Colombia Will Fund Scholarships for 25,000 Learners

IBL News | New York

The Coursera for Governments division is getting a good record on convincing countries to provide funded-scholarships to train their officers and country populations on

A clear example is the Colombian Government, which will soon offer free access to the Coursera platform for 25,000 employees, encouraging them to acquire in-demand technical skills.

Learners will begin, in early 2020, with five mandatory courses related to AI or digital transformation, including the popular AI for Everyone course from Andrew Ng, which also available in Spanish.

Students who complete these courses will gain unlimited access to Coursera’s course catalog, featuring 3,800 courses from 200 of the world’s top university and industry partners.

“The Colombian Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies (MinTIC) is modeling the institutional investment needed for workforce reskilling and upskilling, and Coursera is the best partner,” said Mario Chamorro, Head of Latin America, Enterprise at Coursera.

Coursera currently offers more than 400 courses in Spanish. Earlier this year, Coursera announced its first fully-Spanish degree in software engineering in partnership with Universidad de los Andes.

Coursera already has more than 1.1 million learners in Colombia.

Launched in 2017, Coursera for Governments and Organizations trains government employees and citizens across the United States, Singapore, the Philippines, India, Australia, France, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, and others.

A Third Shareholder of Instructure Says the Board Didn’t Act in the Company’s Best Interest

IBL News | New York

A third shareholder of Instructure (NYSE: INST) – the publicly traded maker of Canvas LMS – announced on Wednesday its intention to vote against the $2 billion plan to sell to private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

In a letter addressed to two Instructure board members (Buzz Waterhouse and Steven Collins), Oberndorf Enterprises details its concerns with the sale process and some conflicts of interest involving key members of the board and management team.

San Francisco-based Oberndorf Enterprises, which holds about 6% of the shares of Instructure, recommends the appointment of an independent special committee, with newly chosen legal and financial advisors.

“The committee should thoroughly review the details of the sale process to date, fully disclose to shareholders all the clear milestones and target dates focused on profitability and growth, and devote full time and attention to all the Company’s strategic alternatives,” added Oberndorf Enterprises.

The opposition is similar to Rivulet Capital’s (5%) and Praesidium Investment Management’s (7.5%) view.

They all defend that the $2 billion deal – which is about six times Instructure’s expected 2020 revenue – undervalues Instructure.


IBL News, Dec 13: A Second Shareholder Announces It Will Vote Against Instructure’s Proposed Deal
IBL News, Dec 5: A Large Investor Opposes Instructure’s Plan to Sell for $2 Billion
More News About Instructure


MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Steps Down, Reif Announces by Surprise

IBL News | New York

Israel Ruiz, Executive Vice President and Treasurer at MIT, will surprisingly step down in 2020. The announcement was made yesterday by President L. Rafael Reif himself in a letter to MIT faculty and staff.

No indications about the motives were provided by Mr. Reif. It is unknown whether or not the resignation is related to Epstein’s donation scandal, given the financial position of Israel Ruiz at the MIT Corporation since 2011.

The resignation comes in a time when MIT is reviewing its engagement practices with gifts and grants. Additionally, the final report on the investigation of Epstein’s donation is to be expected soon—which was conducted by the law firm Goodwin Procter.

Ruiz expects to transition out of his role at MIT during the spring semester, MIT News reported.

In his letter to the community, President Reif indicated that he will work in the coming months with members of Ruiz’s senior team — including the Vice President for Finance, Glen Shor and the Vice President for Campus Services and Stewardship, Joe Higgins — to determine how to best allocate Ruiz’s responsibilities.

Israel Ruiz explained his departure this way: “Considering the accomplishments of the last decade and my career at MIT, I’ve been contemplating a change over the last couple of years. I feel it is time for me to focus firsthand on opportunities that accelerate innovation in the way this community has inspired me to do.”

President Reif praised Ruiz’s work, fully avoiding any connection to the funding and donations practices at MIT. “His efforts have transformed many aspects of our campus to better serve and support the MIT community. Since my earliest days as provost, he has been among my most important advisors.”


MIT NewsIsrael Ruiz to step down as MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer