Amazon’s Gigantic Training Effort Shows How Automation Is Transforming the Job Market

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

Amazon –with almost 300,000 employees in the U.S. and over 630,000 worldwide– is the latest example of a large employer committing to retrain workers. It will invest $700 million over six years to upskill 100,000 of its employees across the U.S.

Other companies that have concluded that they must coach existing staff to take on different types of work are WalmartAT&T, JPMorgan Chase, and Accenture.

New automation and AI technologies are transforming the workplace and companies are struggling to recruit talent.

There is a revealing statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): there are now more job openings (7.4 million) than there are unemployed Americans (6 million).

No doubt, this is one of the hottest job markets in decades.

And in looking at job growth over the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that some of the fastest-growing jobs will increasingly be in more skilled areas. This includes medical assistants, statisticians, software developers, nurse practitioners, and wind turbine service technicians.

Investing in their own workforces seems to be a smart approach for corporations.

One caveat. Experts say that retraining programs boost employee morale and keep workers from leaving a company, but they are not for everybody. Not everyone has the capacity or will to prepare themselves for a new role.

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), large employers with 10,000+ workers spent an average of $500 per worker on training in 2017.

Amazon’s massive corporate retraining initiative worth $700 million breaks down into $7,000 per employee or $1,200 a year through 2025 in the U.S.

Amazon Will Invest $700 Million to Retrain 100,000 Employees Over Six Years

IBL News | New York

Amazon will invest $700 million over six years to provide upskilling, post-secondary job training for 100,000 of its employees (one in three) across the U.S.

This massive corporate retraining initiative breaks down to about $7,000 per employee or about $1,200 a year through 2025.

This way Amazon’s programs will help employees across corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retails stores and transportation networks to move into more highly skilled roles within or outside of Amazon.

The training will be voluntary and mostly free for workers. In addition, it won’t obligate participants to remain at Amazon.

The announcement, made last Thursday, highlighted that “employee upskilling investment builds on Amazon’s $15 minimum wage and comprehensive benefits including medical insurance, 401k savings plan, and generous parental leave.”

Most of this training will be built by Amazon alongside external experts.

Amazon’s fastest-growing highly skilled jobs over the last five years are data mapping specialist (832% growth), data scientist (505%), solutions architect (454%), security engineer (229%) and business analyst (160%). Within customer fulfillment, highly skilled roles have increased over 400%, including jobs like logistics coordinator, process improvement manager, and transportation specialist within our customer fulfillment network.

Through its Upskilling 2025 pledge, Amazon -with more than 630,000 employees worldwide- is focused on creating pathways to careers in areas such as healthcare, machine learning, manufacturing, robotics, computer science, cloud computing, and more.

Programs include:

  • Amazon Technical Academy, a training and job placement program that equips non-technical Amazon employees with the essential skills to transition into, and thrive in, software engineering careers. It combines instructor-led, project-based learning with real-world applications.
    This tuition-free program was created by Amazon software engineers for Amazon employees who want to move into the field. More here.
  • Associate2Tech, a fully-paid 90-day program that trains fulfillment center associates to move into technical roles regardless of their previous IT experience. It pays for their A+ Certification test, a widely recognized certification. Learn more here.
  • Machine Learning University (MLU), an initiative that offers employees with technical backgrounds the opportunity to access machine learning skills via an on-site training program.
    Divided into six-week modules, the program requires only half to one full day of participation a week. MLU is taught by more than 400 Amazon Machine Learning scientists who are passionate about furthering skills in the field. Originally launched as a small cohort, the program is on course to train thousands of employees.
  • AmazonCareer Choice, a pre-paid tuition program designed to train fulfillment center associates in high-demand occupations of their choice. Amazon will pay up to 95% of tuition and fees towards a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study, leading to in-demand jobs. Since launching Career Choice in 2012, over 25,000 Amazonians have received training for high-demand occupations including aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, and nursing. The company is investing in expanding the program by building additional classrooms in its fulfillment centers globally and expects to have over 60 on-site classrooms by the end of 2020.
  • Amazon Apprenticeship, a Department of Labor certified program that offers paid intensive classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeships with Amazon.
    Providing a combination of immersive learning and on-the-job training, the Amazon Apprenticeship program has already created paths to technical jobs for hundreds of candidates working to break into careers including cloud support associate, data technician and software development engineer.
  • AWS Training and Certification, a program that provides employees with courses to build practical AWS Cloud knowledge and discounted AWS Certification exams to validate cloud expertise.



Creating Compelling Slides: Bullet Point the Content or Read Scripts?

Marie I. Rose | IBL News

One of the most time-consuming tasks in instructional design is creating slides.

Slides are the backbone of any course. We usually outline the talking points, script the visuals and convey important information for the students.

Many times slides are accompanied by texts to be teleprompted by lecturers. This mostly depends on their personality and teaching style.

The dilemma is whether to bullet point the content or read scripts.

However, one requirement is certain: we need to create killer visuals. Layouts, texts, pictures, icons, videos, graphics, animations, colors, and fonts need to be compelling. And flipping through slides (Keynote or PowerPoint) should result in an engaging teaching experience.

Let us share some of our recommendations when designing slides:

  • Choose wide-screen format 16:9.
  • Use bullets or very short sentences. Do not add paragraphs of information on your slides: learners become distracted and stop listening. Use multiple slides for a topic if the content is too long.
  • Pick sans serif fonts: they are easier to read and seem more friendly. Some of the classics are Arial, Geneva, Lucida Grande, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, and Verdana.At IBL our favorites are Roboto, Open Sans, Lato, Fira Sans, Libre Franklin, and Karla… Never Helvetica!

    Regarding size, use fonts larger than 22 points.

    The website includes many free fonts.
  • Choose 2-3 colors to that work well together. Use the color palette combinations or pick your brand’s color if the course is an extension of your activities. Adobe has a good color picker. is another good generator.

CanvasLMS’ CEO on the Learning Data Controversy: “Information Will Be Owned by Institutions”

Mikel Amigot | IBL News (Long Beach, CA)

Instructure’s CEO Dan Goldsmith said that learning data accumulated on its Canvas platform, with 30 million learners, “is owned by the student and institutions, and it should always stay that way”.

Mr. Goldsmith made this claim during a conversation with a selected group of journalists and analysts (IBL News among them) yesterday in Long Beach, CA, during the Canvas LMS annual conference.

The controversy around the usage of data started when Instructure disclosed the existence of DIG, a data analytics, predictive and AI-based internally developed project. “There is a lot of potential to use data and information to benefit education. It is important to open this conversation”. Instructure, however, doesn’t have a launch date. “We don’t want to make mistakes with DIG, and we don’t want to be constrained with a timeline,” he added.

On the adaptive and personalized topic, Dan Goldsmith claimed that “it is inevitable as an educational community to figure out ways to use personalized learning.”

Asked about its strategy now that Canvas LMS is recognized in the industry as the market leader in North America, he said “our benchmark is the 1.5 billion students there are in the world”. “If we are constantly looking at our competitors we will lose many opportunities for innovation”.

Regarding competitors, “I have good conversation with them. I talk to CEOs, and have a good relation. At the end of the day we have a common mission.”

Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and with a staff of 1,200 employees, Instructure is not profitable yet, although “we are a financially stable company”. “We are in a good position to make an impact”.

Regarding its software developments, Mr. Goldsmith highlighted that “there are 250 applications built on top on Canvas by our customers”. “We are not the only channel for innovation”.

He also stressed that “we will continue to maintain our commitment toward open source. We have a very thriving community that we support”.

See the video below exclusively shot by IBL News.

It’s All About Increasing Learners’ Engagement in Courses and Programs

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

A measure to calibrate the success of a learning platform and an ongoing program is the progress of engagement. If engagement improves, then revenues go up and administrators, instructors, and students smile.

edX, for example, has seen an 11 % increase in their engagement rate in the last two years. Now it claims a 42 % engagement rate.

The question is what truly generates engagement in courses.  Three are three main factors, in our view:

  • Content quality along with the design of the course
  • Platform’s pedagogical technology and new features
  • Content marketing and SEO campaigns to allow learners to find their desired courses

Please examine the graphic above, captured from Studio, the authoring tool of the Open edX platform –which is open-source and free to install.

The third checkmark refers to a core technical and pedagogical characteristic of this platform: active learning.

The course content is presented through learning sequences: a set of interwoven videos, readings, discussions, wikis, collaborative and social media tools, exercises and materials with automatic assessments and instant feedback.

Students alternate between learning concepts and solving simple exercises to check their understanding.

As a best practice, edX recommends building diverse learning sequences, following researchers’ discoveries. “We recommend that 80% or more of your learning sequences or subsection include multiple content types (such as video, discussion, or problem)”.

Gently nudging students, tutoring them and setting and soft deadlines in the course is equally helpful.

Would you suggest additional engagement techniques?




Canvas LMS Increases Its Lead to 30 Million Users, According to Its CEO’s Data

Mikel Amigot | IBL News (Long Beach, CA)

Canvas continued to expand its lead as the most adopted LMS in North America until reaching 30 million users, according to the data provided by its CEO Dan Goldsmith yesterday during its opening keynote at the annual Instructure partners’ conference, which is taking place this week in Long Beach, CA.

In the last years, Canvas reported the “more than 20 million users” number, but this year it changed into “more than 30 million users”.

Dan Goldsmith talked about Instructure’s future plans and elaborated about its new three partners, AWS Educate, Microsoft and Nexus Edge. “Our mission is to help people grow from the first of school and last day of work”, he said.

Another interesting piece from Instructure’s CEO’s statement referred to the fact that “institutions are under increased pressure to prove their effectiveness with students”.

This year’s conference has attracted a record number of 3,000 attendees and 72 vendors.

Selected slides of the keynote:


Asimov Predicted the State of Education in 2019. Was He Right?

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

“AI, Machine Learning, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Adaptive Learning, Big Data, and so on, and so.”

This is how Jeffrey Riman, Professor at FIT and Chair of the Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Technology (FACT2) at SUNY, summarized the technology issues dominating the conversation in higher ed during the 2019 CIT Conference.

“Among the many challenges for faculty and instructional support staff are increased complexity and steeper learning curves, greater time commitment, and outsourced content creation and assessment strategies. Course size will continue to grow, and the pace of change is accelerating,” said Jeffrey Riman [in the picture].

“And one thing we know: history is not a predictor of future performance,” he added.

Funny reference to history. Let’s go back four decades.

On December 31, 1983, esteemed scholar and best-selling sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov predicted how the world would be in 2019.

He wrote: “Education, which must be revolutionized in the new world, will be revolutionized by the very agency that requires the revolution – the computer…”

“There will be an opportunity finally for every youngster, and indeed, every person, to learn, in his or her own time, at his or own speed, in his or her own way…”

“Education will become fun because it will bubble up from within and not be forced in from without.”

Does anyone dare to predict how education will be in 2065?

Asimov the genius did envision the impact of the computer and the connected network, as well as the potential of on-demand learning at scale.

For a fully universal, personalized, adapted and fun education, we might need to wait a little longer.

But foundations are building up.

Learning At Scale | July 2019: Amazon, Oxford, JetBlue, Facebook, McGraw-Hill Education…

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• Moody’s: College revenue growth lagged in 2018

• Amazon Partners with George Mason University to Launch a Cloud-Based Degree

• University of Oxford Will Invest $190 Million on Humanities and Create an Institute for Ethics in AI

Capella Online University Opens a Brick-and-Mortar Center to Provide In-Person Support



• 400+ Online Courses With Real College Credit That You Can Access For Free

• European MOOC Platforms Plan New Generation of Microcredentials

Billionaire Mark Cuban Takes Online Coding Classes to Sharpen His Investment Skills



JetBlue Eases the Financial Burden of Their Crew Members Earning a Master’s Degree

Facebook Teams Up With Community Colleges to Offer Certificate Programs on Digital Marketing

McGraw-Hill Education Chief Financial Officer Mike Evans Resigns



• Degreed Raises an Additional $75M to Expand Its Career Development Business

• Wiley Buys ZyBooks in $56M Cash Deal to Bolster Courseware Offerings

• ETS Invests in New Edtech Startup Accelerator Run by LearnLaunch

• Zuckerberg-Backed AltSchool Gives Up on Schools and Focuses on Tech. It’s a Major Makeover



• Artificial Intelligence in Education is Here to Stay: Will it Augment or Replace?

• AI Education: Penn State Will Use a Virtual Assistant in Academic Advising



Are the Golden Years of Education Entrepreneurship Gone?

Ideas to Boost Your Course Completion Rate

• Teachers, Administrators or Students? What Sector Should Data Focus On?



Education Calendar  –  JULY  |  AUGUSTSEPTEMBER |  OCT–DEC 2019


This newsletter about learning innovation is a monthly report compiled by IBL News and IBL Education. If you enjoy what you read please consider forwarding it to spread the word. Click here to subscribe.

Read the latest IBL Newsletter on Online Education at Scale  |  Archive of Open edX Newsletters

Adults With Non-Degree Certificates Enjoy Better Employment and Wages

IBL News | New York

American working adults who hold certificates and certifications without college degrees enjoy better employment and yearly wages than those without credentials, according to a report from the Strada Education Network, Lumina Foundation and Gallup. This segment of adults also advises others to follow and education path.

The report, based on the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer survey distributed to 64,000 participants adults, found that there is more than just economic value to getting a certificate or certification.

“Individuals not only are getting the economic and wage benefits, that are documented in other places, but they also have this sense of it was a valuable experience for them, in their lives,” said Dave Clayton, vice president of the Strada Education Network.

Certification programs span across all industries. “On Security and protective services, architecture, engineering, construction, mining, certificates people report having higher incomes if they have certificates and certifications,” added Mr. Clyton.

Another finding of the survey is that the extra income enjoyed by non-degree adults who have certificates is “considerably larger” for men than women, across all kinds of jobs.





Open edX | July 2019: HarvardX’s Blockstore, Boeing, MITx, Coursera, Google…

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JULY 2019 – NEWSLETTER #18  |  More breaking news at IBL News 


Open edX

• The Next Evolutionary Step in MOOCs Will Be ‘Blockstore’, Says Robert Lue, from Harvard

• Open edX Posts Videos of All Talks from Their Recent Conference



• A Detailed Study of Boeing Shows Learners’ Engagement and Performance on an edX MOOC

• An Innovative, Stackable Online Master’s in Supply Chain Management from ASU On edX

• MITx Prepares 30 New MOOCs and Builds with Other Universities a Blockchain System for Credentials

• Half of the Employees That Need to Re-Skill Don’t Ask for Help, an edX Survey Finds



• “Coursera’s Business Challenge Is Getting Predictably High Revenue Growth,” Says Its CEO

• A Billionaire Will Cover the Cost of Coursera’s Illinois Data Science Master’s Degree for His Employees

• Coursera’s Google IT Support Certificate Program Gets a Good Response

• Coursera Matches Its Global Skills Index Research With Courses and Specialists

• An English Course to Teach Foreigners on Career Development Reaches 320K Learners



• Udacity Launches a Program On AI to Train Non-Engineers

• View: A MOOC Platform Catalog is No-Marketing. Leveraging Institutional Networks Is Key



Education Calendar  –  JULY  |  AUGUSTSEPTEMBER |  OCT–DEC 2019



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 and other educational software. 

Read the latest IBL Newsletter on Online Education at Scale  |  Archive of Open edX Newsletters