Opinion: A Surprisingly Powerful Teaching Tool

By Mikel Amigot

Jupyter Notebook is a surprisingly powerful teaching tool.

If you are an educator, engineer or scientist and haven’t heard about Jupyter, you should take the time to learn about it.

Tim O’Reilly said that Jupyter is “the next big thing.”

This technology has received the 2017 ACM Software System Award.

Essentially, Jupyter Notebook is an open-source web application to create and share documents with live code, equations, visualizations, and text.

Currently, it is mostly used for Data Science and Machine Learning, but it goes far beyond. Its tools are easily extensible – e.g., you can play mp4 movie files.

In education, Jupyter opens a new pedagogical model. It is also a new genre of OER.


        Mikel Amigot is the Founder of IBL News and IBL Education (Open edX)         

FUN Open edX Platform’s Revenue Streams to Achieve Financial Sustainability

With over 1.4 million users and 426 MOOCs from 112 different institutions, France Université Numerique (FUN) Open edX-based platform is an example of how to achieve a financial sustainability.

Class-Central.com has detailed FUN’s five revenue streams:

  1. Public Funding. As an initiative of the French Ministry of Higher Education, FUN receives from the Government half of its €2.5 million annual budget every year.
  2. Fees from members and non-members. Similar to edX.org consortium, academic and non-profit organizations pay €4,500 for the first edition of the course, with a discount of 20 % for subsequent runs.
  3. Licensing of content through different platforms, such as FUN Campus (15 universities and 50 courses) and FUN Corporate. Both charge fee for the use of the courses and for access to user data.
  4. White label platforms and private courses through branded platforms for professional associations, government agencies, national governments and even universities (i.e. in Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire). Other examples are a platform for French public servants, professional training in Luxembourg, and the nuclear power industry.
  5. User fees. Some courses charge a small fee to students who wish to earn a certificate.



Berkeley Adds Another Blockchain Course on edX

Understanding the blockchain technology and how it has started to transform many industries is critical. Following this trend, the edX platform is adding another course this month.

UC Berkeley is launching this September 29 a course developed by faculty from its Computer Science department. The course titled Blockchain Technology will provide for six weeks a wide overview of many topics related to this space, including the foundation of Bitcoin.

Taught by Rustie Lin and Nadir Akhtar, instructors at Berkeley this open course will also explore enterprise blockchain implementations in JP Morgan’s Quorum, Ripple, Tendermint, and HyperLedger.

Currently, the main blockchain courses on edX have been produced by the Linux Foundation.

TU Delft Reaches the Two Million Learners Milestone

Dutch university TU Delft, with an offer of 88 MOOCs on edX, announced that it attracted two million registrations.

The “Solar Energy” course is the most successful one, with 206,000 registrations, followed by “Data Analysis” (162,000), and “Solving Complex Problems” (152,000).

In July 2016, TU Delft reached the million learners milestone.

“The experience that TU Delft is gaining from the MOOCs serves as a springboard for other types of innovative education for a range of target groups,” the university explained. The most important programs are on the professional certificate field, especially with subjects such as electric cars, railway engineering, design in health and leadership for engineers.

The 2018 Best edX Instructors

Who are the most engaging and innovative instructors in the edX.org community?

The edX University Advisory Board has selected the following ten, who represent a diverse range of disciplines – from computer science and business to literature, psychology or life sciences:

This November in Boston during the Global Forum, edX will select a winner the for 3rd annual Exceptional Contributions in Online Teaching and Learning award.

With this award, “edX celebrates the contributions and innovations of MOOC teachers in the edX community, and amplifies the powerful role that MOOCs play in the transformation of education today,” said Nina Huntemann, Director of Academics and Research at edX.

In 2017, the winners were professors Andrew Howells and Bernadette Drabsch, from the University of Newcastle in Australia, for their course, Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101.

MIT’s Introductory Course about Computer Science on edX Reaches 1.2M Online Learners

The “Introduction to Computer Science using Python” course from MITx has reached 1.2 million enrollments since its launch in 2012. It has become the most popular MOOC in MIT history.

“This course is about teaching students to use computation, in this case described by Python, to build models and explore broader questions of what can be done with computation to understand the world,” explained John Guttag, MIT’s professor who co-developed this class along with Eric Grimson.

The course, derived from a campus-based and OpenCourseWare subject at MIT and now offered on the edX platform, was initially developed as a 13-week course, but in 2014 it was separated into two courses, 6.00.1x and 6.00.2x.

In 2017, MITx partnered with Silicon Valley-based San Jose City College to offer the course as part of a program for students who have not had access to a Computer Science curriculum.

“This course is designed to help students begin to think like a computer scientist,” said Grimson. “By the end of it, the student should feel very confident that given a problem, whether it’s something from work or their personal life, they could use computation to solve that problem.”

The following video with testimonials reflects the achievements from learners.



Learning Innovation | September 2018: MasterClass, Knewton, ASU, Google, UT Austin…

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MasterClass.com, which offers celebrity-taught classes, raised $80 million, after doubling sales last year.

Woz U, Steve Wozniak’s academy, successfully completes its first year.

UT Austin gets the 5th most powerful supercomputer in the world with a grant of $60 million from the National Science Foundation.

Arizona State University (ASU) Online students are using VR for their Biology class. Berkeley College and the University at Buffalo are testing VR, too.

Knewton closed another round of $25 million, which will be used to expand its adaptive learning experience into OER product line.

Lumen Learning reached a milestone of 100,000 students enrolled in its OER-supported courses.

Expert tells how to optimize Linkedin profiles for an edtech job hunt.

VitalSource acquired Acrobatiq, an adaptive learning platform that spun out of Carnegie Mellon.

General Assembly’s $1 million settlement asks: are instructors employees or contractors?

WeWork-owned Flatiron School made another acquisition: a Chicago-based design education firm.

MOOCs are no longer massive, and they serve different audiences than first imagined, says in a podcast expert Dhawal Shah.

Google is polishing its education offerings with updates to Classroom, Google Docs, virtual reality offerings, and teacher training.

Moodle announced it ended its partnership with Blackboard and would no longer allow this company using the Moodlerooms name. Blackboard reaffirmed its commitment to open source.

• Education Events Calendar by IBL News

This newsletter about learning innovation is a monthly report compiled by the IBL News journalist staff, in collaboration with IBL Education, a New York City-based company that builds data-driven learning ecosystems and courses with Open edX. If you enjoy what you read please consider forwarding it to spread the word. Click here to subscribe. 

IBL Newsletter #14 – August 2018
IBL Newsletter #13 – July 2018
IBL Newsletter #12 – June 2018
IBL Newsletter #11 – May 2018
IBL Newsletter #10 – April 2018
IBL Newsletter #9 – March 15, 2018
IBL Newsletter #8 – March 1, 2018
IBL Newsletter #7 – February 2018
IBL Newsletter #6 – January 31, 2018

IBL Newsletter #5 – January 15, 2018
IBL Newsletter #4 – December 2017
IBL Newsletter #3 – November 2017
IBL Newsletter #2 – October 2017
IBL Newsletter #1 – September 2017

Anant Agarwal: How MOOCs Help the Skills Transformation Issue

Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, has started to write a column on Forbes about the future of work and education. His first contribution explores how the skills transformation is impacting modern work and how MOOCs and online learning can solve the issue.

This is a summary of Mr. Agarwal’s main ideas:

  • “The job market is changing so rapidly that the skills needed to perform these jobs transform every few years, intensifying pressure on workers to learn continually and, in some cases, transition entirely into new and emerging fields.”


  • “Some of today’s most lucrative industries, such as data science, were invented less than 10 years ago. Advances in technology, automation, artificial intelligence and big data are revolutionizing every field and require refreshed skills at such an accelerated rate that traditional educational programs cannot keep up. Furthermore, jobs are becoming hybridized and require a mix of different skillsets.”


  • “There are more opportunities for keeping pace with skills transformation in the workplace than ever before: online and blended degree programs, coding bootcamps, online micro-credentials, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and more.”


Transferrable Learner Records on edX.org

On a separate note, although related to micro-credentials, edX.org has implemented a new feature to allow users to transfer their learner records on MicroMasters, Professional and Verified Certificate programs as a way to either pursue credit opportunities or showcase their knowledge to employers.  Accessing from the learner profile or learner’s record page is the only requirement.


ForbesHow Is The Skills Transformation Impacting Modern Work?
CNBC: How to Get Pay-Boosting Skills Without Going Broke


Overseas Freelancers Offer to Install Basic Open edX for $160

What is the minimum cost of installing a basic, by-default Open edX platform?

The lowest price is free. Bitnami and OpenIBL.com offer a pre-configured image of the platform, with the possibility of adding more features.

There are low-cost hosted services such as eduNEXT, OpenCraft and Appsembler.

And there is an increasing market of overseas freelancers who work on a very low budget.

Freelancer.com recently posted this announcement: “We want to install Open edX on our VPS in a native manner. Our VPS is running Ubuntu 16.04. Budget $30-$250”.

The request, written with some grammatical errors, was even demanding a document describing the installation process, which was described as “a bit tricky”, “with some errors”.

Over 15 developers, mostly from India and Venezuela, responded to the request, trying to be hired for the job. The average bid was $162. Many freelancers were bidding $100.





United Nation’s Sustainable Development Courses on edX.org

SDG Academy, an initiative of the United Nations Sustainable Development Network (SDSN), will release 13 of their existing courses on edX.org this September, after joining the edX consortium.

These free, graduate-level courses on sustainable development address the challenge of how people, communities, governments, and companies coexist, cooperate and collaborate in order to save the planet.

Classes are taught by experts, under the leadership of Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, from Columbia University. Most of the courses start on September 10 as part of the SDG Academy Fall semester.

One of the notable courses revolves around Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical. It raises the ecological crisis that humanity has created and issues a moral clarion call for urgent action to protect the earth. Its introductory video, below, is narrated by Bono. The course lasts for less than two hours.


Presentation video of the 10-week “Sustainable Food Systems: A Mediterranean Perspective” course: