Students at MIT Extend their Protest to Koch and Demand More Resignations

IBL News | New York

Groups of MIT students and faculty continue to speak out against MIT’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein and David Koch, despite President Reif and leadership efforts to engage protesters and promises to turn toward accountability.

The Tech, MIT’s largest newspaper, published by the students of the institute, is reporting about those protests, which now go beyond Epstein’s coverup of donations.

In the last demonstration, protesters called for the removal of Koch’s name from all buildings on campus. Ryan Aasen G, an organizer, said that the ongoing funding investigation and environmental violations committed by the Open Agriculture Initiative “exemplifies the disconnect this administration has to the seriousness of the reforms needed at MIT.”

In addition, Aasen elaborated that Koch was responsible for spending “billions of dollars lobbying for the roll back environmental protections, funding climate change denial, and fighting against Americans’ right to affordable healthcare.”

“Radio Silence”

On the associated Facebook event page, MIT Students Against War wrote that the MIT Corporation “cares more about taking money from billionaires than about harms done to women, children, immigrants, poor people, and the environment,” citing the acceptance of funds from “a child sex trafficker (Jeffrey Epstein), a murderous prince (Mohammad bin Salman), destroyers of the environment (the Kochs), and dubious corporations.” 

“I’m very concerned about MIT’s leadership ethics in taking money from Epstein and the way that they have been dismissive of student concerns,” said Edmund Bertschinger, a physics professor at MIT who protested at the rally.

Along with demanding Reif’s resignation, protesters called for the resignation of Professor of Mechanical Engineering Seth Lloyd and several members of the MIT Corporation. Others led chants to “democratize MIT” and called for the creation of a faculty-led senate who would have a final say in donations accepted by MIT.

Organizers said MIT has not responded to their protests, a point of concern for them – The Huntington News reported.

“It’s mostly been radio silence, and that’s concerning because a lot of people really want to hear a response,” said Nathan Foster, an organizer with UnKoch My Campus from Tufts University.


A Practical Course on edX to Learn How to Deploy an IBM Watson-Based Chatbot

Mikel Amigot | IBL News (New York)

IBM launched yesterday on a free course to learn how to create a turbocharged chatbot with Watson Services.

The online class  (3 weeks, 2-4 hours per week) teaches the intricacies of Watson Discovery, allowing to surface answers and patterns from large unstructured data sets.

Designed for intermediate learners, this practical course, Programming Chatbots with Watson Services, requires to have previous basic knowledge of object-oriented programming, as well as command line, Node.js, and IBM Watson Assistant.

In addition, “if you have a large repository, the contents of which could answer customer questions, you’ve got the makings of a great FAQ chatbot, said the instructors of the course – four IBM’s developers and cloud experts.

The AI-powered chatbot application, that interacts in natural language, is the result of ingesting data that can be queried to extract sentiment, concept, entities, and taxonomy by using Watson Discovery.

WordPress and edX Plugins

AI-based agents or chatbots are expanding in all the industries including education. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of businesses will have their own chatbot.

In digital education, many questions on the discussions, especially the repetitive ones that pop up in every class, can be answered by a chatbot. Inquiries and follow-up requirements within the course can be solved by this type of automatic help desks.

These IBM agents are now created for the overall course catalog, rather than to be used as Teaching Assistant (TA) for individual courses and pedagogical answers.

  • Today, IBM is considering to develop a Watson-based extension or plugin to integrate with and Open edX sites, sources told toIBL News.
  • In September, IBM issued a plugin for WordPress, that uses Watson’s Assistant on the cloud. This plugin helps to quickly deploy a chatbot on WordPress-based sites.

Google Classroom, One of the World’s Top LMS: 40M Users In Five Years

IBL News | New York

Google Classroom celebrates its fifth anniversary this Fall announcing that it has grown up to million users in 230+ countries.

In addition, it includes over 60 apps and integrations as a result of partnerships with some of the top EdTech companies.

“Five years ago, we learned that although teachers loved using G Suite’s collaborative tools, they found some of the features complicated to use,” said Kara Levy, Engineering Manager at G Suite for Education.“Classroom enabled teachers to easily create, organize and distribute assignments all with the click of a button.”

Last September, Google’s LMS introduced a new feature called “Classwork page”. It means that all classes now have a Classwork page which helps to organize assignments and questions by grouping them into customizable modules and units.

Earlier this year, the giant introduced rubrics, a tool currently in beta that helps students understand how their assignments will be evaluated, while also giving educators a standardized way to grade. This feature works alongside other feedback tools to help teachers personalize instruction.

Other new developments include an anti-plagiarism; the ability to sync grades between a Student Information System (SIS) and Classroom; and Gradebook, which allows teachers to see a holistic view of their students’ grades across assignments.

In summary, Google’s LMS allows teachers to set up classes and add students, create and organize content on the Classwork page, and give feedback with the grading tool. [See the video below]

Google Classroom Resources:


2U Announces a Deal with RIT to Deliver an Online Master’s Degree in Architecture

IBL News | New York

Less than thirty days from the third quarter of earnings calls, 2U (NASDAQ: TWOU) announced yesterday a new partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to deliver an online Master of Architecture degree. The program is 2U’s first architecture offering and represents a new vertical for the company.

With the firm’s stock price currently trading around $16.43, 2U has been unable to gain investors’ trust and recover most of the two-thirds of the value that evaporated after the earnings call on July 30th.  The Lanham, Maryland–based company now has a market capitalization of $1.04 billion – it reached $4.7 billion a year ago, with the stock traded at $80.49.

The deal reported on Monday with RIT didn’t impact 2U’s stock price. Top stories and financial alerts continued to bounce around investors’ class-action lawsuits alleging misleading statements made between February and July.

RIT Architecture Online is scheduled to be launched in September 2020. Rochester Institute of Technology faculty will deliver the curriculum through a combination of asynchronous and live classes on 2U’s online platform.

“We are very delighted to begin this significant and important collaboration with 2U,” said Dennis A. Andrejko, Head of RIT’s Department of Architecture. “Partnering with 2U can certainly allow us to add momentum in advancing our sustainability and resiliency agenda, while inextricably linking this to the opportunities, power, and value of design inquiry and architecture.”

On behalf of 2U, Andrew Hermalyn, President of Global Partnerships, indicated: “Working together, we will take the best of the RIT architecture program online and into the digital era, and prepare the next generation of leaders in the field to address the most pressing sustainability and design challenges.”

Coursera for Campus Is Not an Alternative LMS to Blackboard, Canvas and Moodle, Says Maggioncalda

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

“Coursera for Campus is not a full-featured LMS,”
said Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, during the announcement event in India, on October 3rd. “We expect many universities to stay on their LMSs.”  

According to the company, Coursera for Campus’ LMS is designed to supplement the existing Canvas, Blackboard and Moodle systems.

In fact, its main utility refers to authoring content for private audiences such as residential students, alumni, faculty members, and staff.

The SSO (Single Sign-On) and APIs are apparently intended to facilitate further integrations. The collection of distinctive features include analytics, live-hands on labs, in-browser coding, plagiarism detection, Jupyter Notebooks and gradebook integration.

Jeff Maggioncalda insisted on the message of collaboration and not being an alternative LMS.

So far 20 partner universities, including Duke and Illinois, have piloted Coursera for Campus, and 1o additional universities are using an early version of it.

Last week, when Coursera for Business was advertised, representatives of the company highlighted that this new LMS was designed to deliver online courses and interactive lessons better than most LMSs.

“We’re talking about a potential major disruption to the LMS market,” Leah Belsky, Coursera’s Vice President of Enterprise said on EdSurge. “We don’t have all the features of an LMS but what we do have is all the tools to create cutting-edge interactive learning experiences.”

Michael Feldstein, a known consultant and author at the eLiterate blog, doubted that universities will replace their learning management systems with Coursera’s. “MOOC platforms are interesting and have some innovative features, but they are neither mature for their original purpose nor tuned for the broad range of usage that a campus LMS must serve,” Michael Feldstein wrote.



Google Expands Its IT Support Certificate Program to 100 Community Colleges

IBL News | New York

Google announced on Thursday plans to offer through a $3.5 million grant its IT Support Professional Certificate program to 100 community colleges by the end of 2020 in eight new states: Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Virginia and West Virginia.  Those states come in addition to schools in Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, and Wisconsin, which have offered the course since earlier this year.

The online program consists of six modules, costing $49 each. It takes an average of six months to complete and is designed to prepare learners without a degree or tech experience for an entry-level job in IT support –which has a median salary of $53,000.

Launched at Coursera in January 2018, the program is part of the Grow with Google initiative.

More than 95,000 learners enrolled in these classes and thousands of people have found jobs in large companies such as Wal-Mart, Ricoh, GE Digital and Google.

Leah Belsky, Senior Vice President of Enterprise at Coursera, wrote a blog post analyzing the first year’s impact of the program.

Speaking at an event on October 3rd in Dallas, Texas, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company’s goal is to “make sure that the opportunities created by technology are truly available to everyone.”

Along with Pichai, President Trump’s senior advisor and daughter Ivanka Trump was on hand to discuss the importance of retaining workers in the U.S. During the event, Pichai signed a pledge to the White House to help retain workers in the American tech industry.


IBL News, Sept 22: Google and CompTIA Create a Dual Credential for Learners Seeking for Entry-Level Jobs in IT
IBL News, June 15: Coursera’s Google IT Support Certificate Program Gets a Good Response

Troubled MIT Media Lab Ousts a Longtime Scientist for Sexual Harassment

IBL News | New York

MIT Media Lab last week ousted research scientist and faculty member V. Michael Bove for violating the university’s sexual harassment policy, reported this Friday.

The Media Lab also announced two hours of mandatory sexual harassment training for all personnel.

Media Lab Executive Director Deb Roy sent a letter yesterday to students, staff, and faculty saying: “Michael was terminated solely as a result of a determination that he violated MIT’s sexual harassment policy. … There are aspects of MIT policies and practices that I believe should be improved. I will work with colleagues at MIT towards better policies for the entire community.”

In a statement sent to MIT Media Lab students, faculty, and staff yesterday that was obtained by ScienceInsider, V. Michael Bove wrote:

“Following allegations that I acted in harassing or otherwise unwelcome manner toward some other members of the community, I am no longer at the Media Lab.  I very much regret inappropriate and indefensible actions or words by which I have caused pain or discomfort to any of the remarkable, dedicated professionals in the lab, and offer my sincerest apologies. My past actions did not reflect my values, the values of the Media Lab, the values of MIT, or acceptable standards of behavior anywhere, and having at length examined my conscience I have learned essential lessons about responsible, respectful, and appropriate behavior that will guide me throughout my future interactions with people.”

Bove was at the Media Lab for 23 years, most recently as head of its Object-Based Media Group.


MIT Students Vocalize their Concerns and Demand Prof. Seth Lloyd Resignation

IBL News | New York

Over 350 students attended a forum at MIT on Tuesday to vocalize their concerns towards President Reif and MIT’s treatment over the Epstein’s scandal.

Undergraduate and graduate students expressed their disappointment with respect to transparency in accepting donations, treatment of female-identifying members of the community, and prioritization of money over student sentiment, according to The Tech.

Students who spoke also demanded that Professor Seth Lloyd, who accepted gifts from Epstein and visited him in prison, resign.

One student questioned the ethics of the College of Computing, funded by Stephen A. Schwarzman. “One thing we can learn from the Epstein scandal is that there’s no such thing as money without strings attached. How can MIT talk about a new college being at the forefront of ethics, when its main funder was a Trump advisor, is pushing poor people out of their homes, partnering with some of the most repressive governments in the world, and burning down our planet?”

President Reif, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, and 22 deans and department heads including Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz and Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson attended the gathering.

Rafael L. Reif addressed the issues. This is a summary of his statements:

  • “The past few weeks have been a time of great distress for our community. I expect that the extant situation has left you feeling sad, disappointed, hurt, and angry, including angry at me, so I want to begin by saying, with my whole heart, that I am deeply sorry for the actions I took and failed to take that have been part of bringing this trouble to all of you, the students of MIT,” Reif said.
  • “In this time of growing fortunes and shrinking federal funds, we need to look at everything, from the changing nature of the donor population, to how we should weigh the political, physical, cultural, and economic impacts.”
  • “Female faculty, students, and staff across MIT are telling me that this is our last straw, that allowing Jeffrey Epstein to stain our reputation was only the latest example of how many in our community devalue the lives, experiences, and contributions of women and girls.”
  • “I’m committed to make this moment of crisis a moment of reckoning in our turn toward real accountability, and I believe that in the process, there will be a very important role for students because the future of MIT belongs to you. … I believe that together, we can find a way to transform so much pain for so many people into some enduring good for MIT.”
  • “The Institution does what it wants to do with a gift for research, but it’s not controlled by the donor; that’s the level of principle we have right now. That may have worked very well in the past, but it just doesn’t work anymore today, so those principles have to be revisited. … That’s something we’re going to be doing exactly now. We’re going to be involving the community to address those principles.”


The TechStudent forum about MIT-Epstein relations held with Reif, senior admin present


Coursera Offers Its 3,600-Course Catalog to Non-Affiliated Universities

IBL News | New York

Coursera announced Coursera for Campus on October 3.

This initiative is designed to allow any university, including those who are not partners, to supplement their course offering with Coursera’s 3,600-course catalog, integrating these classes into their curricula and offering credit-eligible, and blended learning.

These universities will also be able to access Coursera’s analytics as well as author content, assessments, and labs. Features such as single sign-on (SSO) and API integration will be available, too. (However, full functionality will roll out over the coming months).

“With more than 300 million people entering the workforce in the next 10 years, universities urgently need to augment their capacity to meet the aspirations of a young and growing demographic,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera. “With access to content from 200 of the world’s top universities and industry educators, higher education institutions can easily enhance their existing curricula with critical digital skills and author online courses to keep pace with what employers need.”  

Coursera for Campus has been launched after pilots with over 20 universities, including Duke University, University of Illinois, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education. “It complements our core curriculum,” explained Matthew Rascoff, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education and Innovation at Duke University.

“In today’s rapidly changing landscape, it’s important to create lifelong learning experiences for our students and staff to stay competitive in the workforce,” said Kevin Pitts Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

“It is time we bring the benefits of our platform to the remaining 99% of 20,000 universities worldwide and help them take a digital leap,” added Jeff Maggioncalda.

Blog PostCoursera for Campus: A New Way to Help Universities Everywhere Deliver Job-Relevant Learning


AWS Expands its Partnerships with Institutions to Offer Degree Programs in Cloud Computing

IBL News | New York

AWS (Amazon Web Services) continues to expand its partnerships with schools to offer associate and bachelor’s degree specialization in cloud computing.

Its latest move points out to Virginia, where, given the booming tech sector and with Amazon’s new operations – it is launching its second headquarters in Arlington, VA – employees are in a growing need for workers with cloud computing skills.

Since September 2016, job postings requiring these skills in Virginia have increased from approximately 5,000 to 20,000 per month, according to official data.

Last week, Virginia’s state officials said the deepening partnership with AWS will create more job opportunities for students. More specifically, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam [in the picture] announced a new collaboration between AWS, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), four-year universities and select K-12 schools.

Participating academic institutions will incorporate AWS Educate program into high school STEM curriculum as well as associate and bachelor degree programs.

George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College were two of the first higher education institutions in the country to offer cloud computing degrees. Starting in fall 2020, students will be able to pursue a degree path in cloud computing from the two-year program at NOVA to the four-year one at George Mason. The 63-credit program initially enrolled 30 students and has grown to 200.

Now, as a result of this new collaboration, these programs will be replicated at other community colleges and four-year institutions, and high school students will have the opportunity to receive college credit through dual enrollment and early college models.

These are the institutions committed to implementing the cloud computing degree program in Virginia:


  • Fairfax County Public Schools
  • Loudoun County Public Schools
  • Alexandria City Public Schools
  • Arlington Public Schools

Community Colleges

  • Northern Virginia Community College
  • J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
  • John Tyler Community College
  • Thomas Nelson Community College
  • Blue Ridge Community College
  • Patrick Henry Community College
  • Dabney S. Lancaster Community College
  • Tidewater Community College
  • New River Community College
  • Lord Fairfax Community College


  • George Mason University
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Old Dominion University
  • Hampton University
  • Virginia State University

The subsidiary of the tech giant Amazon has teamed up so far with over 2,400 educational organizations, including K-12 schools, two-year colleges, and universities. Today, AWS’s running programs are located in New York, Los Angeles and the State of Louisiana.

Other large companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are also becoming more involved in providing alternative credential programs.