The Power of Data and Analytics Can Save Higher Education, Says Educause, AIR and NACUBO

IBL News | New York

Analytics can solve some of higher education’s biggest problems.

To reaffirm this idea, and given that progress has faltered, three important associations joined forces and made a collective call-to-action for colleges and universities.

Data and analytics are institutional strategic asset; using analytics to make better decisions will result in improved student recruiting, student outcomes and completion rates, cost management and campus operations, according to these organizations.

Educause, the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) – who collectively serve 2,500 institutions and represent over 80% of post-secondary students in the U.S. – released a statement last month recommending six guiding principles:

  • Go big—make an institutional commitment to analytics.
  • Analytics is a team sport—build your dream team.
  • Prepare for some detours on the road to success.
  • Invest what you can—you can’t afford not to.
  • Analytics has a real impact on real people—avoid the pitfalls.
  • Tick-tock, tick-tock—the time to act is now.

“For a while now, our progress on institution-wide analytics initiatives has not hit its stride,” said John O’Brien, President and CEO of EDUCAUSE. “We hope this statement encourages a sense of urgency and fosters a deeper understanding of the benefits of data analytics for institutions of all kinds.”

The associations created a website to further support colleges and universities in their implementation processes.


edX Announces Its Eleventh Degree: A Master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering

IBL News | New York

edX announced on September 30 the launch of its eleventh MOOC-based degree, reaffirming its role as an OPM (Online Program Manager) company.

The new degree is top-ranked, as #5 online graduate engineering program according to U.S. News & World Report.

The Master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University School of Electrical and Computer Engineering will cost $22,500, that is, 30 credits at $750 each.

The Master’s will start in January 2020, while the deadline to accept applications extends until November 1.

In July 2019, edX issued an MBA from Boston University. In October, it announced another nine Master’s:

Master’s degrees on edX are stacked degree programs with a MicroMasters program component. In the case of Purdue, its edX MicroMasters in Advanced Electronics will stack up to the full Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Coursera: 60+ New Courses in September, with IBM and AWS leading the industry

On the other hand, Coursera communicated yesterday that September was one its most productive month, with the launch of 60+ new courses.

Industry partners IBM and AWS (Amazon Web Services) released Introduction to Deep Learning & Neural Networks with KerasIBM z/OS Mainframe Practitioner Professional Certificate and Getting Started with AWS Machine Learning.

University partners like Imperial College London, EDHEC Business School, and the University of Illinois issued several courses, too, dealing with a range of topics, from app development to machine learning in finance.


MIT President Will Engage Students on the Issue of Epstein’s Donations and Ties to the Institute

IBL News | New York

MIT President Rafael L. Reif will meet with students, employees, and faculty on October to discuss the Institute’s association with convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

“This is the beginning of an important conversation,” said President Reif at MIT News. “I’m reexamining my calendar for this whole academic year, recognizing that I need to invest my time here, at home, attending to our community and reconnecting with the wisdom and experiences of the people of MIT.”

Mr. Reif [in the picture] will participate in three forums – open only to invited members with an ID from the university:

  • Student forum — Tuesday, Oct. 1, 7 p.m., Room 10-250. Attending also at this gathering will be leaders of the UA and GSC, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, Vice-Chancellor Ian Waitz, Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson, the deans of at least three of MIT’s schools, and a number of MIT department heads.
  • Staff forum — Monday, Oct. 7, 4 p.m., Wong Auditorium (Tang Center, Building E51): Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz will attend, too.
  • Research staff forum — Friday, Oct. 11, 10 a.m., Morss Hall (Walker Memorial, Building 50): In this forum for postdocs and research staff, including staff from Lincoln Laboratory. President Reif will be joined by Vice President for Research Maria Zuber.

“It is very important to me right now to hear from as many members of our community as I can — to learn how our faculty, students, staff, and alumni think we should address the challenges that MIT is facing together,” President Reif said.

On Friday, President Reif attended the annual meeting of the Alumni Leadership Conference (ALC), held on campus, addressing some 650 alumni who play leadership roles within the 139,000-member MIT Alumni Association (MITAA).

On September 18, Rafael L. Reif spoke on a scheduled faculty meeting about MIT’s acceptance of Epstein donations. Leading female faculty members submitted a letter President Rafael Reif & Provost Marty Schmidt questioning the university commitment to women academics.

A Conference to Find Viable Business Models to Commercialize Open Source Software

Miguel Amigot  | San Francisco

Organizers of the Open Core Summit – which took part this month at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco – announced the COSS (Commercial Open-Source Software) Platform.

The goal of this initiative is to help commercial open-source organizations develop viable business models. “We want to educate, grow, fund and connect leaders of COSS companies,” as explained to IBL News by Joseph Jacks, founder of OSS Capital, a venture-capital firm who put together the Open Core Summit.

Today open-source licenses like Apache 2.0 have no requirements to compensate those who craft software. Consequently, many software companies have been struggling for years.

To solve it, open-source code cobblers such as Elastic, Confluent, InfluxData, MongoDB, Neo4J, and Redis Labs, among many others, are experimenting with improved business models and alternative software licenses.

Commercial open-source software is often developed as a substitute for costly proprietary software.

“In addition, COSS companies are fundamentally more capital efficient at running on and innovating with far less capital,” OSS Capital Founding Portfolio Partner Heather Meeker recently wrote.

Despite the ups and downs, open-source has become a standard for software development and fast-paced innovation. Its collaboration and knowledge sharing model has transformed software’s development and delivery over the last two decades.

Open-source is getting increasingly popular, with 30 million developers exchanging code and ideas and collaborating on GitHub.

From the business perspective, companies like Red Hat and Canonical are proof that an open-source model can turn a profit. Other examples of companies which follow the model of “commercial support” include Docker, GitLab, and Databricks.

In this new environment, the open-source services industry is set to exceed $17B in 2019, and expected to reach $33B by 2011, according to CB Insights.

An indication of the growth can be found on Canonical/Ubuntu‘s plans to march into an IPO and recent acquisitions (Red Hat by IBM for $34B, and GitHub by Microsoft for $7.5B), alongside large public market valuations like those of MongoDB ($7.9B) and Elastic ($7.3B).

A Research Group Identifies Over 700K Unique Credentials in the United States

IBL News | New York

A research conducted by the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy and Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness has identified 738,428 unique credentials in the U.S.

This analysis, titled “Counting U.S. Postsecondary and Secondary Credentials“, provides a clear picture of the vast credential landscape. That number doubles the initial estimate of 334,114 published in April 2018.

Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Credential Engine is now building a searchable Credential Registry through partnerships with state agencies, employers, universities and colleges.

This organization hopes that its database will help people discern which credentials offer the most value for personal learning and employment opportunities.


Learners at Coursera, Canvas and Blackboard Will Be Able to Ask Alexa for Course Updates

IBL News | New York

“Alexa, when is my next assignment due?”

Coursera will introduce a new tool for Alexa in October, taking advantage of the new API, Alexa Education Skills, created by Amazon for any edtech company.

Along with the MOOC portal, CanvasLMS, Blackboard, Kickboard and ParentSquare plan to activate this feature soon.

By simply asking Alexa, learners will get updates based on the latest information on their student account.

Voice assistants, like Alexa and Siri, are being rapidly adopted.

Available to all learners with a Coursera account and Amazon Alexa-enabled device, this tool will help learners access course assignment and quiz scores, due dates, and progress updates, among other pieces of information.

“Recognizing this trend, we introduced a new tool that helps learners fit education into their daily lives, we’ve taken another exciting step toward our mission of providing transformational learning experiences to anyone, anywhere,” Alex Sanchez, Product Management, Mobile Experiences, and Emerging Technology at Coursera, wrote in a blog post.

The Alexa Education Skill API integrates with Learning Management Systems (LMS), Student Information Systems (SIS), Classroom Management providers, and massively open online course (MOOC) platforms.

The new API will be available in preview by invitation only for the following interfaces:

  • Alexa.Education.Profile.Student
  • Alexa.Education.Course
  • Alexa.Education.Coursework
  • Alexa.Education.School.Communication
  • Alexa.Education.Grade.Course (coming soon)
  • Alexa.Education.Grade.Coursework (coming soon)


Coursera Creates a Database of 250+ Top Instructors Available to the Media

IBL News | New York

Coursera announced an initiative called Expert Network, which will allow media reporters to access a set of 250+ top instructors from affiliated universities.

“Academic experts bring a sense of balance and rigor that elevates the quality of news, trends, and debates,” Arunav Sinha, Head of Global Communications at Coursera wrote in a blog post.

“These experts can speak to a range of topics, from timely political issues, technology trends, social debates, financial news, and current health issues to evergreen topics, like happiness and personal development.”

These are some of the experts classified by topics and courses:

This media solution for journalists might generate free PR coverage for Coursera’s classes and their 170+ universities.


Google and Udacity Rework Courses to Learn Kotlin, the Language for Android Apps

IBL News | New York

Since Google announced in 2017 its official support for Kotlin for Android development – shifting from Oracle’s Java – the new programming language has been one of the fastest-growing code on GitHub.

Netflix, Lyft, Capital One, and other giants have embraced it, too.

Now, with the goal of attracting more developers, Google is increasingly investing in free courses to learn Kotlin.

“Developing Android Apps with Kotlin” and “Kotlin Bootcamp for Programmers”, both at Udacity, are good examples. Google and Udacity have recently reworked these courses.

In addition, Google has been offering through its Codelab’s space a Kotlin Bootcamp course.

More than 2.5 million users have worked through Google codelabs just this year, Jocelyn Becker, Senior Program Manager, Google Developer Training stated in a blog post this week.


A Professor Denounces the Silence of the Scientific Community on Epstein

IBL News | New York

“Thousands of elite and pedestrian scientists benefitted from Epstein’s philanthropy and camaraderie (…), knew of Epstein’s courtship rituals — with scientists and with children — and said absolutely nothing,” notes writer, neurosurgeon and professor Michael Egnor at

“What happened on the Lolita Express and Pedophile Island [Epstein’s properties], while probably known to many of Epstein’s elite science pals, were known as well (at least in outline) to the thousands of ordinary scientists and administrators who cashed his checks and worked in his labs,” Egnor writes.

“There was no dissent in the scientific profession about taking guidance and money from a convicted pedophile who was obviously trafficking children for sex.”

Michael Egnor, a professor at Stony Brook University, elaborates on the scientists’ silence and refers to “whispered questions”: “There must have been daily whispers in labs and hallways and coffee rooms. ‘Why is Dr. So-and-So taking trips with this guy?” “What do you think is happening with all of those little girls?” “Where does the money come from?”

Media Reports

Last week, some victims of the convicted trafficker Epstein talked on national TV. Virginia Roberts Giuffre and five other accusers participated on an NBC’s Dateline Special, and among many circumstances, mentioned that they also saw scientists and scholars among the visitors at Epstein properties.

A report from on Miami Herald explained how Epstein operated and built his sex trafficking global enterprise.

In addition, Science reproduced an interview with Epstein where he talked about his approach to researchers.


University of Southern California (USC) Rejected Any Donation from Epstein

IBL News | New York

The University of Southern California (USC) said on Tuesday that no donations were accepted from the convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein or any of his affiliate organizations, in contrast to other colleges who didn’t reject the money.

In an official statement, a university official told USC Annenberg Media that “USC has not received donations from Jeffrey Epstein or any entity with which he was affiliated.”

The claim was confirmed by the tax forms for Gratitude America Ltd., Epstein’s charitable foundation.

USC mentioned the university’s gift acceptance policy. One of the circumstances referred to they “could damage the reputation of the university.”