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

IBL News | New York

An innovative science- and tech-focused four-year Catholic university is now forming as an in-person undergraduate an online graduate college in Los Angeles County.

Dr. Jennifer Nolan, a cognitive scientist, and college instructor is launching the initiative as a 501c3 nonprofit institution. She is now assembling an administrative team and working towards becoming a degree-granting, licensed institution.

The newly formed Catholic Polytechnic (CPU) will begin with a few select online certification courses.

“We will combine a deep quest for scientific, tech, engineering and business expertise with the enduring truths of the Catholic faith,” Jennifer Nolan explained to IBL News.

“Our goal is to become recommended by the Cardinal Newman Society ‘Guide to Choosing a Catholic College’, to have all professors take the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium, and to abide by Ex Corde Ecclesiae.”

Sacraments, Masses, and Adoration will be hallmarks of student life.

Courses and programs in the works at CPU will revolve around Business, Sciences, Engineering, Math, and Bioethics, and may  include:

  • Introduction to Computer Programming
  • Server-side Web Programming
  • Data Structure and Algorithms
  • Computer Architecture
  • Cyber Security
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Electromagnetism
  • Electrical Engineering Applications: Sensors, embedded and IoT

“Based on the empirical science of learning and the Minerva model, course content will be delivered using novel methods of instruction, with emphasis on hands-on learning, debate, creative thinking, and writing skills,” Nolan said.

The primary goal will be job placement in business and polytechnic careers. The aim would be to place at least 95% of Catholic Polytechnic graduates in business, science or tech career-driven jobs or graduate schools.

”By training STEM innovators with knowledge of business and theology, we hope Catholic Polytechnic University will help bolster the Catholic Church and provide great careers for Catholics nationwide.”

Several donors have expressed interest in helping the school achieve its goals, the Catholic Business Journal reported.

The date of the launching has not been determined yet.

In Los Angeles County there are 4.4 million Catholics.

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

Mikel Amigot | New York 

Over 30 million adults in the U.S. have a college education but no degree. This is mostly as a result of the fact that one-third of all first-time, full-time college students fail to graduate from four-year programs.

Sooner rather than later, these individuals will need to fill that gap by upgrading their skills and obtaining certificates. Professional education will help them advance their careers, within and outside their existing companies.

Graduate extension programs and executive education in postsecondary education should be in high demand.

Now, large employers are tapping into that demand, as well.

For example, corporations such as Starbucks, Walmart, Chipotle, JetBlue and Uber offer their employees compelling ways to earn full degrees or certificates; some of them, for free or at a steep discount.

Certificate programs might also be a solution to address the college dropout rate and flip the script. Earning a job-ready certificate within the first semester or year of college, provides students with a promising path to market.

Such credentials have grown significantly in recent years, although a number of them have limited value in the labor market.

Last year, Credential Engine reported that nearly 67,000 programs in the United States grant credentials.

With a certificate-first approach, top corporations should create credential-programs in their areas of expertise in order to educate external audiences at scale.

Employee education is one of the next big frontiers.

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

Language-learning app Doulingo’s CEO stated on CNBC that they are expecting to IPO its company in 2021, following with a long-term plan, along with the desire to make some acquisitions and aspirations to symbolize Pittsburgh’s rebirth. [See the interviews below].

Luis von Ahn, Duolingo CEO and Co-Founder made these statements after announcing, this Wednesday, it had raised $30 million in a Series F round of funding from Alphabet’s investment arm CapitalG.

This amount takes Duolingo’s total raised to $138 million, giving it a valuation of $1.5 billion and reaching unicorn status. Existing investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Union Square Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Drive Capital, Ashton Kutcher, and Tim Ferriss.

Duolingo, the most downloaded educational app, has remained focused on its mission of enabling anyone to learn languages for free –though they do offer a $7 per month premium service that removes ads and delivers offline access. It offers 91 courses across 30 languages, featuring 3-minute, bite-sized lessons, and gamified exercises.

“Duolingo has been adding users and revenue at an impressive pace, continuing to solidify their position as the number one way to learn a language globally,” Laela Sturdy, CapitalG general partner, said in a press release. Duolingo claims 30 million active users, whom are actively learning languages on its platform.

Founded in Pittsburgh in 2011, the fast-growing app will mostly use the new funding from Google parent Alphabet to double its employee base with a plan to reach 300 by the end of 2021.

In addition, it will develop new initiatives such as podcasts for Spanish and French learners, events to connect language learners in person around the world, and the Duolingo English Test, a $49 English proficiency test for international students. The company is also looking at investments in machine learning and AI to “offer a more personalized, adaptive experience for learners,” said von Ahn.

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

IBL News | New York

Instructure’s plan to sell to private equity firm, Thoma Bravo, for $2 billion faced its first problems yesterday.

New York-based Rivulet Capital, a large investor which owns 5.23% of Instructure, called the deal “too cheap” and “too hurried”, announcing that it will resist the transaction and vote against.

On a regulatory filing, Rivulet Capital cited the circumstances surrounding the transaction, including the “rushed, 3-week strategic alternatives’ process over the Thanksgiving holiday.”

The shareholder noted that the 35-day go-shop period stretches across the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Rivulet is also concerned about Instructure’s governance and potential conflicts of interest.

Two weeks ago, Kevin Oram, Praesidium’s Co-Founder and Managing Partner, said that selling Bridge –Instructure’s unprofitable employee development platform– would unlock the value of Canvas, which he estimated to be worth $2.5 billion.

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

Mikel Amigot | New York

Instructure (NYSE: INST), the company behind Canvas LMS, yesterday announced that it agreed to be acquired by the private equity investment firm Thoma Bravo, LCC, in an all-cash deal for about $2 billion –unless a better offer comes along within 35 days.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020. Upon completion of the acquisition, Instructure will become entirely owned by Thoma Bravo.

As part of the terms of the agreement, stockholders will receive $47.60 in cash per share, which is a discount of about 10% to Instructure’s closing price of $52.96 on Tuesday. Shares of the company were down to about 10% at $47.85 in premarket trading.

The price per share represents an 18% premium to the company’s 3-month volume-weighted average price as of October 27, 2019–the day prior to the company’s third-quarter earnings call, at which it announced a strategic review for its Bridge business.

While pushing for a sale, New York-based Sachem Head Capital Management and other activist firms, have been buying Instructure’s shares over time. The exact size of their position could not be determined.

The Instructure management team, led by CEO Dan Goldsmith, will continue to lead the Company in their current roles, and the company’s headquarters will remain in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Instructure believes the opportunity to become a private company will provide additional flexibility, and position us to invest more strategically to drive innovation for our customers,” said Goldsmith. “We have chosen this path very deliberately; we are confident that making the change from public to private will best serve the needs of Instructure and all of you moving forward,” he announced in a letter to customers.

Brian Jaffee, a Principal at Thoma Bravo said, “We believe Canvas is a highly unique vertical market SaaS leader with exciting scale and future growth potential. We look forward to building on the strong momentum in the business and accelerating growth and product investment both organically and through M&A.”

The deal includes a 35-day “go-shop” period expiring on January 8, 2020, which permits the Instructure’s Board of Directors and advisors to consider alternative acquisition proposals.

J.P. Morgan Securities LLC is serving as the exclusive financial advisor to Instructure and Cooley LLP is serving as the legal advisor. Kirkland & Ellis is serving as the legal advisor to Thoma Bravo.

At least four firms – Halper Sadeh LLP, Rowley Law PLLC, Bragar Eagel & Squire, P.C., and Rigrodsky & Long, P.A. –announced separately yesterday that they were investigating potential legal claims against the board of directors at Instructure, regarding the possible breaches of fiduciary duties-among and other violations of law related to the company’s sale.


Past news stories about Instructure at IBL News


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

IBL News | New York

The FBI reopened its Safe Online Surfing (SOS) Internet Challenge for the 2019-20 school year, providing third to eighth graders the skills to safely navigate the Internet. Last year, more than 1 million students and 17,172 schools completed the program.

This free program, also available in Spanish, is created to promote cyber citizenship and help students learn about online safety while engaging in fun, interactive games, according to the FBI.

It teaches young people about web terminology and how to recognize secure and trustworthy sites. Other lessons cover how to protect personal details online, create strong passwords, avoid viruses and scams, be wary of strangers, and be good virtual citizens.

Each lesson is tailored to a grade level, and any public, private, or home school in the U.S. Teachers must register for a class to participate in tests and competition.

Each month during the school year, the classes with the top exam scores nationwide receive an FBI-SOS certificate and have the chance to be congratulated in person by local FBI personnel.

While the FBI-SOS website is accessible all year, the testing and completion only operate from September 1 through May 31.

“Many children and teens see Internet-enabled devices as essential to their lives—needed for everything from schoolwork to social connections,” said Unit Chief, Jonathan Cox, of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.

“The fact that these tools feel like second nature, however, makes it easy for young people to forget the risks they can face online. The goals of the FBI’s SOS program are to make children aware of these threats and give them the knowledge they need to steer around them.”



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

IBL News | New York

This month, Harvard University will implement a new policy to caption all of the new audio and video content uploaded in the university website as well as any third-party platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud or edX.org.

The decision comes as a is result of a settlement after the National Association of Deaf (N.A.D.) filed a class-action discrimination suit.

Last Wednesday, November 27th, the association won a landmark settlement intended to require Harvard to abide by standardized accessibility guidelines when captioning online content for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The organization said that closed captions were either missing or inaccurately transcribed and that the institution violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

The settlement, which went into effect on December 1st, stipulated that Harvard must provide captions for existing content posted on or after January 2019, within two years, and offer captions for events that are streamed online live.

In addition, the settlement obliged Harvard to pay $1.5 million in attorney fees and costs to the National Association of Deaf.

“Ensuring accessibility is not something that can be considered a bonus—it is a fundamental right that everyone deserves. We’re pleased that Harvard will finally be treating all learners with the same standard of respect,” Amy F. Robertson, co-executive director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, explained.

This settlement was reached after four years of litigation. In 2016, Harvard tried to dismiss the suit, but the judge rejected this attempt.

The settlement represents the most comprehensive set of online accessibility requirements in higher education, according to experts.

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

IBL News | New York

In February 2020, Crypto Startup School will open its doors, with a free, in-person, seven-week program in Menlo Park, California.

The curriculum will not teach anything extraordinary: fundamentals of blockchain technology, applications, ideas for the future, and best practices for building a startup in the crypto space. What is unique about it is the company behind: the legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, founded by Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen.

The company has been one of the most active mainstream investors within the blockchain space, with a dedicated $350 million fund launched last year. It’s also a founding member of the Libra Association, the controversial cryptocurrency project spearheaded by Facebook and two dozen other companies.

“We are particularly excited about the promise of blockchain computers such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many more recent projects they’ve inspired,” Chris Dixon, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz and member of the board of Coinbase, wrote in a blog post. [In the picture above]

The program, taking place between February 21 to April 3, 2020, is mostly intended for technologists interested in blockchain and cryptocurrency, with experience building software products and some skills on Solidity, Ethereum’s Javascript-like programming language. The application date ends on December 7, 2019.

Crypto Startup School’s plan is to teach roughly 40 entrepreneurs about technology. When it wraps up, the courses will be available online, for free.

“Our general view is if we build goodwill, people will want to come to work with us — so it’s in that spirit,” Dixon said.





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

IBL News | New York

Central New Mexico Community College will soon have the ability to store students’ academic records on the blockchain in a way that is nearly impossible to counterfeit. This way students will have the ability to send their transcripts to employers without having to involve the college registrar.

Once the system is completed (a user interface and public website are still in development), students will then need to authorize the college to release their academic transcripts, and select how much details they would want to reveal.

This project is part of IBM’s initiative called the “Learning Credential Network”, intended to streamline hiring processes with verifiable certificates from training programs and skill boot camps, along with conventional degrees.

A recent IBM study found that over 120 million workers in large economies may have to retrain within three years due to AI automation. Big Blue, along with an education consortium of US-based institutions, hopes to solve this by supporting a diverse range of learning credentials on a blockchain platform.

The consortium consists of the National Student Clearinghouse, which verifies academic qualifications for over 3,700 institutions. Ethos Veterinary Health’s VetBloom, a learning ecosystem for veterinarians, and Central New Mexico Community College, are innovators in blockchain with over 23,500 students.

Blockchain technology enables immutably stored, verifiable credentials to be shared at the owner’s discretion.

This helps both job seekers, navigating an often complex web of opportunities, and employers, who are looking for specific and authentic qualifications. With the inclusion of organizations like the Clearinghouse, trusted certificates can be provided, reducing the risk of fraud.

IBM has participated in another credentials project, Job-Creds, with blockchain identity leader Sovrin and Workday. Last month, Workday released its own blockchain qualifications platform, also for job applicants.

A more similar project to today’s is PwC’s ‘Smart Credentials’, tackling resumé fraud while offering self-sovereign identity. Deloitte, Korea’s Shinhan Bank, and US Homeland Security have also explored credentialing.

Another interesting initiative points out to UK’s ed-tech startup, Education Index. It recently launched Libereka, an international student recruitment platform that allows students to manage university application materials via a blockchain account.


UK’s Libereka Launches an Innovative Platform

Libereka stores students’ academic credentials, transcripts, and letters of recommendation on the blockchain.

Users can apply to multiple universities and for scholarships with one application form and one set of documents. A personalized dashboard recommends degrees and programs based on the student’s profile and goals.

“Libereka makes recruiting students simpler, cheaper and more efficient, freeing up time for universities to focus on what really matters: securing the best and brightest students,” said Soumik Ganguly, CEO of Education Index, in a statement. “Millions of prospective students around the world currently rely on a patchwork system of application support. This model is inefficient and we are streamlining that process for universities as well as applicants.”

The platform is free for students, while universities pay an access fee.

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

IBL News | New York

This year, online education was not immune to the marketing craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Even edX.org, the nonprofit organization founded by Harvard and MIT, and focused on higher education at scale, fell into the guerrilla promotional techniques after the Thanksgiving day.

Competitors Coursera and Udacity, the two Silicon Valley largely founded unicorns, contradicted their commercially aggressive reputation and stayed calm. Also, Microsoft’s LinkedIn Learning and 2U’s GetSmarter short courses unit remained quiet.

On Thursday, edX announced that something big was coming: “Mark your calendars and head over to edx.org tomorrow for the reveal.”

That big event was no other than a 20% discount on the purchases of courses and programs, as stated on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn:

edX’s offer highlighted a selection of 24 programs and courses about Data Science, Business, and Computer Science, although the code could be applied to other courses, as MITx reminded on its Twitter account.

Another large company, Pluralsight (NASDAQ: PS), with a whopping market cap of $2.3 billion, offered a discount of 40% on an annual subscription: prices on regular subscriptions dropped from $299 to $179, and from $449 to $269 on premium. (Connected or not to the deal, Pluralsight’s stock grew 2.23% yesterday.)

Black Friday savings were also heavily promoted on Udemy.com, with one of the largest catalogs of courses (over 100,000 titles).

Udemy launched thousands of courses starting at $10 when those classes normally cost $100.

Skillshare didn’t miss the shopping opportunity and went with a “super sale”.

Finally, Teachable.com, the course creation platform, launched its first-ever discount (10% to 20%) on basic and professional membership plans. Its main competitor, Thinkific, joined the marketing season, too.