LabXchange, Harvard’s Science Platform, Provides a Free Tool to Create Online Classes and Pathways

IBL News | New York, the Open edX-based platform created by Harvard University and Amgen Foundation, is providing a free tool for educators to create online and hybrid classes and pathways with science content.

The platform lets instructors select vetted content from Harvard, OpenStax, Khan Academy and other sources, remix it with private materials, build collaboration and share ideas with a small group of learners –with a maximum of 100 users.

“Due to economic and geographic limitations, millions of students worldwide lack opportunities to engage meaningfully in the scientific process, which has led to significant gaps in scientific literacy and in diversity across scientific fields,” explained Robert Lue, Director at the platform.

LabXchange is essentially designed to support educators in creating customized learning experiences. The content-type offered on the LabXchange library includes video, text, image, simulation, assignment, pathway, narrative, assessment, and cluster. Some animations allow learners to learn by doing in the digital space.

Subject areas include Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Science & Society, Physics, Health Science, Global Health, Prepare For Careers, Prepare For College, Scientific Process, Online Learning, Professional Development, and Prepare for Graduate School.

An interesting pathway content available at the LabXchange platform is “Coronavirus: From Bats to Humans to Pandemic”.

Soon, teachers will be able to track students’ progress and individually contact learners.

This video below explains the main features:


These two tutorials recently posted, shows how to create a class and a pathway at LabXchange.

More stories about LabXchange at IBL News

Zoom Continues Its Marketing Effort Despite Reports Questioning Its Security

IBL News | New York, the increasingly popular video conferencing service, announced yesterday additional security measures to combat the hacking phenomenon of “Zoombombing”.

As a result, Zoom said Friday it will enable passwords and turn on waiting rooms by default starting on April 5.

“We’re always striving to continue to deliver you a secure virtual meeting environment,” the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Skype released a new feature yesterday trying to compete with Zoom, which has dominated the video calling conversation ever since the pandemic started. Skype users can now start a video meeting and invite people to it without using the app or even having an account; the process is done completely on the web.

Skype, owned by Microsoft, is hoping to bring people over its service, especially in the midst of Zoom’s security and privacy issues.

In fact, researchers at the University of Toronto found that meetings on Zoom are encrypted using an algorithm with well-known weaknesses, and sometimes using keys issued by servers in China, even when meeting participants are all in North America.

According to The, these researchers found that Zoom protects video and audio content using a home-grown encryption scheme, that there is a vulnerability in Zoom’s “waiting room” feature.

They conclude, in a report for the university’s Citizen Lab — widely followed in information security circles — that Zoom’s service is “not suited for secrets” and that it may be legally obligated to disclose encryption keys to Chinese authorities and “responsive to pressure” from them.

The New York Times: Zoombombing’ Becomes a Dangerous Organized Effort

Smithsonian Open Access: Millions of 2D and 3D Digital Items Without Copyright Restriction

IBL News | New York

The Smithsonian launched an open-access website that removes any copyright restriction from 2.8 million images on its digital collection, labeling them with the Creative Commons “Zero” designation.

Smithsonian Open Access allows users to download, share, and reuse millions of 2D and 3D digital items, including images and data from 19 museums, 9 research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.

The Smithsonian Institution plans to continue to add another 200,000 images by late 2020.

“Through this initiative, we are empowering people across the globe to reimagine and repurpose our collections in creative new ways,” Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III said.

Since the opening of the initiative, five weeks ago, nearly a quarter of a million assets have been downloaded by users and almost 15 million assets have been viewed.


Zoom Comes Under Scrutiny Because of the “Zoombombing” Attacks Amid the Pandemic Outbreak

IBL News | New York

The interruption Zoom video meetings with inappropriate content, known as “Zoombombing”, has become a widespread practice, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A simple search on Twitter of #zoombombing provides an idea of how annoyed is the educational community with this kind of attack. Complains about lack of action of the Zoom corporation, along with demands to the uprising startup to create an urgent solution, are everywhere.

The magnitude of the problem is reflected in this testimonial that arrived at the IBL News desk.

Yesterday we had the first online workshop (using Zoom, not using the Webinar mode). We plan ahead, we had a system set up to answer questions, mentors answering those questions, etc, etc. After 30 minutes of the event, we got attacked by trolls that rush into the channel and started to curse, insult the host and participants, writing racist/misogynistic/homophobic things on the chat, etc, etc, etc. It was a really shitty situation, but everyone managed to go forward by locking the meeting and start removing trolls one by one. This seems to be a problem that many people are suffering, and I know some solutions like providing a password, but still, once one malicious person gets the password, the whole event can go to the trash if not properly handled. Besides choosing a platform to go online, we need to have an action plan in case of this kind of attacks, Maybe having an admin on each “online room” with some procedure in case of emergency will be enough, but still, I guess we should try to find a solution to the problem before having the event.

In the last weeks, during the pandemic, Zoom’s popularity has skyrocketed as millions of homebound people have settled into new remote work and learning routines. The platform has been used for everything from business meetings and yoga classes to virtual happy hours. But the increased use of Zoom, along with the free versions of Zoom, has brought more opportunities to hack into it, spewing hate speech and showing porn.

Unlike other types of cyberattacks, hacking into a Zoom meeting can be relatively easy if certain security settings aren’t turned on, experts say. Zoom invites often are posted on social media to increase attendance, which can make them more vulnerable. Some argue Zoom’s default settings could be more secure.

On Monday, New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, questioned the videoconferencing tool Zoom about its privacy and security policies. She sent a letter to Zoom asking what security measures it has put in place to deal with the increased traffic. The New York Times, which obtained a copy of the letter.

Zoom has come under scrutiny because of “Zoombombing.” Professionals, teachers and faculty members have reported people who have accessed their Zoom conferences and yelled profanities, showed pornography or displayed racist or anti-Semitic images.

On Sunday, Zoom said in a blog post that it has implemented safeguards to protect our users’ privacy, “which includes robust and validated controls to prevent unauthorized access to any content that users share during meetings.” However, these policy changes have not stopped the attacks, according to the experts.

Last week, the FBI release the following recommendations for how to handle “Zoombombing.”

  • Don’t make meetings public. Zoom lets users make meetings private by requiring a meeting password or using a waiting room feature to control who’s admitted.
  • Don’t share a link to the meeting on a public social media post. Send the link to people directly.
  • Change the screen-sharing option in Zoom to “host only.”
  • Ask people to use the latest updated version of Zoom.
  • Ensure your organization’s telework policy addresses requirements for information security.

On the other hand, two psychology instructors at the University of California, Riverside (URC), shared 35 how-to Zoom tutorials for teaching colleagues with this tool.

CNN: Zoom faces questions over privacy

edX & Platforms | April 2020: Remote Access Program, Coursera, Nvidia, Udacity, Blackboard…

Newsletter format  |  Click here to subscribe ]

APRIL 2020 – NEWSLETTER #26  |  Breaking news at IBL News  |  Noticias en Español

Coursera | edX 

• Coursera and edX Launch Initiatives to Support Universities Impacted by the Outbreak

• IBM, Microsoft, Harvard, MIT, and 40 Universities Join the edX ‘Remote Access’ Program

• Harvard University’s President, Lawrence Bacow, Tests Positive for Coronavirus


Open edX

• NVIDIA Issues a Free Certificate Course About AI Video Analytics on Its ‘Deep Learning Institute’ Platform

• The Open edX Annual Conference Suspended Amid the Virus Concerns


Learning at Scale

• Offers One Free Month Access to Nanodegree Programs

• MiriadaX, with 4M Spanish-Language Learners, Continues to Look for a Buyer


Other Platforms

• Blackboard Shifts Away From the Open Source Business By Selling Its Moodle Based Business

• Facebook Unveils a Virtual Community to Fight Rumors About Covid-19


2020 Upcoming Events   [All of the conferences are canceled or moved online due to the Coronavirus – CDC Recommendations]

• Education Calendar  –  APRIL  |  MAY  |  JUNE  |  JULY – DEC  |  Conferences in Latin America & Spain

This newsletter is created in collaboration with IBL Education, a New York City-based company specialized in open-source learning platforms. Read the latest IBL Newsletter   |  Archive of Open edX Newsletters

Learning At Scale | March – April 2020: Covid-19 Pandemic, Scammers, Free Resources, Initiatives, Johns Hopkins…

Newsletter format  |  Click here to subscribe ]


MARCH – APRIL 2020  –  NEWSLETTER #32 |  Breaking news at IBL News  |  Noticias en Español


Covid-19 Pandemic

• How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus’ Scammers Who Try to Steal Money or Personal Information

• Johns Hopkins University Updates the Coronavirus Map by Adding Local Data

• Historic $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill Provides Funding for Higher Ed and Help for Students with Loans


Free Resources

• Don’t Let Education Fall in the Curve of Covid: An Extensive Resource Website with Tools and Services

• Free Educational Resources in Times for Adjusting to the New Complicated Environment


Instructure / Canvas LMS

• Thoma Bravo Completes the Acquisition of Instructure and Appoints an Interim, CEO J. Charles Goodman

• Adobe Creative Cloud and Spark Will Be Integrated Inside the Canvas LMS

• Canvas LMS Creates a Toolkit for Contingency Planning Amidst the COVID-19 Outbreak



• GW Plans a Workshop for STEM Faculty Who Teach Engineering through Computing

• NVIDIA’s Grand Virtual Conference After Closing Its In-Person Annual Reunion

• The ASU-GSV Summit Postponed to September 29th. AAC&U Conference Canceled

• The City of Austin Cancels SXSW March Festival and Plans a Virtual Conference


2020 Upcoming Events   [All of the conferences are canceled or moved online due to the Coronavirus – CDC Recommendations]

• Education Calendar  –  APRIL  |  MAY  |  JUNE  |  JULY – DEC  |  Conferences in Latin America & Spain


This newsletter is created in collaboration with IBL Education, a New York City-based company specialized in open-source learning platforms. Read the latest IBL Newsletter   |  Archive of Open edX Newsletters

MiriadaX, with 4M Spanish-Language Learners, Continues to Look for a Buyer

IBL News | New York

MiríadaX, the largest  Spanish-language MOOC platform, continues to be on sale after its owner, Telefónica, decided to focus on its core telecommunications business.

According to the digital newspaper El Español, the Spanish telecom giant Telefónica is selling its entire Telefónica Educación Digital (TED) division, a unit specialized on online education and training solutions. Created in 2001, and with a staff of 400 employees spread around Spain, Colombia, Chile, Perú and Brazil, TED reported 10 million euros yearly in revenue.

Its most known asset, was launched in 2013. The platform claims to host over 4 million learners, 690 courses and a network of 105 universities.

“In a market largely controlled by a handful of providers, the announcement emphasizes the challenges of serving learners outside the English-speaking world,” Dhawal Shah wrote on Class Central. Offers One Free Month Access to Nanodegree Programs

IBL News | New York is offering one free month on one of the 40 premium Nanodegree programs. The offer is only for the U.S. and Europe and is limited to one Nanodegree program per student.

The average price for an individual signing up for a nanodegree is about $400 a month. Degrees take anywhere from four to six months to complete, according to the company.

“If you’ve been laid-off, or stuck working at home, or even have stir-crazy kids that need something to do, we can help,” Stephanie Lager, manager at Udacity wrote in a blog post.

“We want to help students, small business owners, gig workers, and employees of large companies accelerate their education and career upskilling by offering one free month on any Udacity program,” Gabe Dalporto, CEO at Udacity, said.

“We know that in some cases this can’t replace lost income or time in class, but it can help provide opportunities to sharpen much-needed skills that are necessary for the future of work,” he added.

The learning company plans to announce new initiatives over the coming weeks and months.

Historic $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill Provides Funding for Higher Ed and Help for Students with Loans

IBL News | New York

As the number of known U.S. cases of coronavirus surpassed 100,000, with more than 1,500 dead, the House of Representatives approved this Friday a $2.2 trillion aid package –the largest in history– to help cope with the economic downturn.

President Trump quickly signed it into law.

The massive bill passed the Senate and House of Representatives nearly unanimously. The rare bipartisan action underscored how seriously Republican and Democratic lawmakers are taking the worst pandemic in over 100 years.

The massive bill also rushes billions of dollars to medical providers on the front lines of the outbreak.

The measures will pay as much as $1,200 apiece to adults, increase unemployment benefits and provide loans to businesses.

For higher education, it offers temporary help for those struggling to make their student loan payments. Most federal loan borrowers are excused from making payments for six months, interest is waived on the loans and loan collectors are prevented from garnishing wages, tax returns and Social Security benefits to collect overdue payments.

The bill provides $14 billion in funding for higher education institutions, half of which must be used for emergency grants to help students affected by the crisis.

“For institutions of higher learning, it will provide financial relief to colleges and universities and also support grants to displaced students,” Congressman Bobby Scott, the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, said this morning before the vote.

Key Document:
White House .gov: Details of the Relief Package



Facebook Unveils a Virtual Community to Fight Rumors About Covid-19

IBL News | New York

Facebook unveiled yesterday a community for Messenger users to fight coronavirus rumors, by offering reliable information, tips, and other resources.

Coronavirus Community Hub on Messenger comes weeks after a similar on WhatsApp, its other messaging service, and at a time when users are engaging with these instant communication tools more often than they have ever before.

“Globally, 70% more people are participating in group video calls and time spent on group video calls has doubled,” wrote Stan Chudnovsky, VP of Messenger.

The hub on Messenger will additionally also recommend activities such as scheduling a virtual playdate for parents to engage with their kids’ friends, as well as video chats or text groups, Chudnovsky explained.

“For local community leaders, this could mean organizing group video chats or text groups to support each other when we can’t physically be together,” he added.

Messenger is used by more than a billion people, according to Facebook.




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