View: Master’s Degrees Are Increasingly Online

By Mikel Amigot

Master’s degree programs are increasingly offered online.

Over 31 percent of students enrolled in master’s degrees took them entirely online, while 21 percent took some, but not all, classes online, according to an analysis from the Urban Institute.

Digital education fits particularly well for these students because they tend to be proactive and self-directed learners. This segment tends to achieve better outcomes as they are more likely to be employed.

For every five taken bachelor’s there were two master’s degrees during the 2015-16 academic year. In total, about 785,000 master’s degrees were awarded in the U.S.

In terms of pricing, tuition and fees for full-time master’s rose by 79 percent during the last 20 years, compared to a 47 percent increase for full-time bachelor’s programs.

        Mikel Amigot is the CEO at IBL Education (Open edX)            

The Open edX Platform Faces a Huge Upgrade into Python 3

With nearly a million lines written in Python, mostly on the 2.7 version, the Open edX platform, has a large task ahead: convert its code to run on Python 3 by the end of this year.

Python 2 is coming to its end; there won’t be more bug fixes after January 1, 2020, and Python 3 is not backward-compatible with Python 2.

“Much of the work is not hard, it’s just extensive, and can’t all be done automatically.  To help organize the effort, we’ve created the Incremental Improvements JIRA board: INCR,” explained in a blog post Ned Batchelder, edX Architect.

At the same time, this engineer encouraged other developers to participate in this development.

• Open edX Blog: Python 2 is ending, we need to move to Python 3



Duke University Ditches Open edX and Moves to Sakai

Why not use WordPress or Drupal instead of Open edX?

Duke University have decided to shut down their Open edX platform, which empowered the Duke Extend service, arguing precisely this. Michael Greene, Associate Director of Learning Technology Services and Strategy, states: “If you don’t need the assessment features and just want to share your content with a wider audience, why not use a content management system like WordPress or Drupal?”

In terms of engagement, this is Duke’s reasoning: “If you want highly engaged discussion, why not use Slack or Microsoft Teams?”

“By using the catalog as our communication and marketing platform, we are now free to choose the most appropriate technology for delivering a Duke Extend learning experience.”

“We are very excited about the possibilities this change opens up for Learning Innovation and our partners,” wrote Mr. Greene.

For now, all active Duke Extend courses have been moved to Sakai. “The new look for Extend has a clean, streamlined design that will allow us to create a more guided learning experience for students,” literally said Heather Hans, Learning Experience Designer.

See the layout above.

“Duke Extends lives on multiple technology platforms. (…) We want to help high schoolers before they get to Duke, offer any current student the ability to level up with co-curricular learning, help graduate and professional schools expand their online education, and serve alumni in their lifelong learning needs,” said Michael Greene.

“As a department, we’ve rebranded and restructured ourselves to help achieve those goals. We also need technology infrastructure to facilitate them.”

The Open edX technology, universally used by top universities and consortiums, won’t be part of the equation.

Duke Learning Innovation: Duke Extend Is Dead. Long Live Duke Extend.



MOOCs Will Evolve Into Online Degrees

Low student retention and enrollment decline showed that MOOCs didn’t work in the way they were conceived.

“MOOCs will not transform higher education and probably will not disappear entirely either,” said researchers Justin Reich and José Ruipérez-Valiente after analyzing data provided by HarvardX and MITx—edX’s founding partners—from their courses offered from 2012 to May 2018.

The best use of MOOCs may be in providing instruction that leads to online master’s degrees for professionals, researchers stated in a forum titled “The MOOC Pivot” published on the January 11 issue of Science.

Their prediction seems to strike a blow at the heart of edX’s mission: to ensure access to quality education for learners around the world.

Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, argued that the study misses the continuing growth in the edX platform overall, with 2,400 courses and 20 million learners. Today, edX addresses the professional degrees, and offers programs directly to businesses.

HBX Removes its “X” and Rebrands as Harvard Business School

The letter “X” became synonymous with online learning in the last eight years, with edX, MITx, HarvardX, MichiganX, IsraelX, and many more universities and initiatives.

Founded in 1908, Harvard Business School launched its digital initiative HBX in 2014. Since then, its online course offerings have significantly expanded.

Last week, HBX announced that it has rebranded as “Harvard Business School Online”. Its goal is to “raise awareness of its online courses.”

“Harvard Business School Online has allowed us to extend the reach of the School to people wherever they are in the world,” said Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School.

“We were founded five years ago by Harvard Business School to bring the HBS case method experience to the online world,” explained Patrick Mullane, executive director of Harvard Business School Online. “Today, nearly 40,000 students from around the world have completed a course with us. What’s most exciting is our participants say we have helped them achieve greater career success and, perhaps more importantly, greater satisfaction in life.”

In an interview with Inside Higher Education, Mr. Mullane noted that the name X was no longer working, and, additionally, some prospective students assumed HBX was connected to edX.

EdX Starts the Process to Release “Ironwood”, the Next Version of its Open Source Platform

After the existing Hawthorn release, the upcoming version of the Open edX platform will be Ironwood. The release date is scheduled for March, by the 2019 Open edX Conference (March 26-29, San Diego).

The first step will be to create the master branches in the appropriate repos – edX Architect, Ned Batchelder announced. This task is expected for January 18th.

“Anything merged by that date will be part of Ironwood; anything merged after that date will have to wait for the next release. A week or two after the branches are created, we will have a beta for everyone to test.  Then after a few weeks of community testing, Ironwood will be officially released,” Mr. Batchelder explained.

Ironwood will be the ninth release of the Open edX platform, and will include improvements over the current Hawthorn.2 version.

edX’s Tax Returns Form Shows an Increase in Directors’ Salaries

edX’s recently implanted paywall continues to be controversial. This time, because of the compensation of some directors.

Elearning Inside news service took a look at edX’s expenses, publicly available, and “wondered how necessary these measures may be”, given that some officers and directors “went from a volunteer position to making six figures”“edX has also been spending more and more on their less-essential employees as well,” writes the magazine.

In 2017, the total expenses at edX were $57,073,054, with a loss of $2,980,397, signaling an improvement from the prior year ($46,072,385 and $3,264,279, respectively). This data corresponds to edX’s tax returns for the fiscal year ending June 2017.

In terms of salaries, six officers who belong to the Board of Directors but are not involved in the day-to-day operations at edX, made over $700,000 in salary, when in the previous year they hadn’t received any compensation, according to data displayed by ProPublica.

Top 2018 HarvardX Courses: CS, Data Science, Buddhism, Pyramids and Architecture

Computer science, data science, architecture, and religion were the trending subjects on HarvardX’s courses (which function similarly to edX but focus solely on the Harvard community).

“People want technological skills today,” said Bharat Anand, Vice Provost for Advances in Learning at Harvard University. The rest of the most popular online courses, he added, “reflect the intrinsic interest and curiosity about the world we live in.”

This is the top 2018 HarvardX courses list, according to the institution, and published by The Boston Globe:

CS50 Computer Science courses. Since its creation in 2012, this collection has had over one million users. Two modules, understanding technology and computer science for business professionals, were added this year.

Data Science. Courses taught by Prof. Rafael Irizarry in R, visualization, probability, inference and modeling, productivity, wrangling, linear regression, machine learning.

• Buddhism through its scriptures. A four-week course about the beliefs and practices of Buddhists, including teachings from their scriptures.

• Pyramids of Giza: ancient Egyptian art and archaeology. An 8-week course to explore the archaeology, history, art, and hieroglyphs surrounding the famous Egyptian Pyramids at Giza, and how new technology is unlocking their secrets.

The architectural imagination. A 10-week course that analyzes the designs of historic buildings around the globe to assess the social impact of architecture.

Overall, HarvardX offers over 100 free online courses.





MOOC-Based Degrees: +10K Learners and $80M in Revenues

More than 10,000 students have enrolled in over 45 MOOC-based degrees on Coursera, edX, and Udacity, with combined potential revenue of more than $80 million, according to the Class-Central founder and MOOC expert, Dhawal Shah.

Most of the income has been generated by two universities and three degrees: the Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science (Georgia Tech with Udacity), the Online Master’s of Science in Analytics (Georgia Tech with edX), and the iMBA (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with Coursera).

“It is the second wave of MOOC hype,” says Mr. Shah. “I remain hopeful that these new business models will act as a safeguard of free content, ensuring its continued availability for those who need it, regardless of their ability to pay. However, one thing is abundantly clear: free users are no longer a focus, despite the fact that that was the stated reason so many traditional universities started exploring MOOCs in the first place.”


• EdSurgeYear of MOOC-based Degrees: A Review of MOOC Stats and Trends in 2018

• Class Central on MOOC-based Degrees: ListDistinctive Features | Second Wave of MOOC Hype

• IBL NewsMOOCs Are Dead, Welcome MOOC-Based Degrees


MOOC-Based Degrees:

XuetangX, China’s Open edX Platform, Reaches 16M Learners

XuetangX, China’s first MOOC-platform, has reached 16 million users –sources told IBL News. The exact number is 16.3 millionlearners. Last year XuetangX, which is based on the Open edX codebase, reported an audience of 14 million.

This number puts this platform in the third position, right after Coursera (37 million) and (18 million).

Founded in October 2013 by Tsinghua University, XuetangX has over 1900 quality courses from Tsinghua University, Peking University, Fudan University, MIT, Stanford University, Berkeley and other first-class universities, covering 13 subjects.

Additionally, XuetangX hosts innovative initiatives, such as:

  • AI Xuetang, a personalized learning platform for K-12 education. It works as a channel, research exchange, and application of the Ministry of Education’s Online Research Center.It includes online assessments, micro-degrees, and question banks. “It helps local primary schools to complete continuous innovation inside and outside the classroom, and give children the best learning experience,” explains the organization.
  • AP courses at and XuetangX, with over 300 high school members, and over 400,000 enrolled learners. Intended for middle school students, there are 10 free, four-week courses, mostly covering STEM subjects (Calculus, Linear Algebra, Probability Theory, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and others). Their credit is accepted by many universities and colleges, including Tsinghua University, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Renmin University of China and Central China Normal University.
  • Micro-Degrees. Jointly developed by XuetangX and Chinese universities. Main courses are IBA, AI, IoT, Network security, Big Data, Accounting, UI design, Radio and Television Editor, Internet Education, Internet Finance, and Cross-Border e-commerce.
  • Rain Classroom, an app designed to be used in a blended learning model, with 7 million users. This free tool allows students to interact with their teachers in class and out of class using their smartphones.
  • XuetangX Cloud, a teaching platform to use on campus, and connected to Rain Classroom.
  • AI virtual teacher Xiaomu. “As soon as students start a course, Xiaomu predicts where they each have problems and answers their questions in the form of text, pictures, videos, etc. Students can always ask him more until they fully understand the concept. In talking to Xiaomu, they avoid occupying the teacher’s time.” (…) “When users are watching videos, Xiaomu actively asks students related knowledge questions to help them learn how to deal with error-prone and confusing content.” (…) “He will constantly monitor students’ progress and provide advice and encouragement at different stages. Even after a user finishes a course, Xiaomu will design and recommend other courses according to the user’s preferences in order to help individual students to learn effectively.”
  • SIELE Test, a system that allows to electronically certify the degree of mastery of the Spanish language.

News about XuetangX in English