Children’s Learning Worldwide Is a Priority But 818 Million Students Lack Basic Hand Washing

IBL News | New York

Access to hand washing stations, cleaning and disinfection, and safe toilets are key requirements for safe reopening children’s schools worldwide –United Nations officials told IBL News.

There are 1.6 billion students in 190 countries. According to UN data, roughly 43%, that is, 818 million lack access to basic handwashing facilities at school, with soap and water. A third of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The COVID-19 virus pandemic has created the largest disruption to education ever recorded. And the lack of hand hygiene and clean water in half of the student population dramatically aggravates the crisis.

“Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services are essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, General Manager at the World Health Organization, this week. “It must be a major focus of government strategies for the safe reopening and operation of schools during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.”

A report built on reopening guidelines published on Thursday 13th by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, encouraged governments to seek control of coronavirus spread by balancing the need for implementing public health measures against the social and economic impacts of lockdown measures. There is substantial evidence of the negative impacts of prolonged school closures on children.

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director at UNICEF, stated, “We must prioritize children’s learning, making sure that schools are safe to reopen.”

Resource: Unicef.org: 2 in 5 schools around the world lacked basic handwashing facilities prior to COVID-19 pandemic 

 

Stanford Reverses Plans and Decides to Deliver All Instruction Remotely

IBL News | New York

A dramatic reversal in Stanford University’s reopening.

Stanford University reported yesterday that it altered its plans announced in June for graduate education during the autumn quarter and that it won’t be bringing students back for on-campus learning, due to the increased spread of COVID-19. (There have now been nearly 600,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 10,000 deaths in California, and much of the state, including the whole Bay Area.)

“We are planning for almost all undergraduate instruction to be delivered remotely during the autumn quarter, with very limited in-person offerings,” explained Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President of Stanford, in a letter to the institution community.

“We will continue to offer on-campus housing for those undergraduates who were previously approved to be in residence due to a special circumstance and who continue to wish to be on campus, despite the plan for mostly remote instruction,” he added.

With this announcement, Stanford University joins other major universities who decided to go fully online.

Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Howard University, Loyola University Maryland, and Smith College made a similar decision last week.

Columbia University’s President, Lee C. Bollinger, wrote in a letter that the school has to drastically reduce the number of undergraduate students who can live on-campus to only students who need to for approved personal or academic reasons.

In parallel, Stanford announced this week its decision to postpone sports competition.

edX Incorporates UAF as a New Partner and Launches a Master’s in Civil Engineering with Purdue

IBL News | New York

edX announced yesterday that the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) joined its Consortium. The engagement started with the launch of five online courses at edX.org–already open for enrollment:

UAF is known as “America’s Arctic university. “Our first-class faculty integrate teaching, research, and public service into all they do, creating a center for groundbreaking science, education, and the arts, with an emphasis on the circumpolar North and its diverse peoples,” explained the institution.

Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering

Another recent announcement by edX was the launch of an online Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Purdue University’s Lyles School of Engineering. The degree, fully online, is priced at $22,500 (30 credits).

“The Master’s degree in Civil Engineering is designed for working professionals to complete part-time, and provides a deep dive into civil engineering with three interdisciplinary tracks: water infrastructure; infrastructure design, resilience and sustainability; and transportation systems. The degree is ranked the #6 civil engineering graduate degree program by U.S. News and World Report,” edX explained in a blog post.

This is the third online Master’s degree from Purdue offered on edX. Purdue’s online Master’s in Mechanical Engineering was announced in June 2020, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering degree was announced in September 2019. All three degrees are top-10 ranked programs and priced at $22,500.

Researchers Develop an Open Source Tool for Social Conversations on Events and Conferences

IBL News | New York

Three researchers at MIT Sloan and Northeastern University developed an experimental tool called MINGLR, which supports conversations at virtual conferences and other types of online events.

“Even though many people have found today’s commonly used videoconferencing systems very useful, these systems do not provide support for one of the most important aspects of in-person meetings: the ad hoc, private conversations that happen before, after, and during the breaks of scheduled events—the proverbial hallway conversations,” explained the authors.

A paper about the idea was written and released on July 31st, 2020.

This open-source software was used at the ACM Collective Intelligence 2020 virtual conference. According to the developers, 86% of people who used the system successfully at the conference thought that future virtual conferences should include a tool with similar functionality.

“We expect similar functionality to be incorporated in other videoconferencing systems and to be useful for many other kinds of business and social meetings, thus increasing the desirability and feasibility of many kinds of remote work and socializing.”

Functioning is simple. Users log on via a web browser and see a list of people who are available to talk, select who they want to talk with, accept or deny chat requests, and enter a private video room for those impromptu conversations.

Whole Foods Launches a Series of Life-Skills Courses Taught by Instagram Influencers

IBL News | New York

Amazon’s Whole Foods Market launched this week an online learning brand, Home Ec 365, to teach young consumers household tricks, and shopping secrets, while incentivizing purchasing at the grocery chain via coupons.

These life-skills courses, hosted at the Teachable platform, are taught by Instagram lifestyle gurus and YouTube personalities with thousands of followers.

Learners can find for now just four free classes, such as “Swap-Savvy Baking: Getting Creative with Recipes & Replacements”, “So Fresh & So Clean: How to Effectively Clean Your Appliances”, “Use ’Em Up! How to Transform Food Scraps & Leftovers”, “Smarter Shopping: Save, Stock & Invest”.

“Far from the boring high school class you slept through, Home Ec 365 is an educational platform and full playbook to maximize your home life for the 21st century. Powered by Teachable, these courses are here to make your life easier and more delicious, with study guides and coupons to pick up your 365 school supplies at Whole Foods,” states the marketing claim.

Molly Siegler, Senior Program Manager for Culinary Development at Whole Foods Market, participates as an instructor in the courses.

 

 

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Since I know there are probably a good few of you who always seem to have veggies in their refrigerator that are “about-to-go-bad”, I figured it was as good a time as any to talk about pesto! Now trust me, there are pesto snobs out there who will tell you that it isn’t pesto if it doesn’t have basil, some variety of hard cheese, and of course olive oil. However, I never have been a snob, and certainly not about pesto. — — Pesto truly only has four guidelines. 1) there must be a green element 2) there must be a fat element 3) there should be some kind of aromatic (note* for those who can’t have garlic or onion, I have had pesto with lemongrass and ginger that’s also DELICIOUS) 4) they should be evenly balanced aka ALWAYS SEASONED — — The pesto I make in this video was thrown together with what I happened to have in my refrigerator. You’ll notice that I blanch the spinach (that’s not necessary, I just like to do it when freezing my pesto) — — I have had delicious pesto with everything from jalapeño to fennel to even Brazil nuts. So TRUST YOUR TASTE BUDS, and get to experimenting! Near the end of this video, I talk about what it means to create “depth” when developing recipes at home, and when it really comes down to it, the only way..is to TASTE and EXPLORE! One of my favorite things is to see you all take a technique that I have taught you, and come up with YOUR OWN RECIPES! You’re all becoming chefs right before my eyes, and honestly..I could cry! #pesto #party #presto ps—thank you so much for tuning into these “kitchen IG lives”—-most of you know by now that I end up posting them to my IGTV afterwards, but it still feels great that so many of you tune in live—it’s fun knowing that you’re all there with me❤️

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Skillshare.com, with 30,000 Creative Skills-Oriented Courses, Raises $66 Million

IBL News | New York

Skillshare.com–a New York City-based veteran learning provider with a catalog of 30,000 video-courses in creative skills–announced yesterday it raised a $66 million in a Series D round lead by OMERS Growth Equity. The funding will support the creation of localized content for international users and expand the enterprise offering, called Skillshare for Teams.

Existing investors Union Square Ventures, Amasia, Burda Principal Investments, and Spero Ventures also participated in the investment.

The company–which claims to have over 12 million registered users and 8,000 teachers– has raised $106 million to date. Taught by industry experts, the video-driven classes are mostly about graphic design, photography, painting, and interior design.

Other consumer-oriented learning platforms have also attracted investors. Udemy raised $50 million at a $2 billion valuation in February and MasterClass.com got $100 million funding in May.

According to CrunchBase, due to the pandemic, the online learning market is now poised to become a $375 billion marketplace by 2026. For example, Skillshare said that its rate of engagement more than doubled in most markets in the first half of 2020, while sales nearly doubled year-over-year.

“Our shift as a business earlier this year has uniquely positioned us to meet that need and resulted in incredible growth, deeper user engagement and interest from new partners during a time where creativity is more important than ever,” said Matt Cooper, CEO at Skillshare.

 

New NSF Centers with Research Universities Will Focus on Health, Transportation, Quantum, and Agriculture

IBL News | New York

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced it will invest $104 million to create four new engineering research centers, each with several American research universities collaborating as partners.

Each center–which will receive $26 million apiece for an initial five-year period– will focus on:

  • Preserving biological systems, including cells, tissues, organs, and whole organisms. This center will involve four partner universities: University of Minnesota (lead); Massachusetts General Hospital; University of California, Berkeley; and University of California, Riverside.
  • Designing a sustainable infrastructure for electrified vehicles. With four partner universities: Utah State University (lead), Purdue University, University of Colorado, and University of Texas at El Paso.
  • Creating new technologies to build the capacity of the quantum internet. With the University of Arizona (lead), Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale University.
  • Advancing precision agriculture by promoting food, energy, and water security and minimizing resource use and environmental impacts of agricultural practices. With the University of Pennsylvania (lead); Purdue University; University of California, Merced; and the University of Florida.

“For the last 35 years, engineering research centers have helped shape science and technology in the United States by fostering innovation and collaboration among industry, universities, and government agencies,” said NSF Director Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan.

Since the program’s inception in 1985, NSF has funded 75 centers and will support 18 in this fiscal year, including the four new centers.

Is Your School Under Financial Stress? An Interactive Tool Shows Institutions’ Readiness

IBL News | New York

Are universities prepared to financially respond to the COVID-19 crisis?

To evaluate colleges’ financial stress, The Hechinger Report and NBC News have created an interactive tool available to anyone: a tracker that includes key metrics such as enrollment, tuition revenue, public funding, and endowment health.

The Financial Fitness Tracker was developed using methodology created by Robert Zemsky, Susan Shaman, and Susan Campbell Baldridge, as laid out in their book, “The College Stress Test.”

The scores show the amount of financial stress on an individual institution after the 2019-20 academic year without attempting to quantify the still-uncertain effects of the coronavirus crisis.

Public four-year universities and private, nonprofit four-year universities are scored in four categories, while public two-year colleges are scored in three categories.

In an analysis of more than 2,600 colleges, the Hechinger Report found that more than 500 show signs of financial stress in two or more categories. About half of the colleges showed steady enrollment declines since 2008, and a third of all four-year universities brought in less revenue in 2017-18 than they did in 2009-10.

edX, HarvardX, and Google Introduce a Certificate Program on Tiny Machine Learning

IBL News | New York

edX, HarvardX, and Google’s TensorFlow Open Source Machine Learning Platform yesterday announced the TinyML Professional Certificate program, scheduled to be launched in Fall 2020.

Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML) is an emerging field in the intersection of embedded machine learning (ML) applications, algorithms, hardware, and software. It requires software and embedded-hardware expertise.

This first-of-its-kind program will emphasize hands-on experience with ML training and deployment in tiny microcontroller-based devices.

The course features projects based on a TinyML program kit that includes an Arm Cortex-M4 microcontroller with onboard sensors, a camera, and a breadboard with wires—enough to unlock capabilities such as image, sound, and gesture detection.

The course will also feature real-world application case studies, guided by industry leaders, that examine the challenges facing real-world TinyML deployments.

Learners will be able to build a TensorFlow model using Python in Colab, then convert it to run in C on a microcontroller. The course will show how to optimize the ML models for severely resource-constrained devices (e.g., those with less than 100 KB of storage). Also, it will include various case studies that examine the challenges of deploying TinyML “into the wild.”

 

 

 

 

Seven Large Universities Will Share Their Online Courses Among Undergraduate Students

IBL News | New York

Undergraduate students at seven large universities will have access to a range of online courses this fall 2020 semester, as part of a sharing initiative designed to enhance educational opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These colleges, part of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, educate over 600,000 students with almost 50,000 faculty.

The Big Ten schools comprise Indiana University Bloomington, University of Maryland, Michigan State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

“Big Ten universities compete on the field, but until this fight against COVID-19 is won, we are united in the critical research to battle this virus, and united in the classroom,” said Lauren Robel, Indiana University Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President and chair of the Big Ten Academic Alliance board, in a statement.

Available courses include Supply Chain Security and Risk Management; Design Thinking and Creativity; Inequality: Determinants and Policy Remedies; Insect Biology; Introduction to the Built Environment; and Intro to Sports Marketing and Management.

Learners at those universities will be able take an online course from another participating school, with all tuition and fees waived.

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