Not Captioning Your MOOCs? MIT And Harvard Are Sued For Discriminating Against Deaf Students

Wake-up call for schools who are not offering captions for their MOOC content.

MIT and Harvard University are facing two federal class action lawsuits filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and four deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, claiming the universities failed to caption a vast array of online content, including MOOCs.

The cases, filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, assert that MIT and Harvard violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act by denying deaf and hard of hearing people access to thousands of videos and audio tracks that each university makes publicly available for free.

“This lawsuit is part of our battle for full access to online media content,” explained Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD’s Chief Executive Officer. (Watch above’s video).

The non-captioned content includes campus talks by President Barack Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, educational videos made by MIT students for use by K-12 students, “self-help” talks, entire semesters’-worth of courses and regular podcasts such as the “HBR IdeaCast” by the Harvard Business Review.

With this lawsuit the message to large universities is loud and clear: you should make accommodations for people with disabilities and online course material should be accessible. Entire groups of people cannot be excluded.


McKinsey Launches Courses for Clients Through Its Open edX Platform

Through its new venture, McKinsey Academy, McKinsey & Co has started to offer a series of courses (“the McKinsey Management Program“) designed to provide participants with specific skill-sets in business.

Courses, taught by McKinsey practitioners and external business leaders, are designed to provide rising professionals with a practical, interactive and real-time learning experience.

Many of the technical innovations showcased at the Open edX-powered McKinsey Academy platform will be integrated into “McKinsey Academy is one of many important partners helping us improve our core platform and the learning experience for the entire edX community”, explained edX.

Some of them, like Polls and Surveys, are already being open-sourced.

Learn about McKinsey Academy’s view in the video above, filmed on November 2014 during the Open edX Conference in Cambridge.

EdX Sets a Date for the Release of the "Birch" Version: February 24

EdX has set a target date for Birch’s official release: Tuesday, February 24.

David Baumgold, the edX engineer in charge, noted that “if a significant number of changes are added to the release candidate branch, a new release candidate will be created and the release date will be pushed back, to give people time to test the new release candidate”.

The “Birch” version is now on its RC3 (Release Candidate) phase. Bugs will continue to be fixed until the target date.


McKinsey Academy Launches an XBlock for Polls and Surveys


McKinsey Academy made a contribution to the Open edX ecosystem this month by releasing the Poll and Survey XBlock.

This XBlock, developed by OpenCraft, enables a course author to create poll and survey elements and get feedback from students.

  • Poll XBlocks have one question, and a series of answers.
  • Survey XBlocks have several questions and a handful or answers that students may choose (Such as ‘True’, and ‘False’, or ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’).

Get A Solid Understanding of Blended Learning With This edX Course

For an educator who wants to enhance his classroom experience with educational technology, the Open edX technology is a great solution.

Blended Learning with edX  is an online course created by the edX team that includes examples of course teams from around the world as well as research articles. It also contains numerous discussion threads that invite users to share resources and ideas with each other.

“Our hope is that this course not only provides you with a solid foundational understanding of blended learning, but that it continues to serve as a resource to you throughout your own course design process,” say the creators.

The course’s intro video, above, showcases TEAL, MIT’s Technology Enabled Active Learning classroom.

EdX Launches the "Birch" Release – A Sneak Peak of Its Features


The Open edX “Birch” release –the second version after “Aspen”– is almost here. It is scheduled to be released in February.

For now, this version is a release candidate.

“Birch” will include many new features, capabilities and APIs, as well as many small changes and bug fixes. edX’s Release Notes provide a cumulative list of changes listed after the release of Aspen, which was based on the version from September 4, 2014.

Here is a summary:

  • Prerequisite courses. You can require that students pass specific edX courses before enrolling into your course.
  • Entrance Exams. You can require that students pass an entrance exam before they access your course materials.
  • Student Notes. Learners can highlight text and take notes while progressing through a course. They can then review their notes either in the body of the course or on a separate “Notes” tab.
  • Course Reruns. You can create a new course easily by re-running an existing course. When you re-run a course, most –but not all– of the original course content will be duplicated onto the new course.
  • Google Calendar and Google Drive Components. You can embed Google calendars and Google Drive files into your course. Learners may see the calendar or file directly in the courseware. Learners can also interact with Google Forms files, and complete forms or surveys in the courseware.
  • Support for “Graded Problems” in “Content Experiments”. You can now use graded problems in content experiments.
  • Split Mongo Modulestore. This refers to the separation of identity, structure and content, and it enables you to use more advanced capabilities while developing and managing courses.
  • Cohorts for Discussions and Content. You can now define smaller communities of students within the larger, course-wide community. Learners in a given cohort may have private discussions.
  • Content libraries and randomized content. You can create a content library that contains a pool of components that can be used in randomized assignments.

A New Proposal: Spend Just Two Years on Campus

Why should college only last for four years? Why stop learning after that period of time?

Some days ago we mentioned a bold initiative based on taking one year of college for free by using MOOCs.

Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, says in an interview that a continuous education system will allow people to get just-in-time education on topics that are on cutting edge of technology and learn as they need to learn”.

“Imagine that a student comes into college having done their first year of college as MOOCs and online — possibly even for free. And they come in and they get credit for those first year of courses. They spend two years on campus, and then rather than spending the fourth year on campus, they go outside, get a job and become continuous learners for the rest of their lives.”




Classical Investors Jump Into the Educational Technology Business

investorsEducation technology businesses attracted more VC funding in 2014 than ever before: nearly $1.87 billion, up 55 percent from 2013, according to the New York Times which cites a CB Insights report. Classical investors, such as Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia and Andreessen Horowitz, are jumping into this scenario.

Notable financing deals include:

  • Pluralsight, a company that provides online training to technology professionals seeking to stay current with programming languages, which raised $135 million.
  • Remind, a free messaging service for teachers to communicate with students and parents, with 23 million users, which raised $40 million from venture capital firms including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
  • Edmodo, an online social network customized for use in the classroom that is free for individual teachers, which raised $30 million.


On the other hand, online personal and professional continuing education company –with a library of 5,700 classes and 255,000 video tutorials– has raised $186 million. The company, valued at $1 billion, will use the funding to hire between 150 and 250 employees and buy education technology companies. Thinkful and Treehouse may be two of them.

This is the second round of financing for Lynda, following a $100 million initial investment from Accel Partners, Spectrum Equity and Meritech.

Continuing and adult education in the U.S. is a $55 billion market.


How Education Will Look Like in 2020 – Ten Trends

How will  the next five-to-ten years look like in online learning?

Anant Agarwal, president of, made these predictions in the Financial Times –that we have classified and summarized into ten trends:

1. The blended model will become the new norm. By 2020, 50 percent of college courses will combine in-person and online learning; a shift driven by student demand for the convenience and effectiveness of online learning. MIT’s recent report on the future of MIT education was unequivocal in its support of the blended model.

Chip Paucek, chief executive of 2U, says that “universities that do not provide online degrees will be hard-pressed to remain competitive as their peers scale dramatically through the ability to serve students regardless of location. “The lack of an online offering will be unacceptable. “At every school, there will no longer be online or on-campus students. Just students,” Paucek states.

2. MOOCs will help close the skills-gap for employers. Employees will be encouraged to take online courses with self-assessment preparedness tests pertaining to specific skill-sets when hired; or even later to keep up with emerging trends and technologies.

3. Students will become continuous learners, cultivating new skill-sets throughout their careers. There will be several models. For example, year one may be online with two years then spent on-campus. Instead of the traditional final year, students will enter the workforce to gain real-world skills and continue to learn through an annual subscription to their university.

4. Many universities will use MOOCs as a new kind of textbook; including videos, game-like simulations and interactive exercises. For classes, professors will augment public MOOC content with private, in-person experiences. In other words, MOOCs will be the “new age” textbooks.

 5. MOOCs will help prepare students for college. Just as many schools mandate required summer reading prior to freshman year, specific MOOCs with self-assessment preparedness tests may be required from accepted students, thereby ensuring they are prepared when they arrive on campus.

 6. There will be tens of thousands of free MOOCs offering everything, from fine arts to engineering. Students worldwide will have access to virtually any course subject in any language. [Today, and Open edx partners offer more than 1,000 free MOOCs.]

 7. MOOCs will get personal. Learning will offer multiple pathways to navigate courses that fit specific learning styles and speeds. MOOCs will continue tailoring the learning experience to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students, universities and employers.

 8. We will see more badges, such as Mozilla’s Open Badges. Employers increasingly accept certificates for MOOC courses. MOOC platforms are headed in this direction. [IBL has developed, along with GW, Indiana University and, the first badge system for Open edX. This course at GW is the first one issuing badges].

 9. MOOC certificates will transfer into course credits.

 10. Growing institutions, especially in developing nations, will aggregate existing MOOC courses into synthesized degree programs. [Anant refers to this phenomenon as “digital dormitories”.]



The EdX iPhone App Has Been Released! A Great Tool To Watch Course Videos


EdX has finally released its app for iPhone, although no announcement has been made so far.

This app, available for free in the iTunes store, is a clone of the Android version, except for one detail: video speed can be changed in the iOS version.

The available version is 1.0.00. It is downloadable under the name “edx”.

The edX iPhone app works as a companion tool to watch videos, announcements and handouts. But it does not allow users to take courses entirely on their smartphones. In order to complete readings, homework problems, and exams, the user is redirected to the website. The same applies to forum discussions and assignments, which must be completed through computers or tablets.

Right now only 79 courses are mobile-friendly. This means that only videos coming from these courses are downloadable. Within these 79 courses, however, many videos cannot be downloaded.

Still, some courses like “Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer?”, “Entrepreneurship 102: What can you do for your customer” and “The Science of Happiness” offer a good user experience.

Despite some bugs and crashes, the app is well-built and straightforward.

It is great to be able to download and watch videos without consuming cellular data. Definitely, a must-have app for edx-ers.