Huge Potential for New Apps in the Educational Space


Educational apps are mostly games and classroom tools today. The largest student-oriented apps (Duolingo, Quizlet and PhotoMath) only serve a tiny part of students’ needs, leaving huge potential for new entrants.

“Today’s educational content is painful to consume on mobile devices… Most high quality educational sites (Khan Academy, CK-12, Coursera, etc.) weren’t created to answer specific questions, so they don’t show up in these search results,writes Christopher Pedregal, founder of, on

  • “Smartphones can give learners superpowers so they can learn more things, more deeply, on their own.”
  • “If you’re building a social product, be thoughtful about whom students want to share with.”
  • “It’s clear that there are billions of people around the world who want to learn, and smart phones could go a long way in making learning more accessible.”
  • Google’s Primer app is a good example of an innovative app.

Download IBL Campus’ iOS app to take courses online and offline!

MOOCs for Credit Offered for Refugees in Germany

edX announced an agreement with Kiron University, a crowdfunded, German online startup, to help Syrians and other refugees in Europe (59.5 million in 2015) access college courses and earn their degrees.

Under this arrangement, to be started in April 2016, Kiron will add 300 edX courses to its learning platform and edX will issue free verified certificates for specific courses that can translate to college credit with Kiron’s university campus partners.

Participating universities include edX partner RWTH Aachen University, German universities of applied sciences and other European and American colleges.

Efforts to Ease "Insights Analytics" Setup on Open edX



Deploying Insights Analytics on Open edX is an extremely complicated issue. Several teams within edX and the consultancy OpenCraft have started a collaboration “to address some of the pain points around Insights Analytics setup, deployment, maintenance, and deployment”. Plans have been outlined on this Google document. This is a summary of all of the difficulties from the Analytics Team:

  1. Maintaining jobs on the scheduler is a highly manual and rather difficult process
  2. Jobs fail periodically, we should identify all common causes and resolve them
  3. Schema changes are very painful (see the process above)
  4. The AWS configuration is rather complex and difficult to replicate
  5. The pipeline should be installed like every other component in the edX infrastructure. Currently it is not.
  6. We should seriously consider deprecating edx-analytics-configuration and just merging it into the edx/configuration monolith.
  7. The analyticstack (devstack) lags behind quite a bit and takes some manual intervention to generate new versions of. It also doesn’t support Elasticsearch 1.5, which is used by currently-in-development features in Insights. We’d like to move this into Docker.
  8. Centralize event collection. We should probably be using Kafka or something similar.
  9. Non-AWS configuration is rather complex and difficult to setup, which is very painful for the open source community.

From OpenCraft

  1. Lack of documentation
  2. Problems setting up edX Analytics Devstack (process took a long time, was impossible to complete for one team member; overall complexity of the stack made it difficult to distribute work to additional team members as needed)
  3. Problems with Hadoop version conflicts (fixed at the time via a couple of PRs: #128, #127), not really an issue anymore
  4. No (straightforward) way to run acceptance tests for edx-analytics-pipeline
  5. Using Analytics in production:
    1. Many steps required to install the stack (partly due to Ansible scripts making assumptions about, e.g., AWS regions)
    2. Many steps required to configure Jenkins (manually creating jobs and setting parameters/interval for each Analytics task, etc.)
  6. The number of PRs required to implement major changes slows work down (these types of changes often require PRs in four different repos; see “Dependencies” in this example)
  7. Not being able to merge PRs implementing work done for clients; having to maintain changes separately
  8. Deciding where to add different types of functionality (instructor dashboard vs. insights) was not straightforward in some cases

Models to Partner with edX Inc.

edX Inc, the venture created by MIT and Harvard University, has reached 46 charter members and 48 partner members as of today.

When partnering with edX, there are two maintenance models for a university or corporate partner, according to the Perpetual Learning Open edX consultancy.

MODEL 1: Self-Service

  • Partner uses edX as a free LMS for a course with a revenue sharing agreement.
  • The courses are created by Partner without course-production assistance from edX.
  • Once the course is live on, edX will collect
    • The first $50,000 generated by the course, or
    • $10,000 for each recurring course
  • edX and Partner will evenly split all revenues beyond that threshold.

MODEL 2: edX-Supported

  • edX is a consultant and design partner, offering production assistance to universities for their MOOCs.
  • edX charges a base rate of $250,000 for each new course, plus $50,000 for each time a course is offered for an additional term.
  • Partner gets 70 percent of any revenue generated by the course.

In addition, there is a membership fee for contributing members of $500,000 and an annual maintenance fee of $100,000 or $45,000 starting in the second year of the term.

Review of edX and Open edX: 2851 courses in total

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 9.57.41 PM

EdX engineer Molly de Blanc recently provided a insightful overview of the state of Open edX during a conference in Geelong, Australia.

During the talk, she highlighted edX’s goal of “reaching a billion students” and achieving financial sustainability.

Molly mentioned that, as of today, there are 203 public Open edX sites, 9 non-public sites and 2851 courses in 20 languages (853 courses are on This count was made on January 19th.



Programming Jobs Still in High Demand

The skills required for the $100K/year programming jobs can be learned online through, and

Java, Python, Perl, C++ and other languages are in high demand worldwide, as reflected in the graphic above and the TIOBE index.


Video Talks of the Third Open edX Meetup Available on a New Learning Site and iOS App


All of the talks of the third Open edX meetup celebrated on January 7th in New York have been posted on IBL’s YouTube Channel.

IBL has published all of those videos, along with the PowerPoint presentations, in an edX-style course on its new site,

Speakers were:

• Maurice Matiz, Director, Media & Instructional Design Studio, Columbia Center for Teaching & Learning, Columbia University

• Joel Barciauskas, Engineering Manager at edX

• Lorena A. Barba, Professor at George Washington University and Chair of Open edX Universities Symposium

• Paul Schiff Berman, Vice Provost for Online Education and Academic Innovation, George Washington University

• Jennifer Gormley, Senior Director, Product and Marketing at McKinsey Academy

• Michael Amigot, Founder at IBL Studios (Open edX)

• Ivan Shumkov, Founder at Open Online Academy (





IBL Campus is also the name of a new iOS app, which allows to watch videos and course content online and offline. This is the first fully-featured Open edX-based app available.

This means, for example, that all of the video content of the last Open edX meetup is available on the app. The only requirement to access it is to enroll in that course at IBL

IBL Campus App has been considered as one of the best educational apps by the Best iOS Appz review-specialist website.


Open Software Ecosystems Will Improve Learning Outcomes

Road sign to education and future

The solution to improve learning outcomes is mostly based on launching open software ecosystems. And Open edX is a step in that direction.

Stephen Laster, Chief Digital Officer at McGraw-Hill Education, has written a revealing analysis on EdSurge, highlighting the idea that technologies that live within closed systems create roadblocks in students’ learning pathways.

“Building digital content and learning technology around open standards ensures that educators and students can determine what’s most effective without worrying about whether different technologies will work together,” he states.

“The simple solution to accelerate open edtech for everyone is to support technology standards set forth by organizations like the IMS Global Learning Consortium.” 




Video: Top 10 Technologies of 2016

These are Educause’s top 10 IT technologies of 2016 to focus on:

  1. Incorporation of mobile devices in teaching and learning
  2. Software as a Service (SaaS)
  3. Administrative or business performance analytics
  4. App development (responsive design, hybrid, etc.)
  5. Accessing online components of blended/hybrid courses from mobile devices
  6. Mobile apps for enterprise applications
  7. Service desk tool and management strategy
  8. Learning analytics
  9. Data collection and sophisticated analytics methodologies for information security
  10. Application performance monitoring.

Educause Review: Top 10 IT Issues, 2016: Divest, Reinvest, and Differentiate

The "Cooke edX Challenge" for 7th Graders: MOOCs to Gain Recognition


An interesting initiative from edX and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation –the “Cooke edX Challenge”– to help qualified 7th grade students. They enroll in selected edX courses and successfully complete one of five. Up to 70 eligible students will receive many benefits, such as individualized counseling and funding for educational programs, through the Young Scholars Program.

These are the seven courses:


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