A Free MIT Course for Practitioners on Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education (CBE) forces us to think what it is we want students to know, and makes learning a more personal experience. Learners need to demonstrate proficiency in skills and content, not by how many hours they spend sitting in class, and move at their own pace.

MIT Teaching Systems Lab professor Justin Reich, in the video below, explores the why, what and how of competency-based education in a free six-week course on edX.org, beginning today, January 31, 2019.

“You will learn why so many educators are excited about CBE and its potential for closing opportunity gaps, as well as challenges and concerns. You will get a closer look at what the implementation of CBE looks and feels like for students, teachers, administrators, families, and community members. You will consider the kinds of system-wide shifts necessary to support this innovation in education,” explains Profesor Reich.

KQED NewsWhy Competency-Based Education Is Exciting And Where It May Stumble

EdCast Open edX Provider Raises $33.6 Million

EdCast, a learning platform whose corporate LMS is powered with Open edX technology, announced last week that it closed an additional $33.6 million of funding.

“Investors include Softbank, REV Venture Partners, The London Fund, Crescent Enterprises,  and Mistletoe, among others, with participation from previous investors, including SSGA, Stanford University, and Cervin Ventures,” said EdCast in a press release.

This Mountain View-based educational provider also claimed that “it has surpassed two million paid users across hundreds of enterprise and public-sector customers, including HPE, Dell EMC, Schneider Electric, ANZ Bank, Jefferson Health, Mars, Anglo American, PVH, Genpact, ICICI Securities, India’s NASSCOM and the World Economic Forum.”

[In the picture above: Karl Mehta, CEO at EdCast]




Harvard University Enhances its DART Tool to Reuse edX Content on Campus

Harvard University – with 100 MOOCs featuring 26,000 videos, problems and text pages on edX.org – continues to experiment with technology to allow for the broad reuse of edX content for its on-campus Canvas platform.

Its new technical solution is called DART: Digital Assets for Reuse in Teaching, a system that allows any Harvard instructor to utilize HarvardX edX content on their on-campus courses via the Canvas LMS using the LTI standard interoperability tool. [See a screenshot above].

“Content is discoverable through search and recommendation interfaces, and the embed process is reduced to a few clicks. The initiative is well aligned with the envisioned NGDLE (next-generation digital learning environment), focusing on platform interoperability (edX to Canvas) and microservices (small isolated coding blocks) that appropriately isolate development to allow for quick iteration,” explained Daniel Seaton, a product owner for the DART project at Harvard University, in an article on Inside The Higher Education.

Mr. Seaton recommends that the edX Consortium – which hosts 2,200 courses – explore the possibility of extending these interoperability technologies to other members, creating a sharing economy for MOOC content. “When so many institutions have committed to open online courses, it’s natural to ask how these materials can be used to explore new pathways in both existing and nascent learning settings,” he says.



edX MicroMasters Program Wins Employability Award

MicroMasters programs on edX won the Nurturing Employability Award Category at Friday’s QS Reimagine Education conference in San Francisco (29-30 November). edX made this announcement on its blog.

Pioneered by MIT and launched by edX in 2016, MicroMasters were created to bridge the knowledge gap between higher education and the workplace.

With subjects ranging from Data Science to AI, MicroMasters’ credentials have been valued by top companies and linked to employability outcomes. Within two years, edX has launched 51 MicroMasters programs from 30 global institutions.

MOOCs Are Dead, Welcome MOOC-Based Degrees

“MOOCs are dead,” claimed edX’s CEO, Anant Agarwal, last month during the private Global Forum conference in Boston. Some partner universities aligned with the goal of openness in education were shocked.

Additionally, the announcement that edX.org will soon (this month) start charging for graded assessments made some uncomfortable.

“MOOC is a philosophy of education; it has never been a business model. We signed up on edX following this principle,” said a member of one participating university.

This new reality goes against that dream. edX, like Coursera, Udacity, and FutureLearn, needs to be either financially sustainable or profitable. Therefore, revenue-generating solutions are required. A successfully emerged idea is MOOC-based degrees, developed in partnerships between universities and the aforementioned platforms.

The problem is how to split the revenues. Coursera and edX require a 50 percent split, because of the technology and marketing costs. Not all of the institutions are ready to take this deal. They believe that their brands, along with low prices, are powerful enough to make their online degrees successful. Regarding the technology, there are several solutions, including Open edX, which is a community-based, open source software (edX.org uses this code, plus an additional 10% of proprietary software).

With revenue sharing or not, the fact is that these types of online degrees, wrongly called MOOCs, are on the rise. Designed to operate on a larger scale, they feature lower prices than on-campus online equivalents and offer more flexible criteria for admissions. Around 40 disruptive degrees have been announced so far, and many more are planned.

This is the recent history of how these Master’s and Bachelor’s online degrees have unfolded:


  • The first program was Georgia Tech’s groundbreaking online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) program, launched in 2014 on Udacity with support from AT&T. The $6,800 tuition attracted approximately 10,000 students.


  • Two years later, the University of Illinois and Coursera started a Master’s program in Business, branded as an iMBA, consisting of six specializations, for $22,000.


  • In March 2018, Coursera announced its first fully online Bachelor’s degree, targeting both students who are pursuing their first degree as well as those who already have a Bachelor’s. It was a 3-4 year Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, developed by the University of London. The program costs approximately $13,300 to $23,500, depending on the student’s geographic location.


  • In parallel, Coursera reported the development of six new Master’s degrees: a Master of Computer Science from Arizona State University, a Global Master of Public Health from Imperial College London, a Master of Computer Science from the University of Illinois, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of London, a Master of Applied Data Science from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan. Coursera revealed plans to offer 20 online degrees by 2019, becoming a kind of OPM (Online Program Manager) who helps colleges build online degree programs. [The story at IBL News]


  • In August 2018, Georgia Tech announced a new online master’s degree in Cybersecurity for less than $10,000 on edX.org. This OMS Cybersecurity (Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity) will be launched on January 7, 2019, with 250 students and will scale over time. OMS Cybersecurity was Georgia Tech’s third at-scale online degree program. It followed the success of the mentioned 2014 Master of Science in Computer Science, as well as the Online Master of Science in Analytics (OMS Analytics), launched in 2017 on edX with support from AT&T and Accenture. [The story at IBL News]


  • In October 2018, the edX organization achieved a milestone on its expansion strategy by announcing the 2019 launch of nine online Master’s degree programs for a “disruptive price” between $10,000 and $23,000. The average Master’s degree ranges between $30,000-$120,000. These programs, in areas such as Data Science, Cybersecurity, Computer Science, Analytics and Supply Chain Management, will be developed by Arizona State University, Curtin University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Indiana University, University of California San Diego, University of Queensland, and the University of Texas at Austin.  [The story at IBL News]


In other words, MOOCs are enjoying a second life.

LinkedIn Learning Expands Its Content Library

LinkedIn Learning will let companies and colleges add content, following its goal of becoming the front door for employees looking for professional development-oriented courses.

So far the Microsoft-owned platform plans to work with five partners:

“We’re creating a single place for your employees to discover and access all of your organization’s learning content,” LinkedIn announced on Friday. “We will be adding additional integration partners in the future, and plan to make the integrations available on the platform next year.”

Similar destinations for enterprise learners who compete with LinkedIn Learning include Coursera, edX.org, Udacity and Pluralsight.

Global Knowledge Launches a New Hybrid Format on its Open edX Platform

Global Knowledge will launch a flexible course delivery format called “Blended Live” at the end of October 2018. This will be a hybrid model which combines the flexibility of on-demand and self-paced online learning with the physical presence and expert direction of the instructor-led training format.

“We have created a learning experience that will resonate with many in the corporate world,” explained Kevin Pawsey, Global CIO at Global Knowledge, on a blog post.

The first Blended Live courses will be amongst Global Knowledge’s most popular subjects: Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices, Cybersecurity Foundations, and Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions.

Global Knowledge’s online platform includes the Open edX codebase and has been developed in partnership with IBL Education.


Free Online Content from Harvard Faculty on edX to Enrich Classroom Experiences

Harvard University’s cutting-edge and free 100 courses on edX.org –covering topics from calculus and climate change to Shakespeare and Stravinsky– are a good tool to enrich a face-to-face classroom experience and enhance professional development-oriented skills.

HarvardX has suggested four approaches:

  1. Use online courses to deepen your content knowledge and learn new teaching strategies. For example, the course CS50x: Introduction to Computer Science includes new and effective instructional strategies.
  2. Allow students to virtually interact with other course participants, so they can learn the views of other people and collaborate with them.  In the Practical Improvement Science in Health Care course, students feel connected and realize that others around the U.S. are on a similar journey and their voices matter.
  3. Enroll and connect with a global community of teachers. Leaders of Learning, a course which examines theories of education and leadership, allows for this kind of collaboration.
  4. Earn certificates of participation that can be used to apply for professional development credit at the state or school district levels. This page details how to work with continuing education credits.

Anant Agarwal Wins the Yidan Prize for His Work with the edX Platform

The Yidan Prize Foundation granted this month the 2018 Yidan Prize for Education Development to edX CEO, Anant Agarwal. Mr. Agarwal was recognized for making education more accessible to people around the world via the edX online platform.

The Yidan Prize judging panel, led by former Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura, invested six months to consider over 1,000 nominations spanning 92 countries.

Simultaneously, Larry V. Hedges of Northwestern University received the Yidan Prize for Education Research for his groundbreaking statistical methods for meta-analysis.

Founded in 2016 by Charles Chen Yidan, the Yidan Prize aims to create a better world through education.

The Yidan Prize for Education Research and the Yidan Prize for Education Development will be awarded in Hong Kong on December 10, 2018, by Mrs. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Following the ceremony, the laureates will be joined by about 350 practitioners, researchers, policymakers, business leaders, philanthropists, and global leaders in education to launch the 2018 edition of the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI), the first comprehensive index to evaluate inputs into education systems rather than outputs, such as test scores.

Dorothy K. Gordon, chair of UNESCO IFAP and head of the judging panel, commended Professor Agarwal for his work behind the MOOC  movement. “EdX gives people the tools to decide where to learn, how to learn, and what to learn. It brings education into the sharing economy, enabling access for people who were previously excluded from the traditional system of education because of financial, geographic, or social constraints. It is the ultimate disrupter with the ability to reach every corner of the world that is internet enabled, decentralizing and democratizing education.’

Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma praised edX for creating a platform “where learners from all over the world can access high-quality education and also for enabling MIT faculty and other edX university partners to rethink how digital technologies can enhance on-campus education by providing a platform that empowers researchers to advance the understanding of teaching through online learning.”

In the past six years, edX built a community of over 17 million learners from around the world; partnered with more than 130 prestigious universities, institutions and corporations; and continues to make the edX platform available for free as the Open edX open source software.

The Open edX platform has been adopted by 1600 sites, where over 20 million additional people learn every day.




United Nation’s Sustainable Development Courses on edX.org

SDG Academy, an initiative of the United Nations Sustainable Development Network (SDSN), will release 13 of their existing courses on edX.org this September, after joining the edX consortium.

These free, graduate-level courses on sustainable development address the challenge of how people, communities, governments, and companies coexist, cooperate and collaborate in order to save the planet.

Classes are taught by experts, under the leadership of Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, from Columbia University. Most of the courses start on September 10 as part of the SDG Academy Fall semester.

One of the notable courses revolves around Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical. It raises the ecological crisis that humanity has created and issues a moral clarion call for urgent action to protect the earth. Its introductory video, below, is narrated by Bono. The course lasts for less than two hours.


Presentation video of the 10-week “Sustainable Food Systems: A Mediterranean Perspective” course: