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:




The 2018 Jupyter Notebook Conference Highlighted the Success of this Tool in Education

The 2018 Jupyter Notebook conference, which took place last week in New York, dedicated this year roughly 20 percent of its talks to education (11 talks in total), a significant increase from 2017 when only a keynote and off-program session were scheduled.

Professor Lorena Barba, from the George Washington University, set the tone, with a talk alongside Robert Talbert, from Gran Valley State University, about the flipped learning experiences with Jupyter. Prof. Talbert described it as “a new pedagogical model, where the instructor is a guide”, while Prof. Barba said that “Jupyter is a new genre of OER”. Also, “it is about discovering activities by working through structured computational software”.

Scholars from Berkeley University explained how the institution successfully uses Jupyter Notebook on edX online classes, with 1,000 students in data8, plus 10,000+ in a free online edX version. Rob Newton, from Trinity School, advocated the use of Jupyter “for every schooler”, especially in Statistics and Calculus courses. In a passionate keynote, Carol Willing, from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, highlighted that “Jupyter creates value and connects people”. Quoting Walt Disney, she said, “if you dream it, you can build it”Jessica Forte, from Jupyter [in the picture], praised the IBL Education work by integrating Jupyter into the Open edX platform and pointed the audience to the code on Github.

The future of Jupyter in education was unanimously considered as extremely promising, and speakers agreed on the characterization of Tim O’Reilly –who was seen at the conference– on Jupyter, which this year received the ACM Software System Award, as “the next big thing”.

At the beginning of the conference, Fernando Perez, Paco Nathan, and Brian Granger, who chaired the conference, summarized speakers, sponsors and attendants’ view with the sentence “Jupyter makes us successful”.

Jeffrey Poore described in his blog Jupyter’s possibilities:

“Jupyter is a powerful tool that should be a part of almost anyone’s toolbox. It might seem like it is a tool that is focused on Data Science and Machine Learning, but in actuality, it is way more than that. It can be a teaching tool, a code IDE, a presentation tool, a collaborative tool, and much much more. With tools like Jupyter Lab that are easily extensible, there is almost nothing that you couldn’t do directly in it.” 

“Another example allowed you to play mp4 movie files. A third extension let you browse GitHub repositories. Extensions are written in NodeJS and can use UI technologies like ReactJS. If you can build it for a standalone website, you can build it to run inside a Jupyter Lab instance. This opens up possibilities for dashboards, applications, monitoring tools, and more. You could literally run your entire business through Jupyter Lab.”


This is a selection of tweets:


Open IBL Jupyter Notebook: New Distribution of Open edX on AWS’ AMI Community

IBL Education is launching today a Jupyter Notebook – ready Open edX distribution. Open IBL Jupyter Notebook is built on the Ginkgo.2 version of Open edX.  This release is free and is ready to go from the AWS (Amazon Web Services) AMI community.

In June, the IBL engineering team launched Open IBL, an easy-to-handle, production-ready distribution based on Open edX’s Ginkgo.2, which was equipped with a command-line builder. These two screencast videos explained the installation and configuration process. (Video 1, Video 2)

This week, in parallel with the Jupyter Conference in New York (Aug 22-24), and also as a contribution to the educational community, IBL launches another version of the Open IBL distribution which includes the two recent Jupyter Notebook-related Xblocks:

  1. Jupyter Notebook Viewer XBlock. It allows from any public Jupyter Notebook (e.g., in a public repo on GitHub), pull content into a course learning sequence using only the URL, and optional start and end marks (any string from the first cell to include, and the first cell to exclude). As a result of it, course authors will be able to develop their course content as Jupyter Notebook, and to build learning sequences reusing that content, without duplication. It also has the added benefit that the development of the material can be hosted on a version-controlled repository.[See IBL’s post about the XBlock, and the code repository—the XBlock is open source under a BSD3 license.]
  2. Graded Jupyter Notebook XBlock. It allows to create an assignment using the nbgrader Jupyter extension, then insert a graded sub-section in Open edX that will deliver this assignment (as a download), auto-grade the student’s uploaded solution, and record the student’s score in the gradebook. The XBlock instantiates a Docker container with all the required dependencies, runs nbgrader on the student-uploaded notebook, and displays immediate feedback to the student in the form of a score table.[See IBL’s post, and the code repository—the XBlock is open source under BSD3.]

This Open IBL Jupyter Notebook distribution has been created with the strategic and pedagogical support of Lorena A. Barba group, from The George Washington University.

DEMO of Open IBL Jupyter Notebook (Extended Version)


Prof. Barba has been teaching with Jupyter for the last five years. Her first open teaching module using Jupyter was “CFD Python”, released in July 2013. In 2014, Barba developed and taught the first massive open online course (MOOC) at the George Washington University: “Practical Numerical Methods with Python.” The course was written entirely as Jupyter Notebook, and it was self-hosted on a custom Open edX site (where it amassed more than 8000 users over 3 years).

Jupyter is a set of open-source tools for interactive and exploratory computing. At the center of them is the Jupyter Notebook, a document format for writing narratives that interleave multi-media content with executable code, using any of a set of available languages (of which Python is the most popular).

The two mentioned XBlocks, a brainchild of Prof. Lorena Barba and implemented by her tech partners at IBL Education, were presented at the 2018 Open edX Conference last May 30 in Montreal, Canada. Prof. Lorena Barba, from GW, and Miguel Amigot II, CTO at IBL Education, presented those two software extensions, intended to better integrate Jupyter into the Open edX platform.

Barba, Lorena A.; Amigot, Miguel (2018): Jupyter-based courses in Open edX: Authoring and grading with notebooks. figshare. Presentation. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.6553550.v1