Flipped Learning Solves a Basic Structural Problem of Traditional Teaching, Says Prof. Robert Talbert

Flipped learning goes beyond innovation. It is a necessity to reach students who struggle with the traditional model based on learning in class.

“The more difficult work happens in individual papers, projects and homework outside of class, where access to help is much more limited. And while professors may still be available outside of class via office hours or other modes of contact, only traditionally “good” students tend to seek out those resources,” said Professor Robert Talbert during a recent workshop at The George Washington University.

“We set students up for failure in some ways,” said Dr. Talbert, a math professor at ‎Grand Valley State University. “They’re encountering the most difficult material at the moment when they’re most alone…and on the flip side we’re giving them the simplest stuff when we’re most accessible.”

In a “flipped” model, by contrast, students’ initial contact with material takes place before class, freeing up classroom time for active learning. The “classroom” may also be virtual, as in an online course. Students might watch a videotaped lecture, read a guide to the material and complete worksheets before any teacher introduces them.

Preliminary studies suggest impressive results, like increased student engagement and improved pass rates, in classes that flip their curriculum.

“Flipping” is a response to a basic structural problem of traditional teaching models, in which students generally do the easiest work—learning vocabulary, new ideas and basic principles—in class, where they have the most access to help from peers and teachers.

In general, the flipped model is a win-win for students and teachers, Dr. Talbert said. “Students will prepare if they’re given an activity that makes it worth their while,” he said. “And we should only give assignments that we want to grade.”

“I firmly believe that higher education has the power to transform everything and everybody it touches for good—but I feel that higher education today isn’t living up to its potential,” he said. “So making simple changes will do a lot of work to get higher education back to its roots.”

Newsletter About Open edX #1 – September 2017

Welcome to our newsletter on Open edX. After 500+ news posts and four years writing about the Open edX and edX universe, I’ve decided to launch a monthly newsletter with the must-read stories in this topic. Click here to subscribe. Feel free to share your thoughts! 



• Gingko. The edX organization released Ginkgo, the latest Open edX version of the platform. Ginkgo is the seventh release of Open edX, and includes changes to the course navigation, video player, proctored exams, accessibility, emails and problems.

• We’re UBER. Interesting definition of edX. “In many ways, you can think of edX as an Uber for education”, said Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX, during the a webinar hosted by EdCast.

• iOS, Android. The 2.10 Open edX and edX’s app for iOS and Android came up with two new features which allow learners to access all course videos in one place as well as delete downloaded clips.

• MicroMasters. edX’s MicroMasters initiative celebrated its first anniversary this September with the extension of the program to 39 subjects from 24 international universities. Top employers (IBM, GE, Boeing, Walmart, Adobe, Ford, PwC…) endorsed this program.

• Open edX Courses. The “Freshman Year for Free” program, a non-profit initiative done in partnership with edX and IBL, launched a catalog of 40 online College Board CLEP courses on an Open edX platform. The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets praised the project.

• France. France University Numerique (FUN), the French national MOOC platform and the first national platform using Open edX, reached an agreement with edX.org to share course content and strengthen its partnership.

• Top 10. Nine of the world’s top 10 universities use the Open edX pedagogy and technology on their courses at edX.org, and one (Stanford) has its own independent instance.

• MITx. MITx will launch 30 MOOCs at edx.org this fall. These MOOCs, which allow learners to get an MITx certificate as a credential, will feature the same content as on-campus courses.

• Hiring. edX started looking for an Open edX Community Lead to work in its headquarters in Cambridge, Massachussets, in order to replace Joel Barciauskas, who left the organization on August 29th.

The Open edX Newsletter is a topic-curated monthly email report compiled by Michael Amigot, Founder at IBL Studios & IBL Open edX. If you enjoy what you read please consider forwarding it to spread the word. Click here to subscribe. View this email on the web 

The Learning with MOOCs 2017 Conference Analyzes the Shift Into Professional Development Courses

The Fourth LWMOOC Conference, to be held October 8-10 at The University of Texas at Austin, has established as a theme “Developing and Advancing Careers with MOOCs”

“Though initial visions of MOOCs as free learning resources for the masses have not yet been the reality, millions of learners around the world are using MOOCs to support professional development and career advancement,” have noted the organizers of the conference.

“This activity represents an important shift from the top-down model of university degrees to a learner-generated, micro-credentialing “bottom-up” model.”


The New edX iOS and Android Version Includes Video Improvements

EdX has released a new version of its app for Android and iOS, 2.10, with video-enhanced features (after all edX’s app is mostly a video companion tool). This app is available for both edX.org and Open edX independent sites’ learners.

The main two new features empower learners to access all course videos in one place as well as delete downloaded clips (with a left swipe in iOS or a long press in Android).

Upcoming versions of the mobile app will have tablet support, and will automatically open in Spanish mode if a learner’s mobile phone is set to use Spanish.

Another interesting improvement at edX.org courses refers to learner profiles. Now they include the date a student joined edX and links to social media accounts. Soon, any certificate earned will be visible on their profiles.



First Anniversary of the EdX MicroMasters With New Partners and Courses

edX’s MicroMasters successful initiative celebrates this September its first anniversary with the extension of the program to 39 subjects from 24 international universities. The University of California, Berkeley is the latest university partner to join the MicroMasters. Its first course will be Marketing Analytics, and it is scheduled for October 3.

“MicroMasters programs –which are free to try– help to bridge the knowledge gap between higher education and the workplace by offering deep knowledge and credentials in the most in-demand fields, with a pathway to credit in an on-campus program,” explained Anant Agarwarl, CEO at edX.

Top employers, including IBM, GE, Hootsuite, Boeing, Bloomberg, Walmart, Adobe, Ford, PwC and others are endorsing MicroMasters programs.


EdX.org and the French MOOC Platform FUN Will Share Course Content

France University Numerique (FUN), the French national MOOC platform with over a million students and 300 courses, has reached an agreement with edX.org to share course content and strengthen its partnership.

FUN learners will easily access the catalog of courses in English and Spanish offered by edX.org, while edX’s students access FUN’s classes. Initially, edX has made available seven courses: three from MIT, three from Harvard and one from Microsoft (see them above).

Created in June 2013, FUN was the first national platform using Open edX. Since then, hundreds of international initiatives have been launched. Today the Open edX universe is being used by more than 300 sites, which host over 4,300 courses in 32 languages.



Why Open edX (a Reminder)

Open edX is the open source educational software that powers MIT’s and Harvard’s edx.org platform and its 5M+ users. It is scalable, well-tested and fully featured in terms of its web application, iOS and Android platforms and learning analytics software.

new-ibl-web-mainOpen edX is used by the world’s top ten universities, either as a course publishing tool through edX or fully personalized instances such as Stanford’s and MIT’s. It is supported by a strong community of corporate, academic and government partners.

Moreover, since it is open source, users of the platform are able to fully control it, customize it and benefit from edX’s major upgrades and feature releases, which occur several times per year. This is very powerful for at least a couple of reasons:

Open edX allows organizations who are looking for custom-built solutions to literally stand on the shoulders of giants when building their education programs’ software. How much “shoulders of giants” are we talking about? Well, essentially, the software that runs edx.org and includes mobile apps, learning analytics and ecommerce. We can customize its user interface and backend-integrations as much as we need but, in 99% of the cases, we’re talking about days or weeks of development efforts, not months or years.

Another reason is that, when an organization deploys Open edX, it fully owns it. This includes full ownership of its learners’ data and analytics (proprietary datasets will only become more valuable) as well as an ability to scale without prohibitive costs.

Sure, at $5 to $20 per student per month, traditional cloud-based LMS’s are cheap for a small number of students, but costs can quickly skyrocket — a Fortune 500 company in the US recently disclosed to IBL that it is paying close to $1.5m for 60k learners every year (“but only $2.08 per student per month!”). It may have been necessary to pay sums like this a few years ago when Open edX did not exist and the existing open source solutions were neither appealing nor fully-featured, but that is fortunately no longer the case.

For more information, visit Open edX’s official website or read our founder’s article on its official blog, “What Makes Open edX Unique”And, of course, please reach out to our team if you’d like to see how your organization can implement Open edX.

The Science and Politics of the GMOs on an edX Course

Cornell University will launch on Sept. 13 on the edX platform “The Science and Politics of the GMO”, a course on the genetically modified organisms (or GMOs), that have transformed the way we produce and consume food. The five-week, free, non-credit introductory course will examine why the GML is politically contentious.

The course’s professors are featured as super-heroes in the funny, cartoon-style video (above).

Amazon Absorbs The Great Courses into its Catalog



Amazon has started to position itself in the self-education space against online platforms such as edX, Coursera, Udacity and Khan Academy by adding valuable content into its catalog from The Great Courses.

The Great Courses library spans more than 550 courses and 14,000 lectures, and Amazon Prime and Amazon Video will receive 87 courses comprising 2,000 half-hour lectures to start off with –Business Insider reported.

Some of The Great Courses’ most popular topics include its photography course, taught by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, as well as history, science, computer programming, cooking and health and wellness courses. Each course typically has a dozen or more half-hour lectures on its subject.

For The Great Courses company, the move to Amazon makes sense, as Ed Lion, Chief Brand Officer of The Great Courses, said for USA Today“Launching on Amazon Prime, with its broad membership, ease of use and instant access to hundreds of digital TVs and devices, is a smart next step because it allows us to reach millions of new customers. And because Signature Collection offers a curated library of popular and highly rated courses, we can deliver our brand of premium life-long learning in an even more affordable way.”

EdX Launches Eucalyptus, the Fifth Release of the Open edX Platform



The latest Open edX software called “Eucalyptus” was officially released this weekend. It replaces “Dogwood” and it comes with new course navigation, bookmarks, CourseTalk for reviews, teams, student notes and badges for completing course events.

It also includes “Subsection prerequisites”, which require learners to achieve a certain score before they progress to the next subsection. Additionally, there are a number of new XBlocks, such as: Completion, Drag and Drop Problem and Peer Instruction.

The Release Notes detail all of these functionalities.

“Eucalyptus.1 is the first release on the Eucalyptus line”, explained Ned Batchelder, manager at edX . “We’re proud of all the work that went into producing Eucalyptus, we hope you get good use from it”.

Several features have been deprecated or deleted:

  • REST APIs (deprecated):
    • Mobile, course structure, and profile images REST web services
  • Tools & Problem Types (deprecated):
    • Randomize component (replaced by randomized content blocks
    • Original drag and drop problem type (replaced by mobile-friendly drag and drop problem
  • Tools & XModules (deleted):
    • The graphical slider tool
    • The crowdsource hinter XModule
    • Support for the always_recalculate_grades XBlock field
    • The ENABLE_JWT_AUTH feature flag



The next Open edX release, scheduled for early 2017, will be called “Ficus“. It will include notifications, downloadable audio files and several improvements on mobile, commerce, grading, discussion, SSO integration, etc. This will be the sixth official release, after Aspen (September 2014), Birch (January 2015), Cypress (August 2015), Dogwood (January 2016) and Eucalyptus (August 2016).


Key Resources:

New Features: