Harvard Hopes to Find a Way of Sustainability with its New Open edX Platform

“The additional revenue from HarvardXPlus will contribute to the sustainability of HarvardX and defray some of the costs of producing the online materials
,” Faculty director of HarvardX Robert A. Lue said for The Harvard Crimson about its new premium model on MOOCs.

The HarvardXPlus platform will charge between $200 and $500 for enrollments in four eight-week courses, starting on September. This, according to The Harvard Crimson, will signal a move towards more financially sustainable online learning models”, after the “fiscal sustainability of the HarvardX has come under question.”

“Charging a fee will provide financial incentive to finish the course,” said Lue. According to a recent report, 5 percent of non-paying HarvardX participants completed the course, while those who paid for certification had around a 59 percent completion rate.

Lue emphasized that HarvardXPlus is “experimental,” and more premium courses are currently in the works. According to Lue, HarvardX will evaluate the first iteration of the program after the courses are completed this fall.

HarvardXPlus promises students expanded content and a more intimate contact with peers, teaching fellows, and faculty. In addition, the program will also provide those who complete the course with a “branded credential,” a two-page document that describes in detail the learning objectives, outcomes, and skills acquired throughout the course. Enrollment will be capped in the hundreds, as opposed to the tens of thousands who enroll in HarvardX courses.

HarvardXPlus –with courses on biochemistry, business contracts, world and China literature– requires a fee for enrollment; HarvardX –the Harvard-specific branch of the edX platform– allows participants to purchase $50 to $150 verified certificates for otherwise free courses.

Coursera Hosts a Course Created by PwC on Big Data Analytics


Coursera, the world’s largest platform for MOOCs (edX is the second), has launched a Big Data Analytics course with PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP).

PwC is one of the first professional services firms to offer courses to their workforce of 208,000 on Coursera.com.

With this course, says PwC, “you will gain insights that PwC US and its clients use to address their toughest challenges every day. What you learn can help to enhance your personal brand, help your career, and assist you with achieving your potential. Through this PwC Coursera offering, you’ll get valuable knowledge from leading professionals shaping their industries.”

On the other hand, Coursera has recently been on the news after its co-founder, Daphne Koller, decided to leave the company  to join Calico, a Google-funded research and development company that focuses on slowing aging and counteracting age‑related diseases. She explained this on her blog.


MITx Introduces an edX Course Where Students Will Have Their Work Graded By Professional Philosophers

The Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge and Consciousness MITx course on edX will allow students to obtain a verified ID certificate and have their work graded and commented on by professional philosophers.

“This is a big deal — the first MITx humanities course to offer students the chance to write a paper and have it carefully reviewed by instructors,” says Caspar Hare, who will be running the popular MOOC for the third time. “Listening to lectures and reading books is great, but philosophy is all about taking complex ideas and organizing them in a simple way. You learn by writing, specifically writing to someone.”

The course, which costs $300 with a verified certificate and starts on August 29th, will introduce students to theories around knowledge, beliefs, and consciousness, the existence of God and notion of proofs; the debate between free will and determinism. One of its goals is to move students from discussion to development of critical reasoning and argumentative skills.

The new instructor grading and feedback feature will enable that process to take shape, according to MIT News.

The course is also available for free without the certificate.

According to The Wall Street Journal, philosophy majors tend to earn more than people with majors in accounting, business management or computer science.

Global Freshman Academy Presents Its Credit-Eligible Courses

Arizona State University’s and edX’s Global Freshman Academy (GFA) has presented its course offering for this fall, with nine online courses intended for college credit at the freshmen-level.

There are two modalities: free courses and $49 ID Verified, credit-eligible courses. Students pay for credit only after a successful completion of the course with a C or better.

These are the main ones:

  • College Algebra and Problem Solving – 3 Credit Hours: Course content will be self-paced, personalized with individualized coaching for each topic, and adaptive –with the Aleks technology intended to allow students to master a concept before moving on to the next.

In this course, starting on October 15, 2016, students will learn by engaging in local problems and issues and completing a research project.

Global Freshman Academy accounts this year for more than 4,400 students, 5 percent more on this fall than on the last, according to Arizona State University.

Teach for America Develops Innovative Ways to Teach High School Math


Teach for America (TFA), an organization that works with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty, will offer, on October 10th, its first edX course, How to Teach High School Geometry, after joining the MIT’s and Harvard’s founded organization.

In this course, high school math teachers will learn how to develop lesson plans, how to teach geometry concepts in innovative and exciting ways and how to enable students to explore math practices on their own.

The University System of Maryland Will Offer For-Credit Courses on edX

The University System of Maryland (USM), which comprises 12 institutions, has joined edX as a Contributing Charter Member.

As a result of this partnership, USM will offer for-credit courses. The first course, offered by UMUC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore,  will be Global Health – The Lessons of Ebola, starting on September 20. It will explore how multidisciplinary teams can work more effectively together to address global health needs and examine why local health issues affect us globally.

USM’s investment on edX has been 2 million dollars.

The New Android App for edX Allows to Browse Courses without Logging In

appedX has launched an advanced version of its app  for Android on the Google Play Store.

Version 2.6.2 of the mobile app allows learners to browse edX courses without creating an edX account and without logging in. Learners can register for an edX account or sign in from the about page for any course.

The new edX mobile app is a companion to the edx.org website. It also works on Open edX installations.

[Disclosure: IBL offers iOS and Android apps]

Armando Fox, the Professor Who Coined the term "SPOC", Honored as an Outstanding Educator

armando-foxArmando Fox, a professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Berkeley, author of successful MOOCs and leader at the Open edX community, was honored in June with the Association for Computing Machinery’s Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award.

“Mr. Fox was instrumental in adapting a software-engineering course at Berkeley to be offered as a massive open online course, or MOOC, beginning in 2011. One of the course’s innovations was an automatic grading system to evaluate the correctness and style of student programming assignments,” Ruth Hammond reported at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Armando Fox is the author of the term “SPOCs” or Small Private Online Courses –that is, MOOCs intended for a small audience of learners on campus.

EdX's Best Professors

Who are the most inspiring teachers on edX.org?

These 11 are the best professors in the edX community, according to an edX evaluation committee. They all have made “exceptional contributions in online teaching and learning”.

One of those finalists will receive the first edX prize on edX’s 2016 Global Forum, which will take place in November in Paris, hosted by Sorbonne University.

This is the list of professors:

The "Science of Happiness" edX Course Attracts 375,000 Students

Since its launch in September 2014, “The Science of Happiness” edX course has attracted more than 375,000 students, according to Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

This eight-week, free course, taught by UC Berkeley’s professors Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon Thomas, shares their findings on science and practice.  This course on positive psychology explores the roots of a meaningful life and highlights the idea that happiness is linked to having strong social ties and contributing to something bigger than yourself –the greater good.

Students learn about relevant happiness research through compelling videos featuring professors Keltner and Simon as guest instructors. There are “actionable happiness exercises; accessible reading material; and a weekly “emotion check-in.” “We put the secrets of happiness at your fingertips with just a click of a button”, they say.

The next edition of Science of Happiness starts on September 6, 2016.