View: Master’s Degrees At Scale Must Follow a Stackable Approach

By Mikel Amigot

The new MOOC-based professional master’s degrees usually include fewer or no synchronous sessions, limited contact with leading instructors and more auto-graded assignments.

But more important than those features is stackability, as we are experiencing on Coursera’s MasterTrack or edX’s MicroMasters. This means that learners earn a credential and then apply for an on-campus or an online master’s degree program.

However, the crucial innovation is stackability.

Stackability is also a learning strategy, as James DeVaney (University at Michigan) and Matthew Rascoff (Duke University) innovation experts rightly explain on Inside Higher Ed. “Educational providers meet learners where they are, and provide the right level and amount of learning, and an appropriate credential, for their needs.”

At the same time, a stackable strategy can reduce the cost of the program without compromising quality, and can be the basis for admissions instead of the existing flawed tests.

 

View: Master’s Degrees, a Cash Cow and Vehicle for Advancement

By Mikel Amigot

Around 800,000 master’s degrees were awarded by U.S. universities in 2018, becoming an essential credential.

A baccalaureate degree doesn’t suffice for an increasing number of jobs in education, healthcare, business and STEM. A master’s is now the educational minimum for many occupations and professions. This new entry credential conveys more salary: $12K more than a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Between 1990 and 2010, public universities increased the number of programs in business from 266 to 321, in public administration from 153 to 220 and in communications from 90 to 141, according to Michael T. Nietzel, President Emeritus of Missouri State University and contributor of Forbes.

For employees, it’s a vehicle for career advancement, and it helps to build a personal brand (Ph.D. programs are dramatically more expensive and difficult to achieve). For universities, it’s a cash cow, mostly because scholarships are seldom used to discount tuition and can reach a large number of students.

Students’ and institutional interests are aligned and, as result of it, master’s programs continue to thrive.

        Mikel Amigot is CEO at IBL Education         

View: MOOC-Based CME Programs, a New Hot Area

By Mikel Amigot

Continuing medical education (CME) and healthcare content is a new area for MOOC providers.

Professionals are obligated to complete CME credits every two years to maintain their medical licenses, and Coursera, edX, and other platforms are providing timely digital courses in new areas (machine learning, data analytics, law, and regulations, etc.) to re-skill them.

Coursera has announced an entire vertical with 100 new courses and 30 new “specializations”, with six accredited CME universities: Columbia University, the University of California at Davis, University of Minnesota, Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai, University of Pennsylvania and Emory University.

Additionally, Coursera has launched two degrees: a Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and Master of Public Health from Imperial College London.

There are other entrants in the programs-based CMEs such as Lambda School, a well-funded coding boot camp, and Grand Canyon Education, who recently purchased healthcare OPM Orbis Education for $362 million.

        Mikel Amigot is the CEO at IBL Education (Open edX)            

View: Master’s Degrees Are Increasingly Online

By Mikel Amigot

Master’s degree programs are increasingly offered online.

Over 31 percent of students enrolled in master’s degrees took them entirely online, while 21 percent took some, but not all, classes online, according to an analysis from the Urban Institute.

Digital education fits particularly well for these students because they tend to be proactive and self-directed learners. This segment tends to achieve better outcomes as they are more likely to be employed.

For every five taken bachelor’s there were two master’s degrees during the 2015-16 academic year. In total, about 785,000 master’s degrees were awarded in the U.S.

In terms of pricing, tuition and fees for full-time master’s rose by 79 percent during the last 20 years, compared to a 47 percent increase for full-time bachelor’s programs.

        Mikel Amigot is the CEO at IBL Education (Open edX)            

Analysis: Build vs Buy vs Open edX

By Miguel Amigot II & Zoe Mackay

The initial process for learning innovators aiming to launch a large-scale online learning initiative may seem daunting, as there are many paths to getting started. This post offers information to help clarify best practices for learning initiatives supporting a significant number of students (above 10k) that expect to provide added value with innovative software and exceptional online learning solutions.

The classic dilemma is “build vs. buy” when launching an online learning ecosystem – should you build a proprietary platform from scratch or buy/license an existing platform?

  • Building a proprietary platform allows your team to design the platform end-to-end, and control all integrations and intimate knowledge of your process.
  • There is also the added benefit of no vendor lock-in, which gives you the ability to modify the platform in the future.

Building a platform will have a longer production timeline, in comparison to buying or licensing an existing one, and would also require the assembly of a dedicated team as an engineering organization: product, designers, frontend, backend, and devops. Depending on your organization, this could prove costly when factoring in salaries and staff opportunity costs.

Another consideration is that developing proprietary platforms is difficult. It must be extensible in order to incorporate future features (minimal technical debt). It must also be well-documented for the purpose of incorporating and training new staff on your proprietary solution. The level of difficulty will depend on the culture of your organization, the mindset of your engineers and any deadlines and short-term incentives to ship code.

Buying or licensing an existing platform comes with its own host of considerations. They offer immediate deployments and are reliable, given that you will most likely not be their only client. However, unlike the flexibility offered in building a platform, buying or licensing will include vendor lock-in — you will be unable to incorporate new features to the platform, unless the vendor decides that it’s worth it to include additional features unless you pay top-dollar to get them. In terms of cost, there will be expensive licensing fees, especially for a non-negligible number of students. Realistically, your organization could end up paying $100k – $220k per year to host 10k students.

 

Case Study: Global Knowledge

Global Knowledge, the largest private IT training company in the world, offers an interesting case study for this build vs. buy dilemma. About four years ago, Global Knowledge realized they needed a new learning platform that would support classroom, virtual and on-demand training. Their primary approach was to build the platform themselves. However, a year in, they realized their path of innovation was moving too slowly. Too much time was being spent shipping their needed features that were already available across a plethora of platforms, and they came to the realization that they would end up developing rudimentary features like multiple choice problems, rather than developing value-added features like custom labs or analytics.

Global Knowledge found that building their own proprietary platform offered too few features to start with, and an innovation timeline that was too long, so they chose not to build from the ground up an LMS for delivering on-demand training. They realized it would only make sense to build non-LMS capabilities, and developed a student portal, MyGK, that allows learners to access their courses, irrespective of their modality.

Global Knowledge’s second approach was to acquire an LMS startup to radically increase the features provided “out of the box.” This approach came equipped with staff to accelerate innovation. However, it was still too slow in comparison to its competitors and the at-large market of learning platforms. Although there were more features to begin with, the innovation was at a slightly higher slope but still unsatisfactory. Global Knowledge decided to make an acquisition in this space to accelerate the delivery of their learning platform, especially around digital asset management and jump-starting their team.

Finally, Global Knowledge’s third approach started in the winter of 2017-2018 under the new management of their Director of Engineer, Paul Tocatlian. The ask was simple: deliver a better solution that allows Global Knowledge to come out with a superior learning experience, cost-effectively, that allows faster innovation and can integrate with their existing backend systems.

For the reasons mentioned above, building their platform was not feasible. Neither was licensing a solution, as it would be inflexible and cost-prohibitive to license a learning platform with hundreds of thousands of users, costing Global Knowledge tens of millions per year. They had plans to innovate, and needed a cost-effective and flexible solution.

Given these considerations, Paul Tocatlian recommended using open source technology, and specifically Open edX. It comes equipped with most features, has the highest rate of innovation, extensibility, and integration. Open edX is also proven, built by MIT and Harvard for edx.org’s 11M+ learners.

 

More About Open edX

 

        Miguel Amigot II is the CTO at IBL Education (Open edX)            

Opinion: Modularize and Repurpose Your Learning Content

Producing non-credit MOOCs by using grants which cover costs has been the norm in many top universities.

But this model is unsustainable.

“My view is to modularize all of the MOOCs production for multiple purposes and dissemination channels”– explained to me by a visionary online learning manager.

That’s right. Modularize, repurpose and disseminate the learning content through multiple channels.

The focus is to design for revenue-generating professional programs.

Choose the right subjects and engaging instructors. Always produce with the learner in mind, following a specific business plan for every MOOC.

Let’s pursue a modular future.

 

        Mikel Amigot is the Founder of IBL News and IBL Education (Open edX)         

Opinion: Education as a Marketing Tool for Software Companies

By Miguel Amigot II

Education is a genius and growing form of marketing for software companies, especially those with developer communities.

Lower the learning barriers for newcomers and deepen the expertise of those who are already familiar with your platform.

If you can also provide micro credentials with your courses, then you’ll generate leads as people share them on social media in order to advance their careers.

You’ll also be able to drive up usage at your client companies as more team members understand your platform (thereby achieving internal network effects).

Databricks follows this strategy by issuing Apache Spark certifications, Microsoft with Azure and NVIDIA via its Deep Learning Institute at https://courses.nvidia.com

 

        Miguel Amigot II is the CTO at IBL Education (Open edX)         

Opinion: Artificial Intelligence Will Reshape Education

By Mikel Amigot

We are walking into an AI-empowered era. And not only self-driving cars and robots are performing repetitive tasks.

Nearly all industries, including education, will eventually be affected by AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Today we are seeing the impact on customer attention, where machine learning algorithms using data are making decisions.

Machine learning, a subset of AI, is the new weapon in education, too. Personalized learning, adaptive pathways, and predictive analytics will be the most visible outcome.

We’re already seeing how data is helping to track student knowledge and recommend next steps.

We all know IBM Watson, ALEKS, and Knewton. Even us, at IBL Education, we’ve implemented these algorithms in some online lessons, and we’ve deployed predictive analytics on the Open edX platform.

However, we need much more data to improve our algorithms.

Machine learning in education is in the early stages.

Students, parents, and advisors will continue to make decisions about learning pathways, but data will play an increasing role in guiding recommendations.

In a way, the AI tsunami has not even started.

 

        Mikel Amigot is the CEO of IBL Education (Open edX) and IBL News        

 

Opinion: Why is Blockchain So Important? A 1-Min Reading for Beginners

By Mikel Amigot

It’s not just a buzzword. Blockchain is a true technological advancement that will transform the financial, medical, legal, and software services industries.

This week I attended the 2018 Finovate conference in New York and noticed how many high-profile banking and supply-chain executives were paying extreme attention.

For sure, blockchain-based networks, decentralized apps, and distributed ledgers are quietly changing the world. When the concept was introduced in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, an unknown person or people who later developed the bitcoin digital currency, no one predicted this upcoming revolution.

Why is this so relevant?

A blockchain is a secure and distributed database, which maintains a growing list of ordered and encrypted records, called blocks. Each block has a link to a previous block, a timestamp –the date and time when the record was created– and the history of every file. Users can only edit the parts of the encrypted blocks that they “own”, as they possess the needed, cryptographically created private keys to write to it (obviously, these private keys, which are a few lines of data, can be stolen; but also they can be secured at almost no expense).

In addition to this immutable ledger that the network maintains, a blockchain has another primary component: a decentralized, autonomously managed, peer-to-peer network. This makes blockchain excellent for recording every digital transaction, exchange of goods and services, medical records, contracts, electoral voting, identity management, and private data. Naturally, it opens the possibility of mass disintermediation of transaction and trade processing, eliminating any “middleman”. Also, the usefulness of blockchain extends to storing any kind of digital information, including software.

In other words, it’s a new Internet of value, a transformative technology of the second digital age.

[Disclosure: at IBL we are creating self-paced and adaptive Blockchain for Business courses for organizations]

        Mikel Amigot is the Founder of IBL News and IBL Education (Open edX)         

Opinion: A Surprisingly Powerful Teaching Tool

By Mikel Amigot

Jupyter Notebook is a surprisingly powerful teaching tool.

If you are an educator, engineer or scientist and haven’t heard about Jupyter, you should take the time to learn about it.

Tim O’Reilly said that Jupyter is “the next big thing.”

This technology has received the 2017 ACM Software System Award.

Essentially, Jupyter Notebook is an open-source web application to create and share documents with live code, equations, visualizations, and text.

Currently, it is mostly used for Data Science and Machine Learning, but it goes far beyond. Its tools are easily extensible – e.g., you can play mp4 movie files.

In education, Jupyter opens a new pedagogical model. It is also a new genre of OER.

 

        Mikel Amigot is the Founder of IBL News and IBL Education (Open edX)         

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