The newest version of the edX platform –the October 7th release– introduces private discussion cohorts. This feature allows to create smaller communities of students who communicate and share experiences privately within the larger, course-wide community.

In addition, the CSV file that contains student profile data includes a Cohort column (as long as the cohorts feature is enabled).

Another announcement came from the Engineering blog. The edX-specific version of eXtensible Markup Language (XML) used as a content format has been renamed Open Learning XML (OLX), while an alpha version of documentation has been issued.

edx 300Whether you enjoy learning, investing in your career or preparing for college, you should take a look at the course offering: 300 free courses, most of them created by top universities.

In the last three months, edX has launched over 100 courses, many of the them inside the High School Initiative (disclosure: IBL is filming two of them, for the Cooper Union). The 300th course was announced last week.

Congratulations edX!


EdX has launched fee-based professional education courses that will typically run for a few days to several weeks.

Course content will be geared toward employers and employees, and offer Verified Certificates of Achievement.

Price tags will vary: from a cost of $495 per student on Rice’s “Basics of Energy Sustainability” to $1,249 on MIT’s “Engaging with Innovation Ecosystems: The Corporate Perspective”. Revenue from these courses will be shared between edX and their partners. Employers buying the courses in bulk will receive a discount.

These courses will start in 2015 and will focus on subjects such as leadership, IT, business, engineering, communications, energy, medicine, big data, cybersecurity and innovation.

The first five courses (see the image above) have been created by MIT‘s Sloan School of Management, Rice University and Delft University of Technology. Harvard’s Vice Provost announced that this institution won’t take part in this professional education program.



What are the key technology trends in higher education?

See the picture above that we captured last week at the Educause annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, where more than 7,000 college officials, 270 exhibitors and hundreds of organizations –IBL, among them– gathered to discuss new ideas such as the new role of the CIO in the educational industry (see below).

Fast trends (1-2 years):

  • Growing ubiquity of social media
  • Integration of online, hybrid and collaborative learning

Mid range trends  (3-5 years):

  • Rise of data-driven learning and assessment
  • Shift from students as consumers to students as creators

Long range trends (8 or more years)

  • Agile approaches to change
  • Evolution of online learning

The New Horizon Report is can be downloaded here.

The Chief Information Officer’s new role

cio role


Moreover, Educause was organized and insightful, and it was a great gathering. Once again, we learned a lot!

analytics edx 2

The newest version of the edX platform –free to be downloaded on GitHub– contains a cool surprise: a new course analytics product called edX Insights, which provides data for student enrollment activity, geographic location and engagement with course content.

Members with the Instructor or Course Staff permission can access this functionality in the LMS’s Instructor Dashboard, and monitor students’ activities, validate choices or reveal unexpected patterns.

EdX Insights is designed to deliver data using visualizations, key metrics, and tables, in order to learn who your students are and what they do while they interact with your course.

  • For example, the Weekly Student Engagement chart displays the number of students who engaged in different activities over time.

For now, edX has issued the initial version of Insights on the September 30 release.


The edX analytics team has open-sourced the whole code, although without the documentation and operational support it is hard to handle. It requires a lot of understanding before being able to do anything useful.

edcast open edx, an Open edX hosting provider created by the serial enterpreneur Karl Mehta, has raised $6 million in funding. This is the largest private fundraising that has happened in the Open edX universe (beyond the MIT and Harvard investment of $60 million).

Edcast built its first project this month with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network, linking more than 200 institutions worldwide.

SoftBank Capital lead the financing round with participation from other investors that included Menlo Ventures, Novel TMT Ventures, Mitch Kapor (Kapor Capital), Cerving Ventures, Aarin Capital, NewSchools Venture Fund/CoLab and the Stanford StartX Fund.

This is the second time SoftBank has backed one of Mehta’s startups, who previously founded and sold PlaySpan, a virtual currency system manager acquired by Visa Corp in a $240 million deal.


The second edition of our guide to Open edX was released this week. Most of the sections have been updated with new information.

In addition, we have launched an HTML version, which is far more convenient than the PDF edition when it comes to following URLs to key pages.

No registration or password access is required for either of the formats. The work, written by Michael Amigot, is self-funded and released under the least restrictive Creative Commons license.

This free eBook –the first guide related to this technology– explores the most engaging and innovative learning and teaching platform in the world.

“It is useful for someone trying to get up-to-speed on the Open edX ecosystem”, according to Piotr Mitros, Chief Scientist at edX.

“The eBook itself is a quick read, and looks like a good overview of Open edX. Part 1 is an index of major Open edX adopters. Then there are pointers to key points of documentation (e.g. demo courses demonstrating Open edX functionality). Next, there’s a high level overview of what the components of Open edX are, and what the extension points are. Finally, there are pointers to the major resources about Open edX,” described Mr. Mitros on Google’s Open edX discussion board.


The newest version of the edX platform, released on September 18th, includes a very useful feature, although it might go in the opposite direction of the open education trend: it hides YouTube and non-YouTube videos’ URLs. However, the author of the course can allow students to download them.


Another important announcement came from Google Education, who added the ability to use over 60 external third-party authentication systems on the Open edX platform, with support for everything from open standards like OpenID or OAuth 2.0, to custom single sign-on systems. The authentication module is extensible and its features are completely configurable.


On the other hand, there is a new version of the edX demo course, which is interesting for new students and course designers.

license edx

The Open edX code works under AGPL, a type of license that prominent open-source advocates like Scott Wilson, Service Manager at OSS Watch, or Dr. Charles R. Severance have loudly criticized.

“With a large system like Open edX, one license doesn’t fit all purposes, which is why we’ve decided to relicense one part, our XBlock API, under Apache 2.0.,” has announced Ned Batchelder, edX Software Architect.

With this mixed licensing strategy, the goal of edX is to encourage developers to code new XBlocks –that is, interactive components to be used as an extension of courses– and get a massive adoption. Ultimately, the aim is to convert XBlock in the standard extension module beating the LTI technology –mostly used in other LMS such as Canvas, Moodle, Desire2Learn, Sakai and Blackboard.

“The Apache 2.0 license is permissive: it lets adopters and extenders do what they want with their changes. They can release them under a copyleft license like AGPL, or a permissive license like Apache, or even keep them closed-source,” explains Mr. Batchelder.


Online students can earn digital badges for completing their course. But what about issuing badges to check student progress and cumulative skills learned? How can you verify and manage individual identities? Wouldn’t it be smart to keep the material open as evidence of student’s outcome?

The challenges are being discussed between Indiana University (IU), George Washington University, edX and IBL Studios. All parties share a firm commitment to open education.

This collaborative effort to build and issue digital badges is based upon the findings at the Design Principles Documentation Project and is being undertaken by the Open Badges in Open edX and Beyond initiative. IU’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology will provide a twofold mode of support for digital badges to Dr. Lorena Barba’s MOOC: technology (facilitating coding in Open edX) and pedagogy (purposeful implementation, evidence, and assessment).

The team has set the goal of issuing digital badges by mid-November to students who complete built-in assessments with proficiency across the Open edX platform.

Indiana University’s scientists, Daniel Hickey and James Willis, describe the project in this blog post.