An innovative Open edX extension that integrates digital badges into MOOCs will be presented this Wednesday on Harvard University’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the first Open edX conference.

It will be an XBlock developed by IBL Studios Education and George Washington University (GWU), with the support of University of Indiana, edX and

GWU’s Professor Lorena Barba, who provided a conceptual design and iterative refinements for this app, has prepared a set of slides explaining the development.

The badge solution will work initially with the badge hosting service. This Rhode Island-based company has developed an API that IBL’s engineering team has integrated into a Python client and connected to the Open edX platform.

The first institution to integrate this solution will be George Washington University through its Open edX platform.

Students of the “Practical Numerical Methods with Python” course will be the first ones benefiting from the IBL Open Badge XBlock. Their achievements will be recognized through badges that will be automatically issued when their grading scores on each lesson surpass 50 percent or any other percentage set by the instructor.


Coursera, the leading education platform that in less than three years has reached 10 million students and raised $85 million in venture capital, is being successful with its “Signature Track” service –which securely links coursework to real identity via a verified certificate priced between $30 and $100.

  • Around 70 % of the upcoming courses have this option enabled.
  • Verified Certificate is becoming the only option for acknowledgement of course completion, despite protests by many students.
  • At present Coursera is receiving more than $1 million per month in revenues from verified certificates.

(edSurge wrote recently an interesting report titled How Does Coursera Make Money)


The edX Engineering blog features George Washington University‘s Professor Lorena A. Barba, who has developed the second independent, non-edX Consortium Open edX university instance (after Stanford’s).

The interview is a must-read.

As Open edX consultants, at IBL we are asked many times how it is possible to create engaging learning sequences. I advise to take Lorena’s Numerical Methods with Python’s MOOC in order to get a glimpse. See what her secret recipe is.

(Disclosure: IBL Studios Education is providing professional services and technical support at GW Online)

“As course instructor and designer at the same time, my focus has been creating a map, a guided tour for the course participants to navigate the course content and learning pathways. The core content, itself, resides outside the Open edX platform, in fact—it’s on GitHub. We also use the Open edX discussion forum and graded assignments, so the platform is more for providing interaction than content. My focus is learning together. I am learning as intensely as the top participants in the course. We use Open edX as an object of connection”.

(Disclosure: IBL Studios Education is providing professional services and technical support at GW Online)


EdX has decided to create a series of named releases of the Open edX codebase as a way to capture code at stable points in time which is ready for production after it has been battle-tested. In addition, by using names, it is easier to identify installations and therefore share knowledge within the community.

Well, the first instance, released on October 29th, is called Aspen. Its codebase –which “was frozen at a stable point in time (mid-September 2014)”, according to the edX engineering blog–will not change even as the developer community continues to improve the code. “All releases will receive extensive testing both from edX, which will use the release to support millions of users, as well as by organizations within the Open edX community, where the release will have been run and tested in many different configurations”, edX said.

The next release, named Birch, will arrive “in a few months”. The third one will be “Cypress”.


On the other hand, there has been some significant code enhancements in the edX community in the last days:

  • edX has redesigned the e-commerce functionality allowing organizations to purchase many seats in a course for its employees/members and then to distribute the codes for redemption. How does it work? When more than one seat is purchased, ‘registration codes’ as generated and downloaded as CSV files.
  • Another enhancement in the platform is the new auto-signup/enrollment functionality.An administrator or staff member can create new accounts and enroll students in a course simply by uploading a CSV file which contains a list of students (with the following columns: email, username, full name, country…).
  • The edX analytics pipeline has been open sourced along with the course analytics dashboard. The analytics pipeline consists of several repos.


All of these issues will be discussed in the Open edX November 18-19 conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This gathering will be followed by a two-day hackathon at edX’s headquarters in Cambridge.


We will soon see how MOOCs become part of high school and K12 education as a whole. has launched this interesting audio report:

We recently mentioned the start of the edX High-School initiative (IBL Studios is producing two video MOOCs for Cooper Union). It was one of the first signals that MOOCs are not just geared toward college students and adult learners anymore.

  • Consider MOOCs as a supplement for kids who are motivated or don’t have access to quality education.
  • Think how useful MOOCs can be to figure out what our kids want to study in college.
  • Realize that lot of high schools cannot afford a rich set of AP courses in subjects like physics, chemistry and other sciences. At edX, many courses are taught by top professors from MIT and Berkeley.
  • Include completed MOOCs in the extracurriculars’ section on college or job applications (this might have a huge impact in the result).
  • Courses developed by subject experts from grade 1 to grade 12 will benefit thousand of schools nationwide.

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.