college ed

How do you determine whether prospective students are prepared for the best colleges?

Today grading standards vary among teachers and high schools. Personal essays could have been written by someone else or engineered because of the work of essay-writing coaches. SAT and ACT scores can be maximized through prep courses and different techniques that have little to do with achievement. Letters of recommendations and extracurricular activities are also imprecise measurement tools. Add to this the monetary contributions from wealthy families and Ivy League slots in high schools.

This imperfect information system is reflected by the fact that more than one in four students who start college drop out or transfer within three years.

MOOCs offered by dozens of elite colleges give high school students a chance to prove that they are ready for a university. In turn, the institution gets an accurate measure of whether a student is prepared for academics. edX and Coursera offer real courses –sometimes eves the same classes that are taught to freshmen– from the world’s greatest universities.

  • “MOOC success is much more likely to predict success in college classes than SAT scores, because MOOC success is, in fact, success in college classes”, explains Kevin Carey, director of policy program at New America.
  • “Online college courses also can be a better measure of student aptitude than Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, which are considered in admissions by many colleges.”
  • “The availability of real, free college courses means universities won’t have to rely on such flawed proxies in the future. Instead they’ll be able to pick and choose from among students who have already demonstrated that they can excel at demanding college work.” 

Colleges are now figuring out how to incorporate MOOCs into admissions and make them recruiting tools. On the other side, students are listing MOOCs among extracurricular activities.

“It will become much harder for privileged parents to help their less-talented children game the system. Unless, of course, elite schools really wanted the children of the rich and powerful all along.”

[The Washington Post: Goodbye, SAT: How online courses will change college admissions]


What is the cost of creating and running a MOOC? And how much money is your College or University willing to invest in it to develop distance learners’ skills?

post on Linkedin has gotten our attention.

  • University of Texas says their cost is $100 to $300 per course.
  • Teachers College at Columbia University estimates them to range from $39k to $204k each.
  • Harvard’s costs range from $75 to $150.
  • Cornell says that the cost of supporting a MOOC instructor, materials, and teaching assistant is about $50k.
  • Udacity reports costs of $200k to produce a course, plus $50 to run it subsequently. And costs are only expected to rise, they say.
  • edX gives grants of $50k for creating a course within its “High School Program”.

The two main cost components are course creation (faculty, admins, instructional designers, technical support) and the type of delivery. It is generally estimated that the cost of a high quality video production is approximately $4,300 per hour of finished video.

On average, $70k is the cost to produce a course; the delivery costs range from $10-20 per learner to access the course on Amazon or internal servers.


“Free online courses won’t revolutionize education until there is a parallel system of free or low-fee credentials, not controlled by traditional colleges, that leads to jobs,” says Kevin Carey, author of the essay “The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere”.

The new digital credentials, or badges, can solve this problem. Badges indicate specific skills and knowledge, backed by links to electronic evidence of how and why the credentials were earned. In addition, badges are not limited to what people learned in college, but everywhere else. In the meantime, traditional college degrees are inadequate tools for communicating information and presenting that data to employers.

Read the complete article here.

Update: The Mozilla Foundation’s Open Badges project has been leading the badges effort, although the project is dying and about to be abandoned, according to experts consulted by IBL News.

[Disclosure: IBL Studios presented in November 2014 the first badge system for edX and Open edX]

edx is the number one free online resource that can make entrepreneurs more successful, according to Business Insider.

“Taking time for a class can seem tiring, time-consuming, and expensive”.

Business Insider has compiled a list of the top free online learning sites:

  1. EdX.
  2. Alison.
  3. MIT OpenCourseware.
  4. Coursera.
  5. Microsoft Virtual Academy.
  6. Code Academy.
  7. Moz.
  8. HubSpot Academy.
  9. iTunesU.
  10. Doulingo.

The second Open edX meetup in the U.S. will take place in New York’s McKinsey Academy headquarters on April 9th. The title of the event is “Open edX in the Spotlight: The Future of Online Education”. 

Prominent leaders from George Washington University, edX, McKinsey and PepperPD will be speaking.

The registration is free and the event will be live streamed and recorded by IBL Studios Education. Beer on top and pizza will be served. McKinsey, WeWork and IBL sponsor the meetup.

This is the line-up of panelists:

–– First Presentation

edTech Learning: 2 years in
Michael Keany – McKinsey Academy
General Manager


–– Second Presentation
Building a Sustainable University Strategy for Online Education

Paul Schiff Berman – The George Washington University
Vice Provost of Online Education and Academic Innovation


–– Third Presentation

Building Opportunities Around Open edX

Beth Porter – edX
Vice President of Product


–– Fourth Presentation
Building a National Professional Learning Center With Open edX

Dr. Jack McLaughlin  – – Public Consulting Group

[Open Community Portal: Open edX in th Spotlight: The Future of Online Education]

[The third Open edX meetup will take place in Spain, on April 20th in the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid’s campus]



Instructors can now embed Google Drive files and Calendars into courseware on edX and Open edX. This improvement was added to the Open edX platform on the March 5 release.

The Google Drive files – Docs, Drawings, Forms or Surveys, Slides, Sheets – and Calendars appear in the body of the course just like any other content.



An additional possibility for the students is to add the Google Course Calendar to their own personal calendars. The course information will appear along with the students’ information.


[edX Guide for Students: Embedded Files and Calendars]

[edX Guide for Instructors: Google Calendar ToolGoogle Drive Files Tool and XBlock]


History can now be learned in a new, engaging way with the help of one of the largest collections of objects and artifacts.

The Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum and research complex, founded in 1846, will offer three interesting MOOCs on All courses, developed with the National Museum of American History, are currently open for enrollment.

  • Objects That Define America. This course, co-produced in partnership with the The Great Courses, looks at the History of America through the lens of key historic objects, artifacts, and exhibits in the Smithsonian collections –from the Statute of Liberty to the Model T.
  • Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture. Iconic creator Stan Lee will participate in this course. Learners who sign up and earn a verified certificate will receive a credential featuring original artwork with both Stan Lee’s and Michael Uslan’s signatures.
  • Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects. This course, geared to middle and high school social studies and history teachers, will offer new teaching techniques designed to engage students in the process of historical inquiry.

“The launch of SmithsonianX on edX is one way that the Smithsonian is sharing its collections and scholarships with a global audience,” said Jacqueline Moen, Vice President of SmithsonianX. “This initial portfolio of courses with Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will offer new perspectives on understanding the American experience.”


Microsoft will offer seven courses on the portal in April.

These courses, taught by Microsoft experts, are now open for enrollment.

  • Introduction to TypeScript, a design-time language that enables JavaScript programmers to manage projects on any platform. This course is co-authored by Anders Hejlsberg, creator of Turbo Pascal, Delphi, C#, and TypeScript.
  • Introduction to Bootstrap, an open-source UI framework created by Twitter to enable the creation of responsive, mobile-first web pages. Bootstrap has become a de facto standard for web design.

Microsoft has already developed an Xblock to enable course creators to embed Office Mix lectures into their edX courses.

The software giant plans to continue investing on edX and Open edX ecosystem through new software developments.


“The Past, Present, and Future of the Federal Reserve” and “Business in a Political Age” are two signature MOOCs that the George Washington University (GW) will start offering in April.

These spectacular free courses, offered on a new Open edX platform, “are designed to educate the world”, said Paul Schiff Berman, Vice Provost for Online Education and Academic Innovation.

“These are courses that no other university is offering, and perhaps no other university could offer,” he added.

Registration is now open to the public.

[GW Today: New Online Course Offerings for GW]
[Disclosure: IBL Studios designed and powered the platform]


What does the Open edX architecture look like?

The first version of the diagram illustrating the many components of Open edX is displayed above. It contains various blocks that are scheduled for development but not necessarily in the current version of the Birch release.

In addition, this page explains the current architecture of the platform. It contains also a larger image of the diagram.