Hell Class Central readers
I’m Chris Fellingham, I work for FutureLearn and as a way to help people understand the world of Edtech (not least myself) I began writing updates on some of the trends and stories in the Edtech world – with a focus on MOOCs.
These reports are largely an annotated summary of the news in a fortnight and reflect my own, sometimes blunt views on what’s happening, what’s good, what’s exciting and what sucks.
This edition looks at the recent closure of Coding bootcamps, growth in online masters and blended degrees and the ever present shadow of automation on education and jobs.
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All views expressed in these reports are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of FutureLearn.
State of the MOOCS
Coursera’s pitch for the online degree market – articulated – Less a new strategy rather than a rationalisation of Coursera’s evolved offering to date. The nub of which is Coursera can use MOOCs as the wide part of the funnel to cheaply acquire learners that they’ll nudge into the more monetisable Specializations and degrees.
- Coursera for Business is ticking along nicely, they added the insurance giant AXA (166K employees globally) and Jazz, a Pakistani telecoms provider – (here and here)
- Coursera in India (their second largest market) has 2m learners and gains 60K per month – here
- MIT looks at ‘several’ more MicroMasters as well as offering undergraduate programs – MIT were so impressed by their MicroMasters in Supply Chain Management’s success (in terms of enrolments and the student standards) that several departments are bidding to offer them and MIT are also looking at undergraduate education, good news for edX – here
- edX launch Professional certificate in Data Science for Executives by Columbia University – It consists of 3 MOOCs costing $99-149, the price seems more ‘professional’ than Executive and one wonders if Columbia fudged it because they didn’t think they could get enough Executives on the course – here
- Examinity will be the Open edX provider of online proctoring – Given Open edX is open source, presumably Open edX users can use alternatives, Examinity presumably won the rights to be the out of the box provider. It’s not obvious how useful this is, those that use Open edX because it is open source might not have much interest in exams therefore online proctoring, those that use it more seriously may still wish to conduct them in person – here
- edX platform to be used by IL&FN a financial services firm to help employees train – here
- New Zealand accredit Udacity’s Self-driving car Nanodegree in Microcredential pilot – NZQA, the New Zealand accreditation body, will accredit the Nanodegree along with several other courses with credits as an experiment to to aid new forms of professional qualifications to help workers upskill. The short term implications may be little more than PR, but if it is the first step toward a government framework for stackable credentials for professionals then it could greatly aid MOOCs and similar courses to gaining credibility and monetising it – here
- Infosys now uses Udacity Nanodegree as pre-training training for its graduates – here
Is the end nigh for Coding Bootcamps? Not necessarily, I’ve written a short article that examines some of the challenges the bootcamp business model faces and where they might go next
Codeacademy lays down the foundations of its business model – Codeacademy has 45m user but up to this point no business model. That’s about to change with a slew of options due to be progressively rolled out: $20 per month for livechat with other users, $200 per course for access to a cohort, graded assignments and live video seminars or $500 per course for all of the above plus a weekly one on one chat – here
Linkedin Launch mentor scheme pilot – The pilot will run in San Francisco and Australia and will be based on a ‘tinder’ approach as would-be mentees and mentors assess their fit. Both sides will have some parameters to help narrow their search. LinkedIn are developing mentoring as internal data showed 9/10 ‘Senior people’ on the site expressed an interest in giving back, as well as being a sought after category in their Freelancer marketplace.
Specifics are lacking – Will it be premium only? Will supply be sufficient to match demand? At a minimum it starts giving people another reason to spend time on the platform, possible increasing take up of their Linkedin Learning and job searching resources. LinkedIn is also being formally integrated into Windows 10 – here and here
Amazon Inspire launches – Amazon’s commitment to the marketplace for sharing Open Educational Resources had been questioned but with this launch they seem to be pressing on. Inspire is estimated to have around 25K resources (from its limited pilot) and sharing is disabled (possibly due to a lack of copyright infringement control) – here
Team Human vs Machine
Picking a degree in an increasingly automated world – Dr Adam Wright, a policy adviser on Education, cautions against the overuse of Longitudinal Earnings Outcome (LEO) data (data showing what you can expect to earn from your degree choice). LEO is being encouraged by the UK government to help improve transparency as UK graduates take on more debt for their studies. Adam Wright however demonstrates not only is the data highly volatile, Medicine average pay increased 16% 2010-2015 while Dentistry dropped 13% over the same period but that rising automation will further decouple degrees and jobs. For example, Solicitors and Accountants face a high threat from automation despite currently being lucrative professions, while the Creative Arts – associated with low pay may be among the most resilient – here
Preparing your child for an automated future – While some pushy parents are making their children learn to code (not Finns) others caution against learning specifics in lieu of principles. Coding languages may have completely changed by the time a child enters the workforce but computational thinking (computational concepts such as loops, trial and error, decomposing problems etc), social play and learning what robots can and can’t do should make for stronger foundations – here
Sqore is the latest recruitment startup to challenge CVs/Resumes – Swedish startup Sqore aims to replace the hiring process with a gamified product mixing knowledge and ability tests. They are hardly the first – code tournaments and other platforms already provide such testing. More interesting would be connecting the outcomes of these to MOOCs, MOOCs currently score based on user reviews, but were recruitment platforms such as Sqore to proliferate they could develop their own hiring data that could externally score MOOCs and their like – here
Duolingo raises $25m in Series E funding round – This brings the language platform up to $108.3m in total and a valuation of ~$700m. Duolingo will focus on hiring an additional 70 staff (currently 80) as well as using Machine Learning and AI to further develop their bots. Duolingo has 200m users but their business model has yet to be cracked, currently they have ads for free users or subscription which is ad free and and allows offline lessons. Duolingo also offers English language tests for $49 that are accepted by 90 US universities including Yale. Intriguingly, Duolingo say they are more fearful of games companies (citing Clash Royale) that might add an educational layer, than educational companies that might gamify – here
Learnerbly raises £1.6m – the London based startup offers ‘learning playlists’ of content such as books, lectures and courses curated by ‘industry experts’ from companies such as AirBnB and Google. The company’s goal points to an underlying problem that MOOCs et al face – how to navigate a meaningful path through so many resources. That’s a challenge that all educational platforms should consider but in the case of Learnerbly one wonders how deep their moat is. Coursera are working on ‘learning paths’ and one suspects it wouldn’t be hard to allow a Spotify-style approach whereby users could create and share their own paths – here
OPM (Online Programme Management)
Georgia Tech aims to offer partial online undergraduate degree in Computer Science – Georgia Tech were pioneers in working with Udacity to deliver an Online Masters in Computer Science well before other MOOC platforms. The program, while not matching the initial stratospheric predictions has seen healthy numbers: 4,500 in the last academic year and 5,500 for the 2017/18 academic year. Georgia Tech are so pleased with the results (student enrolment, completion and satisfaction) that they aim to offer an online component to their undergraduate degree in Computer Science allowing up to a year of on-campus study to be shaved off, akin to Arizona State University’s Freshman Academy – here
UCLA to develop online masters – UCLA stated that the time was right to become more ‘internationally oriented’ and that while the MOOC space was crowded ‘few had gone the whole way’. UCLA aims to reach 10-15K students over the next 5 years and will focus on online masters that match Los Angeles Industries (no snide remarks please). It’s not entirely clear why they think the market is an open field but perhaps they’ve spotted some niches – here
2U snag Harvard – 2U partner with Harvard’s Business School, Engineering School and Department of Statistics to deliver the ‘Business Analytics Program’ aimed at executives and MBA Graduates. The platform also announced it had delivered $1.5bn in revenue for its partners to date – here and here
Study shows top markets for UK online degrees – Keypath Education, an OPM provider, found that Singapore was the top market followed by Hong Kong, Nigeria, Malaysia, South Africa saw the most growth – here
Business schools see delivery as the next major challenge – Surveying 173 Business schools, Parthenon-EY, an education consultancy, and the Association of MBAs found that developing Online courses and LMS were the top priorities for Business Schools – here
OPM provider Study Group is to be sold by Private Equity owner Providence Equity Partners – The firm bought Study Group for £388.3m in 2010, it has operations across (predominantly) the English speaking world teaching 73K a year from K-12 to University foundation courses – here
Global Higher Education
UC Berkeley looking at bootcamps in other fields – Bootcamps i.e. short, intense courses that focus on the absolute minimum required material have proliferated in coding but UC Berkeley thinks they can be expanded to other fields such as Healthcare and Project Management. The aim is part experimentation, bootcamps could form part of a larger credentialled structure that mixes traditional and bootcamp forms of learning – here
Storms on the horizon for USHE – In a survey of 409 chief Business Officers at US Universities and colleges 71% said there was a financial crisis within their sector. Although 56% said their institution would be stable over the next 5 years. Much of the anxiety stemmed from declining enrolments suggesting they couldn’t just expand their way out – focus will be on improving retention (and thus fees per student) and cost cutting – here
College graduates gain increasing share of ‘good jobs’ – 4 year degree holders capture 44% of ‘good jobs’ defined as >$35K for those aged under 45 and >$45K for those aged over 45. Essentially showing a widening gap between the degreed and the not – here
UKHE (UK Higher Education)
UKHE endures torrid few months of PR – The most recent bout of poor PR started with the derision of ‘experts’ by the campaigns to Leave the EU, shortly followed by a political fight over student loans and latterly the pay of vice-chancellors. Some of the the debate echoed recent revelations over the BBC senior staff pay (funded by UK taxpayers) but overall the tenor is moving closer to the US, where high fees have politicised universities and their costs to a greater extent. This is unsurprising, student debts for those graduating under the latest fee structure are around £50k and while the government has encouraged people to view it as an investment (by publishing expected earnings per subject) it’s not surprising that costs will come under more scrutiny. In the US, the high costs led to a slew of online options from MOOCs to the Arizona Freshman Academy to Coding Bootcamps, the UK market is likely more conservative but if fees rise and the labour market remains dismal for young people the on-campus degree may lose popularity – here
UKHE worth £19bn annually to the UK economy – The latest figures from the Department of Education suggest Higher Education is worth 13 of the £19bn. Growth was fuelled primarily by Transnational Education (usually campuses abroad) but increases in non-EU students and research grants awarded helped contribute to the figure – here
Crime doesn’t pay (except for MOOCs) – Cyber security has been all the rage with many MOOCs and startups aiming to fill the burgeoning and lucrative skills gap. Yet some enterprising Russians aim to educate the other side of the divide – by teaching Cybercrime. Digital Shadows, a Cyber Security agency, found several Russian MOOCs that offer lectures and course materials for ~$800. The courses teach these would-be criminals how to commit crimes such as credit card fraud and like any good MOOC demonstrate the possible graduate earnings, in this case up to $12,000 per month – here