All posts by Jeffrey R. Young


Are Courses Outdated? MIT Considers Offering ‘Modules’ Instead

People now buy songs, not albums. They read articles, not newspapers. So why not mix and match learning “modules” rather than lock into 12-week university courses?

That question is a major theme of a 213-page report released on Monday by a committee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology exploring how the 153-year-old engineering powerhouse should innovate to adapt to new technologies and new student expectations.

“The very notion of a ‘class’ may be outdated,” the report argues. T…


Clay Shirky Says MOOCs Will Matter, but Worries About Corporate Players

Clay Shirky, a best-selling author and an associate arts professor at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, is known for predicting how the latest tech trends will change traditional social institutions. These days he’s turning his focus to colleges themselves, imagining ways that MOOCs and other technologies might reshape higher education.

“For as long as students and their parents have nervously scanned tuition bills, they’ve asked themselves, ‘Isn’t there another way …


Blackboard May Double or Triple Spending on Software Development


Jay Bhatt, president and chief executive of Blackboard. (Courtesy of Blackboard Inc.)

Las Vegas — Blackboard Inc. is changing, with plans to focus more on innovation than on simply fighting for market share, says the company’s new president and chief executive, Jay Bhatt, who took office just seven and a half months ago.

In the past 16 years Blackboard has grown into one of the largest education-technology companies, and in 2011 it came under new ownership, after being purchased for $1.64-billio…


Blackboard Announces New MOOC Platform

Las Vegas — Blackboard, a company that makes software that many colleges use to run their classroom and online courses, announced on Wednesday that it was expanding its support for MOOCs, though it is relatively late to the much-talked-about trend of massive open online courses.

“We watched really carefully, and we thought about doing something” sooner, said Ray Henderson, president of Blackboard’s teaching and learning division, in an interview this week. “This is one of those times when we sai…


Virtual Universities Abroad Say They Already Deliver ‘Massive’ Courses


The Virtual U. of Pakistan developed a video lecture titled “The Physics of Donkey Carts.”

Cambridge, Mass. — Since long before anyone uttered the word “MOOC,” virtual universities in many countries have been using technology to teach thousands of students at a time. Even so, leaders of those online institutions, who gathered here this week at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said they were watching massive open online courses closely.

One key takeaway from the event, though, was that …


MOOC Provider edX More Than Doubles Its University Partners

Fifteen more universities have agreed to offer free massive open online courses through edX, a nonprofit provider of MOOCs founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, more than doubling its membership, from 12 to 27.

Tuesday’s announcement came as the group celebrated its first anniversary and as its leaders said it was bringing in revenue and was on track to financial sustainability.

The new partners are five institutions in the United States, including Cornell …


Internet2 Signs Deal With Smithsonian to Connect Colleges to Digitized Artifacts

The Smithsonian Institution has signed a deal with Internet2 that could make it easier for colleges to connect with digital content in museums on the National Mall.

The new partnership, to be formally announced this morning at Internet2′s member meeting, will also bring high-speed Internet connections to some of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and a technology-demonstration area in the institution’s Arts and Industry Building, which is currently being renovated. Internet2 is a nonprofit group that …


Stanford U. and edX Will Jointly Build Open-Source Software to Deliver MOOCs

Starting in June, colleges that want to deliver their own massive open online courses will be able to use a free software platform developed jointly by Stanford University and edX, the nonprofit MOOC provider founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The move is a merger of sorts between two previously competing software-development projects with the same goal. EdX has long said it would make the software it built to power its MOOCs freely available to anyone a…


At South by Southwest Education Event, Tensions Divide Entrepreneurs and Educators


Two professors’ “cage match” debate over key issues facing MOOC developers was an antidote to the button-down manner of the business leaders at other sessions.

Austin, Tex. — Who should lead innovation in education—teachers or entrepreneurs? That key question was in the air here at this year’s South by Southwest Edu conference, which brought together a mix of entrepreneurs and educators for four days of panels and a competition for education start-ups.

In the keynote address on Thursday, Bill Ga…


Free-Textbook Group Will Sell Its E-Books on Chegg, for a Small Fee

Some producers of free e-textbooks have had trouble persuading professors to adopt them. So one backer of “open-source textbooks” has decided to sell its titles on Chegg, an online textbook retailer, for a small fee in hopes of reaching a wider audience.

The group is called the Twenty Million Minds Foundation, and its goal is to save students money by creating e-textbooks for popular subjects and making them available free—or as close to free as possible. It has spent about $1.5-million develo…