The Edge: Can Digital Courseware Promote Equity?

“It’s too soon to predict the impact of a four-year, $65-million project to develop low-cost digital courseware with the lofty goal of reducing disparities by race, ethnicity, and income in about 20 gateway courses. But several aspects of this effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation already seem worth highlighting, as do the questions they raise.

First, some background. The gateway-course project aims to fix a huge problem. Nationwide, about three million students a year enroll in gen-ed courses with “perniciously” persistent completion gaps for students who are Black, Hispanic, and low-income, according to a Gates primer. That costs those students time and money or derails their education altogether.

The foundation hopes this project can reverse the trends by introducing interactive, adaptive courseware built upon proven teaching practices like learn-by-doing assignments. “Really high-quality courseware can be a tool for equity,” Alison Pendergast, the senior program officer at Gates overseeing the project, put it to me when we spoke this week.

Some 18 partners are in on the effort, including digital and open-source publishing companies (Lumen Learning, Macmillan Learning, OpenStax), universities (Arizona State and Carnegie Mellon), and a host of research organizations (too plentiful to list here, but you can see them all at this link). The first two courses in the pipeline are introductory statistics and introductory chemistry. And the plan is for a range of research and faculty-development projects to expand the availability and awareness of high-quality courseware throughout higher ed (hence all the research partners).

At this early stage, three aspects of the project stand out to me. …”

Concrete Details Emerge on edX’s Role After 2U Acquisition — Class Central

“Broadly speaking, 2U’s motivation for acquiring edX boils down to acquiring two assets: website — the “marketplace,” as 2U referred to it during the acquisition.
edX brand.

What we haven’t seen yet is how 2U is planning to turn edX around and compete with Coursera. 2U’s “marketing engine” was supposed to help with this aspect.

Since the acquisition, 2U’s stock has dropped dramatically, and at the time I’m writing this article, 2U’s market cap is at the same amount as the cost of the edX acquisition….”

Sanjay Sarma to step down as vice president for open learning | MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“After nearly a decade running MIT’s digital learning platforms and education initiatives, Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma will step down from that post at the end of June, President L. Rafael Reif announced today in an email to the MIT community.


Sarma, who is the Fred Fort Flowers and Daniel Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been responsible for MIT Open Learning, which includes the Office of Digital Learning, the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili), the Center for Advanced Virtuality, and the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL). Since 2012, he has led MIT Open Learning, first as director, then as dean, and finally as MIT vice president for open learning….”

MOOC: Open Science: Sharing Your Research with the World | TU Delft Online

“You can become a more visible, effective and impactful researcher by sharing your research data and publications openly. In this course, you will learn the objectives, main concepts, and benefits of Open Science principles along with practices for open data management and open data sharing.

Since research increasingly relies on software which is used to model and simulate, and to deal with the ever growing volume of research data, the course will also introduce FAIR software practices.

Citizens participation in research is getting more and more important. The course will demonstrate what citizen science is about, how to stimulate citizens to participate in your research and how to handle (new) responsibilities when implementing citizen science.

You’ll learn to establish links between publications, data, software and methods, how to attach a persistent identifier and metadata to your results, and methods for clarifying usage rights. You will also discover ways to apply these principles to your daily research and adapt existing routines. Finally, you’ll uncover potential barriers to sharing research and discuss possible solutions.

This course will help you grasp the key principles of Open Science, with answers to questions like:

How can researchers effectively store, manage, and share research data?
What kinds of open access publishing are most effective?
How can researchers increase the visibility and impact of their research?
How can the use of social media contribute to the visibility and impact of research?
How can researchers be acknowledged for the research software they write?
How can research benefit from citizen science? …”

MIT OpenCourseWare launches NextGen platform

After serving millions of learners around the world for the last 20 years, MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) has launched its next-generation platform to allow for flexible growth, experimentation, and evolution in open learning. MIT’s “NextGen OCW” offers a new and improved experience for learners, more support for educators, additional opportunities for open education collaboration, and a greater capacity to share even more robust MIT content in the years to come.

Analyzing Institutional Publishing Output-A Short Course – Google Docs

“This short course provides training materials about how to create a set of publication data, gather additional information about the data through an API (Application Programming Interface), clean the data, and analyze the data in various ways. The API that we’ll use is from Unpaywall and helps gather information related to the open access (OA) status of the item. This short course was created for the Scholarly Communication Notebook. If open access is new to you, we recommend checking out Peter Suber’s book Open Access. It’s concise and well written. Although things have changed since it was published in 2012, it’s a great place to start….”

A Decade of MOOCs: A Review of Stats and Trends for Large-Scale Online Courses in 2021 | EdSurge News

“In 2021, two of the biggest MOOC providers had an “exit” event. Coursera went public, while edX was acquired by the public company 2U for $800 million and lost its non-profit status.

Ten years ago, more than 300,000 learners were taking the three free Stanford courses that kicked off the modern MOOC movement. I was one of those learners and launched Class Central as a side-project to keep track of these MOOCs.

Now, a decade later, MOOCs have reached 220 million learners, excluding China where we don’t have as reliable data, . In 2021, providers launched over 3,100 courses and 500 microcredentials….”

Development of an Open-Access Webinar Series on Pathways for Global Surgery Engagement for Applicants to US Residency Programs – Journal of Surgical Research

Abstract:  Background

: Global surgery (GS) training pathways in residency are unclear and vary by specialty and program. Furthermore, information on these pathways is not always accessible. To address this gap, we produced a collection of open-access webinars for senior medical students focused on identifying GS training pathways during residency.


: The Global Surgery Student Alliance (GSSA) is a national nonprofit that engages US students and trainees in GS education, research, and advocacy. GSSA organized nine one-hour, specialty-specific webinars featuring residents of surgical specialties, anesthesia, and OBGYN programs. Live webinars were produced via Zoom from August to October 2020, and all recordings were posted to the GSSA YouTube channel. Medical students moderated webinars with predetermined standardized questions and live questions submitted by attendees. Participant data were collected in mandatory registration forms.


: A total of 539 people were registered for 9 webinars. Among registrants, 189 institutions and 36 countries were represented. Registrants reported education/training levels from less than undergraduate education to attending physicians, while medical students represented the majority of registrants. Following the live webinars, YouTube recordings of the events were viewed 839 times. Webinars featuring otolaryngology and general surgery residents accrued the greatest number of registrations, while anesthesia accrued the least.


: Medical students at all levels demonstrated interest in both the live and recorded specialty-specific webinars on GS in residency. To address the gap in developing global surgery practitioners, additional online, open-access education materials and mentorship opportunities are needed for students applying to US residencies.

Massive Open Online Course to Educate Healthcare Professionals & Caregivers About Alzheimer’s Disease | Innovation in Aging | Oxford Academic

Abstract:  Over 6 million Americans and 50 million persons worldwide are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as it remains the major cause of dementia in the older adult population. Both healthcare professionals and family caregivers struggle with the complexities of caring for individuals with this progressive neurological disease. To address the ongoing knowledge and care gap regarding Alzheimer’s disease among both healthcare professionals and family caregivers, a comprehensive massive open online course (MOOC) was developed and made available via the edX platform. MOOCs are open access and interactive courses offered via the web; they have emerged as a popular, self-paced mode of distance learning. Launched in 2020, the MOOC titled, Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Care, consists of five modules reviewing symptoms, diagnosis, medications, communication and care tips, as well as a module outlining special considerations when the person with AD is hospitalized. While this educational strategy targets healthcare professionals (such as nurses, physical therapists and related practitioners), it is also designed for lay caregivers or anyone who wants to learn more the disease. The course utilizes a variety of teaching modalities and is free. To date over 7000 persons have enrolled from over 140 countries. MOOCs remain an innovative and engaging educational strategy to reach a global audience. More importantly, they can serve as an another outlet to enhance both the competence and confidence of both healthcare professionals and family caregivers by sharing best practices in caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.


With purchase of edX, online higher ed company 2U bets big on power of a brand – The Washington Post

“The pandemic that shuttered campuses worldwide last year also created a rare opportunity for online higher education. And a company based in Maryland just placed an $800 million bet that it can seize the moment.


For that sum, 2U Inc. bought an online course platform called edX that was created nine years ago as a nonprofit and joint venture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The platform has a brand with prestigious origins and more than 40 million registered users around the world….

The company’s track record is not without controversy. The Wall Street Journal reported this month that an online master’s program in social work at the University of Southern California — for which 2U recruits students — had left many graduates with high student loan debt compared to their earnings. The degree had been priced at $115,000….

Some in academia believe Harvard and MIT should have held on to edX as a high-profile nonprofit venture in the growing online world. “Their decision to fold is a major, and potentially fateful, act of betrayal,” Jefferson Pooley, a professor of media and communication at Muhlenberg College, wrote in July in the Chronicle of Higher Education….

Net proceeds from the sale have gone to a new nonprofit organization under MIT and Harvard that will explore education innovation….

Anant Agarwal, an MIT professor who was chief executive of edX, has joined 2U as chief open education officer. He said edX’s university partners support the merger. “Not a single partner has opted out because of the deal,” he said….”


Libraries uses Open Education to promote Inclusive learning opportunities | TexLibris

“The Libraries announces the “Fostering Inclusive Classrooms with Open, Free & Affordable Course Materials” instructor learning community, to promote IDEA concepts through the adoption of open educational resources (OERs).

The OER Working Group eagerly seeks applicants to join its first instructor learning community in Fall 2021. With support from facilitators and guest experts, we hope to join participants from across disciplines in their efforts to make their courses as financially inclusive as possible by eliminating or substantially lowering course material costs. The emphasis of the community will be open educational resources (or OER), which are learning materials that carry open licenses and allow anyone to freely read, share, and modify them. These permissions also enable instructors to adapt them for greater cultural responsiveness and accessibility or even include students in building them. …”

Rice’s OpenStax to provide 13 educational technology companies with training to develop equitable courseware platforms

“OpenStax, Rice University’s educational technology initiative, announced today that 13 companies have been selected to participate in the organization’s new equity in courseware training program. The training will help the participating companies learn about and develop educational technology platforms that provide better outcomes for all students, especially those from historically marginalized and underserved communities….”