Harvard and MIT to Sell edX for $800 million | Harvard Magazine

“HARVARD, MIT, AND EDX ANNOUNCED TODAY that edX, the two institutions’ 2012 joint venture into online education, would be sold to leading educational technology company 2U for $800 million. 2U, a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ, with revenues expected to approach $1 billion in 2021, is an online program manager. The company provides digital platforms and marketing and logistical support that allows colleges and universities to offer online instruction but does not itself provide degrees. 

As part of the agreement, which is subject to approval by Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey ’92, 2U will own and plans to operate edX as a public benefit entity, which means that in addition to creating value for shareholders, edX will also provide a specific public benefit—in this case, online courses, some of which can be audited for free. Currently, edX offers more than 3,000 online programs. “With the acquisition,” according to a University statement, “2U’s network will expand to include more than 230 partners, including over 185 nonprofit colleges and universities and 19 of the top 20 ranked universities globally.”

 

 

Harvard University provost Alan M. Garber said in an interview that the most important aspect of the match with 2U is that the company will continue edX’s mission. “They have committed to continuing to provide free audit tracks—in other words, free courses—in a wide range of subjects. And there are other provisions of the agreement,” said Garber, “that give us a great deal of comfort” that they will continue to make “great courses available at low or no cost to learners throughout the world.” …”

Three Charts That Help Explain the 2U / edX Acquisition – PhilOnEdTech

“I won’t describe the announcement here but instead list preliminary media coverage and then share three charts that I think help explain why 2U would acquire the edX assets for $800 million. I’ll add some additional analysis on what this deal means for online education in a second post….”

 

2U, Inc. and edX Agree to Industry-Redefining Combination in Higher Education.

“2U will acquire substantially all of the assets of edX—a leading nonprofit online learning platform and marketplace—for $800M in cash. Together, 2U and edX will reach over 50 million learners globally, serve more than 230 partners, and offer over 3,500 digital programs on the world’s most comprehensive free-to-degree online education marketplace. The combined scale, reach, capabilities, marketing efficiency, and relationships of 2U and edX will unlock unprecedented opportunity for learners, universities, and employers worldwide….”

 

The big deal this week in online ed.

“The announcement on Tuesday that 2U will buy the assets of the nonprofit MOOC company edX for $800 million is shaking up the world of online higher ed. It also means I’ll riff on that news for you this week instead of giving you an annotated reading list, per The Edge’s summer programming (back to that next week).

This deal has ramifications in many directions. For starters, it will realign the commercial marketplace for online education, where colleges now pay billions annually to companies known as online-program managers, or OPMs, to help develop, market, and deliver online courses and degrees. The $800 million now headed to a successor nonprofit to edX could also have a huge impact on the future of open-source online options — and maybe breathe new life into the original mission of the nonprofit, which began in 2012 with the goal of democratizing education around the world.

I say “could” because, at this point, we know precious little about what the new nonprofit plans to do with this gargantuan infusion of cash. A joint news release says the money will be “dedicated to reimagining the future of learning for people at all stages of life, addressing educational inequalities, and continuing to advance next-generation learning experiences and platforms.” Lofty, ambitious language to be sure. But $800 million is a lotta clams, and I’m sure the hundreds of colleges and thousands of professors whose own financial and in-kind contributions over the last nine years have helped bring edX to this point would love to know some specifics — perhaps even more than I would….”

Three big ed tech projects: cashing out or historic investments?

Over the past few days three big ed tech entities made major financial moves. I was struck by that coincidence and wanted to explore what the combination might means.

ITEM: To start with, major online program manager (OPM2U purchased much of online class provider edX for $800 million. As part of the deal Harvard and MIT will launch a new and so far unnamed education nonprofit.

For more information, here are the official announcements from 2UMITHarvard, and what seems to be the nonprofit’s placeholder, “Transforming Digital Education.”  There is also some good, early commentary and analysis from EdSurge and Trace Urdan.

ITEM: Language learning app Duolingo, founded by Luis von Ahn, filed an IPO.  As  TechCrunch and others have noted, the market values Duolingo above $2 billion.  Its user base and earnings are rising.

ITEM: major learning management system/virtual learning environment provider Instructure, maker of Canvas, also  filed for an IPO. They tried this before, so now it’s a  second attempt.  Instructure is, unlike Duolingo, losing money.

So what does this big money trifecta tell us?

It may be a huge boost for 2U. They now have access to tens of millions of potentially new students.  According to a slidestack for investors, 2U stands to gain:

Increases TAM through combined 50M+ global learner base, 1,200+ Enterprise clients, 230+ university and corporate partners, and comprehensive suite of 3,500+ offerings ranging from free-to-degree

Combined entity will have massive global audience and strong consumer brand, top five education website with traffic of 120M+

They can also trade on the elite reputation of campuses associated with edX, namely MIT and Harvard.

Eddie Maloney and Joshua Kim go further, seeing the 2U+edX combination as a challenger to the much larger Coursera. What we see now are OPMs on steroids.  As Paul Fain put it, “MOOCs have become OPMs.”

Well-placed source on 2U’s acquisition of edX for $800M — “It simply formalizes what we knew: MOOCs have become OPMs.” https://t.co/bLMQC7Au0z

— Paul Fain (@paulfain) June 29, 2021

 

I’m not sure what to make of the new MIT-Harvard nonprofit since there’s so little information available. I do like Goldie Blumenstyk’s comments:

It’s hard to even fathom the potential impact of an $800-million nonprofit devoted to the future of online learning and eliminating educational disparities around the world. Add to that the academic muscle undergirding the nonprofit, overseen by edX’s founders, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the societal, technological, and pedagogical potential here feels enormous. But what actually will be realized? Harvard and MIT promise that the new nonprofit’s mission, name, research, and other activities will be developed more fully in the coming months. [emphases in original]

Even more from Phil Hill here.

Duolingo: much depends on how the sale goes and what happens to its value over the next few months, but a successful infusion of cash could drive the owl into expanding or adding offerings.  New languages are a clear development, but what about adding conversations with native speakers, or even branching out into new curricula beyond language?

Note that criticisms of Duolingo – for not being good on spoken languages, for not doing much on culture and language – don’t seem to have dimmed its prospects so far.

Instructure: Phil Hill does good work in showing the complexity of the offering, based on the structure of Instructure and its holding.  I don’t have a good sense of its odds for a successful IPO.

Overall, these three stories remind us that serious money is interested in ed tech.  COVID-19 may have increased investments as so much of higher ed moved online.  Perhaps that’s a long-lasting change… unless people flee the pandemic’s online experience and rush to embrace in-person life, in which case June 2021 might represent a peak before a financial fall.

What do you think about these three ed tech financial stories?

TechCrunch 2U set to acquire nonprofit edX for deal north of $600M | TechCrunch

2U, a SaaS platform that helps nonprofits and colleges run online universities, plans to acquire all the assets of Harvard and MIT-founded edX for a deal north of $600 million, according to multiple sources. 2U did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and it’s unclear if this is an all-cash deal. The combined forces of edX and 2U could reach over 50 million learners.

Update: 2U confirmed the deal, expected to close within 120 days subject to regulatory and governmental approvals, in a press release post-publication. It also confirmed that the price of the acquisition which will be an $800 million all-cash deal.

MOOC « Science ouverte » (open science)– DoRANum

From Google’s English:

MOOC “Open Science”

Pierrette Paillassard
June 1, 2021 
No Comment
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In News , Training

“Led by a mixed team from the libraries of Sorbonne University and the National Museum of Natural History, this MOOC, completely free, is primarily intended for doctoral students, especially those of the Alliance Sorbonne University. However, it will be open to everyone.
Its achievement follows the commitment made by Sorbonne University in the  Charter for free access to publications , to train all its doctoral students in open science.
Scheduled for release in the fall of 2021 on the FUN (France Université Numérique) platform, all MOOC content will be under a CC-BY license and therefore freely reusable, in particular by other higher education and research institutions ”.”

Coursera IPO filing reveals a company successfully monetizing MOOCs

“Although it is still possible to audit many Coursera courses for free, the company has evolved significantly since its early days as a provider of massive open online courses, or MOOCS. The platform’s combination of paid nondegree certificates, stackable degrees and professional credentials has forged a company with an estimated value of between $2.4 billion and $5 billion….”

Mathematics | Free Full-Text | Analysis of Factors Influencing Students’ Access to Mathematics Education in the Form of MOOC

Abstract:  Restricting the movement of students because of COVID-19 requires expanding the offer of online education. Online education should reflect the principles of pedagogical constructivism to ensure the development of students’ cognitive and social competencies. The paper describes the preparatory course of mathematics, realized in the form of MOOC. This course was created and implemented based on the principles of pedagogical constructivism. The analysis of the respondents’ approach to MOOC revealed a difference between bachelor and master students in the use of MOOC. Bachelors found a strong correlation between their approach to MOOCs and the way they are educated in secondary schools. The results of the research point to the need of more emphasis should be placed on advancing the learner’s skills in navigating and analysing information. The questionnaire filled in by the participants also monitored the students’ access to learning. The results of the experiment confirmed the connection between the preferred approach to learning and students’ activities within the MOOC. 

 

Mathematics | Free Full-Text | Analysis of Factors Influencing Students’ Access to Mathematics Education in the Form of MOOC

Abstract:  Restricting the movement of students because of COVID-19 requires expanding the offer of online education. Online education should reflect the principles of pedagogical constructivism to ensure the development of students’ cognitive and social competencies. The paper describes the preparatory course of mathematics, realized in the form of MOOC. This course was created and implemented based on the principles of pedagogical constructivism. The analysis of the respondents’ approach to MOOC revealed a difference between bachelor and master students in the use of MOOC. Bachelors found a strong correlation between their approach to MOOCs and the way they are educated in secondary schools. The results of the research point to the need of more emphasis should be placed on advancing the learner’s skills in navigating and analysing information. The questionnaire filled in by the participants also monitored the students’ access to learning. The results of the experiment confirmed the connection between the preferred approach to learning and students’ activities within the MOOC. 

 

Guidance on Open Educational Practices during School Closures: Utilizing OER under COVID-19 Pandemic in line with UNESCO OER Recommendation

“With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) rapidly spreading worldwide, several countries have initiated several strategies to stop the spread of this virus, including school closures. UNESCO stated that, as of 17 May, almost 1.21 billion learners were affected, accounting for 69.3% of the world’s student population. Particularly, China was the first to adopt the policy of “Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning” by providing online, distance and remote teaching. However, several educational challenges appeared during this unexpected critical situation of COVID-19 outbreak. For instance, in this first-ever application of pure long-term online learning (without face-to-face learning or blended learning), both teachers and learners should not feel that they are left alone during the teaching and learning processes. Additionally, new effective pedagogical approaches are needed to keep learners motivated and engaged during this long period of online learning. To overcome the above challenges, new teaching approaches are needed. In this context, several researchers suggested the use of Open Educational Practices (OEP) and Resources (OER) to provide engaging and interactive experience. UNESCO (2019) also stated that: the judicious application of OER, in combination with appropriate pedagogical methodologies, well-designed learning objects, and the diversity of learning activities, can provide a broader range of innovative pedagogical options to engage both educators and learners to become more active participants in educational processes and creators of content as members of diverse and inclusive Knowledge Societies”. Additionally, UNESCO (2019) provided five objectives that should be focused on facilitation of OER adoption, namely: (i) Building capacity of stakeholders to create access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER; (ii) Developing supportive policy; (iii) Encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER; (iv) Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER; and (v), Facilitating international cooperation. Therefore, this handbook discusses the use of OEP and OER during COVID-19 outbreak through global vivid stories and experiences, and in line with the five UNESCO objectives. It also discusses OER competencies for OEP. Finally, this handbook provides guidelines to both teachers and learners to facilitate OEP and OER application….”

Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies – Simple Book Publishing

“This collaboratively authored guide helps institutions navigate the uncharted waters of tagging course material as open educational resources (OER) or under a low-cost threshold by summarizing relevant state legislation, providing tips for working with stakeholders, and analyzing technological and process considerations. The first half of the book provides high-level analysis of the technology, legislation, and cultural change needed to operationalize course markings. The second half features case studies by Alexis Clifton, Rebel Cummings-Sauls, Michael Daly, Juville Dario-Becker, Tony DeFranco, Cindy Domaika, Ann Fiddler, Andrea Gillaspy Steinhilper, Rajiv Jhangiani, Brian Lindshield, Andrew McKinney, Nathan Smith, and Heather White.”

David Porter on the Benefits of Open Educational Resources as Millions Shift to Online Learning – Michael Geist

“Millions of Canadians are at home, schools are closed, and Canada is undergoing an unprecedented shift to distance or online learning. Adapting course materials to the online learning environment can create significant new challenges for teachers and students alike. Open educational resources (OERs) provides a model for convenient, cost-effective access with no copyright barriers to worry about, expensive texts to purchase, or restrictions on adaptation, customization or re-use. David Porter, who has been a leader in open and distance learning since the 1990s, joins the podcast to discuss how the current shift to online learning places the spotlight on the benefits of OERs and open textbooks….”