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The Club brings you vetted, well sourced and investigated news stories to the e-Learning community. We aspire to reporting relevant, timely and insightful news stories, profiles and solutions to help educate our readers

  1. What's new in this club
  2. Pearson Education, an offshoot of the historic publishing company Pearson PLC, has announced plans to reserve $50 million to participate in Series A and Series B funding rounds in the edtech sector. Bootcamps, emerging assessment and credentialing platforms, learning tools, and augmented reality-based education solutions are all on Pearson’s radar as they go shopping for potentially fruitful investments in edtech. While the launch of the company’s new venture capital arm may come as a surprise to some onlookers, in fact, it is just the latest chapter in the company’s long history of innovation. Pearson Education Pearson PLC was founded in the 1840s by Samuel Pearson in Yorkshire, England. For many decades, Pearson operated as a construction company, but in the 1920s, Pearson switched from construction and engineering to publishing. While the switch from bricks to books may have been unusual, the company would go on to become the largest textbook publisher in the world. With change in its DNA, it is no surprise that as the publishing landscape started to shift in the face of emerging digital technologies, Pearson proved especially adaptable. By 1998, as many traditional publishers were facing dire financial troubles, Pearson had already created a new company, Pearson Education, and had started to rapidly scale its online products. Unlike many of its competitors, Pearson was not only quick to adapt to the growing demand for digital books but also among the first educational publishers to appreciate the potential of augmenting online textbooks with related digital content. The company’s foresight enabled it to survive the digital turn and to rapidly expand during the early 2000s. Pearson now owns a wide range of brands including Prentice Hall, which is just one of the traditional publishers that failed to adapt to digitalization and was subsequently acquired by Pearson. Pearson Ventures Extends Pearson’s Commitment to Driving Innovation The creation of Pearson Ventures (Pearson’s new venture capital arm) may be consistent with the company’s legacy of innovation, but so far, Pearson hasn’t revealed many details about its new venture. A new page on the Pearson Education website states, “With an initial capital commitment of $50M over three years, Pearson Ventures will invest in companies building new market opportunities using innovative business models, future technologies, and new educational experiences. While Pearson Ventures will pursue competitive financial returns, equally important is its ability to collect shareable insights and drive organizational learning to help future-proof the company. As a result, we will be doing things a bit differently than a typical venture fund.” A TechCrunch article published on April 10th offers a few details about what “doing things a bit differently” might entail. As detailed in the TechCrunch article, Pearson Ventures will back up to five companies per year over the next three years. However, as Pearson’s investment director Owen Henkel told TechCrunch, they have no plans to lead rounds, purchase large stakes in startups, or control terms. Pearson Ventures will solely operate as a co-investor alongside other VC funds. Henkel also confirmed that Pearson Ventures will not, as one might expect, serve as an acquisition pipeline for Pearson Education. As Henkel told TechCrunch, “The only reason this is worth Pearson’s time is if we can learn important things about markets that are important to us. It’s about keeping Pearson’s ear to the ground in relevant markets and verticals. If we don’t have the knowledge of the space, we won’t know where it’s going.” Henkel added, “For us, it’s about learning, not about staking our flag in something we want to buy later.” While Pearson Ventures is a new initiative, this isn’t the first time Pearson has played an investor role. Previously, Pearson’s Affordable Learning Fund invested $20 million in other education companies. elearninginside.com
  3. Ten years ago, many educators believed online courses would be as effective as face-to-face (FTF) courses. Those attitudes have melted and few people still believe that online learning is less effective than learning in a traditional classroom. But pockets of skepticism remain—especially in certain areas of study. One of these is public speaking. Many universities in the United States require students to complete a public speaking course over the course of their undergraduate studies. Some have argued that one simply can’t complete a public speaking course online. After all, the medium is the message. Recently, a group of researchers at George Mason University led by Professor Melissa A. Broeckelman-Post tested whether or not this was demonstrably true. The results of their study were surprising. Broeckelman-Post et al Approached the Subject with a Good Deal of Skepticism As a sample, Broeckelman-Post and colleagues investigated a public speaking course taught both online and FTF in an unidentified mid-Atlantic university. The study included 401 students, with 326 taking the FTF course and 75 taking the online version. As the authors write, “The public speaking course is taught in two formats: a fully face-to-face course that meets either once or twice per week and a fully online course that meets asynchronously and has weekly deadlines. Both FTF and online versions of the public speaking course are standardized and use the same syllabus, textbook, assignments, grading rubrics, online resources, and assessment protocol.” The team set out to test numerous learning outcomes. These included student performance, and self-reported engagement, comprehension, and competence. The authors were highly skeptical at the start of their study. Many researchers have previously found online learning to be a bad fit for public speaking education. In 2016, Professor Susan Ward, published an aptly named article, “It’s not the same thing: Considering a path forward for teaching public speaking online.” At the time, Ward concluded, “the question is not can the course be offered online, but rather should it be offered online.” She also described how teaching public speaking is fundamentally different online and FTF. The George Mason University researchers expected that there would be a measurable difference in student performance, and self-reported engagement, comprehension, and competence between the online and FTF versions of the public speaking course they were investigating. As it turned out, they were wrong. Online Learning vs. FTF As the researchers summarize, “students in the online course had slightly higher levels of behavioral engagement and higher DFW [D/Fail/Withdrawal] rates. However, there was no difference between the two formats in public speaking performance, final exam performance, course grades, public speaking anxiety, communication competence, or interpersonal communication competence.” As the authors mentioned above, DFW rates (students who received a D or F as a grade or who withdrew mid-class) were higher online than FTF. They recorded a DFW rate of 22% in this course, which is significantly lower than many other DFW rates observed in the online modality. As the authors continue, “there are ethical implications that must be considered when deciding whether to offer a large number of fully online courses, particularly since some groups of students are more likely to drop or fail an online course.” “Although the lack of significant differences between the course formats suggests that both courses are helping students learn the process of developing and delivering presentations equally well, this does not necessarily mean that both courses are preparing students for the same types of presentations equally well since the FTF course is synchronous and the online course is asynchronous. Instructors should consider requiring both asynchronous and synchronous presentations in both FTF and online courses to prepare students for both speaking contexts since students might encounter both in the workplace.” elearninginside.com
  4. Learnship, a corporate language instruction provider, announced on April 17th it had acquired GlobalEnglish, another operator in the sector. Details of the deal were not disclosed. Learnship launched in 2008. Their main service, Virtual Classrooms, replaced face-to-face business-focused language instruction with a remote virtual teacher. Many other massive language instructors have since caught on to the value proposition involved in this arrangement. Learnship Has Been Operating in the Virtual Corporate Language Space for More than a Decade The company took in, according to Crunchbase, a seed round of funding from Bertelsmann in 2010. In 2018, the company secured a Series A worth €10M from THI Investments, a family-operated fund which manages assets in excess of $1.5 billion. The deal gave THI a majority stake in Learnship. As Managing Director Dr. Christoph Becker said in a press release, “Investing in GlobalEnglish is an excellent next step in our digital learning growth strategy and an excellent complementary strategic fit with Learnship.” The company today employs over 1,000 language instructors and has offices in Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Paris, Basel, and Chicago, besides its headquarters in Cologne. They have also since included intercultural training in their catalogue. GlobalEnglish is not significantly different from their new owner. Their proprietary platform might have been a main selling point. It allows them to teach corporate learners with a combination of face-to-face instruction and adaptive AI courseware. With these, it offers both “personalized and adaptive learning paths that provide tangible progress and create habits of success,” according to the news release. GlobalEnglish Offers a Platform and Numerous International Offices Besides their platform, they also have offices in San Mateo Calif. (their headquarters), Mexico City, Tokyo, Seoul, and Chennai, India. “GlobalEnglish is a perfectly complementary business to Learnship,” said Learnship Founder and CEO Sushel Bijganath, in a release. “Its geographic strengths in Asia, Europe, North and South America, complement our traditional strengths in the European market, and its product expertise in online and mobile software complements our online trainer-led approach. I’m excited to see the future products and solutions that our combined teams of technical and pedagogical experts will pull together as we move forward. “Our goal has always been to create the ultimate language learning experience for learners, trainers and program managers. We’ve done this by combining human-centered learning design with transformational technology and progressive pedagogy. GlobalEnglish was built on a similar philosophy, and with our combined resources we’ll be able to increase both our speed of innovation and our scale of deployment.” “By combining forces with Learnship we are excited to expand our range of learning experiences into 14 languages, small group classes, and virtual coaching, helping our customers develop and practice the skills that add value in their work,” said Karine Allouche Salanon, GlobalEnglish CEO. “No other company is better positioned to support global organizations in preparing their teams to operate globally and identify measurable impact on business outcomes.” The company has not described any changes to operations that will be made with their new acquisition, if any. While many companies describe themselves as the leaders in their industry, Learnship might be able to make a better stab at that claim. It has certainly now has a huge staff and large network of international offices. elearninginside.com
  5. Skillsoft, a company with a global reputation for delivering workplace training solutions, recently announced a new licensing agreement with MIT xPRO. MIT xPRO is an affiliate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that offers online learning courses for technology and business professionals. Starting this Spring, Skillsoft customers will be able to access MIT xPRO content on Skillsoft’s own training platform, Percipio–an open learning platform that helps organizations access curated content, including content from third-party sources. MIT xPRO MIT xPRO offers professional development opportunities in both online and blended formats. MIT xPro courses and programs target individuals, teams, and companies and are designed to help individuals keep up with the rapid pace of change in today’s evolving workplaces. As stated on the MIT xPro website, “We empower professionals to maximize their impact by enabling access to our outstanding faculty and industry leaders, skilled at leveraging research-proven learning methodologies. Learners engage in a supportive environment to propel their big ideas forward on their terms. MIT xPRO’s programs are designed to accommodate the busy lives of people who enroll in MIT professional courses enabling continued performance on-the-job.” MIT xPro already serves professionals working across sectors, including scientists, engineers, technicians, managers, and consultants. The New MIT xPRO-Skillsoft Licensing Agreement Beginning in Spring 2019, Skillsoft customers will be able to access content from over 40 MIT xPRO courses. While the courses are not MIT courses, they are developed and taught by MIT faculty. The new licensing agreement is specifically designed to help professionals scale their knowledge and expertise of several key emerging technologies. Among the MIT xPRO course content that will be made available to Skillsoft subscribers is course content focused on topics in cybersecurity, data science, big data, the Internet of Things, quantum computation and quantum communication, and biomanufacturing. In a press release issued on April 11, TC Haldi, senior director of MIT xPRO, said, “Through MIT xPRO, we deliver highly valuable training content to prepare today’s workforce for tomorrow’s challenge. We’re pleased that our content will now be available to Skillsoft customers.” Skillsoft’s chief content officer, Mark Onisk, is also enthusiastic about the rollout of MIT xPRO’s content on the Skillsoft platform: “Offering the market’s leading, high-quality learning content is core to Skillsoft’s product strategy and we are pleased to have MIT xPRO courses in our content library.” Onisk also notes, “These game-changing learning programs will provide our customers with unparalleled quality and choice to enable their workforce to excel in the digital economy.” Delivering Increased Value to Skillsoft Subscribers Skillsoft’s new licensing agreement with MIT xPRO promises to deliver a lot of value to Skillsoft’s subscribers. Currently, an individual electing to enroll in Data Science and Big Data Analytics on the MIT xPRO site would have to pay $849. The course will be available to Skillsoft subscribers as part of their current terms. Among other take aways, Skillsoft subscribers who enroll in Data Science and Big Data Analytics will discover how to apply data science techniques to their organization’s data management challenges, how to identify and avoid common pitfalls in big data analytics, and how to interpret analytical models to make better business decisions. The course is taught by a team of highly qualified MIT faculty, including Devavrat Shah, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Philippe Rigollet, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics. For Skillsoft, the MIT xPRO licensing agreement will also bring a host of benefits. Above all else, the new licensing agreement will enable Skillsoft to deliver higher-quality content on its Percipio platform. Notably, the platform, which launched in 2017, has already seen considerable success, gaining over 1000 subscribers in its first year alone. In a press release issued in early 2018, Bill Donoghue, Chairman and CEO of the Skillsoft Group, emphasized, “Percipio was born from our desire to create a single learning solution that would address the needs of every learner and organization in one place, on one platform. When we released Percipio . . . we concentrated on delivering cutting-edge technology with a user experience that seamlessly presents our learning assets on demand.” The MIT xPRO licensing agreement will enable Skillsoft to deliver even more with its learning platform. elearninginside.com
  6. Data is the new oil—or at least an increasingly valuable commodity that has apparently infinite reserves. Meanwhile many smaller and mid-size institutions of higher education across the U.S. are facing down enrollment issues of increasing magnitudes. Beyond a well-performing economy which historically translates into lower enrollments, the population of undergrads will simply be smaller over the next decade. Prospective students who will attend college, however, also leave a bread crumb trail of data upon which institutions must capitalize if they hope to stay afloat. That, at least, was the mood during Wiley Education Services’ industry showcase at the OLC Innovate conference in early April. Wiley Director of New Partners Sean Dunne provided a rundown of the importance of optimizing for search engines, college landing pages as they are, college landing pages as they should be, and what Wiley can do about it with their platform, Ranku. “There are so many online degrees today and, without the right strategies, your university can go undiscovered,” Dunne said. “So what is your university doing to get your programs to show up in search? And if a student ends up on your program pages, more importantly, what strategies do you have in place to get those students to hang out, to gather information they came looking for?” How Do Prospective Students Research Institutions and Programs? The first step is understanding prospective student search behavior. According to Wiley research, prospective students tend to work their search engines for information about colleges, and they also spend a long time doing so. According to Dunne, 79% of prospective students begin their college search with a search engine. Two out of every three of those searches are non-brand—as in, students don’t simply search ‘Can I get into Harvard?’ Instead, they might search ‘affordable engineering degrees in my region.’ Dunne also highlighted how a good deal of emerging internet search behavior is expected to become the norm. For example, it is predicted that next year, over half of all searches will be done via voice. But at the same time, many marketing vehicles remain nascent. 13% of students interact with a potential school via social media and 24% read blogs or discussion forums. YouTube vlogs are also viewed as an incredibly important emergent aspect of a university’s online presence. Traditional search, however, remains king. In the end, 89% of prospective students visit an institution’s site as part of their search. They spend a long time mulling the information they glean there. Less than 7% of prospective students enrolled at an institution within four months of visiting their site. Colleges Are Not Responding Appropriately And with that in mind, a lot of institutions still have some work to do. “When I first started out about 3 years ago,” Dunne said, “my boss gave me a task every day. He said, ‘Sean, I want you to go out and Google universities’ online program catalogues. Try to identify one or two every day that are probably less than effective when it comes to providing information or engaging with prospective students. Just see how quickly you can do that.’ “Every day, I got that done very quickly. So many colleges and universities don’t have basic information that are top considerations among prospective students.” So what are those interests? Again, based on Wiley research, the top concerns among potential students (in order of importance) go as follows: Career interests Tuition costs and availability of loans, grants, and scholarships Time investment Reputation Requirements (to get in) “If you make it easy for them to digest that, they’re more likely to engage with you on a personal level,” Dunne said. “The objective is for students to get that information with as few clicks as possible so they get the basics and they’re intrigued enough to either continue to navigate through the site or raise their hand and ask for more information.” elearninginside.com
  7. No movie is complete without a sound track. While many films recycle existing music (minimalist composer Philip Glass’s music has been used in at least forty films in recent decades), there is still a demand for original film scores. For many musicians and composers, film scoring has become an important part of their income. Now, anyone interested in breaking into the film scoring business can explore the possibility online. Starting in January 2020, Berklee Online–the online program affiliated with the highly esteemed Berklee School of Music–will launch a new online master’s degree in film scoring. Berklee College of Music Expands Its Online Offerings Among the top music schools in the world, Berklee College of Music, which is based in Boston, launched its online school, Berklee Online, in 2002. Since then, it has grown exponentially. It started with just a few music courses and certificate programs but eventually expanded to offer bachelor’s degree programs. Since 2018, Berklee Online has also offered master’s degree programs in music production and music business. At present, Berklee Online is the world’s largest online music school. Each year, they reach over 11,000 students in both degree and non-degree programs. All of Berklee Online’s graduate programs are comprised of 12 courses or 36 credits that can be completed within one year. To provide maximum flexibility, students have the option of starting in any term throughout the academic year. Direct interactions with Berklee faculty and students are facilitated through Berklee Online’s learning management system. The New Master’s Degree in Film Scoring Berklee Online’s new online master’s degree in film scoring has been developed with the aim of providing students with the skills and confidence needed to compose music for any visual presentation. Their Master of Music in Film Scoring program will give students the skills needed to analyze film scores on multiple levels, develop a unique compositional voice, compose in a range of styles, produce remote recording sessions, create orchestral mockups, and navigate the complexities of working in the film industry. Courses will include Orchestral Mockup in Film Scoring, Film Score Analysis, Composing the Film Score, Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring, and Orchestrating the Film Score with Live Sessions. In a press release announcing the new program, Carin Nuernberg, Vice President of Online Education for Berklee Online, says, “The program features a powerhouse faculty from Berklee’s Film Scoring department and the industry, and they are excited to work with students from around the world to develop their unique voices as composers. Students will have the opportunity to learn through one-on-one and group instruction with real-world, versatile outcomes that pave the way for career opportunities.” Alison Plante, the Director of the Online Master of Music in Film Scoring, explains, “Berklee Online’s Master of Music in Film Scoring program combines two of Berklee’s greatest strengths: award-winning online learning and industry-leading film scoring education. Two unique aspects of this Master of Music degree include its advanced coursework and student projects recorded remotely with a professional orchestra, a common industry practice and an experience not provided by other online degrees.” Plante is an award-winning composer whose scoring credits include documentaries for PBS and the History Channel. Other instructors in the program include John Whynot, a Grammy-winning producer and engineer who has worked on films such as The Last of the Mohicans, Austin Powers I and II, and Stigmata; Jon Kull, who has more than 100 major motion picture credits ago his credit; and Sean McMahon, who has been an orchestrator of several feature films for various composers, including Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider, and The Grudge. Berklee Online’s Master of Music in Film Scoring will be offered at roughly 20% less than the cost of completing a master’s degree on the Berklee College of Music campus. Applications for the program will open on May 13 and the first cohort of students will begin their studies in January 2020. elearninginside.com
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