On Blockchain, Decentralization & CryptocurrencY – 10 Takeaways from the Ethereal Summit

Organized by Consensys, the Ethereal Summit aims to encourage conversations on decentralization and its impact

on the future of technology. We spent the day hearing media influencers, government officials, futurists etc share their views about the future of Blockchain, Tokens and their influence on our digital world. Here are 10 key takeaways summarized from various thought-provoking panels across the summit.

1. The Importance of Community in a Decentralized World
“In a decentralized world, it is all great when things are functioning. But what happens when things go wrong? People will want to go to a place or a thing to blame and this is when the community will need to come together to fix them.” – Sandra Ro, Executive Director and Head of Digitization at CME Group
2. A Framework is needed to control multiple manifestations of our Online Presence
“In the Physical world, we view ourselves as our identities, and possess what we know as ‘personhood’. In the digital online realm, we have multiple versions of our ‘personhood’. There needs to be a way or a framework to control this.” – Melanie Shapiro, Co-founder and CEO of Tokenize
3. Our Data will represent a form of Currency in the Future
“One of my favorite books is Homo Deus, which paints a future that is influenced by science and technology. I can picture a world where our data is our currency, where an everyday transaction is based on the data that you are willing to hand over, what you are willing to share and what you feel uncomfortable sharing.” – Jake Porway, Director of DataKind
4. Blockchain is a form of Distribution
“Blockchain is not a form of decentralization but rather a form of distribution. It is a mechanical tool to record the DNA of transactions. Nobody can monopolize it. The beauty of Blockchain is that it creates similar development opportunities for both developed and developing countries.” – Giorgi Vashadze, Founder and CEO of Innovation and Development Foundation, Member of Parliament of Georgia
5. Blockchain and other Future Technologies need more Media Coverage to educate people about their Potential Impact
“Media helps build the foundation of knowledge. Many people still do not know the ideas and key terms related to Blockchain. Media has an important role in shaping the future of how people view Blockchain. The biggest challenge is to get people to understand and build a positive association with it, especially with new tokens being launched everyday. There should be more content on Blockchain and the reason why nobody is writing it is because there is a lack of interest in articles related to Blockchain.” – Alex Klokus, CEO of Futurism
5. Cryptocurrency creates new Investment Models for the Film Industry

“A popular way for independent filmmakers to raise funds is to approach a large studio or to leverage a crowdfunding platform. Through Blockchain technology and a tokenized system, filmmakers can connect directly with their audience from the beginning by giving them the opportunity to become investors in the film. This also enables filmmakers to better understand their audience and provide them with favored content.

Once the audience has invested in the film, they are considered equity holders and are incentivized to market and promote the film, increasing its success rate. With this method of fundraising, artists can also maintain creative control of the film.” – Mitzi Peirone, Filmmaker and Director of Braid (First feature film to be fully financed through equity crowd sale using cryptocurrency)

7. VR and other Technologies will merge to produce Hyperrealistic Interactions
“Where Virtual Reality (VR) is now is not where it will be in 10 years’ time. In the future, there will be a whole new way of storytelling. Holographic avatars may exist for us to communicate not only with one another, but with historic figures as well. Expect merging of various technologies to produce hyperrealistic interactions.” – Cortney Harding, Professor at NYU, Author and Consultant
8. Automation, if executed incorrectly, could have the most significant impact towards a Dystopian Future
“Automation and IOT could both have significant impact. When you have automation, the data transacted can come from anywhere, so we need systems to keep them in check or we risk going off the rails. There is a dystopian potential to it.” – Peter Asaro, Assistant Professor at The New School & Affiliate Scholar in the Center for Internet & Society at Stanford Law
9. Utility of Tokens is growing at a rapid rate
“The token is a new form of currency that will fuel the Blockchain economy for the next 10 years. It is not an ownership of some sort, but it can be part of an application or a software. At its core, it consists of an account and an account number. These tokens can represent everything, from financial assets to products. Their utility is growing at a rapid rate.” – Nick Dodson, Founder of Weifund and Boardroom, Consultant at Consensys
10. A Tokenized System is more favorable for companies than a Traditional Equity System
“Traditional equities such as shares give shareholders the professional rights to a company’s profits. This system of equity drives shareholders to focus solely on growth of profits, and when companies have this sole narrow focus, they are more likely to face market failure. With a tokenized system, a token holder is incentivized to get more people to use the token to increase the company’s financial value instead of getting the company to fixate on increasing profits.” – Joel Monegro, Investment Team at Union Square Ventures
It was an eye-opening event at the frontier of innovation, with industry leaders delineating how Blockchain and Decentralization are disrupting their respective industries. If you want to know more about other emerging technologies beyond Blockchain and Tokens, check out 6 Emerging Technologies and their Applications.

A Power Packed Design Driven Meetup: First Designer at Twitter, Product Designer at Facebook and VP of Product at Kickstarter

The Design Driven NYC meetup on May 3rd brought an impressive lineup. The speakers were Vítor Lourenço, Partner at Expa and first designer at Twitter, Bradford Shellhammer, Head of Personalization and Engagement at eBay, Jonathan Smiley, Product Designer at Facebook and Deepa Subramaniam, VP of Product at Kickstarter.

In case you missed it, or if you just want a recap, we’ve summarized key takeaways from some of the talks.

Product Designer at Facebook, Jonathan Smiley on Compromising
The designer’s responsibility is to define and design the product, and they are typically reluctant to any changes to what they have so artfully designed. However, the fact is:
“You don’t have all the answers and there will be compromises you need to make.”

It is difficult to create a product that works for everyone and compromises will usually need to be made in 5 different areas:


  • Compromises will be made when designing an all-encompassing product that is visually aesthetic, functional and user-friendly.Technology
  • There will be software dependencies that are difficult to develop or change.Business
  • Compromises will have to be made when making a choice between benefitting the users or the company’s bottom line.Political
  • There will be organizational dynamics and colleagues with different working styles, which will result in compromises that need to be made in design.Ego
  • There will be times when you need to be comfortable with the fact that you may not have created the right design.

While compromising, there will be times when you start to doubt yourself but the solution is for you to be clear about your role. It’s key to figure out when and how to compromise. Over time, you will develop good instincts about what users are looking for and bring key priorities for your environment to the table instead of bringing everything to the table.

VP of Product at Kickstarter, Deepa Subramaniam on Team Dynamics, Testing and Engagement

Though Deepa is currently with Kickstarter, she spoke about her experiences as Director of Product at Hillary for America. Deepa shared with us some tips for building good team dynamics, executing efficient user testing and creating effective engagement.

         Team Dynamics

  • The best outputs will usually be produced under difficult circumstances.
  • Teams which are integrated and focused on their prioritization produce the best results.
  • Collaboration should happen regularly by constantly sharing space physically and where necessary, virtually.
  • Diversity and inclusion are also key to building good rapport within the teams. Creating an inclusive and well-represented team with diverse backgrounds, will result in better outputs through stronger collaboration.Testing
  • Use A/B testing and data-driven testing to drive roadmap prioritization and show impact.
  • Prioritize ideas based on timing instead of significance.
  • Test ideas that are “evergreen”, which are valuable for a lengthy time instead of moment-based ideas.​Engagement
  • Get users to take action by being direct and make one clear ask instead of distracting them with multiple vague questions.
  • Provide a guide for your call-to-actions and justify their significance to users.
Partner at Expa and First Designer of Twitter, Vítor Lourenço on Launching Companies

With experience as the first designer of Twitter and a partner at startup studio, Expa, Vítor explained the lessons he learned from launching more than 10 companies at Expa in 3.6 years.

         ​Find something that sucks

  • You need to find something that you are really upset about before tackling the issue with a solution.Define key metrics for success
  • This keeps you attached to the problem you are about to solve. You will need to figure out one number that really matters and make sure that the number grows over time. During his early days at Twitter, the team based most of their decision on intuition without well defined instrumentation for a metric, which resulted in several changes in direction.Build focused prototypes
  • Instead of doing ten different things, pick one thing to focus on. Product needs to have a strong core and people often spend time working on ideas without a solid core.Tell a great story
  • When possible, invest in a good domain and name right from the beginning. Branding is important and it is not only about the name but how your consumers experience your product and its story.Use the scientific method
  • Carry out multiple tests for product market fit. Create a hypothesis, create your product and test it on users through a/b testing and experiments, review the results and come to a conclusion.
Although all of the speakers had design and product background, it was inspiring to hear their perspectives from a wide variety of industries. Thanks to Firstmark and Buzzfeed for inviting the power packed presenters, we definitely learned a lot and look forward to the next Design Driven NYC event.

Design Driven at Buzzfeed – Lessons Learned From Sylvain Labs, Hello Alfred and Unsplash



Design Driven NYC is a monthly event organized by Firstmark to inspire design enthusiasts through the stories from entrepreneurs and industry leaders in the design community. The organizers believe that “great design is storytelling at its finest, and that it is a critical element to any successful product.”

On 5th April, we attended their 26th Design Driven event held at BuzzFeed’s office. The featured speakers were Alain Sylvain (Founder/CEO of Sylvain Labs), Marcela Sapone (Founder/CEO of Hello Alfred), Luke Chesser (Founder/CPO of Unsplash) and Bonnie Siegler (Founder/CEO of Eight and a Half).

Here’s a recap of what we learned during the engaging exchanges between the presenters and the audience.

Alain Sylvain of Sylvain Labs on User Research
Sylvain Labs, an innovation and brand consultancy, is the brainchild of Alain Sylvain. 7 years ago, he observed that very few companies offered services that catered to both creative and business needs. Inspired to create a company that meets these needs, he started Sylvain Labs and along the way it has helped popular brands such as Nike, Google and Airbnb to launch new products and reinvent their brand positioning through innovative solutions.
“Learn to differentiate the user needs.”

When designing a product for users, we have to understand the complexities of a user’s needs. In short, what drives people to do what they do. During his speech, Alain touched on different solutions to make sense of a user’s needs.

    1. Physical need vs Emotional need: Is the need driven by actions or feelings?
      Eg “I need to go to the restaurant to get my lunch” vs “I need to talk to my boss to tell him how i feel”
    2. Timeless need vs Timely need: Does the need lasts indefinitely or happens immediately? Eg “I need to check up on my loved ones to stay in touch” vs “I need the ATM machine to work now”
    3.  Conscious need vs Unconscious need: Is the user aware or unaware of his or her needs?Eg “I want to get good grades” vs “I need to do well in school to show that i’m smart and capable”


  1.  Using Desire-Motivation-Tension model:
    ​As a user, I need/want ________ so that
     ________ but ________.
    Eg. As a CEO, I want to ensure that all the employees are working diligently and productively so that we can show progress but it is so difficult to keep track of the responsibilities that each employee has at hand and accommodate to different working styles.
Marcela Sapone of Hello Alfred on Design 
Hello Alfred is a service that offers on-demand butler services to help you manage your daily chores. Founders, Marcela Sapone and Jess Beck were the first all woman team to win the Techcrunch Disrupt competition with the Hello Alfred concept and have currently raised $12.5 million in funding.
“Life is too short not to design for what you want.”
Marcela started her speech with one of her favorite design mantras, “Life is too short not to design for what you want” and this was the quote that inspired her to create Hello Alfred. While going about her daily chores, she wished for someone to help her complete them so she could spend her time on more important tasks. With this idea in mind, she built this service to turn the idea into reality.
“Sometimes you want to increase friction to increase trust.”

She believes that when designing for UX of trust, you will need to increase friction to increase trust. Instead of hiring an employee with 1099 form for the role of an Alfred (what the butlers are referred to as), she and her team decided to hire W2 employees. From an employer’s perspective, hiring employees with a 1099 form is usually preferred as they would be able to spend less on staffing since the 1099 form regulations do not require them to cover benefits that a W2 employee would receive.

​However, Marcela views that using W2 employees would be necessary in increasing the users’ trust towards the Alfreds since W2 employees are full-time employees as compared to contractual 1099 employees. Even if this decision increases friction, the company still insists on hiring W2 employees and ensures that they are carefully-screened through background checks (identity, criminal and credit), references, and in-person interviews to build trust between the users and the Alfreds.

“Do not be afraid to do things that are difficult to scale.”
Hiring practices alone are insufficient in building trust with users. They realized that it was important for the Alfreds to leave personalized notes for the users after every session as well. It is more tedious for the Alfreds to do so, but they discovered that this small action translated into increased mutual trust.
“Be really specific and intentional about what you are designing.”
Marcela commented that designing the Alfred application was one of the hardest things she and her team had to do, as Hello Alfred is a category that does not exist. She knew that she needed to build a User Interface that would convey the ability to accomplish multiple things at once, while humanizing the exchange between Alfreds and the users. How does one build an communicative interface for Alfreds and users that could constantly remind the users of the presence of a human being that is constantly doing all of their tasks for them? 


Image via Hello Alfred

As such, her team built a task list with toggle buttons and this was an efficient way for  users to manage all their tasks at one go through a familiar interface. A profile image of the Alfred is strategically placed at the top of the application to remind users that a human is completing their tasks for them and an operational tracker is displayed beneath each task. This gives users the ability to see what is happening with all their requests. As the Alfred is out in the field doing things, the tracker stays up to date. Users love watching the progress across their tasks,  engaging users with habit-forming designs.

​The application also included profile and background stories of Alfreds to minimize the transactional nature of their relationship and create a new relationship of trust. Every design was intentionally created to allow the application to be as transparent and human as possible. Every point of contact with the users on the Hello Alfred application was thoughtfully planned to increase trust between users and their Alfreds.

Luke Chesser of Unsplash on Entrepreneurship
Unsplash is a photo sharing service that features free high-resolution photos which are curated by professional photographers. What started out as a Tumblr page to post excess images available became a photolibrary that has more than 1 billion photos viewed per month.
“It’s okay to not have all the answers when you are building your company.”
When Luke created Unsplash with his team, they did not know what they were building. He commented that many companies do not have the answers to everything, such as a well defined long term strategy or a monetization plan. Founders have to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and need to figure out solutions along the way.
“You should start building things, regardless.”
Many companies tend to share their stories in a way that only highlights their successes and not their problems. Every idea a person has is going to bring a lot of problems, but despite these complications,  they should still work on building their idea. There will be many reasons pulling them back from their ideas but the great thing about designers is that they understand that there will always be solutions. The key takeaway is to be innovative with ideas and solutions, as safe decisions build safe products and mediocre companies.
Through the Design Driven event, we got to learn more about User Research, Design and Entrepreneurship. The founders’ conviction and determination about their companies was truly inspiring. Indeed, it was an evening well spent.

Estimating Costs for an Open edX Deployment on AWS

We’re often asked about hosting costs by our clients. We typically set up the Amazon AWS environment on the customer’s AWS account.

However there is no single answer about costs: they can vary depending on the number of users, security requirements and use of additional features like Open edX Insights.

Here’s a cost template to help you plan your Amazon AWS spend for your Open edX instance.

AR/VR, Robots, Drones… 6 Emerging Technologies and their Applications


As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. As with technology, the landscape is constantly evolving too. It is amazing to see the speed at which technology has pushed its boundaries to create new value and transform experiences for both businesses and consumers.

Here’s a look at the top 6 technological trends we have observed to be transforming the way we work and live, along with some use-cases to help convey their applicability. For the entrepreneurs reading this, consider thinking about how you might leverage these technologies to super-charge your business.

1. Drones

Drones are unmanned aerial devices that can fly or move without an onboard human pilot. They can operate autonomously via inbuilt computers and travel on a predetermined flight plan that is controlled remotely or directed manually. The presence of drones can potentially impact a larger segment of the courier industry and support a new phase of digital business. Just Imagine receiving your Amazon delivery at your doorstep via this nifty flying vehicle.

Potential Industries: Precision farming, Cargo delivery, Railway safety, Construction site management

Use Case: Medical Supplies in Rwanda
The government of Rwanda partnered up with Silicon Valley startup, Zipline to deliver medical supplies to 5 of its hospitals. The drones can transport up to 150 deliveries per day and have reduced the duration of a single delivery from 4 hours to 15 mins.

2. blockchain

In layman’s terms, Blockchain is a system which functions as a self-auditing network of information. It uses a network of computing nodes to document the value of transactions sequentially in “blocks” across a database that can be shared among multiple parties simultaneously.

Rather than persisting a central system of record, the information is kept public and hosted concurrently by multiple computers, allowing it to be easily accessible and verifiable. This increase in transparency makes the Blockchain system more credible than other similar systems, and reduces business friction as a result. Another way to think of Blockchain is as a shared Google Document for digital transaction records.

Potential Industries: Peer to Peer transactions, Supply chain auditing, Governance, Data management, File storage, Stock trading

Use Case: Host and Guest Integrity on Airbnb
Guests can easily verify a host’s credibility by checking their ID number as r
epresentations of people’s online identities are stored on a Blockchain. Unlike Facebook, users cannot delete their accounts and re-register if they receive unfavorable reviews, as records on Blockchain cannot be tampered with.

3. Automation: Robots

Don’t worry, robots are not taking over the world (yet), but a world with robots automating human-exclusive tasks does not seem that far away. Robots are electro-mechanical machines or virtual agents that assist humans with their daily activities autonomously or through a set of instructions set by a computer program. As much as they have the ability to improve productivity, the implication of robots lowering the employment rate is also a cause for concern by some groups.

Potential Industries: Manufacturing, Service industry, Hazardous industries, Hotels and tourism, Automation of predictable tasks

Use case: Automated News in China
A publishing company in China, Southern Metropolis Daily, has published its first robot-written report that summarized the train transportation schedules during the Lunar New Year and advised readers on recommended routes to travel.​

4. IOT

IOT (Internet of Things) is a network of internet-connected objects, devices and vehicles that are able to collect and exchange data using embedded sensors. This technology links all our devices together and makes them hum in a veritable technological harmony. As a result, we are able to collect and exchange data seamlessly across devices over the internet, control the devices and monitor them remotely.

Potential Industries: Inventory and material tracking, Real-time asset monitoring, Customer self service, Data integration and analytics, Real-time market insights, Dynamic billing and pricing application

Use Case: Smart Homes by Samsung
Samsung’s SmartThings system helps households automate their in-home devices. It allows users to control lights, locks, plugs, thermostats, cameras and speakers from a centralized location like your phone.

5. Augmented Reality and Virtual reality (AR/VR)

Most people first experienced the wonders of AR through Pokemon Go, which had over 100 million downloads. AR (Augmented Reality) enables blending of the real and virtual world via a graphic and/or audio overlay through a supplemental device. This is not to be confused with VR (Virtual Reality), which is a computer-generated simulation of a 3-dimensional image or a complete surrounding within an enclosed space, usually requiring tools such as a VR helmet or headset.

Both AR and VR create an immersive environment and are transforming the way individuals interact with each other. Although most devices are still in early-stage development, enterprises can anticipate targeted applications of VR and AR in the coming years.

Potential Industries: Immersive journalism, Virtual workplaces, Architecture/construction, education and training, Entertainment, Healthcare, Merchandising

Use Case: Physical to Digital Bridge for Brands by Blippar
Blippar has developed an Augmented Reality platform, pioneering a solution for brands to create augmented digital experiences through a scan of an image or a logo. More recently, it developed a ‘visual browser’ which allows users to scan the real world around them and receive a layer of information about objects and places in their surroundings.

6. AI and machine learning

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is an umbrella concept that is made up of numerous subfields such as machine learning and natural language processing. It encompasses a combination of extensive parallel processing power, massive data sets to feed its software algorithms and advanced systems that can teach themselves to become more intelligent.

By leveraging AI, providers can focus more on advanced analytics, streamline business processes and create more conversational interfaces. Gartner predicts by 2018, the world’s largest 200 companies will be leveraging intelligent apps for their various offerings.

Potential Industries: Managing personal finances, Automated virtual assistance, Real time fraud and risk management, Data analytics and advanced analytics, Customer support, Transactions and helpdesks.

Use case: Intelligent Routing for Uber and Lyft
These ride-sharing applications use machine learning to predict rider demand and arrival times of rides, and optimally plan routes across passengers to minimize detours.

The tech industry is constantly progressing and making predictions about the course of its future is no trivial task. Disruptive technologies and their application can sometimes gain rapid recognition and acceleration, making it a moving target. However it is important to be aware of the state of the industry and attempt to foresee the most likely technologies to be adopted next.  This could prove pivotal in helping to catch the wave of the next billion dollar business opportunity.

How we integrated Discourse with Open edX for a more Collaborative Learning Experience

What was the Challenge?

Our customers needed help in creating an efficient edX learning platform that prioritized peer-to-peer interaction and social learning, f

ocusing more on cross-course collaboration instead of course specific collaboration.

What we Researched

Online courses offer the opportunity to create a highly social learning environment and participating in group discussions have shown to help students to learn better through the concept of Community of Inquiry (CoI). This concept explains that the key indicators of a successful online learning environment are – Social Presence (ability of learners to project their personal characteristics through debates and discussions), Teaching Presence (having teachers to give directions and provide learning contents) and Cognitive Presence (ability for participants to construct meaning through knowledge exchange and collaboration).

What we Discovered

We observed that Open edX’s current default discussion feature provides a basic solution to facilitate interaction between students and it enables learners to experience Social Presence and Teaching Presence, however it needs a more engaging cross-course collaboration tool with a wider scope for students to learn better through improved Cognitive Presence.

Our Methodology

  1. We researched various third-party tools that integrated well with Open edX for richer discussions and these tools include Google Groups, Discourse, Django BB, Misago, Machina and Slack.
  2. We concluded that Discourse is the most suitable tool to encourage active cross-course discussions. If you want to know more about the metrics we used for course comparison, view our detailed analysis here.  

Our Technical Approach: How we integrated Discourse with Open edX

We carried out the following steps towards integrating Discourse with Open edX

  1. Deployed a separate instance of discourse
  2. Changed the theme in order to make it look more consistent with the rest of the Open edX platform
  3. Made it more amenable to an embedded user experience by changing the layout of the Discourse page. For eg. eliminating the Top Navigation
  4. Packaged this Discourse Customization as a Discourse Plugin:
  5. Created groups on the platform based on themes given by our clients – planned leadership, regional and cross-functional group
  6. Pre-registered users using their emails on the Discourse platform. We plan to automate this in the future via Google Single Sign-on which auto-provision users through login
  7. Added users to their respective groups
  8. Used Google oAuth to enable single sign feature where users can use their Google account to login to their Open edX account.
  9. Integrated Discourse homepage under a special cross-course Discussion tab as an iFrame. Tip: To enable embedding of such nature, change the xFrame settings on the Discourse server
  10. Created a widget from Discourse’s ‘recent discussions’ feed and integrated it on the main Dashboard homepage. This allows users to see information about their discussion activity without having to specifically visit the Discussions tab
  11. Integrated Discourse notifications into the main Open edX top nav notifications, federated with the standard Open edX notifications

What were the results?

We were able to create an efficient collaborative tool that allowed learners to interact and discuss about what they learned from different courses. Cross-course communication has proved to be valuable in helping learners to learn more effectively and we managed to achieve our customer’s goal of creating a productive edX learning platform through Open edX – Discourse integration.


For someone with limited experience in User Experience (UX) or User Interface (UI) design (yes, they are vastly different), you can get started on UX easily by taking an online UX course – usually the easiest and most affordable way of kickstarting your UX journey. Every course claims to have the best mentors, the highest employment rate for students who have completed the course, the largest amount of resources available for you and thus, it can get confusing when it comes to choosing a course that is most suited to meeting your learning goals.
We understand your pain-points and hence, we have curated 10 online UI/UX courses with all the information you need to know to help make an informed decision when choosing an online UI/UX course. We have also compiled the following list within a UI/UX courses chart for you to make an easier comparison.

1. UX Training

Price: $280 for 1 year unlimited access
​Hours: 7 hours (90+ videos)
Example of courses: UX Theory – What is UX, Research – Usability Testing, Design – Design Principle
Differentiator: Members-only forum that allows you to share your projects to gain feedbacks

2. Interaction foundation design

Price: $8 per month, paid yearly (for students)
$13 per month, paid yearly (for professional)

Hours: Between 1 to 7 hours per week
Example of courses: Become a UX designer from scratch, Human-Computer Interaction, The Practical Guide to Usability
Differentiator: Limited participants for each course, free articles and books from authors such as Clayton M. Christensen (He coined the term Disruptive Innovation!)

3. Design lab

Price: $299 per course
Hours: 10 hours per week for 4 weeks
​Example of courses: UX Research and Strategy, Interaction Design, Prototyping and Testing
Differentiators: Limited participants for each course, Skype session with industry leaders and feedbacks from mentors

4. Edx – university of michigan

Price: Free
Hours: 3 to 4 hours per week
Examples of courses: Evaluating Designs with Users, UX Design from Wireframe to Prototype, User Experience Research and Design
Differentiator: Reviews available for each course

5. Treehouse

Price: $25 per month (basic plan)
           $49 per month (pro plan)
Hours: 30 mins to 17 hours per course
Examples of courses: UX Basics, HTML Email Design, Mockups for Responsive Design
Differentiator: Offers access to UX-related Conference resources

6. Udemy

Price: $10 to $195 per course
Hours: 1.5 hours to 23.5 hours per course
Examples of courses: UX & Web Design Master Course: Strategy, Design, Development, Mobile App Design from scratch with Sketch 3, UX Strategy Fundamentals
Differentiator: Offers both full-stack UX courses and specific UX topics courses, reviews available for each course

7. Coursera

Price: Free
Hours: 4 to 5 weeks per course
Examples of courses: Interaction Design, Introduction to User Experience Design, User Interface Design
Differentiator: Offers courses from well-known universities such as Georgia Institute of Technology, reviews available for each course

8. Lynda

Price: $19.99 per month (basic plan)
           $29.99 per month (pro plan)
Hours: 13mins 48 secs – 6 hours 1 min per course
​Examples of courses: Planning a career in User Experience, Foundations of UX: Multidevice Design, UX Design Techniques: Creating Personas
Differentiator: Transcripts for video feature

9. skillshare

Price: For premium videos
          $8 per month (Annual payment)
$12 per month (Monthly payment)
          Includes free videos
Hours: 14mins to 12hrs 4mins
Examples of courses: iOS Design I: Getting Started with UX, UX Design Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know, Intro to UX: Fundamentals of Usability
Differentiator: Members-only forum that allows you to share your projects to gain feedbacks, reviews available for each course

10. Envato tuts+

Price: $15 per month
           $9 per course
Includes free videos
Hours: 10mins to 5.9 hours
Examples of courses: Fundamentals of UX Design, A/B testing for Web Designers, UX Prototyping for Mobile Devices with InVision
Differentiator: Members-only forum that allows you to share your projects to gain feedbacks


Apart from the online classes, here are some additional reading materials we find useful for UI/UX beginners as well. These are perfect for those who would like to read up on fundamentals of UI/UX in bite-sizes!

1. UX Apprentice

A website that provides you with book recommendations to improve your understanding of various UX topics and quizzes to test your UX knowledge.

2. ux crash course: 31 fundamentals

A UX crash course that splits your learning process into 31 lessons. It is suitable for people who are looking to gain a generic overview of UX topics.

3. HackDesign

Gain a better understanding of UX through HackDesign’s 50 lessons course. Each lesson features different web articles about specific UX topics, curated by various UX experts.  

4. 52 weeks of ux

We love the simplicity of this interactive online lesson. It features a short write up on various UX topics and after 52 weeks, you will get to have a better comprehension of the fundamentals of UX.
Having taken some of these UX courses as part of Perpetual’s UX training curriculum, we recommend the courses offered by UX Training and EdX-University of Michigan. Both of these courses not only offers a wide variety of hands-on exercises but are also comprehensive, specific and easy to follow.
Remember, before you embark on your UX journey, it is always advisable to practice with UI/UX tools such as Sketch and InVision to apply what you have learnt. 


Our review of 10 UI/UX courses worth taking

10 Classic Resources we find useful for UI/UX designers

#TriedandTested – At Perpetual, we like to keep things simple. There will always be discovery of new UX tools but here are the top 10 resources we turn to when it comes to UX design. We hope that they will be as useful for you,

as they are for us.

1. UX Checklist

As UX designers, we understand that there are many tasks we need to oversee at once. The UX Checklist is a useful tool to help you check if you have completed all your necessary steps – from competitive analysis to your A/B test plan.

2. xScope

Created by designers, for designers – xScope is a tool that is useful for measuring, inspecting and testing on-screen graphics and layouts. It features a Loupe tool that allows you to quickly measure the size of anything on your window without you having to take a screenshot and transfer it to your preferred software.


3. Craft

Created by InVision, Craft is a suite of plugins that allows us to include real unique content from live websites in our prototypes. Yes, we no longer need to waste time coming up with placeholder content or dummy profile descriptions. #smallvictories

4. Colllor

A color palette generator tool that allows you to view different variations of one color. After all, modifying one base color is essentially the fundamental skill of coloring interface designs.

5. pttrns

A website filled with UI resources and mobile design kits for anyone in need of some last-minute inspiration.

6. Font Awesome

Font Awesome provides you with scalable vector icons that can be instantly customized by size, color, drop shadow and anything that can be done within the scope of CSS.


7. Freebiesbug

A free web design resources page that allows you to browse through multiple illustrator, PSD and Sketch freebies needed for UI, template or plug-in design.

8. Usertesting

To be a great designer, one must dive deeper into how users think and act. A product that appears easy for us to navigate may not be as easy for users to comprehend. We need to test our products with real users and this is where UserTesting.com comes in, to help you test your products with users from your target market.


9. CSSmatic

The ultimate tool for CSS designers. We like it because it is a reliable and interactive tool that generates CSS codes for gradients, borders, shadows and noise textures.

10. Nielsen norman

We subscribe to Nielsen Norman’s newsletter for research-based UX articles and reports. We like it simply because most of their articles are based on extensive data research and user analysis.
Hope you have enjoyed our top 10 favorites. Comment below if you have any other recommendations! We’ll  compile them and share with designers in the UX community.



For Immediate Release
Ken Chen
Perpetual Learning


Secure and Simple Remote Online Exam Proctoring Solution for Online Education
New York, NY (Aug. 22, 2016) – Perpetual Learning, an education innovation and technology company based in Manhattan, N.Y. announced today the launch of the world’s first open-source proctoring solution for Open edX. This proctoring solution, powered by ProctorU, has been open-sourced as a part of Perpetual Learning’s continued contribution to Open edX, one of the most popular open-source learning management systems for online education.
The proctoring service is provided by ProctorU, an industry-leading online proctoring platform. This proctoring solution is available as an Xblock, which is an extension of Open edX courseware components. This xBlock is already in use by Fun MOOC, Europe’s largest Open edX-based online education offering. It is available in English and French.
An ongoing issue with online learning in Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Open edX has been the validity of certification due to the lack of oversight and proctoring which are available in traditional learning environments. Certificates from online learning often symbolize the time spent within a course and results from unsupervised grading. The launch of this proctoring service for Open edX ensures academic integrity through secure and remote online proctoring, the time tested method for protecting exam content.
“With the large and accelerating adoption of Open edX for online learning, concerns about integrity have also been growing. This xBlock directly addresses this concern,” said Amish Gandhi, CEO of Perpetual Learning. “This is the first open-source proctoring solution for Open edX, now available to everyone”.
Matthew Jaeh, CTO of ProctorU is also pleased to support the Open edX community. “We have successfully monitored over 2 million exams since 2008, and this initiative opens up our service to institutions adopting cutting-edge learning management systems like Open edX,” Jaeh said.
To download and use this online proctoring solution, visit: https://github.com/perpetualny/proctoru-xblock
About Perpetual Learning 

Perpetual Learning is an education innovation and technology company based in Manhattan, New York, with a focus on platform development for online education. Perpetual Learning’s clients include Teach for India, Iowa State University and Families First among others. For more information, please visit: http://learning.perpetualny.com or email info@perpetualny.com     
About ProctorU
ProctorU watches students take exams online using webcams and screen-sharing technology. The service gives students the convenience of testing at home and instructors the ability to ensure exam security. ProctorU uses a three-step process that confirms that the student who registered for the exam is the student who is taking the exam and is following the institution’s testing requirements. Using webcams and screen-sharing technology, test monitors can see the student and what they are doing. ProctorU offers live, person-to-person, real-time monitoring to more than 900 colleges, universities and certification organizations. For more information, visit www.proctoru.com.

5 New Trends in Education

If you have arrived to this page, you’re probably here to gain an understanding about something or learn something. This is happening not just here, but every moment you’re awake. Be it listening to This American Life or looking at pictures of some really cute cats, your brain is constantly taking in new information and expanding its capabilities.

The way we take in new information has dramatically changed since the introduction of the Internet. The constant action of flipping through endless pages in the Encyclopedia Britannica has been simplified to a couple of taps on a keyboard to browse Wikipedia. Our access to knowledge has never been more effortless or free.

With a large percentage of what we learn belonging to the digital world, it has disrupted the traditional education landscape of in-person lectures and core curriculum. More and more digital learning trends have emerged, enabling more accessible, efficient and bespoke ways of learning.

1. Mobile Learning

The concept of mobile learning is pretty self explanatory–the act of learning through the use of mobile devices like phones or tablets. This happens in majority of the time we use our mobile phones, from browsing Buzzfeed or searching for information on Google. With this, it’s easy to say this form of learning is accessible virtually everywhere.

Buying a phone or a tablet costs significantly less than owning a laptop or enrolling in a formal higher education program. Over the years, the integration of mobile experiences with traditional education environments has improved. More and more classrooms have replaced textbooks with digital learning tools available on mobile phones and tablets to offer students a more accessible and interactive alternative for learning.

There are apps and platforms dedicated to a systematic means of learning via mobile, with organized lessons, learning paths and achievement systems. Apps like Duolingo, Udacity, and edX have done just this by offering mobile courses with specific learning goals. These help users learn whenever they want, wherever they are, just  with an internet connection and a battery.  

2. Personalized Learning

As another self-explanatory trend of digital learning, Personalized Learning is a solution that is specifically tailored to a student’s specific needs. The content, format, pacing, and path can all be designed to create a learning experience for that particular student. In this environment, learning is not about achieving certain goals, but more about the experience of learning. Unlike traditional curriculum-based learning environments where some students are likely to fall behind since not everyone has the same learning capacity, in Personalized Learning, every student is given a share of attention that creates a learning experience specific to them. It promotes significant interaction between teachers and students in both a physical and digital learning format.

Alt School, a San Francisco startup that aims to revolutionize the education system in primary to middle school environments via personalized learning has recently received $100M funding from Mark Zuckerberg. Also, the digital personalized learning platform Knewton has worked with numerous institutions to offer them personalized learning solutions for student and employee education.

It is also important to note while Personalized Learning aims to tailor the learning experience for every student, it is unfortunately not accessible to the masses. In addition to the substantial amount of research, content creation, and personal interaction between the teacher and the student needed to create a personalized learning experience, there’s also an enormous price tag attached to it with a minimum cost of $3,000 per month to attend Alt School in New York City.

3. Micro Learning

Micro learning offers users short and concise content in multimedia and interactive formats. It often includes text, video, games, and other interactive content to help the users learn in short periods of time. Due to its short duration and flexible formats, it can cover an immense range of topics from programming languages to human anatomy. It’s fast-paced nature matches the modern lifestyle perfectly, in which people’s attention spans have shortened to a mere few minutes.

This method can be found everywhere–to the point where experiencing it can go unnoticed. Took a lesson in Duolingo? Signed up for daily UX challenge? Subscribed to Crash Course on Youtube? Though these examples are in slightly different formats, they are all considered to be micro learning. Micro learning is able to cover diverse topics, but is not suitable for every topic. The fragmented style of learning is not suitable to convey new, abstract, and in-depth topics. For example, it is suitable to teach the learner new visual design tips and tricks daily, but it is not suitable to grasp the general theory of relativity.

4. Peer Learning

While the main source of learning has always been the teacher, learning from your peers is also an effective and underestimated way to learn. While both studying with your classmates and joining a discussion group can be considered peer learning, the digital rendition of this can easily create a positive and encouraging environment that promotes discussion. It also makes it easy to  put students with a similar level of understanding or learning style in the same group to ensure learning efficiency.

Peer learning has proven to be more effective than doing solo exercises. While teachers do provide the bulk of information during a class, there’s always new and undiscovered things you can learn from your classmates who usually provide a more approachable atmosphere. Unlike a lecture environment in which information is mass fed from instructors to students, interaction among students can promote a more active learning experience.

Furthermore, in a traditional peer learning environment such as a discussion group, it is difficult to ensure equal participation, a positive environment, and the same level of understand of certain topic among students even with an experienced moderator. Converting this to a software based environment allows the digital peer learning environment to be self-organized without the need for a moderator to initiate collaborative learning in real-time.

5. Virtual Reality Learning

While Virtual Reality’s claim to fame lies mainly in video games, there lies hidden potential for it in the education realm also. Taking education to VR has led to directing the way students learn to an entirely differently designed immersive experience. It’s certainly difficult to learn and empathize the experience of Syrian refugees through reading articles or watching videos, but viaa 360 video, users are able more accurately learn what the refugees have to go through in their daily lives to empathize their experience. VR experiences can help bring students to places thousands of miles away with a significantly lower price tag than having field trips. VR can even bring them to places that are impossible for anyone to visit but are in the curriculum such as Mars or the south in the Antebellum Era. Integrating VR with education can alter and increase student’s opinion on curriculum and can shatter education standards that have been the status quo since the 1700’s.

Google Expedition has  been developing 360 videos and experience to offer students an affordable way to experience VR learning. Through the device and application, students are able to be virtually underwater, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to understand the ecosystem, or be on the top floor of The Burj Khalifa in Dubai to appreciate its literal architectural grandeur.


Education through the use of modern technology is able to achieve goals that are impossible in the traditional classroom environment. VR has the untapped potential that can take students to virtually anywhere in the world and beyond. One of the main new trends, Personalized Learning, can create lesson plans and goals tailored to individual needs and wants. Digital Peer Learning has the ability to easily moderate a positive and collaborative learning environment.

While there are certainly a lot of benefits to these learning methods, no single one is considered to be ideal. Personalized Learning, while tailored, requires a huge amount of research, content creation, and interaction between teachers and students. Mobile Learning is limited by x    x    screen size and battery life while Micro Learning is only suitable for certain topics.

Creating a well-rounded learning experience is only achievable on a handful of platforms and applications, since most of them have specific emphasis on learning methodology, but this is not the case for Open edX with it being designed to implement multiple learning methods on a single platform. Users can learn with their mobile devices through the Open edX app, gain knowledge from their peers through discussion groups and learn via micro-learning from the diverse formats of content supported by Open edX, and embed formats like VR leveraging its flexible customization options.

When attempting to construct a well-rounded learning experience, the most important decision is not about selecting the right learning method, but to structure the right combination of these complementary learning methods.