Get ready for edX. It’s a collaborative effort between Harvard and MIT that’s going to continue to change the future of education. First, a little background.
Important Background Info
MIT’s OpenCourseWare, MITx, and MIT+K12 initiatives have become some of the biggest online education programs around the world. With OpenCourseWare, MIT offers thousands of free online classes that have been used by more than 100 million people over the past decade. It allows online students to get a special credential known as MITx as well. Then came the recent announcement of a partnership with Khan Academy. Now Harvard.
Harvard has been offering online courses via its extension program and I can tell you firsthand that they were terrific.
So this partnership seems to be the trend for how education will evolve over the coming years. It will be online, organized by brick-and-mortar schools, and available to everyone. Works for me.
What Is edX?
The future of online education is being decided by brick-and-mortar schools. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, MIT is making a massive push to allow the entire planet to get a quality online education.
Now, Harvard is adding itself to the mix. Harvard President Drew Faust and MIT President Susan Hockfield just announced the new ‘edX’ learning platform.
According to the Harvard Gazette, edX is a “transformational partnership in online education.” So that seems a bit vague. What exactly is it? Basically, it’s Harvard courses on the MITx platform but with Harvard branding.
In other words, two of the world’s biggest institutions are collaborating to enhance online education.
How It Works
edX will feature video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, online laboratories, and student paced learning. Certificates of mastery will be available for those motivated and able to demonstrate their knowledge of the course material.
MIT and Harvard expect that over time other universities will join them in offering courses on the edX platform. The gathering together of many universities’ educational content on one site will enable learners worldwide to access the course content of any participating university from a single website, and to use a set of online educational tools shared by all participating universities.
The Single Biggest Reason It’s The Future
Best of all, edX is going to be open source. That means other universities and organizations that want to have an edX of their own will be able to do so. How awesome is that? The fact that it’s going to be open-source, to me, means that edX is the future of online learning.
Another solid reason for why edX is a big deal is the analytics. Teachers will be able to analyze which method or tools were most successful. You can then analyze the results and fine-tune your teaching methods so they’re as effective as possible. In the classroom or online.
Why It’s Different From MITx
It’s not just engineering courses or math courses.It’ll include humanities courses (thanks to Harvard’s involvement) where essays could be graded through crowdsourcing.
It’s Not Actually Revolutionary…
The New York Times points out an interesting factoid:
In some ways, the new partnerships reprise the failed online education ventures of a decade ago. Columbia University introduced Fathom, a 2001 for-profit venture that involved the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan and others. It lost money and folded in 2003. Yale, Princeton and Stanford collaborated on AllLearn, a nonprofit effort that collapsed in 2006.
MIT and Harvard want to have millions of people use edX. That means there’s going to be a huge push to get this platform in front of, well, everyone. I absolutely love this.
“EdX represents a unique opportunity to improve education on our own campuses through online learning, while simultaneously creating a bold new educational path for millions of learners worldwide,” MIT President Susan Hockfield said.
Harvard President Drew Faust said, “EdX gives Harvard and MIT an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically extend our collective reach by conducting groundbreaking research into effective education and by extending online access to quality higher education.”
“Harvard and MIT will use these new technologies and the research they will make possible to lead the direction of online learning in a way that benefits our students, our peers, and people across the nation and the globe,” Faust continued.
The Money & Leadership Parts
MIT’s Anant Agarwal, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, who has headed development of the MITx platform under the leadership of MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif, will serve as the first president of edX.
At Harvard, Provost Alan Garber will direct the Harvardx effort, and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith will play a leading role in working with faculty to develop and deliver courses.
I’m also quite excited about how edX will integrate into current in-person classrooms. The Harvard Gazette does a terrific write-up that I wanted to share:
Enhancing Current Classrooms
EdX will enhance the traditional residential model of undergraduate education on both campuses by supporting an unlimited number of experimental online approaches to teaching that can be used by Harvard and MIT faculty and that will benefit students in Cambridge and Boston. It also will have the benefit of providing global access to some of the world-class instruction that already occurs in Cambridge and Boston, but which is only one aspect of the full Harvard and MIT experience.
“The campus environment offers opportunities and experiences that cannot be replicated online,” said Hockfield. “EdX is designed to improve, not replace, the campus experience.”
EdX will be separate from ongoing distance-learning initiatives at both institutions, including MIT OpenCourseWare and courses offered by Schools at Harvard, such as the Harvard Extension School, the Harvard Business School, and the Harvard Medical School.
Courses Are Coming This Fall
Both Harvard and MIT will be announcing the first set of courses in early summer, to start in the fall. “We are already moving forward quickly,” said Agarwal. “There’s a lot of energy in the air, and the teams at Harvard and MIT can’t wait to collaborate.”