James Marshall Crotty > 5/06/2012 @ 5:06PM
Just five months ago the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) introduced MITx, an online learning platform offering free online courses for anyone, anywhere to earn certificates in distance coursework. I covered the development in my popular Forbes piece, “MIT Game-Changer: Free Online Education For All.” Now, according to Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Yahoo! News, Harvard has partnered with its Cambridge neighbor on edX, an open source online learning platform featuring courses designed specifically for the Internet. According to the edX website, features of the platform will include “self-paced learning, online discussion groups, wiki-based collaborative learning, online assessments and laboratories.” In addition, edX will borrow other elements of the MITx program, including real-time feedback, video lessons, and student-ranked questions and answers.
According to edX, “The edX website will begin by hosting MITx and Harvardx content, with the goal of adding content from other universities interested in joining the platform. EdX will also support the Harvard and MIT faculty in conducting research on teaching and learning.”
While there has been a surge in free online learning initiatives, as documented in my MITx follow-up piece, “Free Education: A Meme Whose Times Has Come,” edX, like MITx, offers a unique selling proposition: a chance to earn a certificate of completion if one masters the subject.
However, unlike the MITx certificate, the edX certification of completion will not be issued under the illustrious Harvard or MIT brand names. The credential will, instead, bear the name of the not-for-profit overseeing the edX program.
In addition to giving students around the world an opportunity to learn through their universities, M.I.T. and Harvard will also use edX to both study how students learn as well as pioneer new ways to measure student progress. [snip]
Harvard and MIT are not alone in pushing the envelope on online education. Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan recently collaborated with Coursera, a new commercial concern with $16 million in venture capital, to provide similar free courseware. In addition, another online program, Udacity, was recently started by rock star Stanford professor and Google Fellow Sebastian Thrun. [snip]
Despite these other impressive efforts, the open source nature of edX means there are no limits on the size or breadth of its content, since any university will be able to move their content onto the platform. [snip]
As edX President Agarwal put it, “Online education for students around the world … is the single biggest change in education since the printing press. Our goal is to educate a billion people around the world.”
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