Friday, May 4, 2012

Harvard, MIT Partner on edX

Following on the heels of the MITx online learning project launched last December, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has teamed with its Cambridge, MA, neighbor, Harvard University, to launch a new nonprofit partnership offering free online courses from both schools.

The project, know as edX, is the latest venture into the world of massively open online courses, or MOOCs. Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan announced in April their partnership with Coursera, a for-profit company that started with Stanford’s experiments in offering free online courses.

“Through this partnership, we will not only make knowledge more available, but we will learn more about learning," Harvard President Drew Faust said at a news conference on edX. “Anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world can have access."

MIT and Harvard have each committed $30 million to the project, which will offer its first five courses in the fall. The courses will be free and certificates will be available on completion with no college credits. EdX classes will not only focus on engineering, math, and the sciences, but also include humanities subjects that require grading by peers or essay-grading software.

According to the edX web site, the platform is based on MITx, which offered video lessons, embedded testing, real-time feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, and student-paced learning.

“If I were president of a midtier university, I would be looking over my shoulder very nervously right now, because if a leading university offers a free circuits course, it becomes a real question whether other universities need to develop a circuits course,” said George Siemens in a New York Times article. Siemens is a MOOC innovator teaching at Athabasca University, a Canadian school that offers distance online education. 

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