Building on their histories in online and distributed education, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced earlier this week that the two schools will commit $60 million toward expanding their online education efforts.
Building on MIT’s recently announced MITx program (which is essentially an extension of the Institute’s OpenCourseWare program), the new initiative is called edX. edX will include both MITx and HarvardX, and be delivered on an open-source platform that will be made available for other groups to use (or at least emulate) for their own course content. The expectation is that other universities will share how they use the platform for the mutual benefit of all groups involved. While the intent of the open-source platform is for wide use and cooperation, edX will be operated as a not-for-profit organization jointly owned and governed by both universities.
Besides the innovation(s) in course delivery, edX is anticipated to have benefits from a research perspective. From the press release:
“MIT and Harvard will use the jointly operated edX platform to research how students learn and how technologies can facilitate effective teaching both on-campus and online. The edX platform will enable the study of which teaching methods and tools are most successful. The findings of this research will be used to inform how faculty use technology in their teaching, which will enhance the experience for students on campus and for the millions expected to take advantage of these new online offerings.”
The first courses should be available later this year. Universities have been working on making their research more available to the public. It makes sense that they are working to do the same with their education.