Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] announced today the formation of a new partnership to provide online learning via the Internet. The new edX, which has been set up as a not-for-profit entity equally owned and funded by the two universities, will offer Harvard and MIT courses for free. The partners hope to create a global community of on-line students; they also hope to use the service as a way to understand and improve on-line learning.
The edX platform will build on the MITx technology developed by MIT to deliver its course material online, using a variety of methods.
EdX is based on MITx, a technological platform from MIT designed to offer online versions of their courses. These versions include: video lessons, embedded testing, real-time feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, collaborative web-based laboratories, and student paced learning.
The collaboration between MIT and Harvard is in some sense natural, since they are neighbors† in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They hope that other institutions will join the initiative and provide their own educational materials. The software for the edX platform will be released as open source, so that other institutions can host their own sites if they wish, and will be able to contribute to the development of the platform. For students, there is an obvious benefit to being able to access courses from many different places with a single set of tools. A single platform will also improve the value of edX as a tool to learn about learning.
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.
A first set of courses is to be announced this summer, with the first sessions scheduled to begin this fall.
† As is often the case with neighbors, there is a certain friendly rivalry that exists. I can’t resist relating this (possibly) apocryphal story:
It’s evening in a Cambridge MA supermarket. A customer approaches the checkout stand with a heavily laden cart; over the stand is a sign: “12 Items or Fewer”. When the customer reaches the cashier, she perceives that he is an undergraduate. She gives him a certain look, sighs, and says, “Well, either you’re from Harvard, and you can’t count; or you’re from MIT, and you can’t read.”