EdX – The Future of Online Learning

In December 2011, MIT launched the MITx , a new online learning initiative that offers a portfolio of MIT courses for free to a virtual community of learners around the world. It is expected that the MITx will also enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences. The first MITx course, Circuits and Electronics, ran from March 5, 2012 through June 8, 2012, enrolling about 120,000 students around the world. It appears that the demand for free, high quality online engineering training is immense and will continue to grow.

Just last month, Harvard University joined MIT and announced a new non-profit partnership, known as edX, to offer free online courses from both universities. MITx will be a core offering of edX, as will Harvardx, a set of course offerings from Harvard. Like MITx, edX courses will offer a certificate but not credit. The goal of edX is to create a global community of online learners while improving education for everyone. EdX will be overseen by a nonprofit organization governed equally by the two universities, each of which has committed $30 million to the project.

edX is expected to offer its first five courses this coming fall. Both MIT and Harvard officials said they would use the new online platform not just to build a global community of online learners, but also to conduct research on teaching methods and technologies that enrich classroom and laboratory experiences. They also expect that over time other universities will join them in offering courses on the edX platform. The collection of all edX courses from many universities 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.

EdX will release its learning platform as open-source software so it can be used by other universities and organizations that wish to host the platform themselves. Because the learning technology will be available as open-source software, other universities and individuals will be more likely to help edX improve and add features to the technology.

I think edX is one of the most exciting online learning initiatives in recent years. edX will change the online learning landscape and offer millions of learners around the world for free and high quality online learning opportunities.

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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
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