Is edX the Future of Online Education?

Written by  //  02/25/2013  //  Academics  //  1 Comment

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Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced in April 2012 edX, an innovative partnership that brings online learning to students around the world for free. As expected, edX launched last fall and also as expected it isn’t making money. That hasn’t stopped other prestigious universities from joining the program nor is it silencing speculation whether this education model can possibly endure.

MOOCs

Nonetheless, this Harvard-MIT project is bringing much attention to what is known as Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, a model that some would like to see take hold in academia. However, even as other institutions join in and offer courses through edX, most notably the University of California at Berkeley, the pressure for this nonprofit organization to make money is on.

Last week, The Chronicle of Higher Education shared with its readers how it had obtained copies of legal documents that reveal where edX is headed. Specifically, a pair of partnership models will be offered to affiliated institutions, enabling them to make money from their courses. Under these models edX will get paid first, an arrangement that may satisfy supporters. Harvard and MIT each put up $30 million to launch edX.

Money Models

The first plan is a self-service model that allows universities to use the edX platform as a free learning management system for courses. Whatever revenue is generated from this arrangement would be shared with edX. A $50,000 fee would be charged the first time a course was offered and a $10,000 fee would be assessed each time that course was offered again.

The second plan is an edX supported arrangement, one where the organization assists the institution through production assistance to create new courses suitable for MOOCs. A fee of $250,000 would be charged here plus revenue as outlined in the first plan.

These plans would allow edX to make money up front as well as down the line as courses generate income. Once edX’s fees are satisfied the revenue sharing formula would have the universities keeping 70 percent of the income with the remaining 30 percent going to edX. Institutions would be allowed to switch between plans every 12 months if desired.

Online Platform

The edX platform is built off of MITx, which offered its first course in March 2012. With Harvard aboard, the two institutions were able to expand the platform and begin integrating courses from other universities. Besides Berkeley, other universities that are now affiliated with edX include Canada’s McGill University, the University of Texas, Georgetown, Rice, Australian National University, Wellesley and two European institutions.

The course offerings have also expanded and include from MIT Electricity and Magnetism, The Challenges of Global Poverty, and Circuits and Electronics. Harvard’s courses include Introduction to Computer Science I, The Ancient Greek Hero, and Justice. Berkeley is showing its MOOC muscle too, offering courses such as Foundations of Computer Graphics, Artificial Intelligence, and Copyright.

Course Registration

Intrigued by the many offerings presented, this writer has signed up for The Ancient Greek Hero, a Harvardx course that begins on March 13. He’ll share his findings after completing the course later this spring. Oh, by the way, this course like all other edX courses are offered at no charge to students.

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