Harvard, MIT Team Up to Offer Online Courses for Free

Harvard, MIT Team Up to Offer Online Courses for Free
  • Opening Intro -

    Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have announced a joint partnership that brings online training to the masses for free.


Technology platform uses open-source software.

Born out of an earlier MIT initiative known as MITx, the edX enterprise offers a collaboration between two highly-esteemed universities, one that is designed to enhance campus-based teaching and learning while building a global following of online learners.

New Learning System

The edX collaboration will be based on the extensive experience both universities already have in reaching students online. Essentially, edX will build on the technological foundation of MITx to bring forth a new and expanded learning system, one that is comprised of online laboratories, video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, prompt feedback and other methods of learning. Although students will not receive a degree, participants are eligible to obtain certificates of mastery provided that they are able to demonstrate their knowledge of the course material.

Harvard and MIT are expected to be joined by other universities down the line, schools that will offer their courses on the edX platform. The advantage to learners here is that they will be able to access courses from multiple universities on one website, using the same sharing tools across the entire edX platform.

Open Source Software

The universities are also releasing edX as open source software to be used by organizations and universities desiring to launch a similar platform internally. Given that it is open source, input from outside groups and people will enable edX to fine-tune the technology and release improvements and expand this technology accordingly.

The edX platform will also serve to help the universities understand how students learn, by determining what teaching methods and learning tools work best. This information will help the universities plan their courses and the platform to be tweaked accordingly.

Joint, Not-For-Profit Enterprise

The edX platform will be overseen by a not-for-profit organization situated in Cambridge, Mass., equally owned and administered by the two founding universities. Each school is contributing $30 million, monies that will translate into institutional support, grants and philanthropy.

The first president of the organization is Anant Agarwal, who has led the development of the MITx platform under the leadership of MIT provost L. Rafael Reif. Angaral is currently MIT’s Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Fall 2012 Debut

Harvard and MIT are already working on readying the edX platform for the start of Fall 2012, with the first courses announced by early summer. The two universities are seeking to offer as many courses as possible early on with additional courses added later.

“We are already moving forward quickly,” said Agarwal. “There’s a lot of energy in the air, and the teams at Harvard and MIT can’t wait to collaborate.”

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