MIT and Harvard offer a glimpse of future opportunities for higher education with edX

Earlier this week, Harvard and MIT joined forces to launch the edX platform, which will offer educational courses and content for free online.

The platform, which was originally developed by MIT, will include video lessons quizzes, immediate feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, online laboratories and student-paced learning.

EdX has also made the decision to release its learning platform as open-source software. As a result, MIT and Harvard expect that over time other universities will join them in offering courses on the edX platform and because the learning technology will be available as open-source software, other universities and individuals will also be able to help edX improve and add features to the technology.

This is a smart move as it encourages the knowledge base that is normally spread across numerous universities to come together in this single learning platform. This is not just a move to take learning online, but also a strategy to enhance the global reputation of these already respected learning centres.

It is no secret that further education has been through a number of changes in recent years and has also faced criticism that methods and courses have not moved quickly enough in line with current techniques and opportunities. Although it would be hard to level that criticism against these two giants of the education sector, it is a strong sign that they wish to lead from the front and take learning to a more open and accessible level.

MIT and Harvard will also 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 platform will be overseen by a not-for-profit organisation, which will be owned and governed equally by the two universities. MIT and Harvard have already committed to a combined $60 million ($30 million each) in institutional support, grants and philanthropy to launch the collaboration.

Anant Agarwal, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, who has led the development of the MITx platform under the leadership of MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif, will serve as the first president of edX.

At Harvard, Provost Alan Garber will direct the Harvardx effort and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith will play a leading role in working with faculty to develop and deliver courses.

It is anticipated that initial course offerings from a range of Harvard and MIT schools will be included on the edX platform, and the first courses will be announced in the summer, and are due to begin in the autumn of 2012.

Here’s the edX video:

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