MIT and Harvard launch joint education venture

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Harvard and MIT recently announced a joint venture they are calling edX. Beginning in the fall of 2012, edX will offer free online classes to anyone who can access the Internet. Both institutions are claiming edX is "not a Harvard or MIT lite," but it will be hosting content from actual classes at both universities. The vision behind edX is to extend both institutions’ commitment to improving education for everyone–including those on campus and around the world.

EdX is built from MITx, a technology platform from MIT designed to offer online versions of their courses, and will include the following types of content:

  • video lessons
  • embedded testing
  • real-time feedback
  • student-ranked questions and answers
  • collaborative web-based laboratories
  • student-paced learning

However, MIT and Harvard state that the goal is not to replace the traditional undergraduate model, but to "serve to improve and supplement the teaching and learning experienced at both universities."

Would they ever work to replace the traditional model? Of course not. The undergraduate teaching model is extremely profitable, especially at expensive schools like Harvard and MIT. Online teaching is touted as "disruptive," but then positioned only as an enhancement for (paid-for) classroom instruction.

The edX project also seeks collaboration with other universities to include other teachers and courses: "Harvard and MIT have created edX open source software and invite interested institutions to join edX with their own educational content." They will also use edX to monitor and research how students learn and how technology can further facilitate teaching.

You can watch the full press conference at

Do you think other institutions will take advantage of the edX open source platform and join in? Do you believe online teaching will ever be truly "disruptive"?

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Mary Ann Bitter is a Creative Strategist for Red Hat's Marketing Communications & Design team. She lives at the intersection of business and design and believes the open source values have never been more relevant than they are today.  She is passionate about problem solving and working with people who give a damn.


I've recently signed up for a summer course on Coursera, both to learn Ruby on Rails as well as to experience this "disruptive" model. It starts in a few weeks, so I'm quite excited!

There are a few things I've noticed, both in popular and peer-reviewed literature:
<li>Students don't need to sit through a lecture that their professor has recited for the tenth time in his career when they can watch a pre-recorded lecture that may be better.</li>
<li>Students don't need to rely on an expert to identify and correct their misconceptions - volunteers on forums do an excellent job of that already.</li>
<li>Students don't need to wait on the professor to give them feedback on assignments when their peers can review their work instead (in fact, one suggestion I have as a condition of taking an online course is to do peer review for your classmates).</li>
One thing is for certain: the lecture model is on its way to becoming obsolete. But does this does this disrupt undergraduate education?

... maybe? Can self-paced online courses teach and assess the higher-order thinking and problem solving we expect from junior and senior coursework? Are there really going to be enough volunteers who can produce high-quality courseware, or are they going to have to rely on grant funding to motivate them? How do we fund this model? Is it sustainable?

I honestly don't know. And that's what makes this such an exciting research field! Harvard and MIT may be offering these courses for free, but the data they'll be collecting on student performance and interaction is going to be tremendously valuable!

Barry, great comments. Good luck with your summer courses -- let us know how they go.

It is great to see major schools giving back to the community. The more information on line will make learning that much easier.This can only begin to address the weakness of our education system as a whole; here in America and help all people obtain an education.Many countries have taken a major focus on open source education and sadly; the United States is trailing badly in this area. To say that most of our political leaders are out of touch; is only the tip of the ice burg. Thankyou Harvard and MIT in leading the wa

Dear Barry
Coursera is a different model.
They cannot stay alive while MITx+Harvardx is expanding. Who cares for an education from Coursera even if they award a Coursera certificate while there is a certificate from MITx or Harvardx. x does not mean inferior. But just different.
Just as you say Coursera is not sustainable. The moment MITx and Harvardx start enough number of courses online, Coursera will die .
Personelly would you go to Harvardx and get a certificate of Harvardx or go to Coursera ?
Answer me . Best lucks .

Yes, yes
MITx and Harvardx will collect data about 1 billion people of the world.
They can select the smartest people of the world and sell that information for a fee to many world companies.
That is a bonus to MITx and Harvardx

Although I do like this article, I am surprised that it didn't meantion Coursera at all.
I have taken a Coursera class and really enjoyed it. But I am curious what the differences are between Coursera and edX.

Coursera was good if there were no MITx+Harvardx.
Please see the difference.
1. You get a certificate from the best schools of the world. A certificate of MITx
A certificate of Harvardx . They are known by billions in the world .
2.- You get , ( do you I do not know ) , a certificate from Coursera, nobody knows yet .
Which one would you go.
Please tell me.
Plus I am sure MITx+Harvardx will provide degrees after a while . Otherwise that would also die They cannot meet their target of 1 billion.
edx name is a wrong name for MITx+Harvardx.
Brand name is the most important issue in every field . People would not care what the edx is . But when you say MITx they would stand up . How come that mistake has been done by MITx and Harvardx , I do not know .

A better use for that money would be to kick out some of the self-congratulatory-egg-heads at Harvard/MIT and use their grants and salaries to attract spirited leaders and entrepreneurs dedicated to transforming local communities here in the US.

Dear Ortiz
This is a private answer.
It seems you are an unhappy person.
Therefore you take a great pleasure to critisize things rather than good or negative comments.
do not forget you are American and very lucky.
Plus they will not spend any taxpayers money or even American money.
1 billion people of the world follow them and they will pay only $ 10 per course but MIT+Harvard will collect $ 10 billion every year after year and you Americans will benefit from it.
It is the greatest vision of MIT+Harvard .
Which was my personel vision for the last 15 years too .

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