City of Boston teams up with edX to create BostonX

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Leveraging 21st-century education with open source

The City of Boston has teamed with edX to create BostonX. It will offer free online college courses throughout the city. And it will make MOOCs (massive open online courses) available at community colleges and libraries throughout the city.

BostonX is still in its infancy but the city hopes to make MOOCs more available and accessible to residents and visitors. Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino envisions neighborhoods as "mini campuses" around the city. He believes that this will only increase the city's impact and standing on the nation and world as at the forefront of education.

Anant Agarwal, edX's president, sees BostonX as a huge boon for online learning and the start of an open movement and revolution. The fact that Boston is home to numerous colleges and universities (both private and public) makes the innovative venture and partnership a logical place to start. It's only a matter of time until Cambridge, MA, the city across the Charles River from Boston and home to Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), enters a partnership with edX too. In fact, Agarwal is already in talks with the city of Cambridge, MA. Likewise Boston's Mayor Menino is already in talks with other cities, including Cambridge, across the country and around the world to implement similar partnerships in theirs.

In time, it is likely that we will see communities across the country and globe embrace the concept of BostonX and its partnership with edX or an equivalent, such as with Coursera or Udacity. What will be exciting to watch is how soon BostonX, edX, and other open learning sites will penetrate the K-12 market. I predict it's only a matter of time before that happens too. Once that starts to happen, the open movement and revolution will gain traction and speed. Meanwhile, the open movement and revolution continues to push ahead in higher education and at the college level.

EdX is a non-for-profit enterprise that was founded by Harvard University and MIT to transform online learning both at the college level. However, MIT has also played a role in developing the K-12 level as well as expanding its impact in higher education. EdX has helped launch MITx –free online MIT courses, video lectures, quizzes, and online labs; while Salman Khan of Khan Academy and MIT have created MIT + K12—to address the challenges in primary and secondary education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math in the US. This venture has garnered far less notoriety than MITx but is no less significant or important to the open source movement and revolution.

Other non-for-profit organizations such as Education Portal and the Saylor Foundation have already developed free or open courses for the K-12 market and it will be interesting to watch whether these will form partnerships with edX, BostonX, or similar ventures. Again, time will tell, but I will hazard to say that we are on a wave of a huge shift for online learning in the future.

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Carolyn Fox is an educator, librarian, historian, and an un/homeschooling mother. She lives in Massachusetts with her UK husband and son.


MOOCs creators have already started to reinvent themselves. I think creating courses like BostonX will open the doors of many such innovative ideas.

It's a wonderful initiative, but I am not sure how partnering with edX helps. For a community learning center it would be far better to harness the power of all MOOCS, rather than just edX.

It's more about the intent, and empowering libraries and other community centers to become a sort of learning commons.

I totally agree. I think libraries and community centers need to embrace open educational resources, including MOOCs, as well as public schools. But why limit this open approach to only institutions? If a group of parents formed a co-op for their children, then I see no reason why they couldn't become a sort of an open learning commons co-op either.

A real world co-op to complement online resources would be wonderful.

I have tried a few attempts at teaching online, and almost everytime I have to the conclusion that we need a real world setting which will provide learners a place to interact. A learning co-op will close the loop and actually make it possible to gain maximum benefit from online resources.

Parag, a learning co-operative is a good idea. Having said so i must say that now the virtual classrooms are so advanced that it is as good as a face to face class. I teach Physics and us WizIQ VC ( ) and my students are absoulutely happy with the experience.

Kajal, I agree that virtual classrooms are fairly advanced and give the impression of being in the same place.

They work very well when we need to bring together people who may be geographically separated.

At the same time I do believe that real world settings do add more value in human interactions. When possible, I still feel that real world co-ops to complement virtual co-ops might still be a good idea.

Parag, I do agree with you on the co-op idea.

Kio Stark has a list of collaborative learning systems (such as or and ways learners can interact on a local basis (ie. in her book, Don't Go Back to School, but this is somewhat limited and largely restricted to adult learners or older teens and probably geographically.

For younger children, there are some online coops where they can learn or interact, but again they are somewhat limited and restricted. In the UK, IGGY ( and Potential Plus ( are two sites aimed at gifted kids that offer unique learning possibilities and interactions. In the US, Dweeber ( offers kids (ages 13+) a chance to learn together too, but I think the groups already have to be pre-arranged.

Flat Classroom Project ( pushes the ideas of a co-op further by being global and aimed at young kids, but is copyrighted and is a set program designed and controlled by teachers.

Carolyn, thanks for links to the resources you mentioned. Many new initiatives are coming up, and each of them trying to address the problem a little bit differently.

I think that's great... with time we will have plenty of options that will fulfill the needs of different types of learners.

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