EdX is an organization jointly established by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University that launched in the fall of 2012. EdX uses open-source technology to offer on-line courses around the world. Since its inception less than two years ago edX has attracted a number of additional partnering universities to join as educational contributors including Caltech, Georgetown, UC Berkeley, Cornell, ETH Zurich, IIT Bombay. The number of contributing school is growing at a fast pace. As of mid-2014 more than 2 million users had registered with edX.
EdX, while developing its own unique model, is a part of the larger MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) interface and is open to anyone in the world. EdX classes are free to anyone who can access the internet. Harvard and MIT have stated their motivation for founding edX is to improve education on campus and make knowledge available free around the world. On campus, edX research will be used to determine the most effective way that technology can be utilized for learning and teaching.
EdX will offer certificates of mastery to edX students although these will not be issued directly by the participating schools. There are no fees associated with registration or the course, but edX will charge a “modest fee” for those students who wish to earn a certificate of completion. Currently, students at Harvard or MIT are welcome to take edX courses for their personal growth, but will not receive credit for the course. http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2012/edx-faq-050212 / https://www.edx.org/about-us
An example of current course offerings at edX reveals the diversity of classes and faculty. Following is sample of just a few of the courses offered in 2014:
- World101x : Anthropology of Current World Issues
How is anthropology changing the world and what can you learn from this?
Taught by Gerhard Hoffstaedter of the University of Queensland.
- VJx : Visualizing Japan (1850s-1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity
A first-time MITx/HarvardX collaboration, VJx opens windows on Japan’s transition into the modern world through the historical visual record.
Taught by John W. Dower of MIT and Andrew Gordon of Harvard.
- CTL.SC1x: Supply Chain and Logistics Fundamentals
SC1x is an introduction to the fundamental concepts for logistics and supply chain management from both analytical and practical perspectives.
Taught by Chris Caplice of MIT
- BIOC372.1x: Fundamentals of Immunology, Part 1
Learn about your body’s defenses against disease: how it can identify threats and coordinate counterattacks.
Taught by Alma Novotny of Rice University
- Ec1011x: Principles of Economics with Calculus
Quantitative and model-based introduction to basic ideas in economics, and applications to a wide range of real world problems.
Taught by Antonio Rangel of Caltech
The above courses are typical of the diversity and breadth of courses being offered through edX. It is not difficult to envision how the completion of edX courses will not only enhance personal knowledge, but will quickly translate to better job performance and could easily be used by businesses as a means to identify and reward those employees that are motivated to increase their performance skills.
EdX and MOOCs are rapidly changing the face of both on-line and on-campus education and implications for the future for both will be profound. Being able to take free online courses from professors at institutions such as Caltech, MIT, Rice, and Harvard removes any remaining vestiges of distant learning being a less professional learning model.
EdX, like other MOOCs, is faced with a myriad of opportunities and challenges. Will edX make the $100,000 plus cost of a degree from MIT or Harvard less valuable as more and more of the course offerings become available on-line? Is there a profit potential in edX? While the cost to students of taking an edX course is minimal to none, the cost to the school is significant. Technology costs such as production, data storage and transmission, servers, and staff is growing. There is an issue of remuneration to the participating faculty. While many professors are participating in edX based on their love of teaching and commitment to the betterment of society, that commitment will likely be tested as demand for better measurement of student performance in edX classes increases.
The concepts behind edX and MOOCs are not new. In 2001, the University of Chicago led an effort called Fathom, a for-profit venture, which lost money and closed within three years. Yale, Princeton, and Sanford joined to start AllLearn, a non-profit online venture that also failed within a few years.
It is reported that MIT and Harvard have each committed $30 million to fund edX and that both schools are committed to its success. http://www.edudemic.com/harvard-and-mit-to-form-new-online-learning-project/
From the perspective of students, online education, such as offered by edX, is a great deal. It opens the door to a world-class education with no admission requirements, less time commitment, and at no cost. It is not hard to envision that a dedicated student could take 20 or 30 edX courses in a year; all offered by top names in the field, and present an educational resume to a company that was the equivalent or better of someone who had spent $200,000 to obtain a degree from MIT or Harvard with similar course content.
For a company that places a high value on specific knowledge, not to mention innovation and dedication, it might well make more sense to hire a person with 30 edX courses, over the applicant with a traditional degree from a 4-year college. It is, at the least, food for thought.