Imagine two ivy league universities making a huge investment to offer their high quality classes through the internet. Not just cheap rip-off of classes designed for previous students, missing texts and interaction. But, fully-developed virtual classes made for today’s learners with everything they need to succeed available through their program. Now, imagine that it’s free. And, available to anyone with internet access.
That’s what MIT and Harvard University recently announced. Joining forces as EdX, they launch the first round of online classes in Fall 2012.
What Makes EdX Different?
Many colleges now offer some form of opencourseware, or materials adapted from classes that are made publicly available. Often these courses offer detailed syllabi, engaging video or audio recordings, and lecture transcriptions. However, many students have found it challenging to use these materials because they have missing pieces. They don’t provide the same experience as traditional or regularly-enrolled online students receive because they are stripped of content that is under copyright and opportunities for interaction (like discussion boards and quizzes). Basically, students were left on their own to fill in the holes and gain what they could from the resources that were available.
EdX is trying to change that by offering complete, interactive online courses to the public at no cost. The courses will include all of the content students need to progress (no more wishing you had access to that crucial nugget of information from lecture two). Additionally, the courses will offer students the ability to interact with the class content and with each other. Students can take quizzes to receive instant feedback, discuss the subject on course boards, and engage in online laboratories.
EdX is following in the footsteps of MitX, which began offering similar complete courses in the spring of 2012. EdX combines the professorial brain power (and financial footing) of two renown schools, opening up even more opportunities for success.
Who is EdX For?
It’s important to point out that EdX isn’t an online college and it isn’t accredited. Students won’t choose to take EdX courses instead of enrolling in a university. However, they will be able to take EdX courses to learn independently or supplement their traditional studies. People might choose to take an EdX course to investigate a subject they’re curious about, prepare to enroll in a difficult university class, sharpen their skills, or make themselves more competitive in the workplace.
In particular, international students from developing countries will benefit from EdX and similar initiatives. Students that want to learn but don’t have the finances or opportunity to study abroad will be able to gain an education that may not otherwise be a possibility for them.
Can EdX Learners Earn an Online Degree?
No. You cannot earn a degree from EdX online. However, EdX plans to offer some sort of credentials to students that demonstrate their learning through successful completion of the courses.
How will colleges and employers view the credentials? It’s difficult to say because there isn’t much to compare them to. This is the first time that credentials have been offered by a comprehensive opencourseware program. It is possible that such credentials could be considered on par with other forms of education someday, particularly if EdX ever decided to offer proctored exam options to students completing the coursework.
How Will EdX Change Online Learning?
If the program is a success, EdX has the potential to be a major influence in the world of online learning. Other colleges will be inspired to open up some of their classes in a similar format. And, EdX will provide them with an open source learning platform to design courses in the same fashion.
Cost will be prohibitive for most universities (creating and offering a full interactive course for free is no cheap endeavor). However, EdX is coming to the game with strong financial backing. If their efforts prove a success, perhaps funding for other universities to join in can be raised through Wikipedia-style online fundraisers. Even if few can follow the exact model, EdX courses are sure to act as an inspiration for distance learning departments that must work in a stricter budget.
To learn more about EdX, take a look at these resources:
On the Web: www.edxonline.org
On Twitter: twitter.com/edxonline
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/EdxOnline