News that Harvard University is the latest to join the growing revolt
against the exorbitant pricing of academic journals caused something of a stir recently -- although it has been pointed out that its case would be stronger if it followed its own advice and made the Harvard Business Review open access, or at least cheaper
But here's an area where Harvard, together with MIT, is being more pro-active in helping to make knowledge more widely available online:
EdX is a joint partnership between The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University to offer online learning to millions of people around the world. EdX will offer Harvard and MIT classes online for free. Through this partnership, the institutions aim to extend their collective reach to build a global community of online learners and to improve education for everyone.
MIT's MITx platform already offers some MIT courses online, and is open source:
EdX will build on both universities’ experience in offering online instructional content. The technological platform recently established by MITx, which will serve as the foundation for the new learning system, was designed to offer online versions of MIT courses featuring video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, online laboratories and student-paced learning. Certificates of mastery will be available for those who are motivated and able to demonstrate their knowledge of the course material.
EdX will release its learning platform as open-source software so it can be used by other universities and organizations that wish to host the platform themselves. Because the learning technology will be available as open-source software, other universities and individuals will be able to help edX improve and add features to the technology.
The hope is that other universities will join with Harvard and MIT to make EdX one of the primary platforms for online learning. Interestingly, it will also be used to research how people learn using digital technology -- and how it can be deployed more effectively:
MIT and Harvard will 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.
This looks like an important move for online learning, not least because of the scale of the financial support:
The initiative will be overseen by a not-for-profit organization based in Cambridge, Mass., to be owned and governed equally by the two universities. MIT and Harvard have committed to a combined $60 million ($30 million each) in institutional support, grants and philanthropy to launch the collaboration.
Those funds and the projects they will catalyze could boost efforts to make university courses more widely available, complementing the growing success of open access in opening up published materials.
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