Harvard, MIT: New Online University Venture

May 3rd, 2012
in econ_news

Econintersect:  Harvard University and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) two neighboring world famous universities in Cambridge, Mass., harvard-mit-logosannounced yesterday (2 May 2012) that they are starting an online education venture with edX, an organization established by MIT and Harvard University, that will develop an open-source technology platform to deliver online course materials.  The new facility will support on-campus students, enriching their traditional lecture and laboratory educational experience.  It will also reach learners around the world online.  The original material hosted will come from the two founding universities (content referred to as MITx and Harvardx), but the intent is that other institutions will join with additional content.  The program will not offer degree credit courses from either sponsoring university.

Follow up:

The new edX platform goes beyond the standard model which relies on watching video content; it will offer an interactive experience for students. The online course material will be part of the degree programs for on-campus students (but not the complete course content); the platform and offerings will allow for certificates of mastery for non-degree students around the world.  The certificates of completion will not carry the name of either MIT or Harvard.

Some detail from MIT News:

  • EdX is a priority for the leadership of both Harvard and MIT, and it will be governed by a board made up of key leaders from both institutions, appointed by each university’s president. Anant Agrawal, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, will be the initial president of edX and will report to the board.
  • EdX is a significant undertaking that will require significant resources. The full scope of the staff has not been determined, but there will be a staff dedicated to the initiative.

According to the MIT News the only requirement for accessing the material is a computer with an internet connection.  There is no statement made about whether there will be any fee for issuing a certificate of completion.

This venture adds to a growing list on online educational activities by traditional educational institutions.  As mentioned in an Opinion blog article last week, Stanford University, another top-of-the-heap institution, has been offering degree course on-line education since 1996.  Stanford is also in another collaborative online effort to present courses from its own curriculum plus those from partners University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, University of California - Berkeley, Princeton University and University of Pennsylvania.  According to information on that program website this program also has interactive elements.   There is no statement found by Econintersect that says any of these courses may or may not be taken for degree credit.

An even older online education program is the Empire State College, part of SUNY (The State University of New York).  Courses can be taken online and credits transferred to any other SUNY college or university for degree credit.  Both two year and four year degrees, as well as a number of master’s degree programs can be completed entirely on line. These courses are offered only for a fee:  $220 per credit for Associates and Bachelor level courses, $370 per credit for Master of Arts course and $425 per credit for MBA (Master of Business Administration course.  (All tuition fees are for New York State residents; the corresponding tuition fees for out-of-state are $597, $632 and $694, respectively.)  The Empire State College was founded in 1971 to provide non-traditional and work experience education leading to college degrees.  Online courses were first offered in 1995.

The first online education program?  Online Education.org gives credit to CALCampus which they say established a distance learning center 1994.  CALCampus is a private institution.  On their website they state that their first online courses were offered in early 1995.

The video below in the Harvard-MIT-edX presentation of their new program.


John Lounsbury


Hat tip to Casey Kruse.

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