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Eye tracking study. Image by (cc) Flickr user pixer.

Harvard & MIT to offer free online courses

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will team up on a $60 million initiative to offer free online, college-level courses: edX.

The New York Times (5/3, Lewin, Subscription Publication) reports, “The edX project will include not only engineering courses, in which computer grading is relatively simple, but also humanities courses, in which essays might be graded through crowd-sourcing, or assessed with natural-language software.”

Inside Higher Ed (5/3, Kolowich) adds, “Harvard and MIT say one of their main goals with edX is to generate learning data that the universities can share freely with education researchers. The MITx platform, which will serve as the technology platform for edX, ‘already has a lot of mechanisms for understanding how students are learning,'” Agarwal said.

The Boston Herald (5/3, Kantor) reports, “EdX will release its learning platform as open-source software so it can be used by other universities and organizations who want to host the platform themselves, while allowing other universities and individuals to improve the platform and add features to the technology.”

PC Magazine (5/3, Moscaritolo) reports, “Students who demonstrate mastery of the subject will be able to obtain credentials for a ‘modest fee,’ the schools said. Certificates of completion will not be issued under the name Harvard or MIT, however. In addition, the courses will not give students any credit at either university.”

CNN Money (5/3, O’Toole) reports, “The Harvard-MIT project faces some competition in the push to make high-quality educational courses available online.” In April, “Princeton, Stanford, Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania announced that they would offer free Web-based courses through a for-profit company called Coursera that was founded by two Stanford computer science professors. One of those professors, Andrew Ng, taught a free online course in machine learning this past fall with an enrollment of more than 100,000 students. There’s also Udacity, co-founded by a former Stanford professor, and Khan Academy, which boasts 3,100 free educational videos across a variety of subjects.”

The AP (5/3) notes, MIT’s OpenCourseWare lists 2,000+ classes free online. “It has been used by more than 100 million people.” Last year, MIT “announced it also would begin offering a special credential, known as MITx, for people who complete the online version of certain courses.”

Fast Company (5/3, Kamenetz) reports, “Edx’s offerings are very different from the long-form lecture videos currently available as ‘open courseware’ from MIT and other universities.” Eventually, it “will offer a full slate of courses in all disciplines, created with faculty at MIT and Harvard, using a simple format of short videos and exercises graded largely by computer; students interact on a wiki and message board, as well as on Facebook groups, with peers substituting for TAs. The research arm of the project will continue to develop new tools using machine learning, robotics, and crowdsourcing that allow grading and evaluation of essays, circuit designs, and other types of exercises without endless hours by professors or TAs.”

The Christian Science Monitor (5/3, Trumbull) notes that “the move comes amid a wave of experimentation and angst in the world of education. The cost of earning a college degree has soared, and the recent job market for graduates has been weak. A range of start-ups is now moving to promote the online model of learning. Some financial experts talk of higher education as a ‘bubble’ that will burst, as new technologies such as online learning allow students to earn credentials at a lower cost.”

Update: UCB will join edX. They are already on Coursera.


Author: ireneflorez

Bogotá-born, Oakland-based media bee.

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