I tell my son to learn something new every day. It’s easy for him – he’s 8. For me, it’s a little tougher. I find myself so busy that I have to schedule time to try and learn something new every day. It used to be through books, then through iTunes U, and lately it’s been through MIT’s open online courses. I was quite excited to learn that the digital education initiative set up by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has just doubled its number of university partners and signed up its first members from outside the US.
The edX program, which offers free online learning, is now joined by universities in Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Switzerland. “We have had an international student community almost from the beginning and bringing these leading international universities into edX will help us meet the tremendous demand we are experiencing,” says edX president Anant Agarwal from MIT.
edX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. Based on a long history of collaboration and their shared educational missions, the founders are creating a new online-learning experience with online courses that reflect their disciplinary breadth. Along with offering online courses, the institutions will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can transform learning–both on-campus and worldwide. Anant Agarwal, former Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of edX. EdX’s goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience.
Harvard and MIT both invested $30m in edX early last year and were subsequently joined in the initiative by the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Texas, Wellesley College and Georgetown University. Now, these six institutions will be joined by Rice University (also in the US), McGill and Toronto universities in Canada, plus the Australian National University, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. “Each of these schools was carefully selected for the distinct expertise and regional influence they bring to our growing family of edX institutions,” says Agarwal.
All six current edX members launched courses in 2012 and have new courses starting this spring. Among the new batch is a course on electricity and magnetism taught by Walter Lewin, an MIT physicist who already has a strong online following through earlier recorded lectures. Other existing edX courses include those on quantum mechanics and computing taught by Berkeley academic Umesh Vazirani, and on solid-state chemistry by MIT human-genome pioneer Eric Lander. According to edX spokesperson Dan O’Connell, Delft has already indicated that it will be begin offeringedX courses from autumn, including courses on solar energy and space engineering.
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