Two of America’s most prestigious universities are offering free online courses to anyone in the world, providing they have an internet connection.
Harvard University has teamed up with Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT) in an “historic” partnership to launch the online education centre “edX“. The project, which launches this autumn, aims to offer education on a mass scale.
Anant Agarwal, president of edX, called the initiative a “revolution”.
“There is a revolution dawning in Boston and beyond. This revolution has to do with the pen and the mouse. It’s unbelievable. We will have students around the world all collaborating and working together.”
Agarwal, who dubbed the partnership the “next big thing”, says edX will be available to anyone with an Internet connection and is currently absolutely free.
“Our goal is to educate 1bn people around the world,” he added. “We’re giving education on a mass scale and we’re really excited.”
Harvard’s president Drew Faust appeared equally enthusiastic about the project, telling the conference, which marked the launch, that edX would “shape the world”.
“Today’s announcement brings the possibility of transformation through education to the world. edX gives Harvard and MIT an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically extend our collective reach by conducting ground breaking research into effective education and by extending online access to quality higher education.”
The jointly-owned organisation is currently not-for-profit but the setup poses the question as to how the universities will justify charging their current students tuition fees when the world and his wife can get their education free of charge.
Harvard and MIT have ploughed $60m into launching the collaboration. A range of courses will be made available which will include video lessons, embedded quizzes and online labs. There will also be opportunities to engage with classmates and the course instructor.
More than a million students will be taking part in the experiment – which certainly looks set to fill edX’s ambitions and “revolutionise” the world of education.
Daphne Koller, co-founder of the project, says the development of online courses will raise difficult questions.
“This is causing universities to rethink their value to students,” she said.
“The universities in the middle will really have to think about their proposition.”