MIT Partners with Harvard for Free Course
Harvard Online Classes Draw Thousands Through edX Program
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Recently, Harvard has seen a spike in the number of students enrolled in the University’s prestigious “edX” program, a series of online courses launched last spring in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The addition of two new courses for the fall semester—Introduction to Computer Science I and Health in Numbers: Quantitative Methods in Clinical & Public Health Research—has attracted roughly 100,000 enrolled students.
Introduction to Computer Science I (CS50x), a course that is “an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming,” has already drawn 100 times the number of students as its Harvard campus counterpart. Public Health 207x is “an online adaptation of material from the Harvard School of Public Health’s classes in epidemiology and biostatistics,” and is the biggest course in public health offered in the world, reported E. Francis Cook to The Harvard Crimson. Cook is one of the leading professors for the highly popular online course.
The other two edX member universities, MIT and the University of California-Berkeley, offer an additional six online courses this fall. The former currently offers Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, Circuits and Electronics, and Introduction to Computer Science, while the latter offers Software as a Service, Foundations of Computer Graphics and Programming, and Artificial Intelligence.
Harvard and MIT each put forward $30 million for the virtual learning initiative, which offers public interactive classes on the web for free. There is no application process, and the only necessary prerequisite for taking a class is an Internet connection. As of now, all students who demonstrate mastery in their subjects earn a certificate of completion, though in the future, edX universities plan to charge a “modest fee” for certificates, according to the program’s website.
To receive a Certificate of Mastery upon course completion, edX originally intended to have students agree to an honor code before taking exams. For an undisclosed fee, students now have the option of selecting a test center where they can take final exams in a classroom, which earns them a certificate signifying that the online course was completed with a proctored exam.
The Harvard Crimson reports, however, that the number of students who actually complete their coursework and earn a certificate from the online format is much less than the number that enrolls, and is possibly as low as 10 to 15 percent, edX president and MIT professor Anant Agarwal said in a statement to the daily newspaper.
While edX students gain knowledge in a discipline of interest, MIT and Harvard benefit by using their brainchild program as a way to research how students learn and how technology affects and transforms learning. Participating universities are referred to as “X Universities,” and edX currently offers classes under the names HarvardX, MITX, and BerkeleyX. UTx (University of Texas) plans to join the lineup in the summer of 2013. The University of Texas system, which includes nine universities and six health institutions, has recently agreed to contribute $5 million to edX, and through this venture, course offerings through edX are expected to expand even more.
The goal of edX is for all participating universities to share online educational tools, and for students worldwide to gain access to the course content of all member universities on one website. The program’s latest venture includes creating the X University Consortium, which will be a forum where members can share and discuss their experiences with online education. More than 140 institutions around the globe have shown interest in collaborating with edX, and future plans indicate expansion to include universities beyond the core four.