On May 2nd, the education world welcomed EdX, Harvard and MIT's $60 million online partnership that promises to upend higher education as we know it. At the launch event, MIT President Susan Hockfield, Harvard President Drew Faust and a handful of project administrators outlined a collaboration intended to enhance learning for both residential and online students via shared content on an open-source platform.
Projects like EdX suggest that information not only wants to be free, lots of intrepid learners want it to be free as well. Helping that smart but poor kid in Cambodia/Cameroon/Canada (with a robust internet connection) gain access to great teaching materials is a noble cause.
But $60 million is not that much money to establish a non-profit organization that will provide no-cost, quality education to all, and MIT Provost Raphael Reif noted that EdX needs to become financially self-supporting. How can this project be sustained over time? $60 million just doesn't buy what it used to. Here are a few potential ways that EdX might be considering to leverage their considerable assets, ranging from 'likely' to 'wild speculation':
EdX's embrace of open learning represents a sea change in higher education. While MIT has offered free access to course materials through its OpenCourseWare project for over a decade, Harvard's participation suggests that this model of free pedagogical content is finally a mainstream endeavor. How EdX succeeds in the coming semesters and years, however, depends to a large extent on how well its founders navigate the tricky shoals between free and fee-based learning. I -- and all the intrepid learners online -- are hoping that EdX leads the way in quality, free content for all.
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