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MOOC Provider edX More Than Doubles Its University Partners

Fifteen more universities have agreed to offer free massive open online courses through edX, a nonprofit provider of MOOCs founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, more than doubling its membership, from 12 to 27.

Tuesday’s announcement came as the group celebrated its first anniversary and as its leaders said it was bringing in revenue and was on track to financial sustainability.

The new partners are five institutions in the United States, including Cornell University and Davidson College, as well as six in Asia, three in Europe, and one in Australia.

edX defines itself as a nonprofit alternative to Coursera and other for-profit companies that are working with colleges and professors to deliver MOOCs. Leaders of edX stressed in their latest announcement that, unlike those efforts, edX aims to help colleges use technology to rethink campus education as well as deliver online courses.

“It’s not just about MOOCs,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX.

At least one new member echoed that sentiment in explaining the decision to sign up. “What we hope to get out of our partnership with edX is actively learning from and building upon each other’s educational innovations,” said Toru Iiyoshi, a professor at the Center for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education at Japan’s Kyoto University, in an e-mail interview. “It almost feels like that, by joining edX, we are together creating what Charles Vest once conceived as Meta University,” he added, referring to the former president of MIT.

Asked how the universities had been chosen over the many that have asked to join the group, Mr. Agarwal said that there was no set formula. “Quality is really important,” he said. “Diversity is also very important.”

In recent weeks, several professors have raised questions about the implications of free online courses, especially as colleges run pilot projects in which they ask students to watch edX video lectures and use their own professors to lead discussions about those lectures rather than deliver their own.

Mr. Agarwal said he welcomed such questions. “It’s a good thing that people are debating and discussing all the issues of this transformational technology,” he said. “The way we look at it is this is increasing choice.”

More than 900,000 people are now registered users of edX, and Mr. Agarwal said that its plans to generate revenue—through selling validated certificates to those who complete courses and charging licensing fees to colleges that teach courses based on its videos—are on track.

“edX has been overwhelmed with interest by NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and corporations and universities looking to either license courses or use the platform, so we have pilots ongoing which are already producing revenue,” said Mr. Agarwal. “That gives us confidence that we will be well on our way to being sustainable within three to five years.”

Universities That Are Joining edX

United States

  • Berklee College of Music
  • Boston University
  • Cornell University
  • Davidson College
  • University of Washington

International

  • Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium)
  • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Karolinska Institute (Sweden)
  • Kyoto University (Japan)
  • Peking University
  • Seoul National University (South Korea)
  • Technical University of Munich (Germany)
  • Tsinghua University (China)
  • University of Hong Kong
  • University of Queensland (Australia)
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