Berkeley Joins EdX Effort to Offer Free Open Courses by yaofenji


									Berkeley Joins ‘EdX’ Effort to Offer Free Open Courses
July 24, 2012, 3:01 am
By Jeffrey R. Young

Since the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University unveiled their
plan to create a platform for free online courses called edX, more than 120 other colleges
and universities around the world have expressed interested in joining in. Today leaders
of the effort announced that they’ve added the University of California at Berkeley as a
partner, and that more institutions will eventually be admitted to the exclusive group.

While MIT and Harvard have both committed $30-million each to the project, Berkeley
will not bring any money to the table. Instead, it will contribute technology—specifically,
a new online-education platform that engineers at the university had already been
working on, says John Wilton, Berkeley’s vice chancellor. The university will also teach
two free courses through edX starting in the fall: one on artificial intelligence and another
on “software as a service.”

Berkeley will also take a leadership role in edX, agreeing to chair the “X University
Consortium,” a new governing body for the project.

“We really want to expand and add universities,” said Anant Agarwal, who leads the edX
project and who is director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence
Laboratory. “Berkeley is the first one, the first of many.” He would not say how many
universities would be added, however, or how soon new members will join.

“You should think of edX as a not-for-profit start-up,” he added. “We are gearing up and
trying to ramp up as a start-up as fast as we can go.”

The business plan for edX is similar to that of Coursera, a for-profit start-up that has
signed deals with more than a dozen highly selective universities—meaning many key
details remain undecided. The only source of revenue planned for edX so far is to charge
students who successfully complete the courses a small fee for certificates. But leaders of
the effort say they may also offer services to help employers use the courses to recruit
new talent.

EdX has won major donations and grant support, however. Officials announced today
that an MIT alumnus, Philippe P. Laffont, founder of Coatue Management LLC, and a
Harvard alumnus, Jonathan Grayer, former chairman and CEO of Kaplan Inc., have both
made gifts to support the effort, though the amounts were not released. Last month the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $1-million grant to support the project as

courses/37969?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en                                        24 July 2012
Mr. Agarwal stressed that the long-term goal is to make the free courses self-sustaining.
“We are talking to several other foundations, but I think you have to become self-
sustaining,” he said. “No foundation wants to fund you forever.”

MIT has faced challenges in figuring out how to pay for its pioneering OpenCourseWare
effort to give away materials from hundreds of its courses online, a project that is now
more than a decade old.

One key difference between the edX project and for-profit companies offering free
courses is that edX leaders say the software they build to offer their courses will be open
source, so that anyone else can use it free and help develop the code. “The open-source
platform will allow all of us to contribute to the platform and not have to worry too much
about who owns the intellectual property—it’s going to be shared,” Mr. Agarwal said.

George Siemens, a pioneer of offering free open courses who is a leader of Athabasca
University’s Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute, sees the open-
software aspect of edX as “one of the biggest benefits” of the project. “They’re not just
worried about growing their brands, but they’re making something that others can use,”
he said.

He said he has been surprised by how rapidly major universities are moving to offer free
open courses, often called MOOCs, or massive open online courses. “I can’t recall a time
when universities at one moment have responded en masse as aggressively and as
collaboratively,” he said.

courses/37969?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en                                        24 July 2012

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