EdX Announces Free Online Courses for Fall Launch

Ryan Lytle

When Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced in May the formation of edX, a $60 million joint venture by the two institutions to provide free online university-level courses, the platform joined a list of services already offering massive open online courses (MOOCs).

MOOCs have garnered much attention over the past year with the launches of for-profit online education providers Coursera and Udacity, which both offer a series of courses from top ranked universities at no cost to the user. Coursera, which offers more than 100 courses through 16 institutions, announced in early August that it had reached 1 million registered users. Udacity, which has focused most of its courses in the computer sciences, has revealed that it has more than 700,000 registered users.

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Although more than 120 universities worldwide have expressed interest in collaborating with the service, edX will begin offering courses from three universities in fall 2012; the University of California--Berkeley being the third.

"EdX will actively explore the addition of other institutions from around the world to the edX platform, and we look forward to adding more 'X Universities' as capacity increases," according to the edX FAQ page.

The not-for-profit service has announced seven course offerings thus far for its fall launch, ranging from computer science to chemistry to public health. Students who are familiar with online education courses will be accustomed to some of the features available through edX, such as self-paced learning, online discussion groups, and collaborative learning.

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But edX differs from most online services in that the platform will ultimately be available as open source software, meaning that other universities and institutions will be able to host the service themselves and changes to the platform can be made by the community of users.

"Because it is open source," notes the FAQ page, "the platform will be continuously improved by a worldwide community of collaborators, with new features added as needs arise."

The first course, according to edX's courses page, begins September 5.

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