The Huffington Post reported that Harvard University joined academic forces with Massachusetts Institution of Technology to launch an online education center “edX”. The “historic” project, set to take off by September, will offer education to the masses for free.
Anant Agarwal, the director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence labatory and president of edX, in a press conference last month called the project a “revolution that has to do with the pen and the mouse”.
Agarwal, a firm believer in the ability of online education to “completely change the world” hailed edX as the “next big thing”.
Rafael Reif, provost of the top science and technology university, MIT, was equally excited about the ground-breaking project.
“For many faculty and staff at MIT it is something very exciting and at the same time very scary,” Reif said, adding “it is something new, it is different, it is potentially disruptive”.
The goal of the project is to educate one billion people around the world, giving education on a mass scale.
Harvard’s president Drew Faust, at the press conference, said the launch of edX will “shape the world”.
“Today’s announcement brings the possibility of transformation through education to the world. edX gives Harvard and MIT an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically extend our collective reach by conducting groundbreaking research into effective education and by extending online access to quality higher education.”
Both universities have plunged a whopping $60 million into launching the project and, noble as it is, it does raise some questions.
How will both Ivy League universities justify charging current students, if the rest of the world can learn for free? Millions of students will be able to take part in lessons, see videos, there will be embedded quizzes, all open to anyone, anywhere in the world, regardless of age or demographic. All one needs is the interest and online access.
Online edX students will not get a full degree, but will be awarded a “certificate of mastery” for a “modest fee”.
Harvard and MIT are not the only universities to have started such a program. Stanford University also set up an online platform named Coursera, according to a BBC report.
Programs such as these will challenge mid-range universities and could turn world of education as we know it on its head.