Today, Harvard joined MIT in announcing edX, an online service allowing anyone anywhere to take Harvard and MIT classes online and free of charge. The pilot course is in Computer Science and runs through early June - enroll here.
The plans, though, go beyond what we’ve seen before. Namely, they open the door to new research.
Eventually, edx will offer a full slate of courses in all disciplines, created with faculty at MIT and Harvard, using a simple format of short videos and exercises graded largely by computer; students interact on a wiki and message board, as well as on Facebook groups, with peers substituting for TAs. The research arm of the project will continue to develop new tools using machine learning, robotics and crowdsourcing that allow grading and evaluation of essays, circuit designs and other types of exercises without endless hours by professors or TAs. Although edx is nonprofit and the courses are free, Agarwal envisions bringing the project to sustainability by one day charging students for official certificates of completion.
Besides Harvard and MIT, Stanford has taken the leap into MOOCs (massively open online courses) along with Princeton, Berkeley, Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Pennsylvania in a joint venture with Coursera. Check it out.