Harvard University made IT news twice this week:
The new nonprofit venture, dubbed edx, pours a combined $60 million of foundation and endowment capital into the open-source learning platform first developed and announced by MIT earlier this year as MITx.
Edx’s offerings are very different from the long-form lecture videos currently available as “open courseware” from MIT and other universities. 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.
Henry sez, “Harvard Library’s Faculty Advisory Council is telling faculty that it’s financially ‘untenable’ for the university to keep on paying extortionate access fees for academic journals. It’s suggesting that faculty make their research publicly available, switch to publishing in open access journals and consider resigning from the boards of journals that don’t allow open access.”
The avalanche of flagship education and open content has begun.
Arguments about online content/delivery not being “good enough” will no longer carry any weight, or not much.
The opponents of online content/delivery, who made those arguments, will fight to preserve systems that benefited themselves and a few others. They will be routed soon enough and their fate is not my concern.
Information systems to meet the needs of the coming generation of world wide scholars, on the other hand, should be the concern of us all.