Google Wants To Power The Online Learning Revolution With

The new partnership with MIT and Harvard-founded edX will make massively open online courses even more massive and open.

EdX, the not-for-profit online learning initiative founded by Harvard and MIT, today announced a partnership with Google to jointly develop their open-source learning platform, known as Open EdX. The core edX offerings currently consist of a few dozen free "Massive Open Online Courses," or MOOCs, from top-flight university partners like MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley—but the Open EdX vision goes far beyond that.

Google and edX will build out and operate, which will come online early next year. The site aims to be to online courses more or less what WordPress is to publishing: A free, open-source way for universities, institutions, businesses, and individuals to build and host courses in the cloud on any topic and in any format for a global audience.

"Edx and Google have been in conversations for over a year," Anant Agarwal, director of edX, told Fast Company. "Since the very early days, both Google and Edx have shared a common passion and vision for improving the quality of education worldwide."

Google's current offerings in education include a special marketing effort for their free apps like Docs, Calendar, and Hangouts, and a schedule of corporate social responsibility commitments toward kindergarten to high school students. (Disclosure: My spouse is employed by Google in an unrelated area.)

The MOOC platforms, which include edX along with platforms like Coursera, Udacity, Canvas, and NovoEd, collectively have dozens of university partners, millions of users, and little revenue. The fact that lectures from the world's top professors are now a commodity available over the Internet for free is shaking up higher education from top to bottom, but the ultimate purpose is still hazy: Are MOOCs best viewed as a supplement for traditional college students, continuing education credits for adult learners, or a full degree program for learners in the developing world? The answer is probably some combination of all three, plus more TBD.

Of the major players, only edX is both nonprofit and open-source. The code base is downloadable at Their hope is that will attract a community of third-party developers who will help create and integrate tools like automatic graders, video chat, and new discussion apps into the platform. With the addition of Google engineering talent, Agarwal anticipates "the velocity of these efforts will dramatically increase."

[Book Stack: Antpkr via Shutterstock]

Add New Comment