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]

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  • Ronan Mc Guire will be great. I don't think MOOCs are just a fad-education will be permanently transformed by the internet. It depends how it will play out. coursera has been the first big disruption, with others following suit. I think in Europe is going to be the next game changer. After that-who knows

  • Ronan Mc Guire

    The new mooc wave is a boon for education. For too long too many institutions have been charging too much!

    However, there has been a lack of coverage of what is going on in Europe. iversity ( ), is shaking things up in a big way. They have 3 courses where you can get ECTS credits-credits that are interchangeable between in european universities. exciting times.

  • Catherin Jose


    In my opinion it is a great post  about online education containing very important  information.That means it is another  alternative.Anyway thanks for this great sharing.

  • Cnorgbey

    I think this is a great idea and a good way to keep up with the fast pace changing of technology through education. It is another alternative

  • Claude Coulombe

    The announcement of the partnership between Google and edX puts the emphasis on the extreme dynamic of the MOOCs shockwave in higher education. That shows the importance of mastering cloud computing and distributed infrastructure for massive deployment of MOOCs.

    That should help the choice of those who hesitated between the edX platform and the Google CourseBuilder tool.

  • Dustin

     Agreed. However, they list a bunch of courses you can take that use their Canvas technology.