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Martin Barrett
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Is MIT Leaving edX [What You Need To Know]

Is MIT Leaving EdX? [What You Need To Know]

The non-profit edX learning platform formed by Harvard and MIT has been sold to a for-profit online course management company, 2U. So is MIT leaving edX? We look at what you need to know about this change in the status of the edX platform and what it means for learners worldwide. 

What Is edX?

edX was started by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Harvard in 2012 as a non-profit massive open online course (MOOC) provider. Its aim was to offer free online courses from top educational institutions and schools with the option of receiving paid certification. 

They also offered MicroBatchelors, MicroMasters, and master’s programs. The idea behind edX was to remove common barriers to higher education such as location and cost. (Check out ‘EdX Review 2023: Courses and Learning Experience‘)

The platform has partnered with more than 230 of the world’s top universities, NGOs, non-profit organizations, and corporations offering more than 4,000 courses and catering to more than 48 million learners worldwide. 

The provider believes that every individual has the potential to create change and that access to education is the key to that. But with high-quality education lacking for all but those who can afford it the need for open-access courses was obvious. 

Who Founded edX And Why?

In 2012 Harvard and MIT launched a long shot experiment, a platform that offered their courses online for free, to anyone who was up to the challenge. The first course that was launched was Professor Agarwal’s MIT Circuits and Electronics. (See ‘Can edX Courses Contribute To Your Career?‘)

More than 155,000 people enrolled in the course from 162 countries. Today it has more than 2,400 learning sites across the globe. 

Two years later edX launched its Research Data Exchange which helped to advance learning science. To date, it has published more than 120 peer-reviewed papers. 

In 2015 MOOCs on edX earned college credit thanks to the Global Freshman Academy from Arizona State University. 

The MicroMasters program was launched in 2016 which expanded access to graduate education. The following year Georgia Tech’s Master of Science in Analytics program opened the way for master’s degree programs on edX.

By 2020 the first-ever credit-backed stackable online credential was launched by edX. This gave learners a way to earn a full bachelor’s degree. 

Is MIT Leaving edX?

As a non-profit initiative, edX had excellent ideas for providing high-quality education to anyone who wished to take advantage of it. 

However, in the face of for-profit course providers, particularly following the paradigm shift associated with the global pandemic, the model could not compete. 

The founding partners of Harvard and MIT decided in 2021 that it was time to sell the assets of edX to a for-profit online course manager, 2U. 

The proceeds from the sale will be used to invest in a nonprofit that will maintain Open edX’s software platform and continue to look at the initial objectives that the partnership originally had but by new means. 

Course technology is something that is constantly evolving and that requires large investments as well as marketing to potential and new edX users. 2U was able to acquire edX as a subsidiary and take over the portfolio of edX course offerings and partner arrangements. 

Who Now Owns edX?

Who Now Owns edX?

edX is now owned by 2U which is an online education platform that invests in and partners with universities in order to offer online courses. 

Their mission is to eliminate the back row in education, and they are committed to creating educational opportunities for all lifelong learners. They want to unlock human potential and thereby solve society’s critical needs. 

What’s Next For edX?

As the leading global digital learning platform and primary brand for 2U, edX is committed to reaching millions of learners while working with some of the top universities and organizations in the world. 

The list of their partners is certainly impressive and includes Caltech, Princeton University, Sorbonne University, Berkeley and of course Harvard University. Google, Amazon (AWS), IBM, and Meta are some of the corporations that also work with edX. 

The education technology company 2U bought the edX brand, website, and marketing system in the form of a ‘public benefit company’, which is a legally protected way for companies to commit to the public good. 

It agreed to a set of conditions for the purchase including maintaining edX partner agreements, protecting institutions’ and professors’ intellectual property, and the continued development of the Open edX software platform. 

These conditions had to be observed for a period of five years. This enabled faculty members to maintain their edX courses in their present format and continue to reach students for free on some level in line with the initial mission of the provider. 

The universities that formerly partnered with edX can still provide their courses on the new massive open online courses platform under the same terms and conditions as they did before the sale of edX. 

There are no constraints on these providers’ ability to offer their courses elsewhere or leave edX. 

What Now For MIT Non-Profit Online Learning?

The funds from the sale of edX to 2U were received to organize a new nonprofit entity. As MIT and Harvard also retained the ownership of Open edX the new platform was due to be built and operated based on Open edX. 

This would allow MIT to have its own massive open online course platform called MITx Online exploring possibilities like the Open Learning Library and OpenCourseWare. 

The focus is now on evolving the way in which people learn online and making the experience more personalized. New tools and technologies will be needed to make the process more meaningful and easier for people at all stages of their learning journey. 

To that end, the next generation of online learning will focus on eliminating disparities by leveraging artificial intelligence. This hopes to enable personalized learning on a level not yet seen. 

The hope is that online learning can be enabled so that it responds and adapts to the individual needs and style of the learner. A Harvard and MIT-appointed board will oversee this new venture and future projects will include ideas from their faculties. 

MITx Online

MITx Online offers many courses on its massive open online course platform, from foundational STEM courses to social sciences and humanities courses and even advanced master’s level subjects. 

The courses are available to anyone anywhere in the world who can learn for free or choose to have a certificate of completion for a small fee. Learners can access readings, videos, discussion forums, and multiple tools that deepen their learning. 

The commitment of MITx Online is to leverage best practices in emerging digital and scalable learning environments through online courses to help everyone succeed on their journey. 

Final Thoughts

The sale of edX by MIT and Harvard has allowed learners to still access a lot of the content on the platform. It has also permitted MIT to set up MITx Online through which it can still offer access to free online courses for learners around the world. 

A new approach to more personalized online learning by leveraging artificial intelligence in response to individual learning styles and needs may be the future for these platforms.  

We hope that you have enjoyed reading about edX as well as learning about its successor.

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