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Martin Barrett
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Why Did Harvard Sell edX [What You Need To Know]

Why Did Harvard Sell EdX? [What You Need To Know]

The continuously expanding presence of the internet in our everyday lives has led to all sorts of useful changes and opportunities. For example, it lets you chat with anyone around the world, research any topic you could want, share your creations, and much more.

However, one of the very best benefits of the Internet is as a platform for offering education to just about anybody in any place around the world.

In the past, education was limited in its scope. You could only learn from educational institutions that you were close enough to travel to, and even then many of them required entrance exams or tuition fees.

The internet has thankfully made education accessible to so many more people, allowing them to often learn for free and learn from the comfort of their own homes. This is where edX comes in.

edX is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider, an online platform that offers educational courses from some of the world’s leading universities and organizations.

These courses cover a vast range of subjects and allow online students to expand their knowledge, earn certificates, and improve their skills and employability.

However, in 2021 the founders of edX, Harvard University and MIT, sold edX to 2U, Inc., a tech startup from Maryland. Why did they make the sale of such a prestigious, popular platform? The short answer is that Harvard and MIT wanted to put the proceeds from selling edX into tackling inequities in education, increasing the impact and amount of online learning in under-resourced populations. 

There are lots more to learn about this historic sale, and we’ve got all the answers in our informative guide below!

What Is edX?

Before we go into more detail about why Harvard sold edX, it’s worth looking in greater detail at just what exactly edX is, so you can get a better idea of why the selling of the platform in 2021 was such an important deal. 

edX is a MOOC, which is a “massive open online course” provider. This means that it’s an enormous online platform that’s packed with educational courses, all of which can be taken by learners over the Internet. 

Founded in 2012 by two prestigious American universities, Harvard and MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), edX was created with the mission to expand access to higher education all around the world. 

Since then, the platform has partnered with a large number of the world’s leading universities, as well as plenty of successful and experienced organizations such as Google, Amazon, and IBM. 

With the help of these brilliant institutions, edX has been able to offer more than 3500 high-quality courses to online learners all around the world, allowing people to expand their skills. 

The majority of the courses are entirely free to access, although they are admittedly limited when they’re free and the users won’t receive a certificate.

On the other hand, for low fees, users can pay to take many of the courses, receive a wider range of lessons and materials, get graded assignments, and receive a certificate upon completion.

A certificate is especially useful because it can be shown to employers and included in a person’s resumé. 

Why Did Harvard Sell edX?

Given that edX has achieved great success since its creation in 2012 – offering thousands of courses and attracting over 39 million diverse learners worldwide – it begs the question: why did Harvard and MIT choose to sell the platform in 2021?

Thankfully, the answer is quite simple, and it all has to do with improving access to learning even further. 

Improving access to learning has always been the mission that drives edX, a massive open online courses platform that was created to develop actionable strategies with the focus of offering high-quality free and low-cost courses to learners all over the world, allowing people to train in new skills while being taught by some of the most experienced educators in those areas.

It makes sense, then, that Harvard and MIT would choose to sell edX in order to even better achieve these aims. 

What Are Harvard And MIT Using The Sale Money For?

What Is Harvard And MIT Using The Sale Money For?

One of the ways that Harvard and MIT are trying to better achieve their mission is through the money that they’ll be making for the sale. 

The two universities are reported to have made $800 million in cash from the sale of edX, and they’re putting all of that acquisition money into a non-profit organization that is purely focused on advancing inclusion in education, as well as closing learning gaps around the world. 

Their new non-profit organization aims to tackle the educational inequalities that exist around the world by increasing the impact of online learning even further.

This is something that edX certainly aimed to do when it started because it offered free and low-cost access to high-quality courses from prestigious universities and educational organizations.

This means that underprivileged people, who may not be able to afford to attend those very universities, could still access their quality educational content. 

However, though edX has attracted more than 39 million learners all over the world since its launch in 2012, it’s been found that a large portion of this number are learners who have already been college-educated, and they’re simply hoping to continue their quality learning.

Given that the online learning platform aimed to make university-level education more readily available worldwide, especially to those who can’t afford or access it, this is a disappointing fact and one that Harvard and MIT aim to rectify with their new non-profit.

It’s great that college-educated people wish to continue their learning, but it shows that there is still a lack of resources and access to worldwide populations that are historically disadvantaged and underprivileged. 

Who And Why Did Harvard Sell edX To?

The sale of edX to fund this new non-profit venture doesn’t mean that edX isn’t going to continue its mission to bring quality online education to those who have a harder time accessing it.

In 2021, MIT and Harvard University sold edX to 2U, Inc., which is a tech startup that is based out of Maryland.

Founded in 2008, 2U offers degree programs and online courses with other universities, meaning that they were already deeply experienced with the same sort of work that edX was doing. Of course, its acquisition of edX allows it to increase the number of courses the company offers.

By picking to sell edX to such a company, Harvard and MIT have ensured that their platform’s mission will be continued in full force, and it will allow 2U to more easily reach a more diverse range of online learners. 

On top of that, it gives them a better chance at competing with for-profit educational platforms. There are plenty of online learning platforms that are more driven to profit, with courses that cost larger amounts of money.

Naturally, this limits the type of people that can take them, locking out under-resourced populations from vital, life-changing education. 

With edX under their belt, 2U can now better compete for attention against these online platforms, attracting customers to their low-cost or free courses instead. 

Final Thoughts

Harvard sold edX so that they could use the money to form a new non-profit organization that aims to tackle educational inequality even more, bringing online learning to under-resourced and disadvantaged groups who may not be able to afford or access education so easily.

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