The Washington Post

Stanford to help build edX MOOC platform

Anant Agarwal, president of edX, at Washington Post Live's Education forum Dec. 10, 2012. (Jeff Martin for The Washington Post)

Stanford University will team with a nonprofit founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University to develop an open-source Web platform for free online college courses.

The Stanford alliance with the nonprofit venture edX, announced early Wednesday, signaled a new twist in what has become a race to open up the highest levels of higher education to the world.

Stanford has been central in the emergence of what are known as massive open online courses, or MOOCs, which have drawn interest from millions of people around the world. Two Stanford computer scientists launched the for-profit MOOC platform Coursera about a year ago, and Stanford offers several courses on that site. Another Stanford professor founded the for-profit MOOC provider Udacity.

The nonprofit edX, which launched nearly a year ago, offers MOOCs from Harvard, MIT and other elite universities. Georgetown University plans to unveil edX courses soon. Stanford has no plans to put its own courses on edX. But the university will team with edX developers on a platform that edX hopes will become “the Linux of learning,” referring to a major open-source computer operating system.

“Together I think we’ll have chance to produce a much better platform than any of us would have been able to develop individually,” said John Mitchell, Stanford’s vice provost for online learning.

Stanford has an open-source platform under way called Class2go. Key innovations from that effort will be folded into edX, including, for instance, software that enables educators to glean valuable data on exactly how students use online videos.

Anant Agarwal, president of edX, said the site plans to open all of the software code for the platform to the world by June 1. He envisions that any school or company could use it to mount a course, part of what he calls a “true, planet-scale democratization of education.”

Nick Anderson covers higher education for The Washington Post. He has been a writer and editor at The Post since 2005.



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