MOOCs spread around the edX and Coursera world

The world’s two largest providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs – the US-based edX and Coursera – have separately established new links with universities across the globe, including in Australia, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico and Singapore, while also signing up more American universities.

The US$60 million, non-profit MOOCs platform called edX announced that it had added six new global higher education institutions, to double the numbers in its X University Consortium, while the US$16 million Coursera brought in 29 more universities to add to its existing 33 partners.

EdX was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last year to offer university-level courses in a wide range of disciplines to a worldwide audience at no charge. Four other US institutions were already in the consortium, which now has more than 900,000 enrolments in edX courses.

“The addition of these new higher education institutions, stretching from North America to Europe to the Asia Pacific, will add a rich variety of new courses to edX's offerings,” said consortium president Anant Agarwal.

The new institutions will join MIT and Harvard, as well as the University of California – Berkeley, the University of Texas System, Wellesley College and Georgetown University in the X University Consortium.

The Australian National University, Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, McGill University and the University of Toronto in Canada, along with Rice University in the US, have joined the consortium and will use the edX platform to deliver the next generation of online and blended courses later this year.

“This international expansion enables edX to better achieve its mission of providing world-class courses to everyone, everywhere, and is the natural next step to continue serving the large international student body already using edX on a daily basis,” Agarwal said.

Coursera, an educational technology company, was founded in 2012 by Stanford University computer science professors Andre Ng and Daphne Koller. The company has so far attracted 2.7 million students to its 222 courses.

Among its new partners are several US public universities, a Spanish business school, École Polytechnique in France, the National University of Singapore, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The newcomers will enable the company to offer courses in Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish.

“We are equally excited about the prospects of bringing higher education to places where access is limited, and of giving established educational institutions opportunities to raise their impact both on- and off-campus,” Ng said.

In edX’s new line-up, the Australian National University will provide a series of ANUx courses to the open source platform, including astrophysics taught by Nobel laureate and professor of astrophysics Brian Schmidt.

Delft University of Technology, the largest and oldest technological university in The Netherlands, will provide DelftX courses under Creative Commons licences, including an introduction to aerospace engineering, solar energy, and water treatment engineering.

École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, one of the most famous institutions of science and technology in Europe, will provide a series of EPFLx courses specially tailored to fit the edX format, originating from its five schools: of engineering, life sciences, informatics and communication, architecture and basic sciences.

McGill University is offering McGillX courses in areas ranging from science and the humanities to public policy issues, while the University of Toronto has a series of TorontoX courses that include terrestrial energy systems, behavioural economics, the logic of business, and bioinformatic methods.

The Texas-based Rice University in Houston will initially offer four RiceX courses, while investigating ways to integrate its learning analytics tools from OpenStax Tutor to enable students and instructors to track their progress in real time.

"We have had an international student community from the very beginning, and bringing these leading universities from North America and Europe and the Asia Pacific into the edX organisation will help us meet the tremendous demand we are experiencing," Agarwal said.

"Each of these schools was carefully selected for the distinct expertise they bring to our growing family of edX institutions. We remain committed to growing edX to meet the needs of the world while maintaining a superior learning experience for all."

He said courses offered by institutions on the edX platform would provide the same rigour as on-campus classes but were designed to take advantage of the unique features and benefits of online learning environments, including game-like experiences, instant feedback and cutting-edge virtual laboratories.

Both Coursera and edX are planning to assist students to gain credits for completing their free online courses, although both will charge a fee.