2U and edX merger signals change in HE edtech market

When Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology first launched edX, a non-profit online learning organisation, in 2012, some media reports at the time called it “The Year of the MOOC,” referring to the “massive open online courses” edX and other similar outfits were offering. Nearly a decade ago, industry watchers and stakeholders were betting that these large, free lecture-style classes would democratise higher education by providing a whole new swath of learners with access to courses from top universities, writes Jillian Berman for Market Watch.

That vision hasn’t exactly played out over the intervening nine years. Tens of millions of people did flock to sites like edX to try out courses for free, as expected, but attracting the kinds of students who would make online higher education a viable business – those who were willing to pay for a degree or credential – proved harder and costly.

Now, the recent announcement that 2U Inc, one of the largest, publicly traded online higher education companies, would buy edX’s assets for US$800 million signals a new future for the industry. One where free online courses serve as an entry point to paid credential and degree programmes. The announcement last week comes a few months after Coursera, one of the biggest MOOC providers, revealed its success at converting free users into paying students in its IPO (initial public offering) paperwork.
Full report on the Market Watch site