By Carl Straumsheim
ORLANDO — Anant Agarwal has quit cold turkey — coffee, that is. But the president of edX, the massive open online course provider co-founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is as energetic about MOOCs as ever, despite almost daily calls from traditionalists for the death of his product.
Some of that energy was on display here on Friday, when Agarwal headlined the morning keynote at the Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning. He called his platform a “particle accelerator for learning,” demonstrated an online lab session calculating how to cook a steak and brushed away complaints about the completion rate of MOOCs.
And the day before he took the stage, MIT released a preliminary report on the future of institution, naming edX a key component of its strategy.
“We’re improving results, we’re improving access, we’re improving campus ed, and we’re getting revenue,” Agarwal said in an interview after his keynote. “When we see our university partners showing those results and saying it is improving, that in and of itself is enough to justify our existence.”
EdX and MIT are by no means interchangeable, but the goals outlined in the report — “unbundling education and blurring boundaries” — show how the MOOC provider is affecting face-to-face education at the institution. One of the report’s three working groups of faculty members, administrators and students is examining the potential of edX alone. Its findings suggest an education from MIT could be broken into smaller modules that, along with online education, would make it simpler for students to study away from campus and assemble their own curriculums.
“Achieving [those goals] will require a commitment to adopting new models of blended learning — again emphasizing the flexibility to use different pedagogies in different settings — and an investment in a diverse and flexible range of spaces that cater to different formats of learning,” the report reads.
That’s where edX comes in. Half of MIT’s undergraduates use edX content in their residential courses, and as more faculty members break their courses into modules, Agarwal said he expects MIT will move away from the traditional four-year on-campus experience.
[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/25/massachusetts-institute-technology-names-edx-key-component-educational-strategy ]