Media Day at HarvardX

02 Aug

By Michael Patrick Rutter

“You didn’t get the memo?”

edX CEO Anant Agarwal gestured to himself and then to me. It took a few moments, but the participants attending Media Day at HarvardX saw that our attire – blue blazer with brass buttons, a relaxed blue pinstriped Oxford (sans tie) and gray khakis – matched.

Call it summer casual style in academia, or at least at Harvard.

Held on July 21st, Media Day at HarvardX brought together local reporters, internal media, colleagues from edX and MITx, and others interested in, well, what was new.

Everyone convened around what we at HarvardX call ‘the long table’ – the same table where just about every Friday we hold joint research events with our colleagues at MIT (and beyond) and one that is open to the even more open office. The setup typifies the vibe of the place. Agarwal remarked on the DayGlo wall colors, writable wall surfaces, the in-house production studio, moveable furniture, and the splashy chalkboard mural hand drawn by one of the staff.

In addition to showing off the space, the point was to share experiences about the MOOC- and post-MOOC era, and hint at the surely to-be-named post-post-MOOC period.

The assembled cast of presenters, in addition to the edX CEO, included Charles Fried, a professor at Harvard Law School; Sheryl Barnes, new to MIT as program manager for digital learning in residential education, but not to academia (with prior stints at Tufts and Harvard); Rebecca Petersen, senior research manager at HarvardX; and Kyle Courtney, whose role could be best summed up as copyright czar for Harvard.

Agarwal set the stage by echoing comments Harvard Provost Alan Garber made at the edX 3rd birthday party: Namely, that we (and by we, the collective edX family of partners and collaborators) have stayed firm to the original principles of the endeavor.

New platform features, like learner cohorts, and entirely novel endeavors, like DavidsonNext, as well as partnerships such as the Teaching Accessibility initiative, all exemplify that mission.

There is something magical when what might strike some as mere talking points (‘we believe…’) are instantiated and backed-up by activity. To wit, Agarwal’s energy remained as big and vibrant as it was during the so-called disruption days of online learning, but it was channeled and more nuanced, as he talked about the ways edX intends to reach more and more specific audiences.

“We need to get everyone into the tent!” he declared.

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed



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