Announcement of edX Partnership with Harvard University

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Cambridge, Massachusetts

MIT is extremely excited to continue a long history of collaboration by joining with Harvard in this new partnership, a shared expedition to explore the frontiers of digital education. What we will discover together will help us do what we do, better: to more effectively and more creatively increase the vitality of our institutions, and, at the same time, to increase educational opportunities for learners and teachers across the planet.

Today, in higher education generally, you can choose to view this era as one of threatening change and unsettling volatility, or you can see it as a moment charged with the most exciting possibilities presented to educators in our lifetimes, with the possibility of better understanding how we learn, and of sharing the transformative power of education far beyond the bounds of any campus. As MIT and Harvard come together in this ambitious online initiative, we also come together to say, with conviction, that online education is not an enemy of residential education, but rather a profoundly liberating and inspiring ally. We also come together to say that it is incumbent on research institutions like ours to find every way we can to share our knowledge and our teaching with a world hungry to learn. EdX reflects both of these convictions at once: it will offer an array of innovative digital tools for enhancing education on our own campuses, while, at the same time, creating a new avenue to education for millions of learners worldwide.

We fully recognize that this initiative is genuinely an experiment, so we, ourselves, are prepared to learn. To give you a sense of how edX will dramatically extend our educational boundaries, let me share a few things we have learned this spring, since we launched the prototype course on Circuits and Electronics. We have been a bit stunned to learn just how many people around the world are eager to take on the challenge of an MIT-level class on circuits: the course received 120,000 registrations at its very start. (For a sense of scale: that is just a few less than the number of all of MIT's living alumni.) These online learners have also amazed us by how fast they have deployed our digital tools to create mutually encouraging online communities of their own, communities in which they effectively tutor and coach one another. Already, we have gained important insights about how people learn online, and we have used those insights to make the teaching technology more effective and more user-friendly. We have begun to get a sense the power of edX to deliver top-quality education, planetwide, and we can only begin to imagine its future impact, as Harvard and MIT welcome other educational institutions to this open source platform and welcome them to help us improve it. 

I thank everyone who paved the way to today's announcement: First, the entire edX team from both Harvard and MIT, whose collegiality put the idea of this complex partnership into action; Professor Anant Agarwal, the first president of edX, whose boundless energy, brilliant teaching and tireless team have made the prototype course such a success; and I give my most enthusiastic thanks to MIT Provost Rafael Reif, who spearheaded the work of the MIT faculty that, over several years, led us to develop this online learning initiative. His commitment and vision were central to building the Harvard-MIT edX partnership. 

EdX is, in the best sense, a work in progress, but it is also an act of progress, and we are delighted to join with Harvard in advancing the frontier of education.