These days, there are two polar-opposite modes of higher education. You can either attend a public or private university on-site for about $15,000 to $60,000 a year, or you can partake in online courses taught by professors from leading institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford for anywhere between free to $360 a year.
In a move certain to disrupt the higher education business model even more than it has been disrupted, edX, a consortium of 28 universities offering massive open online courses, announced it is partnering with Google to jointly develop the edX open source learning platform. The new offering, Open edX, is expected to further expand the availability of the platform and its learning tools to individuals and institutions around the world.
edX was first launched as a joint venture between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in May 2012, as a response to the growing MOOC trend for offering higher-education courses to a global audience.
In collaboration with Google, edX will build out and operate MOOC.org, a new site for non-consortium universities, institutions, businesses, governments and teachers to build and host their courses for a global audience. This site will be powered by the jointly developed Open edX platform.
Google will work on the core platform development with leading experts from many edX partner institutions, including MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Stanford, University of Western Australia, University of Queensland, and Tsinghua University. In addition, edX and Google will collaborate on research into how students learn and how technology can transform learning and teaching on campus and beyond.
This new site for online learning will provide a platform for colleges, universities, businesses and individuals around the world to produce high-quality online and blended courses. MOOC.org will be built on Google infrastructure. (Semantic note: many, especially in academia, don't like the "MOOC" acronym, but this announcement is likely to solidify it even further into the lexicon.)
While MOOCs and other online educational environments such as Khan Academy don't result in formal degrees as of yet (though this is changing as well for some programs), the online higher education option offers a fast-growing array of options for professionals seeking to update or expand their skills in a tough global economy, to employers seeking cost-effective training options for their workforces.
OnlineUniversities.com released an infographic last fall that illustrates the incredible value proposition online higher-education platforms offer to individuals and organizations, for just a few dollars at most. Many of these programs have grown over the past year -- Udacity, for example, now offers 28 courses, double last year's catalog. Khan Academy offers about 4,500 courses, up from 3,400 last year. And the infographic doesn't even mention edX. So things are changing very fast.
Thumbnail photo: Princeton University Office of Communications.