Harvard and MIT Join Forces To Offer Free Classes

A blog about business and economics.
May 2 2012 5:29 PM

Harvard Hops on the MITx Bandwagon

People have been very excited about MITx, the upcoming first instance of a prestigious brand-name university offering an online open enrollment class that comes with a branded credit. To be sure, they won't say you passed an "MIT" class, but the classes will have the same content as the MIT courses and the label says "MITx" which is really very similar to "MIT".

And now Harvard's hopping on the bandwagon:

The EdX platform will be open-source, “so it can be used by other universities and organizations who wish to host the platform themselves,” according to the release. While EdX will initially host adapted versions of courses from MIT and Harvard, the institutions expect it to become a clearinghouse for open courses offered by various institutions.
“MIT and Harvard expect that over time other universities will join them in offering courses on the edX platform,” the universities said. “The gathering of many universities’ educational content together on one site will enable learners worldwide to access the course content of any participating university from a single website, and to use a set of online educational tools shared by all participating universities.”
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I think it really can't be emphasized enough that names and brands matter here. Harvard sells a bundle of goods to undergraduates. Some of that is actual classroom learning and education. Some of it is a college experience. And some of it is a branded credential from America's oldest and most famous university. You can potentially do a lot of teaching over the internet, but it's really when the brands come into play that you start to make a difference to the overall structure of the industry.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.