This is an interesting trend, one kicked off by M.I.T. a few years back. I have to think that at some point, employers will consider these certificates in hiring, since formal education is almost out of reach for most people. (One reason why Occupy groups around the country are offering free classes.) Good for these schools for taking that leap forward!
In what is shaping up as an academic Battle of the Titans — one that offers vast new learning opportunities for students around the world — Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday announced a new nonprofit partnership, known as edX, to offer free online courses from both universities.
Harvard’s involvement follows M.I.T.’s announcement in December that it was starting an open online learning project to be known as MITx. Its first course, Circuits and Electronics, began in March, enrolling about 120,000 students, some 10,000 of whom made it through the recent midterm exam. Those who complete the course will get a certificate of mastery and a grade, but no official credit. Similarly, edX courses will offer a certificate but will carry no credit.
But Harvard and M.I.T. are not the only elite universities planning to offer a wide array of massively open online courses, or MOOCs, as they are known. This month, Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan announced their partnership with a new for-profit company, Coursera, with $16 million in venture capital.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford professor who made headlines last fall when 160,000 students signed up for his Artificial Intelligence course, has attracted more than 200,000 students to the six courses offered at his new company, Udacity.