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Berklee, BU added to edX online class initiative

One year after Harvard University and MIT launched edX, a $60 million initiative in which colleges offer online classes at no charge, the not-for-profit company announced today that it is doubling the number of participating universities, including the Berklee College of Music and Boston University.

EdX said that 15 higher education institutions are joining the initiative from four continents, bringing the total number of schools to 27. Based in Cambridge, edX has more than 900,000 people using its platform and currently offers about 50 courses.

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“It’s going like a rocket ship,” Anant Agarwal, president of edX, said in an interview today, noting that the initiative is growing so quickly, it has doubled its university membership again only three months after it doubled in February. The universities joining, he said, “all have a commitment to high-quality education, a commitment to increasing access to education for students around the world, and also improving campus education.”

According to BU officials, the university is required to offer five MOOCs, but the school also plans to create hybrid courses: for-credit classes that combine in-class instruction with online work. The hybrid courses will be available within a few years, and the MOOCs will be offered in one year.

“I am pleased to help pioneer the development of digital learning environments,” BU President Robert A. Brown told BU Today. “And I’m excited about the opportunity to use these enhanced learning tools for our residential students, and to invent new hybrid educational platforms as the next step in our ongoing significant commitment to online learning, especially for our students in graduate professional programs.”

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When Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced the venture in May 2012, Harvard President Drew Faust said edX would “change our relationship to knowledge and to teaching for the benefit of our students and students and would-be students everywhere.”

“Through this partnership we will not only make knowledge more available but we will learn more about learning,” Faust said at a news conference at the time. “Anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world can have access.”

In addition to BU and Berklee, colleges from Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US will partner with edX. The schools include: Tsinghua University in China, Kyoto University in Japan, The University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science & Technology in Hong Kong, Seoul National University in South Korea, and Peking University in China.

From the US, Cornell University, Davidson College, and University of Washington plan to offer courses through edX.

From Europe: Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and the Technical University of Munich in Germany. The University of Queensland in Australia will also offer courses through the platform.

Agarwal describes seeing on one course’s discussion forum students from Pakistan, New Zealand, Columbia and the US all discussing a problem.

“I really see how online learning will democratize education, “ he said. “It will really bring the world closer together.”

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