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Innovators | Education

A classroom for the whole world

Anant Agarwal, edX

Anant Agarwal, president of edX.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Teachers often worry about the size of their classes. Anant Agarwal was surpised and thrilled that nearly 155,000 students enrolled for a course he taught last year.

Agarwal, 53, is the president of edX, an ambitous online higher education collaboration created in 2012 by MIT and Harvard University. He agreed to teach the very first edX course, Circuits and Electronics, and was greeted by a student body logging in from 160 countries.

But that was only the beginning. More than a dozen other universities have joined the edX collaboration to make a range of interactive online courses available to anyone, anywhere. The venture now counts more than 820,000 unique users from 192 countries.

EdX is growing with a goal of democratizing education and eventually reaching a billion students worldwide — “anyone with a laptop, Internet connection, and the will to learn,” said Agarwal, former director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.


“By applying computing technologies to education, we are reimagining campuses and dramatically increasing access to students anywhere in the world,” he said.

Harvard president Drew Faust agrees: “edX makes it possible to lead the direction of online learning in a way that benefits our students, our peers, and people across the nation and the globe.”