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Three years ago, Harvard University and MIT embarked on a unique experiment when they launched a nonprofit called edX. The start-up promised a free online education, with university-level classes for anyone living anywhere across the globe.

A new MIT-Harvard study released Wednesday finds nearly 40 percent of learners who take open online courses are teachers. That finding has researchers wondering whether they can better design online courses once predicted to upend students' experience to meet teachers' needs.

Last year, WGBH's On Campus reported that despite low completion rates researchers at MIT and Harvard insist that online courses still have value:

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are classes that anyone can take anywhere in the world -- for free. They've grown increasingly popular, but does that popularity threaten traditional higher education? 


The buzz around open online courses - often free and occasionally for credit - is fading. But as tuition prices and student debt soar, online learning continues to grow. One of the largest providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, is Harvard and MIT's edX. Some 2.5 million people have signed up for these classes, ranging from the Introduction to Computer Science to The Ancient Greek Hero.

So what do most students get for completing one of these courses? New knowledge and maybe a certificate of completion, but no credit. WGBH’s On Campus caught up with a student-researcher who predicts colleges and universities will soon offer some form of credit for MOOCs.

You might be one of millions of people around the world who have signed up for a massive open online course, or MOOC, the question is: did you walk away before it was over? Study after study shows only a small percentage of students, or participants, complete these courses. Despite low completion rates researchers at MIT and Harvard insist that MOOCs still have value.

Harvard And MIT's EdX Moves To Increase Higher Ed Access In Arab World

It's not very often the Queen of Jordan comes to Boston, but she was here last month to announce a new education partnership with Harvard and MIT's non-profit online learning initiative, edX.

The goal is develop a new platform called Edraak, which is designed to bring online courses to Arabic-speaking students.

Like many parents, Dahlia Lithwick felt absolutely dumbfounded after sitting through one too many back-to-school meetings at her children’s school. The Ivy League-educated lawyer and journalist expressed her frustration in a revealing piece for Slate last week—one that highlighted the communication breakdown that hampers education reform.

The jargon-filled language has made its way into back-to-school nights, and it’s no wonder parents are confounded.

Cambridge's MOOC Rock Star, EdX Head Anant Agarwal, Disrupts Higher Ed Business Model

Anant Agarwal, the president of EdX- Harvard, and MIT's $60 million online learning venture, is a bit of a rock star.

Last year, Agarwal taught EdX's first massive open online course (MOOC), a course on circuits and electronics. Like all MOOCs, it was posted online for free. 

"I was hoping for a sweet spot, a total of about 2,000 students. I figured if we had 200 students, that's as much as a campus class. That would be embarrassing."

But what Agarwal and his colleagues didn't figure was the worldwide demand for free, online MIT engineering courses.

"We had 10,000 students sign up in the first few hours of making the course open," Agarwal said. "So that was the first heart attack. Then, as the numbers kept rising and began approaching 100,000, then it was panic time. So we were wondering, 'How on Earth are we going to support this many students?'"

Agarwal is among those in higher education who believes it's important for people around the world to have access to a great education, but is EdX disrupting the higher ed market by giving away knowledge for free?

Innovation Hub: College 2.0

Will the new face of college be a computer screen? 

WGBH's Kara Miller asked a panel of educational pioneers about the university of the future on this special edition of Innovation Hub, taped at Suffolk University’s Modern Theater in downtown Boston.

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