Last month marked the first anniversary of edX. The year has gone by so fast I find it hard to believe it has been an entire year until I sit back and consider all that we’ve accomplished together.
edX was born on May 2, 2012, when two great universities – Harvard and MIT – came together to launch edX. Our vision was to dramatically increase access to high quality learning to students around the world while reimagining education on our own campuses. While both schools had already been developing online education initiatives independently, we realized that bringing the world’s best universities together to develop online education in concert could literally change the course of education. We committed to a non-profit mission, rooted in open source software so that both our courses and platform technology would be available freely to anyone, removing traditional barriers to higher education. We took baby steps at first, launching with just one course and we were overwhelmed by the response – 155,000 students from 162 countries signed up.
The vision to provide world-class education to everyone, everywhere, regardless of social status or income was shared by a number of colleges and universities around the world. UC Berkeley, in the early days, had also been working on its own open source platform with a nonprofit vision. We decided to join forces to share technology and work towards our common goal. Soon thereafter, we were honored to welcome the University of Texas system, Georgetown and Wellesley to the xConsortium and to begin expanding course offerings.
At the same time, we continued to work to develop the best possible platform for online and blended education – one that enables professors to be as creative as possible, while leveraging big data research to improve education on our own campuses and realizing the full educational possibilities of the online environment. Focused on our students, we built interactive videos, autograded exercises, virtual online laboratories, online textbooks, discussion forums, a learner dashboard to track progress, and a wiki for collaboration. Our instructors were provided their own dashboards with learner analytics, student information, and course management tools to help refine courses and improve future iterations.
All of these innovations came about through the incredible dedication of our team here at edX and the faculty and staff at our xConsortium institutions. We were able to bring together a world-class team of software developers, content producers, pedagogical experts, and professionals in business, marketing and law, who were inspired by our mission and quickly became dedicated to our cause.
Those first months growing our platform and course offerings kept us busy, but they also allowed us to build a technological foundation that has allowed us to accelerate our growth dramatically over the past few months. Along with our partners in the xConsortium and other schools such as San Jose State University and Sant High School in Mongolia, we explored the blended model of learning on a number of campuses, even as we expanded our base of learners by hundreds of thousands around the world.
In February of this year, we announced the international expansion of our xConsortium and a doubling of our members as we welcomed several world-class universities including the Australian National University, Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne from Switzerland, McGill University and the University of Toronto from Canada, and Rice University from the United States into our community.
And just a few weeks ago, we welcomed another 15 member institutions from Asia and the rest of the world to our xConsortium: Berklee College of Music, Boston University, Cornell University, Davidson College, the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, the Karolinska Institutet, Kyoto University, Université catholique de Louvain, Peking University, Seoul National University, Tsnighua University, Technische Universitāt Mūnchen, the University of Queensland, and the University of Washington.
In March, we reached a major milestone – our one-millionth enrollment. We also began to release the source code of our online learning platform to the public, starting with our XBlock architecture, which supports the rich, interactive course content unique to edX Courses. This April, we announced that our entire learning platform would be released as open source on June 1, and that Stanford University would start collaborating with us to continue to develop the platform. We are looking forward to universities and developers everywhere contributing to and enhancing the platform that powers our edX courses (if you’re interested you can access our source code here: http://code.edx.org/).
And then last month, we unveiled the ground-breaking work our team has done to enable effective open-ended assessment within a MOOC. For the first time, our free form assessment tool, which combines AI assessment, peer assessment and self assessment, gives course professors the tools they need to apply their unique and personal grading style in a massively scaled environment. We also piloted cohort technology on our platform, which is a way for instructors to divide the large discussion forums into smaller subgroups to create a more intimate feel. These tools will also be open sourced along with the rest of our system so that collaborators around the world can experiment with these technologies and help us improve them.
We’ve come a long way in just one year, and the edX platform is fast-evolving. One of the things we’re most exited about is the blended model of on-campus and online learning, and how that is being adopted on campuses around the world.
As we celebrate our first anniversary, I would like to thank all of the professors and their staff who have put so much effort toward making the edX experiment a success. I would also like to congratulate the many students around the world who have contributed their unique perspective to our edX courses and expanded their own worlds along the way.
In fact, it is these learner experiences that tell the real story behind edX’s first year. I invite you to meet these extraordinary learners on edxstories.tumblr.com and to join us as we continue on this journey together.
By Anant Agarwal, edX, CEO