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Our Shared Mission: A Strong Foundation for an Exciting Future

What a week it’s been! After we announced that edX would join together with 2U, I have spent most of my week speaking to edX partners to share the news and discuss the incredible opportunities that this industry-redefining combination will bring to our global network. 

In my conversations, two things stand out:

  • The excitement around the potential impact that partners will have when edX and 2U combine capabilities and portfolios. This will provide partners with new opportunities to accelerate online growth and innovation, deliver exceptional student outcomes across the career curriculum continuum, and continue bending back the cost curve of higher education.
  • The strength of the commitments that we have made with 2U to further our mission.

For me, the mission commitments were - and are - the foundation of this entire combination. And, just like when edX came together with our partners to create the consortium we have today, when you build the foundation of an organization based on a mission, that mission endures no matter what. 

Energized by the support we are hearing from partners around these mission commitments, I wanted to share a post that focuses on these foundational aspects of our work now and our work moving forward. We have contractually committed to these for five years, and we see no reason why edX and 2U would not still continue these activities beyond five years, as the commitments are so in-line with our shared long term vision and mission.

We’ve spent a lot of time this week talking about how edX and 2U will offer the world’s most comprehensive free to degree online education marketplace.  This concept is underscored by the specific commitments we have made to increasing access and diversity of content, including to: 

  • guarantee affordability through the continuation of a free track to audit MOOCs;
  • launch affordable and scalable Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees;
  • work toward launching affordable, stackable, modular bachelor’s degrees built from MicroBachelors programs;
  • continue to offer a broad range of courses, across disciplines;
  • increase the number of courses available in non-English-speaking markets;

Ensuring access for all learners, while respecting learner’s privacy, will continue to be a core principle. Specifically, we have committed to:   

  • protect the privacy of individual data for all learners who use the edX platform;
  • provide accessibility features for learners with disabilities;

We have also made a number of commitments to support open source, including commitments to:

  • continue to use the Open edX platform to implement teaching and learning for MOOCs;
  • continue to offer and promote Open edX to support the education goals of universities around the globe;
  • participate actively in improving the Open edX platform to improve engagement, pedagogy, learning outcomes, and blended learning features;

We believe that learning platforms should support learning research, and we have made commitments to: 

  • continue to support the learning research community at member institutions;
  • continue to support existing Open edX platform mechanisms for research by member institutions;

And finally, respecting the core principles that are the basis of our trusted partner relationships is essential. For partners, we have made commitments to:

  • protect the intellectual property rights of member partners that contribute massive open online courses;
  • ensure that participating colleges, universities and other institutions may continue under their standing agreements with edX;
  • make pricing decisions for MOOCs in consultation with the member institution, with agreement from edX and member institution on final pricing
  • host all courses authored by a member institution that the member institution chooses to put on the edX platform;
  • maintain quality for new courses across all member institutions.

These commitments are just the beginning of this journey we are embarking on together. I always find inspiration from our edX partners - they are the driving force behind the innovation and impact that edX has had to date. This week is no exception - I have been continually inspired by the reactions and energy that our partners have around this news. Together, with 2U, the opportunities we will create for our partners and our learners are truly unprecedented.  

Sharing a more detailed FAQ, below:

Why 2U?

We chose to partner with 2U for two main reasons. First, 2U and edX are aligned in our mission to increase access to quality education for everyone, everywhere. As evidence of this, edX and 2U are committing contractually to a set of core mission principles to increase access and affordability for learners, as well as maintaining our trusted partner relationships with our member universities and institutions. 

Second, edX and 2U have a complementary set of programs and services, with the courses, programs, innovative microcredentials and scalable degrees that edX has pioneered coming together with the portfolio of exec ed, bootcamps, degrees, education and career services  that 2U offers. We will create a full ecosystem of offerings that truly address lifelong learning from free to degree. Together, we can meet the goals of our learners and partners in a way that no other organization in the world can today. 

Why now? 

Over the past year, we’ve seen COVID-19 rapidly accelerate online learning adoption and necessity in a way we could never have imagined. This was the right time to seize an opportunity to create a step-function increase in our impact in a way we couldn’t do otherwise. The combined scale, reach, capabilities, marketing efficiency, and relationships of 2U and edX will unlock unprecedented opportunities to reach and serve more learners worldwide.

How will 2U value my institution's partnership and the way we work together with edX? How will edX/2U balance mission and shareholder value?

2U plans to operate edX as a public benefit entity, a class of purpose-driven organizations that balances the public good with the interests of shareholders. edX’s priorities will not change after closing, but the potential to create impactful outcomes both for your institution and learners will be amplified significantly. 2U has agreed to mission commitments for at least 5 years including: 

  • guaranteeing affordability through the continuation of a free track to audit courses;
  • maintaining the intellectual property rights of faculty and universities that contribute massive open online courses; 
  • ensuring that participating colleges and universities may continue under their standing agreements with edX;
  • continuing edX privacy protections of individual data for all learners who use the edX platform;
  • working toward launching affordable, stackable, modular bachelor’s degrees built from MicroBachelors programs;
  • increasing the number of courses available in non-English-speaking markets;
  • continuing to offer a broad range of courses, across disciplines;
  • providing accessibility features for learners with disabilities;
  • hosting all courses that a member institution chooses to put on the edX platform;
  • maintaining quality for new courses across all member institutions; and
  • contributing to the ongoing development of the fully open source and independent platform Open edX, owned by the new nonprofit led by MIT and Harvard.

What does it mean to be a public benefit entity? 

2U plans to operate edX as a public benefit entity, a class of purpose-driven organizations that balances the public good with the interests of shareholders. edX and 2U share a commitment to the same mission and vision -  that online education has the power to expand access, create opportunity, and transform lives. This will continue to drive us.  As a public benefit entity, edX will be committed to purpose-driven goals that balance public benefit with shareholder interest.

What is 2U’s commitment to international members (given that 2U has historically been domestically focused)? Are there plans for new international partnerships?

2U is excited to expand its global footprint after closing by bringing together our two incredibly strong partner networks. 2U anticipates further global expansion in the future. 

Will the terms of my partner contract with edX change? How will my Master Agreement change?  Will my contract, revenue share, etc be different?

Contract terms for edX partners will remain the same after closing, including key terms such as revenue share, IP ownership, and data sharing. 

Will I still have access to data for research purposes?

Partners who are currently eligible for research data packages will continue to be eligible. 2U will continue to make platform learner data available for research to the same extent as now, and continue to support the research community. 

Will this affect what we currently offer on edX? Will it affect any upcoming courses or programs that we have planned?

There will be no changes to currently running courses or programs, and we will continue to host all future courses that edX partners want to put on edX.org.

Will the free/audit track still exist? 

edX and 2U are committed to guaranteeing affordability through the continuation of a free track to audit courses for at least 5 years.  

How does this impact the way you gather, use and store learner data? 

edX has always taken privacy very seriously, and 2U shares this value. Protecting the privacy and security of all learners is paramount. Through this agreement, 2U has committed to preserving robust privacy of individual data for all learners who use the edX platform as edX does today. 2U will have the opportunity to market its offerings to edX learners, but individual learners will be able to opt out. 

Will Harvard and MIT still be involved in edX? 

Harvard and MIT will continue to offer courses and programs on edX.org. Their online content continues to be an important cornerstone of the portfolio and an incredible offering for learners to access and experience the expertise of Harvard and MIT’s faculty. 

What will be the surviving nonprofit’s primary focus? Who will lead the nonprofit?

The nonprofit will be led by Harvard and MIT and will collaborate with educational institutions, governments, and other organizations to:

  • develop and evaluate new approaches to learning and pedagogy; 
  • invest in new learning models that combine the best of online and in-person; 
  • promote the adoption of best practices across the education continuum; 
  • support innovation in lifelong learning; and 
  • advance Open edX. 

This work will seek to improve educational outcomes and reduce inequities in education by expanding reach to historically underserved communities and preparing all learners for success. The nonprofit will also support investment in next-generation platforms to continue to advance learning experiences, as well as ensure that the Open edX platform is continually improved, remains open source, and powers a vibrant open source community. 

What will happen to the Open edX platform and community?

The nonprofit will ensure that the Open edX platform remains open source and powers a vibrant open source community. Following the closing, 2U expects to be a significant contributor of code to the Open edX platform, and the transaction is expected to increase the impact that Open edX can have in supporting learning outcomes around the world.