University of Texas Joins Harvard-Founded edX

The University of Texas­ announced its participation in the Harvard- and MIT-founded online education venture edX at a press conference Monday morning, making it the first full university system to join since the enterprise launched earlier this year.

The addition of the nine UT schools quadruples the size of edX, which previously included along with the two Cambridge founder schools only the University of California, Berkeley, which announced its participation in July.

“The UT system is one of the leading systems in the nation,” EdX President and MIT professor Anant Agarwal said of the group, which includes UT-Austin and UT-Dallas. “EdX is really excited to work with the UT system in re-inventing learning and dramatically improving success rates among our student populations.”

In May, Harvard announced its collaboration with MIT in the creation of the online learning platform. The first set of free, online Harvard classes began Monday for students around the world.

The UT system, whose flagship school UT-Austin came in thirteenth in the most recent U.S. News and World Report ranking of public universities, has a total enrollment of more than 200,000.

“We wanted to join the world of MOOCs [massive open online courses] and we thought by joining with edX, we could leapfrog into an orbit of excellence,” UT Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa said, explaining why the university chose edX over other online education ventures such as Coursera.

Cigarroa also cited access to edX’s open-source foundation code and its role as a business partner in the enterprise as reasons the UT system chose edX. As part of its participation in edX, the Texas system will be part of an advisory council to the edX governing board.

In addition, the UT system will invest $5 million in the development of edX, adding to the original Harvard and MIT pledge of $30 million each. According to Cigarroa, the Texas system will spend another $5 million on helping faculty create new courses that can be taught both virtually and face-to-face, as well as assessing data on student learning.

According to UT administrators, UTx—the online, edX version of the University of Texas—will offer at least four online courses within the next year.

The content of these courses has yet to be determined, but Chairman of the UT System Board of Regents Gene Powell said that UT faculty members will work closely with edX to craft the curricula before presenting them to their respective schools.

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at kwu@college.harvard.edu.

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