Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced a partnership between Harvard and MIT that will bring edX—the rapidly growing online education venture started by both universities last spring—to the Boston community during his State of the City address Tuesday night.
“I am pleased to announce a pilot with Harvard, MIT, and edX that will bring free courses to community centers,” Menino said in the speech, which was delivered before a large audience including Massachussetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78, Congressman Michael E. Capuano, and Victoria R. Kennedy, wife of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56.
The proposed agreement will give edX a location-based platform for the first time, providing Boston residents access to knowledge and skills as well as time with faculty and job trainers.
“Imagine a day when our community centers are little campuses in their own neighborhoods, full of vibrant groups of neighbors, exchanging ideas and making progress together,” Menino said, rousing applause from the crowd. “This initiative is a first, important step in that direction. We must connect adults in our neighborhoods with the opportunities of the knowledge economy.”
The new partnership is part of a larger education policy launched by the Mayor that will provide $30 million in new funding to underperforming schools in order to upgrade facilities, add teaching time, and enhance teaching and leadership.
The edX partnership will require contributions from both the city and the universities involved with edX to expand the program, which is currently structured around online courses for individuals. The ultimate goal is to facilitate a community-based group learning experience, according to a memo released by Menino. While the city will provide locations for community learning, research, and internship and job opportunities, edX, along with Harvard and MIT, will hold “Neighborhood Hours,” in-person meetings with university students and faculty. Harvard, MIT, and edX will also provide training on how to use the edX system, career counseling, and job transitioning programs.
“I’m very excited. [The partnership] brings technology into the neighborhoods of Boston. That’s so, so important. I think there are a lot of folks out there who could use that program,” Menino said after the event. “I look forward to edX, MIT, Harvard, Suffolk University, and some other universities stepping up to the plate to work with us.”
In his address, Menino also said that he intends to appoint a women’s workforce council, improve access to quality child care, and launch “Women on Main,” a networking opportunity for women who own businesses in the main streets of Boston.
Menino, who is 70 and recently spent two months in the hospital due to complications from a blood clot, entered the hall walking with a cane to Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” and a five-minute standing ovation. “I was humbled by [the ovation],” he said after the speech. “And I know the question was, ‘Can he walk down the aisle?’ Give me a break. I could walk down that aisle 10 times.”
The speech also ended with the Clarkson hit.
Asked after the speech if an appropriate headline for the evening might be ‘Boston Strong, Menino Strong,’ the Mayor replied enthusiastically. “Yeah, no question. Stronger.”
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