On Tuesday, the University of Texas at Austin announced a roster of nine edX courses to be offered in the 2013-2014 academic year, with topics ranging from globalization and energy to pharmaceutics and music.
UTx is University of Texas’s subset of edX, the nonprofit virtual learning initiative launched by Harvard and MIT last May, and is still in its formative stages. After announcing its partnership with edX this past October, UTx held a proposal competition for online course topics that received more than 20 submissions from its faculty.
The four courses which will be offered this fall are “Ideas of the Twentieth Century” by philosophy professor Daniel Bonevac and photography curator Roy Flukinger, “Introduction to Globalization” with Germanic studies professor John Hoberman, “Bench to Bedside: Introduction to Drug Development and the Commercialization Process” taught by pharmaceutics professors Janet Walkow and Alan Watts and online programs director Donna Kidwell, and “Energy Technology & Policy” with mechanical engineering professor Michael Webber.
“The costs [of higher education] have been spiraling so extraordinarily over the past couple decades, and I wanted to be able to do an online course free of profit considerations,” said Bonevac.
The university will also offer five new edX courses in spring 2014, including “Jazz Appreciation” with music professor Jeffrey Hellmer, “Foundations of Data Analysis” taught by statistics faculty members Catherine Stacy and Michael Mahometa, “Mathematics and Effective Thinking” from mathematics professor Michael Starbird, “Introduction to Embedded Systems” with electrical engineering professors Jonathan Valvano and Ramesh Yerraballi, and “Linear Algebra: Theory and Computation” taught by computer science professors Robert van de Geijn and Margaret Myers. The range of courses represent edX’s growing focus on both the humanities and the sciences.
“With the prestige of Harvard and MIT being involved in edX, this is being done by people who want to put education first and who want to do it well,” Bonevac said.
While some UT professors expressed a preference for working with edX over other platforms such as edX’s for-profit competitor Coursera, others did not strongly favor one model over the other.
“The university has signed an agreement with edX, so when we were interested in putting the [globalization] course online, edX would be the company that did it,” said Hoberman, a former Harvard professor.
Regardless of which platform universities pursue, Hoberman said that he believed online education was an important next step in the democratization of education.
“Online education is going to be huge, in a word,” he said.
—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amna_hashmi.