EdX Will Be Capital Campaign Priority

HarvardX, a branch of Harvard and MIT’s joint virtual learning venture edX, will be a priority for Harvard’s upcoming capital campaign, University President Drew G. Faust told The Crimson on Wednesday.

“We feel that we have the privilege of undertaking this campaign at a time when there are some extremely important things happening in higher education,” Faust said, in reference to the growing significance of online learning at academic institutions.

Launched last May with $30 million apiece from Harvard and MIT, edX allows anyone in the world to enroll in select courses offered by faculty at some of the world’s most prestigious universities at no cost. The platform has since expanded to include 12 colleges and universities from three continents.

Faust said that in addition to traditional priorities, Harvard’s capital campaign—now in its quiet phase but scheduled to go live this fall—will also seek to target more cutting-edge trends in teaching and learning.

“It’s not just a matter of strengthening our pillars of existence like financial aid and faculty, which we certainly will have as priorities in the campaign, but there are new things happening in the world of higher education, and the digital environment is one,” Faust said.

At a virtual education conference on Monday, edX President and MIT professor Anant Agarwal said that the organization would seek additional sources of revenue in order to remain non-profit without burdening its institutional partners.

At the conference, Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 said that in addition to the original $30 million investment, the University incurs costs for each new course that it offers on the edX platform.

In the long term, he said, “our intent [is] that this is a self-sustaining activity that does not depend on ongoing philanthropic support.”

For now, however, the University is soliciting contributions for edX as part of the capital campaign, and Faust said that some donors are excited about helping fund the online platform.

“They see it as transformational,” Faust said. “They’ve looked at what the digital revolution has done for other sectors of the economy, other industries, and they think we have a chance to have a real impact here with edX.”

—Staff writer Nikita Kansra can be reached at nikitakansra@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @NikitaKansra.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.

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