Thousands of students around the world have already registered for the first edX courses designed specifically for high school students.
The initiative, which was launched Sept. 9, includes 27 courses that cover primarily Advanced Placement program material and are available for free to anyone who wishes to enroll. The first new course, an edX version of AP Biology, will launch on Oct. 13, while the others will launch shortly after and into 2015.
EdX CEO Anant Agarwal wrote on the platform’s blog that the high school initiative will address what he called a “crucial need”―preparing high schoolers for the coursework they will encounter in college.
“This readiness gap between college eligibility and preparedness is costly not only to students, but also to families and institutions,” he wrote. “Our new initiative will address this severe gap and help alleviate these costly disparities.”
Eleven edX member schools, including MIT and the University of California, Berkeley, now offer high school-oriented MOOCs. Additionally, two American high schools and several other institutions of higher learning will also contribute courses and instructors to the platform. Harvard has not joined the initiative.
“We are interested in high school level courses and there are some initial conversations happening about building suitable content...but nothing is imminent,” HarvardX spokesperson Michael P. Rutter wrote in an email.
According to Teppo Jouttenus, a program manager for edX who oversees the high school initiative, edX began planning the launch of the high school platform in late 2013 and officially moved forward in May 2014 by asking edX members to propose intro-level and high school online courses.
“Even though edX was launched with the focus on college education, it was clear to everyone involved that this really could have potential for all kinds of learning,” Jouttenus said.
Daniel D. Garcia, a professor of computer science at UC Berkeley who has adapted one of his college courses into an edX course designed to fulfill requirements for AP Computer Science Principles, said that although the material in his edX is similar to what he offers at Berkeley, necessary changes must be made to accommodate high school learners.
“At ten miles up, time doubles,” said Garcia, who will be taking the year off to focus on developing the course. “We'll take a one-semester class and when you move it to a high school space, it becomes a one-year course.”
Jouttenus said he believes the new courses will cater to a variety of audiences, including high school students whose teachers may use the edX material as a supplement to their normal class and students from schools that do not offer AP courses.
Jeneen Graham, an AP Psychology teacher from St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in California, agreed and said that students from 45 different countries have already signed up for her new edX course, “Introduction to Psychology.”
“These are often students who don't have access to this kind of material,” Graham said. “This is the first [initiative] of its kind to be speaking to a high-school level student.”
—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Meg_Bernhard.