EdX Overtakes Coursera in Number of Ivy League Partners

With the addition of Princeton to its list of partners, edX, the non-profit MOOC provider that Harvard and MIT founded in 2012, now has more Ivy League partners than its largest for-profit competitor, Coursera.

Princeton’s decision, announced on Sept. 24, comes just three months after the University of Pennsylvania joined edX with the intention of publishing three courses on the virtual education platform. Both schools were among Coursera’s first four partner universities and will continue to publish courses on Coursera’s platform as well.

With the creation of PrincetonX and PennX, edX now has six Ivy League partner’s to Coursera’s five. Princeton, Penn, and Columbia publish courses to both platforms. Today, Coursera lists over 133 total partner organizations on its website, while edX lists 82.

"As an edX co-founder, Harvard is gratified that peer institutions have chosen to become members,” University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, who sits on edX’s board, wrote in an emailed statement.

EdX CEO Anant Agarwal said he believes that edX’s status as a non-profit makes it particularly attractive to universities.

“I would say that we are a non-profit, we have an open-source platform, and we’ve stayed true to our mission,” Agarwal said. “I think that as universities recognize that, the whole non-profit approach is appealing.”

Representatives from Penn and Princeton each cited different reasons for joining the edX consortium.

According to Deirdre Woods, executive director of Penn’s open learning team, Penn was attracted most to the new online audience that edX could offer.

“Exposing our faculty to other learners [on edX] is great, and I think the primary reason why we entered into MOOCs in the first place,” Woods said.

Woods also cited edX’s emphasis on offering a broader range of courses as a factor in the decision.

“Now that Coursera’s focus is increasingly on [specialized courses], which we have done a few of and will continue to do, edX provides flexibility of courses not just in terms of the slight difference in class form but also in terms of how you want to deliver your courses,” Woods said.

Penn’s first courses on the edX platform will consist of some they have previously run on Coursera and a new course on intellectual property designed specifically for edX.

Princeton, however, has no plans to publish the same courses on both platforms, according to Jeffrey D. Himpele, the director for teaching initiatives and programs at Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.

Himpele said edX appealed to Princeton faculty who will now have the option of creating “on-demand” courses, which students can take any time the instructor has finished the content, as opposed to those on Coursera, or more “session-based” courses, which learners take on a timeline more similar to traditional university classes.

While Agarwal described himself as “delighted” to have Princeton and Penn in the edX consortium, he said he is always open to new members.

“We would be very happy to have Brown and Yale join edX as well, of course,” he said.

—Staff writer C. Ramsey Fahs can be reached at cfahs@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @ramseyfahs.

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