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Traveling in Asia, Faust Talks EdX

University President Drew G. Faust addresses a  more than 400 Harvard alumni in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
University President Drew G. Faust addresses a more than 400 Harvard alumni in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
By Samuel Y. Weinstock, Crimson Staff Writer

Kicking off a week-long trip to Asia, University President Drew G. Faust met with 30 alumni and business leaders in Hong Kong Monday to discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by edX’s rapid growth.

EdX, the virtual learning initiative launched by Harvard and MIT last May, has since expanded to include 12 institutions of higher education on three continents. Harvard faculty offer courses through HarvardX, Harvard’s branch of the online platform.

“The hunger for knowledge is so strong around the world,” Faust said, according to the Harvard Gazette. “I feel [HarvardX] is a magnificent opportunity, but it is also a big responsibility for us to set a standard for online learning that upholds the most important aspects of higher education and its values, and allows Harvard to play a leadership role in shaping how education changes in the years to come.”

In remarks at the meeting, HarvardX faculty director Robert A. Lue said that 102 Harvard faculty members have voiced interest in becoming a part of HarvardX. Lue, who is also a professor of the practice of molecular and cellular biology, discussed the prospect of EdX programming that would reach beyond its online platform, which could allow for increased collaboration and more audience-specific teaching.

To this end, Lue cited discussions among Harvard public health professors about the possibility of modifying an edX course to target families in Boston. Such an adaptation, which might focus in on an issue like childhood obesity, is “an example of the content bringing people together rather than keeping them apart,” he said.

In Hong Kong on Monday, Faust also visited Harvard Business School’s Asia-Pacific Research Center, met with representatives from universities in the area, and spoke to over 400 people at an event for Harvard alumni.

Later this week, Faust will travel to Seoul, where she will speak and receive an award from Ewha Womans University—a prominent women’s university—for her work towards “the improvement of women’s social status as the first female [president of Harvard] and renowned historian,” according to an Ewha official quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Faust’s trip to Asia this week is not the first of her presidency. In January 2012, she visited India, where she also sought to strengthen Harvard’s ties with Asia and spoke of the ways that technology is changing education around the world. Faust also spent time in Japan and China in March 2010.

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

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