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HarvardX’s New Fall Offerings To Include Two SPOCs

University’s Branch of edX To Offer 11 New Classes

By Madeline R. Conway, Crimson Staff Writer

HarvardX, the University’s branch of the online learning venture edX, this month announced its roster of new fall courses, including the platform’s first offering that will initially be open exclusively to Harvard students.

The 11 announced courses range from a Harvard Kennedy School class to online versions of several popular General Education courses. A 12th HarvardX course, the first from the Graduate School of Education, will open for registration this summer and start in January 2014.

Proponents of HarvardX have long emphasized the value of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as an opportunity for Harvard to share its teaching on a free, broadly accessible platform and improve pedagogy in the traditional classroom. But Katie L. Vale, interim course development manager for HarvardX, said that HarvardX’s interest in MOOCs is part of a larger effort to be innovative with teaching.

“I'd say within HarvardX, we're thinking about MOOCs really as only one facet of the types of things that we're interested in doing,” Vale said.

To this end, two of the new HarvardX offerings are “small, private, online courses” called SPOCs. One of the offerings, GSD1.1x: “The Architectural Imaginary,” is open only to incoming Design School students but may be opened up to the broader public at a later date, according to Vale. The class will run as a module this summer to prepare incoming students for coursework in an on-campus component of the class this fall.

HarvardX’s first SPOC, a Law School course titled HLS1x: “Copyright,” debuted in January. Law School professor William W. Fisher, III, and his teaching staff chose from 4,100 applicants worldwide to form the 500-student online class. There are plans to offer “Copyright” again online in 2014, according to Nathaniel Levy, project manager at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society who helped develop the course.

Other new HarvardX courses include HKS211.1x, “Central Challenges of American National Security, Strategy, and the Press: An Introduction,” a Kennedy School module SPOC that will have limited enrollment for certain features, such as discussion boards. An online version of the Gen Ed course Science of the Physical Universe 27: “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science,” SPU27x, is set to debut in October with open enrollment.

EdX’s first courses went live last October, and two of the seven available were from Harvard. At the time, MIT and the University of California, Berkeley, also offered online instruction through edX. The free, nonprofit virtual education platform now boasts 28 member institutions and has enrolled roughly one million students.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

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