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World Economic Forum and Dartmouth Latest To Join EdX Platform

By Michael V. Rothberg, Crimson Staff Writer

The edX platform expanded to include a paid course targeted at professionals on Wednesday when the World Economic Forum announced that it would join the online learning initiative to offer a class this spring. Just a day later, Dartmouth launched its own edX collaboration to provide free enrollment to online courses in the fall.

The Forum, a Swiss non-profit organization that holds an annual conference on global economic policy, will launch its first course, “Global Technology Leadership” in May through an online platform entitled “Forum Academy.”

While the majority of edX partners are universities reaching out to a wide variety of students with free online courses, the executive director of the Forum wrote in a press release that the new initiative seeks to enroll professionals in “leadership development” classes that will give them the opportunity to “constantly update their knowledge.”

According to the organization’s website, Forum Academy will charge users registration and certification fees to enroll.

Robert A. Lue, faculty director of HarvardX, said that he sees the expansion of edX to an institution that is not a traditional university as an opportunity to attract new types of users to the platform.

“The partnership with the [World Economic Forum] underscores that learning takes many forms and there are many audiences for learning,” Lue said. “In light of the progress we have made in the edX platform and the edX consortium, having built something that is continuing to evolve and will serve a wider swath of audiences is a really good thing.”

On Thursday, Dartmouth announced its own partnership with edX, becoming the 31st university to join the platform since it was started by Harvard and MIT more than a year ago. The university will offer its first open online course this fall, although it does not plan to charge enrollment fees.

“The reason Dartmouth is getting into [edX] is clearly not as a money-making kind of thing,” said Joshua Kim, the director of digital learning initiatives at Dartmouth. Kim added that the chief goal of the online platform is to gather large amounts of data that could potentially improve teaching and learning on Dartmouth’s campus.

“This whole online learning initiative at Dartmouth is part of our much larger effort to invest in our learning and invest in our faculty and leverage technology,” Kim said.

Lue noted that Harvard also plans to use data from edX to fine tune education for its tuition-paying students.

“We are very much committed to a recirculation of benefits to students on campus. That is a founding principle of edX, with DartmouthX as well,” Lue said, adding that Forum Academy uses a different model because it is not a traditional university. “For the [Forum], in my opinion, it is more about the ability to broaden access to a much larger audience.”

Dartmouth and the Forum joined the platform just days after HarvardX announced that it will offer a paid version of the online course “CS50x” this semester that includes online office hours with the course instructor, David J. Malan.

—Staff writer Michael V. Rothberg can be reached at mrothberg@college.harvard.edu.

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