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Excited for LabXchange

By Sanjana S. Ramrajvel
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

In 2013, we expressed hope that edX, which we saw as “the future of scholarship,” would be allowed to grow in its scope and range of content. Today, we applaud the launch of LabXchange — an interactive learning platform that will bring free, quality science education to students around the world. The result of a collaboration between the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Amgen Foundation, this initiative utilizes the open-source infrastructure from edX to create a virtual scientific lab environment, particularly for students in areas without the infrastructure necessary for lab-setting experimentation.

As technology’s potential to reshape education — and particularly to expand its accessibility — is considerable, we are glad that Harvard is working to set the standard for high-quality, widely available online education. We encourage the platform’s use of interactive formats and other multimedia tools to make online content engaging, and we hope that LabXchange keeps innovating the ways in which it delivers information to students.

But more than the novelty and potential of educational technology, we are heartened by the ways this technology is being utilized. As funding for education has remained inadequate and inequitable, we commend Harvard for its efforts to make scientific education more accessible to all. These efforts are critical in guaranteeing access to knowledge and increasing social mobility for those with limited access to more conventional institutional approaches to learning. We have previously affirmed the utility of the Extension School in encouraging social mobility, and we appreciate the bite-sized nature of these modules, which better serves those who may not have the time to commit to a full course offered by the Extension School through edX. As of right now, the diversity of scientific fields offered through the program is laudable and we hope that Harvard will continue to expand its online education program in the humanities.

That said, we recognize that LabXchange cannot fully replace the experience of having the opportunity to be in a real lab and actually do hands-on work. There are certainly components, such as providing modes of interaction and the ability to ask and answer questions, that can be added to the current program in order to enhance learning experiences and more accurately capture in-class environment. But there is still a long way to go, and we believe that the current program is a good start to remedy the inequities in learning.

All in all, we hope that the University continues to pursue its efforts in making education accessible and devoting its resources to enriching society as a whole. The LabXchange launch is, indeed, representative of the sort of general approach toward engagement with the broader community — including high schoolers, working adults, and those around the world — that we would like Harvard to embody in all of its endeavors.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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