Georgetown Joins Harvard and MIT’s edX to Enhance Learning on Campus, Globally

December 9, 2012

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia today announced that Georgetown will partner with edX, a prestigious new online learning initiative founded by Harvard and MIT.

EdX, based in Cambridge, Mass., has developed a software platform featuring MOOCs, or massive open online courses, in which anyone around the globe can learn online for free from faculty members at top research universities and liberal arts colleges.

The edX partnership is part of a larger “technology-enhanced learning” initiative Georgetown has launched.

Along with offering online courses, Georgetown will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can enrich learning on campus, and the university will use tools in the edX platform to innovate and create new approaches to teaching on campus at its Washington, D.C., and Doha, Qatar, locations.

“In joining edX, we become part of a consortium of institutions on the cutting edge of higher education,” DeGioia said. “As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we have been committed to working at the frontiers of education and meeting global needs since our founding in 1789.”

“This new partnership offers us an exciting opportunity to continue in this work to enhance learning and research both online and on our campuses, and to fulfill our mission of creating and disseminating knowledge in innovative and effective new ways,” he added.

Starting This Fall

GeorgetownX courses will begin in the fall of 2013, hosted on edX’s platform at www.edx.org.

Edx, a not-for-profit enterprise launched this past May, promotes learning for a global audience and interactive study via the web, and already has over 500,000 unique users.

Harvard President Drew Faust is expected to talk about technology, edX and Georgetown’s partnership Monday during her visit to the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., to speak on higher education’s role in the U.S. economy.

“EdX is an innovation that will expand access to high-quality educational content for millions around the world while helping us better understand how technology can improve the academic experience for students in classrooms across our campuses,” she said. “Georgetown’s commitment to technology-enhanced learning, its excellence in education, and its long history as an institution dedicated to public service make it a welcome addition to edX.”

The edX announcement follows on the heels of Georgetown’s $8 million investment in an Initiative on Technology-Enhanced Learning (ITEL).

ITEL is designed to enrich learning on campus through technology and to spur innovation in teaching to create the most powerful academic environment.

The partnership with edX deepens Georgetown’s exploration and use of new technologies on campus, initially formalized 12 years ago through the university’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS), home to the scholarship of teaching and learning at Georgetown.

CNDLS supports faculty and graduate students with tools, resources and opportunities to create new learning environments. The center began with a mission to bridge the historic gulf between pedagogy and technological advances, and today integrates a teaching and learning center with the latest educational technology.

Technology-Enhanced Learning

CNDLS helped professor of philosophy Frank Ambrosio, for example, move his students beyond a basic level of interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy and relate the work to their own lives.

Ambrosio envisioned a digital version of Divine Comedy for his course on Dante and the Christian Imagination that would allow students to create personalized annotated versions of the poem.

Inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts, he turned to CNDLS, which ultimately helped him create MyDante, which teaches contemplative reading through a combination of digital tools and pedagogical resources. The site also acts as a guide to the poem.

“We share with the edX consortium of universities a commitment to strengthening the on-campus experience for our students,” said Georgetown Provost Robert Groves. “By joining the best techniques in technology-enhanced learning with the important dialogue and discussion that happens face-to-face in the classroom, we hope to find the optimal blend where students can do their very best learning.”

Research Opportunities

The edX model allows Georgetown and the other institutions to contribute to the development of online teaching modules and share real-time data to evaluate the effectiveness of specific techniques on student learning.

“We are excited to welcome Georgetown University to edX,” said edX's president, Anant Agarwal. “Georgetown has a long history of research and educational excellence and, with a distinguished presence around the world including a School of Foreign Service campus in Qatar, shares with edX a global perspective and a mission to expand educational opportunities.”

Agarwal, former director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, noted that Georgetown, the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university, has a long history of research and service excellence through its commitment to the arts and sciences, foreign service, public policy, law, medicine, business and nursing and health studies.

Expanding Mission

The University of California, Berkeley, the University of Texas System and Wellesley College all recently joined edX.

“Our partnership with edX and a distinguished collection of universities, coupled with our Jesuit values, will allow us to expand our mission of providing a world-class education dedicated to the applications of our research, scholarship and service both here on campus and throughout the world,” DeGioia said.

“Georgetown University is an excellent addition to edX,” added MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “It brings important strength in many areas of scholarship and has long had an especially powerful voice in public life and discourse. The edX community stands to benefit greatly from what Georgetown can offer.”