This is an evolving selection of Frequently Asked Questions, and by no means exhaustive. 

HarvardX & edX

What is the relationship between edX and HarvardX …

  • While HarvardX operates independently from edX (HX is not a subsidiary), both enterprises share the same three foundational goals:
    • Expand access to education worldwide
    • Improve teaching and learning on campuses and beyond
    • Advance teaching and learning through educational research
  • edX is a platform, or a software and services company; it is not an educational institution or a content producer.
  • HarvardX is the independent, faculty-led organization that supports Harvard faculty and schools who wish to develop and create innovative digital learning content that currently goes up on edX and could potentially be delivered through other channels such iTunes, and YouTube.
  • While edX has been focused primarily on expanding access to knowledge to learners around the globe, HarvardX is more focused on improving teaching on campus and advancing teaching and learning through research using edX as an enabling platform to do so (see below).
  • You can think of HarvardX as Nova is to PBS. Meaning, Nova is the “content” or the show (HarvardX), and PBS is the distribution network (edX).

How does HarvardX/Harvard leverage edX …

  • edX was founded by Harvard and MIT in May of 2012 to provide a not-for-profit, open access, collaborative learning and teaching platform that, up until that time, did not exist for the purpose of delivering high-quality scalable online learning.
    • edX provides a powerful way for Harvard and other institutions to collect data on how students learn (across courses, countries, and institutions).
    • edX is being used by every school at Harvard to deliver learning content.
    • The edX Consortium (member institutions who share the same goals of the founding partners) allows HarvardX to share/learn best practices in the rapidly evolving digital learning space.
    • edX is seen as a pioneer/innovator in the MOOC space. As a founding partner, Harvard/HarvardX is also seen as innovative much in the same way Harvard “gets credit” for founding the now relatively independent Broad Institute and the Wyss Institute.

How do edX and HarvardX compare to other MOOC providers…

  • edX is among the big three MOOC/online learning provided formed over the past few years (including Coursera and Udacity).
    • edX is not-for-profit, collaborative, and not venture capital backed.
    • edX is the only MOOC provided founded by two universities (not simply individuals from universities) and is considered a shared investment.
    • The emphasis is on sustainability, not necessarily on “profit.”
    • edX is taking research and data more seriously than its counterparts (to date, Coursera has not released data).
    • edX is open source, meaning anyone can use/adapt and improve the code of the platform (by design). Google, Stanford, and others have all chosen to do so.
    • While edX is part of the MOOC revolution, it is not necessarily “competing” with Coursera, Udacity and others. The focus, instead, is how can edX best meet the needs of its founders and its Consortium members and use the platform to enable an increasing number of enterprises to take advantage of the online learning revolution.

How is HarvardX content different/better…

  • HarvardX courses represent vast investments in terms of time, energy, and quality. They are not “plug and play” – each is innovative in its own right. We have been told by our peers (and others) that what we have produced far surpasses anything else available (in terms of video, assessments, narration, discussion board support, and even course trailers).

How does HarvardX relate to HBX…

  • HX audience/HBX cater to different audiences; HBX is focused on pre-professional education and all of its materials will be fee-based, setting up certain expectations about the experience.
  • HX and HBX are not in competition; in fact, they are highly collaborative and working to share knowledge/discoveries.
  • HBS faculty are teaching courses through HarvardX/edX (that are more broadly focused than the offerings by HBX).

Is the edX platform slated to become multi-lingual, and if so, what does that mean? Does it apply to HarvardX courses?

  • edX and the X Consortium are developing plans related to translation of current courses into a variety of languages and is experimenting with adapting some content to meet cultural needs. BerkeleyX, for example, is involved with projects design to understand how different cultures respond to online learning experiences. They are collaborating with Tsinghua University in Beijing on testing how Chinese students react to American-created materials. 

    Many courses, such as ChinaX and Justice already offer subtitles for all of the videos and much of the related content.

    At HarvardX, we are committed to exploring (likely through partnerships with foreign universities) fully translated courses (both in terms of language and culture). There are no definitive plans as of yet as we are primarily focused on developing our initial set of courses/modules. 

Would HarvardX welcome funding to do translations of courses? Are there languages that you would prioritize?

  • In principle, yes, but we would need to spend considerable time exploring what would be required to successfully translate a full course and we would want to use any translations as an broader opportunity to develop best practices. Looking at the student data would be one way to prioritize specific languages.  It is important to keep in mind that a full translation of any course would be a considerable undertaking, requiring significant resources.

How are decisions are made about edX's institutional partners?

  • The X Consortium of global institutional partners is at the heart of edX; the aim of the consortium is to to extend their collective reach to build a global community of online students. Along with offering online courses, the three universities plan to use their online courses to enhance education on their own campuses and to undertake research on how students learn and how technology can transform learning.

    Partners are chosen based upon their commitment to helping to expand/enhance the platform, shared goals with the founding partners, and with an eye towards diversity in terms of location and type of institution.

    EdX is committed to expanding the number of universities offering courses on its platform. It will welcome new partners as it builds capacity to accommodate the growing interest among universities and learners.

    In addition to academic partners who form the XConsortium, edX also is working with non-profits/government organizations such as the IMF to help support their learning needs. While the platform is available open source (and free), some organizations wish to have edX provide additional services (typically for a fee) to help with the development and distribution of content. 

    While Harvard does have representation on the edX board (along with MIT), as an institution, we have no undue influence over any partnerships.

What is a laymen’s, fairly simple explanation of how the edX platform works? Is there a single platform? How does it integrate change and improvements?

  • By design, the edX learning platform is intended to be open source (a development model of programming that allows universal access to the source code with the idea of having multiple developers improve and refine the code with improvements, bug fixes, and enhancements. Linux, Drupal, and Android all follow this model). Towards that end, in the summer edX released a fundamental component of its platform as open source: the underlying architecture supporting the rich, interactive course content found in edX courses. The release a portion of the edX source code marks the first step toward edX’s vision of creating an open online learning platform that mirrors the collaborative philosophy of MOOCs themselves and is an invitation to the global community of developers to work with edX to deliver the world’s best and most accessible online learning experience.

    Called Open edX a number of developers are working on refining and improve the code base. In addition to the early and continuing contributions of edX founding partners, MIT and Harvard, xConsortium members such as Berkeley and University of Queensland are collaborating on the edX platform. Stanford University (not an XConsortium member) and technology providers 10gen and the Concord Consortium are also contributing to the platform. EdX is working closely with these organizations to provide source code, development resources and a collaborative environment to facilitate ongoing enhancements and features.

    To further develop the edX open source learning platform, Google software engineers will join with the edX core platform development team. edX and Google will work together to implement a future destination site, tentatively called MOOC.org. Intended for anyone interested in creating and hosting open source learning content powered by the Open edX platform, the site will be dedicated to early experimentation and testing.

    While you may read in the media that the partnership implies that Google will have significant control over the creation and distribution of course content, keep in mind that the aim is to further improve the platform and learner experience by having more individuals build and use content. The arrangement with Google is akin to how Stanford (not a member of edX) is already working with edX developers to enhance Open EdX---in that sense, it follows precedent.

What types of certificates does edX offer?

  • EdX offers two types of certificate. Note that archived courses do not offer certificates.
  • A verified certificate is a certificate that requires learners to verify their identities using a webcam and a government-issued photo ID. Verified certificates carry a fee that varies by course. 
  • An XSeries certificate shows that a learner has earned a passing grade in all of the courses that make up an XSeries. An XSeries is a series of 4–10 courses in a specific subject. 

    For all certificates/series, academic credit is not awarded. At this time, we do not foresee offering any form of credit/degree through edX. We already have mechanisms, such as the Division of Continuing Education and various Exec Ed programs which offer such credentialing for various non-College/non-GSAS programs.