Frequently Asked Questions

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:

  1. Expand access to education worldwide
  2. Improve teaching and learning on campuses and beyond
  3. 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).

How does HarvardX work with 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 courses.

The edX Consortium (a group of member institutions who share the same goals of the founding partners) allows HarvardX to share best practices in the rapidly evolving digital learning space.

How does the edX platform work?

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 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.