Harvard and MIT, both bastions of high-priced quality (aka elite) college education, did something fairly remarkable. They both embraced the Internet to make their educational curriculum, well, less elite:
MIT and Harvard are each pouring $30 million into a nonprofit partnership edX, which they hope will make the top-notch faculties and courses of their schools available for free to millions of people around the world — free for anyone with an Internet connection. In presenting edX, the initiative’s new president, Anant Agarwal, called the opportunity presented in online education “the single biggest change in education since the printing press.”
Though the online platform will have a second-fiddle status compared with the on-campus experience (online students will be able to attain certificates of mastery but not traditional degrees), the effort reveals a public-minded spirit that animates both schools. At the core of this program is a belief that the excellence of the education available at MIT and Harvard should be available — in an online format — to anyone who has the commitment and desire to make it through an online course. It’s a reminder that these schools aren’t just institutions with long, venerable histories, but also collections of living people — people whose values and ideas shape how these universities exist in the world today.